You’ve finished a first draft of your novel. Now what?
I love this piece by Jane Boch so much that I need to re-blog it right now! This is a fantastic piece of flash fiction! Thanks for sharing it, Silver Birch Press. 🙂
by Jane Boch
Carla no longer trusted chocolate. Her bite into the filled pastry contorted her face with sourness and disappointment.
“Bean paste,” Evan said, laughing.
Carla forced a swallow. “You knew?” she accused.
Carla would be in Japan for three weeks. She hoped this trip would propel her into an engagement with Evan, a U.S. Naval Officer, or prompt them to end the long-distance relationship. She couldn’t imagine marrying a man whose career demanded replacing chocolate with the gooey pastiness of mung beans.
A walk in Evan’s hilltop neighborhood led Carla to an overlook of the bay. Turning from the water view, she glimpsed a sign picturing a loaf of bread. Inside the shop, the fragrance of freshly baked goods, arranged on racks lining the walls, reminded her of the bakery in her hometown. She asked, “Sweet?” while pointing at a croissant topped with sugar.
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What a great micro-read to start the week with…
By David Bussell
When the waiter poured the man’s wine and offered a casual ‘Say when,’ the man did no such thing.
Instead he watched, steadfast as the wine filled the glass, until eventually it found the rim and overflowed onto the tablecloth. The waiter cocked an eyebrow as if to say ‘Play fair, sir, say when,’ but the man remained staunch as the wine cascaded off the sides of the table, soaking the carpet and pooling at their feet.
Soon the wine collected around their ankles, then their shins, and still the man said nothing. Sweat beaded the waiter’s brow as the wine flooded to the edges of the restaurant and began pressing at the windowpanes. Say when, the waiter’s eyes screamed. For God’s sake say when! The bottle faltered in his hand but still the man said nothing, so still the wine flowed.
There was a…
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What I wish to write about today, actually happened a couple of months ago, just as school was ending. It was my last day to assist in the middle-school library of my son’s school. It was also a scheduled testing day for many students, so the library’s book section was closed.
My job was to man a mobile book site: table, computer/scanner, and a rolling cart full of randomly, librarian-selected books. I was ready. Yet, as the minutes ticked by the halls remained silent with only an occasional squeak of shoes or hushed whispers, but no customers. I tried reading the book I’d brought along, but alas, I was bored. And that was when I had the great idea to conduct an experiment.
I had seventy-nine books on the cart: all fiction books, and all middle grade or young adult in content. My testing method was simple: pick up a book, look at the front cover, skip the synopsis and/or any prologue, and then read only the first paragraph. If the book caught my attention in that opening paragraph, it earned a spot on the top shelf of the cart.
At one point the librarian came out into the hallway to check on me. I noted the quizzical uncertainty on her face and felt compelled to explain why there were books stacked on the table, and an oddly empty book cart, especially the top rack.
What did she say? She gave me a furtive high-five as only a librarian could, and with a conspiratorial smile claimed that I was, “a girl after my own heart.”
With the seal of approval upon me, I quickened my pace–an hour and a half passes quickly when you have a timed goal to complete. I can’t describe what I thought I was looking for, but I knew that I’d know, or feel, it when I read it. I finished with literally minutes to spare before my shift was over.
My top shelf was full, and overflowed into the second tier of the cart. It was difficult, but I narrowed my list down to the top twenty-one titles, those that most surely grabbed me from the first few lines.
Here’s my list:
1)Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
“The best time to talk to ghosts is just before the sun comes up.”
2)The Lightning Dreamer(written in verse–added commas to note line breaks)by Margarita Engle
“Books are door-shaped, portals, carrying me, across oceans, and centuries, helping me feel, less alone. But my mother believes, that girls who read too much , are unladylike…”
3)The Skin I’m In by Sharon G. Flake
“The first time I seen her, I got a bad feeling inside.”
4)The & Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
“I am Ivan. I am a gorilla. It’s not as easy as it looks.”
5)Jefferson’s Sons: A Founding Father’s Secret Children by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
“It was April and all Monticello was stirring, but in their cabin Mama had just put baby Maddy down to sleep and she told Beverly and Harriet to be still.”
6)Positively by Courtney Sheinmel
“When my mother died I imagined God was thinking, ‘One down, and one to go.’”
7)Taken by Edward Bloor
“Once you’ve been taken, you usually have twenty-four hours left to live.”
8)Number 8 by Anna Fienberg
“I think the best number in the whole universe is eight. The way I see it, eight has everything going for it. It’s even, for a start.”
(The first eight are in ranking placement, however the remainder are not in any order of preference.)
Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Heartbeat by Sharon Creech
Seeing Red by Kathryn Erskine
The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
Spitting Image by Shutta Crum
The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet
by Erin Dionne
Kill Switch by Chris Lynch
Gone by Michael Grant
The Looking Glass War by Frank Beddor
The Battle of the Labyrinth
by Rick Riordan
Door in the Woods by James Dashner
London Calling by Edward Bloor
So what did I learn?
Those first few lines are so important, but they don’t have to be complicated. They are the gatekeepers into the story, and only need to stand tall, firm and, singular. Be inconspicuously vague in the everyday details, but brazenly unique in the special stuff. Intrigue the reader into the tale. Don’t hold back. Make me extremely curious!
Keep the words simple, but the thoughts so precisely complex and revealing that they belong only to this story, character, and/or moment in time. What you say must ring true, and if you try too hard, add too much, too soon, you’ve lost me.
The first paragraph, or the beginning, should offer a promise. A timeless connection between the reader and the writer (or narrator) should offer an invisible contract of whispered truths to come.
Personally, I prefer first-person narration in stories (and most of my writing). Less than a handful of the above-mentioned books were written in third-person POV. But maybe that’s just me. Interesting though!
Obviously, I’m not too good at keeping up with this blog. However, I do “write” blog posts, but mostly in my head–although I’ve taken notes, and at some time in the future plan to share them. Right now, it seems more important to write, and finish drafting my current project, Sky.
Speaking of Sky, I’m in the process of its transcription into computer files, as well as drafting and expanding the story along the way. My goal is to be done with this process around the time school starts, and then move onto a hearty round of editing.
The poem I posted last year on this site, “Shame,” will be published the week of August 24th via a great site: http://www.thevoicesproject.org! Oddly, I receive the most random traffic to this blog because of that poem, so I wanted to have it officially accepted/published somewhere before someone plagiarized it off my site (It happens!).
I have one non-fiction short story and one new poem out there in the world, awaiting either rejection or acceptance. At this point, I still have naïve hope that both will be given the latter.
One of my planned, upcoming/someday blog post will be about my writing group. I started the small group at the beginning of the year, just for local moms. It’s been such a great experience and a wonderful way to promote more writing in my life, as well as to encourage other moms.
I’m still reading as much as I can, for fun and to improve my writing. I’m almost done with Sylvia Plath’s Letters Home–there’s hidden wisdom between the lines.
That’s all, folks! For more frequent, less loquacious updates, please like my Facebook page:
Well, it is sort of “the end!” I’ve completed my first novel-length rough draft! Yay! And, high-five, super-duper yay!!! I’ll admit I’ve been smugly smiling to myself the last couple of days with acquired accomplishment bubbling inside. 🙂
It is emphatically wonderful to announce this news, especially since I’d slowed my writing pace toward the end. There was a vague sense of uncertainty plaguing me. Despite knowing the ending and what needed to be written, an unexplainable fear held me from crossing the marathon’s finish line. Thankfully, I pushed past that fogginess and made it to completion.But in reality, I just began another long *marathon. Because now my task will be to transcribe my handwritten draft into computer files. This step will not be nearly as exciting. Let’s just say I hated typing class in high school. A lot! I anticipate many grumpy moments ahead at the laptop. However, I’m equally impatient for the editing and rewriting/revising to begin. I’m not sure if this is a realistic goal or not, but I hope to have all of this accomplished, and a completed 1st draft, by July 1st. I want to rest the files a few months before nitpicking the heck out of them when my kids return to school. Plus, summers are so important to me. I cherish that time with my kids.
*I suppose I should clarify and say a half-marathon, for my book is an upper middle-grade novel of roughly 45-50K words in length.
Seriously, the new Lego Movie theme song has been continuously looping through my head for the last day. YIKES! So, here I am, riding in on that awesomeness wave of optimism to reconnect with my blog.
Alas, Lonely Little Blog, I’ve been neglectful for far too long. (Wow, exactly 100 days to be precise!)
I’m happy to report that even though my blog has been void of words, my writing has not. I didn’t finish November as a first-time, National Novel Writing Month(NaNoWriMo) “winner,” but I did end the month with a solid outline and well over 15,000 words for my current project, SKY. Presently, I’m at 27K in words.
My 2014 writing goal is/was to write every day, and for the most part I’ve followed through, connecting in some tangible way with writing. There are a few poems that I’ve been fiddling around with—all desperately need a lot more thought and time. In January, I submitted two, equally “awesome” flash-fiction pieces. So far, I’ve received one rejection, but no word on the other yet, so I’m hopeful and totally awesomely stoked either way. Why? Because it means two important things:
In the end. that’s all I can do—try and put myself/writing out there. So that’s awesome!
P.S. I used an awful lot of adverbs in this blog post, but really inserting the word “awesome” just seems to require heavy usage of LY-words. 🙂
I had no intention to sign up for NANOWRIMO. In the past, I’d considered it briefly with the same intrigue someone might consider eating fried Oreos. Interesting concept, but probably a really bad idea that could lead to unpleasant distress.
November begins the holidays, right? My kids have five scheduled school days off this month. There are several family birthdays and those end-of-season sports parties to plan/attend. And, let’s not forget the twenty-pound turkey that needs cooking with all the fixings. And that Christmas craziness that the stores started pushing before Halloween. Whew! Overwhelming! November is one of the worst months to delve into writing 50,000 words. Or, is it? http://nanowrimo.org/
Often, I don’t listen to the rational hemisphere of my brain. So, I’m actually looking at this as an auspicious occurrence, that was possibly meant to align despite difficulty. I’m always looking for signs. And there have been a few that watered the NANOWRIMO seed:
- A new project that I want to see in rough draft ASAP! https://shermierayne.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/when-the-dogs-bark-listen/
- A major age-related milestone is coming up.
- A conversation hubby & I had Wednesday afternoon.
Without any doubt, it was that conversation that not only shone brightly on that little growing seed, but soaked it until the roots were spreading quickly. The conversation? Well, it was the basic we-need-more-money lament. But, when hubby finished with, “Why don’t you hurry up and finish that book and make us a million dollars?” I actually felt belief in his words (maybe for the first time). Perhaps it was merely a desperate, temporary dreaming lapse on his part. Yet, I heard in his voice an undercurrent of hope and confidence. I needed that. In that moment, I knew I would push harder, try harder, and struggle more. And not for the possible selling of a book that might someday make a little money, but because I had a believer.
I’ve been treading lightly. Hesitant. My footfalls have barely left an imprint. Now, I’m committing to the long hours of struggle, relenting to its beauty. The unrest to succeed. “Without a struggle, there can be no progress.” Frederick Douglass
There y’all go, that’s my “why” to NANOWRIMO. I don’t plan to blog this month unless something truly remarkable happens (fingers crossed). If you’re curious and want to follow along with my month-long NANOWRIMO journey, please like my Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/ShermieRayne?ref=hl . I’ll update my running word count there! @ShermRayne
Can voice be taught? That is the question!
For weeks, I’ve been attempting to help my twelve-year-old son with his assigned middle-school writings. This has not been an easy endeavor. “He lacks voice.” So I’m told. Evidently, there’s a new writing buzzword in our local schools: voice. Students need to have their own unique, vibrant, and creative voice to engage their reader/teacher. This sounds great in concept, but in reality, is this an easy skill to teach? Let alone assess and grade based on a rubric checklist full of conforming standards?
In the past years, my son did an okay job writing, getting by with putting together complete sentences that were error-free. If he had a writing style before, it was (still is) sparse, reticent, and painfully to the point. He’s a quiet person. That’s his voice, too. Maybe to the teacher, the material seems obtuse and nowhere near engaging, but, alas, that is his own, unique writing voice.
In comparison, his slightly younger sister brought home papers exalted in praise of her “excellent voice.” She wrote a short homework assignment on pork last week effortlessly, while my son and I banged our heads together for over an hour trying to add “voice” to his assignment. In just a couple of paragraphs, my daughter had an energized commentary that was both funny and persuasively moving (enough so that I felt a pang of guilt for sneaking bacon into her soup the previous night). But that’s her personality too. It wasn’t taught, but rather, organically filtered into her writing.
So, I’ve been thinking about writing voice lately. Can I even articulate its meaning to my kids? What are the differences that might influence, or enhance voice? Regarding my children, I’ve observed the following:
- My daughter loves reading; my son does not.
- She does not fear (or care much) what others think of her, whereas my son does.
- They have totally different personalities!
Hmmm, number two intrigues me. Perhaps voice becomes most potent when we let go of the fear of saying something wrong. Speak with an authentic essence of self. But, again, how can that be taught? How can you teach someone to let go and be expressive without fear, especially young writers, and most especially, young writers that don’t really want to write?
I believe writing voice to be a fragile and subjective thing, that can’t quite be described, explained, or forced. My fear in schools objectively grading subjective material, like a student’s writing voice, is that eventually a paradox is created. One where being genuine to self and expressing a unique voice is graded against conforming, standardized criteria. Thoughts!?!
- My son rewrote his English paper three times, while I baited, hooked, and pulled personable responses out of him. The paper was finally accepted and highly scored—hopefully containing enough voice.
- Not long after drafting this post, my first-grader brought home her first writing assignment of the year. The graded rubric scored her a 2/4 for writing voice. (Yes, you need voice in kindergarten and first grade nowadays). And that is perfectly okay, because I read it and graded the story with hugs and kisses to the moon and back.
I started a new writing project last night. I know I had promised myself to stick it out with only one big story at a time—and not to hopscotch around, dividing my limited writing time. But, the pot of thoughts began boiling many days ago. I honestly tried to put a lid on it, ignoring the flashing of ideas. Yet before I realized it, my main character had a name and a face and a heart full of pain.
So, when I sat down to declutter the ever-growing paper mess at my desk, my hand casually retrieved a legal pad from the floor. In an instant, I knew the only question was whether I’d use pencil or pen to start writing. The lid had popped off the pot, releasing the steam.
After I’d finished scribbling out the first entry (epistolary), the paper literally vibrated in my hands—holding me as much as I physically held it. I didn’t want to go to sleep, afraid I’d lose that connection. No worries! In fact, in spite of spending a rushed day running about, including work on a dental crown, the story is still strong. I garnered a nice collection of napkins, receipts, and Post-its scribbled with written material.
So, when the dogs are barking or the pot of water is boiling, pay attention. Listen, don’t suppress! Perhaps everything does have its own season and time. Maybe this is the very right moment in time to write this one particular story. I will listen and write!
What encouraging writing words of wisdom to read on such a gloomy Monday !
If you’re a writer, then you have a dream. You also have a lot of work ahead. I heard an interesting quote this morning from Joyce Meyers. There are dreamers who don’t work and workers who don’t dream. That hit home for me.
After having been around the block a few times, I can say I’ve met both types of writers. Some writers have all these ideas and generally a stack of unfinished work to show for it. They aren’t willing to dig in when it gets hard, when the “fair-weather friends” fall away. On the other side, we have those who write, but are afraid to dream. They’re terrified to dare ask if they could be great.
To be successful we must learn to dream and to be finishers.Starting is easy. There are a lot of people to cheer us on, but watch what happens when the…
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