dianne salerni author
dianne salerni author

Last week, I revealed the cover for Eleanor, Alice, & the Roosevelt Ghosts. This week I have a sales announcement to share!

Jadie in Five Dimensions is a mind-twisty, space-bendy adventure into geometry and physics. Inspired by Edwin A. Abbott’s Flatland, which fascinated me in middle school, and with homage to the great science fiction writer William Sleator (especially The Boy Who Reversed Himself), this story has undergone many revisions over the span of 5 years before transforming into a version worthy of publication. I have changed point of view and verb tense, rearranged events, refined the science and math elements, and dropped the number of POV characters from 6 to 3. (6 POVs? What was I thinking?) I can’t wait to work with my fabulous editor and the staff at Holiday House as Jadie’s story bounds into the finishing laps of its journey toward bookhood. (more…)

home office

My home office in the basement.

To everyone who weighed in on my “Ending” dilemma last week, thank you! I decided my character had to be herself (and she is certainly not perfect). I think she discovered her own worth over the course of the story, but she also made a crucial mistake that prevented her from getting what she wanted. I found a way to give her the help she needs going forward, without making it seem like they “saved her.” She decides what she has to do. The two people closest to her throw in their support. I hit the dreaded “send” button on that manuscript yesterday.

In other news, the Delaware County Community College invited me back to teach the course I did in the fall, Writing for the Children’s Market. I start tomorrow night! They’ve also contracted me to teach a writing course for 10-12 year olds on Saturdays in April, so it will be fun to work with kids again.

I’ve had a home office space in my basement for months, but I’ve had trouble forcing myself to work down there instead of on the family room sofa or at the kitchen table. This month, I’ve been a little better at disciplining myself to “go to the office.” The only problem is my “office assistant.” Usually, she spends her time upstairs, but when she gets into a super-ornery mood, the family tosses her in the basement with me and shuts the door. Yeah, thanks a bunch, family.

Luna in the bookshelves

Luna rearranges the books on my shelf.

In final news that’s kind of cool, I was contacted via Pinterest by a woman from the Netherlands whose research on Ancestry.com revealed that Asenath Thomas – one of the women buried in the caged graves – was her husband’s great-great-aunt. We exchanged some information, and then she posted about it on Facebook and linked me. One of her FB friends then chimed in to say, “Hey, that author was the teacher of two of my kids!” That’s right. A parent of some former students is friends with someone who lives in the Netherlands who is married to someone related to someone whose grave I wrote about. I’m pretty sure Kevin Bacon is in there, too.

Asenath

Asenath Thomas grave

 

princess bride ending

What elements have to go into a satisfying ending?

I’m revising a YA historical paranormal manuscript, and I’ve addressed most reader and agent notes – up until the ending. Now, I’m staring at this final chapter (which granted, might need to become two chapters), and trying to figure out what to do with it.

Right now, it has the ending I envisioned when I first conceived of this story. This was how I always planned to end it. But (some) readers have been dissatisfied with it. The protagonist does not achieve her goal. Some readers have even said she ends up in the same place she was at the beginning, although I don’t think that’s true. She changed a lot during the course of the story; she’s not the same person she was in Chapter One. Some readers have said she ends the book running away from her problem. I always looked at it differently – that she was no longer going to let herself be a passive victim, that she was taking new action to save herself.

Is it possible to give her everything she wants in a Happily Ever After ending? Well, I guess I could. Things are looking grim after the climax, but I could write a totally new ending where everything turns out okay and she achieves her original goal. Problem is, if it turns out that way, it’s in spite of her actions, not because of them. Plus, that kind of a HEA in this story would be implausible and, I think, a little trite.

I thought I had a compromise between the two, but then I worried that this new idea would actually rob her of choice and put other people in charge of her fate. Isn’t it most important that, whatever happens, she’s in control at the end? (Especially when she had no control at the beginning?)

*Dianne bangs her head on her desk in frustration.*

As a reader, do you expect the Happily Ever After ending? Must the protagonist meet her goal? Can a person run away from a problem and have it be the right thing to do?

One thing’s for sure: I need to remember my favorite Neil Gaiman quote.

“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

Something is wrong with my ending, but it’s probably not what readers have told me it is, nor will their suggestions fix it. I need to figure out what’s wrong on my own and come up with the right solution.

*more head banging here*

 

 

 

Mrs Kremer recommendation

Yes, it’s time for another scatter-brained post because I couldn’t pull together a single topic.

  • I think Netflix should count as a business expense. I know many people would consider binge-watching TV while your open manuscript and a blinking cursor sit ignored on a side table counter-productive. But I recently spent four days revising a single chapter of THE MORRIGAN’S CURSE and when I finally licked it, I couldn’t face the next chapter. Yes, I had a deadline, and yes, as a full time writer I need to work at writing. Instead I watched five episodes of The Fall in a row and felt guilty about it. The next day, however, I jumped back into the manuscript and revised not just the following chapter, but three more. So, from now on, when I feel the call to binge-watch (or binge-read) instead of writing, I’m not going to fight it or feel guilty. If my tank of creativity is empty, I need to fill it back up.

 

  • I got an early peek at the cover design for THE MORRIGAN’S CURSE last week, and I am floored! I can’t share it yet, but the artwork really inspired me. You can expect the same eye-popping title and Jax running, of course. But this cover is different from the others. You’re going to love it.

 

  • The Eighth Day has started appearing at Scholastic Book Fairs across the country. I’ve been thrilled to receive messages and photos from people who were excited to see it, including my sister and my niece who spotted it at their school in Shawnee, Kansas. (My sister is a teacher there; my niece is a fifth grade student.)

 

  • I’ve got a gold ribbon on Amazon for The Inquisitor’s Mark. Which is awesome, at least while it lasts.

TIM No 1 Release in Arthurian

  • I’ve been buried in revisions since Christmas. First, THE MORRIGAN’S CURSE. Then I addressed agent and beta-reader notes on BRANEWORLD. Currently, I’m revising a YA historical paranormal, also based on my agent’s notes. By the time I’ve finished that, I expect THE MORRIGAN’S CURSE will be back for another round. I know I’ve always said how much I love revisions and hate first drafts … but part of me is hankering to work on something new.

 

  • Apropos of the point above, my plan – if I can clear my desktop of other projects by then – is to take a blogging hiatus in April and attempt my own NaNoWriMo. How much can I get written in one month? I am notoriously slow at first drafts, so this will be a real challenge for me.

What’s up with you these days?

 

Scholastic Book Club flyer

Note whose book I”m sharing the page with!!

To say I’ve been a little scatter-brained lately possibly understates it. The title of this post covers some of what’s going on, but not all of it. If I want to tack on a few of the other things vying for my attention, I’d have to add: Scholastic goodies, taglines, promo posts, and weather.

Tomorrow, my fourth book, The Inquisitor’s Mark, officially releases. There’s a launch party scheduled for this Saturday at the wonderful and amazing Hockessin Book Shelf – assuming we can squeeze it in between snow storms. Yeah, January in Pennsylvania/Northern Delaware. What a treat. I don’t want to complain too much, because I love to ski. But I do wish the snow would confine itself to the ski slopes and stay away from my book launch.

Editorial revisions are due for The Morrigan’s Curse in three weeks. I’m making good progress, but I’ve been highly distractible as all kinds of tantalizing things pop up online. Promotional posts have been going live, and I always want to stop by and say thank you. The Eighth Day has been turning up in Scholastic flyers (February TAB for example), and Scholastic Book Fair Canada created an entire skit to promote The Eighth Day, based on a scene from my book.

expansion packMeanwhile, the HarperCollins production team has outpaced me. I don’t have a final version of The Morrigan’s Curse to turn in yet, but they’ve already written the cover flap copy and asked me to brainstorm taglines for the front cover. It’s weird, but trying to come up with a catchy line that encapsulated the book totally derailed me from revisions for a weekend. I could not envision the story globally and also focus on the details of chapter revision. Luckily, my editors suggested a tagline we all liked, and I was able to turn back to the manuscript.

I’ve got my swag ready. My set of tattoos has expanded from 5 to 7, with Ambrose and Dulac crests added in honor of those new characters. And my daughter took all of the wonderful character sketches created by the talented Rachel Gillespie and designed an 8-day-week calendar for Transitioners. (I’ve got a limited number of those, but if they prove popular, I can get more. Plus I soon hope to have it downloadable from my website for kids who’d just like to print out a paper version.)

calendars

Also on my mind are two manuscripts I turned in to my agent – an old one that’s been newly revised and a brand new one. Sara got those promptly back to me with revision notes, so they’re waiting in queue behind The Morrigan’s Curse for my attention. As for the Shiny New Idea that keeps nudging me … it’s going to have to wait its turn. (Other than the opening line, which I already wrote: “You’re telling me I have to kill one of the kids?”)

I’m trying to keep up with writing and visiting blogs. As of now, I have no takers for First Impressions in February. If you’re interested, let me know ASAP.

And wish me clear skies for Saturday!

Conventional wisdom says that after completing a first draft, you should lay it aside “to rest” before beginning any revisions on it — I’ve heard some experts recommend six to eight weeks!

Well, conventional wisdom (and those experts) must not work under a deadline.

And, to be honest, laying aside a first draft for weeks has never been my method, even before I had an agent and a contract and deadlines. By the time I type THE END on a first draft, I know all the things that are wrong with it, which may include:

  • Important information I never found a place to insert
  • Important information I inserted in several places, not sure which place would be best
  • Plot holes
  • Unnecessary side plots, characters, or clues I never ended up needing
  • Inconsistent details in setting or world building
  • Wavering character motivation
  • Pacing
  • Necessary character changes (In the first draft of The Caged Graves, the character of Beulah Poole started out as a teenage girl. I realized about two thirds of the way through the first draft that I needed her to be an old woman!)
Immediately after the first draft, I create a side-by-side outline to guide my second draft revisions. In one column, I list the important events in each chapter. In the other column, I note what changes I’ll need to make in that chapter. This sometimes will include rearranging or eliminating chapters.
Side by Side Outline for Draft 1-2 of The Eighth Day

In the case of The Caged Graves, a historical murder mystery, I also created an even briefer outline of the events in each chapter and color coded them: purple for the mystery of the graves, yellow for Verity’s romance, blue for the mystery of the Revolutionary War treasure. This helped me adjust the pacing and make sure that the main mystery remained in the forefront of the story, with the romance providing a counter-point and the secondary mystery appearing often enough to not be forgotten.

Color coded outline after Draft 1 of The Caged Graves

It only takes me a couple days to produce these outlines. Then I’m ready to roll right into the writing of my second draft.

When the second draft is complete, that’s when I send it out to beta readers and I take a break from the manuscript. Under my current deadline, it won’t be a six week break, of course. I only have ten weeks before this book is due, and I don’t want to turn in anything less than a fourth draft.
As for the revisions themselves, I start with Chapter One. I am a linear girl …