Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Dreams or how I wish we had a book already

I keep having dreams about Michelle & I being wildly successful in our book endeavor -- both dreams when I lay my head on the pillow at night, and the sort of daydreams that are evidenced in the Simpsons by Homer looking up & to the left, followed by a fanciful daydream sequence.  In fact, about a week ago, I woke up feeling absolutely certain that our book was going to be successful.  I don't remember having any dream, but I just woke up with that certainty.  Whether it's a psychic premonition or just the aftereffects of a pleasant dream brought on by all of my wishful thinking, it's been a difficult feeling to shake.

Ever since I got this feeling, it's been even more difficult for me to focus on my school work.  I have less than two weeks left of this semester, and I really need to start studying for my finals.  All I want to do, however, is do more research for our book.  I don't dislike school, but right now it just feels like an enormous impediment to the thing that I'm most passionate about.  I'm trying not to let this sour me on school because if this whole novelist thing doesn't work out, I need to do well in graduate school.  It's hard, though.

In the last few days, Michelle & I have significantly developed the arch of the series (via email & phone).  Our plan is to nail down precisely how the series comes to a conclusion while she visits me in PA over Christmas break, so that we can make sure that everything we write in the first book is consistent with where it's all going.  We want to have sufficient foreshadowing and fun references that will all make sense in later books. 

Personally, I think the series is completely fascinating & I'm so excited about the whole thing, but I'm terrified at the same time.  If this doesn't work out, I will be more disappointed than I've ever been in my life.  There are few times in your life that you feel like you could really do something great.  I mean, that sounds ridiculous to even put on paper.  Regardless, I need to get this out of my mind because I have 3 finals in less than 2 weeks, and I know not a thing. 

Monday, November 08, 2010

So, I've never been good at juggling

The top of this blog says that it's about my struggle to juggle school, writing and my private life.  Well, apparently that hasn't been going so well.  It's now nearly mid-November, and we have made little progress on the book.  I wasn't really expecting to make much progress, but there it is.  School has been brutal.  I've been taking one class that is notorious for having the highest workload of any of the classes here.  Moreover, it's been an adjustment to get used to classes, research, grant writing, etc.  At the beginning of the semester I tried to set aside time to work on research for the book, but that quickly fell off.  Michelle's been having the same issues.  Amazingly she's actually written a fantastic chapter this semester, but I don't really expect more from her until the summer, really. 

I am excited, though, because last night Michelle & I spoke on the phone briefly about the series and we figured out where it's all headed.  There's been a major conflict between two of our goals for these books, and neither of us could figure out how to resolve them in the end.  It's amazing how we can think about things on our own for weeks, but we talk together for 30 minutes, and we know exactly how everything is going to end.  This has made me very excited.

At low points in graduate school, I think "What have I done to myself?"  Although, then I think about my life as a lawyer and I realize that there really was nothing I could have done differently.  I had to move into a different field.  The practice of law was crushing my soul.  Then that gets me down because I feel bad for feeling bad about school.  Right now my workload has calmed down some, so I'm feeling positive about school, but last month was pretty overwhelming.  The book is the thing that gets me through all of this.  It helps knowing that I have something else going on in my life & that my eggs aren't all in one basket.  I just can't wait until we have it finished so we can work on finding an agent.  I am so positive about this endeavor because I really think that Michelle & I are on to something with this book.  All I know is that I've been thinking about the series for 4 months now, and I'm even more excited about it than the first day we started talking about it.  Plus, every time I get new pages from Michelle, I am blown away.  It's nice having a friend who's so eloquent.

Monday, August 23, 2010

And we're off

Things have been coming along quite nicely with the novel.  Michelle & I have been feverishly sending emails back and forth to each other with minor modifications and expansions on the outline.  We have also become experts in the track changes function of Microsoft word so that we are always on the same page of any edit.  Also, as of this evening, Michelle has written the first 1,000 words of the novel.  (She wrote half of Chapter 21.)  Seeing as a work only has to have 50,000 words to qualify as a novel, that means that we're somewhere in the neighborhood of 1/50th of the way done (give or take 100,000 words).

I had been concerned that working on the novel would be a costly distraction from my school work, but so far I actually believe it has been an asset.  (Although, as school hasn't actually started yet, maybe I should reserve judgment until September.)  Every day I spend a prescribed amount of time doing psychology research, and when that is finished, I work on research for the book.  Since I started doing this two weeks ago, I've found that my psych research ideas have greatly increased in quality.  Maybe it's just a coincidence, but I actually think that having time away from psychology is giving me a fresh perspective which makes my ideas better.  It's a fantastic, if unexpected, turn of events.

I have to admit that I'm slightly nervous about reading the first part of the book Michelle wrote.  It's not that I don't have 100% faith in her (she has always been a great writer), but this means that it's really really real now.  As long as it's still in our heads it's full of potential, and utterly perfect.  There's something comforting about that.  I've decided to wait until tomorrow to read it.  I'm a bit burned out from all of my research today anyway, and I want to be fresh when I do read it. 

I'm made a conscious effort to tell just about everyone that Michelle & I are writing a novel.  I never don't do anything that I've set my mind to, so I figured that if I told everyone that we were doing this, then that would ensure that the book would be completed.  I'm somewhat nervous about our publishing prospects, but there are two pieces of information that encourage me: (1) my brother recently found a publisher for his first novel, and he's only 20 years old, and (2) I know that the plot is as good as at least half the stuff on bookstore shelves.  I just can't wait until we have a publisher.  I know how it was when my brother was writing his first novel.  When someone tells you that they're writing a novel, you're like, "Isn't that cute?  So-and-so is actually expending the energy to write a novel.  What ego!"  However, the moment that they find a publisher, your attitude turns from bemusement and mild condescension, to reverence and awe.  That's another reason I've told just about everyone we know about the novel.  I want to see the look on their faces the moment they hear that we're actually getting our novel published.  I know that moment will be a thing of beauty.  Until then, though, we have 49,000 more words to write.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Apportioning of Responsibilties

Today the first book arrived that I ordered to use as research for the major subject area of our novel (sorry for the obfuscation, but we don't want to reveal the subject area of our novel just yet).  There are only three books written on the people that will form the basis of our novel, and this is one of them.  Actually, I use the word "book" loosely, as it is merely the bound published version of one man's master's thesis spanning all of 79 large font pages.  I devoured the book in two hours (it even taking that long due to long comments that I wrote in the margins).

Michelle & I have decided that she will write the novel based on the chapter outlines that the two of us wrote jointly.  (I will write the prologue and the author's note, however.)  It's a bad idea to have more than one cook in the kitchen, so to speak, and it might just get muddled if we tried to trade off chapters.  This has left me feeling like I do not have much to offer at this point, beyond editing and giving more ideas along the way.  However, reading this book has shown me what an incredible undertaking it is to do research for a novel, even if there are only three books published on the subject area.  We've decided that I am going to compile a file of all of the research for the novel (locations, peoples, etc.), as well as write what Michelle refers to as a lexicon of our world.  Basically I am going to compile a description of all of our characters as well as their culture, etc. as a reference for our own use.  Luckily I'm really excited about the subject area, so this shouldn't be difficult, if still time consuming.

Speaking of how to apportion my time, it's going to be really hard not to neglect my PhD studies.  I feel obsessed with this world that we're creating.  Today as I was reading the first book constituting the body of our research, I found myself writing in the margins things like, "No, that's not how they would see things.  They see things like ___________," with the blank consisting of a long explanation of the inner-workings of our characters' mindset and culture.  It's truly amazing how a part of our characters' world I feel.  I feel like I've lived their lives, breathed their breaths, cried their tears.  OK, that's melodramatic, but  I honestly feel that way.  I guess that's the way that an author should feel, right?  Is that what I am now, an author? 

I just wish Michelle didn't have to go back to Missouri and we could lock ourselves away for a month and knock this thing out.  It's probably best that we'll have more time to mull it over, though.  Is it wrong that I'm already thinking about the responses I'll give to Terry Gross when she interviews Michelle & I about our overnight sensation of a novel?  Pipe dream maybe, but even if the American public doesn't love our novel, I already do, and that is the first step, right?

Friday, August 13, 2010

So it begins

The title of this post can equally apply to the beginning of this blog and the beginning of writing this novel.  If you would've asked me a week ago whether I thought that Michelle & I would be seriously undertaking the task of writing a novel over the next year, I would have said no.  As it stands now, my very serious goal (I make no other kind) is to have a completed novel by the time we turn 30.  That gives us a little under 2 years.  We've been batting around the idea of writing a novel either together or separately for about a year now.  We've had a number of ideas.  One was for a love story between a woman and a man that visits her in her dreams (based on a dream that I had).  One was for a novel about a man belonging to a secret organization a la Dan Brown.  One was for a book about vampires because even though they've become very popular in recent years, Michelle has always been interested in them.  None of these seemed quite right, though.

Michelle & I have been best friends for 14 years.  In fact, as of this summer, we've now been best friends for longer than we haven't.  We met in gym class in 9th grade at a high school in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and after my mother & I moved to Northern California, Michelle quickly followed and moved with us, finishing high school with me there.  Since we've graduated from high school we have only lived in the same state for about 6 months, but we've kept in close contact.  We've had our ups and downs (like any important long-term relationship), but I can safely say that she is my person, and lately our relationship has been stronger than ever.  Most people go through their life doing anything to find that all powerful romantic love, but true friends are so much more important.

When we were 14 & 15 Michelle & I wrote a two act play called "Fallen Angel" about a high school student who falls in love with a dhampir (a half vampire/half human).  Recently while going through some boxes of mementos my mother gave me, I found a copy of the play that I didn't know existed.  I figured that I would wait until Michelle visited me last week, and we could read it together.  We conducted a dramatic reading of the play, which while utterly ridiculous, wasn't as bad as I was expecting since we were barely teenagers when we wrote it.  That got us to talking.  Michelle suggested that we could always re-work the play and make it into a novel.  I countered that vampires are too overdone, and that we needed to write a  book about something different.  One idea led to another, and within just a few hours, we had already sketched out the major story arc of not just one book, but what could easily become a 3-5 book series.  Over the next two days we wrote summaries of each chapter of the first book in the series (title not yet determined -- I just realized that the original title we had in mind has already been taken...arg!).  As currently outlined, the book is 26 chapters long, plus it will have a prologue and a fairly extensive author's note regarding what is historical fact versus what is fiction.

I am very excited about this.  In fact, it's sort of a problem, because I had been very excited about starting my Social Psychology PhD program after my brief (and painful) jaunt as an attorney, but now all I want to do is research the topics in our book.  Thinking of that, can you imagine the blurb on the back of any novel of mine: "Lawyer turned Psychologist turned Novelist: Katherine Ernst enjoys arguing, making up, and then writing about it."  Ridiculous.  Plus, I need to make sure that I don't neglect Max.  Speaking of Max, I have to go because I *have* been neglecting him for the last 2 weeks while spending (the absolute best) time with Michelle, and I need to go get ready for Sushi Friday.