Measuring Up

On the very first day of this year, 2 months ago almost to the day, I drafted a list of writing goals for the year.  When I did so, I promised myself that I would revisit them often and not forget about them.  There were ten goals altogether, the first nine of which had due dates attached to them (what can I say, I’m a teacher, I work better with due dates in mind!).  The due dates have made all the difference!

Two months into the year and I have accomplished two of the ten goals.  In January, I was pleased to become a member of RWA- Pro by querying Broken Oaths to an agent, which I did.  As expected, I got rejected, but it was the rejection I needed to provide in order to show the organization that I am seriously pursuing publication.

In January, also, I began writing a short story which, for goal number two, was to enter into the Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest.  It was an amazing opportunity that comes along rarely for aspiring writers.  I figured I’d take a shot at it.  To my great pleasure, I am honored that “The Love Letter” has been selected as one of the top ten stories.  To think that people read and liked my work well enough to vote for it is very validating for me.  To think that my story will be read by an editor, and considered for inclusion in an anthology amongst many other great writers, is thrilling indeed.

While I’d love to pause, sit back and savor the moment (and I will for a little while), I realize that I only have a one in ten chance of winning the grand prize.  The odds of winning this round are less than they were at the beginning (10/88 is still better than 1/10) but I will cross my fingers and remain hopeful.  Even if I don’t win, though, I’ll still be thrilled that I made it this far and that my work was appreciated by many of those who read it.

Now, on to the next goal.  I’m in the process of polishing the first section of Violette and write up a short synopsis of the plot for entry into the Orange Rose contest held by my home chapter of RWA.   Those due dates sneak up quickly!

Jane Austen Made Me Do It

As per my goal at the beginning of the year, I have just submitted an entry to the Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest.

I’ve had quite a struggle with it.  I’ll talk more on that later in a post which I plan to entitle “Trusting Your Gut Instinct.”  I’ve redrafted the story from different points of view and deleted entire scenes and restructured it.  The story has always been the one I wanted to tell.  It was just the manner of telling it that complicated matters.

One thing’s for sure.  I combed that manuscript multiple times for all manner of typo and yet, only after it was submitted did I see one missed return, one use of double word, and a seriously messed up set of commas (due to the fact that I’d deleted words from a sentence but forgotten to rearrange the commas).  This experience has taught me a lot in microcosm of how it will doubtless be on a larger work of fiction (only magnified that much more).

The inspiration for the story is The Letter (you know the one).  It is about a young man who receives a page torn from a novel mailed anoymously to him and the chain of events that result from it.

The first line reads:  I never expected to pull a mystery out of a self-addressed stamped envelope.

To read the rest, click the link: The Love Letter.  If you like it, feel free to vote for it!

As of this writing, there are over 60 Jane Austen-inspired stories to read and enjoy.   I’ve read almost all of them and noticed that there is a huge variety of both genre, style and influence.  The creativity is truly amazing!

Sometimes the Process is Messy

And what a mess I’ve made!  In the aftermath of NaNoWriMo!  I had a total of approximately 83,000 words at the end of November.  When I printed out the manuscript (due to a mess of compatibility between Scrivener and Word), several scenes were duplicated.  Beyond that, when I’d started writing some of the “candy bar” scenes, my concept for the novel changed radically somewhere along the way.

For example, my hero had a mother, father, older brother (the heir) and older sister.  During the process of his character development, I decided to kill off the mother and older brother to some 19th century illness (probably consumption) and make the hero older than the sister (a lot older, like 10 years).  A little while later, I got a great idea for a subplot involving the dead brother and so decided that he died in a duel instead of some disease.  All of this made the character concept and motivations so much clearer to me and helped propel the plot forward.

The problem is that I had several of these scenes based on the previous premise and had these people in the scenes walking and talking, etc.  Well, since this is not a paranormal and therefore won’t include ghosts, the scenes must be changed drastically.  In other scenes, the character concept and motivation had changed so much that the dialogue they were giving made little to no sense.

On top of this, I had divided the story into a series of scenes that in many cases had no connectors one to another.  I had no concept of how many scenes to include in a chapter or why.  How to group them, how to include a hook at the end of each one, etc.

Thus, I utilized an excess of toner and paper and printed a hard copy.  I got dividers, one for each chapter, and labeled them with numbers.  I read through the manuscript and massacred every page with red ink.  I discovered, in the process, that I had a bit of a “Frankenstein’s monster” of a manuscript.  Major, major revision necessary and the last 1/4 of the book needed writing, though at the very lease, that portion was very clear to me and would write itself (1st draft) with little trouble.

After a series of mental gymnastics which felt much like fitting square pegs into round holes, I just started chucking scenes out wholesale.  The minute I decided to do that, a burden lifted from my shoulders.  I felt light and free and actually enthusiastic about rewriting the scenes to fit the new vision.  I knew that they would be better, brighter, shinier.

When I cut/pasted all the scenes I would use into the second draft, I had 61,000 words.  Yes.  I lost 22,000 words.  It smarted a bit, when you consider that the goal I’m shooting for is 100,000.  But cutting the bad will make it better.  I’m enthusiastic about the second draft.  I’ve already written about 10,000 worth of new material.

Writing is a messy business, as messy as sitting at the potter’s wheel, though the caked clay under your fingernails, the splattered clothing and ruined lumps of useless clay discarded off to the side are figurative instead of literal.  I have left a trail of crumpled paper from recycling bin to notebook, in case I lose my way.  Good thing I wore my working clothes.

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