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

 

 

 

 

November Results and December Commitments

Two out of three isn't bad.
Two out of three isn’t bad.

I really was crazy to commit to three things at once. I am here to report that I finished NaNoWriMo with the official count of 50,481 words, and I have a complete draft of For Want of a Father, Book 2 of the Pierce Family Saga. Now the revising fun begins. I also completed the Iowa Fiction MOOC. As for Blogging 201, I didn’t make it through the first lesson. I will have to repeat.  All that technical stuff hurts my brain.

Besides beginning the revision of For Want of a Father, December commitments include marketing Cordelia’s Journey. It has been out for a month with no official launch or promotion. Needless to say, it is reaching the bottom of the Amazon ranking pit, so something has to be done. I will be putting the e-book on a 99 cent promotion from December 1 through December 7. Other 99 cent promotions for the rest of my e-books will follow. Warning: You will probably see more of my promotions that you would like, but I don’t know any other way of getting the word out beside Facebook and Twitter. If anyone has a marketing plan that works, let me know.

In December I will also be participating in three Emporia Farmers Market events with other local writers, so if you would like a signed paperback and are in the Emporia area, stop by 727 Commercial. Hours are Saturday, December 5 and December 19 from 10 a.m. to noon, and Wednesday, December 10 from 8 p.m. to midnight. Yes, midnight is correct. It’s a citywide event with “Madness” attached to it.

As you can see, if anything has “crazy” or “madness” attached to it, I am probably there.

Of Stagecoaches and NaNo Stats

Cowtown stagecoach, Wichita, Kansas
Cowtown stagecoach, Wichita, Kansas

Okay, so it’s not the Old West, but this picture of a stagecoach taken at Wichita’s Cowtown is the best I have.

Question: “What do stagecoaches have to do with NaNoWriMo word statistics?

Answer: I did what NaNo writers are advised not to do. Research.

While zipping toward my word count last week, I became obsessed with the size of Old West stagecoaches and what they would hold. Cordelia, one of my main characters, is heading to Denver on the Pikes Peak Express in 1859, and she has some annoying travel companions. How many? More than I had originally planned. You see, based on the western movies I have watched, I thought stage coaches had two seats. It turns out they had three. Each seat held three passengers, so the coach could hold nine. Also, up to three passengers could ride on top with the driver and shotgun guard. The amount of mail and other freight packed into and on top of the coach often left passengers scrunched against each other, making Cordelia’s approximate twelve-day ride from eastern Kansas to Denver uncomfortable to say the least. If you are interested in learning more about stagecoaches and what it was like to ride in one, check out History of the Stagecoach and Stagecoach Service in the 1860s. As a bonus, check out this map of nineteenth century Kansas trails, which includes the Express route through Kansas Territory in 1859-1860.

Question: So what about your NaNo statistics?

Answer: I’m proud to say that I’m keeping up with the daily word count. I’m actually a little ahead with 20,523 words as of this morning.

Question: Weren’t you taking two online courses at the same time? What about those?

Answer: I’m keeping up with the fiction MOOC, refining scenes from my NaNo novel for my assignments. When it comes to Blogging 201, I’m still at the starting gate. However, I am down to the last lesson in the MOOC, so I’m planning to spend the end of this week making blog improvements.

What? You say it’s about time?

I think so, too.

November 2: Still in the Game

blog nov 2 trifecta b

I’m feeling a little crazier tonight than I did yesterday, but I’m keeping up for the moment. Here’s my report.

NaNoWriMo

The goal is 1667 words per day. I have a total of 4158 for the two days, so I am over goal. After writing a couple of hours at home, I attended my Emporia group’s kickoff party at the public library and wrote another 1,000 words.

Fiction MOOC

I’m barely hanging on here. My assignment is due tomorrow at 11:59 p.m. I need three characters who disagree about an event and place in which they were all present in the past, and I need to include a present setting, all in 800 to 1,000 words. The characters will be Hiram Pierce, the father, Ambrose Pierce, 14, and Lucy Pierce, 13. The current setting will be their new house. The previous setting will be the cabin they built and lived in when the first moved to Hidden Springs. The event is the death of Minerva Pierce, Hiram’s wife. Given the lateness of tonight’s hour, I will have to do some fast writing tomorrow. The good news is that the words will count for NaNoWriMo, too.

Blogging 201

Today, I checked out features and themes. When I chose the theme for this blog, I thought it was responsive. Now, I cannot find that word in any of the description of the features. I did see that it would work on mobile devices, so I’m hoping that is the same thing. I found information on how to make the menu the way I want it, but I didn’t have time to do that. There is tomorrow.

That’s it for today. I’m stumbling off to bed, probably to a night of wide-awake thoughts on one or all three of the above subjects.

November Trifecta

piercenano 1

As if the fiction MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) I’m taking isn’t enough, I’ve signed up for the WordPress Blogging 201 course and NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). There’s so much to learn and so little time. However there is overlap. I told myself that when I got up this morning, stumbled to the computer, and delved into creating the Nano word count for the day.

I’m in the fifth week of the  MOOC through the University of Iowa and have been immersed in developing characters, point of view, and plot. I’m working on voice and setting this week. Through all the lessons, I have used my saga characters in my assignments. There is overlap one; the MOOC has been helpful in  preparing for NaNoWriMo.

Where is the Blogging 201 overlap? This blog is supposed to be all about keeping my fans updated on my saga in progress. It is pretty obvious when looking at this post that my blog needs help. I have not yet figured out how to use widgets and set up sidebars the way I want. In fact, I really need to add a fourth tool to November’s learning marathon: making graphics. I’ve noticed that when my blog post shows up on Facebook, there is a big blank space where a graphic should go. It’s an ugly blank space. I tried to make something in Photoshop Elements, but I still haven’t learned that program, so I tried Microsoft Publisher. As you can see, I managed a graphic, but if I had a day job, I wouldn’t dare quit it.

So here I am with 1700 words, a bad graphic, and this post. Come back tomorrow and find out if I am still committed—or being committed.