Becca Wilhite Blog

August 14, 2012

This (past) week

I know I’m one of the only people in the world who still blogs, and the other one is the Pioneer Woman, so let’s just say I’m in good company. But I do try to get in more posts than this (hello, last week! How’ve you been?).

Allow me to walk you through my life in the last seven days.

1. I printed The Manuscript. I ended up reducing the font size so as to not use so much of a ream of paper. But – irony – I managed to miscommunicate with my printer (not so hard for a champion miscommunicator like myself) and printed 2.75 copies of the story. Awesome. Because if one huge printing is good, two and three-quarters must, must, must be better. So I gave one to Kid 2, who made noises of interest in reading this draft. And the other .75 sits in the office, waiting to be scrap paper.

2. I registered 2 Kids for high school. Thus, we eat beans and rice for a month. Or two. Free public education = really expensive in August.

3. I discovered (again) that something I said in an offhand manner hurt someone I love. This is not a proud thing for me. And it happens more often than I like, and I wish (oh, I wish) it didn’t. I have a gift for thoughtlessness, and I hate that gift. If you’re among the hurt, I give a sincere blanket apology. Sheesh. I should not speak. Ever.

4. I left an ill husband and four Kids to fend for themselves and went on a writers’ retreat. Here’s the thing: I like to think my family can’t possibly do without me. I LOVE the idea that they’re miserable when I’m not here cooking for them, folding their underthingies neatly, bleaching white surfaces, and sweeping crusties off the kitchen floor. The truth is a little different. They love it when I’m gone. They totally step up, and they don’t miss me for a second. Also, Husband tested negative for strep, so there’s another bonus. They all did great without me. And could have continued to do so indefinitely. (*Note to Self: Research long-term effects of strict salt-and-vinegar chips / Bugles diet. End Note.*)

4.5. Meanwhile, I retreated to Bear Lake. Kid 4 was stunned to discover that I never actually got IN the lake. But I did look at it a great deal. I watched the water change from blue to bluer to gray to slate to amazing as the cloudcover shifted throughout a couple of days. Also I finished the latest revision. Read it on paper and then inputted (that’s totally a word) changes in the computer. I did not get distracted by facebook or blogs or email, because… no internet. Except on my phone, where I had patchy, spotty internet. And service in general. Leaving me no excuses in the text-message realm, either. I read a lot. I pondered. I fixed, and changed, and adjusted, and polished. And then I pushed “Save” and moved on. And ate a whole lot of really, really good food.

5. I started writing on something new. It had been a while since I lived anywhere but inside Fifth Gift draftiness, and it was very fun. I didn’t do a whole ton of writing on the new thing — maybe 2500 words or so. But I planned (which is different than outlining, but I wish it weren’t because I think I should get good at that particular skill, and right away) the story, and thought of some stuff that I’d like inside it, and played with ideas. And wrote some. Inside this story, there’s a historical (fake) post-WWII poet who needs a name. I love the idea of two initials and a last name (a la ee cummings, E.B. White, E.M. Forrester, but without the “Es” — SEND IDEAS. I may reward you with a book.)

6. I had a tiny breakdown. I didn’t mean to. It just happened. I got emotional, spoke something that had been inside my heart for a long time, and sort of burst open. Dear friends who were there: Fear not. I am fine. And that won’t happen again. Probably.

7. I came home fulfilled. Then I swept the kitchen floor. Then I slept for a really, really long time.

8. I sent the revisions to Agent Meredith. (My heart is beating faster, just for having written those words.)

9. Life is moving on, faster and faster. Days are short, nights are short, moments are quick.

10. I just got a look at what room and board cost at the university of Kid 1’s choice. It would be awesome if somehow I dug up a treasure box full of Spanish gold. And soon.

And so it goes. Good things, filling up the days and nights and hearts and minds. I hope things are good with you, too.

August 7, 2012

Limbo

Filed under: Fifth Gift,writing process — becca @ 8:31 am

Sometimes the revision process feels like Limbo. Purgatory? Maybe. The In-Between place. The Not Here, the Not There. I’m not doing a whole lot of writing, is what I’m saying, and I’m not promoting anything, and I’m not working on editorial letter changes (at least, not exactly). I’m

… reading.

I’m reading. My own book.

And it’s weird, I’m telling you.

Because you know what? I already know this story.

But I have to pick at it. I have to poke around and see what holes open up. I have to question every motive and every consequence. I have to push these little characters until they push back and become big characters. I have to understand the things that happened “organically” when I wrote it.

<<TANGENT

“Organically” is my least favorite writery buzzword these days. It’s become a cliche for “I think the words/scene/book just tumbled out of my brain when I wasn’t watching” and it sort of bugs me. (Can you tell?) But it’s true — there are pieces and parts and chunks of a book that I don’t remember THINKING about. They just happened. Entire characters who spring, fully formed, from a word or idea or conversation inside the page. And although the overuse of the word “organic” strikes me as laughable and kind of hippie (not the cool kind of hippie), the actuality of it, the reality of it is completely awesome. Because an idea I love is this: The story is THERE, waiting for me to unwrap it. And for me to polish it up. And for me to make it more real. (Um, speaking of hippie? I know.) And sometimes that happens with careful planning. And sometimes it’s the result of days and weeks and months of effort. And some days, it just shows up on the screen, sparkly and gorgeous and juicy. And that is some kind of sweetness.

END TANGENT>>

So as I’m reading, I’m also critiquing. Which is (theoretically) different from criticizing. Criticizing is saying, basically, “Here’s why this is no good. And here. And here. So there.” Which I say to myself when reading my work now and then. But it’s no good, to be a critic. There is no creation going on there. Only destruction. Of story, of heart and soul and spirit. But critique, when it’s right, says, “Here are some places that you have left room for growth. And here are some thoughts and ideas of how that growth can happen, how it can make your story more full and sweet and terrifying and enjoyable and amazing.”

Which, really, is inside-the-mind kind of work. And it doesn’t lend itself to page count or word count or any kind of count. But it’s happening, and I hope it’s making the book better. And better. And more better. (And in the mean time, I’m kind of looking forward to some more submission, because that means more writing time in the schedule. Yay for writing time.) But between here and there, I’ll keep moving. I’ll keep reading and turning and polishing and honing (hey! I love that word) and sharpening. Because it’s all part of creating.

July 2, 2012

Re-Re-Revision

Filed under: Fifth Gift,writing process — becca @ 7:26 am

It’s that time again. Revision. Re-revision. Re-re-revision. (That sort of implies that it started with a VISION, right? And that should help this process along.)

Agent M sent the latest round of notes, I read them right away, and I’ve taken the weekend to process. A few thoughts on the whole deal:

— Far fewer notes than the last revision (does that mean I’m getting closer?)

— I remind myself about the generous and kind comments she’s made in past versions, and I ask for a compliment now and then, as my confidence begins to slip. (She sends the compliments and reminds me that she loves my invented characters. *sigh of relief*)

— It’s still MY story, even though Agent M has invested a great deal of time (at least 3 thorough readings at this point) and effort (wow, I need a lot of coaching) in making it better. And it is getting better. But ultimately, decisions lie with me.

— I’m rediscovering how much trust I’m placing in Agent M. It feels great, GREAT to let myself be guided by her professional wisdom.

— After many thousand new words, still only a few words are up for deletion. (I’m an adder, not so much a subtractor, apparently.)

— This is WORK. Remember when revisions (in school or something) meant changing a word, or a phrase, or a paragraph? Yeah. I remember that, too.

— The things that go on behind the scenes in the story, the implied parts, are very clear in my head. But at some point, they may need to be made clear to the readers. This may cause hair-tearing and whinging. Why is it that what’s clear inside my head becomes so muddied when I try to extract it?

— Right is better than Quick. What in the world is my hurry?

— Still very grateful to be on this ride. Very, very grateful.

June 2, 2012

The Eggs Are In the Basket

Filed under: Fifth Gift,libraries,writing process — becca @ 8:52 am

And once again, I have delivered a manuscript.

Breathe with me, friends.

Ahhhh.

We shall see what Agent Meredith thinks of it (if she finds it ready to submit to editors), but meanwhile, I can think about other things for a few minutes. Yay! Other things! (See how glad I am?)

Okay. So. Things.

Um, what do normal people think about in June? Oh, I remember. Okay. So yesterday was the last day of school. Summer, bring it on. Anniversary is Monday, and we decided to (wait for it) buy a GIFT for each other. I know. Revolutionary. He knows what it is. I know what it is. But the kids don’t, so I’ll tell you later. And then. We’re looking for a little summertime family getaway. Do you know VRBO? Vacation rental houses. Yes. please.

I’m teaching some writing classes at the local library this summer. Teen Writers’ Classes, June 28th and July 12th – both Thursdays, both 11-2 at the Wasatch County Library in Heber, UT. Also, the librarians don’t want us to wither and die, so … PIZZA. Not kidding. And moms who have asked me about precocious 9 and 10 year olds, HEY, GOOD NEWS. I’ll do a class for 8-12s. Because I love your kids. I do. And I want to give them some encouragement and some tips. But I don’t want to throw too wide a net for my teen class. It’s a big difference, a 9 year-old and an 18 year-old. It takes a magician to communicate well for both of those kids at the same time, and despite all evidence to the contrary, I am not a magician. I’ll check dates with the librarians and let you know. But maybe a Saturday. Or maybe not. (And probably no pizza. Sorry. I’ll tell you where you can go pick up some lunch, though, if you need ideas.)

So, recap: Summer is here. My manuscript is delivered (again). My brain circuits are shredded and I have nothing resembling rational thoughts.

And what’s new with you?

May 28, 2012

Breathing

Filed under: anxiety,Fifth Gift,writing process — becca @ 9:35 am

I’m gasping a little, here
Not drowning, exactly —
Just feeling the water slapping against my chin.

Working.Working.Workworkworking
And not much getting finished.
Sticky, life is.
(Also floors. And cupboards.)

Is the story any good anymore?
Hard to say.
Hurry hurry hurryhurryhurry
to Finish It Up.

Why?

So it can be done?
Or so it can be right?

Can the HURRY help the RIGHT?

Time to focus on the breathing.
To enjoy the cool of the slapping water.
To live the moments
That may not, surely Will Not
Happen again.

Moments.
That’s what I’m breathing for.
Moments.

May 11, 2012

It’s More Stuff, at last.

Filed under: familyness,Fifth Gift,food,Mom — becca @ 6:29 pm

Do you ever feel the need, the deep, deep NEED to be poetic or intellectual or (dare I say it?) satisfying when you write? I do feel that need, but I try to push it to the side as often as possible. So, what I’m saying is, although I could astound y’all with my reamarkability, I’d rather just spew out some word vomit so you feel more at home — and like I’m accessible.

See? I’m here for you.

So. Mother’s Day. Coming right up. We’re having homemade wheat bread and honey butter and reading out loud to each other. That’s what passes for Big Wilhite Plans. (But the adults are going to Cheesecake Factory tomorrow, for Pre-Mother’s Day Festivities, and that’s plans if I ever had some.)

Speaking of Cheesecake Factory. There are times that I miss my mom. Things I wish she could have known. I know I tell you that a lot. And the last time I went to CF, I had one of those times. Because I had a tuna salad. My mom knew tuna salad as this:

You know. It’s canned tuna chunks, mixed with mayonnaise and dill pickles. Maybe red onions and celery if you’re in a dicing mood. You put it on bread. You eat it, and for a mayonnaise-based meal, it’s good. Even satisfying. At least it CAN be. But my mom never ate this:

That is the Cheesecake Factory’s Seared Ahi Tuna Tataki Salad with avocado and wasabi vinaigrette. With a pretty rosette of pickled ginger (mmmm). 441 calories, if you keep track of such things (which sometimes I do, and that’s the perfect number, since the slice of mango-lime cheesecake I’m going to eat for dessert has a few whole lot more than that).

I wish I could have shared this with my mom. Not literally, you know. She’d have to order her own. Oh, come on. Just kidding. I’d share. But really? This is tuna salad nirvana, and I wish she could experience it.

*Theological/Existential Question: Is there seared Ahi tuna Tataki salad in heaven? And mango-lime cheesecake? If there’s not, I’ll find a way to be happy anyway, but I think there might be.

On a non-foodly topic, I have a deadline. Remember when I told you I was enjoying what I hoped was my last non-deadline writing project? It was. And now, with the excellent editorial advice of Agent Meredith, I am revising FIFTH GIFT for a soonish submission. And it’s going great. Do you want to know how much she likes my story? A lot. She has lovely and kind things to say about characters, language, world-building and such. It’s a fun story, on it’s way to awesome. And she’s helping me make it better: Want to know what she asked of me? Setting, that’s what. She wants my characters to wear clothing and live in buildings and have SCENERY outside their windows. And she’s absolutely right. But do you want to know what happened? When I started putting my characters in clothing and having them look out the windows in the buildings they live inside… they had to go out into the scenery. And new things are happening there, in the outside. Cool things. Things that will hopefully thicken up this story to the point of its becoming a BOOK. That someone will PUBLISH. And when that happens, I’ll be so sure to let you know. (Yesterday I added scenes that were awesome and met my 2000 word goal. I cheered. And made peanut butter fudge as a reward. See below.)

Peanut Butter Fudge. It’s a new happiness. I saw the recipe in my Hershey’s cookbook. My Grammy gave me this cookbook 18 years ago as a wedding present, which is exactly in line with my Grammy’s gift-giving mojo: Give the gift you’d like to receive. I’m not much of a chocolate dessert person. But know what? Husband is. And so this book has pages (like the one with the “deep dark chocolate cake” recipe) that are stiff with spills and smears of ingredients. Which, you know, is how to measure the success of any recipe. Pick the dirtiest card, the stiffest page, the one with unbookly colors and textures on it. Also pictures.

If you’re a candy purist, this isn’t even fudge. Know what? I don’t care. Because even if it isn’t fudge, it’s good. And BONUS… it’s easy. Also, there’s sweetened condensed milk. So, you know. Happiness.

Here it is.
Fake Peanut Butter Fudge

2 cups (12 ounces) Reeses’ Peanut Butter Chips
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk*
3 Tablespoons butter

Line a 9×13 pan with foil. Spray the foil with pan spray. Pour chips and milk into a saucepan. Melt over medium heat until it’s all smooth. Stir in the butter.  Spread the loveliness into the prepared pan. THEN, there’s this:

2 cups (12 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk*

Rinse the peanut butter sauce pan. Dry it really well. Pour chocolate chips and milk into the saucepan. Melt over medium heat until it’s all smooth. Don’t forget to stir, and don’t turn it up too high, or you’ll get lumps. That would be sad. When it’s smooth, pour it over the peanut butter layer. Cool it in the fridge. Cut it into 1-inch squares (they’ll be cubes, really, and they’re lovely and striped). I know. Too easy to really be fudge. But so tasty. Tell me if you try it.We can make yummy sounds together.

There’s more, but we can save some of the random for another day, right? Happy Mothers’ Day, mamas out there. And those who have mothers, ever knew a mother, or have a Mother Heart. You, especially.

XOXO

April 18, 2012

Wherein I Use Many Words to Say Few Things of Significance

Filed under: books,Fifth Gift,giving,school,word count,writing process — becca @ 8:26 am

Today is the last day to enter to win TELL ME WHO I AM. So get on over and enter, if you haven’t. Because WINNING IS FUN. Remember that?

Also, New York. I am going. (Coming?) Soon. In a week I will be there. And I am excited more than I am nervous. Remember how I gave up fear for Lent? Still doing well with that, even though Lent is over. And hooray for me. I can ride a subway (or two or three)  alone. I can eat alone. I can buy an app that will tell me where to find one of the very few public restrooms in the Great City. (And possibly I can go a week without drinking any water, but probably not.) I can walk through Central Park alone. I can go see two (2) shows alone. I can write many words alone, when nobody is there to help me count them. [1] And I can be productive for hours and hours at a time. Especially when I’m not being tempted to watch period pieces on Netflix, due to the cost of wifi in the hotel.

(Sidenote: If you run an expensive, classy hotel, why do you charge for wifi? I’m just wondering. Wifi seems like one of those things, like oxygen, that should just come with your room these days. End sidenote.)

Prom is Saturday. Kid 1 has a pair of sparkly silver shoes and a web browser full of Prom Hair Ideas. Also a lovely borrowed dress. Photos to come, if you like.

I’m working on a new book. (It’s the one that follows the current book that is in the hands of Agent Meredith.) Maybe. I’ve never written a sequel before. Actually, that’s not true. I have 2 different series in my drafts folder. Each of them has at least three volumes started. And… None of them is publishable. So maybe what I’m saying is that I don’t know HOW to write a sequel, a series, a follow-up. I think it’s hard work. And we all know how I feel about hard work. But I’m learning how. By doing it (again). And it’s not so bad, in a first-draft/so-far-fewer-than-10,000-words kind of way. Not necessarily good, is what I’m saying, but not entirely bad.

Tomorrow I get to return to Mrs. G’s class to give them a pump-up cheer on their NaNoWriMo project. (Remember I told you they’re writing a book in a month? In 8th grade? Because Mrs. G is awesome?) I’m probably going to get a lot of questions like, “What do I do now? I can’t think of what should happen next.” And I’ll tell them to make something explode. Which is only half a joke. The other half of it is true: in a story, a great number of things can explode in order to move the plot along. Physically, emotionally, socially, psychologically… explosions make for great conflict, and conflict will move your story forward. (My own written explosions tend to be emotional and psychological, with an occasional social one. I should branch out into the physical explosion world. But that’s not really my style. We shall see…)

I am reading GRACELING. Because Agent Meredith suggested it. Someone with whom she was discussing my submission said it reminded her of Graceling. So I got it. And I’m reading it. Have you? Have your kids/neighbors/acquaintences, if you’re not a teenage-book reader? I have heard one amazing review of book 3 in the series (that comes out later this month), but little else about the series. And there is certainly an element that is similar to FIFTH GIFT. I’ll let you know what I think when I’ve finished it. Meanwhile, you tell me (you know, if you read it…)

Don’t forget to enter to win a copy of TELL ME WHO I AM — do it today.

(Sorry. Sometimes I channel Señorita Bossy Pants. I’ll try to reign it in.)

[1] This is usual, actually. I don’t really write with other people around. Because I am easily distracted, that’s why. And I listen and talk and prepare snacks instead of pushing keys. But I might have to

December 1, 2011

Can I love it (and be so done with it at the same time)?

Filed under: Fifth Gift,writing process — becca @ 9:21 am

I’m almost through revising. Again.

Again.

It’s not really something that I do once and POOF! A great book! It’s more like “Okay, so if I look at one more sentence I’ve read a million times, will it somehow restructure itself to be that mystical, magical “fresh voice” that editors and agents everywhere will fall in love with?” So, what I’m saying is, I’m getting a little tired of this story. And its words. And its structure. But, here’s the thing… it’s only a LITTLE tired, what I’m getting. I don’t actually hate it. In fact, I think it’s a good book. And with the help of my beta readers’ amazing suggestions, it’s getting better and better (I think).  (I hope.)

What I am really getting tired of is this chair. This one right here that I’ve duct-taped my hindparts into so I can’t go anywhere until I’ve finished. For days I’ve been in this chair, and I’m here to tell you, it isn’t getting any more comfortable.

Note to self: Someday, deserve a nice chair. Also a laptop. And a real haircut.

So here we go again, back to the revisions. I’m working it, friends. I’m trying to give you a really good book here. And as soon as that happens, I’ll be sure to let you know. Again. And again. I know. You were afraid I wouldn’t tell you, weren’t you? You thought that maybe I’d just sit here on my uncomfortable chair and hold a good book in my arms. But, fret not. I’ll get the word out, as soon as there’s word. Promise.

Back to word (that’s totally a typo, but I’m leaving it, because Word is my Work, after all).

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