Monday, March 2, 2015

Bringing Characters to Life

I've had a good, productive morning of writing after several days of not picking up my pen. Book Three (I still haven't settled on a title) is picking up steam. I've just finished Chapter 13.

Someone asked me recently if I have a firm outline that I go by before I begin a book. Not really. I have a general outline, but when I start, I never quite know how it will end until I get there. I know that's a pretty unconventional method of writing, but it works best for me. I put a lot of time into creating my characters, their strengths, their faults, their likes and dislikes. Then I hand them my general outline and let them take it from there. They live out their lives in my book with a gentle nudging here and there from me. By the time I finish a book, they are totally such a part of me that I have a hard time letting them go. That's why I carried Rock and Liz and a few others over into my second and third books. They were on a roll and I didn't want to stop them. This third book will be the end though - a trilogy. They're ready to live their lives with a little less excitement when they play out this last story. There will be more books, God willing. I'm just not sure yet the direction He is leading me to write after this.
The following Bible verse has come up in several of my readings today, so I'm sure it is speaking directly to me. Let it be your own verse today - it carries profound words of wisdom.
II Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Organizing, plotting and planning your characters

I've been hard at work on Book Three of the Southern Grace Series. I have six chapters done and just as in my first two books, I'm constantly changing my outline as I write.

It's interesting to see how other authors plan scenarios for their plots and characters. One friend uses sticky notes all around her writing station. Another acquaintance uses an easel with a large poster board on it, drawing little squares with handwritten notes and connecting them with lines - much like a family tree would look. Someone else I know used to use random notebooks to jot down her inspirations, but she never could find them when she needed them (uh um... does it make you wonder who that could be?) That same author used Microsoft Word exclusively and saved her documents only on her hard drive. A crashed computer broke her from ever doing that again. Everyone has their own organizational method, but organization is my weakness. Thank heavens for Google Docs. My computer geek grandson introduced it to me at the same he was able to retrieve my lost documents and I've never looked back.

Google Docs is a free Web-based application in which documents and spreadsheets can be created, edited and stored online. Files can be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection and a web browser. This had multiple benefits for me. You can work from home on a personal computer and since it's stored online you can work from any computer or smartphone anywhere you go. You can also give your editor access to it online allowing them to comment or even make corrections to it. You can write your chapters as separate documents or as one complete document and it can easily be converted to Microsoft Word when you're ready for publication. My favorite feature is that it has it's own version of sticky notes by simply using the comment section AND it saves your document immediately as you write it - no more forgetting to click "save" when you're closing up for the day. After losing about half my 1st book due to not saving and/or the computer crash, Google docs was a Godsend to me while writing my second.

And speaking of Google Docs version of sticky notes, I came across this today as I was gearing up to write. It will give you a general idea of how we writers worry over plot. Those of you who have read Lighting the Way will know what actually happened which may or may not be what I have in my notes - and I thought you might like to have some insight in how I got there. And also to see my kooky train of thought as I'm writing smile emoticon

1. How are you going to work in the house fire for the cottage and does Theo get hurt
2. Still can’t figure out how or if I should kill off Ernesto. What options do I have.
I can have him live and stir up a whole bunch of trouble in Park Place. Trouble can be useful! 

Or I could have him die - Maybe die on the sofa when Maria leaves. I could go in and add in that chapter where his co-worker drinking buddy has a key to the apartment and knocks - no answer and he goes in and finds him dead in his own vomit. Then: Police are looking for Maria - they don’t think she did it, but they want to question her. Jess Hamilton could find this out and be coming to talk to Maria about it when she runs away from the Christmas pageant and hides under the basement. Or if he lives, Ernesto himself shows up at the Christmas pageant and Maria tries to hide from him again. . What to do, what to do?"

If you're a writer, tell me how you stay organized. How do you keep track of your notes?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Lighting The Way

It's a good feeling having my second book, Lighting The Way published at last! A few little set-backs kept me from meeting my deadline for September 28th publication, but here it is, October 13th and we're finally there.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Don't Rush Things, Glenda

When I set out to write my first novel, little did I know what a task I was setting out to do. I thought it would be a piece of cake. I envisioned myself sitting at my desk for about six months letting the words flow from my brain to my fingertips and onto the written page. I would be surrounded by resource books, stopping occasionally to flip through, then diligently tapping the words out on the keyboard once more. I told myself I would be done in six months, tops. Yeah! Six months to glory!

Four years later, with a ton of books about writing added to my library, doing nothing more than confusing me any more than I already was, I finished the book....I thought. The date was November 9th, 2013. I celebrated my accomplishment and bragged to my friends on Facebook that with just a little editing, Sweet Tea and Southern Grace should be available on Amazon by Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving came and was gone. The editing process had become a re-writing process. Nail biting became finger nibbling. There was weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Christmas came and was gone. My formatter and editors grew impatient with my constant changes. No one believed me when I said, "Just one more week, please! It will be published, I promise!" I think a few people wondered if I had really written a book. I could see the skepticism in the eyes of my friends and family. They were whispering behind my back. 

But then, somehow it all came together. I remember the day the proof copy arrived at the post office. Betty, the postmistress was as excited as I was and we both danced a little jig. It was a magical day. I rushed through that proof copy like my pants were on fire. Surely there couldn't be any more errors. Surely I could push the magic button and publish it just as it was, and I did. I ordered twenty copies. I had low expectations, but I sold them all in the same day, sloppy signature and all, totally ignorant in the ways of book signing. 

Then, basking in the glow of having my name on the front of a book, just as a kindergartner hands in their first homework assignment, I sat down and leisurely read this wonderful book of mine. Oh, no! There was a word left out! There were punctuation errors where I had gone in and added a little here and there without letting my editors re-read it. The preacher was driving a car instead of his truck. Estelle's pecan pie didn't have any pecans in it! Well, that's an exaggeration, but you get the drift. Shame-faced and embarrassed, I made the corrections and begged the guy I had hired to help me through the process one more time.

I learned the hard way through that lesson in life. You would think I would never make promises I couldn't keep with the second book. You would think I would go for a more realistic publication date, and I did, sorta, kinda. If only the formatter had rushed, I think to myself. If only I hadn't taken a couple of mini-breaks at crunch time - mountains with hubby, family reunion, church retreat. Hmm, that's not a couple - that's three.

My original date, September 28th, is two days past. My digital proof was reviewed and punctuation errors corrected. My hard copy proof that should have arrived today, didn't. It's amazing what a hard copy blatantly shows that a computer screen doesn't, so I'm waiting - I admit, not so patiently waiting, until I get that real book in my hand tomorrow. I know it will come. I know it will come. I know it will come. Just don't rush things, Glenda! Good things come to those who wait.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Book Babies - Watching them grow...

     Is there anything quite as euphoric as writing the final chapter of your novel? It's almost like giving birth to a new baby, and if you're a self published author, the comparison doesn't stop there. I recently finished the sequel to Sweet Tea and Southern Grace and at least this time I know the amount of work I need to do to make this baby grow!

     With ST&SG, I was like a new mother nursing my baby along until it took it's first steps. I couldn't just sit idly by and expect it to flourish on its on. It needed to be fed, changed if necessary and then introduced to social situations so that eventually it could become well adjusted and self-supporting. But just like a child, it will never stop needing me, if only to give it a push now and then on it's road to success.

     Having the second book baby will be a little easier, just like having a second child. I've learned so much - changes, feeding, social adjustments. and little pushes along the way - those are the things that are necessary to take it from mediocrity to success. 

     Early October is the due date for my second child, Lighting the Way. I'll post a birth announcement soon giving the name and details. Watch for it and help make my baby grow. Remember, it takes a village to raise a child!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's day from a farmer's daughter!

We had a Father's Day sermon in church today like so many other churches on this day that we honor our fathers. Reverend Johnson spoke on how the role of the father has changed over the years attributing it perhaps to the industrial age. The farm families had their fathers home all day working hand in hand with their children. The children were taught by example to respect and pay attention to their fathers. Since early mid-century, so many fathers have worked outside the home. I must admit that there is a difference. Not that fathers don't love their children just as much, but there's just something about being there 24/7.

It made me think of my own father who was a farmer. I saw him as a hard working, generous, humble and honest man - a man who sacrificed so much for his children and who loved our mother with all his heart. I remember him as a Godly man - one who on Saturday would carefully count the money in his tithing jar and put it in an envelope to be put in the collection plate on Sunday morning - and he attended church every Sunday morning and made sure we did the same.

I saw him as a man that I respected to the point that he rarely had to discipline me - I tried so hard to be good so I wouldn't disappoint him. He could just give me "the eye", and I knew I needed to change directions in whatever I was doing. Not that I didn't get in trouble, mind you - but just not under his watchful eye.

Some of my best memories are of those summer days on the farm. These are just a few of them:

1. Coming out of the fields in the heat of the day to cut a watermelon that had been cooling in ice cold water - my dad saving the "heart" of his piece for me, claiming he liked the part closer to the rind better.
2. Sitting under a shade tree stringing and cutting green beans, shelling peas or peeling peaches for canning and listening to his gentle laughter as he told stories of his childhood on the farm.
3. Helping him hitch up the mules for plowing - something he let me do only a handful of times and with great anxiety. He watched every move I made for fear that Old Mary would give me a swift kick in the head. I still can't figure out why I wanted that job since three times out of five, Mary would pee or poop during the process.
4. Running around the yard playing while listening to him talking with the hired hands as they took an afternoon break from the sun - letting the sweat dry out from their clothes only to be dripping wet when they came in again.
5. Chasing lightning bugs on warm summer evenings and putting them in a jar. He would punch holes in the lid with his pocket knife and put a few blades of grass in jar. He said it made them feel more at home. I always wondered why the next day the fireflies were gone from the jar. I'm sure he released them when I grew bored with the game.

At the time, I didn't realize how blessed I really was. I do now... Wishing you a happy Father's Day in heaven Daddy! I hope God is letting you tend His fields! You were the best!

Friday, May 9, 2014

THE SAD ONE – stories from the waiting room part 4

Last week, I began republishing a series of stories I wrote a couple of years ago while waiting on my husband to have a colonoscopy procedure done at the VA clinic in Columbia. This was by far the hardest one for me to write. Just trying to get a grasp on her story had created a writer's block of sorts, not only on her story, but on other things I've written since.  If you're reading my blog for the first time, you can catch up on the other posts by looking on the right hand side bar of this blog and clicking on May - and then April.

I'll call her the Sad One, because she was the only one in the waiting room that didn't share her first name.  She was there when we walked in ~ facing the doorway with book in hand.  I would guess her to be in her early to mid-fifties even though she looked younger.  She was blonde and had one of those perpetually youthful faces with good bone structure and chubby cheeks - a Sally Fields kind of look you could say.  Her hair was medium length with slight curls and long bangs which were pulled back from her forehead with a clip.  We made eye contact briefly, but she quickly looked down at her book.
Sally Field

As the rest of us were chatting amicably, she made a great show of reading her book.  Of course, the conversation flow was hampered by her location near the doorway, but I felt sure she wouldn't have joined in anyway.  She was reading her book but not reading her book if you know what I mean.  She may have turned three pages the whole hour and a half we were there.  She would examine her hands and fingers and then bite her finger like I'm prone to do when I'm nervous.  Every time there was any activity near the door, she would look up anxiously.  The only time she seemed to pay any attention to us was when the conversation turned to religion and prayers which Lillian and the Ethereal, Mystical Margaret brought up and the rest of us joined in.

Finally a doctor came to the door and motioned for her. The doctor was alone.  This was different ~ the others were motioned to the door by nurses with the patient in a wheel chair looking a little worse for the wear but ready to go home.  There was no wheelchair with the doctor.  She was gone for several minutes, then walked back in the waiting room and took her chair.  She was wiping away tears which no-one else seemed to notice. I caught her eye, and quietly said "Are you okay?" She looked as if she was going to say something, but hesitated and said softly, "I'm okay." I knew she wasn't.

A few minutes later, I got up to go get Lillian some coffee which she had been hinting for an hour for her granddaughter to do.  I walked out into the hallway and the Sad One followed me.  I waited for her to catch up, thinking maybe she was going for coffee too.  We stood there looking at each other. "Do you pray?" she asked.   I told her that I did.  "Will you pray for my husband"?   I was thinking, Oh Lord, why is she asking me, the one who sometimes doesn't feel like my prayers are being answered because I'm not always Your good and faithful servant?  Why didn't she ask Lillian or Margaret?

"What's his name"? I said.  "Randy", she answered.  I stood there holding both her hands right out in that hospital hallway and I made it through the prayer.  It wasn't a fancy prayer, but it was a heartfelt one and I know He heard it.  "Thank you", she said and walked back in the waiting room.  I walked numbly down the hallway on the way to the cafeteria emotionally spent.
She was still there when I came back in and she smiled. She was still there when the nurse came in wheeling my hubby who was ready to go home. She said goodbye. She hadn't shared what was wrong with Randy and I didn't ask. Some things are better left unsaid. She had reached out to someone and she felt better.  It's hard to face bad news alone.

I’ve wondered since how Randy’s situation turned out. I did continue my prayers and have often thought about the Sally Field looking lady, hoping that her sadness has been replaced with joy.