Fathom Five and the Chamber of Secrets

Even as I prepare more submissions for Rosemary and Time (Farrar, Straus & Giroux next), work continues on the revision of Fathom Five. I’ve removed about 500 words from the first four chapters, rearranged some parts and rewrote weaker scenes into stronger scenes.

Barring bringing the age of Rosemary and Peter down to twelve and thirteen, Rosemary and Time is basically done. There are parts that I could still tinker with, but overall I am satisfied with the story as it stands. Or am I? The novel now is markedly different from what it was six months ago, and it’s especially different from what it was last December, when I thought it good enough to submit to the Delacorte Press Contest for First Young Adult Novel.

Writers are really never sure when a story ends. A book is never perfect, so oftentimes we spend months tinkering with the finished product, improving a sentence here, cutting a paragraph there. There comes a point, however, where the author has to declare a story done, or else it will never be done. Erin’s The Memory of Trees was like that. Erin kept on fixing the little problems she found until I told her that I needed the story in my computer now. There’s nothing like a deadline to finish off a work, warts and all. Most first time writers have no deadline.

I did. The Delacorte Press contest was that deadline for me. I’m left to wonder, however, if I waited a year, and got to the position I did now, would I have had a better chance to win it? (I can’t resubmit Rosemary and Time, it’s explicitly prohibited in the rules) Or, if I had waited, would Rosemary and Time be in the form that it is now — a form that almost got picked up by Orca Book Publishers.

Either way, Fathom Five is not there yet. The early chapters are improving, but the climax needs work. The characterizations of Fionarra and Merius do not resolve themselves properly, and perhaps the climax is too pat. Will I ever solve these problems completely? Not likely. There will come a point, possibly a few months from now, when I can look at Fathom Five and say, “I know you still have some warts, but you’re done.”

Barring a few revisions.

We saw Titan A.E. yesterday, and were overall quite impressed. The animation is top notch, and the plot is solid, with flashes of brilliance. The dialogue is crisp and witty, and it comes as no surprise that Buffy’s Joss Whedon co-wrote the script. The best scene comes when the characters try the old fake-slave routine to get past a guard, and the guard calls them on it. “Hmm… An intelligent guard. Didn’t see that one coming!”

But the story falters halfway through. The characterizations, never very strong to begin with, collapse, as Bill Pullman’s character seems to almost turn the page of the script and say “oh, look, I’m a baddie, now!” That came out of nowhere, was not consistent with his characterization, and as a result his “redemption” seemed cheesy and forced. The story could have gotten away with keeping him consistently on the side of the good guys. Then the ending seemed a little pat, and the otherwise good music takes a holiday when the planet starts reforming itself. Listen to it, and you’ll know what I mean.

Titan A.E. mixes the brilliant with the poor, and the result, while uneven, is basically good. There is consistency, and it comes in the animation. So, while the characters fall apart and the music tanks, you can still stare in awe at the screen, marvelling at what animators can do nowadays.

I regret that Erin and I weren’t able to attend the big Sugar Quill gathering in Toronto to watch Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The big reason is that we couldn’t stay in Toronto that late in the evening, but we also saw the ticket prices of the theatre: $13.50. $13.50 to watch a movie?!!?

The most that I’ve ever paid to see a movie is $12.50 for Attack of the Clones, and after that I swore to myself that I would never be so ripped off again. For me, not paying high prices for a movie is a matter of principle, and $13.50 is a lot of principle.

We have discovered a cheap first-run theatre that is showing the Chamber of Secrets for $6. We may see the movie this afternoon, or head somewhere to write. Today is free, for us, and we intend to make some use of that time.

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