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Saturday, January 30, 2010

AFDOC Week 4

I am happy to report that week 4 brought quite a few changes, getting in a major contest entry submitted, completing a piece on the Greek Orthodox Church in Alabama for the Encyclopedia of Alabama, and my taxes are in the mail! Since I needed to submit a portion of a novel to the contest, I decided this week was a good time to begin a major re-write of the first chapter and that's what I accomplished, or at last half of the chapter - word limits and all that {is that the best excuse you've heard or what?} I also made numerous changes to the sequencing of scenes, deleted a few things, worked on my storyboard relentlessly - that's the paper strung around my dining room with all the stickie notes and handwritten notes all over it. I am very visual so seeing it all laid out is essential for me to decipher the flow of things. I'm also happy to report that my new through-lines are finally coming together in a way that makes sense - at least to me, and I hope to my critique pals when they see them.

If you aren't familiar with through-lines, the first time I heard the word was from Darnell Arnoult, a Southern author - check out her web site at - when she was teaching her methodology for writing, revising, and submitting a novel. The idea intrigued me, and thanks to all the notes I took and Darnell's handouts, I started using the concept in critique groups and especially with my own work. Since that workshop, my friend and fellow author and editor, Linda Busby-Parker,, has taught me a great deal about how to use this concept through her creative writing courses at the University of South Alabama. Through-lines are one of the important touchstones against which to measure your progress. Is this what I wanted to say, accomplish with my novel? If it isn't, it's an instant clue that your written through-lines and what your writing aren't working. Maybe you're story took another direction as you were developing it {they do tend to do that, don't they?} Or maybe you don't need to change the through-lines, but you need to re-group and write towards them, not away from them.

Now this explanation of through-lines is very much my own - it's what I'll call A Cleansing Experience and we're going to play-pretend. You remember that game don't you?

Your story is about washday back when we had one of those - now it's throw 'em in on the way out the door and switch them to the dryer on the way in. Take them directly to hangers if you catch the dryer in time or fish the wrinkled mess out of the laundry basket as you head out the door again. Anyway, I digress - story of my life.

Okay, I've got a story called A Cleansing Experience.
Getting my clothes clean is the theme. {Go with me on this.}
Laundry room is the setting, and this is pre-dryers. {You know the ancient times before I-pods.}

1. I ground the reader by sorting my laundry into piles - white, lights, darks, etc. which explains what I'm doing and why {introduces my hook - I don't want that dreaded tie-dye look when I'm finished.}

2. I set the dials on the washing machine - hot, cold, warm {crises of different temps} - add detergent, bluing, bleach, whatever {characters} and let the washer (ideas} swirl - do it's thing {characters react off of each other.} If you want to go pre-ancient times, I "put them through the wringer," but once again I digress.

3. Now I pile the wet clothes in my clothes' basket {a pile of plots, sub-plots, crises} and head for the clothes line. {If you're too young to remember clotheslines, please don't send me questions, it will make feel ancient - look it up on the net.}

4. For you novices, when you get to the clothesline, you hang the clothes in an organized fashion to conserve space and clothespins {look it up.} These are your through-lines. This is what makes my story smooth. It ensures I get all the sheets lined up, the undies together, shirts down the lines, etc. {Primarily, it ensures the pieces of your story flow from end to end in an orderly manner, relaying your theme effectively.}

5. Taking clothes off the line when they were dried was an orderly affair. You folded the sheets and pillowcases ready to go in the ironing basket {yes, we ironed our sheets,} undies were all together and ready to go in the drawers {no pun intended.} If you can sort your story into clear through-lines in advance, writing is much more efficient. You compare your through-lines to your theme as you go. It adds a clarity to the writing process. {I didn't say easy, I said clarity.}
Mine have changed in AFDOC because as I wrote and listened to feedback, I realized what I thought I wanted to convery and what I really wanted to convery were different - gotta love that subconscious mind of ours - so mine are under revision.

I hope your laundry does you proud.


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