Thursday, August 31, 2006

So what's this book gonna be about, anyway?

With wonderful help from Beth on the Compuserve Forum (who basically conked me over the head with the fact that my "query summary"- as written - was generic and likely to get looked over) I have rewritten the mini-synopsis of the book:

"Ye canna change the past. Ye can only do what ye have already done."

So speaks an old woman to physicist Elspeth Clarke as she boards the ferry to visit historic Kilchurn Castle. Elspeth is in Scotland for a summer trip, seeking to forget her troubles after a betrayal by her fiancĂ© and best friend just weeks before her wedding. While exploring the picturesque ruins, she makes an incredible discovery: Kilchurn Castle was built around a wrinkle in the fabric of space-time. Unfortunately, the discovery is made by Elspeth's accidental journey through the wormhole, and she comes to disoriented, sick...and 300 years in the past. She immediately tries to return to her own time, but she is hampered by "Grey" John Campbell, Earl of Breadalbane and Holland and owner of Kilchurn. The politically avaricious Earl has found Elspeth's historical notes and intends to exploit her knowledge of the future for his own gain. Elspeth flees the castle and soon finds herself under the protection of handsome Alasdair MacAlpin. As she learns new skills and struggles to fit in with "Alec's" people, Elspeth realizes she is falling for the gallant Scot. Alec, however, cannot return her feelings—at least openly—because he must make a marriage that brings alliance or wealth to his beleaguered clan.

By now it is the winter of 1691-92, and Elspeth recalls with horror the slaughter of the Glencoe MacDonalds that will take place at the hands of the Campbells. She and Alec journey north in an attempt to prevent it, but they arrive in the midst of the massacre and are separated. Alec's true clan—the outlawed MacGregors—is revealed during the struggle, and he is taken captive back to Kilchurn, where he is sentenced to death. Bribing her way into the castle on the eve of his execution, Elspeth spends one night with Alec and leaves him with a promise to forget him and flee. Instead she goes to the Earl and secretly bargains for his release with the only thing she has—her life—gambling that she will find a way to return to her own time. When Alec returns from captivity and hears that Elspeth has been killed at Kilchurn, but no body was buried, he risks everything by seeking to travel to her time and search her out, not knowing if she is truly alive, but not willing to admit that the woman he loves is dead.

In other news, I have broken 8,000 words. Woohoo! My current goal is to be at 24,000-25,000 by Surrey (late October).

Gaidhlig Phrase of the Day: mo bhean. "My wife."

Edited to update: I added another 2,000 words tonight. I am now 1/10th of the way done. Woohoo! It's funny, thinking of what I have as 1/10th makes it seem like quite a bit and like it shouldn't take too much to get the rest of the way done. But then I think about how much of the story I have down, and it doesn't seem like that much. I have so much more stuff to put in there; I hope I don't have a problem keeping my word count down...

Monday, August 28, 2006


Gaidhlig Phrase of the Day: Tapadh leat/Tapadh leibh. "Thank you." (singular, informal/plural or singular, formal)

Forgive the subject line, I was channeling the soccer announcers you hear on matches televised in Mexico...

Anyway, yeah, I reached my goal! So woo for that. I am now, the observant among you will note, at 7,300 words. I had hoped to reach an even 7,000 by the end of August, but I got on a roll today and now I think I'll try to stick another grand on there for a total of 8,000 by Thursday. In my current mood, it seems doable.

Why all the sudden progress? Well, aside from being very busy at the day job and at home, the past few weeks have really been spent in research and contemplation. All the necessary stuff before a story can really take off. I'm finally to a point where I can start writing and just go again, because I know the general direction I want to actually go.

The first couple of weeks after I decided to write this book, I kind of sat around and played with ideas, waiting for inspiration. Then inspiration struck! and I had the basis for my storyline. I wrote a few scenes, got a feel for the characters and got an idea of what I needed to know before I went on.

At that point, a few weeks ago, I started researching in earnest. I narrowed down a time frame, found a historical location and bad guy, got a feel for the cultural and historical setting, and refined my story idea. There were some things I couldn't go forward without knowing, and I had to figure those out.

Then last week I sat down to write an outline. I started off this project as a "chunker," and I have a feeling I will write large parts of it in that fashion. But at heart I am a listmaker, and I love to have things laid out and organized. So once I thought I knew what my plot was going to be, I decided to jot it down for future reference and revision. That quickly turned into 3 hand-written notebook pages, front and back, that mapped out most of the story and actually led to some more brainstorming and ideas for plot elements (such as the time travel mechanism).

I didn't get much time over the weekend, but today was a fresh start and I did have a goal to meet. I went in to tweak/update the scenes I wrote originally in light of what I had decided through the research, and while I was updating my opening scene, the words just kept coming.

So I've made quite a bit of progess, and for the moment I'm writing linearly. Other scenes are percolating in my head, though, and when they decide to pop up I'll get them "on paper" (which is funny, 'cause this is all on the computer - there is no paper yet).

One frustrating thing is that I can't log into the Compuserve forum from home, because the login is wonky. But I can't access the ForumsAmerica workshop at work, because the Powers That Be in IT have blocked the domain. So my ability to interact with my writing friends is hampered no matter where I go. I think I'm going to have to do all my crits for the workshop over weekends, and save the weeknights for writing.

Another dilemma - now that I have a decent chunk of the first chapter, and a query letter draft (see yesterday's post) I'm trying to decide whether to submit for Miss Snark's crapometer. She said she doesn't usually do romance, but she'll accept submissions for such in the crapometer contest. I guess I'm a glutton for punishment, since I submitted my (original) opening to Evil Editor. We'll see. Even if I do submit, it might not get chosen. Again, with only 7,300 words, I'm really putting the cart before the horse here, but I think that constructive criticism this early on is helpful so I don't get too set in erroneous ways. *grin*

Anyway, it grows late and if I'm going to keep up my creativity, I do need to sleep every now and then.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Cart before the horse

Gaidhlig Phrase of the Day: Tha gu dearbh. "Yes indeed." (lit. "Indeed it is.")

[I actually have several subjects to address, not the least of which is still names and naming. But I thought that subject line sounded witty, and it does get to the heart of my current situation.]

In the process of transferring and updating all my currently-written bits to a flash drive, I came across (and subsequently transferred and updated) a draft for a query letter that I had written after reading some discussions of query letters and how to write them for maximal effect. If I may say so, it's pretty darn good. In fact, I feel pretty confident that--were I to be now beginning the query process--I would be able to generate agent interest and probably find representation. Queries, resumes, cover letters...give me some guidelines and I have usually been able to write pretty effective stuff. Now if I only had a book to sell, I could get rolling. I need to just tear myself away from that aspect of writing and concentrate on the actual manuscript. Plenty of time for researching how to sell when I have something to sell. On the other hand, the query did get me to write a very concise premise summary that helped me clarify the overall direction of the book.

What's in a Name? Part Deux...

So, after having posted it and thought about it for a few days, I've decided that I like the male lead's name and am sticking with it. I'm starting to think of him in terms of that name, which is always (in my mind) a Good Sign. Alec MacGregor it is. So now I'm going through and editing all existing story bits and putting his name in, along with the Bad Guy's name (John Campbell...I know, there were tons of them back then, but this one happens to be the first Earl of Breadalbane and Holland).

Funny story: the clinic I work for just hired a new doctor. I worked with him on Friday. His name? Andrew MacGregor. He's not Scottish, but his name sure is. I know I decided on Alasdair/Alec over Andrew for my male MC, but it's still funny 'cause that was almost his name.

But now I'm starting to rethink my poor heroine's name. "Elspeth Clarke" had always been my planned pen name, but the character laid claim to "Elspeth" pretty quickly and so I let her have it. I've been going along with Clarke as well, but now I'm starting to think that maybe I should give her a different last name, just in case my future publisher wants to use that last name or some close variant for me. I've been thinking "Rebecca Clarke" would work, although "Rebecca Timothy" and "Rebecca Gabriel" have also been suggested and aren't half bad. (Rebecca, incidentally, is my middle name.) I really liked "Rebecca Campbell" (Campbell actually being a family name on my dad's side) but that's already artist or singer, I think, is what popped up when I Googled it. Or perhaps "Jennifer Somethingorother." We shall see. But it wouldn't do to have an MC with the same last name as the author, so in case we do use Clark/Clarke for me I should go ahead and think of something else for her.

I want a Scottish surname, but not Mac-somethingorother because that's a bit too much. A nice, relatively short and nondistinctive name. Preferably from a clan or sept the MacGregors get along with, so help ease her way in that time. I've been looking into the Cameron and MacDonald septs, 'cause they're on pretty good terms with the Griogairach. I also kinda like Murray...need to look into that.

The joys of research.

I actually still haven't written much over the past week, but that tide's about to turn. I've been absorbed in research a great deal of the time, and I'm finally starting to get a feel for the time/place enough to allow me to start back into the story pretty strongly. The pile of books on my kitchen table was becoming overwhelming, so I finally managed to clear off an entire shelf of valuable bookshelf space in the office and put them all there. Most of them are library books, but I can renew online and if one of them ends up having to go back, I'm keeping a bibliography so I can request it again if I need it.

Another funny story: the majority of the books I'm using for research are, as I said, library books. I get online to the Lexington Public Library and request books from their online catalog and use their ILL service. The branch I have them sent to for pickup is a tiny little branch in a shopping center on my way home from work that caters mostly to the schoolkids who live in the area. So over the past few weeks, I've stopped in several times to pick up varying numbers of Scotland-related books. This past time, I couldn't find any of my requested books on the "hold request" shelf, despite having recieved e-mail notification of their arrival for pickup. Then I noticed a shelf on the back of the cart that was about 2/3 full and checked it.

I had my own shelf on the hold request cart. How cool is that? The staff there get a kick out of me. I think part of that has to do with my scooter, though...

Speaking of research, I've been conducting two forms. One (the majority) is historical research, plain and simple. The other I like to call "market research." Basically, I'm reading all the time-travel historical romances and the like set in Scotland I can get my hands on. And besides the Outlander stuff--which is thoroughly researched--it's really starting to get on my nerves.

Reason the first: the blatant historical inaccuracies get in my way of enjoying the story. Now, I know that you "can't let reality get in the way of a good story." But could we at least use historically appropriate names? I can pretty much guarantee that neither "Greylen" nor "Griffin" were used as names for Scottish men back in the day. And another huge pet peeve - even the slightest amount of reading up on clan tartans reveals that they weren't really "clan" tartans until the early 19th century or so. And even the "Great Kilt" was something seen after the 1500's. So don't have guys from the 12th century wearing a kilt in a clan tartan. Please.

Reason the second: I have now come across two books in this particular subgenre that have "brilliant physicists" as female MC's. I understand the reasoning--impress the reader with the intelligence and prestige of the character's profession. No problem. But if you are going to have characters that are physicists, please at least do a little research before you start having them expound on scientific ideas. Otherwise, real physicists/scientists (like myself) are going to groan and get annoyed when you use some phrase that probably sounds good on the page but is actually blatantly wrong or nonsensical. You lose your credibility that way.

I don't mean to sound snobbish. And I'm not saying don't write characters that don't share your own personal profession. I'm just saying that both of my reasons for getting annoyed with these books could be cleared up with a little research on the author's part. If you're going to write historicals, etc. that should be a given. Actually, the market would be a little easier to break into if that were a requiremnt. *sigh* It's why I respect Diana soooo much. If she has Claire do something medical or use an herb to treat something, she's looked it up. Descriptions of social customs, historical events, weapons...all accurate. It makes the book that much richer and draws you in to the story that much more.

So, yeah. This is a really long post. I'm gonna sign off her and go tweak book stuff for a bit, then retire. I'm working on an outline for the book, but that's a subject for another post. Starting tomorrow I'm going to begin writing again in earnest. I have 1300 words to come up with by Thursday, and I want to have 20,000 or so total by Surrey (still deciding about going).

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What's in a name?

Gaidhlig Word of the Day: piseag. "kitten" (Male MC ends up calling Elspeth this sometimes, as a pet name - no pun intended.)

Probably the biggest thing holding me back at this point is finding a name for the male lead. I need to settle on a clan for him, and it needs to be one of the clans near Loch Awe in the late 1600's. And I need a given name for him. Knowing who he is will really help me get far with regards to advancing the story. I mean, I have a lot of ideas of his personality and character, but now I need a social position.

I had originally thought the name Andrew would be nice. St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, after all. But you never hear of men in Scotland named Andrew. Odd.

The thing is, there were a really small handful of names that everyone used. And every time I hear one, I think of another character in another book. It's worse than trying to pick out a name for a baby!

Ooh, great site I found that helped with this:
They specialize in Scottish names and the Gaidhlig variants.

Ok, fine. Names tended to be re-used in families. I believe the historical figure I'm going to call great-grandfather for my male MC was Alasdair. That's the Gaidhlig form of Alexander. Dim. form is Ailig or Alec/Alex. I can handle that. Hmmm...Colin? I just like it. Makes a good middle name.

So, at this point it's looking like my male lead will be (fanfare, please):

Alasdair (Alexander) Colin MacGregor, aka MacAlpin, aka Fletcher, aka Coleman, aka ...

Yeah, MacGregor. Not like Rob Roy. Distant cousins, maybe, but Rob Roy was from the Glengyle branch, and my guy's from Glenstrae. This is, however, during the time of the proscription. Which gets my guy into Very Big Trouble later in the book when he's overheard claiming the MacGregor name. (cue ominous music) I may throw Malcolm in there somewhere (another very common MacGregor name) and/or whatever I decide is his mother's family name.

Wow, I was gonna post more but it's getting late. I didn't get any more written today, but I did get some good research done (on clothing, especially) and [I think] a name pinned down. We'll see how I like it over the next few days. I had meant to jot down a quick outline of the plot I have in mind thus far, but I didn't get to it. I'm a "chunk" writer, but now that I have a basic plotline it can't hurt to write it down. If any random chunks that aren't on the outline show up, I'll just modify and fit them in. *g*

My evening "book time" seems to be taken over by research every night. I actually write better in my office at work (go figure). So I might start using evenings for research primarily (and writing if a really good scene comes to me) and just take my lunch hour at work to write. We'll see how it goes.

Oh, and one last thing. I got DH's approval for Surrey. I booked a room. I've not finalized my decision to go yet, but better safe than sorry. I've already spent a lot of money this year, and I'm somewhat ashamed of our lack of savings at the moment. And the trip would not come cheap. But I really, really want to go, and it will be very good for me this early in my writing. To be determined...

Monday, August 21, 2006

Back in the saddle

Gaidhlig Phrase of the Day: Tha i breagha an-diugh. "It's a lovely day today."

Okay, you caught me. I haven't posted since last Thursday, and I haven't worked on the book much since then, either.

I had my reasons, but it's a fresh week and I still have another 1,000 words to go to meet my August goal, so I'd better get back to work. I'd really like to finish the month with at least an even 7,000 words. September's goal will be bigger - I'm thinking 2,000 words a week. That's a lot, but if I'd get my butt in gear I don't think it's impossible.

The biggest thing holding me back at this point is the holes in my setting. I'm narrowing down info all the time (I have a year, a bad guy--and his son(s), one of the main locations, etc.). But a large part won't fall into place until I know the clan and name of my male MC. He's eluding me at the moment, but I need to nail him down before I can do much else, since he's in a large part of the book. Narrowing down a clan will let me figure out who exactly he is (I'm thinking younger brother to the chief, but laird of his own estate?) and other fun personal details. Having a first name will help me write a lot of scenes. I want something authentically Scottish, but not stereotypically so (Fergus, Angus, etc. are out).

The other big decision I'm trying to make is whether or not to go to Surrey. The SiWC is a Big Hairy Deal - one of the most prestigous and talked-about writers' conferences. Several of my favorite authors, including Diana, are going to be there giving seminars. I'm sure I'd learn a lot that would help me early in the writing process. I could meet some of my friends from the forum. Most importantly: it would look great on a query, since I don't have any writing credentials.

The only problmem? It's in Canada. British Columbia. On the other side of the continent. We can technically afford for me to go, but even if I wanted to fly across 3 time zones with an almost-8-month-old (as he will be at the time; it's at the end of October) the extra cost for him and DH would inch towards prohibitive. So, it'd mean 4-5 days without my husband and son. And close to $1000 all told, for registration, travel, and lodging. But it'd be awesome. It would look great on my query. And it would guilt me into finishing and selling this book, to recoup the cost. I guess part depends on how serious I am about this writing thing. The other part depends on what DH thinks.

Anyway, I've far exceded my 1-hour-per-night (minimum) book commitment and I need to go to bed. I didn't get any more wordage, but I did organize all the scene snippets that I've been working on and saved them to a flash drive so I can transport them to and from my day job. So far my muse seems to appear whenever I have better things to do at work. I'll see if I can talk her into showing up in the evenings during "book time."

Oidhche mhath. (Good night.)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The energy of writing

Last night I sat down with a notepad and a computer, and began the initial serious research on my historical bad guy, his family, and the castle that will be the location for parts of the book. An hour passed before I realized it. "Just a couple more things to check," I thought to myself, "and then I'll go to bed." Next thing I knew, another hour had passed, and I tore myself away from the research. I had about 3 pages of scribbled notes, a few more ideas with regards to the book (but not too many), and I was exhausted.

Research is tiring work. It's a brain-numbing black hole that is sometimes difficult to pull yourself away from. I remarked to DH that it was overwhelming - and not a little daunting - because there's so much to know. All the family connections, cousins and distant relatives that might be good to know in case they come up in the story. All the little details of minor battles, major battles, and who allied with which monarch in which minor battles and major battles. It's somewhat smothering when you get into the thick of it. How to write a fictitious novel and still contain and be contained by all this information? And then there's the stuff I need to know to make it realistic - names and clothing and customs and cultural beliefs. There's a ton of that, too, and to make my story believable I have to be knowledgeable enough about it to work it into my story seamlessly.

Really, though, any time I use the real world it seems to smother the creativity that comes with writing. I can take names, places, and situations from the real world and make good use of them. But if I get too reliant on the real world for details, if I inch toward the line of nonfiction or personal narrative, then it seems like a wet blanket just drops over my head and blinds me from seeing what my characters are doing. That, I think, was the cause of my first funk last week. I was concentrating so much on real life that my creativity was cut off. And then I saw all the creativity the other writers on the forum were pouring out and it discouraged me.

But for all this talk of how overwhelming and tiring research is, you'd think that actually writing would be that much harder. You have to take everything you've researched, imagine characters and settings, come up with a story, and walk your characters through the story while figuring out what they'd do in certain situations, describing the setting, and incorporating all your research. And you have to come up with about 100,000 words to do it, otherwise your story is not long enough for a novel and you've just written a nice short story that will be very difficult - if not impossible - to publish anywhere. If just looking up information is mentally draining, then surely creating information would really tap you out.

Surprisingly, not so. When a scene comes to me, there's an energy flow that comes with it, enabling me to focus and let the words pour out. I'm actually usually pepped up and energized at the end of it. Which seemed odd to me. I was discussing this with DH last night, and he made an observation that suddenly made everything clear. He said it seemed to him that the energy that came with writing a scene/story seemed more like the energy from reading a good story than then energy expended in doing research.

And that's when it hit me. The energy flow is very similar. Because when I write, I am reading the scene out of my head! It's almost as if I'm settled down with a book in hand and seeing the situation come to life off the page. Except there is no page - it's in my mind. Like the great artist (Michelangelo?) who said they looked at a block of marble and saw the statue inside, somewhere up in my head is a complete novel that I just need to access and read. Once I've read it, I can transcribe it, and hopefully other people will read it too. I'm reading it out of order, and only a few pages at a time, but I have to trust that it will all come out eventually.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Ciamar a tha sibh?

Tha mi gu math.

I've not written anything since my two-scene "frenzy" last week, but I have been slowly accumulating ideas and reasearch. I can be seen popping into the library branch on my way home from work 2-3 times a week now, and my kitchen table is full of books on Scotland - history books, tour guides, etc.

My main thrust this week will be researching the historical figure that is going to be my Bad Guy, and by extension, the castle where he will be based and parts of the book set. Also tightening up my timeframe as to when (i.e. the year) in the past the story will occur.

The other thrust of my research will be Gaelic/Gaidlig. I've ordered a teach-yourself language course and English/Scots Gaelic dictionary that should come in by the end of the week. Now my husband and brother (both language nerds) can laugh at me as I try to remember all those grammar terms like "genitive case" and "subjunctive mood" since Gaelic is an inflected language.

(The title of this entry, in case you were wondering, is "How are you?" in Gaelic. I used the plural form (which is also the formal singular), since technically more than one person reads this blog. However, probably only one is reading it at a time, so I could have used "Ciamar a tha thu?" which is the singular, informal. The first line means "I am fine." There. That's your Gaelic lesson for the day.)

Edited to say: I actually did write today. Another darn scene snuck up on me and I got 860 words down before I made myself stop and go back to work. I also need to research my kempo techniques.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


Today I bought a travel guide to Scotland, as part of my reasearch. While flipping through the "Highlands" section, I came across a castle that was destroyed by lightning in the mid-18th century (1760). Thinking that might make a possible location, I Googled it. Not only will it work well for my story, but the owner was a real Nasty Piece of Work, up to and including being implicated in the Glencoe Massacre. So now I have a location for Bad Guy...and Bad Guy's name! This will help me find direction for the rest of my historical info. Woohoo!

Oh, and I bought another time-travel novel while I was in the bookstore. 35 pages in and it's already better than the series I was reading last week, cover art notwithstanding.

Side note: when I get published, I will tell my editor to please, PLEASE not have the art department put half-naked people on my book. It may end up classified as historical romance, but I know what I look for in a book, and half-naked people tend to turn me away, unless the "sound bite" on the back is really interesting.

So, yeah, I'm over my funk again. Having actual data to work with helps. And seeing that there are a lot of time-travel historical romances, and even though they share some elements, the stories and characters are different. I'll try not to descend into another one. *grin*

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The fickle funk

Yeah, so I'm back in a funk. *sigh* This one's not as bad, and I think it's trying to lift as I write this, but darn it! - I was feeling so good yesterday.

The problem is another writer. Not her fault - mine. I finally cruised over to the "sister forum" to the Compuserve group I've joined. Over there, you can post chunks of your current WIP for critique, as long as you critique so many of other people's work. Win-win all around, everyone helps each other. So I was just looking around, as I don't have enough written to post for crit yet, and I saw some messages to this other writer. She's also working on a time-travel Scottish piece, and she's been working on hers for quite some time. So she's ahead of me, in more ways than one. And her stuff is really good.

The problem? She's beaten me to several story elements that I had come up with for my own book. I was so proud of my originality. I also don't want anyone to think that I borrowed/stole them from her, because I really didn't. In fact, I'm trying to avoid reading her stuff now to preclude that accidentally happening. But how can I, a new writer, prove to the good folks on the forum that I came up with this stuff before I even joined the group? I guess I could post the transcripts of my chats with Jon (he's kind of my muse - I bounce story ideas off him while I should be doing my day job). And is there room in the publishing world for both her book and mine?

The Big Oh-No: Time Travel. Those of you who know me and/or read this regularly know I've been struggling with the time-travel [plot] device since I decided to write this book. How to do it? I, and my MC, are both physicists. So I can't just have a wizard wave a magic staff (as in the books I just finished reading). Elspeth's gonna analyze it, and try to explain it to Good Guy. I'd just about settled (as of this morning, even) on describing it as some sort of wormhole. Probably located in a cave, but possibly in a building instead. Guess who else is going the wormhole route (located in/near a boulder)?

Other Oh-Nos: I was gonna have Good Guy be betrothed to someone else before he met Elspeth, someone that would bring something to the clan (money, property, alliances, etc.), so that he couldn't allow himself to fall in love with her. And...her male lead is engaged/betrothed. Oh, and my MCs handfast. Her MCs handfast.

*sigh* Maybe great minds just think alike. And maybe our two stories won't be so similar once all is said and done. And then there's the fact that if I were an anonymous consumer, instead of one of the authors in question, I may end up buying both books because that kind of story appeals to me. I guess I'll just tough it out and see. This book is trying to write itself in my mind, so I can't very well ditch everything and start from scratch.

In good news, I did write a kick-ass draft for a query letter last night. Way early in the game, I know, but it's a draft. If I were an agent or editor, I would definitely represent/buy my book after reading that letter. *grin*

Friday, August 11, 2006

Getting past the funk

As it turns out, I did not write any more yesterday. No scenes materialized in my head, and since I was-gasp!-not very busy at the day job for a change, I spent the afternoon reading the last of the romance novels I'd picked up for "research" (I use that term loosely) and poking around the Forum. This gave me the opportunity to read the "First Impressions" thread, which I have been meaning to do for some time. I couldn't contribute, because I don't know how my MC's meet yet. But I did want to see what everyone else was working on.

The snippets were all good. So good, in fact, that they threw me into a minor "writer's funk." Some of the writers are published authors, and others should/will be. Each voice was unique and--I felt at the time--way better than mine would ever be. I felt like an imposter sneaking around where I didn't belong. What was a physicist doing trying to become one of this group of writers? I should stick to my numbers and let the writers do the writing.

But I got over it. My own writer's voice is so familiar to me that it's hard to think of it objectively. Yes, I am very new at this. And yes, my work is rough in spots and needs work. But as Diana says, the only way to get a book done is to write. And I'm sure that as I go along I will get better. I'm also pretty certain that my newfound friends in the Forum will help me improve as well.

In that positive frame of mind, I came in this morning and two new scenes popped into my head, for a grand total of 1172 words written today (before lunch, even!). I now have nearly 5,000 words on a Work In Progress that still doesn't have a definite time/location setting (I mean, it's Scotland, but I'm not sure where or exactly when), a male MC without a name, an antagonist without a name, and the means of time-travel To Be Determined.

A large part of my funk yesterday was due in part to my tendency to get "locked in" to real life when I borrow from it. I'd been working on the opening scene, which uses real names and some details of my life. That kind of closed down my imagination and I was struggling with animating places or characters that I had to come up with on my own, after reading all these wonderful characters the other writers on the Forum had in their snippets. Then I was struggling with imagining anthing at all. I was worried that I was losing my inspiration this early in the game. So I took a break, read, and didn't try to write anything. Thankfully, my imagination still works. I just have to let it do its own thing.

I also set some goals for myself for the month of August. Cindy over on the forum will keep track of them and hopefully keep me in line! I intend to work on the book at least 30-60 minutes each night after the baby goes to sleep. This can be actual writing, or research. I also set a goal of 3,000 words for the month. Conservative, because I have a feeling I'm going to be spending a lot of time researching until I can get some details nailed down. However, I feel pretty safe considering there are 20 more days and I almost wrote half that goal this morning alone. Maybe next month I'll set a higher word goal.

Anyway, the Day Job calls. At least it's Friday.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Writing is what happens...

...when you're busy making other plans.

At least, for me it is. So far all the work I have done on this book has happened when I did not plan to write. I was just doing something else, thinking about the book in the back of my head, and WHAM! a scene starts forming. Pretty soon I have some lines in my head, and I sit down to jot them down quickly so as not to lose them and for future work. Next thing I know, it's an hour later and I have 300-1,000 words on the page.

The first time that happened, I didn't even know the plot of the book. But as I wrote the scene, ideas just flowed and now I have about 1,500 words of that scene, with large missing bits to be filled in by research, and the majority of the book's plot. So woo. I guess this is something I'm really supposed to be doing now.

The most recent example was Monday. Mulling the comments from my foray on Evil Editor's blog, but very busy at work and not intending to actually write anything that day, I ended up tripling my opening scene to almost 700 words, and throwing in a 350 word scene that deals with Elspeth's feelings about her unusual name.

I ended up posting the first 200 words of the new opening to the comments of my first clip. I have gotten these responses so far:

Frainstorm said...
Well, I hate to say this, but I think your earlier
opening worked better. At least the very beginning.I read through the last time,
but had no new comments to add.This time, I just don't believe the conversation
could happen this way. Her character seems like she would be devastated by the
news. I found it more believable the first time when she felt numb. I took it
that she just set the phone down and let Doug ramble on or eventually hang
up.This time, her conversation seems to belie the event that just
occurred.Especially difficult for me was the 2nd sentence of the 2nd paragraph,
where Elspeth essentially summarizes everything Doug must have told her. Uh-uh.
She'd be screaming obscentiies, I would think.I should add, however, that I'm
out of genre with my critique here so base on it what you'd like.Good luck.John

beeyacht said...
I agree, this doesn't work
better. I don't know what comes next, but I'd believe if she said, "We're not
doing this over the phone. I'm coming over." Then she hangs up, grabs her gun,
clips the silencer on it and jumps in her car.
4:20 PM

bonniers said...
I like the second one much better. It's
not perfect,but at least she's doing something and pulling us right into the
scene. I would keep reading.
4:28 PM

Nut said...
I do like the name.Elspeth's
feelings are clear. She's obviously hurt (searing pain, etc) and trying to
control her self (knuckles turning white with the effort not to throw it across
the room). Looks good to me. Both versions. Just tell me, that she isn't going
back in time, to get the jerk back.
7:33 PM

So I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it. It's still in pretty rough form. There has been mention of an openings workshop on the Forum that I will probably participate in, and see what the people over there say.

And so, back once again to my day job. I'm planning on finishing the fiction series I bought as escape/research and doing some actual historical research before I continue writing, because I need some actual data/time setting/place names/character names or I'm going to have more []'s than words.

We'll see if that actually happens, of if I spend the afternoon writing another scene that won't go away...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


I decided to post the comments on my opening here, both for posterity and so I could write down my thoughts/responses to each one. Here goes...

Anonymous said...
The continuation makes a good point about the need for some action to hurry up and occur, but I do like the original beginning. The writer started at the moment of transition, the point at which the protagonist's life changes course, and I think s/he did a good job of capturing the ringing disbelief Elspeth would have to feel at that moment. I agree that something should happen now, but I do feel pretty engaged with the character already, and would keep reading.
8:05 PM

[ME] To be the first thing I read, this was nice. I'm not sure how much action I could have had in 150 words (see previous post) but I promise stuff will happen in short order.

-c- said...
I don't see the benefit of starting after the crucial scene, and then having to backtrack and tell what just happened. Why would you open with the actual phone call? That's where the action is. That seems to be where the story starts.
9:18 PM

[ME] The first of many comments to this effect. I did end up rewriting the opening to begin with the actual phone call. I'm pretty happy with it, I got some more detail in, and it tripled the scene length (221 to 681 words). I'm keeping the original, though, just in case.

Macuquinas d' Oro said...
So far so good. Yes, we need Elspeth to DO something at this point, and something we don't expect,but the story is well launched.I'm turning the page to see what Elspeth does.
9:22 PM

[ME] Hmmm...something unexpected. Well, she's about to sit for her oral exam for her Master's degree, so she can't do anything really stupid just yet. And she is going to Scotland for the summer, where something unexpected will happen. Does that work? It's a positive comment, tho, and I was glad to hear it.

Anonymous said...
This opening is all tell and no show. And I agree with -c- that the author is avoiding the real conflict by not slapping that ugly phone call on the page. The author might try it just for fun and see how he/she feels about it. PicAxe
1:44 AM

[ME] See above. I tried it out and it actually worked pretty well.

HawkOwl said...
I wouldn't keep reading, but that's just me - I have no use for a love story. If you're into them, this is one of the most competent openings we've seen so far. If you'd throw in some fuck-me shoes to make it less "poor pitiful me," I might even read the second page.
2:02 AM

[ME] For someone who doesn't like love stories to say it's a good opening is a very good sign. Now, I've rewritten it, but hopefully the expanded-with-more-action scene will still live up to their expectations. And even though it was billed as Romance, strictly speaking that's not what I'm going for. "Romantic historical fiction" is the best I can come up with at the moment. I'll see what I can do about "fuck-me shoes" (a joke from one of the other openings).

Anonymous said...
Elspeth, yuch! Please change that name. Also, did he really show some sympathy for her feelings by telling her by phone he was having an affair with her best friend? Pleeeeaaaaaase. -JTC
9:02 AM

[ME] This one I've already responded to in previous posts. The name is important, and the situation is real - it happened to me.

Beth said...
First sentence is out of POV. She can't see her own face. Whoever suggested that the opening should show the actual phone call was right. It's usually best to start at a moment of action, not reaction. The conversation, written in real time, without backstory explanations, could make riveting reading; by relegating it to paragraphs of backstory, it's deadly dull.Doug is a jerk and she's better off without him. I hope she realizes that quickly.
11:47 AM

[ME] One of my friends (well, at least acquaintances) from the Writer's Forum! The POV comment was helpful - I'm gonna have to watch out for that. And I did rewrite the opening. As for the boyfriend, well...she takes a bit but eventually figures out that she's better off without him. And finds someone much better. Still writing what I know...

Anonymous said...
I agree that opening with the phone call would make for a stronger beginning. If you're really intent on opening with the aftermath of the phone call, then I suggest ditching most of the exposition, since the wordiness of it doesn't suggest the mindset of a woman in shock. As soon as you use the sentence, "Her fiance and her best friend," the reader is going to know *exactly* what the situation is, which means you can skim over the rest and jump right into the meat of the story. For something like this, less setup works better.
12:38 PM

[ME] Another rewrite suggestion, which I followed.

Anonymous said...
Elspeth? Elspeth and Doug? Elspeth's best friend Jennifer? Elspeth had to know what was coming, what with being the only Elspeth in Indiana. She's too good for the rust belt, dammit! Go, Elspeth, go out into the world and make a name for yourself (maybe something other than Elspeth?), perhaps a queen needs a lady in waiting!
3:08 PM

[ME] Weird. Does this person know me? Maybe one of the original players? Maybe I'm just being paranoid, but it seems like they have an awful strong reaction to the setup, the names, and the "lady in waiting" comment jives with a "joke" (not really, but I'm not sure how to describe it) that I and the other original players had with each other at the time of the...occurence. If so, I would direct them to my Characters Post. As I said there, yes, I borrowed the basic framework of the situation from real life, and I kept the names because...they worked with the story. The characters are not intended to be the real people. Actually, in the new scene, it's more apparent that the characters are not the real people, because you hear the conversation and see some of the guy's personality come through. But regardless of whether or not the characters are intended to be the real people, it just goes to show you - screw someone over and you may be immortalized in their novel. Of course, this person could just be reacting to the juxtaposition of the odd/archaic name "Elspeth" with more common ones. I guess we'll never know...

Anonymous said...
I loved the addition. You can feel the blackness of the comedy as it creeps towards your feet leaving you dreaming of film noir; or at least moving from Harlequin Romance to Leonard Elmore.Go Leonard
5:22 PM

[ME] I have nothing against people that write Harlequin Romances, but I am not one of them. I'm not even a big fan of the (sub)-genre. 'Course, this person has no way to know that, with EE labeling it "romance" and only about 200 words to go by.

McKoala said...
The continuation says it all.

[ME] If they mean that it says there's no action, I've dealt with it. If the situation is too contrived and/or cliche, I've lived it. And if the name is too odd/archaic, see previous posts.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Beginning with the beginning

Ah, the revision process starts. Fun times. There are a total of 11 comments on my beginning clip, and most of them think I should re-write it into a realtime account of the phone conversation. So I guess I'll do that. Maybe tonight.

The second major theme is that nothing is happening. Maybe starting with the phone conversation will alleviate that problem. Maybe not. But I mean, really - it's only 150 words. I can't have much more happen than Elspeth finding out her fiance and best friend are hooking up. That's a pretty major event, in my book.

(In my book...ha! This IS my book. Pun not intended, but hehehe. )

Third most common theme (2 posts) is Elspeth's unusual name. I may end up changing it, but for now I'm sticking with it. I've addressed the fact that her name is unusual. It's Scottish. Elspeth isn't thrilled with it, either. In fact, I wrote that scene (367 words of it, at least) this morning while I should have been checking an IMRT plan for work. Much inspiration from my husband's stuggles with his unusual name, and my struggles with my common one.

Friday, August 04, 2006

I made it!

Woo! Someone provided a continuation for my opening snippet and I made it up on Evil Editor's page. You can read it HERE.

So far the comments have been pretty good! I'm all giddy and excited now. Maybe I do have it in me to do this writing thing.

As for the advice given, I may or may not write in the actual phone call. Or I may write it and tell it as a flashback. But the only seemingly negative (and not that bad, really) comment I can answer. A) Yes, I know Elspeth is an offbeat the US. The character isn't thrilled with it either at first, but it's a Scottish name and she ends up in Scotland so it works out. And 2) For the part that s/he says is unrealistic (being told by phone) that really happened to me. That part is loosely based on my life (not quite as dramatic as the book storyline--boyfriend, not fiance) and it did actually happen that way: by phone. But I may work in something like "he wanted and knew he needed to tell her, but he just couldn't bring himself to face her in person" to account for that part.

Anyway, that's my highlight of the day. Now back to the ever-demanding day job, that is especially oppressive today. I hope I can write some this weekend.

Oh, and I updated my links section, finally. So have some fun with those.

Comment on my opening, please!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

My first public appearance

Well, I've made it onto Evil Editor's opening's page! You can see my clip here. It's listed as romance, which isn't entirely accurate, but close enough for the purpose. (My closest guess as to genre would be "romantic historical fiction.") I mean, you can't tell from the opening bit that Elspeth's going to end up in early 1700's Scotland...

The way this EE thing works is, my clip will stay on the "Openings" page until someone (via comments) suggests a 75-word humorous continuation, at which point it will be moved to the main EE page and available for comment/critique. So if any of you feel inspired and want to help me get onto the main page and get some advice, head on over and write away.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The inconvenient day job

I haven't posted in about a week. Blame that entirely on my day job. Of course our patient load would increase dramatically at the same time as a number of special procedures and when my boss is gone to a conference and when I decide to write a novel.

All is not in vain, however. I'm reading Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson as a type of research. It takes place after my story is set (at least the historical part of the story) but it's a Scottish author writing about the Highlands and with Scots dialect. I'm also still turning things over in my mind: possibly plot details, characters, and I'm narrowing my list of names for the male lead.

Still open to suggestions on how to work the time travel, though.

No more scenes have popped into my head, but that's a good thing because I wouldn't've had the time to write them down. Hopefully tonight or soon I'll get a chance to expand what I do have and maybe add some new parts. I really want to figure out how to have my characters meet so I can post a snippet on the thread at the Writers' Forum.

No dice from the Evil Editor yet. Once my opening is up (if ever) I'll let you guys know so you can comment if you so desire.