First Chapter: Whose Point of View

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I have begun the revision of For Want of a Father, this year’s NaNo novel. Scenes are outlined through page 100. I have made notes on needed changes using the CASTS system I learned from Nancy Pickard at a workshop several years ago. The CASTS system involves looking at each scene and checking for Conflict, Action, Suspense, Turn, and Sensory. You can read more about CASTS at Writer Unboxed or watch Libby Hellmann’s video explaining the system on her site.  However, I’m tired of outlining. I want to get to work on the actual draft. Therefore, I am attacking the first chapter and point of view.

Point of view

There are two point of view characters in the novel: those of sisters Cordelia, 17, and Lucy, 13. I would tell you more, but that might color your judgment of which would be the better beginning. There will be a poll at the end, so please vote for the beginning you believe is more effective.

Chapter 1: Lucy’s POV

I hovered around the hotel check-in desk, waiting for Cordelia to do her job and sort the mail. She knew I was expecting my weekly letter from my brother Ambrose, but she always made me wait, sorting through every piece: the regular boarders’, Grandma’s, Aunt Hannah’s, and business mail addressed to the hotel before handing me my letter. She was being spiteful because Ambrose addressed the letter to me instead of her.

I whisked my feather duster over knickknacks that lined shelves along the walls, sneaking looks at her as she put letters in piles and slid some into the row of cubbyholes behind the desk.

She stopped, frowned, and lifted a small, letter-sized package about a half-inch thick.

“For you, Lucy,” she said, holding out the small parcel to me.

I dropped the duster on the desk, hurried across the room, and seized the package, glancing at the return address. “It’s from Ambrose.” My fingernails clawed at the tightly sealed package. When at last I worked through the outer paper, something fell and thumped on the floor. I picked it up. “A twenty dollar gold piece!”

I unfolded the letter and scanned it. “Pa wants me home. I’m to go on the next stage. This money is for my fare and anything else I need. I’m going home!” My deepest wish had come true at last, and I wasn’t going to let anyone talk me out of going.

 

Alternate Chapter 1: Cordelia’s POV 

Lucy was hanging around the hotel lobby like she always did on the day the mail stage came through, pretending to be working while sending me dirty looks, thinking they would make me sort the correspondence faster. I always gave her the letter from our brother Ambrose as soon as I spied it, but because I didn’t make it a priority and fish it out of the pile first thing, Lucy spent every mail day madder at me than usual.

I sorted all the letters and put them in the appropriate boxes behind the check-in desk for pickup; none were from Ambrose. Lucy gave me one of her sideways looks, a look that said she thought I was keeping the letter from her on purpose. In a minute, she would be marching across the room demanding to know where her mail was.

I met her eyes and shrugged, turning my palms up and shaking my head as I reached for the small, half-inch thick parcel I had put to one side, thinking it would be easy to hand over if anyone called for it while I was sorting the other mail. When I saw it was addressed to Lucy, I knew she would think I kept it from her on purpose, that somehow I was jealous because Ambrose wrote directly to her. After all, I was only his half-sister.

I held the package out to her. “For you, Lucy. From Ambrose.”

She dropped the duster and raced across the room. “It took you long enough.” She ripped the package from my hand and tore at the wrapping. Something thudded to the floor.

She stooped to pick it up. “A twenty dollar gold piece!” Her eyes widened in excitement as she scanned the letter. “Pa wants me home!” Her voice was filled with pure joy.

At last, Lucy had gotten what she dearly wanted. Somehow, four years of separation had allowed her to forget what a mean man her father was.

Poll

I have been trying to insert my first poll in this blog post and am having issues with the technology. If a poll does not open correctly below, please make a comment and let me know which point of view you would choose to begin the second book in the Pierce Family Saga: Lucy’s or Cordelia’s. Thank you for your vote.

 

 

 

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Nano Novel: Revision Steps

My second course commitment for December

In my previous post, I said I had committed to two new courses. The first is Blogging 201: Branding and Growth, which was the subject of Monday’s post. Today, I’m discussing the second course commitment, Joan Dempsey’s course on revising fiction. Through the course, she has made some excellent suggestions on determining the revising method that works best for an individual writer. While it’s too late to join her course, you can find the videos on YouTube.

How I Revise

Reading for Story

I start with chapter one and read straight through, making notes on each chapter. I list the characters in the scene and make sure their motives are clear and the scene contains conflict that moves the story forward. Since this is the second book in the series, I need to make sure readers do not have to have read the first book in order to fully understand what is happening and why. At some point, I will need beta readers who have not read the first book to ensure I have reached that clarity. Any volunteers?

Checking Character and Point of View

I am using first person point of view in the Pierce Family Saga. That means I must have an intimate understanding of each character’s background and motives. Some characters, such as Cordelia and Lucy, I know from the first book in the series, Cordelia’s Journey. However, these characters are now four years older. The relationships and world views of the characters have changed. Their biographies need to be updated. Since I wrote For Want of a Father during NaNo with only a general idea of the story, I created characters on the fly, characters I know almost nothing about. During the revision, I will be learning much more about each of the characters and deciding which ones will go on to the third book in the series.

Checking Dialogue and Description

For me, dialogue and description are important tools for conveying character and conflict, so I will work on both as I read each chapter. When it comes to setting, I describe only those things that matter to my point-of-view character. If there is no reason for my character to notice a gun or a fireplace or a team of horses, it will not be in the story. I don’t want to slow down story for the sake of providing details. Every detail is important to what is happening at that moment and/or during the final scenes of the book.

Submitting to my Critique Group

Before submitting revised chapters to my critique group, I try to make the writing as perfect as I can. That doesn’t mean I don’t have faulty sentences and needless repetition. It simply means I try to make the writing the best I can do at that moment, so my critique partners aren’t so distracted by sentence level issues that they can’t feel the story.

Deciding the Number of Revisions

There is no set number of revisions to make. The process is complete only when formatting and sentence level errors have been eliminated, and the joy and sadness, laughter and tears felt by the characters are so clearly depicted that they touch readers’ hearts.

Comments, Please

If you are a reader of novels, what makes a story memorable and satisfying for you?

If you are a writer, what are some of your revision methods?

Cordelia_final front_cover copy

Cordelia’s Journey is available as an e-book on Amazon

or as a paperback on Create Space.

 

 

 

 

 

What Do Readers Want?

Here it is, a new month, and I am taking two more courses. The first is Blogging 201: Branding and Growth. That course is the reason I am writing this post. Our first assignment is to set three goals for the blog. Before setting those goals, we are to think about the purpose of the blog and what a successful blog would be in our wildest dreams.

Purpose of the blog

I’m writing a family saga, and I set up this blog to generate interest in the books before, after, and in-between publication. The first book, Cordelia’s Journey, is set in 1855 in Kansas Territory. It was published in October, 2015. I completed a rough draft of the second book, For Want of a Father, set in 1859, during this year’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). As I begin the revision of that book, I am wondering what part of the process readers might find interesting. What topics would appeal to readers, and just who are those readers?

Audience

I see my readers as people who enjoy stories about family, faith, and friendship in an American frontier setting. The main characters are young, but I see all ages as possible readers. The main character in Cordelia’s Journey is 13. In For Want of a Father, my novel in progress, there are two main characters, one thirteen, and the second seventeen. They are both female, so girls and women will probably find the book more appealing than boys and men, which means girls and women age twelve and up are the most likely readers of the blog.  However, the third book, which is in the planning stages, will be set in the Civil War and have three main characters, a girl of fifteen, a boy of sixteen, and a young woman of nineteen. In each new book in the series, the characters will mature, so the audience may broaden in age and gender as new books are added.

What do readers want?

I have published about a dozen posts to this blog already, but I don’t have many readers yet, so I haven’t had much feedback. I’m listing some ideas for posts below and would like your reactions. What topics, if any, would catch your interest and cause you to follow the blog?

Possible blog topics

  • Character biographies: What do the characters want and why?
  • Family relationships: who gets along and who doesn’t?
  • Quotations from actual newspapers of the times about the general events the characters face
  • Slang words of the day
  • Research and revision methods: the process of writing historical novels

Help! Do you find any of the topics above appealing? Can you suggest some I haven’t listed? Please leave a comment and let me know.

As for my wildest dreams, let the Pierce family become as popular as Harry Potter.

Cordelia's Journey now available in e-book and paperback on Amazon
Cordelia’s Journey now available in e-book and paperback on Amazon