22 June 2016

The 2nd Most Exciting Thing About Writing A Novel

This week I applied for the copyright to Vocation, and I am one step closer to publication. Applying for a copyright is probably the second most exciting thing about writing a novel.  I’m not sure why I find it so exciting. Maybe because it is a confirmation that the novel actually exists. Copyright makes it official, maybe like a birth certificate of sorts. I don’t really know.

And what is the most exciting thing about writing a novel? The first reader’s feedback. And I can’t wait.

Just this past month, I’ve gone through a whole range of emotions about this novel. After reading it so many times, I was at the point that I thought it was the worst thing I have ever written. Who would ever read it? But then after a healthy distance, I re-read it one last time, and I can honestly say, it’s not half bad. It’s mine. I wrote it, and I’m pretty happy about it.

20 June 2016

No More Deadlines! A Time to Celebrate!

It is time to celebrate. I finished the final draft of Vocation. Next week it will be in the hands of my proofreader.

I have learned a lot about writing and myself during this novel. The most valuable lesson I have learned is not to set deadlines. Goals are good. Goals help motive you and keep you on track. Deadlines are bad, even deadly.

I set a deadline for Vocation's publication—August of 2015. It didn’t happen. Then I set another deadline—December of 2015. That didn’t happen. Then another—May of 2016. It still didn’t happen.

There are a few reasons why I never met those deadlines—a new job, the illness and death of my father, and fear. Mostly fear kept me from reaching deadline after deadline.

I began Vocation in August of 2013. I started writing it while A Future Spring was being read by beta readers and critique partners. I continued writing it while AFS was proofread, formatted and published. Vocation took almost three years to write. It is shorter than AFS and took three times as long to write it.

Why?

Sure, time restraints, distractions, revisions, plot problems, all these things factored into delay after delay. But mostly, I put pressure on myself, creating unnecessary stress, because I was fearful that AFS was a fluke. I was fearful that I simply could not write a second novel.

But now that all the revisions are done, I have proven to myself that I can write a second novel. And that has given me a sense of freedom.

I think Vocation will always be special to me. Not because it is a great novel. It is a simple story, really, nothing grand. But it represents freedom. In a strange turn of events, the characters in Vocation (my own creations) gave me the courage to push through the fear, to overcome the obstacle, and prove that I can write another novel. Bridget and Philip, in a strange way, helped me overcome my fear by pleading with me to tell their story. And in the end, I couldn’t resist. I had to do it.

Friday, June 17, 2016, was the official day that Vocation was finished. Since then I have written almost 3,000 words on novel three. That is freedom! There is no fear and no pressure now. Book two is behind me. It is finished. There is no fear about book three. There are already characters and the beginnings of a plot. I can relax and let the story take me along for the ride. My new characters are in the driver’s seat, so I am now able to relax and let them drive me wherever they want to go, and there are no deadlines with this one—however long it takes is fine with me. 

So when will Vocation be published? My goal is August of 2016—no more deadlines.   

13 June 2016

The Naming of Characters

The naming of characters is a difficult matter. Okay. I stole that from T.S. Eliot’s Poem, “The Naming of Cats,” from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. The original line is: “The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter.”

I agree on both points. The naming of cats is a difficult matter, but so is the naming of characters.

Why is it so difficult to name my characters? Because once they are named, they become real. Their names give them an identity, so I don’t take the naming of characters lightly.

Here is how I go about the matter of naming characters.

First, when choosing a name, especially for a major character, I always choose a name that I like. By my experience, it takes two to three years to write a novel. That is two or three years I have to live with the characters—and their names. So it just makes sense for me to like the name I have to type over and over and over. Examples of this are Ginny Dalton, Scott James, Bridget Landry, and Philip Beaumont. The names sound nice to my ears, yet they are everyday names. They are believable and don’t sound contrived.

Once I decide on a first and last name, I usually do a Google search. First, I search to be sure there isn’t a really famous person with the same name. Second, I search to see if there is someone out there with the same name. If there is, and there usually is, I know that it is a believable name.

When choosing first names, I usually just choose one that I like. There is a lot of thought behind the first names I choose. That is mainly because I have to like the sound of it, but it is also because the name has to fit the character. It is strange how a character slowly develops and takes on his or her name. A great example of this is Bridget Landry. She was a minor character in A Future Spring. Then she developed into a major character in Vocation. Through the process she grew into her graceful name. It is really an interesting process.

Here are some of my characters and where their surnames came from:

Ginny Dalton—Dalton came from British actor, Timothy Dalton. I remember the painful process of choosing Ginny’s last name. It took a long, long time for me to find her last name. I searched and searched, and nothing seemed quite right. I never settle on a name that doesn’t seem right, so Ginny was without a last name for a long time. Then I stumbled upon Dalton, and I knew I had found Ginny’s name.

Scott James—James came from novelist, Henry James. I wanted something short and to the point for Scott, since he is a no-nonsense police detective. Scott James was the quickest name I have ever chosen for a character. It was right from the very beginning. In fact, his name came before I even had a story.

Bridget Landry—I liked the name Bridget and decided I would use it somewhere. Bridget was intended to be a minor character, but she was so complex, even in her two scenes in A Future Spring, that I knew she had to tell her own story. That story became Vocation. Landry came from a list of priests in my local diocese. Putting the two names together created a graceful name, and I immediately liked it.

Philip Beaumont—Beaumont came from actor Hugh Beaumont, Ward Cleaver on Leave it to Beaver. It is a beautiful name, and who doesn’t like Hugh Beaumont? The use of Beaumont began in AFS with Philip’s brother, Mark.

So that is a glimpse into how I choose some of the names for my characters.

However, there is one character for whom I have broken all the rules. He is the hero of Vocation, and as the hero, I simply could not choose a name for him. He would not allow it. He chose his own name. He, in many ways, existed before I put him on the pages of my novel. He existed before Bridget existed. You will have to read Vocation to find out what his name is and why it (and he) are so special.

06 June 2016

Update on Vocation

Last week I received a gentle reminder that I have not written a blog in a month. It is true, and it is nice to know that someone noticed. Although I haven’t written a blog, I have been writing and re-writing and re-writing.

For weeks now I have been reading and revising Vocation, and I can finally say I am in the last stages.

After I received feedback from my critique partners, I was back to my manuscript changing things, adding things, and deleting things, and the process is not done once. It is done many times until everything “fits” together in the best way I know how.

After weeks of revisions, I am finally ready to do the final one. This last revision is my favorite part of writing a novel. The story is done. The characters are developed. The hard work is over. Now I can sit back and re-read my novel one more time, sentence by sentence, choosing the right word and the right phrasing to tell my story. This is a long process, and it cannot be rushed, so I have to resign myself to the fact that it will be a few more weeks until I send Vocation out for technical help—proofreading and formatting.

I also spent some time this last week writing the first scene of my third novel. Novel three (it has no title yet) has been brewing in my mind, and I had to sit down and get some things typed out.

When Vocation is sent for proofreading and formatting, I will be free to start devoting more time to the next novel that is now bursting to come out, and it is an exciting time. I honestly don’t know where this novel will go, and I am eager to find out. And the whole process will start all over again with a new story and a new set of characters.

And characters will be the subject of my next blog.

Until then . . .