Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hurrah! An Accomplishment

Image Courtesy: Old Shoe Woman

Hello, bloggers. Thanks for your sympathies on the Winter Break from hell. We have recovered, I think. Actually, Big Bear can't hear out of one ear from post-infection fluid build-up, and Little Bear went to school this morning with half a degree of fever. (Please don't get sick, please don't get sick, I need you to stay well so we can get those ear tubes put in, oh, please don't get sick.)

But enough whining. Something good happened last week. On Friday, I finished the first draft of my second book, entitled Goldleaf. The plot (set in the south circa 1859) has more holes than:

Image courtesy: thenoodleator

But it is done, ladies and gentlemen. Now what?

Well, duh. Editing. I prefer editing to free-style creating, so I'm jazzed to switch gears. Here's some things I'll be focussing on:

1. Create an emotional experience. Without this, the book has failed. I've got to make my reader feel for the characters and what happens to them.

2. Create 'round' characters. I'm liking the supporting characters more than the MC. That's not good. I've got to get in touch with my gal, Miss Adeline, and bring her to life. I'll be rewriting the chapters in first person and rereading diaries written during this time period until I satisfied with her voice.

3. Fill in the holes. I've got minor characters whose story lines disappear without a trace. Plus, historical fiction demands I pay special attention to what the characters wear, eat, where they live, and how they travel. But I also want to infuse the story with the politics, currents events, religion, songs and books of this era. This ain't easy. Here's my research pile:

This doesn't include all the online material. I've read most of these books cover to cover, highlighted the heck out of them, and let them sit around. A few were consulted over and over throughout the first draft. Now I have to go back through the neglected ones and pick out what to use and figure out where to use it. For example, nineteenth century moms were hesitant to feed their children too much fresh fruit. Many feared it would make their kids sick.

Image courtesy: karmablue

4. Dialect. The spoken word is a whole 'nother can of worms. I have to give the flavor of the era with select words and phrases, but I can't bog down my reader with "His conversation was in free and easy defiance of Murray's Grammar, and was garnished at convenient intervals with various profane expressions, which not even the desire to be graphic in our account shall induce us to transcribe." (Uncle Tom's Cabin, 1852) Say what?

Goldleaf's dialect will be my creation. I'm not going for strict accuracy. I can't. Southern slang can be approximated with apostrophes and substitutions:

An' den he's gonna go runnin' in dem dose shoes an', boy howdy, he'll be beggin' fo a drank. Fo sho'!

Did I just channel a bad SNL skit? Anyway, every hyphen and deviation from the standard spelling of a word forces the reader to slow down. It's not a good thing.

5. Create a coherent piece of art with a theme and symbolism. My first book was thriller, influenced by Stephen King, James Patterson, and Dan Brown, authors I've loved for many years. However, my reading habits have branched out. The writings of Barbara Kingsolver, Jhumpa Lahiri, Anita Shreve, Jodi Picoult, The Help's Kathryn Stockett, and Pat Conroy are my inspiration this time.

After going through the query process once, I know certain things. The first five, ten, and fifty pages must be strong. The query teaser, all two paragraphs of it, must be compelling. The synopsis must capture the major story arcs and characters in two, little-bitty (double-spaced!) pages.

I should write these now. Because if there is a weakness, fixing it now will be easier than fixing it later. I should also have that one line pitch for "What's your book about" ready to roll. Right now, it's a five-line explanation at best, dominated by 'and, uh'.

The challenge: where to start. The solution? Delay by creating this blog entry. I've climbed a small mountain with this draft and the view is lovely but, to paraphrase Frost, I have many (more) mountains to go.

Where are you in your writing these days?


  1. Lots of good advice here! I especially like the part about dialect. You still have to make it readable for the reader!

  2. Hey, I gave you some awards over at my blog. Stop by and claim them! prernapickett.blogspot.com

  3. In my current WIP, I liked the support characters more than the main character, so I rewrote parts to make her stronger and more interesting.

    Great advice, Tamara. Pat Conroy...I love him. He's able to make me laugh and cry with the same book.

    I'm also climbing more mountains as I'm waiting for feedback from beta readers.

    Have a wonderful week.


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