Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday Check-in: Diving into the Wreck

You may have noticed I did not report in on Wednesday.

No writing at all this week -- except for that daily poem for Octpowrimo. Part of this lapse is because of the quilt show (hours and hours of work), and part because I'm at a curious place, caught between three works-in-progress.

Guilie Castillo-Oriard recommended an article on IWW by Brian Klem, "How to Write the Last 10% of Your Novel," just right for reading now.

While people have responded favorably to my first book, Standing Stones, my efforts to find agents/publishers have not worked. And I will self-publish in December to celebrate my birthday. So as November begins, I'd like to finish finally the edits for Standing Stones and get it out there. Klem's article talks about 8 key ideas (which I'll put here) to think about, beginning today.

  1. Is each scene anchored in my character's needs AND the overall story problem?
  2. For each main character, does their excitement, doubt, dread or hope drive the character from the very first page? And then turn by the middle of the book to something else?
  3. Why does this story matter to me?
  4. Does each antagonist have his/her own journey?
  5. Are all characters active, especially right from the beginning? How does each character change the protag? How are they involved in crisis and change?
  6. What makes my readers respond positively?
  7. Which scenes are especially significant to me?
  8. Why did I want to write this book in the first place?

So, if I work on 1-2 questions each week, it will take me 6-8 weeks to finish just looking at these questions, without work on any other project (of which there are many). But no action at all = no movement. So I am committed to 1-2 questions each week.

Before I begin rereading Standing Stones once again, here's a crack at #3 why this story matters to me?

Back in the 1960s when I was working my way through college, when I sat next to two boys who bought a 50-pound bag of rice to survive through the term, I took a class called "The Intellectual History of Great Britain."

In the first week of class, the instructor criticized me for being the only female in the class. I was shocked. In front of the class of some 70 souls, all male, he said "How dare you take away a seat from a man." I've forgotten his name. I'm sure he's forgotten me, but he didn't know how stubborn I was or how important a college education was to me.

Yes, I earned an "A" in that class, but the readings, discussions, and lectures in that class changed how I looked at history irrevocably. I became aware of class distinctions, the inherent unfairness of the accident of birth (which I already knew, being female). Now the scope of history was open to me, even though I was in my twenties and had many battles to fight before I began to write seriously.

Standing Stones is about Mac McDonnell, a working class fisherman who tries to protect his family and his community -- unsuccessfully and at great cost. His story matters to me because it is my story.

My female characters are important to me because the story is set in mid-19th Century Scotland, a time when women's lives, whether upper or lower class, were restricted. What they experienced and how they survived reminds me of what I experienced in the 1960s and 1970s. It becomes a kind of lesson to me and contemporary readers that no matter how large the obstacles may appear to achieving a goal, we can persevere. We are true to ourselves.

Goals for this week (It's only about the writing!)
* Work on final read of Standing Stones.
* Wind up October with daily poems for OctPoWriMo and read what others have written.
* Post at least once on my travel blog. Plan November entries for my writing blog (guest blog Sandy Brown Jensen and series on creativity).
* Continue participating in ROW80 through Round 4.
* Write two crits for NOVELS-L (the Internet Writing Workshop) and 1 more book review for Book Review Club.
* Read craft (Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones and 2 magazines).
* Work on winding up volunteer work, play with quilting, and cherish each day with family and friends!

You can:
Read my poems for October on my writing blog or at OctPoWriMo.
Read Guilie Castillo-Oriard's blog.
Read Brian Klem's article for Writer's Digest, "How to Write the Last 10% of Your Novel."
Check out the resources at the Internet Writing Workshop

May your week go well. And I'd be interested in your reaction to Brian Klem's ideas!

Spirit Horses
Detail of quilt by Bonnie Hogue
Washington State Quilters 2013 Quilt Show (Camp 2013)


  1. I'm almost done with Standing Stones, Beth! Sorry it's taken me so long, but I had to put it aside for a while in order to read and critique all the stories for a face2face workshop last week.

    I'll get it to you in the next couple of days, I promise.

    1. Thank you, Ruth. No need to apologize! We work as best we can. Almost done sounds good to me, since that's where I am as well. :)

  2. I loved the brief insight into your experience as a woman in college during the 1960s. Thank you for being a pioneer of social change and staying strong despite the antagonistic attitude of your professor. I finished college just 10 years ago, so of course I had a very different experience, but the only reason is because women like you were stubborn and strong and smart!

    Your new book sounds very interesting. I look forward to checking it out in December!

    Write on!

    1. Thank you, Brooke! I never thought of myself then as being a pioneer of social change, but I was definitely stubborn. Actually, that early prejudice prepared me well for working in a major corporation and then in education. I'm glad your experience was different. We rise on the bones of those before us!


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