Saturday, January 2, 2010


First, I have an update on Peppermint Pie. I was at Magnolia Bakery in NYC the other day, and they serve something they call "Peppermint Icebox Cake". Here's a recipe for a non-peppermint version: Obviously, this is simply my own Peppermint Pie without marshmallows or nuts, and in a sort of stacked trifle form instead of a rectangular pan. Also, this place pretty much rocks. I actually went there for the cupcakes, but when I saw them, I thought they didn't look as good as the banana cake with chocolate buttercream. Also, their banana pudding is simply overwhelming.

Then there's the novel.

In the last few days I've finally started re-reading and editing it. Good lord, it's terrible! I thought I would start the editing process by reading it once through and noting the parts that I thought were particularly strong--you know, as a morale booster. It turns out there are not many such parts. I was most dismayed to find that the parts I remembered most fondly are in fact among the dullest sections. I really need to tighten up my scene-by-scene writing. Apparently something is supposed to "happen" in every scene. Who writes these crazy rules anyway?

On the bright side, I now have a much clearer idea of the story's background, the important themes, and what's going on with the individual characters. I know the psychological process that they have to go through to get them from the beginning of the story to the end. I know (sort of) what they have at stake.

I've also decided to add another POV character: Midama, the Sacagawea figure (am I spelling that differently every time?). It turns out (wait for it!) that she's really a princess, and she needs our two Captains to break the curse that holds her betrothed, the rightful king, prisoner, so that the kingdom can thrive once more. I know that's not very original, but the whole point is that the Captains stumble into a fairytale, and fairytales, by their nature, are not very original. Anyway, I think it will be useful to have her point of view in play, so that the reader can know what's going on even when the captains don't. (Also more points of view means more words, and with the amount that I'll be cutting out, that's definitely a good thing).

Another thing that's coming to light in this reading is all the research that I need to do. What would be expected of an army officer on an expedition like this? What would the division of labor be like? What kind of Enlightenment-esque ideas might be floating around in Farrowell's brain? What would their boat be like? What kind of supplies would they have? What positions would the crew members hold, and what would their skills be? What would the expedition do if they needed to repair their boat? How often would they hunt and camp? And, the mother of all questions that plague the quest-writer: how many miles can they go in a day?

But perhaps the biggest question facing me is: where do I start? Should I write a detailed outline? Should I jump into some new prose and see where it takes me? Should I do the research? Should I write down a bunch of random factoids on index cards? Should I cross out everything I don't like in the first draft? Man, I just don't know.


  1. "Just don't know" -
    I'm posting a response on my blog.

  2. Dammit JJ! You got me unsuspectingly started on TV Tropes! (The Hollywood Sex article is brilliant, by the way.)

    I've never written a novel, but writing a detailed outline next sounds smart, maybe followed by researching one little subject at a time so that it's not overwhelming and you have time to internalize what you learn.

  3. Oy, Angie, your New Year's resolutions are WAY more intimidating than my novel. Guess I'll quit whining!