Saturday, October 15, 2011

Radical Departure: Borrowing a Cup of Sugar

© 2011 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

In case you’re wondering what on Earth is going on here, see No Small Change on The Radical Virgo. During October and November, I’ll be doing short posts to take you along for the wild ride of rewriting and getting my humorous, metaphysical mystery book ready for submission to the St. Martin’s Press annual First Mystery Novel Contest.

Since returning to my current rewrite of The Crystal Ball, I’ve felt like an out-of-era Betty Crocker trying to bake the perfect cake by the end of November. I’m up to my ears in flour and various ingredients, apron full of splotches. I thought I had everything I needed. I thought Life’s Companions, The Crystal Ball’s unpublished predecessor, contained most of the necessary ingredients. I figured I’d only have to rework it a little. I went to borrow a cup of sugar from the last incarnation of this book and discovered there were only a few tablespoons left.

In other words, I have changed the plot and focus so much, there isn’t nearly as much that I can borrow—at least in the first two thirds of the book. That means more creative writing in a hurry. Just when I was starting to freak out at the size of the task and its time pressures, I stumbled on an inspiration. If people across the country can write a book in a month during the annual NaNoWriMo event, I can certainly come up with the rest of this one in six weeks. Or so I keep telling myself! November is National Novel Writing Month, what the acronymn NaNoWriMo stands for. Maybe I’ll inspire you to join me on your own writing ride!

This would be a good time to discuss my writing process. The two extremes of writing habits are people who outline and those who fly by the seat of their pants or make it up as they go. I’m primarily a seat of the pants writer who works with a skeletal outline or story arc. Other writers have told me they outline more, the more they write. I’ll be thanking God for Sr. Fabian, my 8th grade nun who was a fanatic about teaching us how to outline with all the appropriate Roman Numerals, numbers, and parenthetical numbers and letters. I never thought such an excruciating skill to learn might come in handy some day.

As far as my mystery is concerned, I know whodunit, howdunit, wheredunit, and whydunit. It’s just the middle of the Oreo—the filling—that needs a little more substance. I’m sure it’ll look like a cake, or at least a cookie, before I know it—I hope.

There’s nothing novel about a tablespoon of the good old Virgo self-doubt!

Halloween’s around the corner, Maybe I should throw in some eye of newt.

As an update from last week, my visit with my niece and family has actually confirmed the authenticity of many nuances in the relationship of my protagonist, Micki, with her nieces. I see I drew deeply from my Auntie Joyce role (the actual one, rather than the slightly snarky comedian you sometimes see on this blog.) I also got quite a surprise, an example of art imitating life in an intuitive preview. Something that I’ve been planning for Micki’s nieces in the second book in the series is likely happening to my actual nieces in real life.

Art imitating life just proves life is art!

Hope you all had a good Full Moon in Aries this week. Seeing Dawn, my stellium in Aries niece with most of her close-knit family? The most literal manifestation of an Aries Full Moon I’ve had in years!


Photo Credit: © Scott Griessel -

You may be the lucky winner of a free mystery anthology.


Janece said...

Hello there :) I'll be writing in NanoWriMo this year, too! It will be my 4th round and I'm DETERMINED to cross the finish line this year! LOL

Honestly, I'm not surprised you've completely written your earlier pieces. When I look back at prior novels I worked on during Nano, for example, I immediately want to start editing it :)

I'll be blogging more about my process and my experiences, too. You can find me there at JaneBond if you are looking for 'buddies' :)

Joyce Mason said...

Hi, Janece--It's great to hear from someone else on the fast track to finishing a novel by the end of November!

I wrote 2+ new chapters today and am feeling more confident as I get into the major rewrite. Keep telling myself, it's just like writing a long string of blog posts. Since mine have typically been full-length articles, that's true. When I can link it to what I know and am most used to, it feels a lot less overwhelming.

I'll definitely check you out. Terrific name, JaneBond. Since there's an ex-FBI agent in my book, anything that spy-like catches my eye!

All best,

PS - You are entered into the October Comment Contest. Thanks for stopping by and brightening my day!