Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Kind of Book I Want to Write

I finished reading a book today. It’s the first book I’ve read in a long time where I found myself wondering what has happened to the family since the book was written. That’s natural and quite common when the story is from real life, but this one was fiction. My audible comment when I finished was, “Now there’s a writer who know how to make characters live!”

Now that is the kind of book I long to write. Whether I can or not remains to be seen. I won’t be able to do as good a job as this author did because I will never have the years of experience she’s had, but I’m going to do the best I can, and I guess that is what counts.

My husband enjoys mystery and suspense sagas by this same Christian author, but the story I read was an emotional family drama. Fred has been raving about how well she portrays character emotions, and now I know what he means. I may need to read it again as I put the finishing touches on Tangled Strands.

The book, by the way, was Never Again Good-bye by Terri Blackstock.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Taking the Harder Route

I had an interesting time working on my novel over this long weekend. I am now well beyond the beginning where I had to find new ways to cover what I had lost when I moved the beginning of the story forward by six months.

Now a lot of what I am doing is getting rid of speaker labels that are built with adverbs, such as “she said sadly” and replacing them with some form of action that shows how she feels instead of simply telling the reader she is sad (e.g., “she sniffed and wiped her eyes). Much of the dialog in those chapters was already quite satisfactory; I just have to polish up the “speaker attributions.”

Another thing I’ve been working on is getting more “deep point of view” (POV) into the story. Here again it is usually a matter of showing rather than telling. Instead of saying “she wondered if he would come again,” you simply write, “Would he come again?” Deep POV takes the reader more inside the mind and heart of the character, which is good. It took me a some time to catch on to how deep POV worked, but I’m getting the hang of it, and it can be fun to do.

So I was tootling along making progress when I came upon a block of chapters that stopped me in my tracks. Four of the nine of them need to be almost completely rewritten. I had known a couple of those chapters were coming because I remembered them well, but I hadn’t known how many.

Why do they need so much rewriting? Once again it is the issue of showing vs. telling. Those chapters were written in the old style of a narrator telling the story to the reader rather than showing the story happening. In some ways, it is a lazy way to write. It is harder to show things happening and to bring your reader into the heart of your characters as they are living out a scene than it is to simply tell the reader what happened.

Most of these chapters were summaries of action-type things—friends helping someone move, cleaning up the house, then planning a work marathon over Labor Day weekend (really—I didn’t make it up for this weekend; it was written many years ago like the rest of it). Most of those will not be difficult to turn into “showing” accounts, except that I don’t want to blow them out of proportion to how important they are to the story.

One of them, however, is not action based. It was life reflections of an important but minor character who is not and should not be a “point of view” person. (A point of view person is someone in the story through whose eyes you let the reader experience the story—I’ve talked about that before.) I already have a max of POV characters, so I couldn’t make him into one even if his part had been actions rather than reflections. Because it is reflection, that one has been a real challenge to my creative thinking ability, but I now have a plan sketched out that I believe will help me win eventually. How?

You’ll have to read Tangled Strands someday and find out .

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Writer's Platform

I was referred to two articles today on writing and getting published. It’s nice they come at the beginning of a long weekend when I expect to be able to focus on my writing while my husband revels in the return of football. Of course, I may join him for a few interludes since I enjoy football too.

Though both articles have good advice, they have different focuses. One is on keeping up one’s confidence as a writer, while the other is about the importance of having a “platform.” A platform? In publishing terms and as I understand it, a platform relates to how many people you know and therefore how many might be interested in buying a book you get it published. An extensive platform lowers the risk to a publisher of putting out a product no one buys because they never heard of the author.

Platform is one area in which I can feel at least a measure of confidence. I have more relationships than I can keep up with, and I appreciate them all. I’ve enjoyed a rich and varied life on three continents. I am blessed with multiple circles of friends from different eras of my life, including:

• My growing up in Africa—and now through Facebook a whole new generation of those who grew up there after I was gone.

• The boarding school and college I attended

• Forty years with our mission large organization, including dozens of former students and even more coworkers

• Those who have been interested in our work over those forty years, many who have invested financially at one time or another, including those in fifteen states on our current statement of gifts received today

• Folks in seven churches in five states who have invested in varying degrees in our ministry during those years.

I didn’t mention family, but of course they count big time, and some of them are my greatest pillars of support. I don’t have a large family, but they all have friends, too. As I said, I am blessed.

Now if I can just keep those relationships going until I find a publisher . . . They don’t all know about my writing dreams, but a good many do. In fact, recently when I felt the need for concentrated prayer for my efforts, I got positive responses from eleven wonderful friends in nine states.

That must count something for the beginning of a platform.