Archive for April, 2012

Locking the Book

Monday, April 30th, 2012 | The Writing Life | 7 Comments

It is one of the best feelings in the world to hear that a manuscript I’ve been working on for months is locked. The editor is happy with it, I’m happy with it, and it can go on to be copy edited  and eventually, come out into the world. It is a thrill to realize that the book I love is on its way, one step closer to coming into the hands of readers. It is exciting to know that the plot is smoothed and developed, the characters are living on the page, and that all the fun I’ve had will soon be available to others. Or so I hope. Surely, if I have fun, the readers will, right?

Though doubts and fears still haunt the writing process at every stage, joy fills each step, too. Moving one step closer to the beauty of launch day is a very joyous thing.

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Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 | The Writing Life | 2 Comments

In life and in art,times of change can be the most important moments. When we move from one act of the novel to the next, from one book to the next, from one chapter of our lives to the next, we find ourselves balancing as on the edge of a knife, careful not to look down in case we lose our nerve, hoping to find the right way to step easily and cleanly from one world to another. Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes the move is smooth, almost effortless. Other times, we fall and have to pick ourselves up, and start all over again.

Our characters help with these moments of transition. As we move from act one of a novel into act two, our characters can keep the story alive for us as we continue to build the mountain that is our plot, as we follow it up the trail into the unknown. And when we look back over it, and find that the transition was not as smooth and as effortless on the page as we had hoped, our characters take our hands and lead us back to the true path, the reason we began the novel in the first place: love of their story. The love of telling a story well. A story is not told well with only one draft. We have to hone it, over and over again, until as much truth as possible comes out of it. Transition after transition, we finally find the balance we seek, and have a novel that we can be proud of.

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The Breathings of Our Hearts

Friday, April 20th, 2012 | Quote of the Week, The Writing Life | 1 Comment

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.  ~William Wordsworth

This is one of my favorite quotes on writing, from one of my favorite sources. In the midst of our work, in the midst of trying so hard to get it right, there are times when we forget this. We want our books to be the best they can. We want to give those books the life blood of our hearts, the cleanest plot structures, well-faceted characters, all the while remembering to tell the truth. Our truth, which we hope will be a truth that also belongs to someone else. That is why we do this work after all. To tell our truths to others, and to have them hear us. The closer we listen to the breathings of our hearts, the closer to those truths we come.

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Tomorrow’s Battles

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012 | The Writing Life | 3 Comments

A friend of mine told me that I can not fight tomorrow’s battles today. As much as I may want to.

Now a writer does not fight literal battles, of course, but there are battles with my own prose, battles to develop a clear and well arcing story, battles to get the word out about my novels in the months before and after they come out. Some of these battles are fought only with myself, as I face my fears and leap into the Void. Sometimes it is a hard fight even to face the Void, much less leap.

But as my friend said, I can only do what I can, today. Tomorrow does not exist. In some ways, it never will. We are always here, now, doing what we can, fighting the battles that present themselves. We plan for the known battles to come, but we can not fight them now. We can not market our book until it is finished, we can not plan for advertising and blog tours until everything is in place. Sometimes, today’s battle is simply to wait, to be patient, and to let not just the past, but the future, go.

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Historical Figures: Behind the Mask

Monday, April 16th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Claire Ridgeway of the Anne Boleyn Files asked a question today on Facebook and Twitter that I had not given any thought to before. Namely, who was the real Thomas Boleyn? Beyond the father of Mary, George and Anne Boleyn, I mean. Was he truly the demon portrayed in The Other Boleyn Girl? Was he the smarmy pseudo-politician of The Tudors? Or was he a loving father caught up in the politics of the age? The true answer is probably none of the above.

I love to read about Tudor history but it is not my specialty. Still, the question lingers, how do we look back down the corridor of time to discern who these people really were?

As an historical fiction writer, I read the sources that tell us what these people did. Each source has a bias of its own which must be taken into account as I research. Luckily, since I am not an historian myself, I can revel in my own bias instead of trying to kill it. I can worship Eleanor of Aquitaine as the goddess she was. I can honor Anne Boleyn for her life and the tough choices she made, the choices that eventually killed her. I can even look at a popular villain like Thomas Boleyn and ask, could a man who educated his daughters so well be all bad?

How do we peer behind the masks of historical figures? I think this is a question that has many answers, and none. We read all we can, we search through the piles of what is known to discern some traces of who they may have been. All the while, we face the truth that we will never know them. So we glean what we can from history, then open our imaginations to ask the question, what if? What if Thomas Boleyn was a political, sometimes a villain, and a loving father too? If, as a writer, I could encompass a character who is all of those things and more, then I have come closer to drawing on the page the image of a full human being. As writers, that is what we strive for: to bring our characters, historical and otherwise, to life.

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