Guest Post

HAVE A BOOK TO PROMOTE? Lyrical Pens welcomes guest posts. Answer a questionnaire or create your own post. FYI, up front: This site is a definite PG-13. For details, contact cj

Saturday, June 26, 2010

AFDOC 25: Second Revision

Mobile's 100+ temperatures weren't the only thing on fire this week. I got over 50 hours of revisions into AFDOC. I'm trying out a new idea I've been mulling over for months. Keeping it all in first person, I'm fooling around {a great Southern expression that says so much} with new tenses and chapter grounding ideas. I'm constantly amazed at how much freedom I'm giving myself to cut and rearrange, which hopefully means I'm on the right path to bringing this baby on home in the next six months.

A creative writing class I took some time ago - and much I've read since - strongly advises that at this critical juncture in novel revision I should be able to write four succinct statements that define the book. It took me eight pages of handwritten notes to get it done, but it's right on target I hope. Note the decisiveness in that strong statement. It's a clear outline for me to follow to make sure every scene in every chapter speaks directly to one of the four statements and should be helpful as I take the revision process one or two or a hundred steps deeper into analysis - which I may need years of when this over.

As I ponder the Deep South in the post World War II period and finalize {an hilarious word when it comes to writing} the novel, I send you wishes for a Fourth of July replete with fried chicken, potato salad, boiled corn, butter beans, sliced tomatoes, onion & cucumbers marinated in vinegar, deviled eggs, and watermelon for dessert.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Make the most of waiting

Don’t you just love it when contractors tell you they’ll be at your home on Friday but can’t give you a time? So you wait. And wait. And wait. If you’re lucky they will appear sometime during the day. Well, as I wait my turn (I have two different contractors supposed to arrive today), I have found my silver lining . . . write something!

The good thing about that is, because I don’t know exactly when someone will ring the doorbell, I have to collect my thoughts for this column and write fast. Kind of like a ten-minute writing exercise without a prompt.

I am in the throes of editing a novel, and my marvelous critique group has taken a summer hiatus for various valid reasons but the silver lining on that bit of waiting is the time it gives me to more thoroughly develop my characters’ personalities. I tend to have them run breathlessly from one conflict to the next because I have a very hard time with narrative. It’s a learning curve I need to master.

On another note, I borrowed (from the library) an ACT study guide for essays (to help my granddaughter brush up), and there are some very good cues in there. Good enough for me to order the book for my personal library. One principle tells the student-writer that the first and last sentence of a paragraph are what the reader--in Johanna's case, the grader--remembers, and the last word can be the most important. Reminds me to remember the hook.

Okay, one contractor just called and said he was on his way, so I’ll quit for today.

You keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.


Jeff Johnston’s eagle picture is called “The Chase."

Saturday, June 19, 2010

AFDOC 24 Shameless Self Promotion

Been snowed all week helping my daughter open her new shop for consignment of school uniforms and medical scrubs. Officially opened the doors Thursday and got a nice response. I'm still in my two week hiatus from AFDOC - self imposed to let the words dry on the page so to speak before diving back in for the next round of revisions. I found out I didn't get a grant I really, really wanted but after a day or so of beating myself up, I filed it under "you'll be sorry" and went on my way.

I was fortunate to be a guest blogger on this week. Linda ran the first few paragraphs of AFDOC, so if you want to take a peek, go for it. Naturally as I read it on-line, I saw a few changes I wanted to make, which puts me in the company of many famous writers {my fame is still under consideration} who made/make changes with each new run. I hope you enjoy and get a feel for the setting and some of the main characters.

Have to agree with cj that The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has an intriguing plotting sequence and I won't say more so that I don't spoil all the surprises cj is still to find before she gets to the ending.

As I've mentioned before I mix up my reading to keep me interested, keep me on top of new material on the market, keep me comfortable with some of my favorite authors who write series, and keep me educated by (re)reading the classics. This week I read The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. It is the first detective story ever written - 1869 - and in the style of the period, namely Dickens and Poe. What a good read! The pacing is slow if you don't like literary classics as I happen to, although I have to divulge that I skipped over some of what my granddaughter calls the mushy stuff. The protagonist and his lushly overwritten view of his lady love was a bit much, but the plotting is wonderful and the book is jam-packed with twists and turns. Just as I thought I had it figured out, Collins kills off my idea and is on to a new possibility. It was a special treat to read where all the millions of detective books got their start.

AFDOC and I are scheduled to meet and greet first thing Monday morning. Mahala

Thursday, June 17, 2010


In between sanding, staining, varnishing, waiting for that coat to dry and then sanding, varnishing, waiting, ad infinitum over the next three days, I’m spending my down time reading Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” And (drum roll, please) I am enjoying it.

Yeah, I know. It starts slow and is a little harsh for my tastes in spots. It also has a LOT of backstory narrative but that doesn’t throw me far out of the story because much of it is incorporated into dialogue.

The thing that has happened, though, is that I have bought into the well-drawn characters. I’ve agreed to go along for the ride. And, for me, that’s what a good story does. Even when I can pick apart the book technically—it is, after all, Larsson’s first and an English translation at that—the plot lines remain and I want to see how they evolve. I was laugh-out-loud thrilled when I identified where he tied together what I had thought were several disparate stories.

I keep wondering if he outlined all three books in the series before he wrote the first one. I can’t outline one before I start writing.

I have to get back to work on the new front door and sidelight before the paint brush dries board-stiff, but you keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.


Note: The Jeff Johnston picture (taken in Homer, Alaska) is called “Hit & Miss” – kind of like how my brain works when I’m writing. Click on it to enlarge the view. The darker bird hanging on to his catch is the younger one. Mr. Experienced American Bald-Head is the adult who’s lost his lunch. FYI, the picture is not a computerized composite. The young one flew into the frame just as Jeff snapped the picture of the adult.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Took some down time from my writing this week to reflect on the completion of my first novel revision. Tossed out notes I knew I had entered into the story and kept those I haven't just-in-case. Read a lot on how to write and revise a novel. Critiqued the opening of a novel for a friend and a short story for another and worked on a book review for a new client. All in all a profitable writing week although the novel has no new revisions other than in my mind. It's ever present in my heart and mind. Spent some quality time with my granddaughter who is on summer break and loving it. And spent a lot of time helping my daughter get her new business ready to open next week. As my friend, Linda Busby-Parker wrote on her blog yesterday, life is all about relationships.
Sarah & McKenzie - 2 of our rescues

Check out cj's comments about Stieg Larsson below under Books to Read. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an intelligently written book full of twists and unexpected surprises. Starts very slow to me, but so worth the effort to keep reading as it gets better and better with every page. I too am on the waiting list at the library.

Enjoy your friends and spend some time smiling this week just because you can.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Short story struggles

I’m still trying to write that combination of a plot- and character-driven story, and now I’m stuck on the last few pages of a short/short story. I’ve got the formula (per Ann Lamont’s “Bird by Bird”), but the last few pages . . .

I find the task of writing a “literary” story is a huge challenge because I am less than enthralled with paragraphs and paragraphs of narrative and internal monologue. Elmore Leonard’s penchant for dialogue is what appeals to me. The styles are, I think, polar opposites, and I’m really struggling.

Actually, Tracy tells me that she needs to see more struggling from my protagonist. She also tells me that I have, so far, “A wonderful character sketch.” Sigh.

Since Tracy is one of the best writing analysts I know, I also know she is drop dead-on about what’s wrong with the story and why I haven’t finished the thing. But, I am determined to finish.

The picture, one of Jeff Johnston's, is called Glade Creek Mill, and I mentally dangle my feet in the water at the foot of the falls when I need a break from summer heat in Mobile . . . and from writing.

You keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.


Sunday, June 6, 2010


The first revision of many, many to come is finished! I feel like I gave birth to triplets this past week - exhausted, exhilirated, exposed. I guess the downtime I had last week was a subsconscious time of rest for the final push. Never have I been more determined to get something to its conclusion. But least I get caught with my rose-colored glasses growing to my face, I know the REAL work is just beginning - lots to cut, polish, add, and clarify - but I have 547 pages of novel with my name on it!!!!! No one - not the most evil editor in the world - can take that away. Remind me I wrote that last sentence when I'm mired in disillusionment a year from now trying to find an agent and a publisher.

I have taken many creative classes in the university setting, on-line, in small mentoring groups, etc. but absolutely nothing prepared me for the actual work. No teacher or class or group or whatever could possibly have shown me what I was too naive to learn. You have got to do it, and as Darnell Arnoult, author of Sufficient Grace, taught in a workshop: once you finish writing your book, it's time to study writing in earnest and read as many how-to-write books as you can get your hands on. All the classes and notes and excercises come together after you've written the book. It finally begins to make sense.

Now, don't misunderstand me. You need to study the craft of writing, so you have a meaningful plot {mine came to me five years into the writing of the book which also happened to Faulkner, V. Wolfe, and R. P. Warren, so I'm in good company.} Add to that knowing POV, the King's English, grammar and punctuation, how to cast your characters, and so forth which are must knows before you start, or your revisions will take longer than writing the book. I recently read that S. King writes a 150 page or so outline before he starts a book, then just fills in the blanks. I wondered if he started that way. That would have been impossible for me this first go around.

I did some outlining, defined character traits for the main characters {thanks Tracy for a cheat sheet of an easy way to do that,} did an enormous amount of research on the fifties, and did a chronological outline since I knew the story would cover one year, but otherwise I followed my Writing Angel and wrote what she told me and always {well almost} always in Caroline's voice. That's pronounced Caro - line (as in a line of diagolue), and I wrote some days like a madwoman {cj's term.} I'm pretty sure I've graduated from Tinker Toys to an Erector Set.

So right now I'm feeling cocky on the outside and a little squeamish on the inside, but I know, absolutely know, I can do this.

Now, if someone will publish it. Have a producive week writing. Mahala