Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A moving target

Tonight I was discussing the recent phenomenon of large, secular publishing houses buying up smaller, Christian houses in order to cash in on the lucrative Christian market. We talked about the dangers inherent in this practice. He said a couple things I thought were rather interesting.

We talked about how some publishers had as a goal not so much Christian writing as that which would appeal to the average reader in the Bible Belt, reflecting the morals of mid-west America. He likened this to trying to hit a moving target. Because our morals and social mores change with time (what is acceptable now wouldn't have been acceptable 50, 20, or even 10 years ago in some cases,) it makes reflecting those mores difficult at best.

Also up for discussion was the idea that if these publishing conglomerates move away from the Christian roots in their "inspirational" lines, will that raise up new, smaller, conservative houses to fill that need?

This dovetailed with a discussion on The Writer's View about overdoing the 'Christianese' in Christian writing. I've read with interest the posts there, and have come to the conclusion God calls his children to a variety of styles, voices, and target audiences in Christian writing. For some, their books are targeted to the lost, the unchurched, or the fallen away. Others write for those who are believers, who want their faith affirmed in what they read, who want to know there are other folks out there that think like they do. Is one better than the other? I don't think so. I think an author should know her audience, her voice, and her calling and write accordingly.

For me, I fall into the latter group of writers who write primarily to tell stories that affirm a believer's faith. I try to show spiritual growth in my characters, and I do have some unbelieving characters who come to Christ because of, or sometimes in spite of, the Christian characters around them.

On another note, I turned in the proposal packet and first three chapters of my newest novel "8 Seconds to Love" to my agent. We'll see what he says.

I've started writing note cards out for the next novel. I'm trying to incorporate some "breakout" techniques up front, hoping this will make the rewriting easier.

Only a few days until we go on our vacation/research trip for this novel. I have scenes crashing through my head. I can't wait to see the places where these scenes will unfold in the novel. I'm in the process of getting to know my characters. Like meeting new friends.

Erica

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Let the Wind Blow

Wild storms here in MN this week. We were without power for a bit, and spent yesterday with a chainsaw and bonfire getting rid of downed trees. I've decided to set the last ms aside for awhile before I do any rewrites on it. I'm going to send some to my agent and see what he says.

This weekend we'll be venturing up the Minnesota River Valley on a little family vacation. We'll take in some sights and do a little shopping in and around the delightful German village of New Ulm.

This past week the kids and I went on a couple of field trips. We saw some pioneer museums, and one of the most haunting museums I've ever been in, the Owatonna State School Orphanage museum. You can visit their site at www.orphanagemuseum.com

I purchased two books while I was there written by men who had been wards of the State of Minnesota and lived at the orphanage. I read one of them today. While The Locust Slept by Peter Razor. His experiences are absolutely chilling.

I've started a chart for the next ms. I'm composting the scenes, trying to get as much tension into them as I can. I'm torn as to who is the protagonist of my story right now. I have two to choose from and each is special in her own way. I'll compost on it some more.

Erica

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Edge of the precipice

I stand on the edge of a precipice contemplating my fate if I should leap into the wild blue. Will I soar like the red-tailed hawk over the canyon, or will I shatter on the jagged boulders below? The opportunities of success are great. The consequences of failure equally great.

All this is a fancy way of saying I fear the next step.

I got the critiques back from two of my critique partners.

Both had excellent ideas, saw the weaknesses in the plot and characterization I was too close to see, and in spite of my having read the goofy ms three times myself, each managed to pick out at least a half a dozen different typos. (smacking forehead with palm)

I breezed through most of the edits, fixing the typos, taking out the redundancies, the "telling" and not "showing" passages, and even managed to write a few clarifying, additional scenes that boosted the word count up to over 77K. All very good things.

Then the book came. The "Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook." I read Donald Maass' book "Writing the Breakout Novel" back in late March. It was powerful then. I feel it helped me step up the stakes in the current ms. But I sent it back to the library when the due date rolled around. This past week I ordered a copy for myself and the accompanying workbook. I figured it would help me with the next novel, since this one is almost done, right?

That all depends. I've read the first few chapters of the workbook, and I know, if I put my mind to it, I could improve this current ms. I know I could deepen the characters, raise the stakes higher, show more internal conflict, make the plot more complex. Or can I?

The precipice, the canyon that yawns before me, is my own fears and feelings of inadequacy. What if, in spite of knowing what needs to be done, knowing the possibilities if I apply the techniques in the workbook, I can't make it happen?

My head tells me to slow down, to really use the workbook as a springboard to elevate my writing and this current ms to another level.

My heart quails at the thought.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Critters

Today I met with Vicki to exchange crits on the ms. I've got some work to do. Things to tidy up and another chapter to write. I took my characters from A to C by totally bypassing point B. I'll wait to work on it until I get the crits back from my other critters.

Critters...those who critique. What a special group of people. I'm of the opinion that it takes time and careful selection to find the right group of critiquers for you. You have to be able to trust your critiquers motives. If they have a personal agenda, they will not give you a true critique, but rather a gushy, unhelpful 'this is the best thing ever' or a brutal hatchet job that leaves you wondering if you have any business being in the writing game at all.

So what makes a good critique partner?

For me, I want someone to catch the errors my eyes have missed, and I want someone to take a look at the 'big concept' issues, as mentioned above. I also need some cheerleading, some attagirls, and a few, I really like this story.

A big thank you to my crit partners, Donna, Vicki, CJ, and Stephanie. I couldn't and wouldn't want to do this without you.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Why, Why, Why, and reality TV

Now that the ms is off to the critters, I'm at loose ends. A new story is perking in my brain, but it isn't anywhere near the point where I can start writing. Today several research materials will arrive on the bookmobile. I'm hoping reading first hand accounts of the historical event/setting of the new novel will springboard the 'compost' phase and open new doors of plotting and possibilities.

Yesterday, when I didn't have any ideas and didn't have a ms to work on, I wondered if I was finished, if I had exhausted the 'writing' phase of my brain. I read some writing blogs and was bored with them. I read the digest emails of a couple of writer's groups I belong to and I was bored.

One thing I've learned in the last two years as I've been writing, is that there are more emotional rollers crashing around in this profession than waves hitting the beach at Waikiki. One minute you're on top of the world, you've gotten some encouraging news from your agent, or someone complimented your writing, and the next you're feeling isolated, inept, and indifferent.

How do writers deal with these ups and downs? My usual strategy is to wait it out, do something else for awhile, and come back at the writing later.

Lately, this escaping the ups and downs has taken the form of watcing reality TV. LOL Who knew? I've watched reruns (new to me) of Project Runway, Top Chef, and a totally hilarious show called Battle of the Network Reality TV Stars (or something like that). What a hoot! These programs have shown me my life as a writer isn't all that odd. I'm having a blast.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Editing and Pirates

I finished the pencil edits on my friend's ms. Hooray! What a rocketing good story she's woven. I can't wait to discuss the suggestions I made with her.

I also read a terrific ms from another friend. This one sucked me in from the get-go, and my husband had to drag me off the pc at 11:30...70 pages from the end! I had to exercise all my will-power to refrain from returning to reading it until after we'd finished school the next day. What a great story, and what great characters. I've not read such gifted dialogue in a long time. And her anti-hero...I couldn't decide how I felt about him...his motives were great (I think) but his methods...but he was also the only one in a position to be objective about the goings on in a group of teens who had been together for years. I think you're going to be hearing a lot from this author in the future.

Last night my husband took me out on a date, dinner and a movie. We saw "Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest". I have to say, this movie was loooooong, most of the time it was over the top, and it left me with a very unsatisfying ending. When it was all done, I felt manipulated, because you have to see the third movie in the series in order to answer all the questions posed by the second. Nothing was wrapped up in the second movie.

I know this is often the formula in trilogies. Consider Star Wars. The middle episode of the first trilogy is very dark and leaves you with so many questions. Or the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Two Towers leaves you in an awful spot. The battle for Middle Earth has just begun, Frodo and Sam have still not gotten the ring to Mordor, and the fall of the white city is imminent.

But how does this translate to books? This has been the subject of discussion on the ACFW loop for the past few days. It has been interesting to see everyone's take on the idea. As for me,I hate it when I buy a book and it leaves me with a cliffhanger ending that makes me wait six months to a year to find the answers to. I tend to wait until a series is completed before I buy it for that very reason. Series that I enjoy most tend to have books that could stand alone, but are bound together by location, or loose ties, such as a minor character in book one who becomes a major character in book two. I don't like it when the antagonist of one book becomes the hero of another. I've already decided to dislike the antagonist in book one, and I don't want to change my opinion for book two.

I started 'composting' the characters for the next novel. This one's going to take a lot of research, but I look forward to it.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Drafted!

The novel slid in at just over 73K words! Woohoo! I spent the afternoon adding the rest of my second draft pencil edits. I'm pretty happy with it overall. I sent it to my crit partners and will wait for their input before I look at it again.

I have a new novel composting in my brain. I've been thinking about this story for awhile, wondering when would be the right time to start it. I think I'm going to outline it thoroughly, do my 3.5 cards, then see how it feels.

Plotting is still a new animal to me. I wrote my first two novels Seat-of-the-Pants, with only the sketchiest idea where I was going or how to get there. Now I see the great advantages to outlining a story and knowing what comes next. I don't sit down to a blank screen and wonder what to do that day.

This next week I'll focus on editing Vicki's ms, and thinking about my proposal package for my own. Three weeks till the self-imposed deadline for submission to my agent.

Erica

Friday, August 04, 2006

Bittersweetness in life

Saying goodbye to something is always bittersweet for me. Today I said goodbye to something that has been a big part of my life for over two years. I stepped down as a moderator of a site where I first learned to love writing fiction.

It was hard, and afterward I shed a few tears. I don't want to leave behind the people, but I didn't have time for the responsibilities that went along with being a moderator. I made some friends to last me a lifetime. I want to continue those friendships as I venture into new avenues in my life.

School starts for us on Monday. School in the mornings, writing in the afternoons and bookkeeping at night. I'm going to be a busy woman. But I feel God has called me to these things at this time in my life, and I want to be obedient.

The writing week has come to a close, and I'd say it was a success. I got through the entire manuscript one time and almost made it through a second. I added 5K words to its length, and there are still a few more places to add. Tomorrow I anticipate printing it out with chapter breaks and doing a read aloud. I should be able to get it to my crit partners by next Friday.

In keeping with the bittersweet theme...leaving this book and these characters is going to be hard for me. I've enjoyed them so much. My thanks to Vicki for coming up with a great title for me.

Oh, this week also saw my first 'publication' as I wrote an article for my church newsletter. It was fun to see my byline. Maybe I'm on the cusp of big things. LOL

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

...if you know what I mean.

Big writing week this week. The manuscript stands at 66K words with more to be added tomorrow while editing, and I made it through the entire ms with pencil edits. About 50 pages of those have been input. 150+ more to go. I have at least two major scenes to add and several small ones that were revealed during the pencil edits. Also, I'm not planning to write another first draft without chapter breaks! Dividing it up into suitable chapters for editing was HARD!

The rush of finishing the first draft has passed, and now it is down to the hard grind. I love editing, but after awhile, my mind turns to mush!

I did have an interesting thing happen to me this past week though. I set the ms aside for Friday-Sunday so I would be fresh to edit beginning Monday morning. By Saturday night, I was missing my characters and my fictional world! That's never happened to me before. These folks have really made themselves at home in my head.

Vicki's making excellent progress on her work and being much more thorough on her pencil edits than I was. She's got such gruelling subject matter that it wrenches the heart. It's going to be a great book, and I think it will be snapped up the minute the proposal goes out.

We've set ourselves a new target date to have the proposals and synopses ready along with the first three chapters in pristine condition to send out. It's a pretty ambitious goal, but I think we can make it.

Still waiting for word from the publishing house that has my ms under consideration, and still waiting for word from Stephanie that the house that requested her ms is going to accept it. I firmly believe they are and won't consider any other options! LOL

As to the title of the post...well, that's an inside joke between Vicki and I, but it reminds us of the power of words...if you know what I mean. ;)