Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Working on the WIP

I'm pleased I've been able to put some effort into my Work In Progress of late. Though it's still sporadic, and not nearly as much time as I'd like, I'm making headway.

For awhile there I was discouraged; I wasn't sure I liked the direction the story was heading. It just didn't feel right. You see, I thought the main character's wife was going to abandon him, leading to issues and events that would severely test his Christian faith. But I was struggling with writing her character. I couldn't see her playing out in my head, or figure out how to make her scenario believable.

And then it hit me I was handling the plot wrong. Abandonment isn't the way to go, because it delves into issues I don't want to handle. I just can't wrap my head around them, explore them deeply enough to write about them well.

But what I can do is create a "perfect" marriage and family life between the main character and his wife (and their young daughter) . . . and then alter it drastically by an accidental death. Now we're talking. I can write this with emotion and articulation. I'm excited about the challenge of endearing the reader to the wife... and causing them to feel the same heartbreak my main character will after her death, helping them understand the test of faith when his life is in shambles...

I've decided on the working title Life After Death.

Such a shift in plot meant I had to scrap the work I'd done previously, though it only accumulated to three chapters. I did save the good stuff in another file, should the characterizations come in handy another time... but I started rewriting from the beginning last week, and I'm pleased with my progress. The picture is clearer, the way seems to be paved. Here I go!

How about your WIP? What are you working on right now, this week?

26 comments:

Angie Ledbetter said...

Ah, isn't it great when things just click? Good luck and good progress to you. I'm working on Pushcart nominations this week for The Rose & Thorn Literary e-zine, finishing up an edit on someone else's ms, and gathering up some other loose ends. Next week, I get back to my personal writing stuff.

Terri Tiffany said...

I like that you are writing from a man's point of view. I haven't done that yet. I haven't worked on my WIP this week but I think you motivated me to dive back in. I have added several POV and it is getting better so I like that. But you are so right--getting the plot where you want it in the beginning helps so much!

Jenna said...

Congrats on being back on track!

Now I'm curious about something...if you don't want to answer that's fine I understand...

If his faith is being tested are you going to market the book to the Christian fiction market? Writing with even a slight Christian slant seems to knock books out of the regular publishing marketplace...or have you heard/read/seen something different?

I ask because I've been wrestling with this lately. As a Christian it is hard to leave your faith and trust in God at the door when writing and I'm not sure I'm willing to candy-coat it for non-believers. Sure a lot of non-beleivers have "faith" but faith in what? Definitely not the same faith I have.

It's tough call and for the entire time I've been writing I've never once thought of writing just for the Christian market but I have an idea and in that idea is a lot about faith and trust and God's hand in our lives and a book like that definitely wouldn't get published in the secular market.

Just curious where you think you'll try and market your work.

Jen said...

Ah, gotta love those "Ah-ha!" moments, and I'm glad it came early enough on in the WIP that it doesn't sting so much to start over.

And good plan on saving the previous work, too. Just make sure to back it up! :)

Janna Qualman said...

Thanks, Angie! Best of luck to you this week. Go get 'em.

Terri - I'm still slightly hesitant about writing from a man's perspective, but so far it's going alright. I know I can draw from misterwrites, and he has 5 brothers I can use for inspiration, too. We'll see how it goes, anyway. :)

Jenna - I've really put a lot of thought into this recently - even wrestled with it, as you said - and I think it's great you've asked.

I think that though writing is my personal love and dream, it's also God's plan for me. And that being the case, I feel He wants me to include Him and belief and faith in my works. I've struggled with how to do that, because though I know it's my job to witness to others, I've never been a pushy, in-your-face, here's-what-I-believe type person (I haven't yet found the happy medium). Plainly put, I don't want to sermonize. With Bliss Lake, I struggled with how much faith to include because, like you, I wasn't sure how the markets would respond. I felt the overall sense from the book wouldn't really work with Christian pubs, but yet how often do mainstream pubs like those with Christian undertones? (I do know Nicholas Sparks references God, though he doesn't delve into any Christian themes.) With Bliss Lake I consciously touched on general themes... and then when a close friend read through the whole ms, she said she gleaned a deeper meaning from the story - stuff I hadn't been aware I'd been setting up - like the fact that the MC always wears modest clothes, she fell asleep at her love interest's house, but he merely covered her with a blanket and retired to his own bed, etc. - little things that provided a wholesome atmosphere to the book. And I was so unsure about this book's place... until I was pointed toward Avalon! They have the whole "wholesome" niche and, though I don't yet know what they think of Bliss Lake in its entirety, I now know for certain my book will have a home somewhere.

With this new book, Life After Death, I felt it was time to crank it up a notch. I still don't know how mamy, if any, specific Christian themes I'll be bringing in (how do I get past putting my personal beliefs out there for public consumption?), but the MC's faith in God and their relationship and how he struggles/draws on Him will be a huge thing.

I think I've largely rambled, and I don't know if I've answered your questions at all. I DON'T yet know how I'll market this one. Even if Bliss Lake finds a permanent home with Avalon, I don't know that Life After Death will belong the same place. I guess I'll just have to write the book, and then figure it out from there. Maybe it'll become clearer the further along I get. Maybe God already knows (duh) and I just need to trust He'll guide me down the right path.

One of my favorite authors is Jan Karon, who wrote The Mitford Series books. The MC is Father Tim, an episcopal priest, and she so warmly, smoothly talks about faith and God and His ever-presense. She's a huge inspiration for me, I just haven't been able to hone my voice to be as smooth as hers. I don't want it to seem forced, you know?

Janna Qualman said...

Backup! You're right, Jen. :D

WendyCinNYC said...

Glad to hear you are feeling optimistic with your new WIP. I have a project I'm working on right now that takes up a lot of my time, so I haven't been writing much lately. (I'm running a movie premiere benefit and only have 2 weeks to go, thank goodness.)

Janna Qualman said...

Wendy, I love hearing about all those things you're involved in. Good luck with the benefit!

Joanne said...

I'm working on a ms revision, and getting things together in prep for submission to a few literary journals. A little of this, a little of that! I like your title, you can interpret it several ways, leaves a little question, which is nice.

Janna Qualman said...

Thanks, Joanne. That's what I was thinking with the title, too. :) Good luck with your stuff!

Turkey Lurkey said...

Glad you found a better direction to take with the story!

I just recently tossed my WIP aside. I didn't feel connected to the characters. The idea is fun, but I need to figure out a better way to execute it. For now, I will be sticking to short stories and work on honing my writing skilz! ;)

Melanie Avila said...

Janna, I'm so glad you feel renewed with the new direction. You sound really excited and that will certainly keep the words flowing.

As you know, my current wip has a male character and the best advice I heard is to remember that men don't talk as much as women. :) Every time I write dialogue, I go back and try to cut it in half. We like to take our time getting to the point but they just spit it out or don't say anything at all. (just a generalization, of course).

I'm wrapping up this round of edits right now and then I'll start NaNo on the 1st!

Janna Qualman said...

Turkey, I totally knew that, but where did I see it? Oh, yeah, you mentioned it on your blog, before you gave us Willover. So good, btw.

Melanie - I'll have to keep that in mind; it's absolutely true for misterwrites. They don't have to analyze things like we do, or put the same about of effort into relaying emotions. Good tip!

Rachel Burton said...

I love those sorts of breakthroughs! I'm still in the plotting phase of my next WIP, trying to iron out a few plot points.

And I enjoyed your thoughts on writing for the Christian market! I'm writing what I always loved to read (magical books for kids) and hope I'm doing it to the glory of God, but my secret confession is that I started a Christian chic-lit book once upon a time. It was... heavily autobiographical. And awful. I need to stick to fantasy!

Janna Qualman said...

Thanks for chiming in, Rachel! How neat about your "confession!"

So I'm thinking maybe it's most important to remember He's given us varying talents, and within those talents may lie separate focuses. That is, we each have individual voices and places among the literary world. Maybe it's most crucial that, even if we don't write with strong Christians tones, we do our best with this God-given talent. Maybe it most matters WHAT we do, how we convey ourselves, how we present ourselves to whatever platform we build as we become successful. So, in example, while one might not write Christian fiction, she may still represent herself in a way that readers, fans, people in the lit world regard her with respect because there's something different about the way she carries herself. Does that make sense? Actions and the lives we lead have so much to do with it.

kimmirich said...

Good for you, Janna!!!
hugs, my friend.

Rachel Burton said...

Janna - Absolutely. There is a fantastic quote by CS Lewis (I'm paraphrasing): "We don't need more Christian books; we need more Christians who write great books." We've had some great discussions about these ideas on AW.

Janna Qualman said...

Hugs, Kimmi!

Rachel, I LOVE that! I'm going to see if I can find it verbatim. I'll be writing it down. Thanks! :)

Travis Erwin said...

I've put aside my fiction WIP to work on a creative no-fiction proposal specifically asked for by a New York editor, but I'm not really talking about it because I don't want to jinx my chances.

Janna Qualman said...

Travis, that's awesomely exciting! Best of luck with it!

thedomesticfringe said...

I'm working on doing the laundry, but your new title sounds really good. I admire your ability to shift gears and scrap three whole chapters.

Janna Qualman said...

Thank you, df!

Laundry? What's that? ;)

Janet said...

That's quite a shift. I would have liked your original plot, but if this one reverberates with you better, that's the direction to go.

I've finished the second draft of WIP#1 and am busy typing the revisions into the computer. (I did them on paper.) And I'm trying, for the first time, to build a plot before I start writing, using the snowflake method to get my thoughts in order. So far so good. I might even be ready in time for NaNo.

Melissa Marsh said...

Oh, how I WANT to be working on something right now! But dealing with being sick and returning from vacation and all that has left me seriously behind in just about every area of my life. But oh, how I long for those moments to delve back into my story...soon!

Janna Qualman said...

Yay, Janet! Good for you. And good luck with preparations for NaNo!

Melissa - Hope you're feeling better. I bet you'll be back in the swing of things in no time! :)

aaroncrocco said...

Great job in hashing out the plot! I think your idea works and it's important to be able to write comfortably about your WIP.

Mine is going alright but I'm at a speed bump for the time being.