“Savage Chickens” Sums Up My Life Pt. 2

Most days end with me stomping away, frustrated, vowing never to write again. Now I know why.

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One day you are in. The next, you are out.

I feel like Heidi Klum has stepped into my book and started eliminating characters and plotlines as if they were contestants on Project Runway.

63 pages into Chapter 5, I have decided to change the story completely.

As Heidi would say, “Chapter 5, you are out.”

It’s a little scary to think that I am throwing an entire chapter out and starting from scratch, especially since it’s the last chapter of the book, but I think it’s the right thing to do. The chapter just wasn’t sexy. I was up last night trying to create an outline and it started to unfold a little, but I realized that it wasn’t a story that I wanted to read. No wonder I didn’t want to write it. So this morning, as I was making chicken taquitoes for breakfast (the breakfast of champions by the way), a new storyline came to me. This was a story that I wanted to read – a story I found interesting. I could write this.

And so I shall.

I really should stop resisting the outlining process. It’s helpful, even if the outline simply tells me what I don’t want to write about.

In my best Heidi Klum voice, “Outlining, you are in. You may leave the runway.”

Chapter 5, you are out.

Chapter 2 is DONE!!!!!

A few weeks ago I finished Chapter 2. I have bitched and moaned about this chapter for as long as I have been working on this book, and then one day, it just wrapped itself up. Admittedly, it was a little anticlimactic, given the hell I went through. Maybe that’s why I didn’t post this blog until now. But today, I feel like it was worth it.

I’m now working on the final chapter of the book. It feels a lot like chapter 2, but I know it’s just because I don’t have a clear picture of where I want to take my characters. When in doubt, return to the basics. I have relented and decided to outline the chapter in full. It’s what I should have done from the beginning, but alas…

Wish me luck.

The Shoemaker’s Wife

Cover art for Trigiani’s novel.

Writers are readers, and I love a good book. I decided to read Adriana Trigiani’s latest novel The Shoemaker’s Wife simply because it is historical fiction, and (ta-da) I’m writing an historical fiction novel as well. The book is the love story of two young Italians – Ciro, a poor orphan boy raised by nuns, and Enza, a young girl determined to keep her family together.

As I sit here writing about this blog, I’m finding myself at a loss for words (which hardly ever happens to me!) I liked the book. I read it as a tool to sharpen my own writing, which I think it did. Usually, when I read for that purpose, I find myself lost in the story and the emotion of being invited into the lives of the characters. I can’t say that happened too often in this book. By all means, Trigiani is a talented writer and a deft storyteller. The characters were likable, and the setting, both in Italy and America, proved to be ripe with opportunity and adventure. In fact, I wish I could say that I loved this book, and not just because I paid full hard cover price to receive it the day it came out, but I didn’t . I liked it.

What was most valuable about the book, though, was feeling a kinship with Trigiani. She appeared on a morning show to publicize the book and spoke about the process of writing it, and how long it took her. After reading the book, and seeing all the detail she poured into it, I understand why it took her so long. Everything has to be researched. What were the fashions then? How did one travel? What technology existed? What edifices? What medical treatments were available? What streets existed? What was the nature of industry then? So often I spend my days researching even the smallest thing. Can my character say that? How do they travel? What were the politics of that time? Is it a phrase based on something that came about much later. I think about my friend’s mother who wrote a story that took place during slavery. Her publisher immediately sent back the manuscript and told her to take out every “okay” because that phrase wouldn’t come about until much, much later.

I came away from this book with a healthy respect for Trigiani’s work, and a reassurance that my novel, though slow-going, can be completed with historical accuracy.

A Few Things About Love – Part 5: 1+1=1

The posts about love have been as much for me as they have been for my writing and my characters. So, what have I learned?

Well, to sum it up, 1+1=1. When one emotionally whole person unites with another emotionally whole person, they can create one loving, healthy, happy, bonded unit. It seems so simple, but we have so many poor models of relationships today. I can’t speak to any one person’s experience, but with a 50% divorce rate in the U.S., many of us are watching relationships fall apart before our very eyes. While there are a cornucopia of reasons why relationships end, how many of those reasons are preventable, and of those, how many do we repeat simply because we don’t know any better?

What does all this have to do with my writing? My goal was to show my characters grow in maturity over the course of the novel. In the beginning, the main love interests cannot be together because they aren’t ready to handle the responsibility of a relationship with their soul mate. But now, nearing the end of the book, they have to be ready to be together. While I don’t want everything to be wrapped up in a bow, I want to depict a romantic, functional, productive, and lasting relationship between two healthy people.

I guess that’s what I learned. And I guess that’s what I need to write. And I guess, now I feel more pressure than I did before. Great… The one difference, though, I feel prepared to write again.

Books For Thought, Care of My Sister

Everyday for a week leading up to Christmas, my sister mentioned repeatedly that she hoped I liked the gift she got for me. I assured her, whatever it was, I’m sure I would love it. Just the fact that she was so concerned warmed my heart. When I opened the gift – I was thrilled. She bought me two books, both of which have come in handy while trying to finish this book – which is kicking my ass, by the way.

Book #1: The Big Book of Words You Should KnowImage 

Being a logophile, I was immediately excited by this book. It’s a lexicon of  fun words. I sometimes find myself reading it at night like a riveting piece of fiction. 

 

 

 

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Book #2: Creating Character Emotions

This book by Ann Hood is a writing class condensed into small sections targeting how to convey your character’s emotions. Each section focuses on a different emotion. She offers bad examples of emotion, and then ends each section with good examples and homework to practice your newly acquired skills. 

I recently used this book for a section in Chapter 5 of my book. A main character goes missing, and her son is worried that she may be dead. A person in this situation experiences a bevy of emotions. The task is to explore these emotions in all their breadth and complexity. It’s not enough to just say, “He was worried about his mother.” What does that mean? We worry about all kinds of things. We worry about things as banal as whether or not the DVR is set to catch the Big Bang Theory, to things so far outside of our grasp, like world peace. This book helped me navigate my character’s emotions in a truthful, dramatic, and satisfying way. and that excites me. 

A big thanks to my sister for these awesome Christmas presents. They are already making me a better writer.