Friday, July 31, 2009

Updates New and Old

I've reached my current word count goal of 168,000 words for my historical, Kindred. I'm going to let it rest there for now. More than likely I will come back to it for another pass at bringing down that word count (120k would be ideal). A friend of mine who is a writer as well as an editor is sending me some macro edit notes. I will let them stew around on the back burner for a while...

Because I really want to start plotting the new novel, The Quiet In The Land* (working title; I sometimes call it Willa of Ramshackle). I've begun this by reading through Jeff Gerke's ebook/worksheet, How To Find Your Story. It's a workbook for writers who have no problem coming up with complex characters and situations, but find plotting out a story much more of a challenge.
"This system is designed to help novelists take their great ideas for characters and settings and place them in a fabulously entertaining story framework."
Took it to the laundromat today and ended up scribbling a lot of good character ideas while the clothes washed and dried. No new plot ideas yet! But that will come, if the promise of this book holds true. Having completed three novels now, I do know how to plot one, but I no longer wish to spend upwards of five years on a book. This is something new for me, plotting out a book carefully and thoroughly before one scene is written (I was going to say "one word" but that's no longer true. I've written a short snippet already--oops!). It's an experiment. There is no One Right Way to write. The process is as varied and unique as is each writer. But it doesn't hurt to try new methods, and see if something fits.

In fact, it was doing that very thing that enabled me to finish a book again (Kindred), after five years of chemo fog. I wrote Kindred in nonlinear chunks, leaving huge gaps in the plot and narrative, because to do otherwise would have meant not writing at all. And so it took as long as it took, as my brain finished healing and retrained itself along the way (gnarly stuff, that chemo). Now, with a brain that feels much more toned than it did ten years ago, I'm ready to challenge it with something as structural as this plotting worksheet in Gerke's book. If it speeds up the process for me, I'll be thrilled. If it doesn't, at least I tried.

Interested in the book? Check out this Novel Matters blog post by Jeff Gerke, which includes a link to purchase the book.

Still thinking about what I might rename this blog. Guess I'll leave it be as long as Kindred has some hope of being published, and I'm still blogging about it.

*For they speak not peace: but they devise deceitful matters against them that are quiet in the land. Psalm 35:20

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Great Post at Novel Journey

Good Sunday Morning. Novel Journey's Marcia Laycock has posted a devotional this morning I think will inspire. Go. See it here (if it's past Sunday when you read this, you may need to scroll down for it).

"As writers, we may sometimes receive recognition but it will be swiftly gone and the longing remains. Only a relationship with God will satisfy it, only striving to be like Him will fulfill it. The longing will never completely go away until we are face to face with our Lord."

~ Marcia Laycock

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Trust in the Journey

I just reached The End (again!) in my current edit of Kindred. How fun that the story still brings me to tears after so many read-throughs. The word count still stands at 170,700, but I have the edit notes from the first half of the manuscript I gave to one of my very dedicated beta readers for the second time around (thank you Lauri, a million gazillion times!) returned to me with more cuts to work in. Hopefully once I've worked in some of those I'll drop that count to my goal of 168K.

Why 168,000? It seems achievable, and just sounds so much lower than 170K.

What else is up with Kindred? Let's see... there's an agency still considering the full manuscript, and I'm hoping to hear from them before too long. I entered the first chapter into a contest where the winners will wind up on the desk of an agent I had planned to query, with recommendations that will move it past the slush pile. That would be so cool if it happens.

Meanwhile, I'll continue the querying process, once I get that final, lowest possible word count, and then set Kindred aside as far as active work goes, and get busy with a new novel.

I'm calling it The Quiet in the Land (not bad for a working title).

Thinking about changing the title of this blog, too, since I'm expanding beyond one novel here. I still like the idea of a Journey... can't call it Novel Journey though. That's well and truly taken. But something like that perhaps.

I recently watched a Josh Groban DVD, where he was talking about writing music, and at the start of an album he doesn't know where the inspiration will come from, how it will all come together, song by song. There's always a voice of doubt saying, "I may never record another album." This time it might not come together. But he knows he simply has to start out with the bits of melody and lyrics that he has, surround himself with people who will inspire him creatively, and trust in the journey.

My writer's heart leapt at that phrase, for that's so how writing a novel is. Starting a new novel is a leap of faith, because I'm never given everything at the start. Sometimes I'm given so little it's pretty scary to pack my bags and start the journey down a road so unfamiliar.

But I'm ready to leap, and see the unexpected sights along the way. Willa, Neil and Joseph (or is he Adam?) await the telling of their story now.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

First Impressions

Today at the Between The Lines blog, agent Wendy Lawton posed a question. What’s the best part of your job as a writer? I left a comment:
One of the best moments for me is early in a project, that moment when a character first speaks to me, and I hear her voice so clearly, and it feels like I’m simply taking dictation. It can happen anytime, anywhere. I just better be prepared (lipstick and a napkin will do in a pinch). Any time in the writing process when this happens is good, but that first time is exhilarating. I tend to walk about looking dazed for a while, afterward.
This happened to me most recently shortly before my trip east. The main character of the book I'm currently plotting suddenly started speaking to me, so I quick opened a new file and started typying... listening... typing. I was surprised to learn a few things about her I hadn't yet known, and a few things about the plot. I love when that happens. It makes me feel like the story already exists, full and complete in some dimension I can just see from the corner of my eye.

Here it is. It's a bit choppy, with one blank spot. Perhaps it's a prologue. Maybe it's just for me and will never appear in the book. But I think it will.
I remember the borders of our land. [describe landmarks: standing stone, lake, islet, big tree]

I have been gone from those hills for half the moons of my life. What I have seen and what I have done, it has changed me. I do not recognize these sun-browned arms, these sturdy hands, these legs that stride mountains and do not tire, and stand me taller than most men.

I am the place two rivers merge, silted with upheaval and loss. No more what I was, but neither what they sought to make me. Yet memory of our land is a clear stream. I shall know it as once I knew the faces of my children. I will walk its borders; I will search its ground for what was taken, and what I left behind. It may be I will find me there.

If the land remembers.
From The Quiet In The Land [working title] Copyright 2009 by Lori Benton

Monday, July 13, 2009

Just A Little Something

... I ran across today at the Writers Forum. The song, Tillidh Mi (I Will Return), is by Runrig, a Scottish/Gaelic group I hadn't heard of until recently. The video is very old footage from the Outer Hebrides of crofters and fishermen going about their business.

And in other news, I'm home. Had a wonderful trip. Saw my little brother married. That's all of us now. So now I'll be getting back to the last bit of editing on Kindred... and I'll be getting over my vertigo (plane travel, gotta love it... not). I feel like I've been on a sea cruise for the past ten days, minus the motion sickness, and if past patterns hold true, I'll be on it for another week. Maybe two. As I sit here me and the chair and the desk are all rocking gently up and down... up and down. At least that's what it feels like. But it's a small price to pay for seeing family, and more of the country I tend to write about.

During our travels hither and yon we drove along the Pennsylvania/Maryland border, heading from West Virginia to Lititz PA, where my brother's wedding was held (at the General Sutter Inn). This is the area of the country where Kindred opens, with Ian Cameron perched on a hillside preparing to shoot someone he thinks is following him. Someone is, but not the someone he thinks.

Also on this trip I talked early family history with my mom, and she dropped a tidbit about my great-great-grandmother and one of my great aunts that I plan to use in my next book, set in the 18thC just after the Revolutionary War. Seems great-great-grandma Harriet thought reading was a waste of time and hid my great-aunt Leona's books from her whenever she left one lying about.

I didn't inherit that gene.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Two Really Cool Things

Today I want to highlight an awesome book trailer by historical writer J. M. Hochstetler, for the third book in her American Patriot series, Wind of the Spirit, set during the Revolutionary War. I was privileged to be a reader for this book while it was being written; this trailer captures the atmosphere and essence of the story in a powerful way. Have a look:

After you've viewed the trailer, check out Joan's informative posts detailing the steps she went through to create it:

Creating a Video Trailer
Developing The Script
Constructing the Video
Finding Elizabeth and Carleton
Adding Audio

Joan has begun work on Crucible of War, the fourth book in the American Patriot series (Daughter of Liberty, Native Son).

And just for fun, check out this post for a morph I made of Elizabeth, Joan's heroine, which she felt was close enough to her vision to post.

The other really cool thing I want to mention is the book, The Fire In Fiction, by Donald Maass, easily one of the best books on the craft of fiction I've ever read. I don't often make it through writing craft books, or else it takes me weeks. But I came back to The Fire In Fiction as eagerly as I would a good novel.

Chapter 8, Tension All The Time, is worth the price of the book alone. Here's a few brief quotes, things I highlighted as I read.

Tension in Dialogue: "The important thing is to get away from ambling chit-chat and get right to the desire of two speakers to defeat each other."

Tension in Action: "High action immediately benefits from having torn emotions folded in."

Tension in Exposition: "Rehashing what is already obvious does not heighten it. It merely saps tension. Exposition is a time for what is new: extra questions, fresh anxiety, unforeseen angles. Think of exposition as plot turns. It's just plot that plays out in the mind."

Donald Maass writes about taking your fiction to the next level. The Fire In Fiction will give you many practical ways to do this with your writing, both in the first draft stage and later as you edit. Now... to put them in practice.

I'll be away from the blog until the middle of July. Don't have too much fun without me!