Here's a game I sometimes play to think about what's going on with a character. I ask myself, "What does [insert character's name here] want?" Then I write down what I think they want. Then I say to myself, "Now, come on, what does he really want?" Then I write that down. I keep going until I dig down and down and down to something raw and strange motivating the character. I think about what I need to know about him or her that he or she doesn't even know.
This exercise also got me thinking about the kind of secret logic behind Alan's sweetness to Marisa. Here's my drawing from the same writer's notebook entry:
I don't know where I'd be without my writer's notebook.
It's here. It's here! The official release date for What Can't Wait. I need an overcoat with a million secret pockets to stow all the gratitude I'm feeling. Or maybe a Miss (Mrs?) America set-up where I can toss my gratitude out like confetti in a parade. Instead, I'm going to post the acknowledgments page for What Can't Wait. Because without the help I've been blessed with, I never would have found out that for me, writing is what can't wait. Thank you all.
I owe a great professional debt to my agent, Steven Chudney, and to my editor, Andrew Karre, both of whom have been gracious guides to this most cautious of travelers.
This book would not exist without the many remarkable students I taught at Chávez High School. They told me about the book they wanted to read, and I tried to write it. In particular, I’d like to thank those who commented on early drafts: Krystal Chávez, Diana Alvarez, Karina López, and Jessica van Ravenhorst.
Although they are now “grown,” the kids who had me for 10th, 11th, and 12th grade are still cracking jokes, doing SSR, practicing scholarly habits, and terrorizing the halls in my memories, especially Edith Barrón, Veronica Carbajal, Cínthia Carcamo, Baltazar Díaz, Pedro Galindo, Veronica García, Jonathan Guevara, Whitney Horton, Charlie Machado, Melissa Martínez, Rey Mejía, Alicia Perrett, Alejandra Quijada, Roxann Rodríguez, Kristy Solorio, Yuridia Treviño, Eric Vitales, and Jarol Wadel.
A special thank you to the D-house boys who read this book to the end and then told me that it was the first they’d ever finished. (Don’t worry, J and M, I won’t blow your cover.)
My gratitude also to Linda Sue Alsup and the Greater Houston Area Writing Project for teaching me to share my writing with students; to Jane Eixmann and the librarians of Houston ISD, the Houston Public Library, and beyond; to Laura Furman, John Trimble, Karen Joy Fowler, and the many other mentors who took my writing seriously; to the members of OWL and to all the readers whose feedback helped shape the novel; to Alisa and Mushu for walking the writer’s path with me every week.
Thank you to my El Paso family for telling stories and making tamales and pozole with chicken. Thank you to my Houston family, Sarah and Shelley, for a friendship that nourishes me and makes writing possible.
Thank you to my mother, who has always told me, “It’ll be a crime if you don’t write a book;” my father, who has his eye peeled for a Pullet Surprise; and my brother, Justin, who never misses a thing.
Thank you, Arnulfo: you are the one who keeps me running, writing, and living with a joyful heart. Liam Miguel, your smile writes its own books; thank you for giving Mami time to write hers.
So this is one of my lists of possible titles for What Can't Wait. Lots of clunkers here, but that's part of the process.
How did I finally choose the title? I did a lot of title-generating exercised, asked friends for their opinions, studied titles that I like, and thought long and hard about what a title should do and how it should relate to the story.
Lulu.com is a fun tool for analyzing the potential success of a title, which I did use when I was thinking about titles. Part of what I like about Lulu.com is that you actually have to analyze the parts of speech in the title. That might throw some people, but my English major came to my rescue (three cheers for grammar)!
LuLu Title Scorer listed the likeliness of bestseller success (really the similarity of the title to the title profile of books that have been a success in the past) as follows:
What Can’t Wait: 44.2%
Mariposa’s Flight: 76.9%
Borrowing Tomorrow: 79.6%
Simple and True: 26.3%
Hang On: 20.1%
Hard Road from Houston: 26.3%
Clearly lulu.com was not my top authority, because What Can't Wait ended up being the winner even though it didn't get the highest lulu score. Of course, lulu can't tell you if a given title is a good fit for the novel you've written; a great title is not so great if it doesn't go with the story. Naming a book = hard work.