Friday, November 27, 2009

Bringing the Dead to Life

Pictured above: The working images I've chosen for Trevor, Johannah, and Leah.
Fellow writer and good friend Ramona K. Cecil suggests that fiction writers "interview" their protagonists and principal characters before beginning a new manuscript. I wish that I had done that with Camie in Up the Rutted Road, but instead I got to know her the hard way: word by page by chapter by triumph by danger.

The Second Cellar will be different. Though I've written 104 pages, I've learned so much during the revision of Rutted Road that I know I must begin again. But first, I'm taking Ramona's advice; I've interviewing Leah, my protagonist, as well as Trevor (Leah's neighbor for the summer) and Johannah (Leah's nineteenth-century friend). I may also interview Leah's father, Byron, the English professor.

It's amazing what a writer can learn from character interviews. All right. I can hear you asking, "Since you invented the characters, don't you already know them?" No. There is much to be discovered in an interview. For example, I had no idea that Leah's middle name was Bright. Nor did I know that she went for two weeks after birth without a middle name. Until Trevor's interview, I didn't know that he and his mother lived with his paternal grandmother, Fern. Further, his father died a hero while serving in Iraq; he threw himself on a grenade to save his buddies. Who knew?

I join Ramona in advising writers to talk to your characters. Get to really know them before you write their stories. Know their back-stories, as well. Don't be shy about prying into private matters. If they blush, let them blush. If they fidget, make note of that. Once you know them, you can write about them authentically.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Scroll Down for Key Review

Be sure to scroll down this page to the July entries, where I review Eileen Key's cozy mystery Dog Gone. I read and enjoyed the book last summer.

Monday, November 16, 2009

First Manscript Finished!

How long can it take to write a first novel? Is 15 years too long? I think not, considering that the writer has to allow time spent honing her craft.

I've written most of my life. In fifth grade, I rewrote Longfellow's epic poem "Song of Hiawatha" into a play that my class presented on the radio. That was fun, and it got me out of math. Throughout my school career, I entered about every writing contest that came along and usually did fairly well. Then, after a nine-year stint as a newspaper journalist (winning a couple of awards there, too), college (English major), and ten years as a classroom teacher, I returned to my first love: writing fiction.

Originally, Up the Rutted Road was to be a picture book, but when an editor with Farrar, Straus & Giroux asked me to expand it into a middle-grade novel, I agreed. Now, I cannot imagine it as a picture book. FS&G didn't take the manuscript, but good rejection letters can be an education in themselves. I began to seriously study my craft to discover what URR needed. I also joined an excellent critique group through ACFW and continued to grow my writing. I interviewed people from the area of my setting (southeastern Kentucky), attended a major writers' conference and several smaller workshops, read books, studied on-line sources, and sought the wisdom of published writers.

Today I embark on another journey: a quest to find a publisher and/or an agent that would be a good fit. For some time now, I've been scoping out "possibles," noticing especially those who consider middle-grade novels, but now I'm looking for more.

Meanwhile, I'm also putting together a proposal. The chapter synopses are done. Now for the dreaded query letter. Fortunately, I have some excellent blog and website links right here to the left and down. Several of them address query and cover letters.

I am praying that God will lead me to the right agent and/or publisher early in my quest, since I have another manuscript waiting not so patiently in the wings.

What if I don't find either an agent or a publisher? Of course, that's a possibility. At least I have completed the manuscript and learned a lot along the way--about patience, about persistence, about writing fiction, and about how God works in our writing.

Oh, and by the way, in case you are a novice writer, Gentle Reader, please know from the beginning that the process of becoming does not end. A writer never fully arrives as long as she draws breath. We continue to read, to learn, to hone this precious gift that our Creator entrusted to us.