Tag Archives: first draft

A Spark of Heavenly Fire Pre-Anniversary

Is there such a thing as an anniversary before something happens? A pre-anniversary? The first chapter of  A Spark of Heavenly Fire begins on Friday, December 2, which means the year in which the story takes place will be 2011. I didn’t specifically choose that year, but certain events needed to happen on weekends, others on weekdays, and the year ended up being 2011 by default. I never mentioned the year in the book, so it’s mostly a trivial issue. Today is the two-year pre-anniversary of the onset of the story, however, and to celebrate, all month long I will be posting outtakes of the book on my blog.

Sounds easy, right? Wrong. Somewhere along the line I deleted the computer version of the first draft (or perhaps there wasn’t a computer version. I wrote it before I had a computer). I dug out my handwritten copy and am retyping some of the deleted parts. And there are a lot of them! The original draft was over 118,000 words, the final version less than 95,000. At least 4,000 of those words were justs and onlys and thats and beginning tos, which I worked hard to eradicate, so I don’t intend to bring them back, not even for curiosity’s sake.

Still, there many scenes that I deleted in order to get to the action quicker. Like many new authors, I frontloaded the book with information that slowed the story. I kept thinking that if only people could get past the first fifty pages, they would like the book — it’s a solid story with solid characters in a disasterous situation that could actually happen. A real breakthrough in my writing occurred when I realized that no one would wade through fifty pages to get to the good part, so I needed to eliminate those pages.

Included in the eliminated pages was a substory about a real estate agent and a retired defensive back who had once been part of the legendary Bronco defense team The Orange Crush. The realtor was so sex-starved that she would do anything, even turn a blind eye when he started molesting her daughter, in order to keep him in her life and her bed. I was going to post the deleted scene here, but it’s way more graphic than I realized. Whooo! It’s one thing putting a scene like that in a book, and another to post it where anyone can take a peak. I’ve saved it, though, and perhaps one day I will find a use for it.

I also deleted many less than stellar scenes, but included a brief mention of the action in flashbacks or dialogue. It got the point across without the sludgery of the original version.

I never quite knew what to do with the handwritten draft, but I’m glad I kept it. And who knows — someday I might be so famous (or even better — infamous) and the thing will be worth a lot of money.

Read the outtakes of A Spark of Heavenly Fire on: Bertram’s Blog 
Read the first chapter of the published version here:
A Spark of Heavenly Fire 
Free download: get the first 30% of A Spark of Heavenly Fire free at Smashwords
Read blurb (or buy!) at  Second Wind Publishing: A Spark of Heavenly Fire

Pat Bertram is also the author of More Deaths Than One and Daughter Am I.

3 Comments

Filed under books, Pat Bertram, writing

Did You Catch NaNo Fever Yet?

Okay, kids, it’s November, which means, on top of making ourselves crazy with holiday plans and trying to remember what to give thanks for, it’s time for NaNoWriMo once again. For those who are deeply enmeshed in the writing community, there is no explanation necessary. We all know what NaNoWriMo – affectionately shortened to NaNo by the diehards – means: One month of self-induced lunacy whereby we cough up 50,000 words of a novel in a 30-day time period. No pressure!

As frightening as it might seem, at first, NaNo is actually a very good exercise for everyone who ever considered putting pen to paper. Or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be. First, it gets the writer into the mindset of writing something every day – and shouldn’t we be doing that anyway? It also teaches the writer about setting goals by committing to a certain number of words or pages a day, and discipline, by actually sitting down to accomplish those goals. But perhaps the most important thing, in my mind, that it accomplishes is that it gets the writer to write. You can talk about writing all you want, but unless you actually sit down and start the process of committing words to paper, you are not a writer. You are only a writer when you actually write.

So if you decide to take the plunge this year and join NaNo, here are some of my tips for you:

1. Don’t over-think the process or you will never get past the Chapter One heading. Don’t worry so much about paragraph spacing, punctuation, grammar, etc. That is what editing/revising is for. This is only a first draft.

(This is a hard one for me because I tend to over-think everything, but I’ve learned that if you curb that impulse to be absolutely perfect the first time out of the gate, the words will come and you can polish them later.)

2. Don’t listen to the little voice inside that says, “I could’ve done page so-and-so better…I’ll just go back and fix it.” No. Don”t go back, always go forward. Again, this is what editing/revising is for. If you’re afraid that you might forget what it is you want to change, keep a notebook beside you and make a note to change such-and-such on page-whatever. Then keep going forward.

(I am immersed in a constant battle with my internal editor. I love it when I win – but the editor gets its revenge in the rewrites.)

3. Don’t forget to post your daily totals on the NaNo site. When you see that number in black and white, it will give you a sense of accomplishment and encourage you to go on.

(I forgot to do this, so when I finally remembered to do it yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised that I had already topped the 10,000 word mark. Not that I expect to write that many words every three days – I was just on a roll.)

4. Don’t worry about trends and whether or not your story will fit in with what is being published today. Just write the story that’s inside you, clawing its way out. Leave the marketing worries to the time when the story has been polished and is ready to be sent out. And if you try to follow the trends and write something that is already popular (vampires, anyone?) but don’t have a passion for what you are writing about, not only will it show in the writing, the story will most likely fizzle out long before you reach The End.

(I’ve fallen victim to this before, not during NaNo, but just in the course of my writing, and then I lamented the fact that I could have spent the time writing something I was really passionate about, rather than what I thought publishers wanted.)

5. Add buddies. Believe me, having someone there to encourage you in your writing is a priceless commodity.

6. Have fun. Yes, writing is a job, it’s work, and can be very exhausting, but it has to be fun. If you don’t have fun writing, it will show. You should take pleasure in the whole process of creating characters and throwing them into challenging situations. If you start to dread the idea of sitting down to write, then you should probably re-think your reason for wanting to do it. If it’s for the fame and glory, then it’s the wrong reason. Many of us will never reach the same heights as Stephenie Meyer, Nora Roberts or John Irving, but we write for the sheer pleasure of writing. This doesn’t mean that we don’t want anyone to read what we write, we just write for ourselves first. Or at least I do.

7. Write the stories you like to read. Believe me, you will be reading your own story so much over the course of conception to publication that, if you don’t like to read the type of story you’re writing, you will hate the story long before it comes out. If it comes out. I have chucked out story ideas on many occasions, at varying stages of progression, because I just didn’t like the idea anymore and couldn’t bring myself to work on it any longer.

8. Most important: Just write. Now is not the time to talk about your dreams of being a writer. Now is the time to live the dream. Start the process, continue the process, finish the process. Only when you reach The End will you know for certain if you are a true author – or if it was better just to dream about it. If you reach the end and can’t stop thinking about what you just wrote and want to dive back into it,, you are a writer. If you reach the end and find yourself thinking about the next book you want to write, you are a writer. If you have more than one idea kicking around inside your head fighting to be the next to come out – I feel for you! – you are a writer. But if you come to the end and dread the idea of having to go back and revise what you just wrote, maybe this isn’t your calling.

(For me, I couldn’t imagine not writing. I have been doing it since I could hold a pencil and nothing has stopped me from pursuing my dream. Not falling on hard times, a stint in a shelter, being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis or raising a child with bipolar disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome. Writing is my therapy, my blessing, my saving grace. It has gotten me through all of the trying times and sustained me through the lean times. I don’t write because I dream of being the next Stephenie Meyer. I write because I couldn’t imagine a life without it. Kind of like breathing.)

Well, I hope you enjoyed my tips today. If you have any of your own, feel free to add them in the comments. I’m curious to read about your writing process. If you want to learn more about NaNo, check out the link below:

http://www.nanowrimo.org/

You can find me here, under the screen name peefie23:

http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/86996

Feel free to post your own screen names and indicate if you want us to buddy you. I welcome all who are willing to add me as a buddy.

Good luck with all of your writing – and reading! – ventures. ~ Margay

Leave a comment

Filed under writing

Becoming Pat Bertram

I finally understand why books about writing suggest writing the first draft of a novel as quickly as possible, to forget the mechanics and just get the story on paper or in the computer. I’ve never been able to do that — the words come hard to me (or perhaps I enjoy the search for the right word too much). Either way, it takes me a long time to write a book. I also write longhand, which limits the number of words I can write at a sitting. Still, my work-in-progress has been taking longer than normal. In fact, I’ve been playing around with it on and off (mostly off) for more than two years.

I just finished typing up what I have written so far — 39,000 words. Very good words, actually.  The book started out as a humorous apocalyptic fantasy, metamorphosed into horror, then turned into allegory (which is sort of ridiculous, because who reads allegory nowadays?) but it seems to have gradually swung full circle and become humorous again. I found myself laughing aloud at times, which is something I seldom do when reading, and never before at anything I wrote.

I’m anxious to get back to writing — the story deserves to be told. (And I hate the thought of wasting those hard won words.) The problem is, I am not the same person today as I was when I conceived the story. I’m not even the same as I was in January when I last worked on the book. The past two years have been filled with changes — learning how to use a computer, learning the Internet, finding a publisher, learning how to promote (or rather trying to learn), to say nothing of the wonderful people I have met and the friends I have made. It’s been a life changing experience, this becoming Pat Bertram, author.

So the question is, do I continue writing the book as I conceived it, do I try to wing it, do I do what I’ve been doing all along — writing when and what I feel like? A more important question that haunts me is that my first four books had a particular theme — how public lies and hidden truths affect our lives — and I have said what I wanted to say about that. So where do I go from here?

I don’t write short stories, but Second Wind is going to be putting out an anthology in September, and my publisher is tying to talk me into submitting a story. (You can submit one too. Second Wind is sponsoring a contest, and the winner will be published. You can find the details here: Mystery Contest.) So that will allow me to put off working on my manuscript for a while (which I’m sure is not what he had in mind), but eventually I will have to decide what I want to write. What I want to say.

In the end, it will depend on who Pat Bertram becomes. And of that, I haven’t a clue.

Pat Bertram is the author of More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire, available from Second Wind Publishing, LLC.

7 Comments

Filed under books, life, musings, Pat Bertram, writing