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Monday, June 27, 2011

Cut the "ly" and "then"...

In March, I attended the LDStorymakers Writing Conference in Salt Lake City. To say it was wonderful doesn't give the conference enough credit. It was more than wonderful. For the first time in my writing life, I experienced a taste of the business and learned that I'm not alone in this endeavor.

When I registered for the conference, I signed up for a "writers bootcamp". I'm grateful that I did. Some of the most powerful feedback I've received to date came from that bootcamp.

I never took a writing class in college. I don't have an advance degree in English literature. I didn't spent years in a writing program, learning the craft and perfecting my skills with careful planning for a future career in publishing. I studied business. I learned how to run a successful company, and how to manage people. That puts me at a huge disadvantage as a writer, I know that. All I began with was a story and a keyboard.

Now that I've finished its sequel, I've had some time to go back and polish On Fallen Wings, based on the feedback from the bootcamp. I'm getting it ready to send out again, to brave the waters of the querying world, and discover if anyone wants to represent my novel. Step one: I added a few scenes. Nothing major, just tiny little scenes to fill plot holes here and there. That part is easy. I can write. Step two: Cut the unnecessary adverbs, the "ly" words.

Wow! I never realized I had so many adverbs. When all was said and done, I trimmed 600 useless adverbs from my manuscript. 600! That's only about 2 per page, but it blew my mind when I saw the word count once I finished. I read once that English teachers lover adverbs, but readers don't. I agree with the saying. When I reread some of the passages, after cutting, the story was cleaner. Cutting the adverbs also had a side effect. When I couldn't elaborate on an action with some silly little "ly" word, I had to find a better verb, a stronger verb. My writing improved one tiny notch. Yay!

Step three: I use "then" and "and then" a lot. I blame Microsoft Word for this. During my earlier edits, every time I used "and" or "then", my writing program would underline the words with those evil little red lines and tell me I was wrong. Hey, I'm new to this. If the computer tells me its wrong, I must be wrong, right? Wrong. All those "thens" and "and thens" cluttered up the pages and kept the flow of the story looking like instructions for building a treehouse. I cut them when they weren't needed. The result was another 400 words shaved.

So, now I have a leaner, more polished book, one that's ready for another review before I send it off to agents. I'm learning. It's a real life degree in editing. I'm grateful for feedback, and am excited about the direction my books are taking me. I promised before that I intend to present the world with the best writing I have to offer. When all is said and done, that's what you'll be getting.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The First Page of On Fallen Wings

Until I'm published, there's one sure way to pull writing samples from my laptop to the web. Contests. I love them. The fabulous Shelley Watters has them often and I appreciate her format. I enjoy the interaction and love the feedback. I'm entering her latest offering, so that gives me an opportunity to share page one, again. If you're reading these 250 words for the first time, please share your thoughts. If you read them in an earlier post, here's a chance to enjoy them one more time.

On Fallen Wings.


CHAPTER ONE
The Darkness Between Trees


For as long as I could remember, Faeries had danced at Stone Meadow.

I loved dancing and the night was perfect, like a dream. I was innocent to its graces. Raising my arms, I leaned my head back to absorb glowing blue rays on my face and hands. I closed my eyes and caressed the cold tips of grass with my feet, repeating the familiar sway of my steps. As a frosty wisp of air stirred me from my trance, I swept my gown in a circle and spun to kneel where my young sister, Leila, sat watching.

She reached up and parted a long strand of hair from my face. “That was wonderful,” she said. “Are you nervous for tomorrow?”

“Oh, yes.” I fell to the grass. “I can’t believe this is happening.” I covered my face with both hands and cried out with joy. “My Day of Promise, at last.”

Leila rolled onto her stomach and leaned on her elbows, propping her chin with her palms. “What is it like to be in love?”

I grinned at her curiosity and stretched my arms straight. “It’s like dancing barefoot in the meadow under moonlight,” I told her. “Love tickles your toes and then climbs to your heart.” I rolled on the grass. “It spirals toward your fingertips as you spin and spin. Then it reaches up to the moon, grabs its rays, and pulls them down like a warm blanket.”

Leila sighed. My sister’s wide eyes revealed their wanting.

Monday, June 20, 2011

I Finished...For Now


I started writing book two on January 1st. I finished the first draft on June 18th. It feels good to be done, sort of. I remember the same milestone when I finished my first book. I jumped up and down and waved my arms. “I’m done!” I yelled. “I’m going to be published.”

I’ve learned a few things since then. One lesson is that the work is just beginning. The hardest part of the novel is just waiting for me. It’s there at Chapter One, daring me to proceed. Be patient, my little novel, I’ll get back to you, soon.

I’ve put away book two for at least three weeks. I’m stepping away, allowing myself some distance before diving in again. In the meantime, I’ll add a few scenes to On Fallen Wings and make some additional adjustments before querying again next week. I’ll outline book three and do some needed research for the series. I’ll also prepare to move my family. That’s a longer story than my book—I won’t bore you with details.

 My writing goal while working a first draft is 1,000 words daily. I met that goal, easily. I know, I know, it’s been more than 82 days since I started this book. (Draft one is 82,000 words.) I didn’t write every day. I wrote five days a week and took February off completely. Skipped a week in March, and wrote maybe 5 days total in June. I met the goal. Once the laptop opened, it didn’t close again until the master file grew by 1,000 words.

My revision goal for draft two is 10 pages per day. I’ll meet that goal. How do I know? I did it with my first book and On Fallen Wings. After that, each revision gets one day per chapter. There will be many revisions.

So, in a tiny way, I’m celebrating. Yay. I’m also very busy. That’s a good thing. I’m refreshed from vacation and full of ideas and motivation.

Writing a book is hard. It takes dedication. It takes practice. It takes sacrifice. Not everyone can say they’ve written a novel, though most people will tell you they’d like to try. I applaud any author, published or not, simply because of the effort that goes into the process. When you reach a writing milestone, celebrate for a moment, then go back to work. There’s always another story to tell.

If you're curious about the photo. I took it at the 2002 Winter Olympics. That's Apollo Anton Ohno after receiving his first gold medal.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How Much is a Picture Worth?

Life is inspiration. I mention it a lot, because I believe it. As much as I enjoy writing, I love experiencing the world around me more. Nature is the fuel to my muse.

While I could spend all day in a dark room with my laptop, punching away thousands of words, I know that, without fuel, I would eventually run out of things to write about. That's why I escape as often as I can. A small hike, a camping trip, a night with a telescope, an afternoon with my family, even a moment of terror outside during a violent thunderstorm give me what I need to keep my stories interesting.

I took a bit of a break these last few weeks, filling my cup with as much inspiration as possible. I kept writing, in fact, I'm almost done with draft one of book two in the series (I still don't have a name for it), but not at the pace that got me here. I'm okay with that. I spent quality time with my wife and children and created some memories that will last a lifetime.

It's these memories, life, and nature that will keep the stories coming; tiny tidbits of detail that aren't possible to find online, or in a book; real life experiences that will enrich the flavor of my writing. Not everyone needs that, but I do. It's a part of who I am, and part of that comes through on the pages I create.

I posted a photo above and I'm posting one below. They are from extraordinary moments that I experienced in the last few weeks. They say a lot, without showing much. What do they tell you? What stories do they inspire?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fifteen Years and Forever

Jamie and Natalie on their honeymoon-1996
Fifteen years ago, I promised to love you forever. We still have forever to claim. Happy Anniversary. I love you.