Sunday, January 10, 2010

Random Thoughts: On Finishing Novel #3 and Watching "Julie & Julia"

This has been quite the exciting week! No, I’m not talking about the snow and ice, although I’m sure some people found it to be thrilling. This week was exciting for me because on Tuesday I finished my third novel, the working title of which is "A Perfect Man." This first draft weighs in as my biggest yet with thirty chapters, 100,000 words, and 400 double-spaced (and already formatted – go me!) pages. I started it in the spring of 2007 and had this grandiose idea that it would be the first in a series of four as I followed a class of eight students through their MFA in genre literature program. "A Perfect Man" covers the first semester, which, you can guess from the title, is focused on romance. Yeah, I created the kind of MFA program I’d like to be in if Hubby hadn’t already told me, "no more degrees!"

What happened between May 2007 and now? Well, I worked on the novel until November 2007, when I put it aside for NaNoWriMo, got distracted with another project, and didn’t get back to it until this past summer. So that makes a total of a little over a year for the first draft, outline, etc. That was in spite of the usual amount of procrastination, slogging through the middle of the book, and fluctuations in inspiration. My plan for revision is to set it aside for a couple of months so I’ll be able to go at it with fresh eyes. Like I said, it’s big and messy, and there’s a lot to clean up. I do have a 100-word blurb that I plan to use for query letters, but I’m going to revise it before I actually reveal specifics about the plot.

The timing of finishing the novel as well as the fact that January 19 is my two-year blogiversary for the Random Oenophile made viewing the movie Julie & Julia last night particularly meaningful. The film chronicles Julia Child’s early struggles to become a master chef and published cookbook author and modern-day Julie Powell’s quest to "finish something," namely cooking all of the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year. Meryl Streep was, of course, fabulous as Julia Child, but I also enjoyed Amy Adams’ portrayal of more-than-slightly neurotic writer and blogger Julie. Yeah, maybe I identified with her a little. I asked Hubby if he sympathized with Julie’s very patient husband Eric, but, being a wise man, he declined to comment.

I did have a few complaints about the movie. First, although wine was definitely portrayed as part of the meal, it was never mentioned specifically. For example, when Stanley Tucci's character Paul Child said something about opening a special bottle of wine to celebrate, I wanted to know what the Childs would consider to be a "special bottle." Second, I wanted to see more desserts. Yeah, I'm a chocophile; there's nothing wrong with that. If anyone knows what the yummy chocolate cake, the one with the almonds on the side, portrayed toward the end was, please tell me! Third, seriously, how can anyone give up exercise for cooking butter-rich food and not gain 20+ pounds??? I know that New Yorkers walk a lot, but seriously, I can only suspend my disbelief so far. Maybe I need to read the book to find the answer to that one.

The underlying message of the movie, at least the one I got, was that persistence pays off. Yes, I've finished three novels compared to the half-novel that Julie lamented she couldn't get published, and I'm definitely not writing a huge cookbook, but I know that it's not easy. I did get a couple of agent rejections this week -- they count toward my "paying my dues" total, right? Of course, if the New York Times discovers my blog and would like to write a feature on me, I won't complain.

Meanwhile, I'll keep working at it. My next project: a mystery series with fellow author James Bassett. And revising the novel I just finished, of course. I plan to bring it to the Romance Writers of America conference in July and pitch it there. Like Julia, I shall be fearless in my craft, and like Julie, I'll work hard at finishing what I start in a reasonable time frame. And, like both of them, I'll cook lots of good food to keep myself sane. Don't worry, I'll actually tell you about the wine I drink with it.


Megs - Scattered Bits said...

Personally, I find this post as inspiring as anything else I've read or watched on the subject of persistence.

Congratulations on completing your novel! I look forward to completing my first salvagable novel that can actually make it to 90,000 words. I write so tight that that is a humongous goal for me. (I had twelve subplots in a 27,000 word novel. :headdesk: )

I don't know why, but just reading this and how you put it all together makes me feel so much more like I CAN accomplish it. Thanks for the wonderful and timely post. I'll be coming back for more. You're my new heroine.

Cecilia Dominic said...

Thanks, Meg! Your comment made my day. :D


Thom said...

I loved this movie and thought Julia was played great. I liked the Julie Character until someone told me she was a vegetarian and didn't eat most of what she cooked.
Could there be any truth to that or is it an urban legend?
Congrats on the book.