Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Happy Anniversary?

Somewhere along the way, this blog took a terrible detour, at least on my end. From being a forum to write about writing, it's become, for me, a forum to write about complaining about NOT writing. Thus, in my shame, I have been hiding from it a little bit.

But the ms and I recently had our first anniversary, which has compelled me to come back. I'm not sure of the exact date, but roughly a year ago, I banged out the prologue to the Wedding Widow in a slow moment at work and e-mailed it to Kate D, intending it to be a little germ of an idea to take my mind off my "real" project. Well, she loved it, and a year later, the real project is lost in the cyber-graveyard of my infected old computer and the Wedding Widow is in the process of painful revision. Weaning? Teething? Some other child-rearing metaphor?

It's so hard to know what to cut and what not to. Which additional scenes would provide great color and depth to the characters and which will disrupt the novel's flow? I've edited up to about chapter 8 (of 21) in the past month. Not an output I'm happy with. But that pesky thing called "the rest of my life" insists on pestering me.

Here's the real rub. I've told myself I can back off the revisions a bit until Christmas, when I intend to have all my applications for graduate school done. But is that...okay? Oughtn't I to be writing constantly. Writers write, that's the mantra. So can a writing writer...take a month-long sabatical and still be serious, motivated and pushing forward.

All I know is my senior project is still about 8 pages too long to be my NYU writing sample. Get out the scissors

Monday, November 14, 2005

Rave of the Week

Even before I saw all the promos and commercials for the new version of Pride & Prejudice (ampersand their addition) I was prepared... well, not to dislike it, because it would be impossible for me to dislike anything even tangentially Austenian, but not to love it. The stupid tagline (The greatest love story ever told...Sometimes the one person you can't stand is the one person you can't live without") the promos that kept pushing a line that wasn't even in Austen ("You have bewitched me, body and soul") and the presence of the irritatingly thin and chipper Keira Knightly sort of repelled me.

I was so, so, so wrong. It was just utterly, perfectly lovely. In some ways even better than the Ehle/Firth version. Maybe that last part's the head cold talking, but I don't think so.

I'm feeling a bit better, but still tired and weak, so I took another day off work. I went to the 1:45 showing at the theater a few blocks away, figuring it would be empty. It was completely full and I was the only person under 65 there. There were walkers lining the aisle.

So, what was to love...I liked Knightly's take on Lizzie. She wasn't as bracingly smart and superior as Ehle's Lizzie. She's a younger, livlier, laughinger Lizzie. She has moments of real insecurity, confusion, just feeling ill equipped to deal with the changes her life throws at her and her feelings for Mr. Darcy. Ehle's Lizzie always seems in command, and I think I like this version a little better.

The casting was perfect. Lydia actually looked and behaved like a 15 year old (something no one would buy Julia Swahalla as in the BBC version, as good as she is). Jane is actually kind of prettier than Lizzie is, for once! And has the exact amount of sweetness and placidity in her disposition without being too dull. (Incidentally, Kate, the actress who plays her is the perfect Calla...Rosamund Pike. Just see it and tell me she isn't. And I think I might have been channelling Mr. Bingley when I wrote Peter.) Donald Sutherland is a very good Mr. Bennett, and the film plays up his complicity in his daughters' downfalls by his absentee parenting, rather than just his wittiness. Even Mrs. Bennett and Mr. Collins get some sympathy.

And the film is GORGEOUS. The cinematography, the landscapes, everything. Even though it's only 2 hours, they manage to hit every major scene, though the final scenes require more condensing than I would have liked. There's even a coda that reminds me of the perfect ending to the Amanda Root/Ciaran Hinds version of Persuasion, my favorite adaptation of my favorite novel.

So, go see the movie and be prepared to walk down the street humming the film's musical theme (another improvement over the last version. I now want to write only to the movie's soundtrack) and pretending that you are walking through English hillsides rather than past the 2nd Avenue bus.

I just want to make sure everyone knows that I'm well aware of the historical/character inconsistencies in the novel and many, many, many lines that were added by the screenwriters. I would have loved to see the lines about Lizzie's "fine eyes," "We neither of us perform for strangers," and many others. But I can look past that, if the movie did a good job of conveying the characters as a whole. And I don't expect any movie version to supplant the book.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

230 Questions... And Not One on Jenny Crusie

I am a bad, bad NaNo contestant and I deserve to be spanked. Or at least dropped by my critique/blog partner.

I am officially out. I thought I could handle a new ms, but I was beaten before I even started. Well, you know what they say. Don't hate the game, hate the size of the dog in the player. And now I suddenly want to watch Laguna Beach.

The revisions continue. I've reached the middle and the real work begins. Mashing chapters together. Removing characters -- I killed off an entire family of servants, and took a little too much joy in it. Oh, Jarvis family, we hardly knew ye! And adding scintillating yet wacky tidbits about Parliamentary procedure.

And getting my ass kicked 18th-century style by the GRE subject test in Literature. I think I may have finally uncovered the most perfect instrument of torture ever devised by man or woman. Take a small child. Teach her to read early. Tell her how very, very good they are at English all their life. Encourage her to apply for a freaking PhD, for God's sake. And then spend 3 hours slowly stripping away any ounce of belief she had in her ability to do graduate work. Add a massive head cold and a fever, and the pain is pretty much complete.

Seriously, is there not something massively wrong with asking one to differentiate between excerpts of Pope and Johnson when they're both written in heroic couplets? That's just stacking the deck!

If it weren't for blueberry pancakes, a wonderful house guest from out of town and a massive plate of bacon, I would probably be crouched on the sidewalk somewhere near Washington Square, rocking back and forth and asking passers-by to hold me.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Day 1: NaNo-1, flitgirl-0

Today marks the first official day of NaNoWriMo. It was also All Saints' Day for all you Catholics in the house (big ups to my peeps), so I was singing with the choir this evening and...yeah, I didn't work on the NaNo book. I'm right in the middle of editing chapter 4 of Wedding Widow and I'd really like to get to a good ending point before putting the revisions away to (briefly) work on another project. And apply to grad school. Sheesh.

So the plan is to start tomorrow. And after almost a year of working on my first draft I'm a little intimidated by the thought of a new project. Maybe it's because I'm not actually done with WW yet, so I don't feel ready to put it to bed and move on. I have this fear that I'll be unable to get back to it. Probably irrational, but there you go.

I also have to confess I'm taking the coward's path to NaNo. You have to write 50,000 words in one month, which I plan to do. But 50,000 words as a publisher counts them, not Microsoft Word does. You see, I had a bit of a nasty surprise when I finished the Wedding Widow, thinking it was about 15,000 words too long. I didn't write it in proper manuscript submission format and I kept track of my length with Microsoft Word Count function. When I switched it over to proper ms form, I realized it's waaaaaay too long. Like, 200 pages too long. That's a lot of cutting.

So, for November YA, I'm bagging the competition aspect and writing the whole thing in proper ms format from the very beginning. I don't like cutting.

Ideally, I'll be able to post my first excerpt sometime this week.

Kate, how goes things on your end?