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March 1, 2012

The Things That Help Me Write (or: Thank God for “Supernatural”)

Filed under: writing — Tags: , , , , , , — jennifer @ 2:22 pm

When Judy Garland was just a talented teenager at MGM, she worked a very demanding schedule– sometimes 18-hour days, one after another. To keep her going and to ensure she would be able to perform, MGM supplied her with sleeping pills so that she could rest between scenes, and then, when it was time to roll the cameras again, they would ply her with amphetamines to wake her up.

Thankfully, I haven’t ever used either, but there are certain things that do keep me going when I’m working a grueling schedule. And right now I’m working a very grueling schedule–producing, writing, editing, designing, outfitting, directing, scoring, and starring in a trailer for the book; editing the first pass galleys of Becoming Clementine; continuing to research (when time permits) and outline the Hollywood book; writing the Hollywood book; doing publicity/promotion for past and future books; and redesigning my website, among many other things– which is why I haven’t blogged a word for over a week.

So, in no particular order, these are some of the things that are helping me through (aside from my boyfriend, my mom, my cats, my hilarious and loving family, my friends, my readers, and my ever-supportive and encouraging literary agent):

Supernatural (few things help inspire or comfort me more than watching the super-hunky Winchester brothers hunt monsters and battle demons– it’s perhaps the one thing that seems harder than writing)

Exercise (namely: Physique 57)

Google breaks

Singing songs into my best friend Joey’s voicemail

Things to look forward to– whether it’s getting together with friends or an upcoming Charles Boyer film on TCM or a walk around LACMA with my boyfriend at the end of our work day

Our new car– the cutest, sexiest Mini Cooper S you ever did see

The Bachelor and my Tuesday morning discussions with Mom during which we analyze the show (and the people on it) at great lengths

The Walking Dead (See Supernatural comments above, only in this case, of course, sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes and company have to battle zombies)

The anticipation of John Carter

Stepping out into the CA sunshine at least once a day

My new office desk chair (no more back pain!)

My new office reading chair (see above)

The never-ending gratitude– even in the face of tremendous deadlines– that comes from knowing I’m getting to do what I love to do

The knowledge that someday, many, many months from now, I will have a break.

February 13, 2012

In Search of the Perfect Reading Chair

Filed under: writing — Tags: , , , , , , — jennifer @ 12:03 pm

Now that I’ve handed in the copy edits, here are the primary things I’m working on:

~ Creating, shooting, appearing in (!), and producing a book trailer for Becoming Clementine. (More on this later…)

~ Updating my website for Becoming Clementine, building web pages for the book as well as redesigning my homepage to feature the cover (which means I’ll be revealing the brand new cover soon!). (No, I don’t actually do the implementing and the building– my computer genuis boyfriend handles that.)

~ Researching and outlining Velva Jean’s adventure in Hollywood (hereafter referred to as “Hollywood”), which means sifting through volumes of material from that era, including book after book on everything from the studio system to Max Factor to Hollywood nightlife to the story of MGM to Los Angeles and the mob to every movie star biography/autobiography ever written about or by a star of the 1940s.

With all this researching and outlining, I’ve been reading at my desk, averaging two books a day, hunched over in my office chair, going back and forth between the book and my computer, where I’m inputting notes. At the end of the work day, my back feels 150 years old, and while yoga and Physique 57 certainly help, the next session at my desk seems to undo most of the good they’ve done.

So I am on the hunt for a cozy, comfortable reading chair– this is in addition to my office chair– something I can sink into and relax in, and something that will ideally be big enough to hold me and several books and maybe a literary cat or two at the same time. Of course, it also has to have a nice sense of style and look good in my office.

And, perhaps most important, the cats have to like it. After all, they spend almost all day every day with me in my office and they are always looking for new and exciting places to sleep. (Usually on top of my work or on the computer keyboard.)

Any recommendations? If so, I’d love to hear them.

February 1, 2012

Behind the Book — My Editing Journal

If I were keeping a journal right now, the entries would look something like this:

Monday, January 30, 2012–

I manage to make myself go to Physique 57 today, the only thing I know that’s harder than editing a book. I figure what better way to clear my mind and get ready for the day ahead? For those of you unfamiliar with Physique 57, it’s pretty much the hardest, most challenging, most effective workout in the world. There comes a point, half way through class, when I think: I cannot do this anymore. I am either going to die right here on this floor or somehow crawl out and die in the hallway. But as Kyle, my teacher says, “You can do anything for ten seconds.”

This is something I need to remember right now as I am up to my neck in copy edits. And it does help to get me through what turns out to be a day of unusually high email demands– too many non-editing-related-yet-still-work-related matters to deal with. And it helps me get through the edits. Each day I set a goal for the work and today’s is to get through 120 pages. By getting through, I mean reading all the notes made by both the copy editor and my editor and then addressing every note that appears on that allotted 120 pages. And by addressing I mean answering, cutting, rewriting, or, in some cases, returning changed text back to what I originally wrote (sometimes copy editors are so proper and thorough that they can make a character’s voice– especially one as informal as Velva Jean’s– sound overly articulate). In the midst of it all, my editor and I engage in some back and forth regarding certain sections of the story. And more emails pop up that need answering.

My work day ends sometime around 8:00 pm, and then Louis and I watch History is Made at Night, starring a swoon-inducing Charles Boyer and the lovely Jean Arthur, because, when I’m not at my desk or working out, I am watching romantic movies that will help me stay in the mindset (and heartset) of Velva Jean’s romance in Becoming Clementine.

I fall asleep reading a biography of Charles Boyer, which is my way of keeping one foot in the world of 1940’s Hollywood so I don’t get too far away from the book (Velva Jean’s Hollywood adventure) that I’ll be going back to researching and outlining next week, once the copy edited manuscript is returned to my editor.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012–

I don’t get to exercise today, although I pretend I think I’m going to. Instead I work on the next 120 pages of notes until I get an email from my editor wondering if I can condense eight of the existing forty-some chapters into one or two so that the story can move along faster. I practice yoga breathing, which is the closest I get to a workout, and then I tell myself: You can do anything for ten seconds.

I write my editor back, telling her why I don’t think this will work (and it’s not that I’m against cutting– I’ve already cut huge sections/chapters/scenes out of this book), but promising her I will cut and trim like a mad woman in that particular section.

Then I somehow manage to make it through not 120 pages but the entire rest of the book, which leaves me exhausted and incapable of even basic conversation or thought, but feeling somewhat triumphant as well. This means I can spend all day Wednesday looking at those eight chapters that have my editor so worried.

The work day ends at 8:30 pm, and we watch Brief Encounter, which unfortunately does not star Charles Boyer, but is good just the same. I fall asleep under a stack of research books for Velva Jean in Hollywood– a biography of Clark Gable, the story of MGM’s publicity man, Eddie Mannix, and Lana Turner’s self-indulgent autobiography, which I am determined to get through even though she seems most interested in talking about her jewels.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012–
I wake up bleary-eyed and groggy, which I equate to having a kind of book editing hangover. I send the eight chapters in question to my mother, explaining my editor’s concerns, and then I force myself into the car and make myself drive to Beverly Hills to go to Physique 57. Half way through class I think, “This is ten times harder than editing a book, which is already the hardest thing I know of on this earth,” which makes me think, with renewed vigor, that I can go home and Do This Thing. (There is a reason I’ve thanked Physique 57 in the acknowledgments of my book.)

Back at my desk, I see with great relief that the email world is much quieter today. Nothing pressing, nothing that needs addressing. I dive into the eight problem chapters and spend most of the day stripping things away, rewriting, and reorganizing scenes. I discuss what I’ve done with my mother, and then I reread the newly edited pages before moving on to reread other parts of the manuscript.

Everything is in place so that tomorrow I can start reading the book aloud from beginning to end. In my experience, this is the very best way to weed out anything that doesn’t need to be there.

I am still at my desk, but I’m thinking of stopping early today– perhaps by 7:00 pm so we can walk to Trader Joe’s and find something good for dinner and then come back home and watch my favorite romantic movie of all time, Chaplin’s City Lights. Which, unfortunately, also does not star Charles Boyer.

(But I am considering thanking him in my acknowledgments.)