I … allude to my WIPs a lot, but I don’t really talk about them very much? It’s like they’re this secret I hold close to my heart, characters I’ve developed and stories I’ve dreamed up that will never completely materialize. Sometimes, around NaNo, I talk about them a little. But in general… they’re sweet coconut crisp secrets.
Which is you know. Fine. Whatever. Because every time I get excited enough about a WIP to talk about it on my blog, I get distracted by another shiny idea, or life, or whatever, and honestly guys I am never going to be published because I’m never going to get past draft one and that’s FINE.
Anyway, I thought for a change today I’d step out of that “happy dragon hoarding stories like shiny gold coins” place and talk a little about one of my (many) WIPs. I’m going to pepper these in here and there in my blogging schedule, and there are so many stories that I’ve started on. I even have a bunch with finished first drafts, a couple with finished second drafts. And I want to normalize talking about them, even though I doubt publication. Frankly speaking, I don’t feel like I have much unique to offer the industry. But I will keep writing, because writing is a balm to my soul.
To start off this never-ending, inconsistent, “let’s talk about all my projects!” series, I want to talk a bit about Rhapsody in Blue. It’s my most recent WIP and the first one I’m planning to go back to when I pass my SIE and 99 🙃.
I know a lot of people refer to their WIPs as “Sweet Sapphic Fantasy WIP” or “Angsty Pancake Shop WIP” and other vague terms. I… name my WIPs? Titles come pretty early for me and sometimes they change… but for the most part, I have my working titles from the minute I start typing. 🙂 So I’ll refer to them by their working titles!
A Little About Rhapsody in Blue…
Rhapsody in Blue takes place in the early days of COVID-19, when the virus was hitting China hard and the US didn’t appreciate the severity of the virus.
Emma Hansen is a high school junior living in CT and has three fundamental problems: 1.) Her already over-protective mother is following the virus and wants to preemptively quarantine her family for their safety; 2.) She really wants to step up and actually TALK to the boy she’s crushing on; and 3.) Her house is maybe/probably/definitely haunted and she doesn’t know what to do about it.
Meanwhile, more and more cases are COVID-19 are being reported all over the world, they boy may not be who she thinks he is, and the ghost is getting restless. So things are going really well, and little does Emma realize, her world has only just begun to explode.
What genre is Rhapsody in Blue?
Ultimately, I want to make Rhapsody in Blue a ghost story. This story started as a time travel contemporary, got peppered with a little romance, and completely changed directions. I need to re-ground it as a ghost story, but because of its time period (modern day), I think it really needs to be re-grounded in its setting as well, which will enhance the contemporary aspects. When I started writing this at the beginning of April, the world felt like a very different place. So much to adjust.
What’s the inspiration?
Early in quarantine, I was spending a lot of time thinking about people who were quarantining in less comfortable situations than me. All sort of levels of this – domestic abuse being one of the most horrifying. Young relationships that would fall apart under pressure. And then… what about people quarantining and their house turns out to be haunted? How would you deal with that?
I suppose it would depend on the ghost, right?
Who is the protagonist?
Emma Hansen leads the story. First off I’ll throw myself under the bus – Emma is a white cis hetero kid in a middle class situation. The worst, I know. I’m trying to be very conscious of the characters I write and respect the fact that I can’t create a character I don’t know with any level of believability. Another reason why publishing doesn’t need my voice? *sigh* It’s okay, though. I do introduce other diverse characters that are not the protagonist, but they still require a huge amount of research to provide even a sliver of accuracy, and I want to make sure I give them the respect they deserve.
Emma’s quiet. She’s not bookish so much as she just… doesn’t know what to say and is surrounded my people more comfortable in their own skin. She observes. She bottles her emotions until they explode out of her. Her father moved across the country after the divorce and rarely remembers his first daughter, even on important occasions. Her mom is very protective (and not always wrong, although Emma’s not great at seeing that) and she’s closer to her step-father because she feels he actually listens to her.
She has a small group of close friends, loves photography more than almost anything, and has terrible socialization skills. Through the story, you see Emma struggling to understand her importance and privilege in the world and feel a part of it, even as the world is slowly folding in on itself.
What POV is Rhapsody in Blue?
Third person, limited, multiple.
I love writing multiple POVs. I started off writing this one in just Emma’s POV and quickly started dragging. I like Emma, I like her normality, but she’s not quite big enough to carry the story alone. In the last weeks of NaNo, I started adding Dotty’s POV and I really enjoyed that. I’m torn about how best to weave them together, as I really don’t want to write a dual-timeline historical fiction (there’s already too much going on) but that’s Draft 2 Amber’s problem.
What is the Current Status of Rhapsody in Blue?
I think it’s about halfway done storytelling-wise. I have an outline for the rest of the book, but I know there needs to be some timeline adjustments (I started it too early) and world building corrections to adjust for how the US reacted to COVID-19 in April and May, as well as Black Lives Matter. I’m not sure if I should condense or stretch out the timeline, but depending on what happens, I think I need to discuss some trans rights as well. So there’s a lot of nuances outside plot that need to be addressed and fleshed out better. 50% storytelling done, 15% book foundation done.
Writing is on pause at the moment as I send most my free time studying for my SIE and 99 FINRA exams. And will stay on pause until both are passed – my study time has overtaken my writing time.
Who is Rhapsody in Blue’s target audience?
This is a YA novel, so I guess that means the target audience is white women in their 30s? Just kidding… calling myself out there.
YA audiences. Another edit I want to do is to make sure the characters feel like teens and not adults. I think I’ve been partially successful, but also, I was a teen a while ago and my memory is probably not realistic to 2020. … I’m going to have to download TikTok to research, aren’t I? *dies*
What is the book’s blurb?
I hate blurbs. I am very bad at them.
Emma Hansen is going to talk to her crush before the end of junior year. It is definitely, 100% going to happen. With her best friends in relationships, she’s really tired of being the fifth wheel and missing out. Sure, she’ll have to somehow get around her mom, whose slideshow of venereal diseases was truly and actually horrifying, but she’s feeling up to the challenge.
What she hadn’t planned for was the ghost hovering in the corners of her house, waiting for the right time and the right host to strike. When mysterious things start happening and nobody else notices, Emma starts to question herself… until the ghost makes contact.
Suddenly, talking to a boy seems a bit less important than a proper exorcism, and oh hey, there’s also a pandemic. Gotta love 2020.
A small slice of my WIP
The thoughts hammered inside her head, building an iron wall of reproach and belittlement that towered over Emma’s hopes and dreams and catapulted her feeble defenses. Maybe her mom was doing her a favor. She tried to sniff, but the mucus in her nostrils was so thick, it just made her ears pops. She brushed her hair out of her face, parting the curtain of her misery, and blinked through blurry eyes as she groped around for a tissue or something to blow her nose. She found it, trumpeted into it and and wadded it up, then curled her arms around her legs again.
Pausing to look for a tissue had forced her to stop and breathe for a moment, and her sobbing subsided, except for the occasional hiccup. She hoped her mother could hear her crying. She hoped it made her feel horrible.
“I don’t want to live my life in the shadows,” Emma whispered into the duskiness of her dark room. Saying it out loud made her feel a little better. And she would never tell her step-father that the verbal realization of her desires helped, because she didn’t like it when anyone in her family was feeling smug about themselves – smug people were intolerable.
“So don’t,” the wind said. Or, at least, it seemed to come tapping from the window behind her bed.
Emma pulled the afghan tighter around her shoulders until only her boot toes stuck out. She should have taken them off downstairs, but that seemed like hours ago.
“Hello?” she whispered into the darkness, and slowly, a light flickered on. It shone dimly, casting shadows against the muted pink striped wallpaper. Emma stared at herself in the mirror on the white-painted vanity, only able to see half her face. Regardless of the cropping, her puffy red eyes were perfectly visible, as well as the damp streaks down her cheeks. She held her breath.
Somewhere outside the room, music played. It was muted, almost tinny, but the distinct sound of a trumpet crackled from downstairs. She thought about calling out to her mother to ask what she was listening to, but of course, her mother was probably just watching television, and Emma did not want to talk to her right now. Hesitantly, she stretched out her legs over the side of her bed and pressed her feet on the floor. The floorboard beside her bed creaked, the way it always did.
Taking each step with consideration, Emma traversed the boundary of the room. That sweet honeysuckle smell wafted again in the dry air, growing stronger as she neared the vanity. There were a couple ornate perfume bottles there, including a heavy glass one with an amber-colored liquid inside. Pinching her afghan together with one hand, she loosed her other hand and lifted the bottle. As she brought it closer to her nose, she caught notes of jasmine and tobacco. Whatever the sweet aroma was, it wasn’t coming from this bottle. She set it back down gently, careful to place it as closely as possible to its original location.
Okay as I’m reading that I need some editing but it’s not complete trash so… yay? I am, by the way, such a harsh editor. I take to my rough drafts with all the sweet bubbling kindness of Miss Trunchbull from Matilda and it’s my favorite part.
What’s next for Rhapsody in Blue?
My next steps are to finish the first draft.
Even though I have some major revisions in mind, I want to pick up and keep writing until the end as though those revisions have already been made so I have a concrete start-to-finish on the plot. Plot is the piece I struggle with most, so it’s important to me to get it out there, and I can correct pacing, characterization, setting, research, and writing afterward.
I wish I had a timeline and could set a goal – for the first time in a while I feel really motivated to get a draft done, and I feel like I have tools to do it! But there’s one vital tool I’m missing and that’s time. Unfortunately, I need to use every waking moment to study while I wait for availability to schedule my exams, because I need them for my day job and my long-term memory is rubbish. I know a lot of people have stories of carving out 2 hours/days either before or after work shifts to get the writing done and I love that and it’s something I would normally do… but right now I’ve got 3-5am and 6-8pm studying, work in between those, and if I don’t crash from exhaustion I might read 20 pages and will frantically write blog posts as study rewards on the weekend.
So next steps are finishing the book with a new look on societal and cultural changes, then shelving it for a re-write with copious notes on broad ideas.
How would you deal with quarantining with a ghost? Given where you live, do you think it would be a nice ghost, or a horrible one? Let me know you supernatural roommate theories and plans in the comments!