Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Dreaded Second Draft

Those of you who follow along with this blog know that I recently finished the flash first draft of my new historical. Now the fun begins. Or the misery, depending on your point of view. I start over, from the beginning, and read each scene. I have my check list to make certain I include all the senses along the way. Taste is the tricky one for me. It doesn't need to be in every scene, or even every chapter, but it does need to appear at some point.

Then, there's my check list of words. I have my list of passive words, to be avoided at all costs. Then I move on to my list of favorite words, that I tend to overuse. I don't need to eliminate all of them, just cut them by 2/3.

While I'm combing through my scenes, I like to think big picture, too. Am I rushing the story? Do I need to add in scenes? In this particular book, I do need to add a few scenes in the front part of the book, to show how the hero is cementing his relationship with the children as well as the heroine. I often will work on a jigsaw puzzle when I get to this stage of the editing process. There's a great similarity between working on a jigsaw puzzle and finding ways to slip in new scenes into a story line. Here's a picture of my latest puzzle, which took many weeks to complete.

I like big, intricate puzzles, since they remind me of my stories. This puzzle in particular is loaded up with so many little things that you can't possibly see them all unless you're working with each piece. For instance, in this one, I noticed, just as I was about done, that one of the bottles on the shelf had his spindly little arms and hands wrapped around the neck of the bottle next to him. It made me smile. A little hidden nugget, the kind I like to blend into my story lines.

The puzzle is done, and I'm nearly at the end of the second draft. Still a long ways to go, with those pesky scenes that need to be written and inserted into the story line without upsetting the flow. Drafts three and four are yet to come before I can say I'm content with it. But at least I'm moving forward with what I think is a really good story. I'll be sure to let you know if an agent or editor thinks the same. 

In the meantime, here's a picture of Mary in her new bed, which was a belated Christmas present. She had to wait until I could drive again in order to get it, but I think she'll agree that it was worth waiting for. Kind of like getting an offer from an agent or editor. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

First Drafts

It's late January, and in Ohio, that usually means snow is covering the ground and black ice is waiting to trip you up at every turn. But it's been an unusual winter so far and I'm loving still having a green front yard. Not a pretty green yard, but one with good bones. Kind of reminds me of a flash first draft.

Allow me to explain my logic. A first draft, at least my first drafts, are a loosey-goosey compilation of scenes that may or may not fit together. It's definitely not pretty, just bare bones. Kind of like my  yard in winter. Where are the flowers? The nice stone edging marking the beds where the crocuses will rise out of the snow in March? The yard art that shows my personality, my style?

All that happens later. After I finish the first draft, and see that I actually do have a story to tell and that there's a happy ever after ending to it, I go back to the beginning and start adding in the flowers,  the roses with their musky smell, the heady strong scent of the lilies and the sweet-smelling hyacinths.

I'm working through the second draft of my new historical, which is very dear to my heart, since it's based on family lore. My uncle and I have had many conversations about what could have happened and how, and his ideas are very much in play with this story. I'm adding in the color, the details, to the story now, making room for those scenes I was in too much of a hurry to write during the first draft and smoothing out some of my transitions. Once I finish the slightly more polished second draft, I'll go back to the beginning and start again, adding in the little details that elevate a manuscript to a published work. 

I expect to be working on this story, tentatively called Dance With Destiny, until March or so. I expect, at some time during the long days of February, to have my yard covered with snow, and black ice will make walking hazardous. I hope to not get buried in it, like my friend in the DC area last week, but this is Ohio and this lovely weather can't last.

At least I know I have lots to do, many revisions to make before this manuscript will be ready for publication. I will load up my house with food, and laugh at the weather. I will work hard, and maybe, just maybe, by the time the crocuses poke their heads through the snow, I will have a polished manuscript that both my uncle and I can be proud of.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

A Different Perspective

For weeks now, I’ve been sleeping on the wrong side of the bed.  Not that, in my case, there’s any wrong side, since I sleep alone and both sides are technically mine. But, with my hip surgery, it made more sense to climb in from the left side of the bed rather than the right, which is my normal preference.

Coming at this from the wrong side has forced me to look at things a bit differently. I can see the clock clearer, but the bathroom is a few extra feet away. The dog seems to find my slippers more on the left side than the right, and loves to stick her nose in them and wander off to other parts of the room with them. I’m so right-hand dominant that it’s hard for me to reach up with my left hand and turn off the light, or to grab my glasses from the nightstand. I can’t flip onto my side as easily as I can when I could grasp the mattress, so I’ve had to come up with some creative ways to turn my body.

As I was laying in bed this morning, listening to the coffee pot come to life in the kitchen, it struck me that, even though some things are different, there’s a lot of similarity to the two sides of the bed. The pillows are the same, the bedding is equally warm on both sides, but yet things feel different. When I write my characters and try to find unique voices for each one, I sometimes struggle with getting the male POV down and in a way a male would say and do things. His reaction and solution to the situation I’ve put him into may be the same as the female POV, but they come at it from two different directions to achieve the same goal. Kind of like me trying to turn onto my side.

As I begin my next story, maybe I need to spend more time on the other side of the bed again. Time to rearrange the furniture.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Quiet House

I have a line in my upcoming book, The Forgotten Debutante, where Saffron tells Zeke he must be quiet as a church mouse on Sunday. Well, it's Sunday and my house is quiet. I am once again flying solo for the winter. My sister, who has taken such good care of me these past months, is taking a well-deserved reprieve. For three months, while I'm slogging through the snow and cold of an Ohio winter, she will be frolicking in the sun.

It's going to take me a while to settle in to my new routine. Because of my health issues, I haven't been able to sit at my desk for over a month. But, I've got projects galore lined up to work on and, with any luck, can limit the amount of time I have to be out of the house, dealing with the elements.

First on my agenda is to finish up the edits on the final book in my Cotillion series, which shouldn't take more than a week longer. Then, I'm going to query several places about my contemporary, and then dive back into the new historical I'm working on, which I left at the flash first draft stage. If I can accomplish all that in the month of February, I'll maybe not notice how quiet the house is, or how cold it is outside. There will be contests to judge, RITA books to read, cell phone to buy, and blogs to write. Before I know it, spring will be here. Fingers crossed that we don't get hit too hard with the icy grip of winter this year.

And maybe, if I can position things right, I can join Sis next year so I can avoid the worst of Ohio's weather. But for now, it's hunker down time. My dog, Mary, will keep me company while I work and get my career back on track. The final book in the series is nearly ready to be released, for which I'll mount a marketing campaign, starting with a cover reveal here as soon as I can show it to folks. And hopefully, my contemporary side will find a home.

How will you make it through the winter? Let me in on your secrets.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

This Is It!

For months now, I've been anxious, eager, both uncertain and excited about what the future holds at
the same time. For three years now, every six months, I had to meet a deadline. It helped me focus, figure out my timeline and marketing strategy. Along the way, I've honed my craft, although my editor still has to remind me to avoid duplicating myself, and to be consistent in my message–things I should have learned by now.

People have asked me how I'll feel once the final book is off to the printer. The best answer I could come up with until now is "I don't know, since it hasn't happened yet, but I expect it'll be like becoming an empty-nester."

Yesterday, I was asked to pick the art for my final cover and it finally sunk in that This Is It. The final one in the series. It doesn't matter that I'll use some of the secondary characters in off-shoot books, or that I have many other books ratting around in my head, just waiting for the opportunity to break through when I'm not planning on it. There will never be another Cotillion Ball Series,
and there will never be another family like the Fitzpatricks. I've felt like an honored guest at their table each week and have rejoiced and cried with them during their struggles, loves and losses.

So, I picked the cover art and received a satisfying shiver of excitement with my choice. The farewell tour will be fun to get through, since I love both Saffron and Zeke, and my favorite of the brothers, Halwyn, plays a prominent role in her story as well.

And, as for a farewell tour, I seem to recall that at one time or another, Sher, Madonna, Tina Turner and Celine Dion all announced they were doing a farewell tour and they're still grabbing the spotlight. I fully intend to follow suit. Just need a long black wig now.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Oh, The Drama

 One of my chapter mates has a very clever tag line about her novels. Abbie Roads always gives her hero and heroine a happy ending… after torturing them for three hundred pages.

As writers, we are taught to pile on the drama. It's okay to have your hero and heroine bask in the glow of their new relationship, but not for long. Just when things are going along well, it's time to throw a monkey wrench into the satisfied smirks of your characters. 

Last week was a case of art imitating life for me. My hip was doing well. I even went so far as to proclaim it didn't hurt at all, unheard of after a year of constant pain. My brother came to visit for two weeks, sharing the gift of his time with us.  My edits came in for the final book in the Cotillion Ball Series, and they aren't bad. I'd even go so far as to say I had a smirk on my face. Then, the monkey wrench came in. I developed a DVT, since I didn't take the right dosage of aspirin following my surgery, and ended up, yet again, in the hospital. 

I'm home once more, and will probably be on blood thinners for the rest of my life. If there's an easy way to do things, what fun would that be? As Abbie says, I need to be tortured for 300 pages, in order to fully appreciate my happy ever after. 

My brother took off this morning to head back to CA. The edits are patiently waiting for my head to clear enough to deal with them. My hip still doesn't hurt, although my calf muscle is still quite sore. Life is getting back to normal. Or as normal as it gets around here. 

Happy New Year, everyone. Let's hope for brighter days ahead. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

End of the Year

For those of you keeping score, let me recap my year.

Three ambulance rides.
Three surgeries, all on the same hip.
Three books published.

I'm sensing a pattern here. So here's my plan for next year, once I get past the recuperative phase from surgery #3.

Find one good agent.
Once again, have two good legs.
Publish three books.

Hopefully, as you read this, I'm recovering from the third surgery. And, if I finished my list of things to get done before then, one of the three books is back to the publisher after first edits, and I've managed to finish the flash first draft of the third one. I may have even gotten around to putting up the tree, or at least finding my Christmas wreath.

The jury is still out on the two good legs, and the one good agent search will commence once I polish up the flash draft. But at least my publishing schedule will remain on track. Although I'd dearly love to add another book or two to the roster by the end of 2016.

Pushing my boundaries is what I'm all about. I hope 2016 will see you pushing yours as well. Here's hoping for a healthy and prosperous year on the horizon. Have a safe and happy New Year's Eve, everyone.