Saturday, October 30, 2010


Forty-one chapters and forty-one years come to an end today. I've finished the first draft of The Quiet in the Land (aka Willa), begun 'round about August 09. Tomorrow starts a new year for me personally, and a time of rest (mentally, anyway) while I let this first draft cool off in preparation for coming at it with my quill pens trimmed and sharpened.

The final word count for this first draft is 132,500, a bit over the 130K mark I've aimed for all these months. I have every intention of seeing that count come in much closer to 120K (if not lower) by the time I'm done editing. And there will be editing. I'm not completely satisfied with a few of the secondary characters' arc. I may have short-changed my villain. I may need to add a fourth POV character to deal with some of those issues.

Here's my plan of attack:

For one week, possibly two, I'm not going to write at all. I'm going to do yard work. There's a bank of ivy growing on a fence in my yard that is plotting a full scale invasion of the house. Intelligence reports that it means to make its move soon. I plan on a preemptive strike.

And the leaves are falling now (are they in cahoots with the ivy???). Must neutralize those as well.

Since I don't have the stamina for 7-8 hours of yard work a day, I'll also start the early research for my next WIP, which I've working titled Jesse. Jesse Spencer is the name of my main character (I snagged his name from one of the actors on House, because I like the name, though my character doesn't look like that actor. In case you are curious, he looks much more like Alex O'Loughlin, who played vampire Mick St. John on Moonlight and now can be seen as Steve McGarrett in Hawaii 5-0).

So for a week--two weeks if I can force myself to stay away from the manuscript--I'll research and plot Jesse's story and battle crazy green stuff outside, and let these new characters tell me more about their back stories, which I love to write in detail before I begin a novel. And I'll throw all my notes into a file and leave them to stew.

But back to my editing plan. Next step: print out TQITL in hard copy and read through it without making any changes, as fast as I can. I'll keep a notebook open to jot down any changes I think to make as I read, but I want to come at this story as if it was already printed, reading through it at the speed I read other author's books. Just to see if it helps me get a better grasp on the shape of the story, the pacing, all that macro stuff that's so easy to lose sight of while editing line-by-line.

By the end of November I'll be ready to dive into whatever major story or character edits that seem needful. Then will come at least one more edit for polishing, a line edit. Possibly there will be another edit after this. I don't know how long this process will take. I guess it depends on if it becomes Requested Material. But I'd like to have it done as soon after the first of the year as possible. Because I want to start writing Jesse's story really bad.

Just for fun, here's more of Alex O'Loughlin looking like Jesse:
and most especially... HERE

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Summit sighting

Funny how the writer's brain works. Or the muse. Or inspiration. Or... whatever it is that helps me create a writing rhythm I can sustain day after day and churn out 32,000 words in a month's time, then have that focus and pace evaporate so that I've spent the whole of this week simply on the final chapter of The Quiet in the Land.

But that's what I'm doing, and why I'm not blogging, and I'm going to have this first draft finished by Saturday regardless.

Maybe I'm just tired. I've never written what amounts to a little over 1000 words a day for a 30 day period. Many writers manage to write much more than that, but it's a lot for me (I don't climb mountains very fast either).

I'm almost to the end of this climb. I can see the summit. See you there!

Friday, October 22, 2010

When the leaves are gold

 As Frodo stood upon the threshold, Elrond wished him a fair journey, and blessed him, and he said:

"I think, Frodo, that maybe you will not need to come back, unless you come very soon. For about this time of the year, when the leaves are gold before they fall, look for Bilbo in the woods of the Shire. I shall be with him."

When the leaves are gold before they fall. I've never found a better phrase to describe my favorite few weeks of the year than the words Tolkien gave Elrond to say in this scene from The Return of the King. They evoke not only the beauty of the mellowing season, but the sense of longing and wanderlust I often feel in autumn, the desire to get in my car and drive for a very long distance.

Autumn, October especially, seems a fitting time for journeys. I've taken many wonderful journeys in October, often for novel research, but this October I've stayed put, mostly here at this desk in my living room. This is the month I dedicated to finishing the first draft of The Quiet in the Land. I almost wish it hadn't fallen on October, because here I sit thinking about new places I'd like to see, and people I'd like to see them with. Wanderlust is nipping at the edges of my soul.

I'll have to content myself with the character in the scene-in-progress, who is about to make a distant autumn journey of his own, as I stay behind and bid him farewell.

The leaves in my own yard will be yellow soon, but the first sign of autumn I have within sight of my windows each year is this tree in my across-the-street neighbor's yard. The tips of this tree are the first to start the annual autumn blush. That was already happening before I left for ACFW, back in mid-September.

The photo below was taken yesterday, at the height of its color, just hours before the wind picked up, clouds moved in, and many of these gorgeous leaves began to drop.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Work, Hope, Trust

Today at Novel Matters, Patti Hill posted about one of my favorite books for writers, Steven Pressfield's The War of Art. If you haven't read this book, and you're an artist of any ilk, might I take a cattle prod to your backside and (gently) encourage you to do so?

Partly spurred by The War of Art, partly as a result of a recent conversation with a wise and godly writer friend, I've been thinking a lot over the past few weeks about work ethics and hope and expectations, and the wisdom of ceasing to hope in my expectations, but rather to hope in God, who because of His good nature has good plans for me, plans that I can trust even if they don't line up exactly with what I think is best, or the timing in which I think it should unfold.

Here's the comment I posted to Patti Hill's blog post at Novel Matters today:
I read Pressfield's book a few months ago and it changed the way I approach sitting down to write each day. Since 1991 I've faced down (and sometimes been beaten by) that nebulous resistance, almost daily. My resistance isn't usually one thing or person, but innumerable little distractions, laziness, the desire to be entertained rather than to work. Now I have a name for it, a better understanding of it, and am stronger to overcome it.

[insert segue]

God has whispered to my heart lately about laying down my expectations when it comes to a writing career (and anything else, really). I'm not to be hoping in my dreams, or my own notion of what would be best for me, but in Him. If I hope in Him and trust to His good plans and loving nature, and continually lay down the burden of my own expectations and desires, I find I'm much less tightly wound about it all.

Just like overcoming resistance, I relearn this almost daily. :)
I hadn't thought it through until I saw the phrase flow from my keyboard, but the burden of my own expectations is exactly what it is. When I'm holding on tightly to a hope, a dream, a desire that God either sees isn't good for me, or the timing's not right, it becomes a burden, because I'm left trying to make it happen in my own strength and wisdom. Or else I'm fretting over it, obsessing about it, cherishing it like a toddler with another child's toy.

MINE! That's a recipe for burn-out and frustration.

Not that as writers/artists we aren't to work, and work hard, at the craft we've been called to. I want do my part (showing up each day on time to write; read as much as possible and study other writers' craft, and at the same time fill my creative well; learn the industry as well as I can; keep a teachable spirit when it comes to the writing craft; give my agent what she asks for when she asks for it). But even more I want to let God do His part. That means giving over the outcome of my work to Him, trusting that whatever comes, it's come through His hand, and it's something good for me. Conversely, if I don't get something I want, when I want it, then that wasn't good for me just then.

It makes this whole up-and-down writing journey a lot smoother, at least in my soul. While I want to give my characters a roller coaster of an internal arc, I'd prefer my own be a bit more even-keeled.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

I so enjoy, learn from, and appreciate the Novel Matters ladies and their blog. If you haven't checked them out yet, well... where did I put that cattle prod?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

What I'd do if....

If I had an extra $450.00 plus $13.00 for shipping lying around somewhere getting dusty, here's what I'd be sorely tempted to do with it.

I love that dress!  I would wear it to the formal banquet at the next ACFW conference I attend.

No dusty dollars--not even one--lying about, alas.

Edited to say the above link isn't working now, as I believe that dress has already sold on ebay. That was fast. But you can still see photos of it at my friend Laura's blog here:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Black moments, baking, and grocery coupons

There's nothing to compare to the exhilaration of nearing the end of writing a novel, at least not in my writing life. I'm in the throes of that exhilaration now.

I blew past my usual lunchtime break of 12pm today, since I was in the heat of writing/tweaking the current scene from The Quiet in the Land/Willa. This past week I've taken two of my main characters through their black moment--that point in the story just before, or sometimes during, the climax scenes when all seems lost--and brought one of them through to a partial resolution (her inner journey is nearly complete, though the external one has a few more beats to work through).

There's one more significant character who needs to experience his black moment, but that will have to wait for tomorrow and Saturday, and likely part of next week, too. I'm all played out for today. Wrung like a dishrag, if I might use that old cliche.

But I feel like celebrating. That means baking. I have a belated birthday cake on order (huckleberry lemon pound cake) but I feel like trying something new as well. Time to leaf through my recipe box and Southern Living Cake recipe book and see what calls to be created. Cooking, and most of all baking, is another creative outlet I like to indulge whenever possible (counterbalanced by a 100 or so miles on the stationary bike each week).

So look out Fred Meyer, here I come with my 10% off everything coupon that expires this Saturday (so nice of you to send me that!). But of course I know the perils of food shopping on an empty stomach, so first things first. Lunch.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Frontier Forts

Turns out the last major subject I needed to research while writing the first draft of The Quiet in the Land (unless I get thrown another surprise in the last few chapters) is frontier forts, specifically Fort Stanwix, which was built along the old portage trail in Oneida territory (the Oneida Carrying Place), which formed the connecting link between the Mohawk River and Wood Creek, an important trade route linking the Atlantic with the Great Lakes.

Fort Stanwix saw its demise at the end of the Revolutionary War, not through siege, which it had withstood, but due to fire and flood. It was abandoned by the American military in 1781, but the ruined fort was used as the site for two important peace councils between the newly independent United States and the Six Nations of the Iroquois, which were divided tragically during the war, some fighting for the British, some for the Colonists. One of those peace councils comes into play in The Quiet in the Land.

I hadn't realized I'd need to research this fort until I reached a chapter a week ago and found my POV character standing outside it. Thankfully I had some months ago ordered a book called Fortress America, The Forts That Defended America, 1600 to the Present, just on the off chance I might need it, and because it looked like a very interesting book. It's written by J. E. Kaufmann and H. W. Kaufmann, and has many illustrations of fort layouts, construction, and maps by Tomasz Idzikowski. A great resource for anyone dealing with the subject during any US time period.

Question for you: if you've researched this subject, do you have another good resource? If so, please share it in the comments. You'll be enabling a research addict, but don't let that trouble you.

Fort Stanwix: drawbridge

Sutler's quarters.

Commandant's quarters

Officer's quarters

  Photos of Fort Stanwix by swisstek at Panoramio, used under creative common license

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Gathering in the Harvest

October is my favorite month and has been for as long as I can remember. Like my friend and fellow historical writer, Ann Shorey said to me recently, "I endure summer so I can get to fall." Amen.

Why do I love this month? It's the cool mornings when I turn on the gas fireplace, just for a few minutes to take the edge off the chill. It's the cloud cover and rain showers after such a long 'severe clear' summer. It's the colors too. My favorites. Rusty reds, ochres and oranges and yellows, and every shade of brown. And still that splash of verdure as our summer-scorched lawn greens up around the edges where the sprinklers never quite reached. There are piles of pumpkins on hay bales, cornfields with stalks dried golden brown, and all the lovely harvested produce. And candles. Did I mention candles? I love spicy, fall-scented candles that make the room smell like cinnamon and apples and maple and every good thing baking in the oven. And the leaves--what a glorious finish to their short life cycle. I pray my own finish will be as colorful.

I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

This month I'm endeavoring to really buckle down and write with all my heart and strength, and if possible, finish the first draft of The Quiet In The Land (Willa). I've reached the final chapters, the final turns of plot that culminate in the end of these characters' journeys. It's totally absorbing me now... even though a wholly new set of characters has already begun nudging at the door of my heart. But I can't open that door until I've allowed Willa and Neil and Joseph to finish their party in the front parlor, clean up, and head home.

It's harvest time all around, and here at my computer as well, as I gather in all the story threads I've spun across an 18th century frontier landscape, and bring them all to a hopefully satisfying end before the first snow flies.