Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Letting Go

I'm in the throes of ripping out whole chunks of my current WIP (work in progress), not because the writing stinks, but because these chapters don't help drive the story forward. Ouch. As tempted as I am to save these wonderful words (my designation, LOL), I find it's easier to send them into the black hole of the delete button so I'm not tempted to try to work them in somewhere else in the book. That ploy has never worked for me, so it's better and less painful to say a fond adieu and hit the death key. Sigh. I know it's for the best, but . . . .

It's the same with my closets. Packed to the gills with the extraneous. I've toyed with the idea of a mass throw-away. A wholesale tossing of stuff no one cares about. However, there's one problem with my resolve to make more space. In my family, one line of women were sewers. Their creative talents showed up in smocked baby dresses, embroidered blouses, and elegant gowns that have been passed down through the generations. When my oldest child had to dress as her book character for a book report in the third grade, I found a 1930s dress for her to wear as she pretended to be Beverly Cleary. The other daughter discovered an original Hawaiian 1930s gown to wear to a dance, a style and era that fit her curvy figure perfectly. The same daughter wanted a graduation dress that wasn't like everyone else's (they have to wear long, white, and no cap and gown), so we shopped for a pattern and fabric to her liking. It's finished (thank goodness, well before the big day), and she brags to everyone how she and her mother made her dress. I'm sure her friends think she's insane for not buying a wedding dress, which is the norm for this crowd. She'll be the one in a simple white eyelet sundress she helped sew. One day, she'll find that dress in the back of a closet, and it'll bring back memories I hope she'll cherish. So for now, I've talked myself out of tossing the closet contents.

Unlike my story-stopping chapters, they can stay.

Monday, March 20, 2006

spring, Fast Openings, and Malice Domestic

The first day of spring, and my favorite time of year is about to bloom. After the freezing rain and snow, of course. My daffodils and the forsythia should survive, and the tulips are still a few weeks away, so they’ll be okay. I can’t wait for the azaleas and trees to burst out. Of course, better weather creates a dilemma for a writer. The alluring scent of new mulch and bright green grass is a huge temptation for those of us who like to play in the outdoors. We’ll see how much resistance I can muster.

I heard a talk by the incomparable Merline Lovelace a couple of weeks ago and was very grateful for her comments about how to start a story. I know what to do - get into the story with a solid swan dive. But for some reason, I always have to work out about forty pages before the story starts. The current work-in-progress has had at least five opening incarnations - a record for me. And I’m still not happy with it. Merline reminded me of the basic truth I’ve always worked with, and I just need to take a strong hand to the first three chapters and delete like crazy. Easier said than done, LOL.

Oh, I just received my panel assignment for Malice Domestic. Nine a.m. on Sunday, the 23rd of April, with a book signing to follow at ten a.m. Yes, the River Knows has been out since December, so maybe those of you who’ve read it would like to stop by and tell me what you think. I’d love to see you!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Killing Characters

I've been struggling this week with a plot device that has nipped me in the nether regions once before. In my Kiowa western series, a full-blown character rose from the computer screen to protest his imminent demise. He told me in no uncertain terms I couldn't kill him off. I relented and let him live, although his death would have made a great scene.

Since mysteries are focused on murder and mayhem, I haven't had this problem - until yesterday. I sat down to write the murder scene for a character to whom I've become inordinately attached. She's solid, living, and needed to die to propel the action. Couldn't do it. Just couldn't leave her dead in the fields of Culvert County. Instead, I gave her a reprieve by telling myself I could use her in another way, and proceeded to shoot a secondary character. He'll have to get a bigger role in rewrites to make his death serve the same plot function as Elnora's would have, but at least I skipped over the dilemma of losing Elnora.

This power-of-life-and-death thing is scary, sometimes. When and if you meet Elnora, congratulate her on her ability to take her own destiny into her fictional hands, and let me know if I did the right thing for the story by reprieving her. I sure hope so.