Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bringing Up Baby

I'm in the midst of revision over here. What that means to you non-writers is this: Imagine, if you will, that you've given birth to what you consider to be a beautiful baby. You've nurtured this baby for a long time: Your book baby's gestation has been close to two years from conception to birth.

No, wait, that's not right.

Okay, imagine that you're a type of marsupial. You give birth (your original idea) to a tiny caterpillar like thing which then climbs up your belly and plops into your pouch. There, nestled in the warm confines of your baby pocket, you nurture it, watch it grow and develop (the actual writing process). Finally, one glorious day, after much teeth gnashing and hand wringing, you go into labor and it pops out, fully formed, like Athena from Zeus's head. Or so you think.

Poof! You have finished your novel! YAY!

Oh, wait, no you haven't. First, you need to go in and clean your baby up, count it's fingers and toes, and of course push gently on the soft spot. Get rid of all the grammar, spelling, punctuation and formatting errors. Then, you give it to a friend or two (or six or seven, in my case) to read through and point out the errors you've missed. Why would you miss errors? The same reason that classical musicians are advised to never memorize a piece: While memorizing the music, you tend to also memorize your mistakes.

So, after your "Beta Readers" have done their job and pointed out all the things that, while obvious to them are not so obvious to you, you fix it. This can be compared to having an orthodontist put braces on your kid's teeth. The teeth are there, they're just crooked and a little fugly. It's not as painful as it looks because it's really a mechanical thing.

So you get the braces done (first revision), and sit back, admiring your beautiful child. But, not being sure if you’re kid is as beautiful as YOU think it is (because we all think our kid is beautiful) you go into round two, submitting your child to a beauty contest (critique).

During the critique process more technical errors are found, but not nearly as many, for which you are relieved, but now we're working on the esthetics. Your critique buddies, who are never as nice as your friends (which is a good thing because the worst feedback you can get on your writing is: "I just LOVED it!" because that is not helpful at all) ding you on point of view shifts, merit of dialogue to the story, pacing, character, and plot.

This is where the real work begins. This is where you go to your child and tear it apart, keeping it on life support while you make changes to its fundamental personality and body image. A little taller, a lot leaner, slightly more buff in the upper body; you sculpt your child into the epitome of a person, applying all the current societal rules for perfection while trying to maintain your child's unique individuality.

Which is all very difficult if you've 1) never written a book before and therefore have no idea what you're doing and 2) have never been one to play by the rules.

Now, forty-seven revisions later, you have achieved what you believe to be the ultimate child, and you have to sell it. And by sell it I mean defend it, justify its existence, and try to get someone (an agent or publisher) interested in buying your child so they can send your beautiful offspring out into the world for the rest of humanity to enjoy. You know, pimp out your kid.

That, dear Confessions of a Slave Driver blog readers, is where I'm at now. I have donned my purple feathered hat, slightly ratty fur coat, Italian loafers, and am standing on a street corner looking for Literary Johns to sell my baby to. Next month I will attend the Utah Romance Writers of America conference and "pitch" my novel to a stranger in an attempt to get an agent and conversely a publishing contract. Which brings us to The Pitch:

Carlin "Carlos" Farley's life is an open book. Unfortunately, she can't remember most of it. She's losing her barn manager, Bill, the guy who's been running her carriage business while she's been in extended care recovering from the accident that killed her husband and son. The same accident led to the loss of her left foot, along with a does of brain damage. Bill has always been there for her, in fact they've grown up together, but now he wants to pursue the career he put on hold and Carlin's resigned to the idea that he's leaving her.

Bill Fantazma is the kind of guy who always tries to do the right thing. But sometimes doing the right thing is not the right thing to do. He's been harboring a secret for a while now; he desperately wants to resume a romantic relationship with Carlin, one he instigated while she was still married to her philandering jerk of a husband. He's been in charge of her care and the business he helped acquire for her, and has accepted the accident and her subsequent brain damage as a chance for a "do-over", since his previous actions to attract her affection were less than honorable. It's a romance that Carlin can't remember, and Bill can never forget.

Richard Cooper appears the answer to their business problems. Knowledgeable about horses, willing to step in and take over the barn manager position, helpful and solicitous to Carlin, he's not put off by her sometimes bizarre and quirky behavior.
Behavior that often puts the image-obsessed Bill into a tailspin, between trying to take care of her, running the business and keeping her out of trouble, managing all aspects of her life for the last two years.

The situation of Carlin's brain damage, and her inability to remember the true nature of their relationship, which Bill once considered a blessing, had become an increasingly frustrating problem as her perceived attraction to the man he hires to replace him ramps up the intensity of his desires.

When Richard sees an opportunity to move in and draw Carlin's affection, Bill realizes just what she means to him and must make a decision; come clean about their past and risk her anger, or step away and allow Richard to have a romantic relationship with the woman Bill has loved all of his life.

With the help of their small tribe of friends and co-workers, Bill and Carlin are directed down the right path to secure a future for them both.

As you can see, it needs a lot of work. What do you think? And don't tell me you love it, because that shit is weak.


Belle's personal assistant said...

I like the basis of the story. Of course I cannot critique the writing since that was such a short summation, but it could be an interesting novel if done right. Good luck.

Lisa Deon said...

It was a pitch not a synopsis or summation. It's supposed to interest *them* enough to ask for more.

Suzanne said...

Congrats on getting this far and actually getting to the point of pimping! From what I hear, that's way further than most 'aspiring writers' get.

I know pitches can take many forms. When I read your, it seemed like it could be more succinct, but I'm not sure what format they usually see at the con you're going to.

Should it be more like this query letter?

Griffox said...

What's your email? I'm afraid my comment will explode the internet it's so long. :-)

or if you're too afraid of posting it publicly, I'll volunteer.

Lisa Deon said...


Query, Synopsis, and Pitch, they are all different or so I have been schooled.

A pitch is face to face. In "Be Cool", the follow up to "Get Shorty" the James Woods character is telling Chili Palmer about his idea for a movie. Chili responds "Can you sum it up in 25 words or less?" This is an "elevator pitch", as in you've cornered an agent in an elevator and are pitching your idea to him/her. In my case I have a face to face appointment with an agent and I will have about 8 minutes to pitch my idea, answer questions about my story, my qualifications, and my abilites plus any marketing ideas I have.

And funny you should use that agent as an example, because I follow his blog plus he's really freaking cute.

Lisa Deon said...

BTW gang, my short story is at a magazine and is still under "consideration" and there is a non-fiction ebook about finding your passion coming out next month with my contribution in it so yes I finally will be "published".

Anonymous said...

SlaveDriver--Just don't forget who you are. The story is solid, but it's your voice and your cred that put it over the top. You do want to be professional, but don't stop being YOU.

Anonymous said...

i read your blog often but have never commented... partly b/c i never have anything interested to say but...

I NEED to read this book....

So when ever you DO get it published we need to know immediately so that we can pre-order.

Please and thank you.

Lisa Deon said...

Dear Gina,

Thank you. And trust me, all ya'all will be the first, no, probably the third folks to hear any news. The first of course, will be the clerks at the DABC when I buy a case of champaigne. (The cheap stuff, of course...) second will be the poor folks whom I have preyed upon these past few years, utilizing their friendship as the weapon of choice to goad them into readiing all the fugly drafts. And then you guys, since you've put up with me for so long.