December 31, 2009

Mission Accomplished!

It's been a long haul and not without sacrifice, but I am thrilled to announce that Draft 1 of my first novel, Son of The Shield is finished!!!
After 2 years and 10 months of plotting, planning, developing, erasing, rewriting, and driving my family crazy, Draft 1 was declared complete at 7:25 last night! Hurrah!
Oddly enough, in spite of the countless times throughout the process that I told myself I would sleep in and not even think about SOTS for at least a week after finishing it, I hardly slept at all last night and this morning I find myself anxious to begin work on Draft 2. But I am going to force myself to take at least a little break - not from writing, of course, just from SOTS.
Then it's on to Draft 2, which will consist mostly of rearranging scenes and filling in the trouble spots that I sort of glossed over in my rush to finish Draft 1. Draft 3 will be where the detail work starts (making sure all of my subplots wrap up, tracking character development, subtexting conversations, etc.) Draft 4 is the one that goes to the editors!
Now, to read the whole story, y'all will just have to wait until the book comes out (*evil laugh*). But, for all of you "Lair Dwellers," I've got all kinds of special insider information coming up - perhaps even a sneak preview if you ask very nicely ; ) So stick around - the adventure is just beginning!

December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

It seems we have won the 'Merry Christmas' battle - after the stew and uproar last year over 'Merry Christmas' versus the politically correct 'Happy Holidays' it appears that Christmas finally won out. I was thrilled to discover that a local Target store in my area actually displayed huge banners declaring 'Merry Christmas!' this year.
Although in the United States our freedom of speech and of religion are such that the 'Merry Christmas battle' was one we should not have been forced to fight, it did serve a purpose. No matter which side of the battle you stood on, you were forced to think about what Christmas meant to you. Christians were given a stark reminder of what Christmas really, truly means, and we were given a wonderful opportunity to take a stand and protect that meaning.
But now that the battle seems to be cooling off somewhat, let's not allow the importance of Christmas to slip away from us. We all stood up and fought to protect Christmas - now that the threat is not as great, we can't let down our guard.
So, as I write this, I pray that you will all keep in your hearts:
~The wonder of Christmas - A holy God whose holiness and righteousness had been despised and rejected by His creation nevertheless found it in His mercy to send His Son to be their Savior!
~The mystery of Christmas - God, the Almighty Spirit who created the universe and holds it in the palm of his hand, made Himself like us: human. Frail. Flesh and bone.
~The miracle of Christmas - thousands of years of history, of war, of genealogy, of politics, were all orchestrated to create this moment.
~The power of Christmas - God ... Jehovah, YAHWEH... was living, breathing, within the body of a man. That Man took on the forces of Hell and Death and triumphed!
Let's never forget that, my friends.
It's Christmas Eve. My family is busily bundling up the last few packages that have been cached away in closets and dresser drawers and tucking them under the tree. Christmas dinner is in the early stages of creation. I'm sure that the scene at your home is similar to mine. And so, my friends, I will leave you with this quote from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra:
"May God keep you and protect you on this, and every, Christmas Eve."

December 19, 2009

A Brief Update

I'm sure most of you are aware of my somewhat suicidal goal to finish the first draft of my first novel by December 31. Needless to say, December has been a blur for me (Mom nearly sent me into panic when she mentioned last night that Christmas is only a week away).
But, I thought I'd take the time to at least give you all an update on my progress. Right now Son of the Shield stands at 80,850 words and Thirty-Nine chapters. I've been cranking out an average of around 2000 words per day (with yesterday being my all-time record - 3,300!).
Only thirteen days left, folks. Can I get Draft 1 finished by December 31? Well - if I don't, it won't be because I didn't run myself ragged trying.

December 10, 2009

A Writing Prompt: The Stray's Story

Probably everyone (and especially those who live in rural areas) has at least some experience with stray (kittens, dogs, parakeets, etc.). My family is no exception. From a pure-bred blue whippet valued at $2000 to a litter of rottweiler puppies and a sampling of everything in between, we thought we'd seen it all.
Until the stray horse showed up last week.
So right there you have a writing prompt. You have a relatively normal occurrence (a stray showing up) with enough twist to make it interesting (strays don't usually come in the form of horses) and an unanswered question (Where did she come from? Why would anyone dump such a sweet little mare?)
Put your imagination to work! Spin the story behind that stray (horse, dog, cat, iguana) that mysteriously showed up at your house. What is the stray's story?

On Writing Prompts

One of the many weird things about being a writer is that periodic tendency to say that we have "nothing to write about". Which is roughly equivalent to a fashion designer saying she has nothing to wear.
I'm not casting judgement, and I'm as guilty as you are, but the fact remains that if you have had contact with some other intelligent life form (actually, intelligence is optional) at some point in your life, you have something to write about. The best place to find that magical inspiration we writers are always talking about is in and among those little dramas of everyday life.
But, since many of us suffer from the "nothing-in-my-life-is-worth-writing-about" syndrome, I've decided to start occasionally posting examples and samples from my own life and the lives of my friends and family - examples of those "little dramas" we all experience that, with a little imagination, can unlock worlds of ideas and "inspiration".
As always, readers, feel free to share your own!

December 7, 2009

When you can't take it anymore...

Let me say right off that this idea is not original with me. I got it from my friend The Traveler. She was working on a story and became extremely frustrated with her main character, so much so that she finally wrote herself into the story and killed him off.
I found that idea to be quite brilliant. So, when I recently started having issues with one of my own characters, I decided to write myself in and have it out with him. Now I didn't kill him off (after all, he is my favorite character) but I did let him know how frustrated I was with him. And wouldn't you know - it worked! After I had written the scene I felt much better. The writer's block was cured, and I went back to work. So I thought you all might enjoy reading my little conversation with Ivan.
(Setup: Ivan is the highest human authority in his country. He's in the command tent on a battlefield, waiting for the armies to position themselves.)

A sound came from Ivan’s right. He turned, and started when he saw a young woman standing next to him. How had she gotten in? He didn’t recognize her – he had never seen anyone dressed as she was. She wore pants instead of larrons, and a long-sleeved shirt with a gray and green pattern that made him dizzy when he looked closely.

“Who are you?” he asked, jumping to his feet.

She took a deep breath. “Wow. I finally get to meet you. My name is Mary – I wrote you.”

“You – what?”

“I wrote you. I’m the one telling your story.”

Ivan had no idea what this girl was talking about. “My story…?”

“You’re my favorite character, Ivan. But I have to tell you that I’m really irritated at you right now.”

Ivan was even more confused – if he had never even seen this girl, how and why should she be irritated at him? He strongly suspected that she was crazy, but she had caught his curiosity, so he ventured to ask “Why?”

“Because you won’t stop feeling sorry for yourself!” she said, startling Ivan with the volume at which she spoke.

“Quiet! I don’t know where you came from, but if anyone hears you they’ll want an explanation.”

“They won’t hear me,” the girl said wearily.

“How do you know?”

Mary shrugged. “Because I said. I can do that. I can say there’s a tree growing in your tent and there will be. See?”

This girl must have been insane. “There is no tree in here.”

Mary stared at a point behind the table. Ivan turned to look – there was a tree growing in the tent!

“How did –“

“Like I said, I’m the one telling the story here. I can do that. But the tree in the tent isn’t the point. The point is that I want to know why you won’t stop feeling sorry for yourself!”

“Feeling sorry for myself…”

“Yes, feeling sorry for yourself! Look, all this stuff that's happened isn't your fault. It was the way the story had to go, and I didn’t have any choice about it either. I don’t like it any more than you do – well, I might, but I’d have to think about it – anyway, the point is it’s not your fault. But you just keep on and on gloomifying all of these otherwise good scenes with your self-pity and I want to know why!”

“Self pity! Young lady, I—“

“Look Ivan,” the girl had softened her voice and her expression. “Look, I know you’ve been through a lot. I know about Lynessa.”

Ivan’s confusion and curiosity grew with everything the girl said. How did she know about Lynessa?

“Ivan, I know how much you loved her, and I know how much you miss her. Really. I do. But you’re not accomplishing anything by feeling sorry for yourself about it! You’re letting what’s happened to you bog you down and damage your usefulness in The Shield’s service!”

“You know of The Shield too?”

Mary nodded. “I serve Him just like you do. Only where I come from He has a different name.”

That made sense, Ivan supposed. The first thing this Mary character had said since showing up that made sense!

“Look,” Mary said, “Ivan I could stay here and talk to you for hours – there are so many things I’d love to ask you. But I’ll figure them out on my own eventually, and I’ve got to go and get on with the story. The main thing I had to say was – sit down first. You’re too much taller than me.”

Ivan was somewhat startled when he actually obeyed the order. He hadn’t intended to at all.

The girl smiled. “I love having that power. Okay, here’s what I wanted to say, and then I’ll be going:”

Ivan jumped when the girl grabbed him by his shirt collar and shook him.

“Adelphia needs you, Ivan, so stop feeling sorry for yourself! There’s a lot that has to be done in this novel before December 31 and your gloom and doom isn’t helping me get it done! I can’t meet this goal without your cooperation, so get your act together and let’s do this, alright?!”

Ivan was completely incapable of speaking.

Mary let go and smoothed out Ivan’s collar, then straightened and took a deep breath. “Good,” she said, smiling, “I think this has been a great help. Thanks for your time. I’ll see you around. Oh – and that message from Reylan on the table? – you’ll want to open that pretty quickly. It’s from the commander, about troops in the north end of the valley. Tell Gabriel ‘Hey’ for me.”

Mary was gone.

Ivan didn’t move for a minute, looking warily around in case she showed up again. But she didn’t.

Well, he thought, taking a deep breath and shaking his head, he couldn’t waste time wondering about it. After all, there was a lot to be done before December 31 … what in Reyem was December 31?

December 2, 2009

Donita K. Paul: What are They Thinking?

After being away from my ‘Write Like the Pros’ series for a long time, I’m finally back with the next installment – Donita K. Paul.

A couple of years ago I bought the book Dragonspell for my younger brother for Christmas. Since the book was the first in a series, I figured that I had the next year’s birthday and Christmas lined out as far as Caleb was concerned. Wrong. He went out and bought the rest of the series himself. For months all I heard about was “Kale this, Dar that, Fenworth something else…” To hear Caleb talk you’d have thought they were real people.

When I started reading the books for myself, I realized that they almost were real people! I felt like I knew them – especially the main viewpoint character Kale. I knew how she would react to a situation before she reacted. I knew how she would feel about a given person or event before she expressed her feelings.

So how did Mrs. Paul pull that off? By showing the reader the character’s thoughts.

Read Mrs. Paul’s books and you’ll find them loaded with character’s mental decision-making processes, inner struggles, and unspoken opinions. This offers the reader a tremendous amount of insight into who the character really is and gives them the sense that they really know them.

Think of it this way: when you meet someone for the first time, naturally you start with the conversational basics (where are you from, where do you work, what are you studying, etc.). But then you start moving towards learning their opinions and thoughts on a very casual level (what kind of movies do you like, what do you do in your spare time…). Once you get past the ‘stranger’ stage and begin to get more comfortable with the person, you start asking deeper, more ‘thoughtful’ questions (what are your religious beliefs, political views, dreams, personal goals, and so forth). Then you move on to questions regarding current events (the political race, the concert, the terrorist attack, the tornado).

As you learn a person’s thoughts on certain issues, you will be able to determine, at least to some extent, their thoughts on other issues. For instance, I am a conservative Republican and a Christian – that should give you some idea of where I stand on issues such as abortion and cloning.

This is what it means to really know a person. When you can predict their (thoughts, opinion, reaction) regarding an issue or circumstance, and do it with at least moderate accuracy, you know – really know – them.

And this is part of what makes Donita K. Paul’s characters so lifelike, so personal – she writes their thoughts! We know what they’re thinking. We know that even though Kale adores Paladin and truly wants to serve him, she still struggles with feeling unsuited and unworthy. We know that even though Kale has great respect and admiration for Wizard Fenworth’s wisdom, she still gets frustrated with his forgetfulness and painfully long thinking spells.

We know Kale because we know her thoughts. We know what she thinks. We know how she thinks. And we care about her because she feels like a friend.

I know that my own writing is sadly lacking insight into my characters’ thoughts, and I’m sure many of us can afford to put more character thought into our fiction. It can be tough, and it requires a great amount of preliminary character development, but just read Donita K. Paul’s work and you’ll see – the result is worth it!