A Question or Two for Authors Plus Some Other Stuff

I’ve been working on my novel daily, and I’m closing in on 60,000 words. I like my characters, even though they still talk way too much.

So question number one is: How much dialogue is too much? Is there a golden ratio that can be applied or should I just let them talk?

Question #2: I’m afraid I hit the story’s climax way too soon. How do I create some new tension to keep the story going, OR, should I create some additional tension before the perceived climax and delay the denouement?

Question #3: What is the meaning of life in the age of COVID-19? And is it too frivolous to be working on a novel during such a time?

I wrote a little over 1,000 words this morning and now I’m snuggled up with the cat. One moment I’m able to put the pandemic totally out of my mind, while the next moment I’m contemplating how horrible it must be to be hooked to a ventilator and that makes me need to wipe tears onto my shirt sleeve.

Irrelevant photo of my two eldest grandchildren. They’re 17 now.

Please stay safe out there.

Accomplishment

Today, I wrote 1,853 words in my novel. That’s a really good day for me. I’m still well shy of 60,000 words, but I am going to get it done. Yay!

The biggest accomplishment of the day, though, was that one of my characters said something that made me cry. I mean big tears rolled out of my eyes then down my cheeks and I had to stop and collect myself before continuing with the tale.

I cry fairly easily. It’s not uncommon for me to sob while reading a novel, but until today, I’d been fairly well prepared for anything my own characters might say. It’s not the first time a character has surprised me, but it is the first time the surprise has resulted in tears.

Hoping for more tears tomorrow. Wish me luck!

What are you doing today?

On this Tuesday in quarantine I’ve discovered the long lost tv remote control that Studly Doright claimed he’d looked high and low for. It was in plain sight on the table next to his recliner. “Huh! What do you know?” he said.

In addition, I located a set of headphones that he swore he’d already searched for. These weren’t on top of the end table, but inside it. Again, he said, “Huh! What do you know?”

I’ve had my favorite Irish breakfast tea with a splash of almond milk and a bit of honey. Now, until a few weeks ago I’d have laughed at the idea of any kind of milk in my hot tea, but it’s quite good and for the rest of the morning I’ve spoken exclusively in an Irish accent. I’m better at Scottish accents, but as far as I can tell there’s no Scottish breakfast tea in the house. Maybe I should look on the table beside Studly’s chair.

I’ve worked on the novel a bit. I wrote a thousand words yesterday, but only 500 this morning. I’m having trouble getting my characters to shut up and move along. And I know I need less talk and more ambiance to flesh out the book.

For lunch I ordered takeout from Sweet Pea in Tallahassee. I worry about my favorite vegan place during this time. I tip extra every time I buy a meal there, but I know their business is probably slow right now. Be sure and support your local mom and pop businesses if you can.

My laundry is as caught up as it’s ever been. I do at least one load of towels every day on the “sanitize” settings, and that takes a considerable amount of time.

I tried to take a nap, but my brain won’t stop trying to solve the problem I’m having with the novel, so I picked up my phone and began writing this post. I wonder if the solution to my characters’ issues could be found on the table next to Studly’s chair? It’s worth taking a look, I guess.

Peace, people.

Quarantine and Sanity

My mother told me repeatedly when I was small, and again when I was a teenager, and yet again when I was grown that I was much too restless for my own good. “You don’t have to be going somewhere, doing something, all the time!” She’d say, or something similar.

To Mom, my need to be doing something or going somewhere, was probably my biggest character flaw—along with my disinterest in keeping a clean room and having a smart mouth. The triumvirate of failings. I suspect that right now she’s looking down on me and laughing her ass off. I don’t do well when told I can’t just get up and go where I please.

Now, I don’t think I’m particularly hyperactive. I can sit for hours reading a good book, or watching a movie, but if I’m unable to leave if I want to, I start feeling trapped and go a bit bonkers. I’m sure my two children are thankful that they are grown and don’t have to share space with me during this time.

My heart hurts, though, when I read of the people in Italy who are unable to attend the funerals of loved ones. People are being buried with only a member of the clergy and perhaps a funeral home employee in attendance, as their surviving family members are prohibited from leaving their own homes. If those grieving families can stay put, then I can.

Thank goodness for FaceTime, books and movies, social media, my renewed interest in finishing my novel, and for plenty of sunshine here in Florida. Maybe I’ll emerge from this experience with a new outlook on being still. Mom just fell off her cloud laughing. Oh, and when she stopped laughing she’d tell me to go clean my room and “don’t roll your eyes at me, young lady.”

How are you staying sane?

Peace, people.

March Nightmare: When Worlds Collide

Some dreams don’t need monsters, ghosts, aliens, or haunted houses to be labeled nightmares. Sometimes all they need is a little anxiety and a wild imagination.

A couple of nights ago I had a dream in which characters from the book I’m trying to write interacted with some of the characters in the book I’m currently reading. So, my sweet and sassy Texas gals and their friends somehow got mixed up with Peter F. Hamilton’s space-faring characters who are attempting to protect humanity from being possessed by restless souls from a Purgatory-type beyond.

Ludicrous, I know, but I awakened from the dream in a panic. How were Paula Jean Arnett and Cassie Campbell going to keep from succumbing to possession? Would Joshua Calvert fly in on the Lady Mac in time to save them?

Fortunately the dream faded, and when I sat down to write yesterday morning the possessed from Hamilton’s “The Night’s Dawn” series were nowhere to be found. Of course, that’s how they get you….bwahahaha.

Peace, people!

Marching to Target

We have a relatively new Target store in Tallahassee. While it was being built I was so excited. The two existing Targets are clear across Tallahassee, one way out on Thomasville Road, the other on Apalachee Parkway, both at least a twenty minute drive from Doright Manor. This new Target would be on MY side of town, nearer the universities, and along with it would come several new eating establishments. Yay!

When this Target opened its doors for business, though, I was disappointed. It was much smaller than a regular Target and everything in it seemed to cater to college kids on a budget. It did have a Starbucks, though, so that was a plus.

As I’ve become accustomed to this particular Target, I’ve become fond of it. It’s easy to get to, and I’m not as tempted to buy things that are “wants” instead of “needs.” They stock lots of healthy foods and have a decent wine section. And, did I mention the Starbucks?

One thing they don’t have these days? Hand sanitizer. As far as I can, tell no one in Tallahassee has any in stock, though, so I can’t complain. I’m sitting in the Target Starbucks typing this on my phone as I sip on my grande decaf coffee Frappuccino with almond milk. Yes, I’ve become one of those people.

I worked on my book before lunch and will return home to type some more this afternoon, but the weather is lovely and I thought a march, okay, a drive to Target would provide a nice break.

Peace, and march on, people!

Bummer Day in March

Today wasn’t awful, but it was a bummer. I got the second of my two shingles shots on Saturday. The first one didn’t bother me at all, but this second one hit me like a ton of bricks.

So, no writing today. I’ve mainly sat around the house feeling decrepit. My left arm hurts like hell, and I feel achy all over. I’d be more paranoid about this being something more sinister, but I watched Studly go through the very same thing a couple of weeks ago when he got the second shot.

Before I went to bed last night, though, I scribbled off four full pages in a notebook. I’d had an epiphany about my characters while I was washing my face and had to get it on paper before going to sleep. My hopes then had been to type it up first thing this morning, but the aforementioned decrepitude got in the way. Now I’m glad I wrote the scene down.

Here’s to feeling better tomorrow!

Peace, people.

Nothing to do with March

Yesterday, in order to get my thousand words written I had to go to a coffee shop. My housekeeper came and I didn’t want to be in her way. The two of us love to talk and that’s not an activity conducive to writing or to cleaning.

It was my first time to write in a public place, unless one considers the year I worked for a small town newspaper. Then, I was surrounded by other people involved in the same activity. My beat was society news and girls’ sports. I was much better at the second of those than the first.

But on Friday I carried my trusty Dell to the Starbucks on north Monroe and typed with abandon. I ran into a research snag, but thanks to Google and internet friends I got back on track fairly quickly. Fifteen hundred words flowed from my brain to the electronic page. Some of them might even be worth keeping.

As I was writing I recalled a conversation I had with Theodore Taylor, author of The Cay. We were both at a conference for English teachers. I was an attendee and Mr. Taylor was an invited guest. My seventh graders and I had just completed a unit on his novel, and I was delighted to find him at the event.

He told me how he’d written The Cay in a single weekend after encountering a group of black musicians in the lobby of a New Orleans hotel. Something about that experience sparked in him an idea for a book about a young, white boy and a black man who became dependent upon each other for survival.

Every now and then I wonder what it would take for me to write a complete novel in a forty-eight hour time frame. A visit with an alien species? A proposal from Jason Mamoa? It’d almost be like waving a magic wand. Abracadabra!

Peace, people!

A Rousing March

Honestly, I’m not being lazy, but I’m expending 99% of my creativity energy on my ever growing novel. Today (Thursday) I have my Olli class, “Fun with Writing,” at 1:30, so I wrote for a couple of hours this morning before getting ready for class.

The novel is still in the first draft stage, even though I’ve been working on it for more years than I want to think about. In the past I’d write a bit, edit, write some more, edit. It seemed like for every step forward I was taking two steps back. Thanks to the wisdom of our Olli instructor, Heather Whitaker, I’m just writing. No editing as I go. Just getting the story out. It feels good.

One might say, I’m on a mission, an inspired march, if you will. And a good march deserves inspiring music.

How about “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes? Rousing!

Generating Words in March

For those readers who aren’t into the masochistic art of writing you might not know that November is a special month known as “National Novel Writing Month,” more commonly called “NaNoWriMo.” During November writers are challenged to complete a 50,000 word manuscript between November 1 and November 30.

Every November I think that this is the year I’ll finally finish my novel. Every year, I fall short of my goal by approximately 49,750 words. Sad, eh? I start strong on November 1, but soon I’m lured away from my computer by thoughts of holiday meal preparations and Christmas shopping and a million other distractions.

Who’s to say, though, that another 30-day month wouldn’t suffice for NaNoWriMo? Why not March? Sure, it lacks the alliterative element, but the math would be the same. I’d still need to average 1,667 words a day to reach the 50,000 mark.

The good news is that over a period of several years, working erratically as the fickle spirit moved me, I have crafted a manuscript that two days ago was sitting right at 25,000 words. (I kept telling folks I was at 35,000–that just shows how long it’s been since I logged into my work. Again, sad.) So, if I can put together 50,000 words in 30 days, I’ll have 75,000 words.

There’s even better news—for the past two days I’ve written right at 1,200 words each day. Of course yesterday I had to pull out about a thousand words that just weren’t working to move the tale along. Those words go into my file titled “Misfit Words” for potential use at another point in the story. Thank heaven for word processing programs, am I right?

Why this burst of activity? Mainly it’s due to the Olli class I’m taking. Our “Fun With Writing” instructor, Heather Whitaker, has given me a figurative kick in the pants to get me unstuck. One technique I’ve found helpful is to interview my main character, or all my characters for that matter.

Ms. Whitaker provided us with a couple of lists of questions to ask characters. One’s the “Proust Questionnaire,” popularized by author/essayist, Marcel Proust as a parlor game. The second list is “Arthur Aron’s” list. Both can be found through a simple google search.

Now, there are a good many questions on both lists, and I didn’t try to ask my character every one. But just picking a few from each list solidified my understanding of the person my main character is. It’s been a game changer. She’s become much more real.

I sincerely hope I haven’t jinxed my current level of activity by writing this post. Sometimes my mind works in counter productive ways, but this feels good. I’m marching onward. Maybe this can be MaMaCoNo or March Maybe Complete Novel. Maybe not. That’s just ridiculous.

Peace, people!