Thursday, February 28, 2008

Thursday Hodgepodge

Or: My New Monitor, WIP Cuts, and an Upcoming ACFW Meeting

After some fiddling and tweaking of color, contrast and brightness settings, my new LCD monitor and I are coexisting in something resembling harmony. Everything is so much bigger, that even after two days of working at this screen, my hard copy pages in regular old Times New Roman 12 type look tiny, like I mistakenly printed them off in TNR 10.

Guess I'm adjusting faster than I'd expected. Photos on line still seem a little off, and more pixilated than my old monitor presented them. I can live with it. Text is looking less distractingly bleedy.

Yesterday I discovered a scene, character and setting in the early chapters of Kindred that I can cut without doing too much work to stitch up the gap. It's a scene I wrote years ago, thinking the situation would have greater bearing later in the story. It hasn't. I never revisited it at all.

I'm thrilled to let it go. Not that I don't like it. It's just not pulling its weight or contributing to the story. This is the sort of cutting I need to do, again and again (and again), if I'm going to bring the word count down to 200,000 (actually, I'd love to see it drop below that; would really like to be able to put 180,000 or something. No 2s!).

Saturday will be the second quarterly regional meeting of the Southern Oregon chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). There's only four of us so far (Bonnie Leon, Beth Goddard, Ann Shorey and moi) who've been able to make the meetings. We meet for lunch and then spend several hours in writerly fellowship. It was an uplifting and inspiring blast last time, and in the short months since one of our members has landed her first book deal (yay Ann!). I'm looking forward to the drive up (and over the mountains and through the woods) to the restaurant/bakery Heaven On Earth for our meeting.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What If...

Yesterday I spent my writing hours fine tuning character motivations. I made a list of all my characters who have a role to play in the story--beyond the very minor background/community sorts of characters. In other words, those characters who have something invested in the unfolding plot, those with some sort of desire or goal and who take action to achieve it:

1. my two main characters, Ian and Seona
2. the broad cast of secondary characters
3. and a few I'll call third tier

It went well, and I ended up playing the What If game. What if Character C was this way, instead of that? What if Character A had a different, stronger attitude to begin with? What if Character B had another reason for his actions than the one I gave him in the first draft?

By taking each character and looking at them separately, looking at the secondary and third tier characters as though this was THEIR story, helped me to see how I could create more depth and dimension. I've proposed more shapely and stronger arcs (at least in theory, the actual WORK still needs to be done) for several of the secondary characters, instead of the flatter arcs they have currently.

I'm not completely happy with all of them. There are still one or two characters who I feel are missing something, not living up to their potential, but I seem able to keep only so much proposed change alive and kicking in my head at once. After I make the changes, get them from head to screen, there will be room for more.

What an act of faith, is writing a novel....

PS: I have a new monitor, and man does everything look different. My old one dated to 1993. It was high contrast, but the text in Word docs and websites was sharp as a tack. This is a LCD monitor. It's handsome, flat, sleek and wide, and all the text looks bleedy and slightly pixilated (as text on all flat screen monitors look to me). But the biggest difference is that all my photos look washed out, like someone turned on the hideous white fluorescent lights. I've changed my header here, darkened it so it looks more like I intended it to look, and will get around to fixing other photos eventually. I've been looking at the same monitor for 15 years, so most every photo I've ever fiddled with now looks... wrong. Especially skin tones. Sigh. Welcome to LCD land, Lori.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

All's Quiet on the Blogging Front

Which doesn't mean I'm not continuing my editing. It's going slowly but steadily, which seems to be the way I work no matter if I'm writing first drafts of scenes or reading or making the fiftieth editing pass.

Just wanted to post and officially say that things will likely be quiet around here for a bit as I continue to edit. It would be a very boring process to watch anyway, with the better part of it going on in my subconscious.

But as I read through Kindred, I'm getting some promising ideas of how to shape and trim those early chapters. I see another chunk of it that can go, with a few key lines worked in elsewhere. I see ways to break up boring narrative patterns I hadn't realized I'd fallen into. I see dead people, but they don't know they're--no, wait, that's a different story! I see a way to accomplish something I've wanted to do in this story, but never found an unintrusive place to do it, which is to add a scene in flashback between Ian and his father (since Ian's relationship with the father he left back in Boston is key to Ian's motivations and conflict in this story). I can't shake the feeling it's important to show Ian and his father together, early on, on the cusp of his journey south, in the moment Ian is confronted with The Letter from his uncle that will change everything.

I love writing. Thank you, God, for allowing me the time and resources to be able to do this. Thank you, thank you!

Monday, February 18, 2008

About that Title... again

In the comments section of the February 12th post, Kaye Dacus let me know that:

I just read that Nicole Seitz has a book coming out in April entitled Trouble the Water:

"Set in the South Carolina Sea Islands, Nicole Seitz's second novel follows the stories of two sisters. One is seeking to recreate her life yet again and learns to truly live from a group of Gullah nannies she meets on the island. The other thinks she's got it all together until her sister's imminent death from cancer causes her to re-examine her own life and seek the healing and rebirth her troubled sister managed to find on St. Anne's Island."

This book sounds like my cup of tea, as far as reading goes. Of course I won't be able to use Trouble The Water as my title now. So... I'm thinking I'll just leave it as Kindred. For now.

Maybe the right title will find me.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Temporary suspension

I've temporarily suspended the excerpts of Kindred on my blog, due to a contest entry. It's important for the judges not to recognize the writers of the works they are judging. That being the case, I can't post about the contest here, either.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

And the winner is...

Well, not winner exactly, since it wasn't a contest. But those of you who responded about my list of potential new titles picked TROUBLE THE WATER as your favorite more consistently than any of the other possibilities.

That's cool. That one tops my list, too. I like the river theme, and all its slavery/freedom connotations. The working title for the sequel is OVER JORDAN, so the two titles rather "flow" together (ba-dum-dum!).

Monday, February 11, 2008

Yes, I am

Today, February 11th, I'm forced to ask myself a question. Am I incapable of reading KINDRED (Trouble The Waters... Canaan's Shore... whatever...) without doing a line-by-line edit?

After a week of reading and getting through all of three (three!) chapters, I have the answer:

Yes. Yes, I am.

Incapable.

"That's a self-imposed restriction," said Linda, a writer friend who dropped by last week.

"True, true," said I, glaring at the four-inch stack of single-spaced pages that is KINDRED (or whatever) sitting on my living room chair. "But it's part of the guidelines I'm trying to follow."

But if it's so hard to refrain from adding scratch outs and circles and alternative words and phrases to every page I read, and not refraining is so darn fun, maybe I ought to stop fighting it and just go with it, heh? Make up my own guidelines or at least bend them a little to better suit the workings of my peculiar writer's brain? Find what works for me and just do it?

So what if it takes longer? Now is the time for taking longer. I may never have time to take longer again.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Working title--redux

[Bringing this bit from my previous post up to the top again, partly because I'm too busy reading KINDRED to write a whole new post, and partly because I'd love more answers (thanks to all who responded so far here or via email!).]

But about that working title, KINDRED. Book titles aren't subject to copyright. A search at Amazon.com for Blood Ties, for example, will bring up books by different authors sharing that title. Still, I'd rather have my own unique title, insofar as that's possible (with the making of books having no end, and it being a few hundred years since the printing of them began in earnest). The title KINDRED belongs to a published novel by Octavia Butler, and it is, in fact, where I snagged my working title sometime during 2004, the year I began writing Kindred (my Kindred).

Sharing the title (should a future publisher not go and change it anyway, which they're wont to do) would pose no problem had Ms. Butler's book been about banana boat men of the West Indies, say. But it's about slavery in the southern United States, and race relations, and blood ties extending across the color line. So is mine. Although that's about where the similarities end, they're strong enough, and Butler's book (a time-travel/historical) is well known enough, that should my novel be published I could very well spend the rest of my career telling people, "Yes, Kindred is about slavery... no, it's not that Kindred."

So for the past four years I've had my eyes peeled for a new working title--with the idea of leaving KINDRED as the overall series title, because it fits so darn well. I don't have a replacement title yet, though I have a long list of possibilities. Some have to do with the story situation, some with Ian Cameron, my main character. Others reflect various themes in the book--slavery (physical and spiritual), kinship and blood ties, being uppermost. A lot of them have to do with rivers, and crossing them (hence this blog's title).

I realize few have read more than an excerpt or two of the story, if that much, but a book's title is usually what makes me pull it off a shelf at Evangel or Barnes & Noble, to investigate further, when I know little or nothing else about it. A title is a first impression, so if one of these titles makes a good one, post a comment and let me know which, and why.

My top picks from a (much) longer list of possible titles, in no particular order:

Trouble the Water
Carolina Autumn
Carolina Road
Mountain Laurel
The Bones of Mountain Laurel
Canaan's Shore
There Is A River
The Wayfaring Son
The Leaf That's Blown
The Beautiful Shore
Wade In The Water
Rivers To Cross
Next of Kin
The Near Kinsman
The Wind-Drifted Branch
Coming Unto Jordan
Canaan's River
An Issue of Blood

I haven't tried an Amazon search for all of these titles to see if they're in use, and if so attached to what sort of book (though some I have), but again, if one of the above piques your interest, do let me know.