Friday, October 27, 2006

Write On

I'll be out of town all next week and I don't think I'll be able to access the internet during much of that time. I plan to be back and blogging the following week, insha Allah.

Keep writing!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Finished. . .For Now

About an hour ago I finished my most recent draft of Ripples. And I always have mixed emotions. I'm happy, certainly, to complete my task. But it's always a let down to come to the end of a book--whether I'm reading it or writing it.

My new climax works, though it needs to be tuned up. I expect to spend much of the next four to five months making the writing stronger and the organization tighter.

But I have it. This story has vexed me for some time. I have had trouble nailing it down. Now I'm more than halfway there.

And I'm gearing up for NaNoWriMo. Right now I have three or four different plots in mind. I have less than a week to decide which one I'll go with.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Just the right touch

I wrote one of my critical scenes today. I'm sure I will need to go back and change it. At least once.

When dealing with emotions, it's hard for the writer to find the right touch. We don't want to be sentimental or maudlin. We must stay clear of cliches. How many ways are there to say someone is crying? Whimpering? Weeping? Sobbing? Tears dropping like bombs to the floor? (No, I would definitely not use that last one--not unless I was trying to be funny.)

And how strong are the emotions? Do the characters hide what they're feeling, or do they let it all out? Do the feelings emerge in stages? What's the right pacing? Maybe it depends on the character. One may hold her feelings in, to be released at another critical moment. Another may show his emotions to the world.

I know I need to go lightly with this scene. Don't throw too much at the reader. Expose the situation in stages. Wait for just the right moment to reveal that last clue. Sometimes it's very hard to wait. I want to tell it all right now. I would make a lousy mystery writer.

Not too hard--don't pound the reader over the head with tried expressions. Not too soft--be subtle but not obscure.

I write and rewrite these scenes many times--often I'm still rewriting the day before the final draft goes to the publisher. I need just the right words, just the right mood--the right touch.

I've said it before. Thank God for word processing. (Alhamdulillah!)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Puzzle Pieces

My story is now coming together. The plot lines are solidifying and I think I finally have the right to call it a story. The breakthrough I experienced last night was just what I needed.

As I've said before, I feel like I'm discovering, rather than writing, the story. The first book in the Echoes Series, Echoes, was inspired by a dream. Each of the first three books contained part of that single dream. When I reached the fourth book, I worried because no more dreams materialized. But I knew the main characters, who have been with the Series since they were children. I could anticipate how they would act and react. Only one, Isaiah, gave me some problems because he is very conflicted. And another character, someone who emerged in this book, was supposed to make only a cameo appearance. But she was too strong, and she wouldn't leave. I don't know if I'll ever be able to get rid of her.

Struggling through a sentence, a paragraph, a page is a difficult experience, and can turn some away from writing. But discovering the key is a wonderful feeling. I think that's what keeps me writing.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Searching for the Right Fit

Every book must have a climax. Usually that's not a problem for me, but it has been in writin Ripples.

I have fully written out two climaxes for this story, and rejected them both. They simply didn't fit. Some elements of each worked well with other details of the story, but they didn't feel right.

This evening it happened that I had to wait in the car for my husband--and I had nothing to do. No book to pass the time. No reading of any kind. Just waiting.

After several minutes I grabbed a piece of scratch paper from my bag and started brainstorming. I needed to find the right climax for my story. It took several more minutes of jotting and thinking, but I finally found it. I hope.

Every story needs the right fit. All of the details must come together toward a satisfying conclusion. One of my earlier options seemed very contrived, as did some of the ideas I brainstormed. The flow of the story must be believable and acceptable to the reader. Otherwise you need to go back and try again.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Eye-Opening Lesson

I was about to write this blog last night when, suddenly, I could no longer keep my eyes open. I put down my laptop and leaned into my pillow. Only for a second.

When I woke up this morning I realized there was a lesson in this, as there is in everything. That is: You can't write with your eyes closed.

Think about it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Copy, Cut, Paste

This happens to some extent with every book. I write a passage, and later realize it would fit better somewhere else. I copy and cut--always afraid it will escape into the black hole of cyberspace. Then I paste and rewrite to make the passage more comfortable in it's new home.

I've been doing that a lot lately with Ripples, the fourth book in the Echoes Series. In one case it was a matter of chronology--I realized the event would have to take place earlier. But sometimes it just takes me a while to find the right place for a passage. Occasionally I've banished whole paragraphs to my remnants file. They won't fit with this book, but I don't want to discard them entirely.

Copy, cut, paste. I remember when all this needed to be done manually--with scissors and glue. The modern method is much easier--just as long as I don't lose any of my words to the great beyond.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Writing in the real world

The writer creates a world where his or her characters will live. This world, the setting for the story, could be at any time--past, present or future--and in any place--even Mars. But no matter where and when the story is set, the writer must follow the natural rules of the universe.

A story set 5000 years from now on Jupiter will, of course, leave a great deal of room for the imagination. People may fly. Strange creatures may inhabit the environment. But the writer must still "keep it real." For instance, if he introduces a slurpote as a plant-eating animal and beast of burden, then of course a slurpote cannot later eat one of the humans. The writer must follow the laws of his own world.

I write in the world we know. And I must be careful not to contradict myself. In one of my stories, a character becomes paralyzed and can no longer walk. But in an early draft I had that character "walking up to the door." Unless I insert a miracle--medical or otherwise--I cannot let that character walk again. He can move or wheel, but never walk. These are my rules, and I mut abide my them.

I could give other, more embarrassing, mistakes made in my early drafts, but I'll stop here. In short, a writer must be consistent. From my experience as well as my observation, inconsistency in a story is a very easy trap. That one reason why the writer must be thoroughly familiar with the manuscript before submitting.

Would anyone else care to share an early draft goof?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Great books

Each person, or at least each person who actually reads, has his or her own list. Many include Shakespeare as well as other classics, both time-worn and contemporary.

Tonight I began my list for Listmania on Amazon. It's not complete, and I may decide to put some books on a different list. Some of my books are classics. Others have barely registered.

What I look for in a book is heart and soul. I want emotions, though not sentimentality. I want to feel angry, hurt, or victorious, just the like the character in the book. I've listed only a few books which have touched my heart. In the coming days I plan to list more, insha Allah.

A reader's taste is an individual thing. As is a writer's. My 17-year old writes fantasy. My 13-year old writes horror--he is aspiring to be the next Stephen King, and I think he has a good chance. My 17-year old loves book series like Redwall and The Hobbit. My 13-year old is constantly on the lookout for a good scary story or film. And I love stories which touch my heart and leave me with a profound sense of satisfaction.

Each of us has his or her own "great books"--our lists are very different even though we're in the same family. We don't argue, because we recognize the difference in tastes. We also know that no matter what you like, it is very important simply to read.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Finding a Way to Do Both

Right after I posted yesterday I realized it conflicted with my post for Tuesday, in which I said I couldn't wait to start writing. I guess that sums up my state of mind these days. I don't know whether I'm coming or going.

I did write a little today. Nothing stupendous, miraculous, or earth-shaking, but at least I wrote. Well, actually I revised a little from my first draft. But that counts. Doesn't it?

The rest of the day I enjoyed spending time with my daughter-in-law and my beautiful little granddaughter. They are both very sweet. I think my granddaughter is becoming more comfortable with me now. Last night she was stunned to be carried off the plane and faced with strangers--and more uncles than she could possibly imagine. Today she began to relax. We had some real fun together.

So I spent time with my family. And I wrote. Later I will have to concentrate on my story--the kind of concentration where I barely recognize the people around me and completely tune them out. Every story, and certainly every book, needs that level of commitment at some point.

But for now I will write a little, play a little--and enjoy the best of both worlds.

When Life Gets In the Way

I probably won't write much for the next couple of weeks or so. My son and his family just arrived. And tonight I finally had the opportunity to meet my precious little granddaughter. She is every bit as sweet as I knew she would be--and did I mention she's already talking, at eight months?

Sometimes life does get in the way of our writing. But that's okay. A writer can take a break from time to time and come back stronger. And life experiences are often what goes into our writing so even while I'm playing with my granddaughter I will be preparing to write.

Sometimes writing can become life. I know it's happened to me. I live in the world of my invention, contemplating plot twists and dialogue. I sit at my computer, oblivious to my surroundings.

But for now it's time for something else. Moments of closeness with my son and daughter-in-law. Moments of joy--elation, really--with my granddaughter.

And my story hasn't gone away. It's still percolating in my brain, waiting for the time when it will burst fully formed onto the page.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

(Jamilah finished working on Turbulence today so now it's time to) let her (work on) Rip(ples)

It's done. I have been working on this story for a long time. I think I started in 2004. I wrote the last part first. Then I went back and wrote in the first part. And just as everything was beginning to gel I lost 80 pages, inexplicably--at night they were there, and the next morning they were nowhere to be found. Fortunately, I knew the story well enough by then that I could successfully reconstruct.

When I began, I knew only the basics about my main character. Over the course of the novel, I continued to discover more about his personality. That's what it is to me. Not invention, but discovery. There came a point when I was realized he was not who I thought he was. That was the turning point for this book.

Every time I turned to the manuscript I found a new way of saying things. Just this afternoon I was still editing and rephrasing. That's a continual problem for writers. If we work on our books until we think they are absolutely perfect, they will never be published.

And now it's done. I think I made all the necessary revisions. The manuscript is formatted.
It's time to take it to the next level. And soon, insha Allah, Turbulence will be ready for all of my readers.

Now I can spend some time on Ripples. That manuscript has patiently waited for me. I can finally give it first priority. As with Turbulence and every other book--at the beginning--I know the main character and the primary plot. Now it's time to smooth everything out.

It's time to write!

Monday, October 09, 2006

I Can't Wait

I'm nearly finished with the nitty-gritty prep work for Turbulence. Soon it will be up to my publisher to bring the book to life. And I know she will do an excellent job.

And as soon I turn the final manuscript over to her, I can dig into my next book, Ripples. I'm ready. I've dabbled in making changes here and there, but until now I haven't been able to give this story my full attention.

Oh, and I signed up for the NaNoWriMo--the goal of which is to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. I'll start with all new characters.

I am ready to write.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


I didn't write anything today. I'm working on formatting my manuscript. Not very much fun, but it needs to be done.

Writing is full of mechanical tasks. Check spelling. Check grammar. Check formatting. All those little tedious details which bore those of us who are creative. But a good manuscript, a professional product, demands attention to those little nit-picking details.

Fortunately, the bulk of my writing time is taken up with creating rather than simply reviewing. That's what I love about writing.

By the way, I've signed up for the National Novel Writing Month activity--
www. I already have enough to do, but I think it will be fun. It is certainly a challenge.

And it is possible to write the rough draft for a novel in a month. I wrote Rebounding in two weeks.

You might want to check it out.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Taking risks

I have always loved to write and for many years I moaned that I didn't have enough time to pursue my passion. Finally I decided to quit my teaching job and dive into writing. I had no net, except for my kind husband. I'm still not selling enough books to make a living, but hope springs eternal.

I have been writing novels for four years now, and I want to move out of my comfort zone. This last summer I began writing poetry. I hadn't written a single poem--well, none for mass public consumption--since I was in college. Carter was president. But I have produced possibly a hundred poems now, maybe more, and I become more confident each time I write. I still have a long way to go.

When I was in high school I tried to write short stories. I even sent one or two off to magazines. They were rejected, of course. Very recently I've begun to dabble in the short story again. I have read short stories which dazzle and amaze me, and I'm not sure I'll ever be able to compete in this category. But I would like to improve.

Writing is taking risks. It's often not recognized as a normal profession, and many make little money and no fame from it. We don't write, actually, for the money or the fame. We write simply because we must.

At some point we must be willing to take that dive. And hope Allah provides us with a safety net.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I'm pressed to express

Do you know the feeling you get when you finish reading an enjoyable book? If the book is well-written, the ending will be quite satisfying. But you have devoted hours, and probably days, to the story, and you feel sorry to see it end.

That's how I feel about my own work as well. Today I finished reading through Turbulence. Then I spent the rest of the day in limbo--not ready to commit yet to another story.

This blog was much longer, and probably more eloquent, but I accidentally deleted a couple of paragraphs. Deleting my work is worse than finishing it, of course. I have a few moments when I don't want to write at all--I don't trust my finger, the keypad, the computer.

Reading and writing are about so much more than words. They are reflections of life.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Read very carefully

I am still in the process of preparing the manuscript for my third Echoes Series book, Turbulence. I plan to be finished by Wednesday, insha Allah.

I take a long time because I know soon the manuscript will go to the printers. I can't afford to let any mistakes slide by.

And I have found several. In many places, I simply forgot to type in a word. I became so involved with the story line that I forgot about my words and just writing. Oops, I mean kept writing.

I've also found many places where another word would be more suitable. I grimace at the number of sentences in which I repeated a word a number of times. Oops, I mean more than once. To correct that, a thesaurus is indispensable. I have many in my house. My favorite is fairly new. Check out "Flip Dictionary." It's the best thesaurus I've ever found.

And of course sometimes I smply forgt a leter or mispell a wrd. Can't let the manuscript go to the printers looking like that. The amazing thing is, I can read through a manuscript several times without catching those little errors. (I should have used a thesaurus to find another word for manuscript back there, but my Flip Dictionary is another room. My thirteen-year old, a budding writer, was using it.)

Finally, having an editor is indispensable. I sent Innocent People to the presses without any help--I was the sole editor, and it shows.

We all have to read the fine print. You can have the best plot line the world has ever seen, and write it eloquently, but if you send it out into with any of these errors, you can never hope to be on the New York Times bestseller list. Or even the Podunkville Times.