Stephanie Burgis
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OK, and here's the journal entry I'd originally planned to write this morning, before I was derailed. ;)

Patrick's work schedule was shifted around this week, which meant that he was off work Wednesday and Thursday. And those turned out to be incredible days for me, because both afternoons, he scooped up Mr Darcy and disappeared for a Boys' Afternoon Out at Borders, already Mr Darcy's favorite place in the world to go, and the one place where he'll reliably be happy for hours at a time. (He's definitely his parents' child! :) ) That meant that, for the past two days in a row, I had two-hour-long writing sessions! It felt like heaven! And the best part was, in the very first of those writing sessions, I managed to fix something that had been driving me crazy for months, and which seemed worth writing about here.

Months ago, I wrote the first chapter of Kat by Ghostlight. It was exactly where I'd planned to start the novel, for what seemed like eminently rational reasons, so I forced myself through it even though it wasn't as much fun to write as the Kat books usually are. I figured I was just being influenced by my post-baby exhaustion, and I focused on why it ought to work, even though I didn't feel the love. This first chapter started off one of the major plotlines with a bang, it had magic and adventure and excitement and action, it was full of what I knew should be good things...and yet, the chapter felt really, really flat once I'd written it. For the past few months, every time I tried to force myself onwards to Chapter Two, I ended up giving up and returning to Chapter One to fiddle more with the pacing, the dialogue, the...well, you name it, I tried it. Nothing worked. It drove me crazy. I knew it made sense to start the novel there, and yet...

And then it finally, finally hit me. I was starting the novel with magic and adventure and excitement, which are all good things - especially to an author thinking about what readers want. But I wasn't starting at the place that really mattered to Kat. Because the absolute core of Kat, as a person and as a protagonist, isn't the magic (although of course the magic is an important part of the book). The core of Kat is her family. That's what she cares about most, that's the plotline she would privilege in her own head, and that's where I needed to start the novel.

I tossed out everything I'd written so far, I started a new document (formatting the title in Jane Austen font of course, as I always do in my own personal copies, because I am a total geek! :) ), I turned on my Kat playlist in iTunes (Adam & the Ants' "Stand and Deliver", followed by the Doctor Who Series 1 & 2 soundtrack and then the Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix soundtrack), and I began at the beginning, starting the novel with Kat stuck inside a carriage with four of her family members, getting into a whole load of trouble. It flowed out in a mad rush, 1200 words the first day, and then another 1050 yesterday, finishing up Chapter One and starting Chapter Two. And I giggled out loud at several points as I was writing, absolutely loving the whole process.

I think one of the most dangerous traps for me, as I'm writing, is to let myself think like a writer. The single most important lesson I've learned over these three books is that the best thing I can do is to try to think like Kat, and let her take it from there.


In honor of having fun with the writing, here's my personal list of other fun things I've come across in the last week:
  • Last week's free single on iTunes, Bach's Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, Movement I (Allegro Moderato), played by Julia Fischer. So gorgeous and zingy and inspiring! Now I can't wait to buy the whole album with next month's treat money! :) You can hear some of the other tracks from the album on Fischer's myspace page.

  • Linda Urban's A Crooked Kind of Perfect - I think anyone who liked the movie Little Miss Sunshine would love this hilarious middle-grade novel, set in Michigan (yay!), about a 10-year-old girl who wants to be the next Vladimir Horowitz...but her dad gets confused when he goes out to buy her a piano, and things go a little lopsided from there. I loved it!

  • Jim Hines's The Stepsister Scheme was the most genuinely funny comic fantasy novel I've read in a long time, and the truly dark parts (all true to the original fairy tales) made the funny bits even funnier. Definitely recommended!

What about you guys? What were the highlights of your last week?

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