Thursday, September 29, 2011
I don't know what I'm doing blogging, since I have to majorly, MAJORLY rewrite my first chapter of GOD'S DAUGHTER (my Viking novel, if you're just catching up).
BUT I want to share that I've joined a historical fiction critique group, and I love it. Who would have thought that this writer (who previously believed that all her words were perfect the minute they hit the page) would be so ENAMORED with having her work chewed up and spat out? But the truth is, these people know the genre. They've been working in it longer than I have, for the most part. And they really don't "spit" things out--they give those specific comments I was stupidly hoping an agent would make.
I've also gotten a wonderful editor to look at my first 55 pages. I love her too! Now I know what's working, what's not, what holes need to be fixed.
True, occasionally it hits me what I'm attempting to do by mid-October (there's a contest I'd like to win, to get an agent), and at these times I become like a raging Medusa or some unleashed maelstrom within my very small house. Well, not OUT LOUD, but in my head. I am nothing, if not restrained, for my children's sake.
So. Bottom line is--to chip the crud off the gemstone of your writing, a critique group is almost essential (and blast you again, Stephenie Meyer, for not needing one--I'm not jealous, seriously). And my writing has improved. Just don't judge it by this post, written with this peculiar concoction of allergies, headache and humility that has recently overwhelmed my brain.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
I recently replied to a blogpost by Sally Apokedak on the blogspot Novel Rocket. I've enjoyed this blogspot: http://www.novelrocket.com. She was asking what kind of fiction we like to read: books w/a glaring gospel message? characters that do or don't change for the better? I'm posting part of my response below. Let it be known that I didn't have issues w/bad parents/abandonment! But the point was that I think Christian fiction needs to be realistic. Or maybe not even be categorized as Christian fiction at all--thus transcending the market and reaching more people with the truth.
HG--"The problem I have w/Christian romance (most of it), is that the main guy character is unbelievable, and not representative of a real guy at all. I think running our male character's actions through a trusted male friend/husband is an important step. MOST guys don't normally know exactly the right words to say or romantic/protective gestures to make ALL the time. Also, I don't like that alot of "romantic" books are about single women. Don't married women know something about love? And I mean REAL, sacrificial love? Or are we just too boring to write about? I just wish more marriages, with their struggles, were portrayed in Christian fiction. I know there are several Christian books out there like that, but those usually aren't the ones I see touted in Christian bookstores/libraries.
I love Gina Holmes' "Crossing Oceans," b/c it dealt with the real problems of cancer and divorce, etc. I love Frank Peretti b/c he deals with spiritual warfare in ways most of us hadn't even thought about. I love C.S. Lewis b/c he was REAL (and deep!).
For what it's worth, I write character-driven fiction about married MCs (main characters, in writers' speak). But I don't think it's what Christian agents are looking for right now. I've definitely thought about selling out and writing romance about some single girl going to NYC (don't they all!??) and her Cinderella story...but that's just not me, and it's not something I would want to read.
I think alot of people who've grown up reading the classics (like Hardy, Eliot, etc) are looking for characters we can sink our teeth into, who have flaws and strengths and struggle with things we all struggle with, like death and abandonment and bad parents, etc.
I realize I'm saying "I think" a lot, and obviously there are many people who feel otherwise. I'd just hate it if women read Christian romance (or any other kind of romance) and think that if their husbands aren't acting as romantic/thoughtful/protective as the main guy in the romance, they're falling short. This kind of thinking usually winds up in divorce--I've seen it happen.
I'd just like it if the demand for multi-faceted characters with multi-faceted plots gained momentum in the Christian market.
Thanks for asking, sorry to go on and on, but this is something I do feel very strongly about. How many Christians wind up skipping the Christian bookstore and reading best-sellers from the library/bookstore b/c their favorite genres just aren't represented in Christian fiction? Christian writers can change the world, and not just from the confines of the Christian bookstore. We don't have to preach, but everything we write should come from a Christian worldview, b/c that's what we have!"
I'd love to get your comments on this. How do you feel about Christian romance? I understand that people are attracted to different genres. I'm just wishing the Christian market would reflect what Christians are ACTUALLY interested in...thus, "Otherworld." Plenty of Christians are interested in ghosts, but they won't come out and say it. Frank Peretti blew a hole in "standard" Christian fiction with his supernatural thrillers. What kinds of fiction do you read and why?
Saturday, September 10, 2011
I'm thrilled to present you with my first guest blogger, Janet Berry. If you want to share something from your writing journey on my blog, just comment on here or contact me on FB and I'd love to get something posted! And thank you, Jan, for sharing the ups and downs of writing a book in a month!
JB--When I graduated high school, my mother handed me a small, spiral bound journal in which she had kept records from each year of my schooling up until junior high. Jumbled amongst the scatterings of unflattering school photos, less than stellar report cards, and crumpled award ribbons were her neatly scripted notations of the various occupations I wanted to pursue when I grew up. Ballerina made the list often, along with mommy and teacher. Once, her records show I wanted to be a football player; I can only assume that was at the height of my sarcasm stage. One career topped the list, every year without fail, and that was my dream, my goal, of becoming a writer.
That all changed once I reached high school and was told in no uncertain terms by my English teacher that I had been placed in her honors class by mistake. She was very clear that I had no talent and was not worthy of her time and attention, so I abandoned the long held dream and rarely showed another person my writing from that day forth.
Fast forward almost two decades, to a few years ago. My friend, Sara, invited me to try out this crazy sounding idea with her. It was called National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo for short. In essence, the idea is to sit down and just write every day, no editing or backtracking, and in one month, you will have produced a 50,000 word book.
Initially, I was hesitant; I hadn’t written anything other than grocery lists and checks to the electric company for a very long time. However, and I share this with you at the risk of sounding mentally unstable, I almost constantly keep some type of running story line in my head, so figured I could just jot down some of the happenings of those characters and see what happened.
On day one, I was pumped up, excited, ready to go! I sat down and quickly got a few paragraphs punched out. Then, I made the mistake of stopping and rereading what I had just written. It was rubbish! I backspaced the entire thing and sat staring at the blank screen for many minutes. It was frustrating; the scenes in my head were so vivid, but once I put them on paper, they became wooden and colorless.
I realize now, that I made a grave error from the start. The stories I think up are innocent and sweet and suitable for children to read. Instead of going with my natural inclinations, I wanted to impress and produce something edgier and hip, two things I should never pretend to be. I had settled on revolving the story around two siblings, bent on finding out who was responsible for their father’s death. The culprit, unbeknownst to them, had assumed a new identity as the minister of a small church. So yes, just that synopsis can probably clue you in as to why I stick to reading instead of writing! Nonetheless, this insight did not occur to me, and I labored on with the story, in spite of being uncomfortably out of my element.
I confided in another friend, and to my happy surprise, he joined in the project, sharing a few small samples of his work along the way. He had an astounding story in the works whereas I was growing increasingly dissatisfied with mine. The characters had gotten completely out of hand. The main female protagonist had entered into an illicit tryst with the guilt-riddled minister, who happened to be her mother’s ex-lover, so now I was dealing with affairs, church corruption, extortion and all sorts of things completely foreign to my normally peaceful way of thinking. I don’t read mysteries or watch scary movies or daytime television yet here I was attempting to write a soapy psychological thriller and googling types of handguns on the internet. It was madness! I can find the humor in it now, but at the time, I was existing on only a handful of hours of sleep each night. I lived and breathed this story. My children got shorted on attention and we had far too many fast food meals. My friend received many an angsty email bemoaning how I couldn’t do it, I was going to quit, my story was horrible and so on. Somehow, he managed to get me back to writing, mainly because we had a word count competition going on, but also because it helped just to vent the frustration and have someone to talk to about it.
At the very end, just when I wanted to quit, I got a sudden surge of energy and finished up the story, one day early. I amazed even myself by doing that. The end product was horrible, so choppy and ugly that I couldn’t even bear to reread the entire thing myself, much less share with anyone. It met its demise in the recycle bin of my computer about a year later. The main thing though, was that I did it! I finished something that I started. As a chronic procrastinator, this was a rare accomplishment indeed. I was proud of myself, if not my story.
In summary, I would have to say that NaNoWriMo was a good experience, albeit similar in the way cod liver oil is good for you. I was finally able to fully accept that my English teacher’s truthful, if tactless, assessment of my skills was accurate and that for every writer, there needs to be a proportionately larger audience. I happily count myself among the latter these days, with perhaps a bit more appreciation for the blood, sweat and tears that go into the making of a great book.