Saturday, January 21, 2012

Making it a Visual Experience

When in the midst of writing my novel,  I had all kinds of delusions of grandeur about my book being turned into a movie. Those were in the good moments of writing. Writing, and maybe this can be said of any big project where your life and soul is consumed, can be a little bipolar at times; sometimes you feel you are worthy of fame and fortune, and sometimes you flat out suck.

And I'll admit, the moments you think you suck, far outweigh the moments of grandeur.

Even in the last few weeks since I set myself down the path to committing to self ePublishing this book, I've had a few bipolar moments. I love this book and I hate it too. It was the catalyst for a lot of change in my life. It is full of subliminal messages. I can see stuff about myself in it that I didn't recognize while I was writing. These things are hard to face now, six years later.

I had to re-read the book a few months ago so I could fix a few issues of temporality. I had a cell phone issue to deal with. While I tried to write the book to be somewhat timeless and something today's teenage girls could relate to, there is no denying that I was a teenager in a different era. So there was a scene where my heroine comes home to a phone message but later in the book we know she has a cell phone. If she has a cell phone why wouldn't the caller have used it?  I had to fix that. But it meant I had to read the book and that made me a little self conscious.

I'm very fussy about consistency in a book. I'm also frustrated when I'm reading a book and an author takes care of a problem with a "cheat."  In fact I finished reading a book last night that used a huge cheat. A character died from a brain tumour and I guess later in in the writing process, like 10 or 12 chapters later, the author created a plot twist that required that the family be in financial crisis. So low and behold, in a one-sentence write-off, the family was suddenly in serious debt because of the medical bills from the character with the brain tumour.  That's a cheat because it came out of nowhere. No foreshadowing, no warning. I think cheats are an insult to intelligent readers. And while, it was a small issue I had to fix in my book and perhaps would have gone by unnoticed by most readers, it would have bugged me for life so it had to be fixed.

Speaking of readers, my book has been out of the closet now for a little under six years. In that time I've pretty much indiscriminately allowed whoever asked to read it. I never offered it to anyone but I never said no if I was asked. Allowing people to read your novel can be scary sometimes but I was never afraid of letting people read this one. The vast majority of my readers have fallen outside my target audience however, meaning they've been older than 29 and some of them have been male. Only two of my readers have been in the right zone; one was the cousin of one of my best friends and one was the step-daughter of a co-worker.

When I was asked by my favourite designer ,who I put in charge of my book cover design, to help her by identifying key moments in the book, I sent an email out to some of the people I knew had read my book and asked what they remembered. I figured the best way to find out what was most memorable in the book would be to identify those scenes that stick in people's heads for a long time. You know how when you watch a movie or read a novel there is always one part that sticks with you even years after you last saw the movie? That's what I was looking for -- the moments that suck for my friends.

It didn't occur to me until after I hit "send" that maybe there was nothing memorable about my book and nobody would remember anything, and no one would reply (while sending the email was a moment of grandeur, the fear of lack of a reply was an I suck moment, to say the least). And I sent this email over Christmas holidays so it did take 2 or 3 days for people to start replying but, at last, the New Year came and the responses started to roll in.

Most remembered the "teenager" bits -- the making out and the parties and the drinking. A couple remembered the bonfire party scene. Some remembered baseball. Someone actually, five years later, remembered my heroine's name -- extra amazing because it is also a first person book and the only time you read her name is when another character uses it in dialogue.

Her name is Janey, by the way.

And one person remembered the long walk/run through St. Boniface in the dark. That person happened to be my longtime mentor Laurie and I'm sure he remembered that portion because it was agonizing for him to get me to write visual imagery. Not my strength as a writer -- describing shit, I mean. In fact, I'll confess, the way I remember it is that there was a section during that run scene that Laurie, for all intents and purposes, wrote for me.

What my readers didn't remember was the car accident (not a spoiler, by the way, you find out about that in the first chapter), the grieving theme, the love triangle (sorta), and the emotional bits of "coming of age." It isn't a visual book. I'm not a visual writer. It is an emotions book. That's who I am.

I shot my designer an email with a few mentions of specific scenes, an attachment with the book she wanted for reminders as it had been a while since she read it herself -- not to mention the narcotic factor as she read it initially while recovering from a nasty bike crash. I only had two no-no's for the image: No car crashes and no pink. But I knew I really didn't have to tell her that second one.

And I told her I thought she had the hardest job in the world. I couldn't imagine having to take someone's written word and put a visual on it. We write our books picturing everything in our own heads. We picture the locations, we may even be imagining a real place. We may picture our friends in place of our characters. I didn't write any character to be just one person in my life. Often my characters were an amalgamation of 2, 3 or 4 people I knew mixed in with the invented bits, so for me, a character might have 2, 3 or 4 different appearances.

She said she'd get back to me in two weeks. I freaked out because that was fast. And once the cover came in, it would be real, you know. I would have to go through with this.

She only took a week and a half..........

.........and dammit, she sent me two options. And they are both AMAZING and I have to decide. I think I have decided actually. I'm just taking a few days to keep it unreal a little longer.

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