Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed . ~ 2 Timothy 2:15

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fresh wind, rekindled fire

I've been looking forward to the 2011Writing Academy Writers Weekend  ever since I was asked to attend as a mentor. I'll meet with writers and critique their fiction manuscripts at the beautiful Mt. Olivet Conference and Retreat Center near Minneapolis. And, after the year I've had, it'll be a retreat for me, too.

Suffice to say carpal tunnel surgery, seven months of pain from three herniated neck discs, surgery to repair them, a flu-like virus that had me down for a month, and an allergic reaction to wasp stings have made 2011 a challenging year. Not to mention the crushing disappointment when the editor who asked to meet with me at the ACFW conference last September--who liked my book manuscript and my ideas--emailed me to tell me the publishing house committee turned down my book proposal and wasn't interested in any of my ideas.

All this drained me physically, mentally, and spiritually.

So I need this retreat.

And God made sure I got it.

Besides meet with writers, I plan to soak in the peaceful surroundings, rest, read, and write. I've packed the March through August issues of The Writer (which I haven't had the chance to read yet), and my folders for story call outs and my Pathways to God devotional assignment (due Sept. 1). I'll also edit a fiction manuscript from one of my Novel Buds, my online critique group. And I just downloaded a free ebook on my Kindle yesterday for some leisure reading (and analysis of how other fiction writers write).

And, oh yes, work on my own novel-in-progress, Whiskey Run.

How long is the retreat, you ask? Not long enough. (Thursday, July 28-Monday, Aug.1, with Thursday and Monday travel days)

My writing goals for the coming year include finishing Whiskey Run; formatting and uploading my first novel, Before I Die, to Amazon and B&N as an ebook; ditto my second novel, The Heart Remembers; submit book proposals for said novels to a couple of smaller book publishers; putting together and publishing a third book of meditations (compilation of favorites from my column since 2002); and writing and submitting more PE stories and articles.

I probably won't get all that done. But man without vision will perish.

But I plan to come back with fresh wind beneath my wings and rekindled fire in my heart.

Update on Whiskey Run:
Word count: 16,301
Words written since last Thursday (Thursday to Wednesday): -40

No, I didn't go backward. I read and revised what I'd already written in November, adding and deleting text, which left me with 40 less words than I had last week. The reading and revising stage is now done. I'm ready to start writing chapter 7.

BTW, I read that the late Dick Francis, author of the best-selling horse jockey/racing mysteries, did not revise or rewrite. "He labored over each sentence . . . until it was as good as he could make it and then moved on," Readers Digest Select Editions editors wrote. Wrote Francis in his autobiography: "My first draft is IT."

Hmmmm . . . . sounds like what I do--agonize over each sentence until I'm satisfied I got it right. But I still go back and tweak, perfectionist that I am.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Punctuation points

In my editing, I come across writers who use ellipses in place of periods and commas, resulting in overuse.

To illustrate:
"In the beginning was the Word . . . and the Word was with God . . . and the Word was God" (John 1:1).

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1).

Ellipsis points (three spaced dots) are used to indicate an omission of a word, phrase, line, or paragraph from a quoted passage:

"By faith Moses . . .  was hidden by his parents . . . because they saw that the child was beautiful" (Hebrews 11:23).

When used to indicate a break in thought or faltering speech, ellipses are called suspension points:

"I . . . uh . . . I . . . didn't . . . uh . . . see you."

Too often I see suspension points/ellipses used  in place of commas or periods:

"She showered . . . put on her makeup . . . blew her hair dry . . . and ironed her new capris . . . all in the half hour before her blind date arrived."

Commas will do and won't distract the reader:

"She showered, put on her makeup, blew her hair dry, and ironed her new capris all in the half hour before her blind date arrived."

When you find yourself using ellipses or suspension points, ask yourself:
  • Am I omitting a word, phrase, sentence, or paragraph from a quotation? If so, use them.
  • Will a comma or period create the effect I want (which is a pause or break in thought)? If yes, then use the comma or period.
  • Do I want to suggest faltering speech? If you do, then use the suspension points.
Ellipses, or suspension points, are like pepper: Use sparingly. Sprinkle in with care. Too much, and the dish is unpalatable.

Update on Whiskey Run:

Word count: 16,341
Words written since last Thursday (Thursday to Wednesday): 101

It doesn't look like much, but I didn't work on this for 15-10 minutes every day, as I planned to. I didn't make it a priority. Fie! Fie! 

My excuse: It's been since November, and before I can move forward, I have to go back and review what I've written, immerse myself into the story once again. So I combed through the first two chapters, reading and revising.

Not as much as I wanted to do, but more than I'd done in seven months. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Getting back to it

I'm not.

Writing, that is.

And I want to be.

Then why aren't I?

Good question.

I could give the excuse that I don't have time. Too many other things to do, like play Scrabble on Facebook or update my blogs (I maintain three--this one, my inspirational blog, and the Punxsy Christian Women's Conference blog.) or edit a manuscript or review CWG lessons or . . .

I need to be writing. And I need to set it as a priority.

In November, I left my heroine in a one-room schoolhouse wondering how to prove that her fiance didn't murder the miner in Whiskey Run. She'd just found the match to the cufflink found at the murder scene in her desk. After 16K words, I let it go. Too much else going on.

I need to get back to it.

I want to get back to it.

I will get back to it.

I'm the type of person who doesn't like to leave things undone. All the laundry had to be done in one day, even if I did seven or ten loads. The entire house had to be cleaned in one day. It irked me that I couldn't lose 25 pounds in one week. Now I have 50 pounds to lose.

"Yard by yard, the going's hard; but inch by inch, it's a cinch."

So I work at it every day, making sure I eat right and get a walk in. Little by little, those pounds will come off. And, at nearly 60, I can't do the laundry or clean the house in one day anymore. I do one load a day, and keep the house "rid up."

So it is with writing a novel.

I must--I will--make it a priority to set aside 15 to 30 minutes a day to work on it. To write. I'll have to fight to urge to "finish the chapter." Finishing can be a hangup. I don't have time to write an entire chapter, so I don't write anything.

A seventeenth century French writer used the ten minutes waiting for his wife to finish dressing for dinner to good use: to write. And in a year, he'd written a book.

Little things add up. Ten minutes six times a week is an hour, four hours a month. It's not what I want--I want four hours a day. But right now I don't have four hours a day. And so my unfinished novel languishes in "someday-land."

I'm going to do a brave thing--some might call it foolhardy. I'm going to post on this blog, every Thursday, how many words I've written in Whiskey Run since the last Thursday blog post.

I'll start today:

Whiskey Run:
Word count: 16,240
Words written since last Thursday (Thursday to Wednesday): 0.

Are you having trouble finding time to write? Don't despair. Just do it. Toss all those negative thoughts and excuses out of your mind and just write!

Friday, July 8, 2011

In the long run

I had good intentions. I was fired up, inspired about this blog for writers. But that's the way it is when a project is in its idea, design, and launch stages. The true test lies in the long run. Endurance.

On June 6, I had surgery to repair three herniated neck disks--after seven months of sometimes debilitating pain. (For more on this, read my inspirational blog entry, "Selah.") Which is what happened to my endurance. Seven months of pain takes a lot out of you--body, mind, and spirit.

I might have been down, but I wasn't out. I'm slowly getting back in the run, even if I have to walk--plod--at first. Sometimes I'm itching to get back to the novel I started back in November, when my left arm first started going numb. Sometimes I'm too tired to care. I have a list, though, on an electronic sticky note on my computer desktop:
  1. Prepare my third book of meditations for publication and release this fall
  2. Prepare my novel, Before I Die, to upload to Amazon and B&N as an ebook
  3. Complete Pathways to God assignment
Add in bookkeeping (I haven't even started 2011 yet), my radio program and column, mentoring, editing, preparing for speaking engagements, organizing a fall women's conference, writing articles for at least three publications, submitting stories for publication in upcoming Chicken Soup books, planning and implementing the 2011-12 adult Sunday school publicity program, getting ready for the 2011-2011 school year. Gee, I'm tired just writing about it.

It looks like a lot, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Endurance begins when you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, ignore the pain, and take that step.

  • I've done away with the weekly schedule for this blog. I'd rather it be spontaneous. I'm an organized person and thrive on lists, but sometimes organization tosses creativity out the window.
  • Literary agent Steve Laube just launched  Publishing News, a e-newspaper with the latest on what's going on in the publishing world. Some interesting stuff. Why not subscribe to it and keep up-to-date? I did.