Friday, December 31, 2010

When "The End" is Only the Beginning

I’ve been composing this blog in my mind for days. But I told myself I couldn't actually write it until I'd reached "The End."

sanja gjenero

Lately I've been spending days pushing through the first draft of my WIP (work in progress), Half-Truths. These have been days of sitting down at the keyboard and feeling worried because I only had a vague idea of what might happen next. Days of looking up two or three hours later and being amazed that I’d written another chapter.

At the end of October I’d written 19 chapters. Challenged by two SCBWI friends, I decided to try and finish during NaNoWriMo. I wrote 20 chapters in 20 days. But my story wasn’t done.

My new goal became to complete this draft by the end of 2010.

When I wasn’t writing, I was thinking. Thinking about how I wanted the story to end. Thinking about how I was going to get my characters to that point. And wondering if I could I make it happen by New Year’s Eve.

When I first started this novel I wrote tight. I started each day by revising what I’d written the day before. I researched facts as I wrote. I tweaked adjectives and verbs. I was very slow. A chapter could easily take a week to write. Sometimes longer.

But in November my method changed. I learned about writing loose first drafts by reading Becky Levine’s blog. Instead of trying to pencil in the small details, I began to see that crafting this draft was like starting a painting with large brush strokes. I didn’t stop to figure out what road Kate would take coming home from school. I didn’t figure out which birds she listened to, which bus she took to get uptown, or how much it cost to ride that bus in 1950. There are hundreds of details that I’ll add later.

I started a HUGE “to do” list of things I want to consider layering into my story. Here is part of that list:

• North Carolina, United States, the world in 1950

• What else was going on in the Charlotte African American community?
• Clothing- who wore what where
• Buildings, cars
• Glass (yes, glass. You didn’t think I could waste all my research about glass without using it somehow, did you?)

• Characters- their physical descriptions, mannerisms

• Vernacular- southern, African American
• White and black debutantes
• The one drop rule

Did I say this is only part of my list? I have my work cut out for me.

How long will this take? I have no idea.

As long as it takes to get 53 short chapters or about 200 pages into shape.

As long as it takes to bring this novel to “the end.”
As long as it takes.


Linda Phillips said...

Congratulations, Carol. Can't wait to read it. Now do something nice for yourself in celebration. And enlighten me about the one drop rule. New to me.


Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Well you didn't come out and say it but apparently you finished that loose first draft! That is so incredible, Carol! I know how great it feels.

Big congrats!!! And here's to a year of more fun research, of layering, of tweaking and of pure writing joy!

Becky Levine said...

"As long as it takes." Yes. Thanks for the reminder.

And your list is intriguing--I so want to read this book!

miriam said...

Yay for you! 200 pages! Now comes the fun part of revision - so much easier than staring at a blank page. Congratulations, and I can't wait to read it!! Miriam

miriam said...

Yay for you! 200 pages! Now comes the fun part of revision- so much easier than staring at a blank page. Congratulations, and I can't wait to read it.

Carol Baldwin said...

Yes, Miriam. Beginning this novel was so difficult- as you well know, it took many starts before I found a voice and the story started shaping up. And now I have something to work with, to mold and shape. This is Part II of the journey!

Anonymous said...

I am so proud of you, Carol. This is huge! I am looking forward to reading your book...and seeing it at bookstores everywhere! (and on the bestsellers lists!)

Laura Renegar said...

Hooray! Celebrate finishing this draft, and keep putting one foot in front of the other. You've already done what many have started and few have finished. You can do it!

CL said...

Congratulations, Carol. That's a great milestone, and it sounds like you're learning alot along the way!

elysabeth said...

I will add my congrats too - getting to that last page on the first draft is a big accomplishment. I also agree with Linda that you need to put it aside for a few weeks before you start tweaking and revising. Do something for yourself. Once you have stepped away, come back with fresh eyes and you will find it will come together like it should - everything will fall into place - E ;)

Elysabeth Eldering
Author of the Junior Geography Detecive Squad, 50-state, mystery, trivia series

Where will the adventure take you next?

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks friends. It's support like this that keeps me going!

R. Bradley Davidson said...

Way to go, Carol! That's a lot of writing in just two months. You've got to be proud (I know we all are). And thanks for the inspiration going into 2011!

Linda A. said...

Way to go Carol. I hope to hear lots of details in February. What do you say?

Linda A.

Bonnie J. Doerr said...

Carol, I needed this post. I'm overwhelmed by the thought of starting my next manuscript, even as I send off close to final edits for my latest. I can't remember when I was so unclear on how to begin. Time erases those tough memories. Thanks for the reminder. I don't have to have it totally vivid to begin. I only have to get the raw maerial on the page.

Jean said...

A HUGE congrats, Carol. You've done what I've been "intending" to do for the past two years.

I need a fire under my seat, too, I think.


Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Brad, Linda, & Jean!
Yes, Linda, I'd be happy to share whatever I can to help others get that fire under their seat (as Jean said.) Having deadlines really helped me. I've been poking along on this project for YEARS until people (like Brad) said--GO FOR IT!

Gretchen Griffith said...

I'm a little behind the times, reading your blog almost two weeks into the year, but what a great post. I've learned the hard way to keep a tablet beside my keyboard to write questions for later research. Otherwise, I'd spend hours off track filling in blanks that distract me from the flow of my story.

Carol Baldwin said...

Nice to hear from you Gretchen. The research part is so fascinating it is easy to get distracted, isn't it?

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