Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sammy Update!

The problem with a mystery is that once you've read it you know whodunit. There's no ah-HA moment the second time. It's like a joke--it isn't really funny after you know the punchline. So I never share my work-in-progress Sammys with Nancy (my editor, for you newbies). Key to me is finding out from her when she knew who the story's culprit was. Her first read is very valuable because she's an astute reader as well as mystery buff.

Usually I manage to pace the story in a way that reveals things such that she solves the mystery at a satisfactory time -- ideally around the same time Sammy does. If something tips her off too early, she can point to a sentence, an action, or even one word that can be changed. I can't stress how important her first read is.

My goal with Sammy Keyes and the Killer Cruise is to have it be an homage to the mystery genre because it's the last true mystery in the series written in a genre that has provided me with reading enjoyment since I was a young girl. So I set out to make this a classic mystery, with heroes and villains trapped on a cruise ship, sleuthing and snooping and, of course, Sammy sassing!

But it's also the book where Sammy (and we) get to know her dad.

Which is A BIG DEAL.

And as much as I like sleuthing and snooping and Sammy sassing, I loved the progression of the relationship with her father. It became the aspect of the book that shined through everything else for me.

Nancy loved this subplot too, but when she told me she'd figured out the mystery early on, I knew I was in for a big re-write. After all, if you set out to write a fabulous mystery but  your editor's figured it out by page 100, you've definitely fallen short of your goal.

In early September she sent me a letter.

I read it and mulled.

In mid September we spoke on the phone for an hour about plot changes.

I mulled and then got to work.

And that's where I've been--buried in a rewrite. And as difficult as restructuring the story is, it started to become fun when I let go of the old and let Sammy be Sammy. In the original manuscript, there was a lot of Sammy talking to the villains. Now she's up to her eyeballs in spontaneous (read: dangerous) reactions, and rash (don't try this at home...or on a cruise ship!) actions.

She may be turning 14, but (as Marissa points out) the shadow of 13 is definitely following her!

Man, I'm going to miss that girl.

A little page-count update: I'd said in an earlier post that I was aiming for a slightly shorter overall length. Maybe 250? Some of you were, NO! but I saw it as an (extended) bell curve, where the series started under 200 pages and would taper to The End the same way.

In my mind it made for nice aesthetic symmetry.

Well, (although I'm sure things will change slightly) as of tonight we're weighing in at 302.

(Can I hear a chorus of YES! please? There is a huge difference in work between 250 and 300 pages.)

So much for aesthetic symmetry.

I hope you're also happy to learn that since we'll have some extra (blank) pages at the back of Sin City, it looks like the first chapter of Killer Cruise will be included when SC is printed up. (It was either that or include ads for my other books...I'm thinking you'd prefer the first chapter of KC, am I right?)

Finally, I hope you enjoy the cover art for Killer Cruise. (That will probably be tweaked, too, as you know, but I thought you'd like a sneak peek.)

Looking forward to your comments (and YESes) :)

Thanks for stopping in. See you next week!

65 comments:

Kylie said...

I seriously have been waiting for this post all week! When I was sick it was the thing I was looking forward to! And when we were in San Francisco (When I was sick) all I could think about was getting home and reading this post. And I must say that this post was greater than I wa thinking it was going to be. I expected a post that wasn't really about Sammy, even though I also love those, and then a little note at the bottoms with a note that said: just got draft back and things are looking good! Or something like that. But that was fine with me because it was still something.

But this post was just, perfect! I am so so so much more excited for the book now! When you said 300 pages a huge smile came to my face (I couldn't scream because my mom and little sister are asleep). And her relationship with her dad! I am so excited! I am kind of hoping he is that awkward dad that doesn't know what to said, but really tries and is really nice too!

You seriously won't believe how excited this post made me! And the chance if getting the first chapter of kiss goodbye at the end of this will be awesome! But I also don't know if I want it, I mean it is going to be different from all the other books and I don't know if I want to read it before I am ready. But I still will, even if I am not.

Now a few questions (and I don't mind if you don't answer if you don't want to): You said Kiss goodbye wasn't going to be a mystery? Or did I read that wrong? And is it not going to have a prologue like the rest?

Still so excited! Can't wait!

Ky

gabrielle said...

I really like the cover!! I'm really excited for killer cruise but im also upset about the series ending. And im really excited about how we will learn about Sammy's dad. Is the hard cover going to have the first chapter of killer cruise? I know paper the paper back will.

Kylie said...

And the part where you said Marissa said her 13 year old self was still trailing behind her, or something like that, reminded me of a thing I saw. It said that when you turn 16 you aren't 15 anymore. Or 9 or 5 or 1. They are all stil there. When you want to cry and break down that is you being your 5 year old self again and when you want to be able to curl up in your dads lap and have him read a story to you, you are being the part of you that is still 3.

I really liked what he was saying, and I didn't do it enough justice here, but it really spoke to me. Because I feel like when you have a birthday people automatically expect you to behave like that age. And maybe sometimes you will, but you want to be able to have those moments where you can be 3, or 9 again.

So I don't know if you guys get what I am saying but that was just what I thought of when I read that part.


Good night everybody

Ky

Kylie said...

Haha never mind read the first and last chapter thing wrong! So YaY more time to prepare my self for kiss goodbye! (A.K.A. Time to stock up on tissues)

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Kylie, :-) so sweet.
And I liked what you said about ages. (I liked it a lot.)

And Kiss Goodbye's focus is not the mystery. Although there will be a mystery, it's not like the others. And that's all I can say.

Good night all! Thanks for waiting up, and for your comments!

bookworm said...

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yusa said...

OMG Good thing Sammy is turning 14 because i've been 14 for a month without her. Not good. Yes! There's never enough Sammy! Do you know around when this one will come out? But only less than 3 months until Sin CIty!
I like to be younger because young is fun. I'm still responsible but i it's to early to grow up. Do you already know what Kiss Goodbye is going to be about? Ahhhh the suspense is going to kill me before i even get to read it!
Great cover!
--Yusa

Leslie said...

Ooh, liking the cover art!

And an extra 50 pages could make all the difference on my train ride. (If I'm still riding the train when this comes out...)

Jessica said...

YES! I love the character growth and wacky personalities in SK, but the mystery aspect is my favorite part. So few "mysteries" are actually packed with well-hidden, solvable clues, without becoming predictable or formulaic (*cough* Nancy Drew *cough* Mary Higgins Clark *cough* etc. *cough* even J.K. Rowling, who abandoned the mystery entirely a few books in). I can rely on SK (well, Wendelin) to deliver every time.

I never thought about how difficult it must be to leave enough bread crumbs and yet hide them among red herring crumbs. I remember I cottoned onto the correct bad guy pretty early in Wedding Crasher, and the confirmation for me was matching numbers (I hope that's not too much of a spoiler), which was a bit early. But Sammy was dealing with life drama instead of mystery drama; there weren't many clues after that (if any), even though Sammy didn't put the pieces together until later. But in all the other books, I've solved it only a little before Sammy (except one or two where I didn't solve it in time).

It must be hard to have to go back and do another major rewrite, but it sounds like it's going well. I can just picture Sammy escaping on conveyer belts in the dining area, racing through parts of the ship she's not even allowed. And the cover is awesome! Love the colors and the pictures.

Bella Honeydew said...

YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES!!!!!=)
I could not tare my eyes away from the cover art, it really makes you think about the story!!!=)
when i read slow its cause i really want it to last but then i really want to find out what the answer is, or whodunit, or whatever, so i read fast then the books gone before you know it, and i know what it means to read a book the 2nd time around, just not as fun=)

Kylie said...

I am kind of feeling in killer cruise that some one is hanged, or maybe it is just there to trick us and that was really used to to tie down the bad guy once Sammy figured it out.

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

A noose on the loose!

Sorry to torture you.

Don't read too much into anything you see or read.

But there's a noose on the loose!

PS Jessica: Interesting, thank you!

Kylie said...

A noose on the loose! It sounds like a dr. Seuss book!

Jessica said...

There's also a dagger. It's Clue! Locked boat instead of a locked house. Where are the lead pipe and the French maid? I know Miss Scarlett O'Hair won't be going on this cruise...

Optimistic4ever said...

Definitely super excited for this book!!!

There's so many changes to this series, but I've loved them all :) Can't wait to read all them mystery answers.

Shubhi

gabrielle said...

That's looks like ice cream on the cover of the book. Is it? And I wonder what's with the puzzle piece with a skull on it? So many questions I have!! But im going to have to wait a while for them to be answered.if I can wait that long!!

Yusa said...

I think Sammy's hair grew longer.... The puzzle piece is cool! Your covers are the best but yet so hard to figure out.

--Yusa

Bella Honeydew said...

I thought it was a torch=)

Jessica said...

Yeah, looking again, it looks more like ice cream. What's up with the letters behind it?

Isabel said...

YAY YAY YAY YAY YAY YAY YAY YAY YAY YAY YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! <3 <3 <3 <3 Can't wait, I am really happy the Yusa introduced me to Sammy Keyes. Cannot wait till Sin City comes out :D cannot wait. I <3 the suspense. :) Wendalin Van Draanen you should know the Yusa is a HUGE fan about you. she has pretty much all the books. She also has books that you singed. She gave me the Sisters Of Mercy that you signed and still has like 3 copies. The book was a GREAT gift Yusa, thanks, you are an AWESOME FRIEND. I read all the Sammy Keyes books IN ORDER and loved them caught up to Yusa and check this blog every day. :) I REALLY REALLY REALLY LOVE THIS SERIES. Thank you Yusa.

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

re: Isabel, Thank you Yusa!

re: the dagger / torch ... yes it's ice cream! (if I understand correctly, it will be getting more ice-cream-licious in the final rendering. I hope.)

re: other questions. I'm dying here, but I can't tell you!!!

Kylie said...

Ah good it is ice cream, that was my first idea. But then I decided to think out side of the box and I began to think that maybe Sammy caught the boat on fire and that was the flame. Or she saw the Statue of Liberty while on her cruise. But Ice cream makes MUCH more sense.

Jessica said...

Maybe the murder victim was severely allergic to dairy, and someone swapped out their soy-ice cream cone with real ice cream. :P

Jessica said...

P.S. You kept me up way past bedtime, again -- I just finished "Swear to Howdy" for the first time. I'm glad my roommates are asleep; my face is all splotchy, and some people just don't get why you would cry reading a book.

Yusa said...

I leave for a minute and the comments go from 9 to 25. I feel like i miss so much by going to school.
I also thought the ice cream was a torch but now i see the soft serve.

--Yusa

P.S. i just wish more people i told to read sammy keyes actually did. If the whole world lets me down Sammy will never (i hope).

Bella Honeydew said...

The letter thing in the background of the ice cream looks like a code thingy=)

gabrielle said...

I didn't even notice the letters in the background. I wonder what it means?.... I'm getting really excited of Killer Cruise!! But I'm also getting sad that the series will be over soon!!

Mrs. Leo Valdez said...

I freaking love the cover!!! The puzzle piece is cool, I love the noose, and I love that ice cream! (Is it bad that the first thing i said when I saw the cover was "Heck yeah! There's a noose involved!"?)I can't wait for this book (because it sounds awesome and we get to see even more of Sammy's dad) but also dreading it, because it's the last (real) mystery book for SK. I'm going to cry when I read this book/the last book.

When is Sin City coming out? And do you have an estimated release date for KC? (Like Fall 2013 or Spring 2014 or whatever)?

I can't wait for this book!!!! And YES!!!! for the extra 50 pages! And YES!!! for the KC sneak peek in Sin City!!! I love you Wendelin!!!

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Code thingy, yes!

I'm glad you guys like the cover. I will tell Nancy and she will be very pleased. My initial reaction was I wanted the title to be canary yellow (to pop out?) (because there's no such thing as parrot yellow?) (And every ship needs a parrot?) (Enough,Wendelin.) (Okay, Wendelin)

ANYWAY! I love you guys, too!

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Uh. So completely caught up in my own asides that I didn't complete my thought..

which was...

but now that I've lived with the cover a little while, yellow (of any avian kind) might distract.

Yusa said...

Sin City is coming out on January 8. So excite becuase it's like in 2 months!
I think the cover looks AMAZING like this. Yellow would stick out a lot.
The title of killer cruise somehow reminds me of dead giveaway. The play on words.
I usually figure out the mystery with sammy or right before her.... but usually with her. So basically i don't figure it out but she does. Does someone die in this book....?

--Yusa

Bella Honeydew said...

Yay! I'm good at decoding things, i'll have to look at this one closer . . .

AbaGayleb said...

Is there any possible way that I can steal this book right after it's finished? I just don't wanna wait. (:

JMac said...

Wendelin, glad to find your blog! My son enjoys it when I read Sammy Keyes books to him at bedtime, and I enjoy the books myself!

One thing would make it even better: a map of Santa Martina. We have trouble picturing where all the streets and buildings are. Could you publish a map that will show us how it's all laid out?

Yusa said...

i should make a map! I think i tried that once... i forgot what happened... i'll try again :)

Jessica said...

My mental map is always a mirror image of the actual map. For example, in JJ, I pictured the junkyard being on the left, and Sandydale teeing off the road to the left, but then later, Sammy gave more details that implied it was the opposite (or vice versa, now I can't remember which was "correct"). The same thing with the direction of the senior high rise, the Pup Parlor, and Maynard's.

Mrs. Leo Valdez said...

Yeah, a map would be amazing! There are just so many places (because of all the books) and seeing them all together would be really cool and you'd really be able to see all the books intertwined . You could always put it in the last Sammy Keyes book (like in the front, before the prologue. Some books do that).

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

I do have a "map", and I do love a map, but I think a reader's mental map is something a physical map can't compete with. So I will not be supplying one, sorry!

I've always thought a board game would be way more fun than a map.

Better, even, than a video game :-)

People don't really play board games any more, but it still would be my #1 choice.

Sammy & Co actually play a board game in Killer Cruise.

Guesses? (Not necessary, as some of you have already nailed it :-) )

Sierra Yu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sierra Yu said...

That would be cool.


--- xxxtherealmexxx.blogspot.com

Yusa said...

Snakes and Ladders?
A sammy board game would be so cool and i would play it. Like a sammy keyes version of Clue!
You should build on that!

--Yusa

Jessica said...

When books provide maps, it often disrupts the flow of the story for me, because then I'm constantly going back to the map to make sure my mental map lines up. For some things, like real-life adventure diaries, it's nice to see. But really, I'd rather build the "map" myself.

I know my mental map of Santa Martina doesn't actually make sense (the school buses go in the wrong direction, for one), but it's sort of like dream-houses -- things can connect in ways totally impossible in the real world. If I tried to draw it out or saw a picture of someone else's map, things would have to move to make sense. In my brain, I can focus on just that part of the map and make it work, somehow turning west into east, as if the map were a Mobius strip.

My family still plays board games! Since I don't live near any of them, I don't get to nearly often enough. A Sammy Keyes board game could be awesome, as long as it requires sleuthing and paying attention to detail, while having an infinite number of plays. But how to make it as unique as Sammy? I have no Clue.

gabrielle said...

I've never really thought about how Santa Martina is set up,I guess I just get really into the story and don't think about that. And Sammy Keyes board game would be so cool!! Me and my friend would like love to play it!! :D

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

@ Jessica: :-) Love it

But the buses run the correction direction in my mind...which just goes to show you...

Bella Honeydew said...

I love board games!=)
Who or what is Co? Is that some kind of a clue . . . ? =)

gabrielle said...

Co is usually used when there's a group of people. I think Sammy would be really good at the board Clue. :)

Yusa said...

Co as in company? Like group of friends. Yeah sammy wouls be good at Clue and she should have her own version of it. :)

Kylie said...

A board game would be great! My little sister and I make them all the time. One we made is pretty hard to win.

Bella Honeydew said...

Thank you=

Bella Honeydew said...

GO GIANTS!!!=)=)

Kylie said...

GIANTS FOR THE WIN! Aw yeah!

Yusa said...

Ahh yes apparently, according to my bro, the Giants won?

Kylie said...

Yes, yes they did!

gabrielle said...

Which giants the football team or the baseball team?

Kylie said...

I was talking about the baseball team that won the World Series. I don't know how the football team did.

gabrielle said...

That's cool!! I don't watch baseball,but that's good for them!! Me and my family watch football which is like toreture for me,I rarely get into football.

Areebah Pervez said...

What a cool cover! Some Q's. When is Casey's. Birthday? Who's pov will the kiss goodbye be in? Is there going to be in epilogue?

Areebah Pervez said...

What a cool cover! Some Q's. When is Casey's. Birthday? Who's pov will the kiss goodbye be in? Is there going to be in epilogue?

Areebah Pervez said...

What a cool cover! Some Q's. When is Casey's. Birthday? Who's pov will the kiss goodbye be in? Is there going to be in epilogue?

Areebah Pervez said...

Sorry if that came three times

Sammy Keyes said...

I can't wait for Killer Cruise!! :-) The cover art so far is super cool

Megan said...

So there are 17 books in the series then? Is this the last? :(
Megan

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Megan, there will be 18 total. Sin City comes out in January, Killer Cruise in September (both are written), and Kiss Goodbye (I'm plotting now) in Fall 2014. We're in the home stretch, but it'll be 2 years before we cross that finish line :-)

Corazon Nunez said...

Maybe the board game is scrabble, b/c of all the letters behind the torch.

Corazon Nunez said...

Maybe the board game is scrabble, b/c of all the letters behind the torch.