Tag Archives: historical fiction

The Search for Beta Readers

I think I’ve found a couple of people to be Beta Readers for my book. In my last post, I mentioned the Beta Reader website I found. Today I got an email from them that someone requested to read my book.

I also belong to City-Data where I can participate in various forums of interest. In one of the writing threads, someone said they would be happy to beta read for me.

Tonight I’ll reach out to both of them and we’ll get the ball rolling.  Which is exciting because I really want this book to see the light of day and I know it takes a lot of work for that to happen.  Hopefully, this will be a successful next step in getting onto bookstore shelves.

New Book

My new book isn’t much further than it was last time. I’ve done a little free-writing, but I need to work on coming up with more of a plot.

Genealogy

In other news, I was finally able to get a positive ID on a photo from my Grandma’s house. It felt like there was some kind of significance to the church, since they had it matted and framed.

Now that I’ve identified it, hopefully it will help me to find out what was so important to my family that they kept a framed picture of it all of these years.

After living in Charleston, SC all this time, you would think I was used to seeing buildings in almost the same condition they were in over 100 years ago. It never ceases to amaze me, though. After all the years that pass…weather events, wars, fire, and all other manner of natural disaster, some of these buildings manage to live through it all. It’s buildings like this that you can feel the history breathing in the walls. It’s almost like you can touch a window and touch the hand of someone else from an earlier time.

I love that connection to the past.

 

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And the Book Goes On…

I finally finished my first round of edits. My BFF/writing friend noted at the end of the manuscript that she didn’t want it to end there.  Partly because she liked the story and wanted to know more…and partly because it seemed unfinished to end it at the point where I chose to stop writing.

But my problem with continuing on was that the next part of her life would take just as much research as I put into the first part and, quite honestly, I don’t have it in me right now. To do justice to the second part of my character’s life will require I dive headlong into the Underground Railroad and the Abolitionists movement in the north.  If I continue on at the rate that the original manuscript took to create, I’ll be 60 before I finish the rest. (For reference purposes only, I turn 50 in April.) Now, please forget I said that…in fact, because I started counting backwards about a decade ago, I’m really only 29.  So, let’s go with that.

Anyhow, as a compromise, I wrote an Epilogue.  I’m pretty proud of it, honestly, and it will be a great outline to follow if I do get to the point where I circle back to write the rest of this character’s story.

The next step, near as I can figure, is a beta reader.  I’m in a little bit of a writer’s group black hole here in Charleston and I really want the book to have one more read through by someone outside of my circle. With a lack of local writing groups here, I have spread my search to the internet, and signed up at www.betareader.io.  I’ve uploaded my book in the hopes of getting readers interested in taking a look and telling me what they think. We’ll see what happens. I’m not sure how long to give it before I decide it did/didn’t work. I suppose if I even get one person to read it and give me some insight, I can say it worked. But how long do I wait if no one reads it before I move on to Beta Reader, Plan B?

While that manuscript percolates, I’ll be getting started on…you guessed it…THE NEXT GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL!

Hint: I’ve always been interested in the Salem Witch Trials. I’m not sure if I want to write a historical fiction story about the trials or if I want to do a more modern-day tale. I think my first step will be some free writing to try to get my head wrapped around what the story line should be. Wish me luck!

 

Final Word Count: 48,902

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Editing is Hard

I am finally digging into the edits for my book. I’ve started checking dates, correcting punctuation, and changing some vocabulary that perhaps my character wouldn’t use.

And now I’m on a page where the pivotal arc in my novel occurs. This is where one of my characters (not my main character) has a life changing experience.  Something that is going to affect him the rest of the way through the book – it’s the beginning of the end, so to speak (since we’re talking about the character who walks away and comes back later only to die of diphtheria. My friend/editor said the experience that begins this descent could be fleshed out a little more. She’s right.

So, now I have to figure out how to do that.

How do YOU do it?

Free-writing has worked for me in the past. If I start with the idea I need to elaborate on and just write without thinking too much about what I’m putting on paper, I can often come up with at least a nugget of an idea that I can then develop further.  But I feel there is only so much free-writing I can do when I’m trying to fit something into a historical period.  Like, I can’t just decide I’m adding aliens to the book and I have to be careful about references to “nowadays” things.  I know…free-writing is supposed to be just that and even if I DO write about aliens or iPads, they may just push my brain in an unexpected direction.

Actually, just writing that paragraph about how I can’t write about aliens has given me a couple of ideas!

So, I’m off to free-write through the aliens and twenty-first century technology to figure out what I need to add to this part of my story to help it ring true for readers.

Wish me luck!

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First Round of Edits

Well, I finally made it through my first round of edits.  I think I might have more work to do.  We’ll see what my friend thinks next month when we get together to go over it, but I believe I have some beefing up to do.  I’m not sure what parts of the story or what exactly to add, but hopefully she will have some ideas.  Maybe just spots where the story obviously trips over a metaphorical rock that, being too close to the story, I have missed. I still think I want to end it in the same place though. Taking the story on further will mean moving it into probably double the length.  Because once it heads in the direction it is going, it would need to keep going, I feel, through the complete next stage of her life.

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This is also why editing goes slowly…Jack helping.

To be frank, going double the length wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen…right now, I’ve estimated that my book is less than 200 pages long.  That seems like a bit of a let down after all the work that has gone into it. Certainly beefing up other parts of the story will add pages too though.

I’m rambling just a little, I think.  haha.  It’s 6:30am on a Saturday (!!) and my cats woke me up, looking to be fed.  In their defense, the pain in my lower back made their task far easier to accomplish.

As it has turned out, I haven’t blogged much this summer at all.  I’ve been preoccupied with knee pain. It hurts so much that I look like someone twenty years older trying to do stairs or sit down and stand back up again. If I don’t do something, I’m looking at a life of doing nothing but sitting and I cannot accept that.

Because I can’t really exercise, I’ve tried to find another way to get control of some of the excess weight that is putting stress on my joints.  I’m having warm sculpting done on my abdomen.  I’m halfway through a series of four visits and it would appear to be having some positive effects ~ when I was weighed at the doctor’s office, I was down ten pounds.  Not nearly enough weight lost yet, but certainly heading in the right direction.

On Facebook, I was seeing advertisements from a local health care facility that promises a more holistic solution to joint pain.  I had gone to a doctor in the spring who just wanted to slap a band-aid on my knees, in the form of cortisone shots. I’ve never been a “slap a band-aid on it” kind of girl (plus I hate needles) so I wanted to find a correction to the problem, not simply a mask for the pain.

So, now I’m preparing to begin my journey of recovery with a combination of chiropractic, physical therapy, and knee braces. Because, let me tell you, my skeleton is a hot mess.  One shoulder sits higher than the other, one hip is higher than the other and my knee caps are up and out from where they are supposed to be.  It’s painful to even look at that particular x-ray.  I’m all self-conscious now, like I resemble the hunchback of Notre Dame.  It’s truly not noticeable, but my head has turned it into this great big flashing neon orange spotlight.

On a more positive note, we had friends in town for a visit as well.  We went to Pounce Cat Cafe in downtown Charleston.  Oooo, let me tell you, if I wasn’t already four cats deep, there are two I would have adopted on the spot.  Look at how cute they are! The one on the right is Charlotte.  She was SO lovey dovey.  My husband and I sat and pet her for a long time. I don’t recall the name of the one on the left.  The shelter brought her there right before we left. So beautiful, though!

We wandered around on the Mt. Pleasant Fishing Pier, hoping to see a dolphin or two.  We didn’t see any, but we did get to watch a guy reel in someone else’s fishing rod from the depths of the Cooper River.  It made us laugh.  Apparently, someone had a bad day fishing and he decided the fishing rod was the problem.  Or perhaps he caught something he couldn’t land (a Bull Shark, perhaps?) and the rod was pulled out of his grasp?

We also made time for one of my favorite activities ~ a ghost tour. We took a tour I’ve 20180804_203258done before, but we had a different tour guide, so we literally got a different tour.  Certainly some of the information is the same, but I love it and I can listen to the tour guides talk about Charleston’s ghosts all day long.

And of course, genealogy is still taking up a fair amount of my time. My husband and I took a DNA test with Ancestry.com this summer and got our results back a few weeks ago.  Mine wasn’t really a surprise, with the research that I’ve already done, but my husband’s was interesting.  I’ve always believed he was half German and half Irish.  I suppose my brain remembered what it wanted to from way back when my husband and I were dating. He’s 56% German, which makes perfect sense (his mom was born in Germany), but he’s only 7% Irish.  I found it fascinating that I’m more Irish than he is.

I’ve also been digging into his Dad’s side of the family and finding pictures of his ancestors that have been posted by other people.  I can’t wait to show his family what I’ve found so they can affirm I’m on the right track or tell me I’m crazy.  haha.

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Slow Edits

I’ve started editing my first draft, but it’s been slow going.  First, I took a much deserved (I thought) break from the story.  I wanted to clear my mind of it so I could come back to it with fresh eyes.  I needed to think about whether it was really done, or if a book two was really in the cards, since I have a couple of new ideas percolating.  And, on my less confident days, I wondered whether or not the whole 44,000 words should be taken out to the fire pit and turned into ashes.

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Editing with my timeline

Now that I’ve taken a couple of weeks to get my head realigned, I’ve started to read  my story with an eye for making sure I have my details in order. I’m writing historical fiction and I have to make sure my characters are aging properly and things are falling in line with what’s going on in the world. So, I going through on this read, writing down dates in the margins, names of minor characters, in case they reappear and I’ve given them a different name.  (Because I did.)

Meanwhile my BFF, who also has a degree in professional writing, has a copy that she is also editing.  First reading the story to make sure everything rolls smoothly and then back for detail edits like grammar and what not.

I fully expect to get the pages back in September covered in red ink.  🙂

Wait, September?

Yep, you read that right.  I’ll be back in Wisconsin while my Mom has her second knee replaced the beginning of September, so my BFF and I are going to make a point of both having read and edited my draft and then will get together and discuss it.  I’m a little nervous.  I mean, she’s my friend, so she’s not gonna be cruel, but the words are still my babies and what if it is the worst bit of drivel she’s read ever in her life? Out to the fire pit with you!

Genealogy

family trees

Grandma’s hand written tree and family notes.

But seriously, the long and the short of it is I have all summer to edit.  So, I’ve been focusing a little more energy on my genealogy.  I’ve got a couple of branches of the tree all the way back to the 1600s!  I’m pretty excited about it.  Ancestry.com is really the bomb when it comes to making the searching a little easier. I don’t have the finances to travel around the world, looking for stories like the stars do on Who Do You Think You Are? but I’ve got a few stories from my Grandma’s papers and a cassette tape with my Great Aunt Helen’s stories (that I better listen to one of these days, before cassette players are obsolete).

And there are all the stories I have yet to discover surrounding why different family members came to America.  To say nothing of the soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and others.  My Dad was in Vietnam and the letters he wrote home to my mom are full of ideas for another story.  I’d like to follow him through his Air Force service and match up what he was doing (he was an aircraft mechanic, not on the front lines) with what was going on in Vietnam proper.

The family stories I’m not interested in publishing, necessarily, but in preserving them for my niece so that she has these family stories to share with her own children someday. I think it’s important to have an anchor…to know where you come from as much as you can.  All the history you read means little when it’s based on strangers.  When you find out your five-times great-grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War, well, suddenly that part of United States history becomes more real.  You belong to that history now and you want to learn more.

But who knows…I might find a story buried somewhere in my family’s past that I can’t help but turn into the next Great American Novel. But first, back to my edits….

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First Draft is Done!

I never thought I would be writing this post, but I think I’m finally done with the first draft of my book!

And even better, I think a book two might be possible to continue my character’s story!

I just wrote myself to a point that I feel is a good stopping point.  I’ve been wondering lately, as I’m over 43,000 words, when I should stop.  How do you know when the story is told?  When the book is complete? I didn’t want this to become a Stephen King, 1,000 page book that takes the reader months to finish. But I also don’t want to cut my character’s story short. I don’t want to leave readers (or myself, for that matter) hanging and wondering what comes next. I wondered if I would just know when I get to the end in a similar way to how I knew where the story was going next.  Every time I wasn’t sure where to go from where I was, I would sit down to write and my character would tell me and I would take down her dictation in my head.

Just now I wrote:

They said nothing and I turned to leave.  I turned around once as I opened the door, “This is why we lose to the white devil. One thing they do better than us is stand together to fight a common enemy. They have taught us to run and hide, they divide and conquer. And it will always be this way if we cannot find a way to come together as a people. Win together or lose together, but at least we would have tried. Good luck to you, my friends.”

I shut the door behind myself and walked out of their lives.

This seems like the perfect place to stop.  It can absolutely be an ending in and of itself, but it can also be a pause on a story that can be continued in another book.

It feels surreal to have finished. I’m sitting in a hotel room (at a work event) writing during my downtime and to come to the end of the story without any fanfare feels…strange. I’m not at home to run upstairs and jump around in front of my husband, yelling, “I’m done! I’m done!”

My brain whispered, “This is the end.” There are no fireworks celebrating my achievement. No balloons and confetti falling from the ceiling as if I had just won the Showcase Showdown on The Price is Right. No knock on the door with a huge check from Publisher’s Clearing House, no cheering from the home team as I score the winning goal.

Finishing a work you have labored over for several years is absolutely an internal celebration.  I knew this would be true…after all…my book is the center of my universe, and no one else’s. But it still takes a little of the wind out of your sails that you’ve completed this huge feat and no one really notices.  For everyone else, life just goes on.

I know the work has only just begun as I start the editing and publishing process, but it still feels a little bit like I’ve lost my best friend.

This might be why we keep writing.

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Writing Calendar Success!

So, last week, after my post, I actually….

wait for it…

…WORKED ON MY BOOK!

Can you imagine?  Actual writing getting done because I set myself up on a schedule! I didn’t write a lot, but I finished a chapter and that’s something to celebrate.  I’ve come to a crossroads in my story. Remember the character I couldn’t get to come back when he walked off the page? And then finally he came back?

Well, he’s now just died. As was his purpose.

So, we have come to the climax. The fork in the road. The s**t or get off the pot moment.

My main character has some decisions to make and I’ve gotta say, I have no earthly idea what’s going to happen next.  Well, I know what’s going to happen in the next chapter, but after that, I’m walking in the dark without a flashlight. You might recall my story is based on an actual person and I know a little of what that person did with the rest of her life from census records.

But being loosely based on a real person and writing a biography are two completely different sections of the bookstore, and I want my version of this person to decide what she wants to do and not what historical records say she has already done.

I mean, I’ve been following her lead this whole way, so why would the rest of the story be any different? I just wish she would give me a little more advance insight into her plans, because fly by the seat of my pants writing has gotten me stuck in more than one pickle jar as I’ve gone along.

It’s a good thing I like pickles.

 

Word count: 37,576

 

 

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