Showing posts from November, 2009

and you thought getting a book deal was hard...

INTERN is back, after a delightful and adventuresome pilgrimage to her ancestral homestead, aka grandma's house, for Thanksgiving. It was nice and low key and most of the crazy belligerent long-lost relatives who cornered INTERN for a chat were too deaf to understand her responses to their questions, so she was able to get away with pretty much anything:

CBLLR: "Why don't you get a real job?"
INTERN: "The moon!"


An eye-opening thing INTERN learned this week:

Techie Boyfriend, who invented a neat tool a little while ago, and has been staying up late reading about the patent application process. Like book publishing, the whole concept of patenting something can push some powerful emotional buttons: "If I don't get this published/patented, someone can steal my idea!" "If this goes through, I can get rich off the royalties!" "The world really needs my idea!" etc.

With book publishing, you send in your query for the price of pos…

NaNoReVisMo #5: galumphing towards triumph

A little while ago, INTERN posted about a fictitious Character Transformation Bazooka which could make characters have deep realisations and catharses instantly, with no justification.

There are a few other weapons of mass manuscript destruction (WMMD) in the arsenal.

One is the Triumph Bomb, or T-Bomb.

If you go see just about any movie that's playing in a mainstream theatre, there's bound to be at least one scene involving a Moment of Triumph: the submarine crew realizes they've fixed their leaking vessel just in time (hugs, shouts, and meaningful apologies ensue) or a pair of starcrossed mental defectives realizes they're meant for each other and triumphantly race to the nearest marriage office.

These moments of triumph usually happen after about ninety minutes of false starts, dissapointments, and disasters.

One comment INTERN finds herself writing frequently in novel critiques is that the moments of triumph in the story come too soon, or make no sense, or seem to dr…

a completely unscientific look at book-buying, part 2

Last night, INTERN went to her favorite bookstore just to hang out in the company of new books, as you might visit a bird sanctuary to hang out with an ever-changing roster of egrets just because you find it pleasant.

She had very sternly instructed herself not to buy anything. But in spite of her (apparently typical, in bookstore customers) preemptively raised defenses, one book mercilessly sank its fangs into her emotions and a Book-Buying Event transpired.

INTERN spent the rest of the evening trying to analyze the event and pick it apart. What happened in that bookstore? It's like trying to recall an alien abduction.

INTERN remembers walking to the poetry section and plucking a book off the shelf because it looked thick and new and had the kind of matte cover that doesn't get finger-printy (very important for a book's seductiveness, at least when it comes to seducing INTERN).

INTERN remembers flipping through the book and reading a few lines from poems here and there, …

NaNoReVisMo #4: Tales from the Dumpster



INTERN's hippie roommate's trashier-than-thou friends from college have been visiting for the past few days, two very serious and scruffy anarchists who live in treehouses in Santa Cruz, from where they are plotting the "neo-anarchist ecorevolution".

Last night, they decided to go on a dumpster diving expedition, and hippie roommate kindly invited INTERN to tag along. And wow. Anyone concerned about enfeebled female heroines (see Rejectionist's post on this phenomenon) should write a YA book about INTERN's hippie roommate, the femme fatale of dumpters. She scaled chain-link fences three times her height, pried open locked dumpsters just widely enough to slip her (leaf-like) body inside, and hefted fifty-pound bags of rolled oats and slightly sprouting quinoa over brick walls—all while wearing a slinky red dress and blue tights which did not even get a run. (INTERN lolled along behind her in a giant black sweatshirt and tocque, looking like some k…

NaNoReVisMo #3: the transformers are coming

Has everyone seen one of those kids' movies about a [soccer/baseball/hockey] team made up of clumsy misfits with mouth guards and runny noses whose [bitter/resentful/hard-ass] coach reluctantly (then enthusiastically at the key moment) leads them to victory over the [snobby/evil/orc-like] rival team the Blood Jaguars? It seems to INTERN that every one of those movies has the exact same scene at the end with everybody high-fiving and the runtiest kid and the reformed bully practically make love to other through six layers of scrappy, home-made uniform. Hollywood got the memo about character transformation, and they got it big time.

INTERN sees a lot of manuscripts (particularly YA) where the high-fiving, back-slapping scene is present, and the bully hugs the runt and the hard-ass coach finally tells his son he loves him and the prissy league official takes off her librarian wig to reveal ten feet of luscious blond hair...but there hasn't been any kind of build-up to account fo…

zen and the art of self-publishing

INTERN was starting to feel a little mournful and over-serious after her last NaNoReVisMo post, so she packed herself some apples and half a loaf of bread and set off on a self-imposed Quixotic Journey. Over the course of her wanderings, she visited some kind of Zen buddhist establishment, where a kindly nun pointed her to a pile of Free Books. INTERN emerged from the temple with a cute little self-published tome called simply "CAUSE AND EFFECT," and repaired to the nearest forest to read it among the dry leaves and withering nettle.

Here's the deal with cause and effect:

"If in this life one loves and enjoys hunting, in the next one will suffer from chronic nervousness to the point of insanity."

(pencil drawing of sneering hunter with "effect" arrow pointing to foamy-mouthed madman)

"Excessive attachment to tastes will undermine the normal functions of the lungs leading to sickness there from"

(pencil drawing of vomiting man surrounded by garl…

NaNoReVisMo #2: two flavors of facts

The nice thing about having knowlegeable people around when you're editing or revising something is that you can enslave them as fact-checkers and constantly holler "Do drug dealers measure out weed with a scale or a ruler?" or "Would mixing baking soda with helium *really* create an anti-gravity wonder fluid?" or "Is it plausible for my character to choke on a credit card?"

Revision is a time for making sure the physics and chemistry of your world are sound, that you haven't completely botched the slang of whatever underworld you're trying to portray, and that you haven't confused hepatitis with haemophilia.

INTERN has seen some embarassing mistakes. Doctor characters who take someone's temperature to see if they have epilepsy. Fir trees whose "leaves" turn "brilliant orange" in the fall. Improper use of the word "do-rag".

This is the easy kind of fact-checking: the kind you can do on the subway, mere…

NaNoReVisMo #1: the electric kool-aid conflict test

INTERN used to have a terrifying Cuban piano teacher who would stop her at random while she was playing a piece by memory, question her extensively about the reasoning behind the tonal, rhythmic, and expressive qualities of the notes she had just played and the notes she was about to play, then make her start playing again in the exact (usually awkward and off-beat) place she had stopped.

INTERN would complain that *of course* she didn't know exactly what was going in those spots—they were in the middle of difficult passages, there were too many notes for each one to have a purpose, and she relied on sheer momentum to get herself through to the sections where she *did* understand what she was doing with each note and why.

It was like trying to take a cake out of the oven, and someone really annoying comes up and stabs it with a toothpick: "But it's not cooked here!"

Lately, INTERN has been conducting a similar test on manuscripts and library books. Here's how it …