Friday, April 1, 2016

Today I finished Chapter 1! And that's no April Fool's joke!

I am finding it so interesting to observe the writing process. On the one hand, "I" am doing the writing, but at the same time, "I" am observing what "I" am doing as I write. (I do this same split-brain thing while playing the piano and while riding/working with horses. It's how I learn to improve what I do.) The more I write, the more I learn about different ways to write. I am currently experimenting with the idea of "letting" the story write itself, rather than "making" it happen, which creates pressure/tension.

I have an outline, a rough plan for the plot, for themes I hope will come through. I have characters that I already know pretty well from the previous books (and a new one). I put them in a scene and let them do and say what they will, within the framework I have outlined. Then I watch to see what happens, and write it down. If I am patient and just stand back and look and listen, they come up with the details.

I know I blogged about this some time ago, but today I was reminded of some parallels to what I read in the Bible: "As a writer, I'm kind of playing 'God.' He's got a Big Plan (the plot) and various themes and sub-themes, which will work out the way He has planned, but within that plan, He gives us free will. And everything we choose ends up fitting into His Big Plan! (Unlike me, God doesn't have to wait to find out what His characters will choose to do--He already knows that, as well as the ending.)"

I need to figure out something about my new character (who has not yet appeared): will he be good with horses, or not so good? More a poser? And as I pondered, I heard myself saying to myself, "The reason you don't know is, you haven't seen him ride yet!" So maybe I don't need to figure it out at all--just be patient, wait and watch. I am pretty confident that it will take care of itself. I am learning more and more to not worry, not try too hard, but to trust the writing process, just as in my life I am learning more and more to trust in the Lord with all my heart, not to lean on my OWN understanding, but to acknowledge Him and wait confidently for Him to direct my paths.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

During a recent subbing job, while assigning an article on environmentalism, I was reminded of one of several reasons I am writing books.

When our boys were little (if you know them, you'll find it hard to believe they were ever little!), my husband and I moved to northern Nevada--ranching country. I was fascinated with ranch and cowboy life, so different from my more urban background. I realized many kids have no idea where their food comes from or the importance agriculture plays in our lives. Food doesn't come from the store--it is produced by farmers and ranchers. Cowboys aren't just colorful characters in the Old West, movies, or rodeos, but play in important role in beef production.

Having been a bookworm all my life, I read piles of books to my little ones, hoping to instill in them the love of books. Many were engaging and well-written, but some made me wonder if I couldn't have written a better one myself! I began to toy with the thought of someday writing books for children.

Fast forward a few years. My boys are bringing home papers from school with a strong environmentalist slant, sometimes (as in the assignment I mentioned above) with a blatant anti-farming/ranching element. My pro-agriculture feelings were kindled even further.

By this time I was writing and selling stories and articles to magazines and felt ready to attempt a book. I had read that nonfiction was a good way for a new author to break into the publishing game. I fumbled around with a few fruitless endeavors before it occurred to me that I could probably appeal to more kids in a fiction format, weaving background information into my story.

Not only did this approach prove successful, but during author talks I can bring out the agriculture angle even more, as part of an entertaining slideshow. The curriculum unit, while primarily integrating elements of reading and writing, helps teachers use the agriculture focus as a science connection and the Nevada ranching focus as a social studies connection.

Unfortunately, there was no time the other day to take the time to talk with my class about environmentalism, its agenda, and how it is pushed in the classroom and elsewhere. But through my books, I am doing what I can to educate kids about agriculture and the unique ranching sub-culture of the West.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Again at the middle school, while subbing today, I had another "aha" moment. It gave me an idea for one more element that will tie in with Ben's conflict. I love how ideas for writing come from so many different places in my life. Part of being a writer is being observant--of human nature, of what's going on with a horse, of what detail my piano student might be missing, of interesting words or conversations, of just everything. Another aspect of writing is being able to see how  these pieces-parts might be related and could work together to create a story with various sub-plots and conflicts. Perhaps I developed this ability through my love of jigsaw puzzles. Or perhaps that is why I have always enjoyed puzzles--because my mind likes to find connections. So it's always fun to see how a seemingly unrelated piece of life, like a sixth grade reading assignment, can play into my book idea!

During the past three months, I have been brainstorming ideas for my book. It was coming together, but two missing pieces stood in the way of progress--a title, and a name for the new character. Both of those pieces fell into place last week, so now I feel I can move ahead. As soon as I had the title, I had a better focus: a better beginning, a better ending, and new details that would tie things together nicely. I know some people create a title last, and can even begin writing before they know what's going to happen, but that doesn't work for me.

When I wrote the first book, I started writing at the beginning and wrote it straight through, stopping every time I got stuck. On the second book, I was pleased to discover that if I got stuck, I could just jump ahead in my outline and continue expanding it until that part shaped up, and later I could back to where I got stuck. I liked that strategy so well that I'm thinking I may not even start at the beginning this time. I have sketched out the story and am adding details to my outline as I think them up, anywhere I please. I will continue doing this until it rounds itself into a complete book. This strategy feels kind of "freeing" and less intimidating. I'm kind of excited to see how that works out!