Thursday, October 30, 2014

On Writing: The End

Yes, the rumors are true. I finished my book this week. I'm just going to stop for a moment and celebrate the fact that I have actually written an entire book. It's 112,000 words, so about the length of Twilight or The Golden Compass, and if you've read either of those stellar works of literature, well, good for you. Anyway, it's a full-on, novel-length book, and I hope you can forgive me for feeling pretty pleased with myself.

After writing my last post about reaching 100,000 words, I struggled for several weeks to reach the ending I was aiming for. And then on Sunday, I got mad, gave up on that ending, and took a completely different direction. Two days later, I was writing furiously and suddenly I realized I was at the end. I'm not sure yet if I love it or hate it, or even if I'll keep it, but for now, it works. It's actually pretty good.

Now for the bad news.

While I was struggling through those last few chapters this month, I realized (thanks in part to input from friends who will remain nameless) that part of the problem with getting to the ending is that the middle of the book lags pretty badly. The story just sort of meanders along aimlessly for a few chapters and doesn't really build to a good ending. So now that I've finished this draft, I'm going to take a deep breath and enjoy the feeling for a week or so, and then go back and rewrite most of the middle. Because yeah, I wrote a book, and there are good parts to it, and I really like the characters, but the story as a whole still isn't very good. So, I'll let it rest for a little bit and then it'll be time to open it back up, rip it apart (again) and see what I can salvage from it this time.

Writing a book is definitely a learning experience for me. It's not as though I've ever done this before. Yeah, I've written bits and pieces of various stories over the years, but an entire novel that carries one plot from the beginning through the end, that's new. I'm still not very good at it, but I think I'm getting better. I'm enjoying the process, despite occasionally panicking and deciding that I hate my book and I can't actually write and I'm wasting a whole lot of time and effort on a completely useless pursuit. It's fun.

I appreciate all of you who have been asking how my book is going. It's really sweet to know that there are people who actually care, or are curious, at least. No news yet on when anyone (except those nameless few) will actually get to read it, though. It still needs lots of work and lots of love from lots of people I haven't met yet. But for today I'll just say I wrote a book, and I'm pretty happy about that.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

On My Best Friend's Book

If by some chance you've had your head under a rock and didn't realize it, Inseparable by Ashley Linne released this week. Ashley has been my BFF since before that was a thing. We met in first grade and have been best friends ever since. We were even roommates for a year in college, before I ditched her to get married. Over the years we've had ups and downs and disagreements, like friends do, but if I'm being perfectly honest I have to admit that the vast majority of those were my fault. But the beauty of this friendship that has lasted for over twenty-five years (Crazy!) is that it is based on the fact that we both have very deep beliefs about God and His word that are very similar. And because of that, I can wholeheartedly endorse this book that she has written. In fact, as I read through it I kept thinking, wow, that's exactly how I would have said that.

In college, Ashley and I shared a mentor who took us through a study on our identity in Christ. I know that made a profound impact on both of us. Based on concepts found in the book of Romans, Inseparable really dives into the truth of who God has declared his children to be. Walking the path of the Christian life from the moment of being made right in Christ through eternity, Ashley draws on her experience in studying theology (she has a Bachelor's degree in Religion and has master's level work on the subject) and her studies in human behavior (her Master's degree is in Family Life Education), as well as her deeply personal struggles with questioning God's love for her, to craft a book that is deeply theological, very practical, and intensely emotional. She doesn't pull punches, and she doesn't hide her pain. If you embark on this study with her, you will find much more than a "how to" manual on the Christian life. You will look deep into God's truth and contemplate what it means in your own life. You might even find yourself changed by the experience.

This is an undeniably girly book. From the purple cover to the butterflies that adorn every page, the language, and the approach, it definitely fits the "by women, for women" image of the InScribed Studies. But it does contain scriptural truth that is applicable for everyone, and I'd guess that any brave guys out there who can get past the girly presentation would be encouraged by the message, as well. I like how the InScribed books are put together (I also have Dive Deeper by Jenifer Jernigan), with the end flaps that conveniently help keep your place, and the personal notes written on the front flap. Ashley is not only an author in the series, but she had a pivotal role in bringing it all together, and I couldn't be more proud of all that she has accomplished. Definitely check out this study, for yourself or a woman in your life. You'll be glad you did.

Keep up with Ashley by following her blog:

Saturday, October 4, 2014

On Writing: 100,000 words

This week my novel tipped the word count at over 100,000 words. I've found that while writers tend to think in terms of word count and automatically have an idea of what 100,000 means, readers often want to know how many pages that is. Word count is a solid, tangible number, while page count is rather ambiguous in an unpublished work. The number of pages in a book depends on several factors, including format (paperback or hardcover), font, print size, front matter, back matter, chapters, sections... That being said, not that anyone is counting, but if my book were published in its current state, it would be somewhere around 300 pages, give or take 50 or so. But let's not talk about my book being published in its current state. I'm already breaking out in hives.

Honestly, I never thought I could write a book that was 100,000 words long. Don't get me wrong, I know I can be pretty wordy. I decided when I was ten years old that I would never be a short story writer. Novels are my thing. I love action and drama and fast-paced, quick-moving stories... in movies. In a book, I like to take my time to get to know characters and love them before things happen in their lives, while things are happening, and after the things happen. That's what I love, so that's what I write.

Characters take time to develop. Just like first impressions in real life, where you can make a snap judgment in five minutes and decide whether or not you're going to like a person, very often you can tell within five pages of a book if you're going to like a character enough to invest in them for the next 300 pages or so. But then there's the fun of really diving in to what makes this person tick, watching relationships unfold and stretch and change, seeing how they respond in various situations and wondering if you would react the same way. That's what's fun about stories, isn't it? Escaping your own life and immersing yourself in someone else's, just for pure entertainment. Sometimes you even learn something along the way. Again, that's what I love, so that's what I write.

Still, when your novel is limping along at 55,000 words (barely a novella by most standards), which is where mine was a year and a half ago, 100,000 seems like an impossible target. When I embarked on this major rewrite, adding important things like a plot to my story, I set 80,000 as my target goal. Surely I couldn't add 45,000 additional words to what I thought was already a fairly complete story, but 25,000 seemed reasonable. Then as I kept writing, and the plot and the characters kept developing, and one minor character kept demanding more of a role, I looked at my outline (yes, I do look at it sometimes) and thought, "This thing could go massive. Like, I'm not sure if it will be less than 130,000 words." But I kept writing because I figured, hey, if I can add that many words, I can just as easily cut out that many when it's time to get it into shape to try to submit it for publication. Then a few weeks ago, out of nowhere, I wrote a short piece of a scene that just popped into my head and thought, "Hey, you know what? This sounds like an ending." So now I've been writing toward that, and I'm only a chapter or two away, so 110,000 is sounding like a really good total number of words for this draft. And let me be clear: it's a draft. The kind of thing that only a few patient people who really love me would be willing to read through. It needs lots of work, still. But I'm much, much happier with it now than I was a year and a half ago. Who knows, maybe in another year and a half (or less!) I might have something that I'd be ready to let the whole world read. We'll see. For now, I'm going to enjoy this moment, knowing that I've written more words in a single story than I ever have before, and focus on writing on to that ending!

(In case you're wondering, this entire post is about 730 words)