Saturday, March 31, 2018

Learning the craft of writing - A Writer’s Journal


In a recent Writers Digest interview Kristin Hannah stated she probably does more than ten drafts of her books. She also shared the fact that she had worked on one book for over two years and ended up throwing it away. These revelations startled me, a beginning writer, but the comments were also comforting. This craft of writing is a long and challenging journey. But one of great joy and satisfaction when you can make the words work. When you are able to share a part of yourself, your passions, your ideas.

To capture my ideas, passions, and helpful hints I keep a writer’s journal for each book. The first page has a working title and some plot ideas. Since this is the second Caitlyn Jamison mystery, I have bios on the main characters. The supporting cast will be developed as I go along. The second page has the publishing stats of the first book, i.e. margins, pagination, author price (I learned the more pages in the book the lower the royalty-Fatal Dose is about 40 pages longer than Unexpected Death, so my royalty for Fatal Dose is about 40 cents less.) I also jot down the ISBN number of each book and the number of pages in each.

On the following pages I continue to jot down plot ideas, and introduce characters. Plots change as the characters are developed, so my “Idea” entries change as the book progresses. I also make note of reminders as to scenes, plot structure, use of senses (2 or 3 in each scene), and a constant reminder: What is this story really about? Why should readers keep reading?

While working on the third book, I am busy marketing the first two. Those venues with contact information is captured in my journal. Also captured are books with citations that I use for research.

When I get well into the story I start tracking my word count. I keep a listing of each day’s progress with notes on what needs to be done.

When I get stuck, I review the notes in my journal. It is a way to see how my thought processes have changed as the book matures.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Dreaded Middle

It has been a long time since I posted on this blog, which means I have been working hard on my third Caitlyn Jamison mystery! My new website: memaki.com also has a blog, plus a short blog called "Caitlyn's News," in which I keep readers informed about what she is up to as her new adventure progresses. So, counting my genealogy blog, GrowingupinWillowCreek.blotspot.com, I now have three blogs, "Caitlyn's News" and a website to keep fresh, in addition to making progress on the third book. Whew!

Last week I hit the dreaded middle of my new book (working title: The Missing Waterman). Actually I was over halfway when I came to a screeching halt. I spent several days (and nights) wondering where I had gone awry. I liked the plot lines, and I liked the characters, so why couldn't I make the story go forward?

The answer came to me in the middle of the night: the story sequence was in the wrong order. The way I decided to fix that was to start over. Yes, with 0 word count. I started a new document in which I copied chapters from the original document, but placed them in a different order. I took pieces of chapters and put them where they worked better. I've left the fluff behind, and now have a work-in-progress that flows much better and the prose is tighter.

Utilizing the advice from the book, Make a Scene, I will go through those new chapters to make sure they fit the criteria. I then will put each chapter through WritingProAid, a software product that is an incredible editing tool. I want to make sure my base is solid before I go much further with the story. 

And that is the life of a writer. Always learning, always trying new ways to come up with an enjoyable story. May your writing give you much joy.


Saturday, January 6, 2018

Scenes Provide the Framework



I am reading Make a Scene by Jordan Rosenfeld, a book I highly recommend for every writer. It is a whole new way for me to look at and evaluate the scenes in my book. I had just started the first chapter when I grabbed my writer’s journal to take notes on how I should reorganize my text. The book is that good.

Ms Rosenfeld begins by defining the functions of a scene as “…the essential DNA of story: They are the individual ‘cells’ of information that shape the essence of the story …” From that overall description, she delves deep into the core elements of writing scenes, and then describes the various scene types.

She outlines the most important questions for each scene:
“Where are my characters in the plot? Where did I leave them in the last scene and what are they doing now? *What is the most important piece of information that needs to be revealed in this scene? *What is my protagonist’s goal for this scene? *How will that goal be achieved or thwarted?”

My writer’s journal notes from the first few chapters of Make a Scene instructed me to flesh out the undesirable character, Vince Russell, mentioned in the first chapter. The book reminded me there are always two sides, and I should tell Mr. Russell’s side of the story. He, too, has hopes and needs. Vince now has his own chapter, when before, he had a paragraph buried in the first chapter.

I realized I had stereotyped some of my characters. That’s wrong, and I have now reworked those scenes to better reflect the people and their culture.

I had not described the setting enough, and I find that is an ongoing process. It is part of the process where I have to slow down, delve deep into my characters and where they are in order to describe the setting they are in. This is not easy for me, but I’m working on it. Yesterday I enjoyed creating the town of Ingram and I hope my readers will enjoy it as well.

Keeping in mind the advice Ms. Rosenfeld provides in her book, I am crafting each scene launch carefully and strategically, and asking myself, what is each character’s role? By following this recipe, I have already reworked the first couple of chapters, and am looking forward to reshaping and fleshing out the later chapters.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A Story Needs Passion


Sydney, my muse and advisor
An article by Deb Caletti in the latest Writers Digest caught my attention. In fact, I stopped reading and put the magazine down. The article gave me pause.

She said the first thing she asks her students before embarking on a writing project is to write down – What’s the point? As writers we learn about developing characters, plot, POV, pacing, dialogue, and the importance of editing, but the most important element is, in her words, “your own deep and personal connection to what’s on the page.” And that is when I realized that what I have developed so far in my third book is a story, but not a passion.

Ms. Caletti goes on to say, “The most important thing you can do, truly, is write the book that stirs your heart and disturbs your soul.”

I had to reevaluate what I was passionate about in my third mystery. The first two books had issues I was passionate about, and there were times when I couldn’t type fast enough. The passion and energy flowed out of me at such a fast rate my fingers couldn’t keep up. But not this time. And I thank Ms. Caletti for reminding me that feeling the story is of upmost importance.

I realized that what I am most passionate about is delving into each character, getting to know them, and to see how they react in various situations. I am also passionate about how Caitlyn deals with the cold case she becomes passionate about at a time of high stress in her job and family.

Is there more? The article prompted me to talk things over with my muse, Sydney. I asked her that all-important question—what am I passionate about? We came up with several more things, and I have to figure out how to work them into the story.