Twisting History

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My historical inspirational romance novel centers around a true story, and this simple little fact is causing me no end of problems.

Its based on fact, so how much can I twist history to tell the story I want to tell?

I’ve been doing a lot of twisting. Bending events into a time period that I want, rather than sticking with the facts, putting events together with people that didn’t happen that way historically, putting thoughts, feelings, and actions onto people that did not actually react and feel that way.

My concious is screaming at me for making these twists.  Yet, my practical, rational, mind tells me that the importance isn’t in these details, but in the overall story that I am telingl.

The way I have twisted the events heightens conflict and brings together seperate events into one cohesive story, telling more in less – and hopefully making a bigger impact.

There is still more truth than fiction in my story (uh, I think), and the themes I’m writing of aren’t changed. Actually, it is because of the themes that I have, that I am twisting history to bed to my will.

In the meantime, I’m making myself nuts. Going back and forth telling myself it shouldn’t matter, but I know that with the people and events I’m writing about either the publishers I’m hoping will publish it might hate the changes I’ve made, or some people that will read it will nitpick. And the last thing I want is for my writings to become a stumbling block for anyone else.

If you write with true events woven into fiction, how much do you allow yourself to twist what really happened, altering when events happened or which people were at those events?  

Do you drive yourself crazy with guilt and obsess over these changes like I do when you alter history? How do you ease your conscious?

 

My novel in Wordle

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Wordle: The Prophet's Companion What are writers groups good for if not distraction? One of my writing friends shared www.wordle.net with the rest of us, and
I have had fun creating a word cloud image from the text of my current WIP.

I know the picture is super small, I couldn’t figure out how to make it any larger here without making it too blurry.
To see it full size, click on the picture.

I have to admit, I’ve been having a hard time focusing at 5 a.m on writing. I couldn’t pull myself out of bed until 5:30 this morning, and now, I just don’t feel like writing writing. Blogging? Sure. Just don’t ask me about my book.

It may have something to do with the fact that I’ve been working on a one page synopsis and in doing that, realized I have more problems with my novel than I care to admit. Namely, where the climax of the book is.
Chapter 14 is also giving me loads of trouble.
Maybe I should actually start planning out each chapter instead of writing off the seat of my pants.  I mean, I know where they are going, but how they are getting there is taking more unexpected turns than I care to admit.
Planning is so overrated, though.

I love what comes to me when I least suspect it.

A 5 A.M. Wake-Up Call

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I read a post yesterday on Laura Stanfill’s blog  interviewing Emma Burcart and her writing space, and beyond the beautiful walls and well organized space, what struck me the most was that she wakes up every day at 4 am and writes for two hours before starting her day job.

Now that is dedication!

It motivated me so much that this morning I set my alarm clock to 5 a.m., pulled myself out of bed and wrote (and researched) for two hours before my children woke up for the day.  I have to admit that doing this set a great tone for the day.  Instead of the girls waking me up, and being groggy and disoriented, I was awake, already mentally charged, and happy to jump right into the morning with them.

I also wrote some pretty great scenes. The middle of the book is finally coming together in a way that I think is really going to work.

Because today worked out so well, and because I want to take writing seriously, I have dedicated myself for the entire month of February to get up every morning at 5 a.m. to write.  If I want to be sersious about the writing craft, I have to put the time in, and writing during naps and at night in bed just has not been cutting it for me.

I had hoped to get up to 80,000 words by the end of this month, and while my scrivener document says I over 80,000,  I cheated and kept a chapter of ‘deleted scenes’ just so I wouldn’t lose my overall written word count. I know, not fair.

My manuscript (without the deleted scenes) is really only at just shy of 73,000 words, which translates to a 237 word document pages and 208 paperback book pages.

Now, if I can get up every morning at 5 a.m. to write, I should have this manuscript finished by the end of the month.

Finger’s crossed!

When do you get in your writing time? Whenever you can? Get up early? Stay up late? Write on a notepad that you carry with you all day? What works for you?

Why I love pinterest {as a writer}

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I know, I know, everyone is sick of hearing about pinterest. Everyone and her mother, sister, and niece (but not her father, brother, or uncle) is on pinterest.

Its fun, addicting, and oftentimes, a major time-suck.

However, as a writer, I have found it indispensable.

Before pinterest when I wanted a visual inspiration of something I wrote about, I would find an image and save it in my pictures file on the computer. Yes, it works, but its not as quick, easy, and visually pleasing to someone like me.

Also, you cannot make connections with the pictures you post just saving the pictures on your computer. On pinterest,  one of the pictures I posted of a person I am writing about named Emily Campbell (yes, a real person) was re-pinned onto another pinners board she titled “people I may be related to.”

Say what?!

I don’t know a whole lot about the Emily Campbell in my book, and here came this chance I never would have had before to find a missing piece to my puzzle.  My heart beat all aflutter.

Even though it turned out that the person who re-pinned the picture of Emily Campbell was not, in fact,  related to the Emily Campbell in my book, the possibility for connections like that, to find more pieces of the puzzle, are still there all-the-same.  This chance for connections alone makes it all worthwhile.

But what I really use pinterest for, is when I am researching anything for my book (Victorian slippers, dresses, hairstyles, maps, etc.) and I find a picture that inspires me, I pin it on pinterest, and continue my research. Later, at my leisure, I come back to the picture when I need help describing whatever it is I’m writing about.

If you’re on pinterest, come follow me here.

If you’re not on pinterest, come join the fun! You’re really missing out.

If you use visual inspiration for writing, (and you don’t use pinterest) where do you organize your pictures?

Writing Critique Groups

Why hello there – yes I am alive.

The rain patters on the roof and slides down the fogged up windows. A cozy dimness  has fallen over the house and the girls sleep.

I am snuggled up on my bed with a fuzzy blanket, fuzzy socks, and a delightfully firm bed-rest pillow.

I read for bit then start to doze.

Then, inspired, I open up my word document read the chapter I wrote most recently. I  swoon.  Great chapter.

Then, I get the courage I haven’t had in almost two months.  Reading chapter one.

You see. Nearly two months ago I submitted chapter one of my WIP (work in progress) to my writing critique group.  I submitted what I knew to be incomplete, first draft ‘word vomit.’  But I submitted it anyway.  I don’t know if it was bravery, or naivety.

I still have not gained the courage to open up and read each and every comment and correction my friends gave on that first chapter.

The pain. Oh! The pain of their comments still stings, but what I learned from them has transformed me as a writer.

Ok, maybe ‘transformed’ is a bit over dramatic. But looking back and re-reading that first chapter I realize just how far I have come as a writer. What my first instincts are to write down on paper -that initial word vomit  – has improved leaps and bounds. And the pain of their gentle corrections on my writing no longer stings. I look forward to hearing the feedback to make my writing and story better.

I write thinking not just about the story, but “what is my writing group going to think about this?”

Perhaps, some would say this inhibits the writing process – and maybe it has. I do write less down, but what I do write is better. Not perfect – no, hardly so – but much better than the cringe-worthy first chapters I wrote.

My group and I submit our chapters to each other over google docs and comment on each other’s work as we have time.  It is brilliant, and I am addicted to it. We meet once a week and discuss the points that are not as easily conveyed in comments, and laugh, and commiserate, and encourage each other. I’m also addicted to this.

If you are not in a critique group, I encourage you to build up the courage to find other writers to collaborate with and share your work. Besides the amazing feedback, reading their WIPs and giving constructive feedback hones the writing craft. It is all time well spent.

If you have a writing group – what role do they play – do they give only positive feedback, or do they dish out constructive criticism?

Writing Resolutions {Happy New Year!}

We’re all doing it, looking back on the year and thinking about what we have accomplished, what we wish we had accomplished, and what we hope the new year will bring for us.

It is my favorite time of year. Surrounded by family (and yes, a little drama and chaos), celebrating the joy of living and loving each other.

And making resolutions.

Ah, resolutions, how I love thee.

Resolutions tend to work very well for me. If not, I wouldn’t keep coming back to them year, after year, after year.  I find I have at least a 60% success rate.  Much better than working towards nothing, and gaining nothing.

Last year I aimed to write a book and, guess what? I wrote roughly 200 pages of a (very rough) first draft (63,000 words now and hopefully 65,000 by the first of the year). I joined a writing group who has (bless their souls) looked at and given me feedback on the first two chapters I’ve written.  I rocked my 2011 resolutions.

Without further ado, here are my writing resolutions for the 2012:

  1. Write. Write. And keep on writing. Ideally, 20,000 words a month, or until my manuscript is finished.
  2. Become a paying member of  American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW)
  3. Revise and polish the first 15 pages of the book and submit it to the Genesis Contest, by March 2, that the ACFW holds every year.
  4. Revise my manuscript until its shines so bright I need sunglasses.
  5. After writing and revising, seek representation for publication first through a literary agent.  If that fails as miserably as I think it will, go through a publisher who does not require literary agents (such as Pacific Press Publications).
  6. Write more in this blog.I think six resolutions are good enough.  They are lofty, and of course, give me plenty of room for failure. However, even if I only accomplish only half of these goals I’ll still be that much further along in my goals than if I never tried to reach them.

    Happy New Year friends and strangers (who are  friends I haven’t meet yet)!Happy writing to you.

Merry Christmas!

I have not written much this month, about 6,000 words in all.  What can I say? It’s been a busy month. I had a dry spell all this last week, not writing a single new word. So, I challenged myself to reach 60,000 words by Christmas.  I thought in the chaos of the holiday it would be impossible, but I did it.

While I haven’t been writing so much this month, let me share with you all the things I have learned about myself as a writer:

– When I say ‘really crappy first draft’ I really mean: “nobody but God should see this draft, lest they think I am a complete moron.”
– I need to re-learn punctuation. Comma’s especially.
– I love the passive voice a little too much.
– I say too much and leave little to be implied or assumed.
– Despite it all, I still have a story to write.

Most of the month I spent revising earlier chapters; taken out large chunks of pieces I wrote only to learn later that scenario could never have happened that way. So wait,  I lied.  I’ve written much more than 6,000 words, but my story has only progressed that much farther.  Despite the meager word count, my story has seen some major revisions and improvements.  December has not been a complete waste.

I began a new chapter today for the first time this month. Writing that fresh material made me remember why I love writing so much. I want to have that feeling back again everyday. To do that, I am dedicating the rest of what is left of the month to pure writing. No more revising, only creating.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

A Post-NaNo Writing Slump

The high of ‘winning’ and finishing a mad dash sprint to the 50,000-words-in-a-month finish line is behind me. I said I wanted to keep writing at the same pace I had been, 1667 words a day (or really it was more), but I have written barely 800 more words this month.  The last couple of days I haven’t even looked at my novel.  I’ve read many wonderful articles from The Editor’s Blog.  I’ve tinkered with lots of different character and scene ideas in my head, but I haven’t wanted to open that word document to continue my writing.

My brain needed a break, a time to refocus on other important things in my life that I have neglected. Like folding laundry. And organizing my closet. And finally matching that laundry basket full of mismatched kids socks (there are still 25 socks that have no pair.  The dryer sock monsters are fed well in our house), and creating a name banner for Eleanor that she has been wanting forever (since Annabelle has one).  I have worked on my picture-a-day blog which I had not updated in far too long. I have let myself finish many other projects, and that feels good. I may have hit a writing slump, but that doesn’t mean I have been lazy. I have spent time being creative in other areas that I’ve missed putting my energies into and so tomorrow when I meet with my writing group I will set a new pace of writing, one that is more sustainable to, well – life. This means I will push back my crazy goal of having this manuscript finished by the end of February.  I’m being realistic now. Summer of 2012 is the very earliest this project is going to be completed. Anything sooner than that is cake. Anything after is, well – life.

I win!

I wrote 50,000 words and all I got was this lousy sticker, oh yeah, and a book. That I wrote.

I actually did it. I wrote 50,000 words before the month of November was over.  There were rough spots, moments where I felt I couldn’t possibly continue, but I did and I won! (What did I win? Mostly just the bragging rights of being able to say I wrote most of a book in a month – but also . . . yeah, the bragging rights.)

How I feel about my book

Mostly good, but it is going to need a whole lot more work! I have at least 30,000 more words to write, minimum. I have serious revisions to make, errors to flesh out, characters to beef up, and plot to tighten.  But I wrote words, more than 50,000 of them in one month. A huge chunk of the book. They’re not all bad either.  Writing so much so fast I quickly forgot what I’d written and as I found myself re-reading passages that I had written this evening after feeling discouraged that I had written 50,000 words of garbage. I found myself drawn into the story. I had forgotten what I had written and was amazed that I had even written it.  I’m not saying this because I think I’m such an amazing writer. No,  I’m saying it because I’ve been feeling like the lousiest writer on the face of the planet, and I need to build up my self-confidence. I am a writer. I am a writer. And I have a story that needs to be told.

What I learned about myself this month

I am an ADD writer.  I write until I get stuck and then I jump ahead to a part I know I can write about freely. Then I write until I get stuck again and so on and so forth.  Mostly it was the research that I didn’t want dragging me down which made me jump ahead, but also I just don’t think I can stay in one place too long (hello moving 6 times in 6 years?). When I get ‘bored’ in one section, I jump back to another section and fill out parts I had missed, then jump ahead again to another part.  It sure is a good thing I know exactly what is happening in the book and how it ends or else I don’t think I could write. If I had no plan, no skeleton from which to work, I would dive into a book get bored, not know where I was going and give up writing.  I’m an ADD writer, and I need structure.

How I make the time to write

I wake up early and write – 6 am early many days (which gave me an hour or more before the girls woke up). I write when everyone naps and after everyone goes to bed at night.  On Sunday’s I have skipped out of the house for four hours at a time and written like a mad woman in a little coffee shop with other NaNoWriMo participants, and then have kept writing later that night.  I participate in write-in’s on Wednesday evenings too when I can and write (and get encouragement from other writers).  And then, when I don’t write, I am thinking about writing.  The good thing is, I’m not sick of the story yet.  I’m taking this as a good sign.

What I plan for the future

Conceivably if I keep the pace that I have I could finish the first draft before the end of the year and throw myself into revisions all during January/February.  My hope is to be able to send out queries (with a completed manuscript in hand) by the end of February no later. Perhaps that is a very lofty goal, but I’ve always liked to aim high. I need accountability, so hold me accountable!

Struggles with Scene Transitions

I am nearly 30,000 words into my novel, I am right on par for where I should be for the month of November if I am going to finish on time (for NaNo that is). Which, I will. I am confident of that at this point.  However, despite all the good that I have been able to find amid the serious word padding (hello everyone with first and last names, and a heavy use of “Brother X” and “Sister X” as they did back then), I have had my struggles. Chief among these struggles is scene transitions: What to do at the end of a scene? How do I get my characters to the end of the scene I am working on? Which sections should I skip writing about? I have no problem with action and dialogue – it is the wordy narrator bits that haunt me. The characters cannot talk forever!  It is the bringing the characters to another time/place that I am struggling with.

I keep remembering this quote from http://theeditorsblog.net on How To Write Scene Transitions:

Transitions are important in fiction because the writer can’t possibly portray or account for every moment in a character’s day, week, or life. A story may stretch over years—readers don’t need to know what happened every minute of those years.

I have my chapter outline all written out neatly. That is not the problem.  I know where I am going, just not how to get them there. Because of this, I have skipped many chapters that I have planned to write, and still do need to write, yet I cannot find the best way to take my characters to those times/places.   While I have written wonderful scenes in the beginning and now near the end,  I am left to go back to decipher  what to do about those pesky missing middle sections.

Here is what I have learned about transitions

Scene transitions need to identify place, time, and viewpoint character, especially if there’s been a change in any of the three. If the new scene has a change in mood or tone, that should also be established right away.

The Editors Blog

Also, have a hook at the end of a scene/chapter to keep the reader wanting to read.  Every chapter needs a hook. (Source: Shirley Jump Scene Transitions and Hooks )

I think I’ve learned enough for one morning. Maybe now I can write a decent scene transition. Or maybe all my characters are just doomed to wallow in their middle of their scenes forever.