Monday, December 26, 2016

Marking a Milestone

Last week I pressed send.
Not to an agent or an editor. 

But to 10 beta readers. 

I finally have a draft of Half-Truths, which is ready to be critiqued!

Eight years ago Joyce Hostetter challenged me to join her in NaNoWriMo. I'd been thinking about writing a novel and had a rough idea what it was going to be about, but unlike my student Sydney Kirsch, I was unprepared. 

Undaunted, I plunged in. Eventually what I wrote in November, 2008 turned into Draft #1 of Half-Truths. It was from Kate's POV and I thought it was terrific.

I wrote slowly back then. Labored over word choices.  Experimented with tenses and had A LOT of false starts as I couldn't figure out where to begin the story. I edited as I went. Did I say slowly? I finished that draft on New Year's Eve 2010. I spent the next eight months honing and perfecting and thought it was "done." (How naive could I have been?)

I attended the 2011 SCBWI-Carolinas conference and was blown away. My work was critiqued by Mary Cate Castellani who suggested I write the novel from two points of view. Re-vision began and Draft #2 was born.
My first attempt at outlining chapters
from alternating POV. Index cards circle
my dining room table.
During that time I read books about the experience of being bi-racial, books about Charlotte, and interviewed experts. For more on these books and my interviews click on the Half-Truths tab. 
One of my favorite experts. Price Davis, constantly reminded me to make my story authentic.
He's standing in front of his childhood home in Cherry, NC where my character, Lillie lives.
Price passed away in December, 2016. 
The second draft turned out to be my kitchen sink draft. I wanted to put in everything that I found. How African American funeral homes used hearses for ambulances because the white ambulances wouldn't transport blacks. The poor care blacks received at Good Samaritan Hospital. Police brutality. The one drop rule

I sent Rebecca Petruck that draft in July, 2013. (The scene I shared in that blog post is still in my story, but stronger.) 

After receiving Rebecca's editorial input, Draft #3 was conceived in August, 2013. I worked on character arcs, rearranged plot points, and eliminated some of the extraneous events. 

Draft #4 deepened the characters. But I strayed from my pitch which, I had written in 2012: 

"In Charlotte in 1950, two teenage girls--one black and one white-- break racial restrictions, uncover family secrets, and discover they are second cousins."
  
I made a BIG mistake. I added boys. Oey Vey!

When I turned Draft #4 over to Rebecca in the fall of 2015, she wrote a great--but difficult editorial letter. You can read her feedback here

I dug in. Re-outlined. Took out the boys and several historically correct settings that I LOVED but which, took away from the story. Sent it to Rebecca. Got her approval! 

Draft #5 was born January, 2015.  

Besides saying goodbye to each girl's love interest, I gave the girls more opportunities to connect with each other and I stayed faithful to my current pitch:

"In 1950, two teenagers discover family ties that intertwine like deep roots under their city's sidewalk. One girl is black. The other is white."

For the last four months (in between moving out of an apartment, more road trips than I care to count, and teaching a writing class) I've been in a different type of revision mode. I had a draft that I liked, but following Kathy Erskine's advice at Highlights Summer Camp, I needed to cut to the chase in each chapter and needed to show, not tell in each scene. 
With Kathy Erskine at Highlights Camp

I worked hard and then printed out 320 pages. Only to discover the manuscript was 94,600 words--14,600 over my target of 80,000 words (which is the high end for a young adult novel). 

I began to hunt and destroy. 


Working at home, in hotels, and libraries,
I had  my laptop, my pages, and pink post-its.
If I found a story thread I wasn't sure I'd completed,
I stuck a note inside the lid of my travel companion:
an Adidas shoebox.
Having a deadline helped. Several of my beta readers wanted to read it during winter break. Holing up in a NC condo without a 9-hole golf course nearby also helped.

Chocolate, caffeine, and watching the "deleted words" add up helped too. 


After combing through the manuscript and following Janice Hardy's advice about revision and editing, I killed:
141- "Just"
106- "about"
36- "I think"
34- "I wonder"
34- "start"
15- "almost"
11- "nod"
 8-  "I shrug"
I discovered that my writing was stronger without qualifiers. 

All together, I expunged 11,146 words. That means I still have 3,454 words to delete. I'm counting on my beta readers to help me continue this tightening process. I haven't searched for "but," "and," or "that." There's probably a few hundred more useless words which may kick the dust!

While I'm waiting to receive feedback from my beta readers, I'm tackling the Author's Notes, Bibliography, and creating a spreadsheet on agents. 

I'm hopeful and excited. 

Stay tuned!







39 comments:

Deborah Allmand said...

Wonderful thoughtful journey for your novel. I wish you the best of luck finding the right agent and the evidential contract on HALF TRUTHS!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Deborah!

Rebecca Petruck said...

Congratulations on this latest milestone!

Carol Baldwin said...

More than anybody, Rebecca, you know what this means to me!

Mary said...

Congratulations! Kudos on your hard work and perseverance! This is going to be a great book!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Mary. I hope so!

Connie said...

I look forward to reading this story!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Connie. I hope you'll be able to read some good publishing news here!

Clara Gillow Clark said...

Thanks for sharing your novel writing journey with us, Carol. Your perseverance is inspiring. Wishing you the success you've earned and deserve. Happy New Year!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Clara. You know how writers need to be able to craft their story and persevere. BOTH!

Gretchen Griffith said...

Thanks Carol for telling about the many paths you have taken on this journey to publish. I admire your sticking with it through the major revisions. May 2017 bring great things for you and this book-to-be.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Gretchen. The path to publication is often not like a straight arrow, is it? I hope you're right about 2017!

Linda Vigen Phillips said...

It's great to look back at your hard work and then look forward with anticipation as your "baby" enters the world! I'm looking forward to the "birth announcement"!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Linda. Me too!

Bonnie J. Doerr said...

Following you, Carol, on your writing journey is inspiring. Your love for this story shines bright and clear. So many of us will treasure the day we hold Half-Truths in our hands. Immersing ourselves in the full story will mean all the more because of your labor of love.

Carol Baldwin said...

Bonnie, that is very sweet of you. And you know what "labor of love" is all about!

Linda A. said...

Carol,
Reading about this writing journey made me think you deserve an award and that's the Whole Truth!

Carol Baldwin said...

Linda, your comment made me smile. I hope Half-Truths is award winning some day!! :)

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

I continue to be amazed at your willingness to start fresh drafts. But I know it's paying off. Am enjoying reading early chapters again and really look forward to reading it all this time. Thanks for the honor.

Carol Baldwin said...

thanks, Joyce. You have been an incredible mentor and source of support!

Rosi said...

Quite a journey, Carol. Keep at it. I'm sure it will all comet fruition one day soon for you.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Rosi. I hope so!!

Amy Stephens said...

Could you expand on 'show, not tell?' I am looking out of my main character's eyes and telling what he sees. Is that what you mean?

Ruby Stephens




Amy Stephens said...

What is the difference in telling and showing? Am I looking through someone's eyes and having them tell what they see? Am I an outsider observing? I have got to take a writing course!
Ruby Stephens

Carol Baldwin said...

Amy, that's a good beginning. If you search my blog for "show, don't tell" you'll find posts about it. Even better, look through Fiction University. Janice Hardy explains it the best! That's like taking a writing course. She has a TON of information! Looking, seeing, hearing, feeling through your character's POV is a good place to start. But it's not the whole nine yards. Check out Fiction U. you'll find a lot.

Tony Reames said...

Congratulations Carol. So happy you have folks reading!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Tony. I have a great team of readers. Young and old. Black and white. I'm both excited and scared!

Carol Baldwin said...

Amy,
I thought of your question when I was trying to go to sleep last night. Here is an easy example. "The dog was happy. He wagged his tail." First tells, second shows. I had the problem of doing both! That's called over-explanation and not necessary. Hope that helps!

Caroline McAlister said...

Good luck! I'm impressed by your tenacity.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Caroline. We have to be the first person to believe in our stories. Or else we wouldn't push on!

Young Authors Program said...

Drive, determination, and dedication. All make for a great success story in the end!

Constance Lombardo said...

That's what it's all about, Carol! Keep it going - you're going to get there!!!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Dorothy and Constance. I appreciate your support!

Vijaya said...

What a journey, and it doesn't end until the book is in readers' hands, when they make it their own. Congratulations on this big milestone, Carol, and thank you for sharing the journey with us.

Carol Baldwin said...

"When they make it their own." What a beautiful way to express what I hope will happen. Thank you so much, Vijaya!

Erica Wood said...

Yes! Yes! Yes! Carol your transparency through this process helps light my writing fire. I'm going to buy this book one day. Charlotte needs this story.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thank you, Erica. I hadn't even thought about how "Charlotte needs this story." WOW! You in turn, encouraged me. Many thanks.

Kathleen said...

Congratulations Carol on your milestone of sending HALF TRUTHS to beta readers!!!! I hope you did alittle celebrating :) Thank you for sharing this with us! I agree with Erica as well!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Kathleen, for being one of my writing friends who is cheering me on!