My Characters Shout at 4 A.M.

I had my alarm set for 6. Plenty of time to jump in the shower and put on my yoga clothes for my 7 a.m. class. Perhaps even time to read the local paper or take a quick turn around the garden to see what’s blooming.

But at 4 a.m. the characters in my novel started shouting at me. At 4:30 I gave up and got on my computer. They wanted to tell me a couple of ways my novel could end, and I knew if I didn’t start getting documenting them, the story lines might evaporate. That’s happened before although who knows if those brilliant ideas in the middle of the night are all that brilliant in the light of day.

Now that I have several pages of notes, I’m hoping Yvie, Lissa and Dez will let me sleep until at least ten of six in the morning. Does Dez really need to die? Probably, but won’t Lissa be devastated? Depends on the scenes to be written before those things happen – or not. I’m not planning on writing The French Lieutenant’s Woman with three different endings.

I promised to submit something to my Writers Forum for June 6 so I need to pull together 15 – 25 pages. At this point, the scenes don’t flow seamlessly. This is the first draft, after all.

Note: I didn’t have a picture to go with this blog post, so will use one from my garden. That’s a yellow achillea and a purple ground cover geranium. Notice the three leaf clover that should have been pulled, but it adds a different green to the photo.

 

 

Working Writer’s Forum Embraces Technology

I’ve belonged to the Working Writer’s Forum for ten years. A few of us were part of the original group which has morphed and evolved over the years. I really value what these folks have to say about my writing. Currently we are nine writers who meet monthly to critique one each others work. We limit ourselves to no more than two submissions of 25 pages.

Recently one of our members moved to Arizona. She is a terrific writer and an excellent critiquer so we didn’t want to lose her. She’s also a really special lady. Someone suggested we bring her in using an iPad. So we did and it worked really well. Another member spends the winter in Florida and we also wanted to include her. So last night we had two Forum members take part using technology.

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I hope this group stays just the way it is. We’ve created a climate of trust that would be difficult to replicate.

I volunteered to submit for April, although I said it might not be 25 pages. This will force me to spend some time on book three in the Caribbean series while I am revising the first two for republication under my name.

 

 

 

Bloody Point 1976

Another author in our Working Writers Forum, Brent Lewis, has just published his first novel, Bloody Point 1976. Wednesday night he had a signing at The Crab Deck on Kent Island. Brent told me he was a bartender here twenty-five years ago. This is the place to go for crabs on Kent Island.

Brent Lewis book signing

I got there early as I was on my way back from Baltimore. Brent told me he didn’t know why he looked so distressed in this photo, but he wondered if he was concerned nobody would show up. Book signings can be awful, but Brent’s peeps showed up and he sold 125 books in two hours. That’s frigging awesome!

Here’s the back cover blurb: Fourth of July, 1976. Tooey Walter, a young Chesapeake Bay waterman on Maryland’s rural Eastern Shore, is hired to retrieve big shot Harris Bradnox’s rebellious daughter Dee from The Block, Baltimore city’s grimy and notoriously dangerous red-light district. Thrown into a menacing world of vice and violence, with hometown goon Clacker Herbertson on his tail, Tooey collides into a lineup of mind-blowing strangers, including: Salt Wade, Dee’s murderous “manager” and his mysterious case; Dr. Merriman, the fallen from grace, drug-addled “Block-doc,” and Amy Ruari, the red-headed waitress with a carbonated personality who might know more than she lets on. A coming-of-age crime adventure mixed with an epic quest and garnished with a funky slice of Bicentennial Americana; told with fishhook-sharp dialogue and a boatload of twists, Bloody Point 1976 is a rowdy and racy tale of unforgettable characters born of voice, humor and truth, trying to navigate their survival in a changing time and place.

And talented Laura Ambler did the cover!

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Laura and I were mentioned in the acknowledgements because Brent Lewis is in our Working Writers Forum critique group. That’s twice this month we’ve been mentioned in new books. Forum has been reading chapters of Bloody Point for two years and we couldn’t wait to find out what happened at the end.

Brent’s writing has a wonderful Eastern Shore voice and he is a master storyteller. Put this book on your reading list. It’s a page turner.

 

My Critique Group

Last night was the monthly meeting of my critique group, the Working Writer’s Forum, that both Laura and I belong to. It’s where we met and started working together. For the last five years almost all of my writing has been done with Laura and most of it has been screenplays.

script notations

Since Laura has been very busy with her day job, I recently pulled out the first chapters of the third novel in my Caribbean series. I last worked on it almost seven years ago, but like to think I am a better writer now, so I submitted the first 25 pages to the group.

One of our rules is that you have to say some nice things before you make helpful suggestions. So my writing friends said some nice things, and then pointed out that I had forgotten some fundamental rules and made some beginner mistakes.

“I don’t know what these characters look like,” one of my critique group said. Of course I knew what they all looked like. They’d already been in two books. How could I have forgotten to describe Lissa and Yvie except to say they had green eyes?

Another reminded me that “she said” suffices most of the time. Descriptions of how someone says something is not usually needed.

“How about something more exciting in the first couple of pages, a hook for the reader,” a third person suggested. I thought I had a hook, but obviously it was too many pages into the first chapter.

As we went around the able, a number of the group noted some problems with dialogue so I went searching for help. The Writer’s Digest had some suggestions on their website.

“If you want to learn how to write effective dialogue, study the best plays and films. If possible, study dialogue both in performance (live or video) and in print. Read plays and screenplays to get the feel of writing on the page.

And, in the best scripts, what writing it is—pure dialogue unadulterated by music, actor expression, pictures, or narrative transition supplied by an author. Read it aloud to get a flavor of the emotion contained within the word choice made by the writer of the screenplay. Playwrights and screenwriters who succeed at their craft are probably the best writers of dialogue you can study. By looking at such refined gold, you can learn more than from any ten books that tell you how to write dialogue.”

Well, duh, Laura and I have been writing dialogue for several years now. I should be able to do this better. I am grateful to my critique group for letting me know there are things I need to attend to. The pages I sent for last night’s meeting were a reworking of what I had written all those years ago. I need to scrap that version and start from scratch.

When our moderator called for submissions for our next meeting, I said I’d like to submit a reworked draft of my novel’s opening pages. That gives me a goal with a deadline…thanks to my critique group the Working Writer’s Forum.