Day 12 Update

Time sure flies! I can’t believe I’ve been at this for 12 days already.

I haven’t done any writing since last Thursday thanks to a busy weekend filled with friends, family, and fun. I needed it, though. It’s good to recharge the batteries once in a while. And, as my friend Cliff (also a writer) says, the story will always be there when you come back.

Today I received an email from the writer’s conference administrator. In addition to sending in my manuscript critique to be reviewed by a professional, we can also participate in a peer critique with other writers on Friday night of the conference. I got my critique group assignment today. There are 7 of us, including the moderator, who is also a speaker at the conference. We are to submit 3 pages of our manuscript to each person in the group, who in turn submit 3 pages of their work.

We are supposed to read each manuscript before the conference, making notes of feedback to share during our meeting. I sent my pages in tonight and have received pages from 2 other authors. I’m looking forward to reading these and offering any bits of advice I might have.

My BFF Amy and I attended a creative writing class a few years ago where we had to write something each week, read it aloud, and receive feedback from the group. Apparently it was good practice for what we’ll be doing in this group. I practiced reading my pages out loud tonight, and it was awkward at first, but soon I got into it and actually enjoyed it. It’s neat to hear the sound of your characters’ dialogue in an audible voice and not just the voice in your head. It brought reality and depth to their personalities. I might have to do that more often. Once again a reason I’m thankful to live alone! Ha, ha!

Well, I’d better get back to writing. I stopped in Chapter 8 last time. I usually try to end in the middle of a scene so it’s easier to pick up where I left off (a tip I read in an article on writing). I’m writing a scene where there’s a major thunderstorm going on – something we’re all too familiar with lately, right?

I can’t thank each of you enough for your support, enthusiasm, and most of all, your prayers. Keep ’em coming – it’s making all the difference!

The Art of Writing

I had an interesting conversation with a co-worker the other day about the art of writing. She asked how far along I was, and I responded with, “I’m on chapter 7.” She asked, “How many chapters are there?” And I answered, “I don’t know yet.”

I’m sure more experienced writers can tell you exactly how many chapters they plan to write, how long the book will be when it’s finished, and how many pages each chapter will be. Well, this is my first go at this, and I’m still learning just what it takes to write a full-length novel.

I’ve done a lot of research and still have a lot to learn, but from what I’ve read, a novel can be anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 words. I don’t know how that translates into the number of chapters, though.

As I explained to my co-worker, I just write in “scenes,” and start a new chapter when I need to. A “scene” is simply a part of the story, and just like in a movie, a scene has a beginning, middle, and end. Maybe a scene starts with two people driving down the road in a car. They have left from some place and are heading to another place. The middle is what happens on the drive. The ending can happen once they get to where they’re going. Maybe one character is being dropped off by the other character, who then leaves.

So now this character is the only one at the new location. That could be the beginning of a new scene, especially if the character encounters a new character to interact with. These two scenes could take place in the same chapter, depending on how long each scene is. Or if a scene ends and the next scene takes place at a different location or on a different day, that is a good time to start a new chapter.

Each scene should have a purpose. It must either move the action of the story along or give you some new information about a character or the plot. It could be a “flashback” of something that happened in the past that has to do with the plot or the character’s “backstory.” But it must have a point to make.

Some writers make “outlines” of their story, so that they know which scenes to write and in which order so that the story is organized and moves the action along. Other writers are called “pantsers,” meaning they fly by the seat of their pants, just letting the story take them in any direction, and seeing what happens along the way.

I think I’m somewhere in the middle. I know enough about my story that I have a rough outline and an idea of what needs to happen when and where. But the details are not tied down, so I write along and make it up as I go, putting in stuff I hadn’t thought about until that  moment. As long as I end up near where I wanted to be at the beginning, I think I’m okay.

Tonight as I was writing along in chapter 7, I realized that I should’ve ended the chapter a scene earlier. So I chopped out the remaining scene and started chapter 8 with it. Some of my chapters are much longer than others, but all of that will get better organized in another draft.

For now, I’m cruising along, taking in the scenery and enjoying the ride, seeing what new things I might explore. But all the while, I still have my GPS turned on, letting it remind me when to turn in case I get sidetracked.

Day 7 Update

I printed off my first two chapters for the manuscript critique tonight and went over everything one more time. I’m glad I did because I found a few things I needed to tweak/fix. You can see much more on a printed page than you can by scrolling through a page on the computer screen.

I finalized everything and sent it off to the critiquer (is that a word?). It felt a little like sending my child off to school for the first time!

I got a reply from Ms. Eason that she had received it. So now I just wait for the next two weeks before I get to meet with her at the conference. I’m curious to hear her feedback.

In the meantime, it’s back to chapter 7 and progressing the story.

My first week of the 40-day fasting and writing has gone okay so far. It has been a little weird not having the television on sometimes, but it’s amazing what you can hear when you’re being quiet. The still small voice of God is easier to hear when it’s not being drowned out by the “noise” of life.

My characters speak louder, too. They are becoming more real to me, and I feel like I carry them around in my pocket wherever I go. If you’ve ever read a book and fallen in love with the characters, you’ll know what I mean. They stay with you.

I’ve had some cool conversations with people as I’ve started telling them about working on my book. Thanks to each of you for your support and prayers!

Day 6 Update

I have spent tonight polishing my edits to Chapters 1 and 2. I should have these two chapters memorized pretty soon if I keep going over them like this!

The next step was “formatting” this manuscript sample and getting it ready to send in for the critique. There are lots of “rules” about how to do this properly. I have a book called “Guide to Manuscript Formats” but since it was published in 1987, I double-checked it with some recent posts on the Writer’s Digest website to make sure I was doing everything correctly. Thank goodness for the Internet!

I want to do one last check before I email it tomorrow, but I think it’s 99.9% ready to go. Or at least I need to stop looking at it over and over! Perfectionist? Why, yes, I am. I have to learn when to let go and let it be. After all, this is a manuscript critique – I’m looking for someone who knows more than I do to tell me what I’m doing right AND what I’m doing wrong. But it is good practice for when I am finally ready to send this in to a real agent or editor.

Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement!

Amy sent me a great Scripture the other night: Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

He has begun this work in me, and He certainly has a long way to go with me, I know. But I am thankful for His promise that He won’t give up on me but will continue to work on me, molding me and making me into what He wants me to be. Kind of like me and my editing these chapters, huh? Funny how that works. 🙂

Day 4 update

I am going to a writer’s conference on Aug. 22nd, and before then, I can send in a manuscript (up to 3500 words) for a critique. During the conference, we will meet with our assigned editor/agent/writer who will give us feedback on our manuscript.

So my main focus this week has been to get my first couple of chapters really tightened up in order to send that in. I have finished edits on chapter 1 and am starting on edits for chapter 2 tonight.

After that I will continue writing where I left off, in chapter 7. I am trying not to do too much editing/revising at this stage because I just need to keep going and get the story finished. I can go back and revise later, but if I try to revise as I go, I will get stuck and never move forward.

This is something I have figured out about myself as a writer. I have a very strong inner editor. That will come in handy later, but for now, I have to tell her to be quiet and let me write! First drafts always stink anyway, so I can’t worry about that right now.

Anyway, that’s where I am tonight.

Prayer Request: Please pray for my revisions on chapter 2. And pray for the manuscript as I send it off to be critiqued. Pray that I will get some helpful feedback that will make my writing better.

40 days and 40 nights

I was inspired to create this blog from something I read in the book, The Circle Maker, by Mark Batterson. (More on this book and the concept of making prayer circles to come later…)

The author wrote about a time in his life when he was working on his first book. I read this on Thursday, August 1, 2013 while sitting in my car eating my lunch and having some quiet time with the Lord:

“I don’t just write books; I circle them in prayer. To me, writing is praying with a keyboard. I also recruited a team of circle makers to pray for me while I wrote the book. Then we prayed circles around the people who would buy the book. We specifically prayed that God would get the book into the right hands at the right time… To me, a book sold is not a book sold; it’s a prayer answered.”

“I was a frustrated writer for thirteen years. I dreamed of writing a book, but I could never seem to finish a manuscript. The turning point was when I drew a circle around the dream during forty days of prayer and fasting. I fasted from all forms of entertainment to stay focused on my goal. Then I stepped into a writing circle with a Honi-like determination that I wasn’t coming out until I had a manuscript in my hand. Forty days later, the dream became a reality. I didn’t write that book; I prayed that book.”

This really jumped out at me, because I have felt very much the same – dreaming of “one day” writing a book, but never getting very far or finishing anything.

I felt like the Holy Spirit was prompting me to do a forty day fast from so many of the distractions in my life and focus solely on my book. As is the way with God’s timing, the day I read this was August 1st, a perfect time to start my 40-day “fast.” I have taken a break from teaching piano lessons in order to work on my book. I am attending a writer’s conference at the end of August, at which time I will be doing a “manuscript critique” with an agent at the conference.

What better time to do this? I also felt the prompting to create this site and invite a few chosen people to come alongside me and pray with me during these forty days, and beyond as the journey of this book continues.

I did a quick word study on “forty days” in the Bible this morning. I found some interesting facts. When God put Noah and his family in the ark, it rained for forty days and nights. (Sounds a little like this summer in Georgia, doesn’t it?) When Moses met with God on Mount Sinai, where God gave him the Ten Commandments, he was on the mount with God for forty days and forty nights. And of course, after Jesus was baptized, He went into the desert for forty days and forty nights to be alone with His Father before He faced the tempation of the devil.

So, here I am, starting my 40-day journey. I “officially” started on August 1 and should end on September 9. My plan is to spend my evenings and weekend free time working on the book instead of doing other things, such as watching TV, reading for entertainment, playing on the computer, etc.

I will update this site frequently to let you know how it’s going and how you can pray for me. I’m excited to see what God will do in forty days!