Sunday, October 15, 2017

Secondary Characters

My new Regency line, The Flower Girl Series, has been scooped up by Simon & Schuster, with the first one scheduled for release on Christmas Day! It is definitely Happy Dance time.

With that in mind, I'd like to talk a bit about the first book, Winning Violet. The Wilson sisters–Iris, Violet, Lily and Poppy, all live and work with their father in his landscaping and nursery business in Hertfordshire, outside of London. And while the entire family does indeed participate in this first book, showing up at the most inauspicious of times, the real secondary character is truly someone special. Her name is Lady Banks. Allow me to introduce you.

Violet is a true scientist who spends her days experimenting with the hybridization of roses–specifically the Lady Banks rose. This particular beautiful climbing rose is spectacular when in bloom, and the scent from the roses is divine, but unfortunately it only blooms once a year. Violet is cross-pollenating it with other varieties in an attempt to make it bloom more frequently and hopes her work will gain her recognition with the Royal Horticultural Society.

The Lady Banks rose plays a pivotal role in the story line. Violet curtsies in front of the plant each time it gets watered or fertilized, calls her My Lady, and uses her pollen to explain the process of hybridization to Parker, Thomas Jefferson's landscaper.

This is the first time I've used a plant as a secondary character, but she does get a lot of words in my story. She bears witness to Violet and Parker's blooming romance, their first kiss and, ahem, other things a Lady doesn't discuss. I like to think that when Violet and Parker finally come to the realization that they are in love with each other, the Lady Banks hides her knowing smile under a green leaf.

What about you? Have you ever used inanimate objects as characters in your books?

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Dressing The Part

I went on a job interview last week. Hey, even a starving artist needs to have grocery money and my third attempt at a ghostwriting job didn't pan out. I thought I'd be a shoe-in for the job–temporary work of eight weeks during the upcoming holidays with the greeting card company I'd worked at for years, but this time I'd be sitting in a cubicle in a large office fielding calls. I was a natural. So, I filled out the on-line questionnaire, sent a cover letter outlining my experience and got a call for an interview. I'd even written a book about working in a card shop.

It's been a number of years since I've been on an interview and I labored for more than 24 hours wondering what to wear. Dress? Didn't own a single one anymore. Slacks? I had a choice between the ones with the shiny butt or the ones I had to keep tugging up. I had just bought some new jeggings that had a nice fit but really–jeans to a job interview?

In the end, I wore the jeggings, a colorful blouse that I hoped would detract from the fact I was wearing jeans, and a sensible sweater. I was ushered into the interview room after getting a guest badge from the front desk and waited. And waited. Finally, after ten or fifteen minutes, a man showed up at the door. I smiled at him, happy to get the process started, but even more happy at his appearance. He wore droopy gym shorts, flip-flops and a ruby stud in each ear. All my worry had been for nothing. I eased back into my seat, ready to wow him with my knowledge of the company.

But, as with everything, the company has evolved from the behemoth it was when I worked for them. The job I had applied for was for their e-card portion of the company. No opening of card packs and straightening them in the racks. This was all done via computer. And Mac computers were the enemy.  I've only used Macs for the past, oh, fifteen years or so. I immediately started reassessing my ability to do this job, wardrobe aside. The fact that I didn't bring a resume with me along with my lack of PC experience pretty much made the guy close the file before I even rose from the table. I explained that it had been so many years since I'd held a full-time job, the people on my resume would have been retired by now or the company out of business, but I could tell the more I talked, the further away the job went.

Ah, well. The money would have been nice, and it was fun to make a list of the various ways I would spend it. But I came home, fired up my faithful Mac and got some nice news, which will fill up my time between now and next April. I'll release more information as I can.

So you see, everything happens for a reason. If I'd qualified for the job, I wouldn't have time to get a new book written by April.

I'd much rather be solving the problems of my hero and heroine than solving the problem of why an e-card won't open. Call me selfish.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Taking Stock

It's now officially autumn, and the leaves here in northern Ohio are beginning to fall. Soon, my front yard will be covered in discarded oak leaves and I'll be scrambling for firewood.

This is the time of year I like to do a look back over the year and see where I'm at in this writing journey and where I'm headed. My yardstick contains several components:

1) October is one of the months during the year where royalty checks are issued. There will be one more issued when the books are closed for the year in December, but March and October are the biggies. I like to compare this year's checks with last year's and see if I've made any headway. If not, I need to explore ways to provide an additional revenue stream.

2) I check my swag to see if I need to order any more bookmarks, business cards, etc. Have I promoted myself enough?

3) Has my supply of my books dwindled to the point where I need to order more? Do I need to plan more public appearances next year?

4) I take a look at my book project folder to see if I'm able to mark anything off that list and update accordingly. Do I have any more compelling story lines to consider for next year?

5) I also look at my five-year plan, which gets extended out by a year each time. It's a good benchmark to keep me on track. Am I accomplishing the goals I've set forth?

Even though it's technically not the end of the year, it is the end of the year for my business, more or less. Before the craziness of the holidays happens, I can reflect on what I've accomplished this year and what even bigger things I can do for next year.

How about you? Do you take stock of your career at the end of each year? Do you make plans to do things differently in the coming months?

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Hurry Up And Wait

If I needed any reminder of what this publishing business is all about, I got it in the past few weeks. You Hurry Up and finish your WIP, only to set it aside for a few weeks to simmer before you polish it up and send it off into the world, in whatever avenue of publishing you choose. That's the first Hurry Up And Wait moment. If you enter it into a contest you Hurry Up and submit before the deadline and then Wait impatiently until the finalists are announced.

I recently attended an event at my local library on self-publishing. The main gripe about traditional publishing is the lag time between when you sign a contract and when the book is released. With the advent of small press publishers, the lag time isn't nearly so great as it used to be–my first book was contracted for in March and released in May, giving me barely enough time to set up my website and this blog. So that argument against using a traditional publisher doesn't hold much water anymore. There are still pluses and drawbacks and it's a very personal choice. But at least now, in this day and age, we authors have many paths to publication.

But say you do want to go the self-publishing route. There's still a Hurry Up And Wait aspect to it. You want to spend time, and unless you have a Fine Arts background, money, on a decent cover and a good editor–preferably two editors. These people, if they're good (and good's what you want) have many other authors as clients, so you need to be worked into their rotations. There can be months of lag time between when a manuscript is submitted to an editor and when the final product goes live on Amazon and other outlets.

If you go the traditional route with a small press, the lag time can be quick or tedious. I mentioned my first book only took two months. My most recent one has taken me since January, when I turned it in, and still there's no release date in sight. I keep telling myself it will happen, I didn't have to find and pay for an editor, a cover, or a formatter, so I'm good with it, but it's been a struggle.

And a Big 5 publisher? One of my favorite small press publishers got bought up by a Big 5 last year, and they've done a fabulous job of promoting my backlist. I want to work with this publishing house again, now since they're part of a Big 5, so I submitted a manuscript to them. It's Book One of a new series, and I've had my fingers crossed for months now. I guess I should spend the Wait time working on the second book in the series, but I find it hard to work with my fingers crossed and holding my breath. Maybe I'll hear something this week...

How about you? Would you like to work with a Big 5 or do you want complete control? Or both? In any scenario, there will be many Hurry Up And Wait moments.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Same, Only Different

My best writing buddy spent this past week writing blurb copy, that all-important couple of paragraphs that you can read on Amazon about what to expect from the book. There are posts all over the internet on what needs to be included and in what order, and writing blurb copy has evolved into a very fine art form which can make or break a book. If you're published via the traditional route, you submit a version of your blurb and then the publisher changes it to make it better. If you're self-published, you're pretty much on your own.

My buddy asked for my help with writing her blurb. Rather than massage her work, I wrote another version of it, since I've read the book already. She sent both versions to her editor and didn't tell the woman which was hers and which was mine. This editor has proofed every book written by my buddy and had no problem deducing which version was hers. We had written essentially the same thing, only different. Each version had strengths and drawbacks, so the final version will probably be a mash-up of the two, but it brought home some points about writing that are usually lurking in the background.

One: You can give a room full of writers the same characters, the same plot points, the same set of circumstances, and you'll get as many different versions as there are people in the room. They're all writing the same thing, but the difference comes in the style, the voice, the backgrounds of the authors.

Two: Beginning authors often don't know what it means when an agent or editor says they like their voice. (Or don't like it, heaven forbid!) Debut authors who hit the big time right out of the gate know intrinsically what their voice is. The rest of us have to work at it. It's the way we write, if we have more dialogue than we do description, if we have a distinct pace, if a sense of humor is evident, if we've taken a usual situation and turned it on its ear. If we've written the same thing, only somehow made it different.

Three: There are only so many tropes in writing romance: friends to lovers, second chances, beauty and the beast, secret baby, etc. The difference between a mediocre work and one that truly shines is to take a trope and make it different.

While I'm waiting to see the final version of the blurb, I'm also working on my next manuscript–a mail-order brides book. There's a trope that's been done to death, but readers seem to love reading about them, so I thought I'd give it a go, since I like to write about American history and I have a ton of books about Covered Wagon Women. Now, my trick is to take a well-loved trope and write something that's the same, only different. Maybe I'll add a dog.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Making Every Word Count

You'd think if you're writing a book that's 70,000 to 85,000 words that not every single one would matter. You as an author can let some things slide. Just telling the story is hard enough without dissecting every sentence and every paragraph.

And you'd be wrong.

I took the first chapter of the first draft of my newest endeavor to a full-day workshop yesterday, taught by Margie Lawson. The workshop was divided into parts, the first being Power Openings. She offered twenty points to check out in your opening. Things like: Is the first line your POV character's line? Uh, no. The story's about one of three sisters who heads west as a mail-order bride, but my first sentence has all three in it. Had all three in it. The reader couldn't tell who the story will be about. I hauled out my red pen and sliced through the first paragraph.

Then, we moved on to Power words. This part of the workshop was fun, since we had to exchange our work with another at the table and circle the power words in their work. Power words heighten the emotion, the tension. The words circled in my first paragraph were as follows: graves, parents, graveyard, fresh mounds. Immediately, you, the reader, know what's going on. And how this situation would affect the POV character.

In the afternoon, we moved on to Rhetorical Devices. Rhetorical Devices are essentially playing with words for a greater impact. I just used one of Margie's Top 20 by using the two word description at the end of one sentence and then at the start of the very next one. There are 19 other ones as well, some of which give my current editor fits. Such is the life of an author.

The last segment was about character descriptions. I thought I had gotten pretty good at describing my characters by now. I no longer stop the action and provide a head-to-toe description. But I do tend to use and reuse the same types of descriptive words to signal hair color, lip color, dimples, freckles, etc.
I need to liven things up without resorting to purple prose. If you think that's a fine line, you're absolutely right. It's what moves a book from the mid-list to the New York Times list.

I'm about 20,000 words into this story and thought it was moving along at a good clip. But I think, rather than getting the story down in a flash format from start to finish, I need to go back over these 20,000 and examine every word, every sentence, every paragraph, and use what I learned in the workshop. If I can apply what I learned to this part, and make every word count, maybe it'll become second nature to me when I get back to the story line.

At least that's the plan.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Cover Reveal for Lady Charlotte's Christmas Vigil

Cover Reveal!

One of the most beautiful covers I've seen in the past few years belongs to my friend Caroline Warfield’s 2017 Christmas Novella and comes with the announcement that the book is available for pre-order from various retailers.

Love is the best medicine and the sweetest things in life are worth the wait, especially at Christmastime in Venice for a stranded English Lady and a dedicated doctor.

About the Book

 Lady Charlotte Tyree clings to one dream—to see the splendor of Rome before settling for life as the spinster sister of an earl. But now her feckless brother forces her to wait again, stranded in Venice when he falls ill, halfway to the place of her dreams. She finds the city damp, moldy, and riddled with disease.

As a physician, Salvatore Caresini well knows the danger of putrid fever. He lost his young wife to it, leaving him alone to care for their rambunctious children. He isn’t about to let the lovely English lady risk her life nursing her brother.

But Christmas is coming, that season of miracles, and with it, perhaps, lessons for two lonely people: that love heals the deepest wounds and sometimes the deepest dreams aren’t what we expect.

About the Author

Traveler, poet, librarian, technology manager—award winning and Amazon best-selling author Caroline Warfield has been many things (even a nun), but above all she is a romantic. Having retired to the urban wilds of eastern Pennsylvania, she reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows where she lets her characters lead her to adventures while she nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart. She is enamored of history, owls, and gardens (but not the actual act of gardening). She is also a regular contributor to History Imagined, a blog at the intersection of history and fiction, and (on a much lighter note) The TeatimeTattler, a blog in the shape of a fictional nineteenth century gossip rag.
Her current series, Children of Empire, set in the late Georgian/early Victorian period, focuses on three cousins, driven apart by lies and deceit, who must find their way back from the distant reaches of the empire.
Click here to find out more.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Ghostwriting As An Income Stream

For the past month or so, I've been involved in a ghostwriting project. I finished a 30,000 word Regency novella for them on Wednesday of this past week. Why, you may ask, did I want to do it?

There are several reasons, actually, other than the fact the pay isn't too bad.

First, writing for the Regency market is a fairly new experience for me, so anything I can write in that vein helps me in my own endeavors.

Second, I look at the work as if it were a foster child. I nurture and care for it while it's in my possession, but once it's ready, I pat it on the behind and let it go.

Third, my own work, anything I put my name on, goes through a very rigid set of edits and rewrites, which I don't need to do with these works.

Fourth, I don't have to promote the work, thereby saving me time and money. I don't obsess over sales numbers, try to figure out where to get the best bang for my advertising dollar, I don't need to chase down reviews, or any of the other things that come with promoting my own work. I don't know what happens to it after I let it go.

Last, I'm not obligated to give input on a cover, or to pay for it.

I can't say I do it with no regret, despite all these benefits. I get invested in the characters and the story lines and do wish I could keep them for myself. I hate working under a deadline, too, although I do it a lot.

But then, I don't have to wait six months for a royalty payment on books that were sold nine months to a year earlier. I get paid as I go, each time I turn in 10,000 words, and it shows up in my bank account within ten days. Will I do it again? Maybe not right away, but sure, I'll do it.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Making Headway

We authors know not every manuscript is created equal. Sometimes the big Aha moment hits you like a ton of bricks and your fingers itch for paper and pen before you forget your brilliance. Sometimes you create an outline and follow it in a linear fashion from start to finish, rarely getting sidetracked. And sometimes the great idea comes out all squishy.

The latter scenario is what happened to me with my most recent one. It took me five painful months to pound this squishy little idea into some kind of story line. I discussed the plot with friends and fellow authors, listened to their ideas for how to make it a better story, and pounded some more. I wrote 20,000 words before I realized it wouldn't work the way I had it laid out, so I ripped off the head and began a painful cut and paste. I revised, added, deleted, revised, added and revised some more. And what did I end up with?

I ended up with a logical story. I ended up with characters I could fall in love with and a plot full of surprises. My heroine is probably the strongest one I've ever written and my tortured hero has every right to turn his back on a relationship until he finds the one right woman for him.

So what came of the story? After torturing my every waking moment for the past five months, and taking the advice of my three loyal beta readers, I am pleased to say the manuscript was accepted for publication yesterday! It probably won't see daylight until early 2018, but that's okay. At least I know this one did its best to beat me down but I survived the mess and came out on the other end a better writer.

After being published for five years now, and having seventeen books to my credit, I still learn something new every single day about the craft of writing. To those who have been working on the same manuscript for years, trying for perfection, I can tell you it will never happen. The best thing to do is to send it out to agents and publishers to get their feedback, enter contest after contest and listen to the advice of the judges, continue to hone your craft, but let your work be seen. Every step is a milestone, every published book is a learning experience and every squishy little germ of an idea needs to be explored.

So what kind of headway will you make this week?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Some Down Time

I'm well aware that on one hand, I have the most fortunate of circumstances for being an author. I don't have a partner who pops his head into my office just when the words start flowing really well. Nor do I have children to chauffeur around to various activities. And I don't need to get up each morning and head out to a job where I spend my time and most of my mental faculties for the day.

But on the other hand, there is a down side to having this wide expanse of writing time. I never run out of ideas for stories, and usually have three or four projects in various stages of development going at all times. I can stay in my office for six hours at a stretch before coming out of the cave and blinking at the sunlight. I forget there is a world outside of what's in my head. Sometimes (gasp!) I even forget to eat.

Last week, I spoke about the projects I had going on simultaneously. The editing got done first and sent back. The ghostwriting job got shipped off yesterday and now I must wait for payment before starting the next part. And the manuscript I've been working on is in the hands of my beta readers, so I want to wait for their input before I get back to it. So now what?

How about some down time?

There are movies to see, road trips to take, long walks with Mary, books to read. It seems I can't do just one thing at a time. So I'll check the movie times, check the weather and check on what nearby attractions I can get to, what book I want to delve into and decide what to do first, second, third and fourth.

Then, I'll get back to work. How about you? What do you do when you get some free time?

Sunday, August 6, 2017

What Comes First

I constantly marvel at how authors who have day jobs, or children, manage to get any writing done. I've retired from the 9 to 5 scene, and now that Sis has moved out, I only have my dog depending on me, so it should be a piece of cake for me to get my work done, right?


I'm currently juggling three jobs at the same time–my current WIP, edits for the contemporary, and my ghostwriting job. So which do I tackle first? The one that's bothering me most? The one that's the most pleasant? The one that will pay me? Work on all three simultaneously? 

My method used to be quite simple. When I lay in bed at night, which project is it that I think about? If the project is keeping me from getting to sleep, that's the one that needs taken care of first. But, of course, that's not the case with my current situation. I'm constantly thinking about each of the projects, but from different perspectives. So the best approach for me right now is to work on them all at the same time. Since they are totally different in terms of era, genre and tone, I won't be mixing story lines, so I should be okay there. But I won't get a good night's sleep until at least one of these is off my plate and onto someone else's. 

So tell me–what's your method of dealing with multiple projects?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

I attended a workshop at the Medina library yesterday morning. After publishing sixteen books, having one more in the editing stage which has gone on way too long, two completed and under consideration by various publishers and another which I'm still working on, I really didn't think I'd learn anything new. I only went to help fill up the room, since so many of my romance writing chapter mates were out of town.

The workshop was on plotting, and presented by Mary Ellis.

Mary's a local talent, but she writes Amish books and mystery books, neither of which are my chosen genre. She also writes romances, but they're inspirational and don't contain any sex scenes or vulgar language. Also not my type of writing. Over the years I've tried various types of plotting software and have kind of developed my own method, but my first drafts are always short on word count. I can usually rectify this by the second or third draft, but I'll never be a JK Rowling type of writer.

So here I was, warm body in a chair in the room, Mary giving insight about the way she plots (by chapter and word count)  and how she lays out sub-plots and secondary characters and it hit me. The lightbulb truly went off over my head and I glanced around the room to see if anyone else witnessed the flash of light.
In this current work of mine, I have two brothers returning home from the Civil War. They are so desperate for money they steal from my heroine's father and the heroine goes after them. But I've never explained WHY they are desperate. What a great sub-plot! What a great way to add to my word count! What a great idea to turn these cardboard cut-outs into somewhat sympathetic characters!
Not exactly the bad guys in my book, but you get the drift.
My advice to every writer who reads this is go to every workshop you can, because you never know when inspiration will strike. The library is a great resource, since the workshops are free, but there are events scheduled in northern Ohio throughout the year for whatever genre you write, or want to write, in–children's lit, cozy mystery, romance, you name it. All you need is an open mind and the willingness to listen and then apply what you've learned. And it's never too late to teach an old dog new tricks.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Type A or Type B?

We've all heard about the different personality types, A and B. And we probably get asked which camp we fall into at least once in a while. So, I've taken the time to delve into this, especially this week. Here are my findings: 

According to Wikipedia, Type A individuals are outgoing, ambitious, rigidly organized, highly status-conscious, sensitive, impatient, anxious, proactive, and concerned with time management. People with Type A personalities are often high-achieving "workaholics." They push themselves with deadlines, and hate both delays and ambivalence.

Type B individuals are sometimes attracted to careers of creativity: writer, counselor, therapist, actor or actress. However, network and computer systems managers, professors, and judges are more likely to be Type B individuals as well. Their personal character may enjoy exploring ideas and concepts. They are often reflective, and think of the "outer and inner world. 

When asked the question, especially since retiring from a 'real' job, I always answered that I was a Type B personality. After all, I'm now a full-time writer, creative and reflective, so it seemed to fit. And this year, with no publishing commitments other than a manuscript that's been in edits since January, I was rolling blithely along, working on a story that I will finish before the end of the year. 

Then, this week, all hell broke loose. I accepted a ghostwriting job where I need to crank out 30,000 words in a month's time. I'm still trying to finish the story I'm working on before I lose the thread of it. I got an email from a publisher I'd contacted nearly a year ago asking if the manuscript I queried them about was still available. It is, and if it's accepted, it's the first of a trilogy and of course, books 2 and 3 have not been written. I'm still waiting to hear about another manuscript, a Regency. If that one is accepted by my publisher of choice, it's the first of 4 books, none of which have had more than a paragraph of my time. I should be panicking at this stage of the game, but instead I'm kind of jazzed by the looming deadlines and all the work exploding around me. Maybe I am a Type A after all. 

What about you? Type A or Type B? 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Settling The Dust

My poor house is strewn from one end to the other with dust and dirt, none of which was my doing. I'm laying the blame entirely on the state of Ohio and Mother Nature. The land in my part of Ohio is mostly clay, and when you pour ten more inches of water on clay than it's able to take, you get a flood.
So, for the past week I've had jackhammers going from 9 to 5. The men who did the very filthy job of putting in the French drain and sump pump did a great job, and the dust is beginning to settle.

I'll let the dust continue to settle over the weekend before I begin trying to sop it all up and make my house show-worthy again. Instead of cleaning, I'm using the weekend to work on a couple of writing projects. Settling the dust of another kind.

First, there's my ghostwriting job. I turned in the first 1000 words, and have to get to work on the next 10,000. It's in outline form and shouldn't be too hard to write, but I need time to do it. Then, there's the edits for my next contemporary. I waded through what has been edited today, and will wend my way through the last 1/3 of the book, trying to catch the things that drive this editor crazy before I send them back. Finally, there's my next historical, 2/3 of which got tossed overboard when the plot wasn't working. It's working now, just fine, but I need to think about how the next scene will play out. Letting the dust settle on that story line for a day or so.

And if I reach a point during the weekend when my three projects are at the point where I need to think about them, I'll pick up my dust mop and clear a path through the house. Already, the front door and book shelf in the living room are looking better. If I can get the floor clean by Monday, I'll consider it a good weekend, dust and all.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Lines Of Demarcation

A long time ago in my writing experience, I attended a workshop hosted by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. She's a very funny, very busy lady who revealed her secret to finding time to write. She bought herself a kitchen timer and every time her creativity was interrupted she stopped the timer.
She'd set herself a number of hours to devote to her writing every day and measured it out with the timer. Sometimes she got done before noon, sometimes it took her until midnight. I tried her timer method for a while, but found it didn't work for me as well as it did for Susan Elizabeth.

I also for a time latched onto a bit of advice to steal minutes of time wherever and whenever you can. I so admire my friends who are able to write while watching their children play soccer or hockey, who can grab fifteen minutes before the baby wakes up to jot down the beginnings of a scene. I wish I had the persistence to do that.

It's taken years for me to figure out what works best for me. And I've determined I can't write in bits and pieces. The first 500 words are a struggle for me. I stare at the screen, lay down sentences and then erase them, glance out the window, grit my teeth and keep plugging away. Then, as if by magic, after 500 words, my eyes glaze over, my fingers begin to fly over the keyboard, and before I know it, my characters have taken over and polished off the scene for me. I come out of my stupor, read the scene and begin to think about what comes next.

Like I said, it's taken years for me to realize that's my approach to writing.

Now, when it comes to walking, it's a different story. As many of you know, I had a problem with my hip replacement surgery that pretty well put me out of commission for 1-1/2 years. I was held together by an awkward brace, so after my final surgery, I had to build my stamina back up. Factor in the Taylor Swift fall from the treadmill, and it's only been within the past six months that I've actually started working on getting fit again. My dog Mary and I head out every day it's pretty and start walking toward town. In the beginning, I measured my progress by getting to the next driveway. Then, my line of demarcation was where the new sidewalk met the old.
Then it was to the stop light. Now it's beyond. One driveway further each day. I figure we'll get to uptown by fall at this rate. Mary likes to lay down in the middle of the street, and there have been times I've been tempted to join her. But. one step at a time, we make it back home.

And, one scene at a time, my next manuscript gets written.

How about you? Do you need a dedicated chunk of time to write, or do you grab a few minutes wherever you can?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Winging It

Last week I wrote about how things that look good on paper don't always cut the mustard when it comes to putting it all together. That's what's happening with my current work in progress (WIP. ) I followed my usual formula for when I get an idea–pull out the Blake Snyder beat sheet and fill it in. I mapped out a set up, an inciting incident, a midpoint, dark night of the soul moment, and a satisfying ending. It looked really good on paper.

Then I began to write the story. The basic story line took place on a riverboat leisurely strolling down the Mississippi toward New Orleans. And that's where the wheels, or paddles, in this case, began to come off the story. The boat was too confining for the story line. So I took a deep breath and tossed hero and heroine overboard. And while I was at it, I tossed the beat sheet overboard as well.

So where does that put me? Up the creek without a paddle, so to speak. I'm totally flying by the seat of my pants this time. No beat sheet allowed. And I'm finding something about this new approach that I really like. Many of you know I'm an obsessive jigsaw player. I've given up on the real ones, but the Magic Jigsaw Puzzle app and I spend a lot of time together. I am becoming quite adept at piecing things together quickly. The same is happening with my story. I've got my damp hero and heroine walking now instead of being on board, and they come upon a fort. It happens to be a Union fort, constructed in 1862. My hero was a Union spy who used to deliver intelligence to the fort, so they're granted access without question. I've got entire scenes from when they were aboard ship that I've abandoned, but there are bits and pieces of those scenes that, with a little tweaking, work well in the new story line. Just like my jigsaw puzzles, it's becoming less and less individual pieces with sharp edges, and is morphing into a discernible picture.

I never thought I'd be one to work by the seat of my pants. I know plenty of great writers who are pantsers, but writing historicals demands that research be done to make the story accurate. But this seems to be working for me for this story, anyway.
I recall what an early mentor told me when I was doing research for a story that's yet to be written. I asked her when I should stop doing the research, which was overwhelming me. She asked if I had a story to write or not. When I nodded, she said, "Write the damn story then. You'll know what research you'll need to add to the story once the story's on paper."

Sage advice. And that's what I'm doing. I'm writing the damn story.