The new book, part 2: FAQ.

You First coverI’ve been getting a LOT of questions about You First, my new novel that publishes January 6, 2015. So, I thought I’d take this opportunity to answer some of them.

I thought you said YOU were writing a new book. Who is this Cari Simmons person?

Excellent question! Cari Simmons is the beautiful genius behind the Picture Perfect series. She provided a short synopsis for each title. Then authors were selected to take these ideas and turn them into full-fledged novels. The synopsis for You First was literally 716 words. I took that, made it my own, and turned it into a 42,000-word novel.

Wait a minute – your name is Lara (rhymes with mascara), not Lola. So who’s Lola Douglas?

Ahh, you must be new around here. Lola Douglas is the pseudonym I used for True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet and More Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet. My editor, the lovely and talented Kristen Pettit, thought it would be fun to bring Lola out for another spin, so “she” got to write You First.

True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet movieWasn’t True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet a Lifetime movie?

Yep. It was based on the book. It still airs from time to time. It’s deliciously cheesy and one of the coolest things that happened to me during my short writing career.

Speaking of short: Didn’t you, like, “retire” back in 2010?

I did.

Why?

There are a lot of reasons. I wrote about most of them here.

So what happened to bring you out of “retirement”?

Kristen happened. See, she got out of the children’s book business before I did. Then, in 2013, she decided to get back into it. She sent me a Facebook message saying that we should talk. When we did, she pitched me the project. It had “me” written all over it – set in Delaware! With a protagonist who’s into theater and likes to bake!

Even so, at first I was like, “Um, I don’t do this any more.” But then I thought, “This is a pretty incredible opportunity. I’d be a fool to pass it up.”

We talked, and I started to get excited about the idea of diving back into fiction. So I figured I’d give it a shot.

Are you writing anything else?

Why, yes, I am! I’m working on a wickedly fun YA novel for Kristen. It’s tentatively slated to come out summer 2016.

What’s it about?

I’m not at liberty to say. (Don’t you know it’s bad luck to talk about a WIP before you’ve finished a draft?)

Whatever. Is it another Lola book?

No, this one will be published under my married name, Lara Deloza. It will be the first Lara Deloza novel ever!

Anything else I need to know?

Um…not that I can think of. But let me know if you have any more questions, okay?

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First Draft-itis and how my NaBloPoMo goal is helping.

Today is November 15, which means that I’m officially halfway to my NaBloPoMo goal. It hasn’t been as difficult as I thought it would be, though there have been some days that I’ve been like, “What in the world could I possibly write about today?” I mean, technically there are TONS of things that I could write about, but I’m actually not that interesting a person. (Evidence: this post.)

But honestly, I didn’t challenge myself to write 30 days of killer content. I challenged myself to write 30 days of blog posts, period. I wanted to get myself back in the habit of actually DOING the blog thing, instead of just thinking about doing it.

keep-calm-and-write-the-draftIn some ways, it’s been like writing a first draft: I have to shut off my inner critic and just write. Sure, I proofread, and sure, I’ve corrected some typos after the fact (doing things like that is in my type-A DNA). But honestly, if I’m writing 30 posts in 30 days I don’t have time to labor over every single one. I kind of have to go with my gut and just get it out onto the page (or screen, as the case may be).

I’m sort of struggling with First Draft-itis on my current WIP. There are lots of things about this project that are just sticky. For one thing, it has multiple, first-person narrators. In the back of my head, there’s a niggling voice asking me WHY? WHY DID YOU PICK FIRST PERSON, YOU NIMROD? (The niggling voice isn’t very nice, if you couldn’t tell.)

But I do not have time to entertain those kinds of niggling voices. I’m on a deadline, and because I have a full-time day job that keeps me more than busy, I have to work toward that deadline with daily word goals. Realistic ones that I still can’t meet 100% of the time. I can’t allow myself to reread more than what I wrote during my previous session, even if I am having difficulty keeping my facts/timelines straight. Then I’ll just spend all of my writing hours tweaking/shaping instead of making progress.

I’m like Abraham in The Walking Dead: I can’t go back, I can only move forward.

Even as I press forward, though, I feel like I’m getting lost in the words. HOW AM I GOING TO WRITE MYSELF OUT OF THIS? WHAT CAN POSSIBLY HAPPEN TO CONNECT POINT A TO POINT B? I have a road map to this novel – and exhaustive chapter-by-chapter break down – and yet I’m still scratching my head most nights.

When this happens, I make myself think of E.L. Doctorow and the whole writing-is-like-driving-at-night-in-the-fog metaphor: “You can only see as far as your headlights but you can make the whole trip that way.”

I’m trying to focus on that, because with each 400-word goal, each 600-word goal, each 1,000-word goal, I’m inching along to my destination. And the best part is that even the days I think I’m writing utter crap, I’m actually not. When I read it the next day, I’m often surprised that the 489 words I struggled to pull out of my brain are actually quite good.

It’s good to be writing my way out of the fog, whether it’s in Scrivener or Word Press or old-school paper. Now I just need to get better at shutting off my inner critic. And this, ultimately, is where NaBloPoMo is helping. Because again: I don’t have the time for the navel gazing. I wouldn’t want to waste it on that even if I did.

Guess who got hit by the story stick?

Two weeks I ago I had a phone call with my editor, to chat about future projects. She encouraged me to start brainstorming ideas that had strong commercial appeal.

I immediately broke out in hives. (Sorry, KP, but it’s true.)

Back when I was earnestly trying to be a working novelist, I was repeatedly encouraged to write books with strong commercial appeal. Of course I was. Publishing is a business. Commercial appeal theoretically translates into cha-ching. Win-win for all involved.

Except, my brain never seemed work that way. Me + high concept x commercial appeal = cheese. And not even good cheese. More like pasteurized cheese food.

I attempted to explain this to my editor, who lovingly brushed away my concerns. She acknowledged that thinking of stories in these terms requires a different sort of writing muscle. The only way to strengthen it, she said, was to exercise it. Repeatedly.

In other words, the message was this:

You can do this. 

Amy Sherman PalladinoSo, I started to think. In the car, in the shower, while walking the dog. I kept coming back to this idea I had years ago. It was inspired, in part, by my admiration for Amy Sherman-Palladino, aka one half of the genius team behind Gilmore Girls, aka one of the best-scripted TV shows of all time. Could I revisit that idea? Should I? I wasn’t sure on either account.

And then it happened. I got thwacked in the head with the story stick. Hard. I was reading an article from a back issue of a magazine I no longer subscribed to but picked up on the free table at work. A profile of a woman who, for whatever reason, intrigued me. As I made my way through her tale, I could see the Lifetime movie adaptation clear as day. Like, I could even see the commercial for the Lifetime movie. I even found myself wondering if her story had been optioned for screen yet.

It’s the kind of thing that stays with you. Or at least, it stayed with me. The next day, I found myself playing the “what if?” game, adding a teenage girl and a serious plot twist into the mix.

Thwack!

I immediately got excited. Really, really excited. In mere minutes, I’d worked out about 85% of the novel. I knew these things sometimes happened; I’d read interviews with authors talking about the phenomenon. Some novels you wrestle with for years, while others come to you as if in a dream.

I’d never had that dream-novel experience, though. Well, not entirely. True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet was cooked up in the car ride home from a NJ transit station (the same day I first met my current editor, actually).

But this is different. For me, anyway. It’s not even my typical genre. And it has some definite commercial appeal. I even confirmed it with my editor, who after a fifteen-minute conversation wrote the logline: “____ for teens. Yeah, I can pitch that.”

Now comes the hard part: taking the brain movie and translating it to paper (or, more accurately, pixels). The timing couldn’t be worse; I leave for New Orleans in less than a month for my organization’s annual conference, and we’re now short another staff member. So, there’s that.

But I know me. And I know how my head works. This story? It’s going to eat at my brain until I get it out and onto the page. Better to surrender to the process than to fight it. Besides, I can’t remember the last time I was this excited to get type-type-typing.

Writer friends: when was the last time YOU got hit by the story stick? What happened after you did?