It’s been a hectic week! October is our busy month at work and Saturday we put on a major event so writing had to take a back seat. Even so, I edited another three chapter of Lotus Leaf bringing me up to 12 chapters. Next week I’ll have time to really focus. This little hiatus got me thinking about priorities. You just aren’t going to make it as a writer without making the act of writing a pretty high priority. So what comes ahead of writing? 1) God 2) My husband 3) Family and friends 4) Work Fifth place seemed a little low on the totem pole until I began to think of all the things with lower priority: television, reading (only slightly lower), gardening, cooking for fun, socializing, hiking, traveling, surfing the Internet, learning anything new (I used to take the occasional class for fun), going out on the town and on and on. Priorities! What are your top five?
So if you’re going to be a writer–or a anything else for that matter–it really, really helps to have a support system. Friends and family who will cheer for you, console you, give you good advice and always be on your side. I’m blessed to have a wonderful support system. There are the friends who have read my manuscript (or parts of it) and given me good advice. There’s the editor who although hired, has been incredibly generous with her time and knowledge. There’s my husband who gives me time and space to write and wrangle and rejoice. And then there’s my family. Kuddos to my dad for giving me the “big head” by telling me how beautiful and smart and wonderful I am since day one. Kuddos to my mom for being a steady, supportive source of encouragement all my life. Today, I got a package from my mom containing “Sol Stein on Writing,” and “How to Grow a Novel,” also by Sol Stein. These are two books that any writer should have on their shelf as a reference. I’d been meaning to order them, but hadn’t gotten around to it. That’s what moms are for. They now what you need without your having to tell them. Thanks support system. Thanks mom. I love you and I wouldn’t be a writer without you.
This week I’ve been working on The Lotus Leaf Effect. I’ve changed some basics about the story and have reworked the first nine chapters. I’ve deleted about 10 pages and have added back six or so of new dialogue and storyline for a net loss of four pages. (It’s like trying to lose weight. I was down eight pages at one point–then suddenly I’d gained four of those back!) I know I need to keep paring it down, but my plan is to rework the threads I’m changing and then come back to hack at it as a whole. My goal is to have a new draft by early November. Last week I was reading a blog about some of the things editors don’t like to see in a manuscript. Number 2 was a character looking in the mirror in order to give the reader a description of that character’s appearance. Oops. Revised that, too. So much to learn!
Jim and I attended a fundraiser for Carolina Day School and the Literacy Council of Buncombe County this week. It was a reception for and talk by Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Historian (2005) and The Swan Thieves (2010). The Historian was the first debut novel to ever make it to the number one spot on the New York Times bestseller list in its first week. It is the fastest selling debut novel ever. I will confess I was more interested in meeting a hugely successful author than I was in supporting either non-profit agency. But after the event I realized that I should have been much more interested in supporting learning and reading than I was in schmoozing. Did you know that 43% of adult Americans read at or below the most basic reading level? And that among industrialized nations, the US is FIFTH in literacy skills? I was astonished. I read and write every day. I take it utterly for granted. Harper Lee said, “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” If you can read, read The Historian, it’s delightfully eerie and although it’s lengthy, it will hold you. And if you can read, find out how you can help someone who can’t, learn how. The Literacy Council.
A co-worker has begun walking to work each day. Admirable, right? You have no idea. She lives FIVE MILES away. She read a book about living well without a car and decided to give it a try. It takes her about an hour and a half to make the walk. Fortunately the weather has been gorgeous–crisp and cool–but she says she’s going to try and keep it up even in the face of rain and snow. Of course, this takes strength and stamina, but the thing that impresses me is the TIME it takes. I travel about 10 miles to work and it takes me 15-20 minutes (windy, back roads). If I’m in a hurry, that drive takes forever. I have things to DO–working, writing, exercising (that’s kind of ironic), cooking, reading, relaxing. The list goes on and on. But my friend doesn’t see this as a sacrifice of time. She takes her iPod and listens to books on tape, podcasts, music. She notices the changing landscape, businesses, people. She’s realized that there’s a kind of prejudice toward walkers. Drivers assume there must be some negative reason for walking. Maybe she lost her license. Maybe she can’t afford a car. I’m not planning on walking to work any time soon, but my friend has given me pause. I don’t have to rush headlong to get where I’m going. I can take my time and enjoy the journey.
Pages written = 6 Total pages = 96 And that’s probably going to be it for October on “A Hunger So Deep.” In light of the notes I received on my first chapter of “The Lotus Leaf Effect” it’s time for some heavy revising! I’ve reworked the first three chapters and have cut eight pages so far. I probably need to cut more, but I’m trying not to get too crazy. It’s funny, when I sent my pages to Jamie, I wasn’t at all sure what she would find to criticize (constructively, mind you!). And now that I have her notes, it’s all so obvious. Do we really need a three-paragraph description of making apple butter just because Ella ate some on a biscuit? No, we do not. I keep reading and asking myself if each action, description, conversation, etc. advances the storyline. Or am I indulging myself in some nostalgia? Here’s the problem with writing what you know–ready? You probably know way more than anyone else cares to know. Edit! Filter! Weed out! And the funny thing is, I’m enjoying this. I thought it would be hard to cut, but when it’s making the end product so much better, it feels really good. Back to it.
So I heard back from the editor in Tennessee and I’m so excited! She didn’t have terrible things to say about my writing overall–not too much passive voice or telling rather than showing. Basically, she thinks the problem is that my story moves too slowly. And I see what she means. I need to amp up the action (no car chases, maybe less wandering about the farm thinking and setting the scene). And I need to get a little more of my own passion into my words. This is BIG STUFF I’m writing about, the characters need to take things a little less in stride, maybe. So, I’m going to go over the notes several times, hash out some new directions and edit, edit, edit. Then I’ll work up the nerve to pull publishing house editor #3 out of my back pocket and try again. Pray that I don’t get in a hurry or jump the gun. Check out Jamie Chavez if you need some professional writing help–her link is on the right side of the page. A charming and kind lady with great tact and more than a little insight into the Christian publishing business.