The Finishing Process

I finished the first draft of the complete manuscript in December. The holidays took a tool and I got sick for awhile , but plodded on editing. Having written a non-fiction book and finding the editing to not be all that dificult, I was unprepared for how different and more difficult (in my opinion) it is to edit fiction.

First I read the whole thing through. Not the fastest task because I had 619 typed pages. It wasn’t long before I realized there was no way I could try to publish a War & Peace book and my critique group consistently pressures me to reduce the words…so I am.

It’s not easy to cut your own material. But I want to let the reader imagine more and I am deleting many superflourous words too.

I hope to finish and re-type, using Al Watt’s, The 90 Day Rewrite as well, this month- then off to th editor it goes. After that, the pubisher wll have it another six weeks. Hoping it’s in print by April.

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Locations and Setting

petroglyphsI’m researching the various places that my story wanders too. I want my readers to feel like they know just what I am talking about with my visual descriptions of these locations.

Since the story begins in the mountains above San Bernardino, CA, I have taken a number of trips to the towns in that area to gather both a feeling of connectedness and immersion into life in these mountains as this is where my protagonist, Skye Winter lives. The mountains are isolated and an unusual place for a young woman to want to live. She works however , as a college instructor, in a much more populated area, escaping into the theatrical area of fantasy for a living.

Other characters live or work in Orange County, a place where I have not only lived, but still frequently spend time in. A major love interest of Skye, Jake, while completing his doctorate in archaeology , takes her on a trip to experience petroglyphs. To prepare for this I have booked a hotel in Ridgecrest and a tour on the China Lake Naval base to see what I will describe for the characters, myself.

Of course some of this adventure takes place on another dimension, so you will have to take my word for it that they are there, LOL. However in the next book in the trilogy, Jake must go on a dig to South America. To that end in 2014- I will travel to Ecuador, where family lives, prompting a great excuse for a visit.

Making the setting real for me involves gathering as much first-hand knowledge as I can. Filling in blank spots will result in online Internet fact/picture hunting. It’s incredibly exciting to actually go to the places I am writing about when I can. I want as much accuracy as possible. That way when others read about these locations who have also been there, the story will feel that much more real to them.

Leaving my mind open to curiosity also attracts energy from the universe which in turn makes things happen. But that’s another story.

Letting My Mind Work in the Morning

IcelandI re-wrote some of yesterday’s scene. It was a passionate, sexual, love scene where the reader learns of Jake’s stronger feelings for the heroine as he prepares to be gone for two weeks. Sometimes I write something and as I visualize it, I fine tune it in my mind. Then not wanting to lose those details, corrections or additions, I go ahead and fix them instead of waiting for the re-write.

I know that I will edit many times over and sometimes even delete sections or whole ideas. It’s hard to do now and then because as a writer I feel there is a part of me in everything I write. I don’t mean it’s about me or even what I personally am feeling. It’s more like a piece of me or a possession of mine is being left on the cutting room floor. I kind of hate to let it go.

I’m sure most writers feel that way. Even when it’s crappy and I replace a line with something else, I wonder if it really makes it better. Of course most of the time it really does make it better.

I love that my subsonscious mind is working while I sleep. Often scenes come to me early in the still-dark morning. I’m still in the pre-dawn, twiight stage of sleep when things happen a lot. The imagery flashes in my mind. Maybe it’s only a line, a look from a character and suddenly I find myself adding a detail. I might change it over and over, honing it, fine tuning it. On occasion…dumping it. In my mind I’m thinking…that sucks…that’s stupid. He wouldn’t do that. She wouldn’t say that. Is there anything salvageable in this scene? If not, I let it go.

Every so often I dream a scene. Usually it is way out of context with what the story is about. I write it down as soon as I wake up. Often it stretches the story- becomes another angle- another possibility. I love that!

Sometimes I try to focus in a scene that is hard for me to write. Maybe I need more research before I can write it. I will delay that scene and write others- all out of chronological order. Then I will tackle the harder scene later – when I’ve researched or just can’t stand having the gap in the story missing that part. In the early morning the need to write those chapters pops up. I don’t tackle it at that time. I enjoy the pleasure of sleeping or just dreaming half awake instead. I tackle it seriously later.

I have disciplined myself to stay off the computer when I get up. I take care of my dogs and the birds- feeding them, drink some tea- eat some ceral – sometimes an egg, let the dogs hunker down for their first nap of the day and start to write, curled up on the couch, a warm throw over my pj’s and my hot tea nearby. I write for an hour or two before the day moves on. Works for me!

THE ANTAGONIST

In developing the antagonist for this story, I’ve had to think not just of a back story, but also of what drives this man and what his make-up is psychologically. He is a handsome, older man who is charming, rich and intelligent, but who also displays sociopathic traits.

Ryan is the CEO of a major production company and he attained that position, not because of working his way up the ladder to its highest post, or because he learned the ins and out of the business in minute detail, but because he inherited a great deal of money and took his positIon on the board by buying the company.

Demonstrating a disregard for the rights of others  in a repetitive, persistent pattern, continued from a childhood saga of cruelty and bizarre fantasies, Ryan is successful in hiding his behavior while pursuing increased power at the costs of others. His brilliant thinking and good looks bring women to him who he holds in contempt, much as he did his own mother. Women are to be used for carnal pleasure or as a means to attain a desired end.

He is self-assured, sometimes cocky, impatient, but when needed, he exudes a superficial charm , layered cleverly with such finesse, that he rarely reveals the deceit and manipulation he uses to obtain pleasure and profit.

He is after Skye, but to obtain the secrets he thinks she holds.  His character will be wonderfully rich as he brings conflict to the protagonist, Skye.

He is interesting to envision.

A Look Into the First Chapter…DIMENSION NORRÆNA

Yesterday I typed up a new rough first and second chapter. In the first chapter I hope to pull in the reader to the protagonist-introducing her as a person getting ready for the first day of a new semester at the college where she teaches Drama. She is settling in for the night when something very strange and alarming happens to her. I follow this with chapter 2 which shows us a little of what we might expect from the antagonist.

Here is a little taste:

I put the last folder in my slim, black briefcase. I wasn’t going to take the other bigger one. I had finished all the charting and Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) and was ready to connect with my fellow theatre colleagues. Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanza had all been observed appropriately and my decorations were long put away. The media reported that sales had been good for merchants.

Before we know it, we’ll be adding Three Kings Day to the mix.

I wondered what the holidays might have been like if I had had children…well if I had a husband even. The holidays were often lonely for me as my adoptive parents had passed on several years before. I had no family to speak of in California. I relied on friends to include me which thankfully they did.

Skye Winter. 33 and single. Maybe this year will bring some changes for me.

I had no reason to think that was likely, but I still had hope that my life had much more in store for me.

I double checked the doors and turned down the heat. The embers from the fireplace in the living room were still glowing. The fire screen looked closed and I flipped off the lights and headed to my bedroom. Living in the mountains was chilly, but I loved the crispness of the air up here. Having to drive down the hill to the college could be treacherous in the winter, but the roads were clear now. It hadn’t snowed since January 29th.

I got ready for bed. My usual ritual was to wash my face, brush my teeth and comb my hair. I looked in the mirror. My blonde hair hung loosely around my shoulders. My eyes looked tired. I finished up, dropped my jeans and warm Henley quickly on the arm chair and pulled a night shirt on. I set the alarm on my cell phone, plopped it on the night stand next to me and slid under the sheets and cozy white duvet. I liked to imagine that the fluffy spread was like being covered by a white cloud.

Well, not really. Clouds were damp or wet. Ugh.

I snuggled down, pulling the covers up to my neck. I adjusted my head on the pillow. The house was very still. A slight breeze rustled through the pines outside.

The Readers Image of the Main Character

I plan to spend today typing chapters. I have written a different first chapter. The first one I wrote  is better a little further in as it describes my lead character (Skye Winter) as she starts a new semester at the college where she teaches in California. This chapter also gives a glimpse of her attraction to the Technical Director for the theatre at the college and some insight into the nature of life at this time.

A fellow writer in the writers club (of which I am currently President) lectured on how she uses movie stars to picture her characters. I think she cuts out photos of them and that helps her describe them more thoroughly and gives her other cues. I thought that was a great idea when I first heard it. Now, however, I look at the various choices the movie industry had for Christian Grey in 50 Shades of Grey and the man they chose, while absolutely gorgeous and I can see why they chose him, was not the image that I had in mind myself. Then I learned there was a whole site on line where people were posting pictures of men they thought looked like their Christian. They were all pretty different.

So it occurs to me that everyone wants to have their own image of the characters. I need to leave some room for their imaginations.  Below  is the image of my Christian and the producers’ idea of Christian.

 

Image  Image

Discovering the Backstory of the Antagonist

Every day that I write I learn more about fully developing my characters. Today I worked on Ryan Eddington. (I’d much rather write about the protagonist/hero, Skye Winter, but eventually I will learn to find redeeming points about Ryan’s character. He has to have depth because he drives the story. As a major character he brings about surprises, conflict, reversals of the plot, right?

So I began to imagine his back story. His mother was odd, obsessive and withdrawn. His father was abusive in many ways. He did things as a child that suggest he had no conscience or very little. He watched ants in an ant farm- held up the two pieces of pressed glass and laughed because they could not get out . He scooped out fish from his father’s aquarium and laid them on a table top to watch them suffocate.

In junior high he was taunted for being different and picked on and beaten up by  group of boys.

In high school he loved cutting open frogs in biology. He worked out and became strong and well-built. He was handsome and girls in his class all vied for him- the younger girls in school did, too. He found them pretty and soft, but had no respect for them . He was smart, artistic, athletic, but a loner much of the time. He was on the wrestling team.

He becomes the CEO of a large production company and  a self-made multi-millionaire.

I have a lot more detail- but Ugh- I don’t much like this guy.