Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Time Between Times

Moonrise over the Sea by Caspar David Friedrich 1822
In ages past the Celtic tribes of Britain spoke of a Time Between Times, those blurred twilight borders between day and night, between seasons, between one year and the next. It's a time when the eyes of the earth are closing for slumber, when the sun retreats and the moon and stars rise to take the stage. In Celtic tradition and legend, this was a time when the veil between this world and the Otherworld grew thin, where the laws of time and space might be broken. A time of beginings and endings. Of birth and death. Often a magical time.

Maybe because I was born during one of these times, the old Celtic New Year of Samhain, which we now call All Hallows Eve, or Halloween, I'm attracted to those times. I become more attentive to the world at twilight. I feel a special peace during the brief, pearly gray before the sun rises. I much prefer spring over summer, and fall above all other seasons.

There's another Time Between Times for a writer, and here at the end of 2011, not quite the start of 2012, I find myself there again. It's the period of days, weeks, or months between the finishing of one novel and the starting of another. This time between is a blending of the satisfaction and fulfillment of the story just told and the anticipation, uncertainty, and hope for the story yet to be born.

I'm never quite at ease when I'm not writing, but during this time I remind myself that when I'm not writing... I still am. A writer needs to allow time and room for her new characters to speak up and declare themselves. For me, that means picking the right books to read, fiction or nonfiction (and putting aside for later those that aren't filling the creative well), and keeping a notebook handy at all times.

That's where I'm at here on the cusp of 2012, in the hopeful, anxious, suspenseful place between a finished book and one not yet formed. Waiting, listening, scribbling ideas, dates, timelines, back stories.  

Anticipating magic.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I saw a book tree like this on Facebook this year and had to try it.

To all who've visited and commented here on the blog over the years (or for the first time today!), I appreciate the chance to talk with you about all things writing, reading, faith, 18th century, and book-related (Whew! That's a lot of interests for one little ol' blog).

Merry Christmas!

And a Blessed New Year!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Whatever shall I wear?

With my new gown, that is.

I've acquired an 18th century style costume gown, created by the talented Scott Blake at Yordreems Creations. From their website: "Scott is known all over the world as one of the leading wardrobe replicators. Now with his wife Erica lending a hand, Yordreem items have been seen everywhere…including the filming of POTC2 (Pirates of the Caribbean 2), the set National Treasure2, Disney World Resorts, TV commercials, huge scale travel advertisements, national television, and on and on…"

Impressive! And so is this gorgeous gown.

Now I need to get a shift (or chemise) and a set of stays, so I can have the gown altered a bit. It's really quite a good fit even without the stays. Just a little big in the shoulders. But stays will tell the real story, I'm sure. So I'm exercising self control and not having the dress altered until I can afford to buy them.

I have to say that simply wearing the gown for an hour or so gave me a whole new appreciation for what the women of the 18th century put up with when it came to clothes. And I wasn't even wearing stays yet! After an hour I had a great deal more sympathy for one of my characters in my WIP, who is left all dressed up and waiting around for a man who is very late, unable to sit down for fear of creasing her gown (as I waited for my husband to arrive home so I could show him the gown, before changing back into my comfy sweats).

When I can budget in the rest of the garments for a complete 18th century ensemble, I'll have myself photographed in the gown. For now though here is a sneak peek, photo taken by Scott and used with his permission (thanks Scott!)

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Another journey's end

At the end of the trail.....

That's my sigh of satisfaction, having just written the real final line of the novel in progress. I wrote the last chapter weeks ago of course, only to decide it needed an epilogue to tie up some loose threads and give a better sense of closure.

Not every loose thread. Not one tidy bow. But so ends my first major edit. I'll take a couple days off to clear my head, then launch into a second edit. This one will focus on polishing and trimming. My word count is a little higher than I (and my agent) want it to be (anyone surprised?), and I've made a list of minor changes to work in. This edit will be fast, done by the end of the year, God willing.

So. A little progress report to mark this December day.

And by the by, I read a very good post today from author (The War of Art) Steven Pressfield, about Villains, and why we must give them their say. And make it believable! "The villain... carries the counter-theme. The more convincing his case, the better the story."Click over and share in his writing wisdom!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Fellowship of the First Draft

This week one of my favorite authors, Susanna Kearsley talked about  Letting Go (The Heroine Addicts blog), saying good-bye to one's characters. Writing that last scene in which they appear. And the wrench of sadness and loss this can bring a writer. Even if the character isn't giving up the ghost, but simply walking off stage and out of the story.

In my comment on her blog, I said: It's hard to let a character go, especially if he's been a point of view character. I just did that on Friday, wrote the last scene from a secondary character's pov, and the last scene before he walks out of the story to go his way. He was good company. I'll miss him. Even though, as you say, there's editing to be done, and perhaps he'll wander into another story one day. This is his second appearance in one of mine. But there's nothing quite like the fellowship of a first draft, between author and character, is there? 

That last line got me thinking about the relationship that forms between characters and their creator during the writing process. It holds a lot of the same chemistry, wonder, and thrill of falling in love, as I come to know these story people chapter by chapter.

I've even found myself feeling a bond with a few of my antagonists, because I've gone inside their heads and realized they have reasons (often wounded, twisted reasons) for the wrenches they throw into the smooth gears of my protagonists lives. That's one of my gauges for whether or not I've given my antagonist enough depth and motivation, if on some level I can feel for him, or her, and understand (if not like) where they are coming from and why they make the choices they do. I admit, I've wept over one or two such characters who met their end unrepentant.

When the first draft is done, there's still plenty of time to spend with the characters in each novel. There's editing, and lots of it. And while overall I enjoy the editing and polishing stages of novel writing more than writing first draft, there is one aspect of first draft writing that trumps everything else.

It's those days (and they don't happen but maybe once or twice a week during a first draft) when I emerge after hours of intense writing, when the characters have surprised me, said and done things I hadn't expected, revealed layers to their minds and hearts I didn't know would be there. That is story-writing magic. It's exhausting and exhilarating, and I wouldn't trade it for all the later draft polishing in the world.
A side note: speaking of editing, I've had my head down all week doing just that, and only today realized I hadn't blogged this week. How is it December 1 already? The year has flown, but I've just about met one of my goals, researching and writing a 120,000 word historical novel in under a year's time. I started in February. Got any goals that you're closing in on here at the end of 2011?