Tag Archives: The Crane Girl

Authors and beta readers: A guide

Recently I distributed the complete first draft of Crane Girl to a select group of beta readers, which got me thinking …

Perhaps you know an author in real life.

My condolences.

Perhaps that author has chosen you as a beta reader.

You poor, poor soul.

In case you have to talk to this author of yours, here’s a handy translation guide to help you make sense of what they’re really saying.

Author says: Hi, how are you?
Author means: What did you think of my book?

Author says: How’s your job been going this week? How’s your cousin? Is she feeling better yet? Oh, good, I’m glad to hear that.
Author means: What did you think of my book?

Author says: So, did you happen to get a chance to look at the book at all?
Author means: I have thought about nothing else for the past ninety-six hours.

Author says: It’s fine if you didn’t read it yet.
Author means: “Fine” is the name of the pin I will stick in your voodoo doll.

Author says: Oh, you did read some of it? What did you think?
Author means: I will define my self-worth entirely based on what you say in the next sixty seconds.

Author says: I want your honest opinion.
Author means: I want your honest opinion to be “This is the most sublime piece of literary craftsmanship since the invention of cuneiform.”

Author says: What was your overall impression?
Author means: Negative impressions will be shattering, and positive impressions will not be believed. There is literally no good answer.

Author says: Thanks!
Author means: I am twitching on the floor.

Author says: All right, talk to you later.
Author means: You should probably find a saner friend.

Crane Girl first draft — COMPLETE!

Finished less than an hour ago. Total page count: 310. Total word count: 127,000.

That’s 127,000 exactly, which is kinda weird. Especially since 27 is my lucky number (as far as I believe in such things) and 127 is part of “bbd127,” the standard username I use for lots of my website accounts. (Okay, confession: It was 126,999, and I couldn’t let that stand. I just had to add another word. But even so, that’s still pretty weird, right?)

Still lots of work to do, even before I start the Big Revision. I need to sit down and read through all the new stuff I’ve written since Part I (i.e., Parts II, III, and IV). That’s 77,311 words right there. And I’ve gotta do some touching up, a little clarifying and cleaning, before it goes to my beta readers — the goal for that is still May 20.

But the draft is done, and I’m pretty happy with it.

Actually, I’m very happy with it. This took a long damn time, and it feels good to cross the finish line at last.

Crane Girl progress update

I finished Part III of the first draft today! Getting very close to finishing the whole thing.

Here’s an excerpt from the draft-in-progress:

It was a dim and storm-fraught evening. The grayish sky pulsed scintillatingly, like a layer of grayish Jell-O smeared with generous abandon across all the vaulted dome of the skiey firmament. It was like, wow. That’s some gray sky.

The girl, Miss Crane — whilst operating the crane machinery — craned her neck to see the feathered crane flying by. She loved the shape of its skull, especially its cranium.

“Hey Stork Dame,” crowed Maxwell Folger, the stormy-coiffed Designated Love Interest (DLI), snatching her irreverently from her reverie. “Who’s your favorite author?”

“The guy that wrote Red Badge of Courage,” she articulated.

“And who’s your favorite Batman character?”

“The dude who turned into the Scarecrow,” she ventilated.

“And what’s your favorite source for hydration?”

She cogitated extemporaneously. “Well …”

Okay, but seriously though, I did finish Part III today. And it doesn’t use the word scintillatingly even once.

That’s what revision is for.

Two announcements

  1. The Federalist Capers are no more. Mostly because (a) I don’t have the time, and (b) I don’t have much profound to say.
  2. I finished the first draft of Part II of The Crane Girl! All I have left is a few more chapters of Part III, and all of Part IV (which is very short). On track to finish the entire first draft by May 20, which is Betsy’s birthday and my self-imposed deadline.

Meanwhile, in happier news…

I recently passed 100,000 words on the first draft of Crane Girl.

rejoice

Crane Girl research list

Current word count on the first draft of Crane Girl is 97,645 and growing daily. Final word count is tough to estimate, but somewhere in the neighborhood of 130K wouldn’t surprise me. I might actually get this monstrosity finished someday.

Part of the fun of this particular novel is the ridiculously over-the-top amount of research I’ve had to do. (Okay, “had to” might be a bit much. But it’s all useful.) Here is an incomplete list of stuff that I’ve read specifically for Crane Girl purposes. I took notes on most of these.

Nonfiction

  • The 1950s, Stuart A. Kallen
  • Point of Order: A Profile of Senator Joe Mccarthy, Robert P. Ingalls
  • Lewis Carroll: Looking-Glass Letters, Thomas Hinde
  • Warriors Don’t Cry (abridged), Melba Pattillo Beals
  • Magic, Supernaturalism and Religion, Kurt Seligmann
  • The Emperor, Ryszard Kapuściński — A biography of Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie. One of the most fascinating books I’ve read in years.
  • Lewis Carroll and Alice, Stephanie Lovett Stoffel
  • What It Is Like to Go to War, Karl Marlantes — Written by someone who knows firsthand.
  • The Fall of Constantinople: 1453, Steven Runciman
  • In Cold Blood, Truman Capote — A so-called “nonfiction novel,” based heavily on real events that occurred in 1959, the same year Crane Girl takes place.
  • The Book of Imaginary Beings, Jorge Luis Borges — Hard to know which category to put this in.
  • The Book of Legendary Lands, Umberto Eco
  • The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England, Ian Mortimer
  • Joan of Arc: Her Story, Régine Pernoud & Marie-Véronique Clin — Carefully researched, beautiful, and heartbreaking.
  • The Secrets of Alchemy, Lawrence M. Principe
  • Alchemy & Mysticism, Alexander Roob — An art book: lots of ancient alchemical illustrations, with extensive commentary.

Fiction

  • Alice’s Adventures in WonderlandThrough the Looking-glass, Lewis Carroll — I had read these before, but I read them again to get them fresh in my brain.
  • Alice’s Adventures Underground, Lewis Carroll — An early draft of Wonderland, with Carroll’s own illustrations and in his handwriting. It’s not all that different from the final version.
  • At the Mountains of Madness, H. P. Lovecraft – Deeply disappointing, but still useful.
  • “Ligeia” and “The Masque of the Red Death,” Edgar Allan Poe

Religious texts, myths, legends, epics, and fairy tales

  • The World’s Great Stories: 55 Legends that Live Forever, Louis Untermeyer — I started skimming toward the end. Not as interesting as I’d hoped.
  • The Annotated Brothers Grimm, Maria Tatar
  • The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism, Daniel C. Matt — A selection of authentic Kabbalah texts.
  • The Quest of the Holy Grail, Anonymous — An Arthurian tale from the 13th century.
  • Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament, Bart D. Ehrman
  • Russian Fairy Tales, Alexander Afanasyev — Of the five tales, the first, “Vasilisa the Beautiful,” is especially good. Stunning illustrations.
  • Faust, Johann Goethe
  • Gilgamesh, Anonymous — I had read it before, but I skimmed over again and took notes.
  • Paradise Lost, John Milton — Likewise, I’d read it before, but I skimmed and copied significant passages.
  • The Song of Solomon (from the Bible) — I read this several times, took extensive notes, and did background research.
  • “Descent of Inanna,” a short (and very ancient) Babylonian poem/legend

Long poems

  • The Annotated Hunting of the Snark, Lewis Carroll
  • Goblin Market, Christina Rossetti
  • The Bird Parliament, Farid ud-Din Attar, the Edward FitzGerald translation

Miscellaneous

  • 1940 census records for the village of Lorraine, Kansas
  • “The Descent of Odin,” a poem by Thomas Gray — Final lines are “Till wrapped in flames, in ruin hurled, / Sinks the fabric of the world.”
  • Lots of W. B. Yeats poems
  • Lots of nursery rhymes

I also read the first dozen chapters of Carroll’s Sylvie and Bruno (couldn’t go on, it’s really just awful); the final two chapters of Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur; chapters XIII – XX of the fourth-century Gospel of Nicodemus (containing the first-ever coherent account of the Harrowing of Hell); half of a book about the Tarot; a good chunk of the Mayan Popol Vuh; as much Jung and Campbell as I could stomach (spoiler: it was less than a whole book); large portions of the Persian epic Shahnameh; and a chapter of Wells’ The Time Machine (I had read the entire book years ago).

Also, significant reading about: St. John of the Cross, the Arabian Nights, Robin Hood, various species of wild dog (especially wolves, jackals, and foxes), symbolism, Latin, theology, angels and demons, various religions, various world mythologies, various passages in the Bible, Aesop’s fables, the Reynard/Isengrim cycle, and roughly nine million other topics.

You can hate my book if you like, but don’t tell me I didn’t do my homework. 🙂

Have a good weekend!

The Crane Girl — not dead yet

crane

Despite having a newborn in the house 24/7, I’ve actually had some time lately to work on my novel The Crane Girl again.

Last Saturday (Nov. 5), I decided to try for at least 500 words per day, every day, 7 days a week. (Weekends don’t mean much, anyway, when you have a baby.) So far, I’ve met that goal.

I put a star on my calendar for every 500 words I finish, and right now I’ve got 11 stars. That’s more than 5,500 words in the past week — roughly 22 pages. Good stuff.

I’m doing this part of the book, the second half, a little different than I did the first half. This novel — like other fantasy stories such as Wheel of Time and Song of Ice and Fire — has a number of different plot threads going at once, each focusing on a particular character or characters. Chapters alternate between the various threads. Well, with the first half, I was just writing all the chapters in order. With the second half, I’m writing each thread all at once, getting deeper into the mindset of that part of the story before I move on.

I think I like that better. Hard to say.

Some people actually read books that way. Madness, I say.

Hm…

I don’t think this was a very interesting post. But they can’t all be winners, can they?