Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Chapter 14 is launched

After ditzing around through the morning, setting the timer and making myself work for thirty minutes, then going off to email and blogs or whatever... coming back for another session, then visiting with the neighbor, more blogs, etc, I finally I managed to get about 6 pages done of the seven I'd set for a goal. Six pages with lots of text separated by asterisks, which is what I put in when I suddenly don't know where to go from where I am. It was 1:18pm. I only had one more page to do, and I was supposed to leave for the YMCA at 2. But sometimes things can come in a flash, so I went to a place where I sit, listen to music and watch the birds in the backyard and bit by bit some ideas came. When I thought I had made enough notes to do my final page I went back to the computer and started in. And finally some things began to flow. By 2:40pm, I had 8 1/2 pages total, 2543 words, a good number of the asterisks removed and a first scene I can call done for now. Hooray!

Tomorrow it's on to Abramm again, for the second half of Chapter 14. Probably another simmer day. I'm telling myself to get ready for it.


Monday, February 27, 2006

Owl in a Tree

My husband found this Great Horned owl sitting in a Eucalyptus tree yesterday on his morning run and brought me back to see it. We're pretty sure it's sitting on a nest.

I feel like this owl today, sitting on a nest and nothing is happening. The eggs just sit there, like... eggs. So it is with the story. It's a simmer day as I suspected it would be.

That's because I've begun to address Chapter 14 and I almost never make much measurable progress the first day of starting a new chapter. As usual, in between looking through my notes and doing nonstop writings, I found myself reading weblogs, checking email, going through old magazines, ironing (!) and ordering books off Amazon. I have gleaned a few things about the scene though: I know when, I know where and I know who, and I even know part of the what. Still working on the why, though.

Now it's off for my walk


Saturday, February 25, 2006

what's your world view?

Link to QuizFarm to take this quiz.

It told me that I scored as Cultural Creative:

"Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.

Cultural Creative 63%
Fundamentalist 50%
Postmodernist 25%
Materialist 13%
Romanticist 13%
Modernist 0%
Idealist 0%
Existentialist 0%

I was eating lunch while I took this quiz. Really. Even more amazing, I think it's fairly accurate. At least as far as these sorts of things can be (ie, not too accurate). It was obvious the questions were written from a specific world view themselves which was definitely different from mine. How can you agree or disagree with a statement like "the majority of religious scripture should be taken literally?" I'm not even sure what that means, exactly.

Okay, on to more productive pursuits.


Friday, February 24, 2006

Brain Dead

I've worked all day, adding stuff to my list/outline, moving stuff around, and one by one clearing the cards off my desk. They aren't all gone by a long shot, but many of them are, and I now have 14 1/4 pages of outline. When I was finished, I could hardly make my brain work at all, except to reflect that what I had seemed a confused and horrible mess with a daunting amount of work yet to be done. So I made some tea and ate some cake, and it dawned on me that when I began this part of the process, I was only requiring that I make a list of what was on my cards. And now, somewhere along the way, that list has morphed into outline. Not an official outline, not a necessarily coherent outline, nor even an efficient one (with everything-but-the-kitchen-sink thrown in), but still, it has become more outline than list. And that is cause for celebration. Yes, there's much left to do, but that is another day's work. So for now, I rejoice.

Also, thanks to those of you who commented on the proposed title change. I used your input and some of your comments in the email I sent my editor this morning, and he said we've given him some excellent ammunition for another round of discussions with the team.

Grace and peace,

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The One Page Synop and ... a Title Change?

I love the way the Lord has everything timed. Yesterday, as I said, I finished plotting the main movements of this book all the way to the end. This morning I got a call from one of my Bethany House editors wanting a one page synopsis to take to a meeting this afternoon. Of course, had I not finished making that plotline, this request would have been much more difficult to fulfill than it was. In fact, after wallowing in all the details for several days, it was the perfect next step to have to boil it all down to one page like that!

And then, as so often happens in this industry, I got a suprise. An email from the same editor came this afternoon informing me that the "management team" (not real sure who that is) didn't like the proposed (assumed for four years, now) titles for Book Four. This is the first time anyone has said anything about any of my titles. Whatever I've titled the book, that's what they went with (including Arena which was just a convenience title for me to be able to refer to the book easily). It didn't even occur to me this could be an issue.

Wait, I take that second to last sentence back. My originally proposed title for Book 4 was Light out of Darkness, but when they contracted for it, they suggested I change it to Light out of Shadow so it would tie in better with the other books. That made sense to me and I said sure. So that's how I've thought of it ever since, even though it's called Light out of Darkness in the contract. Frankly, either one was fine.

But, as of today, neither of those are acceptable any more, though I don't know why. Instead, the preferred options are, Out of Darkness or Out of the Darkness. Hmm. Not sure what I think of those. Not sure it even matters. Not sure how such a small, probably unimportant detail can take up so much time and thinking, either. Especially since it's doubtful I'll have much say over it.

But I am wondering: What do you all think of these new options? Better? Worse? The same?


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Outline

I know I've said in different places that I tend not to make outlines, but that's only partially true. There comes a point in the process of writing the story that I suddenly realize I have to at least tentatively plot the rest of the book.

Saturday I finished a very rough, very sketchy draft of Chapter 13, and with that reached the end of Part 1. After that I realized I had to plot the rest of the book. Until this point I've had stacks of index cards sitting around my desk. Stacks of things that might happen, or could happen, or will happen to Abramm. Stacks of things for Maddie. And Trap. And Carissa. Smaller stacks for others. Periodically I go through them and try to sort, but it's usually very difficult, because they aren't all even events. Sometimes the note is just of someone's general mindset. Or it's a note on the background situation. Or even a description. It might be a line of dialog that could really go anywhere. I probably have about six inches worth of stacks. Maybe more.

This sort of thing is very hard to order, and often I end up laying a batch of cards out on the desk in no particular order. I arrange a few of them together, shake my head over the rest, then give up and go back to whatever early chapter I was working on.

But eventually I have to know more clearly where I'm going and that happened last weekend. So for the last two and half days I've been taking the cards and putting them into a list. If I try too hard to put them into an ordered list, I will freak myself out. So I just require that I put them on the list, and assure myself I will deal with the ordering later. I got this idea from a book called Overcoming Writing Blocks, out of print now, unfortunately. It's the one that suggested I make the index cards of Whatever Occurs to Me in the first place. And at this stage in the process it informs me that "a frequent cause of blocking is the confusion that ensues when you try to hold the entire pattern in your head at one time." Amen, to that!

So you just sit down and you start listing your notes. "Once you've made the transfer from cards to list," says the book, "you will automatically begin to engage that powerful ranking faculty everyone possesses: certain entries will begin to stand out from the page... others will naturally fall into secondary postions, to cluster around more important concepts that they support..." And how about this? It works.

I now have about 10 pages of plotline. Which is a good thing. The bad thing is that I've got waaay too much. So much, it makes me want to hyperventilate. So much, I have to back off, and put it all in the Lord's hands. I don't know how He's going to do it, but somehow He will bring order to all this. And it's a good thing, because from where I sit at the moment, it looks downright impossible!

Another day of grace,

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Top Ten

Just found out that Shadow Over Kiriath made Christian Fiction Review's list of top ten Christian Novels for 2005! Hooray! I'm honored and a little amazed.

Thanks, Tim, and congratulations to all the others on the list!

To find out what those others are and how they're ranked, check it out at Christian Fiction Review.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Unmerited grace

Recently I came across this thought from Annie Dillard in her book The Writing Life,

"At best the sensation of writing is that of unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then -- and only then -- it is handed to you."

This struck me very strongly, because we've just been reviewing in Bible class how it is to search for God. He only reveals Himself to us if we search for Him diligently, as if we were hunting for treasure. Treasure hunters do not sit back and wait for the treasure to come to them. They go out and search for a likely spot and then they dig, and lug dirt and dig and lug. It's not easy. When they get tired, they keep digging. When nothing turns up for all their digging, they do not quit, they go on. They try a new place. And finally, maybe three years later, they find that for which they've been searching. It is, in a way, handed to them.

So it is with the search for the story, for the perfect, right arrangement that will resonate, for the answers to the questions of who these people are, and what they will become, what is it I really care about, and what am I really trying to say? How can any of that be easy to find? If God Himself is not easy and simple, how can writing about what I know of Him and my life in Him be easy and simple? Spiritually now I'm beginning to grasp things I can't even articulate. I cannot explain them with words. How can writing about them be easy?

It can't. It won't be. Some days I'll find the silver and the gold. Other days it will feel like endless digging and lugging of dirt. The key is to keep going. To keep on learning about who God is through His word. To keep on writing. To trust that He is guiding me and that in the end I will not be ashamed. That in time it will all come together. If my motivation is correct, and the power system in which I operate is correct, it will be rewarded.

"If you seek her (wisdom) as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord, and discover the knowledge of God...I, wisdom, love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me. " Proverbs 2:4,5; 8:17



Wednesday, February 15, 2006

And then, again...

Okay, so I changed my mind about calling chapter 11 done. This morning I added another page, which tomorrow I'll have to rework. Hopefully it won't take long and I can get on to chapter 12.

Didn't have much time to work today, as Wednesday is when my royal family friends come over for lunch and we share lives and what the Lord has been doing in them. Stripping most of us, it would seem, shaking those things which can be shaken, teaching us to rely solely upon Him... None of those easy processes.

I have a proposal for a new book with my agent and last night got word of a possible nibble, and with it, perhaps a new direction for me writingwise. We'll have to see what the Lord has in mind, but if things go as I would hope (ie, the nibble becomes a contract), it will mean a definite shift in the track I thought I was on... Somewhat disconcerting... and at the same time not at all.

"Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new. You will not be aware of it. I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert." Is 43:18, 19

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

There and Back Again

A funny thing happened today. It is not the first time something like this has happened to me.

Last week I finished the first scene in chapter 11 of Light out of Shadow with Maddie and her father, knowing that the next scene, which would eventually continue issues raised with her father, would be from Trap’s pov. I thought I would do a small preliminary scene with him set in the location where he was when the first scene broke – maybe at an inn by the barracks across town. Or at a nobleman’s house. Maybe I'd introduce some Kiriathan mercenaries… But… it was dead.

Maybe he could be giving fencing lessons, or taking part in a fencing match. No. That was dead, too. How about if he was walking back to the palace and waylaid by someone? Maybe an enemy. Or the mercenaries again. But as before, when I tried to write it – when I even thought about trying to write it, everything went cold and dark and dead. I couldn’t do it.

I’ve been wrestling with this since last Thursday -- for four days now. Yesterday I despaired. I wondered if I even liked this book. I feared maybe I couldn’t write it after all. All was gloom and doom. The only bright spot was the knowledge that I had been here before. Many times.

I have a little quote from the book Overcoming Writing Blocks that applies:

“It is important to realize that before any problem is solved there is very often a period of frustration – a time when it seems you are getting absolutely nowhere, that you are further from a solution than ever, and that all is hopeless. The harder you think, the more hopeless it becomes. The feeling is natural.”

Natural. Whew!

Then I woke up this morning thinking about Robin Hobb’s Madship, which I finished last night, and realized two things. The first was that I didn’t like the way she so thoroughly developed all her different viewpoint characters, each with their own individual stories, because every time she made a switch, I was so engaged with the present story that I HATED having to switch midstream to someone else. Every time I would repeatedly flip through the book to find where the thread of that viewpoint continued and read from there.

My second realization was that I’d been trying to make myself develop Trap in the same way she does her secondary characters (if you can call them secondary). (That’s not a criticism. A lot of people enjoy her work to pieces. Actually I’m one of them, I just read it rather oddly.)

Anyway, I realized then and there that I didn’t want to do that with Light out of Shadow. This book is about Abramm, and I am most engaged and excited and interested when he has the focus. I just needed to get to the action in the scene with Maddie’s father, not dilly dally with Trap’s concerns. My first thought was that I’d just continue the first scene into the second all from Maddie’s pov. Forget Trap altogether, or maybe let him appear at the end to help her. But when I worked through the original scene again, despite having plans to do a somewhat substantial revision, I ended up at the point where I’d originally left off with the scene itself pretty much intact. And realized that I was going to do a second scene from Trap’s pov after all, only this time I’d start the moment when he returned to the palace. The dialog came in snatches throughout the day and I now have the scene pretty much sketched out. I may even call it – and chapter 11 – done for now.

Four days to take a big trip out there and back again, ending up pretty much in the place where I’d started. The first scene stays as it was, ends as it did, and the second scene is played out in Trap’s viewpoint. It’s just the content of that scene that's changed. Which seems amazing in light of the certainties I had yesterday of how wrong EVERYTHING was with it. And tells me again, how unreliable emotions can be. How easily they can go overboard... It's good to take note of them, and even act upon them, but don't take them all that seriously.

Monday, February 13, 2006

A Beginning

I'm supposed to be working on chapter 11 of my work in progress -- Light out of Shadow. But I seem to be a master at self-distraction. The thing is, I've enjoyed reading others' blogs and I've been thinking about starting one of my own for some time now. So I guess it's not a huge surprise when I couldn't seem to make myself get to work today on account of numerous interruptions and external distractions... that I should suddenly find myself here, completing one step after another (there were more than the three they advertised at the start of this) in setting up this blog.

Since I've kept a writing diary for years, I figured it wouldn't be much of a stretch to put one up on the web. That way those of you who are chomping at the bit for this next book can follow my progress -- which may or may not be comforting, when you see how erratic it is.

Speaking of which, if I want there to be any progress, I guess I should keep this short. I have only one scene left to finish this chapter.