Thursday, January 8, 2009

B3 Turns Fifty (Pages That Is)

Remember, anytime you see B3 in the blog title, it means spoilers are likely.

I'm back at work on This World We Live In, aka B3, and I just finished and printed out page 50. I'll do ten more pages tomorrow, taking advantage of the cushion of a few extra pages this week, because I was able to salvage the first five pages or so from my original effort in December.

The biggest challenge so far is the willingness to work. Once I get started I'm fine, but when I have errands to run beforehand or any kind of distraction, I have to push to get going. In the immortal words of Lou Grant (or whichever scriptwriter wrote the immortal words), "That's why they call it work."

One thing I'm totally ignoring is chapters. When I wrote Life As We Knew It, I didn't include chapter breaks. They were entirely Harcourt's idea. I think I did the same for the dead and the gone, only since I knew Harcourt would want chapters, I put them in before sending the manuscript off. So the first 50 pages of B3 are one giant gloomp, although I know for sure that there'll be the start of a new chapter at Miranda's May 13 entry (I'm writing May 12 now).

It turns out sequels are tricky suckers. If someone picks up B3 without having read LAWKI or d&g (could be my new editor, whoever that may end up being, although my guess is said editor will read the first two books before grabbing the infamous red pencil), they have to understand what's happened beforehand. But I discovered yesterday the risk of repeating material.

In LAWKI, Miranda and Mom have some really big fights. I decided to put one in B3 at a moment when Mom feels particularly vulnerable, since Matt and Jon are gone for a few days, catching shad in the Delaware River (Miranda doesn't go with them because I know nothing about fishing and there are limits to what I'm willing to learn for my fiction). But as I was writing the fight scene, I realized I couldn't just repeat the fights they'd had in LAWKI, even though when mothers and daughters fight in real life, a lot of times they cover their customary turf. It wasn't so much the setting off point, since explosions can start with different fuses. It's the screaming back and forth that has to be different, yet still believable for those characters, given that most of the people who read B3 will have read LAWKI first.

Or take the scene which I was working on before I reached page 51 and called it a day. Mom just made the very interesting (to me at least) point that perhaps all the loss they'd endured before had been preparatory for all the loss they've suffered in the past year.

Now Miranda can't think of pre-LAWKI loss without remembering her friend Becky, who dies before LAWKI begins. She just can't. So even though B3 is moving along without any references to Sammi or Megan or Dan or Mom's boyfriend Peter, I had to have Miranda think of Becky. It would be untrue to her character if she didn't.

It's a tricky balance. Later on in that scene, I threw in a real fast reference (and not really a necessary one) to Henry, the guy Matt worked in the post office with. I needed a name more than anything else, and I'd already referred to a couple of people from Miranda's school, so I didn't want to use another one of them. I could have gone with something like Joe, who worked at the deli, but that got me thinking if Miranda would even know the name of someone who worked at a deli. She mentions fast food chains in LAWKI, but not neighborhood stores. So I used Henry instead, although it could be confusing to first time readers, who might wonder why or when Matt worked at the post office.

Speaking of Matt, tomorrow he and Jon should be returning from their sojourn at the Delaware, shad and Matt's extremely unexpected bride Syl in hand. Or on bike. I have a line I came up with in Missouri that I've been looking forward to putting in B3 for months now: It was like the whole world came to an end just so you could really notice her cheekbones.

Then I'll take the weekend and most likely Monday off. I'm having lunch with my mother on Monday, and that means buying groceries for her and running some errands of my own on my way to her home. And I have no illusions that I'll get home mid afternoon all fired up for a good day's work. But I figure if I average 50 pages a week, then 8 weeks would mean 400 pages, and I certainly don't plan for B3 to be 400 pages long. Syl's cheekbones aren't going to be that worth noticing. But I'm excited about adding a new character to the mix, so I'll be ready, even eager, to resume work on Tuesday (or so I tell myself on Thursday).

Meanwhile, we had an ice storm a couple of days ago, and all the trees and bushes around my apartment complex are still covered in ice. I took some pictures through the window and I'll post one here, so you can see what I look at when I should be looking at my computer screen. My hope is if I plop the picture at the bottom of the blog entry, blogspot won't shove all my sentences into one endless paragraph.

I'm also going to cut 'n paste this entry over at thirdmoonbook, and then I'm going to cut 'n paste some more, and put in the fight scene between Miranda and Mom. Keep in mind, it's completely unedited, so the final version a year and a half from now may be quite different.

All right. Admire the scene through the screen, and I'll go off to cut 'n paste land.

ETA: After a visit to cut 'n paste land. Mom at one point says, "the others." I know she wouldn't, and when I do my revisions, she won't. So if you read the section, and that part bothers you, you can relax.


Anonymous said...

I like the picture. Can I add it to my personal collection?

I'm surprised at your output. Congrats on B3's "Golden Anniversary"!

Something you brought up in your post reminded me of a part of LAWKI: where Miranda accused Mom of favoring Jon over her. It made me wonder -- and I don't know if the idea ever occurred to you -- what if Miranda turned out to be right? And then I wondered, if so, why? Could Miranda be adopted, and was never told? Could Mom have miscarried a child when Matt was a toddler, been told she couldn't have any more kids, and she and Dad adopted to try to save their marriage? And then, when Jon, her "miracle baby" came along, she DID favor him more than Miranda?

Just a thought to consider or discard.

An unrelated observation: these word verification characters might make interesting Science Fiction novel words.

Anonymous Santa Fe

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi Anonymous Santa Fe-

Aren't digital cameras wonderful? Feel free to add the picture to your personal collection.

The trees outside my window are still ice covered, which, if we get any real snow tomorrow, could be a problem.

I've come up with all kinds of reasons not to work today, but, alas, I'm running out of excuses. So off I must go.

My word verification is outstoc, which has an Amazon feel to it!

Anne said...

I enjoy the picture greatly. I'm doing LAWKI for my book review in class. Gave it some pretty good reviews too.

Congrats for B3's 50th page erm...actually I don't really know what you call it.

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hello Anne and happy Monday morning-

The tree with the frozen branche outside my window still has frozen branches; the snow we got over the weekend doesn't seem to have hurt it. It's supposed to be real cold all week long, so I suppose it will continue to glisten for a few days more.

I reached page 60 in B3 on Friday (right on schedule)and left things with Jon telling Miranda the story of how he and Matt met Syl (aka Mrs. Matt). When I get back to work tomorrow, Miranda will have a chance to meet her and watch as Mom tries to deal with this new person in their lives.

I think Dad, Lisa, Alex, Julie, Charlie and baby Gabriel will show up by the end of the week, but I'll know better in a couple of days.

Say hi to your class for me. That could make for a nice interactive touch in a book review!