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Monday, May 12, 2014

What is needed

A new day on the Gulf Coast
In addition to the usual writerly things an author does during any given year (critiques, writing short stories, attending a conference or two, entering contests), my plans for 2014 include revising a romantic suspense/mystery, completing the first book in a detective series, and thinking through (is that called outlining?) a young adult fantasy. Several months into these projects, the dust is settling around me, and I wonder how much of this ambitious schedule is wishful thinking.

I completed my final edit (I thought) of the romantic suspense/mystery a couple of years ago, but it turned out that the theme became too close to a real-life tragedy…I didn’t feel I could send it out “as is.” Ergo, I’m doing a major revision. I will have to touch EVERY chapter and make sure the old plot threads are totally destroyed, and the new plot threads are connected from chapter one to novel ending. It’s a bit overwhelming right now, looking at touching every line of 400 pages, so I’m procrastinating.

I really like the protagonist in the new detective story that I want to turn into a series. There is a neat supporting cast as well. Jannecka Konner—“It’s pronounced Yahn-ecka, but my friends call me Jake.”—is a Yankee transplanted to the deep South. She is learning her way around Mobile, Alabama, at the same time she’s launching her career as a private detective. There’s infidelity, a murder with an unexpected twist, and a young boy in danger of being sucked into the foster care system. Jake’s sassy repartee with the lawyer who wants to be her lover is going to be fun to write.

The young adult fantasy I’m attempting is five chapters long, but it is now sitting on the proverbial back burner. Focus group review (six teenagers, most of them writers-in-training) persuaded me that I should rethink this story. The concept is good, they said, but the action needs to be beefed up. The story is written with a PG rating in mind, so I’m reading other PG YA novels for direction, dialogue, and development of characters. One novel I read was the first of John Grisham’s kid lawyer efforts. As expected, Mr. Grisham expertly develops the protagonist and the setting (time, and place), but I agree with another young reader . . . as a YA novel, it falls short. There isn’t enough action and there’s a lot of telling instead of showing. The reader also pointed out, and he is right, that some character threads were left hanging when the story reaches its denouement. Unanswered questions at the end of a novel (“hooks”) might be a perfectly acceptable method for most adult series but not for young readers. I was, however, able to analyze how Mr. Grisham develops a likeable character and appreciated the learning moments (how a trial works).

How much of my grand plan for 2014 is achievable?  All of it, I believe, if I set my derriere down in front of my computer for more than an hour a day. What is needed is discipline. Tell you what, instead of wishing me luck on completing my to-do-list, would you drop me a line and wish me discipline instead?

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


cj

Photo by Jeff D. Johnston

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