A Dream

theaterempty

I had a dream that I had a magic wand. It was pink, with glitter. (I do not like the color pink, but go with me on this.) I could wave the wand and it would give me completed manuscripts. A wave, and The Walls Around Us was finished and ready for my editor. Another wave, and a short story appeared. Another wave, and the adult novel I want to write turned into a massive stack of pages on my desk. One last wave, and the secret project I’m working on was done and no longer such a secret. Waving my magic manuscript wand was SO easy. It was the best kind of magic I could hope for. I can’t tell you how terribly sad I was when I woke up and realized I didn’t have the wand and none of those manuscripts were actually written…

Until I remembered something.

I remembered that the reason I write isn’t for that final stack of pages all neat and collated on my desk. It’s for the *writing* part of writing. The feeling I get when I invent those pages, when I carve a good paragraph, when I create a character who surprises me. The process of writing, on good days, can be such a terrific high. A thrill and a deep sense of satisfaction that I’ve never felt for anything else in this life, ever. If I did have that pink, glittery magic wand from my dream, I’d never have a chance to experience this feeling again. And wouldn’t that be sadder?

On Dreams and Hearts: In Which Someone Says Something So Much Better Than I Ever Could

I’d planned to blog today, and that blog was meant to be about my first writing love—literary fiction for adults, which I aspired to write since college—and how dreams shift and balloon and curl back in on themselves, and how dreams expand and take on new faces, and how your dreams change as you grow and change.

But then I began thinking about the book I did write, the book that led me away from my original dream into a new dream. This was Imaginary Girls. Last night, in the aftermath of a mini identity crisis, E and I were talking, in the way we do, about my future as an author. He’s just as invested as I am in this, and he knows all of what I want to do, can do, could do, might do, and wish to do. We talked about how Imaginary Girls turned out—the book I wrote. It doesn’t matter who the audience was meant to be, before or after or during. Would I have written a single word differently? And the answer is no: That book is exactly how I want it to be, how I meant it to be. I was true to my characters. I was true to my intention. True to my love for my sister. True to myself.

Truth.

Imaginary Girls is the book of my heart.

Which brings me to today, in which I came upon Beth Revis’s beautiful post: “The Book of My Heart.” She says so much and more:

If you’re a writer who is unpublished, then I hope and pray you will eventually write the book of your heart. It’s a wonderful thing, and the closest I’ve come to touching magic. But I also want you to know something very, very important: the book of your heart is not the apex of your writing. It is not necessarily the best thing you’ve written, and it’s not necessarily your only shot at getting published.

I encourage you to read her post, if you’ve written the book of your heart years ago, or if you’re writing the book of your heart today. Even if you haven’t found the book of your heart yet and you wonder where it might be.

And if you’ve written the book of your heart already and have seen in published, I encourage you to read the comment on that post from Jo Knowles.

I have no more words today.

Novel Confessions

Has anyone else had one of those catastrophic, apocalyptic dreams (mine, frighteningly, involved a city destroyed) and in the dream, during the panic, you’re running to safety and have no idea how you’ll stay alive or how you’ll get out and you think… you actually really think: Damn. The world’s ending and now my book will never be published.

Oh, yes. Welcome to the dream I had this morning. I hang my head in shame.

So right now there are three novels in various stages of undress that are flitting in and out of my life. My oldest and dearest is needing a lot of attention now, and I’m falling in love with her all over again, so she shouldn’t worry.

Another one is on hold, but she keeps pounding on my windows to be let back in and I’m going to have to unlock the fire escape sometime.

And the last is begging me to finish her synopsis. WHAT HAPPENS TO ME NEXT? she whines. Then she kicks my shins. She’s mad I spent all weekend finishing up a freelance project.

These three novels don’t want to become like the two I’ve buried in boxes under the floorboards, and who could blame them?

If you’ve had any good novel nightmares lately, do share.

I met some very inspiring people last month and one of them has a website called This Is Dreaming Also. I’ve been told to visit it at nighttime…

Touching Ground

I’ve been home a week now. I’ve come back to responsibilities, and obligations, and stress, and static, and more static, and rejections, two of them, neither of which made me cry, but still: I’m disappointed. There hasn’t been good news in a while, it seems. I know I’m exaggerating, but sometimes the emotions take over and reality gets squished into a corner and you’re too taken up by the drama to let it out.

I’m just having a tough time. Blah, blah, boring.

Yesterday, I felt the weight of it all coming down on me so I did a terrible, evil thing. I napped. Toward the end of the day. I just didn’t want to have my eyes open anymore.

I had a dream.

I was back at the writers colony, my very last week there, and I discovered that there were two doors in my studio that I had never bothered to open. I opened the one on the left and discovered, to my great delight, that it led to a sweeping balcony all along the side of the house. I ran out into the open air, thrilled. Then I was immediately disappointed that I hadn’t bothered to check what was behind this door before this moment. I was about to go home and I’d only discovered it now. I was kicking myself.

Then I found, at the edge of the roof, this little contraption. A step to stand on and then a rope and pulley system to raise and lower it to another level of the balcony. I stepped on it and lowered myself to the second level of the balcony, but I couldn’t get it to stop. The rope plunged me down to the ground. Then I tried to raise it back up and stop at my floor, but I couldn’t get it to stop again and this time I rose up high into the sky, at the very tip top of the house, wavering in the bright blue sky.

I could go either all the way up or all the way down. There was no stopping in the middle so I could get back to where I started. I had no control over where I wanted to be.

The dream ended with me on the ground again, asking another artist if he knew how to get the thing to stop halfway. He didn’t. No one did. I was about to try once more—in the dream I was afraid of getting in trouble with the writers colony staff for messing up some antique lift system and mucking up its rope on the lawn—so I was just about to send myself soaring back upward, hoping I’d find a way to stop this time, hoping I’d find a way to get myself where I wanted to go… hoping, this time, I’d somehow know what to do.

Then E woke me up for dinner.

I opened my eyes and still felt the wind in my face, the beating of my heart as I sped up, up into the sky.

The Dreams You Have When You’re Dreaming

I found this very inspiring yesterday: “Leap and the Net Will Appear.”

Last night, feeling worn out in anticipation, I slept. I went to bed at ten o’clock. While I was sleeping, a text message came in from someone who’s been so supportive of me and my writing over the months in surprising, wonderful ways. Her text showed she’d been thinking of my book. It was wonderful to wake up and find it this morning.

But first, I slept.

I slept longer than I should.

I slept, telling myself this is the last Sunday I could ever sleep in.

I slept as if my whole world was about to be shaken up and I’d get tossed around with it. Which I guess it is, and which I guess I will.

While sleeping, I had a dream in which I decided to go swimming in a pool. In daylight, naked. And everyone was watching—my family, and the gang of outlaws we were somehow trying to get away from—and it wasn’t until I’d walked in up to my neck that I realized the water wouldn’t hide anything. That it was broad daylight and the water was crystal clear. I felt so exposed, the perfect target. And I kept my back to them, and I wondered: How will I get out now?

I woke before I did.

I had another dream, the kind of waking dream where you’re in bed but not fully asleep any longer, and so your conscious mind sticks its fangs in you and gets you thinking. In this dream there was this writer I know of in real life, a writer whose success I’ve been aware of. In the dream she didn’t speak to me. I watched her from a distance. I thought: Good things have started to happen to me, but nothing like that. And I thought, So I’ll just have to work harder. Like we were in a race she didn’t even bother running in. She was so sure she’d made it, she didn’t have to run.

And when I woke I wanted to smack myself for the thoughts. For comparing. For even thinking her life has anything at all to do with mine. Because it doesn’t. The worst thing you can do is compare yourself to other writers, the things you’ve been given to the things they’ve been given. She is not me, I am not her, my book is mine, and her book is hers. I hate to think I have thoughts like that, that they fill up my mind and enter my dreams.

But there are some things I thought while dreaming and half-dreaming this morning that I want to take with me: I do feel exposed now, the perfect target. But I feel all the more determined to work harder.

Now back in to this chapter I’m writing, where—funny little coincidence—my character is about to dive into a pool. Should I let her keep her clothes on?

On My Scattered Mind

Some things crowding my head this Saturday morning:

My new novel, obviously. Like constantly. Like at the worst moments, and the best moments, and when I’m trying to fall asleep, and when I’m showering, and making me almost miss my stop on the subway, and making me walk into strangers on the street, and drop things in the hallway while at work, like on my toes, and I have a bruise in my side from where I walked into the door when I was thinking about chapter five. If I could just dream about this novel and eat it for dinner, my life would be complete.

What am I going to do with my future, huh?
This question is still floating in the air and I hope it will be decided in a few months, or at least by 2010. Factors out of my control make it undecidable now so there’s no point thinking about it, but clearly I do pointless things like thinking about things I shouldn’t be thinking about while thinking about how I shouldn’t be thinking about them, and is there a way to stop your brain from whirring? I could use a pause.

I have a novel coming out in LESS THAN TWO MONTHS HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
That’s right: Dani Noir is out September 22. I have lots to do to prepare for that launch. Updates forthcoming.

Anxiety. Related to the above three items, much of the space in my brain is filled up with this amorphous thought, which takes the shape of people’s faces sometimes, or other times it’s faceless, or like a cloud, orange sometimes or red, and this morning I had a weird dream featuring my agent, my mother, and someone who I think was supposed to be my landlord, and I woke up all the more determined to write my novel, whatever that means.

Bagels. I really love them. There isn’t a day that goes by where I’m not thinking of some food-object and today it’s bagels. I had a sesame.

New ideas. I have some. One is the idea for the next YA. No worries—I wrote it down and will go back to it later. But two are ideas for new tween novels, the age level of Dani Noir, and I really want to work on them, but I have tons to do this weekend, so it’ll have to wait.

How I may change up this blog. Make it less personal. Or delete it entirely. Is there a poll I can add where you can have a vote? ETA: There is! See below.

And Then… Sleep (+ Bonus Back Cover!)

I’ve been pushing myself for the past three weeks. May 1 was the day I picked my agent; three weeks later, May 22, was the day I turned in new chapters and revisions to the awesome agent after an hour of nerves over hitting Send.

May 1, I had 25 pages; May 22, I had 59.

For me, the writer obsessed with how every word matters, who can spend a full day carving out one opening paragraph and then throw it away the next morning, that’s a lot of work done in a short amount of time. And it never felt like work: It was a joy, most of the time. (The war with page 1 that some may have witnessed not withstanding.)

But you can’t keep a full-time job and write scads of paragraphs on a new novel without letting something slip.

Let’s just say no one I know is allowed inside my apartment. I have one Very Important Thing needing to be dealt with that I promise to do next week. I have a husband, poor guy, who’s barely seen me. I need to start working on publicity for DANI NOIR! And on top of that I’m pretty stressed out at work.

So, yesterday, it was a half day at the office and I got home early. So much to do and now I had the free time to do it… What did I accomplish? Falling asleep on top of an open library book. Awesome.

I’m excited for upcoming revisions and more work on the plot summary. In the meantime? I slept in this morning and had a dream where I kept climbing up this steep, grassy hill toward a stone city in the distance. I kept saying, “I can’t wait to get back on my island!” But then the dream would shift and I’d be back at the bottom of the hill, climbing up and squealing about being back on my island. Either I’m nervous about what’s about to happen with this book or I’m not yet ready to move to Brooklyn. Who knows.

But check this out. Here’s the back cover for DANI NOIR, with Dani herself revealed!

DANI NOIR by Nova Ren Suma / cover art by Marcos Calo (out in bookstores 9/22/09)

DANI NOIR by Nova Ren Suma / cover art by Marcos Calo (out in bookstores 9/22/09)

Yes, that’s Dani, playing noir detective, spying on the mystery girl in the polka-dot tights. The artist is amazing!

Fresh Publication Dream

Just woke up from a dream about my book’s cover. In the dream, I happened to see an advance cover flat by accident and I wasn’t happy with what I saw. But I was afraid to say. In the author photo section there was a picture… of someone else. That someone looked like Cousin It or the girl from Ringu. There was so much hair all over the person pictured that I thought maybe it was me, maybe you just couldn’t see my face? The whole back of the book, the back flap and the back panel and even onto the spine, was all these heads full of dark hair. Some of the heads had their faces covered entirely by hair, and sometimes you could see the faces—they were little girls, but none were me, at least I don’t think they were.

For some reason I can’t remember what the front of the book looked like. I think it was mostly just type, I think just the name of the book and my name. It was like, THIS IS A BOOK BY ME, but the picture was so obviously not me that it freaked me out.

Then I realized the photo on the back could be me—just when I was a kid. I was confused. How did they get that picture? Why did they use it instead of the one I sent? And what is going on with my hair?

In reality, I don’t necessarily need an author photo to run on the book—not all books have them… who needs to know what an author looks like in order to read a book? Is the dream showing that I’m nervous about having a photo or not having a photo? This is completely out of my control. I guess the dream is just showing all my raw nerves, no matter what they’re about.

When I woke up, I had to assure myself it was just a dream and isn’t true. It can’t be. What I saw in the dream—though it’s all gauzy now, slipping into the forgetting—it wasn’t at all like the cover concept my editor showed me. The dream is impossible. They are not going to make my book look like that. They will not cover it with hair.

I’m feeling very insecure right now, I think.

Don’t Ask, But I’ll Tell

I cringe when asked how the novel’s coming, not sure why. I guess I’m trying not to panic myself at my slow progress. I should say my slow but steady progress. There is definite movement, words down on the page that I’m happy with, but it takes some deep thought to find the right words and to get them down there.

The process of writing the novel is like this:

Now that the outline is written—and weeks were spent devising it—I barely even use it. Tap-tap on my head, it’s all in here. I mean it was really the process of writing the outline, finding the story and the characters, that was important. Now that it’s done I peek at it only occasionally. I write from memory, but I also go off in new directions, change bits, add things, adjust, do whatever I want really. Who’s to stop me?

I write sentences, I choose words, and this takes forever. The carving of sentences into paragraphs can take hours more than I have each morning, so it is pitiful to look back at my page count when it is time to pack it in and head to work.

When I start in the morning, I have to read back a few paragraphs into what was done the day before to get my rhythm. This is normal. But then I rewrite what was written the day before. I spend so much time on what was done the day before that I barely have anything from the day itself—and imagine adding up this kind of progress in pages and you’ll know how slow I feel.

Again, I just want to say that the words—the language—is very important to me. I want this book to be good. I am not writing it like I’ve done others on assignment. This isn’t an assignment; this is a real and solid chance. And it just takes me time to eke it out, okay?

When a chapter is done I have to immediately go back and line edit it. Tune it up, smooth it out, make sure it says what I want it to say. I cannot let it be on the page. This part of the process takes days.

It is a familiar thing to reach nine o’clock in the morning—the time at which I need to leave for the subway if I want to make it to work on time—and to have just found the perfect stride. The words flow at nine a.m., on fire! All they want is out of me, and I have to shut down the laptop and make them go away. It’s a lesson in self-discipline. It’s also very sad.

But if, every morning, I’m writing toward those five minutes around nine a.m. where I have fiery perfect sentences, then I guess it’s all worth it.

How many five-minute bursts of inspiration will it take to finish one book? I’m not so good at math so I don’t know.

But don’t worry. It’s taking its sweet time, but I still continue to be madly in love with my novel. (Kisses, D.)

In other news, I am having typo nightmares. (This morning’s involved my department head showing off a typo I missed to a huge room full of people in a Powerpoint presentation.) The typo missed was fictional—it did not, has not yet, happened in real life. But the sense of doom, the desperate need to run from the room screaming “I cannot take this responsibility! Please, let me do anything else! I’ll fetch coffee, I’ll make photocopies!” is real. Other people have really fabulous dreams. I wish my nightmares were more creative. I’d take vampires or zombies over enormous angry typos any day.

Any work nightmares you’d like to share?

Dreamy

We were talking about struggling for a dream last night. Maybe it came from watching The Black Dahlia and immediately after the Hollywood auditions for American Idol. Actors and other performers have it bad. I don’t envy them, being rejected to their faces, sometimes, oftentimes, with a cruelty that makes those unsigned query rejections from literary agents seem like love notes.

“It must be crushing,” I said (while watching some girl sob). “Imagine being that crushed,” he said. And to that I said, “I have been that crushed.” And he said, “No, you haven’t.” And I insisted that I HAVE, and I won’t forget it.

Though… it’s true. Am I exaggerating even my rejections? I haven’t been completely and totally crushed as of yet—not told to never write a word again, not laughed out of the room. And maybe that’s why I keep dreaming.

Then my mother called. She wanted to know how I’ve been, how the freelance projects turned out, since it’s been so hard to get a hold of me on the phone. I was telling her about one thing or another—for example the opportunity to be considered for a high-profile project but then the editor told me she’s leaving the company this week and who knows what will happen with me now, probably nothing. This always happens to me, I complained, I connect with someone and then they leave the company. (It’s true—including this, it’s happened at least four times.) I complained some more, surely, and my mother listened, always on my side, and then she took a breath and said: “I know it’s been hard for you, believe me I know, but just imagine what it would be like without that dream. If you can’t keep trying, what would you have to live for?”

We know people who don’t have that. And I can’t imagine life without the desire to make your dream come true. It’s what gets me up early in the morning before work, like this morning, when I could have slept in an extra two hours. It’s what made me send out a batch of stories at the post office today to different literary journals. It’s the whole point of, well, everything.

And so here are the choices: 1) Try and stumble and give up and hide in a hole for the rest of my life, or 2) Try and stumble and keep trying.

I can’t help it… I choose #2.