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Sunday, November 28, 2010

AFDOC Week 42 & 43: Full

Full of turkey and full of enthusiasm for the season and best of all full of excitement because the first major revision of AFDOC is coming to a close.  Every day still brings surprises when I stumble on new ideas.  Flannery O'Connor, among many other writers, is quick to  remark that you don't know your characters until the initial draft of your book is done or for some about half-way through.  It's so true.  Caroline and I have been friends for years and yet this week new parts of her personality jumped out at me as I rewrote one of the most serious and poignant parts of the book.  Just goes to show you really never know anyone.

Hope your holidays were special and Black Friday didn't leave you and your wallet in agony.

Keep putting those words on the page.      Mahala

Football and holidays

Well, if you’re an Alabama or Auburn football fan, you are either weeping or rejoicing at the outcome of the Iron Bowl. Until I moved to Mobile, I didn’t follow those teams . . . actually still “almost” don’t, but in the State of Alabama, a marvelous rivalry exists. Virtually, no one can escape being drawn into it, except, maybe, this Yankee-fied Texan (born in Texas, spent most of my life in Detroit). Whatever the football team is, college or professional, I generally pick some player to empathize with and that’s the team I root for. This year I liked Alabama’s Coach Sabin so I wasn’t celebrating when the Auburn Tigers squeaked by the Alabama Tide 28-27. Sigh.

Because of a flurry of family health issues . . . and a huge dose of ennui . . . I’ve taken a writing hiatus for the Holidays (I started in September). Still, I continue to go on-line and scour agent and author blogsites for info to collect or review a book for little tidbits I can incorporate into my writing. Nothing goes to waste, and I’ve got the files to prove it! Every once in a while I decide I’m going to enter a contest or respond to a call for submissions—which I recently did for the Excalibur Press call. The requirements for that one ought to inspire all aspiring writers to submit. (See Mahala’s blog of Nov. 14 or go to our “Check it Out” sidebar.)

Okay, time to go Christmas shopping. You keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.


Jeff Johnston’s tiger picture is for all you Auburn fans out there.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

AFDOC Week 41: Imagination

Hey to all you writing turkeys!  That was too good to miss.

Be sure and check out in the very near future.  Linda Busby-Parker, publisher and editor of Excalibur Press has a call for submissions out to all writers for her newest anthology, Muse or Dark Angel: the Writing Life.  Her previous anthologies have sold out and gone to additional printings and are always filled with beautifully written stories by a widely divergent group of writers who converge to create books worth reading and giving as gifts.

As I write this, glitter sprinkles onto my keyboard from all the Christmas projects I've got underway.  If it stands still, it gets a healthy dose of glitter at my house during the holidays.  My friends always know when I'm crafting as I glow for weeks.  No matter how often I shower, I walk around like the Fairy Godmother of Far Far Away.   If you aren't a Shrek fan, you probably get the idea without too much trouble.  That's one of the joys of having a child in the house - I get to watch all the animated movies without a shred of guilt.

Movies on DVD are a wonderful way to stimulate your imagination and add a spark of creativity to your writing especially if you take the time to watch the extras on so many of the DVDs.  They often interview the characters/actors/directors/writers and give tremendous insights into the creative process.  The last Indiana Jones movie has super ones worth taking the time to check out - the movie is great too!

Here's another flash from the past in AFDOC:
Thrilled with her gray flannel, poodle skirt and starched red and white crinolines, Caroline can't  wait to get to her first dance.  As she whirls in front of her mirror, she's pleased with her perfectly matched red sweater set.

Get your turkey before the craziness hits the grocery stores.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

AFDOC Week 40: Challenges

With less than three weeks till Thanksgiving, cool weather finally made it to the Gulf Coast.  I often kidded my mother in her last years as she became enamored with the weather channel on television and now I'm following in her footsteps.  Those of you in the farther reaches north would have cracked up last Sunday when everyone was decked out in wool and heavy coats, scarves and gloves for  church.  It was a chilly 60 so what do you expect?

Somerset Maugham is often quoted as saying there are three rules for writing a novel but unfortunately no one knows what they are.  He was most certainly right.  I have read and read and re-read on the process of first writing a novel and second revising it, and every writer seems to have their own take on it.  Of one thing I'm now sure - there is no right or wrong way to go about this.  And, for sure, if you don't write something, you have nothing to revise.  How's that for wisdom?

In challenging every word I've written in AFDOC, I am constantly amazed how the addition, deletion, or change of only one word can make all the difference in clarity and purpose.  I spent last week arranging and arranging words again, working carefully to see how many words I could eliminate and maintain the integrity of the scenes.  Efficient use of words is so important in helping the reader to go with the author as we take them through our novel ride.

This novel has already been worth the ride for me and I hope it will be worth the trip for my readers,  Here is another tidbit to whet your appetite {got Thanksgiving on my mind.}

Caroline continues to mature and gets the honor of helping her aunts forage for pigpen stainless while stumbling on a few facts of life.

Go forth and write.     Mahala

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Edits and revisions

I've been working on a novel for several years, and it's now in its nth revision/edit cycle. But hey, putting that in perspective, it takes eons to create a diamond. As if! (Sigh)

Kind of like Mahala, this time around, I'm using a graph to chart each character's progress within each chapter, right down to mentioning at least one of the five senses--especially for the protagonist. The graphs remind me to set up place, conflict, and hooks.

Hint: Create an Excel file; down the left side, list all of the attributes/questions you want to address; across the top columns put in the chapter numbers. I print it off, three-hole punch it, and put the pages in a binder. [This, of course, is not necessary if you can keep two computer documents open at the same time.] Then all you have to do while your editing is put a checkmark under the chapter if the row item is in the chapter.

Teed-jus, but worth it. I use the same process to develop character studies before they're inserted into the story. That way I know enough about their backgrounds/speech/habits/temperment to have their actions and reactions appear totally in character.

These graphs give me the feedback I need to make sure the characters have dissimilar speech patterns and actions. They also help me track when I "disappear" one of them from the plot.

I have more than one work-in-progress and often get turned around on the different personalities. It's amazing how many times I have to refer to the character studies to keep me straight as I write.

By the way, I didn't know that Mahala was using this same method when I started mine. Great minds and all that, I guess.

I have another revision process going on as well--my recipes and Thanksgiving menu so I can accommodate the various special diet needs that have arisen in 2010 among my family and friends. This year, it won't be my traditional foods, but I'm pretty sure I can put together a Smorgasbord table without ruining taste or presentation.

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


The Jeff Johnston picture is of a wolf singing among the golden aspens of Colorado.

Monday, November 1, 2010

AFDOC Weeks 37-39 Committed

Grab your hat and get ready!  The season is upon us when we hit the ground running and never take the time to look to see where we're going or where we've been-the mad dash to the finish is on -sixty-one days left.

After a raucous weekend, the goblins moved on to other points of haunt and left me to write in relative peace.  They hissed at my seemingly impossible task.  I have, after all, set 12/31/10 as the deadline for the first complete revision of AFDOC.

This morning I committed to my critique group to have the first chapters to them on January 3, 2011.  Can't cut it much closer than that!  I'm excited.  One can only work in a vacuum so long without growing worried that it's all a hoax.  That's the primary reason I enjoy reading letters of famous authors-Welty, O'Connor, Wolfe, Faulkner, Hemingway.  They give me hope that all is not lost as they often lament about the quality of their work and the printable value of their latest offering.  Helps me know I'm not alone in my madness.

I never miss a day writing now to keep me focused and in Caroline's world lest I lose sight of her dilemmas.   She is a busy twelve year old with complex insights as they play out over the everyday lives of friends and family in her sleepy Southern town.

See you At the Hop!   Mahala