Best night of the week – writers group

Thursdays are special.

My writing friends take me to their worlds. We might spend time with a bounty hunter in Las Vegas or look over the shoulder of a small town Kansas cop. We are in the future – a bleak one – in the Pacific Northwest. We relive the turbulent ’60s in the South. Or we are in Czarist Russia experiencing life through the eyes of a teenage girl. We are in medieval England.

As my friend and fellow writer Catherine Hedge says, we come together to be surrounded by dreamers who are passionate about writing and to get support for our creative energies. This writers life? “Some call that madness. Writers call it fun.”–CH

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Charlene Newcomb is currently working on Book III of her Battle Scars series, 12th century historical fiction filled with war, political intrigue, and a knightly romance of forbidden love set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. There will be more to come, so sign up for Char’s Newsletter. It will be used – sparingly – to offer exclusive content and and to let you be the first to know about special offers.

rough draft of Battle Scars is done!

“The first draft is nothing but your ingredients. Once you have them in front of you–a beginning, a middle, an end, and all your characters–then and only then can you write your novel.”–Tiffany Reisz.

I call it my rough draft. Rough, first, whatever. I took a different approach to Battle Scars. I’d worked from an extensive outline for Keeping the Family Peace. This time, I just plunged in. I had a few lines on each of 7 cards on the corkboard in Scrivener. So last week, I finished pt. 3 (which is THE END)! (I think I’d previously mentioned I’ve broken this novel into 3 parts.) Finished!

ONE STEP FORWARD…

And you know what happens next.

TWO STEPS BACK.

Gotta love writers group and beta readers who bring multiple perspectives and their own writing experience into a critique. I love ’em. Truly I do.

The beta readers just finished reading pt. 2. Writers group heard this particular scene, which also drew comments from the betas. Hence my 2 steps back.

Beta #1: the 2 main characters (MCs) reconciled too quickly after the break-up scene.
Writers group comment: are we near the end of the book? That reconciliation feels like the climax. (Well yes, they did. But no, it’s not. 🙂  My thoughts, not hers.)
Beta #2: yeah, drawing out the reconciliation is a good way to keep the reader hooked

I’d considered this earlier and had not been able to figure out when/how/where the MCs could get back together except right where I’d place that particular scene. I had the plot lines for the rest of the book laid out – in skimpy detail – and it wasn’t happening for me. When I finished the rough draft of pt. 3, I still couldn’t see it.

LET THE REVISIONS BEGIN
On Saturday, I started working on revisions so pt. 3 is “readable” for my betas and for writers group. I was ignoring their comments. Oh, they lurked in the back of my mind. I almost dreaded the revisions to the early chapters of pt. 3 – I’d flown through those chapters in my first attempt to get words down on paper. I had a lot of bracketed notes, a lot of comments to myself on that early draft. Ch. 1 wasn’t bad, but I think I stared at ch. 2 for an hour before the scene gelled.  By mid-afternoon today, I’d finished both ch. 1 & 2 of pt. 3! (Are you following all this? Bless you if you’re still here.) I thought they were coming along really well.

Then I went back to read my beta readers’ comments again.

RETHINKING THE LOVERS’ MAKE-UP SCENE
I re-read the scene. There was an obvious place where Henry’s & Stephan’s dialogue could be reworked. (Yes, folks, this is historical fiction with a m/m romance sub-plot. And no, it’s no 50 Shades. Sensual, yes. Erotic, no.) I skimmed the next few chapters, identified other scenes I’d have to change. Not too bad. Then I glanced through the chapters in pt. 3 looking for the right moment to bring the two lovers together. (I do believe in happily-ever-afters.) Was there another climactic moment there? Well, of course there is! At that point (3 chapters from the end) I really AM getting close to the end of the novel!

NEXT PLAN
I’ll ready pt. 3 for writers group & betas with these new plot points in mind.

Life is good.  How are you?


Keeping the Family Peace update: I just ordered my print proof copy via Amazon’s CreateSpace. I’ll be holding my book in my hands on Friday! With luck, it will be in distribution, available in print by early February. If you can’t wait, buy it as an ebook now at  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords (for other eReaders).

Is it still Thursday?

ho ho ho

This. In a Bah! Humbug! kinda way. I’m not talking about Christmas. I’m lamenting the frustrations of working with technology. Can that be my excuse for not posting my usual “Thursday Walks” yesterday?

If the truth be told, my tardiness is due to two adventures that side-tracked me this week: 1) formatting my manuscript for print publication using CreateSpace (hence the tech issues); and, 2) trying to capture a king (the fun stuff).

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I found too many great posts this week, but these hit home:

Alex Beecroft writes A pseudo-medievalist’s guide to fire at The Macaronis.
My crusader knights, who are attempting to thwart King Richard’s arrest in a tavern on the outskirts of Vienna, have been eluding enemy soldiers in the mountains during the winter of 1192. They’ve found barns and a few inns for shelter, but may find themselves camping under the stars. I’m going to pass along Alex’s words of wisdom to Sir Henry & Sir Stephan.

Bethany Lopez on Laura Howard’s blog has tips for Publishing with Createspace.
Very timely for me as I’m working on formatting Keeping the Family Peace for print right now! I attempted to format my original, clean Word .doc. Does Word for MAC have fewer capabilities than Word for PC? I’m pretty savvy with technology but ran into all kinds of issues with margins, headers & footers. I decided to download a formatted template from CreateSpace. And I’ve still been frustrated. Headers and footers are doing interesting things. Section breaks, section ends, Word for MAC that tells me a footer (that doesn’t exist) is outside the print borders when I attempt to convert to .pdf. There are a half dozen other issues that I’m hoping to work through. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll get everything resolved this weekend.

KM Weiland talks about Options for Disasters in a Scene.
I love this quote from KM: “At the end of every single scene, you should be looking for a way to thwart your character’s hopes and make his life miserable… The point is to keep the pressure on and never let up.” Poor protagonist! I’d read a scene  from Battle Scars to my writers group last week that came across as the infamous “info dump.” Conflict! We want conflict. I keep repeating that to myself while working on the scenes leading up to King Richard’s capture. With any luck, that will be done this weekend, and yes, there will be conflict!

Thinking Around the Corner: Five Reasons You Need a Critique Group by Jonathan D. Allen at Shaggin the Muse
I’ve mentioned my own experience with my critique group here, here, and here. I’m very fortunate to have 3 great writers provide me feedback week after week. I hear the good and the bad. They are honest with their critiques – and they don’t always agree – and I don’t always agree with them. But that’s okay. When I’ve struggled to write a scene and think its crap, when I question whether I should be writing at all, they remind me that I’m a good storyteller. I still have a lot to learn, and they are helping me along the way.

What have you been reading?  Happy Friday to you! Have a great weekend.

 

the end is just the beginning…

The last ~4,000 words of my novel were well received at writers group last week. Satisfying, passionate, touching, emotional. Tied up all the loose ends. YES!

I don’t want you to think my writer friends just say glowing things because if all they did was squee then I wouldn’t grow as a writer. (Please, if I ever show signs of being a my-stuff-is-perfect-how-can-you-possibly-find-fault-with-it-snob then just smack me.)

I’ll need to work on a few things. I have to–oh, can’t tell you that. Hm. Highly appropriate to end at Christmas with references to–nope, can’t go there either. Okay, what can I tell you without giving too much away. Marie & Cathy feel a bit more drama is needed to close the Emma/Pete storyline. Must ‘punch it up’ with a sentence or two. (wink, wink). Need to watch repetitive words. Damn the adverbs.

Painless it was. Question is: will the revisions be painless? It’s exciting but a bit scary to think about. The writing was painful at times, wringing words from the heart. This novel touched areas I’d never explored. If writers group has been honest then I did capture the passion and the emotion I sought. They tell me I got better at it as the novel progressed. Confidence building 101 – woo-hoo!! Maybe, just maybe, I can believe them and other writers who tell me revisions are fun. The story is already down on paper, er, computer. Challenges await but I’m rolling up my sleeves and prepping myself to dive in.

tonight they hear THE END

I attend an (almost) weekly gathering of writers here in town. Cathy, Mark, and Marie have eagerly offered their critiques on the writing I’ve subjected them to, everything from Star Wars to historical fiction, poetry to drabbles, and my current endeavor, Keeping the Family Peace. For almost three years, I’ve heard words of encouragement that kept me plugging away at my novel until I finally wrote THE END after 95,200 words.

I actually wrote THE END about 4 weeks ago. Of course,  I continued to tweak the last couple of chapters until I finally said Enough! I haven’t touched it, haven’t even looked at it for the last 7 days. No more editing until I start the revisions around the 1st of February.

So I’m off to writers group. Let’s see whether they like the way this wraps.