Tag Archives: writing

Tuesday’s tip-o-the-hand

sausage_stuffer_colorized

This is supposed to be terrible. Original clip art: Flickr

It’s been a lousy spring around here. A bit of good news was that my mom doesn’t have to have chemo after colon surgery. Yay for that. Other than this, all is rattling on as before. That being said, the best I can do for a post, (hoping to get back into the swing of things. Again.), I have a bit of writing from a new project.

I referenced this new story back on March 6th. Time flies don’t it? I showed how a piece of writing changes as you discover things about the story itself and the characters. Even the title is up for grabs.

The first title of the piece was “Though I Had A Son.” Then it was changed to, “Anne Elliot’s Most Degrading Alliance.” Now, it’s “In Favor of His Constancy.” You, the reader, aren’t supposed to see any of this, but what the heck, this is sausage making, people, watch and be amazed!

The following is not a rewrite, but was fun to write. I hope you enjoy it.

In this story, “In Favor of His Constancy,” Lady Elliot (Anne Elliot’s mother) is alive. This scene takes place after she finds out that her dear friend, Lady Russell, was instrumental in breaking off Anne’s engagement to Captain Frederick Wentworth.

“Elizabeth, see reason. The man is handsome and a force to be sure, but even you must see that he is not Anne’s equal in rank or refinement. It would ever be a wedge between them.”

Elizabeth paused, then faced her. “Rank and refinement. Those are words you are happy to use when speaking of marriage. Admit it, you did not think me refined enough for the Baronet of Kellynch Hall.”

Lady Russell now paused. Her right brow raised, and her lips tightened.

“In every way, the Stevenson money was superior to his rank. Even if it was earned in trade and farming. I was besotted enough with a pretty face to accept a proposal. But when reason, in the form of dark doubts loomed, you stood me and them with a bright light of reason to convince me that I must keep my word.” Her hands were trembling, and she could feel a flush overtaking her. She took a seat at her dressing table.

“And I was right to do so. You had an obligation to fulfil. Your reputation was at stake and you were prepared to ruin it. As your dear friend, I could not allow that to happen.”

“I could have broken it off with little damage to my reputation.” Lady Elliot turned to her friend. “When, after a few years, you comprehended the deep unhappiness that my choice had brought me, did it give you pause?”

“It did.” Lady Russell pinched seam of the thumb of her right glove. Poorly made. “But when I realised you would have children from the match, no matter your feelings about him.”

It was deep grief she felt for her friend. There were no children with Sir Henry Russell. Whose fault it was, was immaterial. Elizabeth’s children were lavished with gifts and praise from Jane. Her particular favourite was Anne. This might account for her friend’s razor-sharp dislike for Captain Wentworth. She did not wish her daughter to suffer her fate. And yet.

STUFF

“He is still beautiful, even at his age, but his looks are so negated by his deficiencies.” Lady Russell says nothing, and Lady Elliot looks at her and realizes something. “So that is it. You are still smitten.”

Jane fidgets uncharacteristically.

“You are still in awe of that pretty face.” Lady Elliot rises and approaches Lady Russell. “Though, I see you are not so besotted as to do something stupid if I am called out of this life.” The revelation was not surprising but was more a relief. It cleared the air and would allow them to have an honest friendship now, and not one couched in suspicion. Her hands still trembled, and she would have to call for Trotter to help her change into a fresh dress for dinner. Jane still said nothing. “And that is because you can admire him from the comfort of Henry’s good management.” She took her seat once more. “You are far smarter than me. Better to view some beauties from a distance. And in this case, not have to live with the consequences of his vices.”

Yep, POV problems, notes to myself about the scene rather than the scene itself, and a sentence that makes no sense whatsoever! Again, this is sausage. I’ll work on this and post the rewrite next week.

Oh, and I’m still not in love with the title. Stay tuned.

Later.

Advertisements

Tip My Hand Tuesday

While doing a writing sprint this morning, I read an article by James Scott Bell entitled, Garlic Breath for Writers (aka Bad First Pages). The article helps writers improve their first pages so no one shies away.

He points out that writers don’t have much time to attract an editor’s attention so don’t blow it by making your opening lines uninteresting. I think it’s a little unfair that we write books for the mythic editor, (or reader), that only gives you 13 seconds to WOW them. If they’re not transfixed by your characters, plot and setting in that time, you’re tossed aside like so much cold oatmeal. But, I also have ended my past policy of if-I-start-your-novel-I-finish-your-novel. I give a writer 50 pages. I don’t have to be transfixed by your book. I don’t even have to be in love. I just have to be interested enough to turn the page. Maybe like me, the only shocking thing is how many books fail to do even that!

IN the spirit of putting myself at risk, I’m putting the first few paragraphs of a new novel I’m working on. (Yeah, yeah, I know, “finish the ones you’ve got going now, Madam Can’t-finish-a-thing!)

The first segment is the original from the first draft I’m working on. The second is the reworked version. The segments include a title change, a short synopsis, and several paragraphs of narrative and dialogue.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

The Original:

THOUGH I HAD A SON

The stillborn son of the Elliots survived.  With a son, SW is worse than ever about precedence, money, rank, all of it. Though Lady Elliot survives past 1800, she is often “unwell” and must withdraw from society for short periods. During these times, SW is free to spend on their son at an alarming rate. This brings the retrenchment closer more quickly.

CHAPTER ONE

Anne Elliot took her place down the table from her father, Sir Walter. With the eldest Elizabeth on his left, and his son and heir, Young Walter on his right, it was always Anne’s duty to go lower. Her father was reading a letter that had her sister and brother’s rapt attention. She carefully eased her napkin from under the silver so as not to disrupt him.

The warm touch of her mother’s hand comforted her. Lady Elliot sat straight and still, still facing her husband, but her eyes shifted to Anne. She winked. A wisp of a smile followed and then she looked back to the head of the table.

There were no footmen to serve the family’s breakfast, so Anne served herself an egg and a bit of sausage. This was the one area in which Lady Elliot was supreme. She had grown up in a house with a lawyer for a father who left the ordering of the house to her mother who was raised on a farm. The household had moved through the seasons dictated by what the land needed at the moment. At no time of year was it acceptable to dawdle over meals. There was no ceremony about seating, who sat where sorted itself by who got to the table first. If the matter was left to Sir Walter, every meal would be a rigorous, proper affair that took far too much time. Before the children had been born, and she still had a hold over him, she had insisted that breakfast be a quiet, casual affair. It was still a battle to keep it such. Everything, whether household or estate was now being used to teach their son that, in the words of Sir Walter, “a baronet should be seen to live as a baronet.” Even if that meant the hard-won domestic preferences of my lady were dashed.

“… and so, Miss Elizabeth’s gown, and the suits of Sir Walter, and Young Walter Elliot are ready for a final fitting. If you would be so kind as to fix a date that would be convenient to you and your children. Madam and I are most anxious to travel to Kellynch and to see our creations in the very house they will grace.  M. Perry and co.”

The havoc a fitting would stir depressed Anne. Before the visit, her sister was sure to fly into fits. Problems with the materials, snagged lace, uneven stitching, and surely the colours will be nothing at all like the ones she chose a month ago. Her father would be as bad, if not worse. Young Walter would merely snipe about the Mr Perry’s broad accent, the couples being from Exeter, and not being a fine London tailor.

“I do think that is high-handed of Perry, Father—”

“Yes, it is, Father. And his wife is not even a seamstress. The only proper gowns I have are made in London—”

“—presumptuous to make himself and that silly little wife out to be the actual creators of anything. If it were not for us, he would have been doing nothing in his little shop sewing buttons, and hems, and nothing else.” Young Walter took a bite of potato. A bit dropped on his waistcoat. He then stabbed a bit of toast in some yoke to follow. “What?” with a full mouth he demanded of Anne.

“Nothing, Walter. I just—”

“You have no interest in this, sister. You chose to embarrass the family by having something made over by Mother’s maid rather than—”

“Enough, Walter,” Lady Elliot said.

Yes, indeed,” their father said, folding the note. “Anne’s choices are her own. The dress was your mother’s and fit for London a season ago, so I think it will be sufficient. Though,” he set the note aside, “I hope you will make more than a superficial appearance at the ball my dear.” He spoke to Lady Elliot. She was in one of her periods of societal withdrawal, as Sir Walter called them. “We are twenty-two years married and this is a great occasion.” He realized he was leaning forward and that his voice was brusque. After a deep breath, he softened his tone. “It is my fondest wish that you would rally yourself and be at my side throughout the evening.” He smiled and raised a finger to the children. They turned and smiled as well.

The reworked version:

ANNE ELLIOT’S MOST DEGRADING ALLIANCE

From the Baronetage: “Walter Elliot, Born March 1, 1760 … Anne, born August 9, 1787; a still-born son, Nov. 5, 1789 … ” In the Regency period, a son made all the difference in the world to a family. Particularly one with a title and estate. In this Persuasion retelling, the stillborn son of the Elliots survived. In this story, as in reality, a small change can make a startling difference.

CHAPTER ONE

Anne Elliot carefully eased her napkin from under the silver so as not to disrupt her father as he read a letter at the breakfast table. The warm touch of her mother’s hand comforted her. Lady Elliot’s eyes shifted to Anne. Her mother winked. A wisp of a smile followed and then she looked back to the head of the table.

Her mother’s posture was ramrod straight. The Baronet’s flagrant disregard for his wife’s opinion that dining table was a place for polite and appropriate conversations amongst the family was, once again, ignored. Meals had never been delightful family affairs, but lately, tension was always on the menu.

Unfortunately, tension was not restricted to the dining room. More often than not, walking into a room unannounced brought a halt to intense conversations between her parents. As a matter of course, Anne cleared her throat or dropped things to make her presence known. Her elder sister, Elizabeth, was beginning to take notice, and her younger brother, Young Walter, outright called her an oaf. These snatches of conversations, and oblique references to things only understood by her parents weighed heavily on her.

“… and so, Miss Elizabeth’s gown, and the suits of Sir Walter, and Young Walter Elliot are ready for a final fitting. If you would be so kind as to fix a date that would be convenient to you and your children. Madam and I are most anxious to travel to Kellynch and to see our creations in the very house they will grace.  M. Perry and co.”

The Elliots were celebrating their twenty-second wedding anniversary with a ball. Lady Elliot was notorious for limiting extravagant socialising, and this gave Anne’s father an excuse to open his purse and spend freely. This included new clothes for everyone. The occasion being what it was, her mother felt helpless to stop him

The tailor’s letter held Elizabeth and Young Walter in thrall. A fitting with the Perry’s would rain havoc on the household. Even before their arrival, Elizabeth would fly into fits about snagged lace, uneven stitching, and mismatched buttons. She suspected there would also be doubts that the colours or even the material itself will be the ones she chose a month ago. Her father would be as bad, adding irregular lapels, and breeches too loose or too tight, whichever made the least sense. Young Walter would not bother commenting on the possibilities about the clothing, but cruelly snipe about Mr Perry’s broad accent and how the couple residing in Exeter could not possibly be skilled as a fine London tailor.

“I do think that is high-handed of Perry, Father—” So began Young Walter’s bombast.

“Yes, so high-handed, Father. And his wife is not even a seamstress. The only proper gowns I have are made in London—”

“—presumptuous to make himself and that silly little wife out to be the actual creators of anything suitable. If it were not for us, he would have been doing nothing in his little shop sewing buttons, and hems, and nothing else.” Young Walter took a bite of potato. A bit dropped on his waistcoat. He then stabbed a bit of toast in some yoke to follow.

“In the past, they have proven very good—”

What?” with a full mouth he demanded of Anne.

“Nothing, Walter. I just—”

“You have no interest in this, sister. You chose to embarrass the family by having something made over by Mother’s maid rather than—”

“Enough, Walter,” Lady Elliot said.

“Yes, indeed, enough.” their father said, folding the note. “Anne’s choices are her own. The dress was your mother’s and fit for London a season ago, so I think it will be sufficient. Though,” he set the note aside, speaking to Lady Elliot. “I hope you will make more than a superficial appearance at the ball my dear.” She was in one of her periods of societal withdrawal, as Sir Walter called them. “We are twenty-two years married and this is a great occasion.” After a deep breath, he softened his tone. Was it possible that he realised he was leaning a bit too far forward and that his voice was little too brusque? “It is my fondest wish that you would rally yourself and be at my side throughout the evening.” He smiled and raised a finger to the children. They turned and smiled as well.

 

These are both portions of a work-in-progress and subject to change.

Hell Month

nano_logo-830912ef5e38104709bcc38f44d20a0dIf you are a writer, you probably know that November is National Novel Writing Month, or affectionately called, NaNoWriMo. Object of the game: Start a novel, 50k words in 30 days, which works out to 1,667 words a day. The principle is simple. The execution is mind-numbingly difficult. As are most battles with yourself.

I am not particularly competitive when it comes to things like this. No one will be harmed if I roll over tomorrow and don’t show up at the page. But there comes a point at which you have to at least try. (Yeah, I know, the whole Yoda, there is no try only do thing. I’m a Star Trek fan. Worse yet, I like Babylon 5!!!)

So, another November, another self-inducted bout of heartbreak. I will be looking to fellow writer, Laura Hile for encouragement. Though, to be fair, she’s now deep enough into the school year that she’s struggling to function once she makes it home after work. wanatribelowrezcopyAnother source of verve I’m looking towards is Kristen Lamb’s W.A.N.A.Tribe. There is a group specifically for NaNo, ’16. Several writers meet in the wee hours of the morning to write and be accountable. I’m there right now, not writing for NaNo but writing this blog post. (And regardless of the NaNo rules, I am counting this post for my daily word count!)

team-hwc-2016That rebellious streak of mine is also why I am writing with Team Holly, part of the writing site of Holly Lisle. Holly encourages you to write and if you have to bend, or break, the rules by working on something already started, or editing something in process, fine by her. And me, obviously. I’m starting something new but I’m betting I drag in loose bits and bobs from projects past.

I’ll be letting you know how I do through the month. The idea that Thanksgiving is coming keeps me going.

Into the breech!

 

I write like …

and

I put a section of writing containing FW’s pov, and a section of Anne’s pov into the window. So, I write FW like King and Anne like Christie.

Interesting.

Try it: I Write Like

They won’t say it but I will

As you saw on the previous post, Laura Hile’s Darcy By Any Other Name is now available in the Kindle version right now. Go and buy it. When the paperback version is available, go buy that as well. I have no idea what the price of the print version will be, but I’ll bet, even when added to the $4.99 for the Kindle version, you will be down less than what you’d spend on a movie and lunch. (HInt, Jane Austen’s Lady Susan, directed by Whit Stillman, is said to be a worthy offering.)

Below is a photograph of a woman working in an airplane factory in WWII.

LH_aircraft_worker

QA. Quality Control. That what writers do just before the hit “SEND.” A writer has the idea. We draw up the the blueprints, or plot. The parts, or characters are molded by us, and we assemble the lot of it to make a novel. And most of that is done alone. Except for the coffee/liquor/chocolate that many of us use to medicate our way through the manufacturing process.

In the same way that we salute the civilian women of WWII, salute your favorite writers by buying their books. A nice payday is a great reward for a story well-done. Review their books. Nothing says “I care” like helping other readers understand the greatness of your fave author. And most of all, enjoy their work. Writers may never see their readers, but we do get a kick out of knowing someone is going to get that sly little joke in Chapter 10.

Again, DARCY BY ANY OTHER NAME is available at Amazon. Buy it. You will not regret it.

Use Protection, Kids. And Lots of It!

Romance_Travel_CoverFor a while I have been working to arrange a move for my mother. There are lots of moving parts and I’m not all that good at multitasking these days. To keep my sanity, I have been working on a new story.  I finally got far enough in and was confident I would keep with it, so started posting the story on Beyond Austen.  Captain Wentworth’s Guide to Romance and Travel: Lyme Regis is Persuasion without Louisa Musgrove’s fall from the Cobb. This past week I was in the trenches of packing boxes, paper, tapes, and Sharpie markers. Wednesday is the day I had chosen to post and so a week ago I put the flash drive in my computer to retrieve the post, and, VOILA! The drive was emp-ty.

Not a crumb remains.

A few years ago, I took Laura Hile’s loss of thousands of words in a computer crash as a warning and started keeping all my writing on flash drives. A couple of years after that I starting getting serious about organizing my writing, graphics, and private business. Yes, indeedy, I did.

So much for my trying to be grown-up.

I’m thankful for two things: that I was hip-deep in real life and not focused on my writing, and that it took several days to realize that the aforementioned story wasn’t the only thing on the drive.

I’ve now officially lost one whole novel, two partial–each hovering around 175 pages–several outlines of novel ideas, and countless graphics I had created for this and other blogs, and several book covers.

There were many family photos as well, but I have found them on other drives and online haunts of mine.

I am home now and have signed up for an automatic, online, cloud storage service.

Lessons learnt: exhaustion keeps you from going ballistic when the unthinkable happens, and back up your back ups. And then back it all up again.

Nothing is certain.

Except the Web Gods will exact a price.

I will be back next week with Wentworth Wednesday. Anne and Frederick finally talk in the relative quiet of the White Hart dining room with the Musgrove clan dickering over going to the theatre.

Later.

3 Persuasion Changes that doom Anne and Frederick

From the opening of Persuasion:

Elliot of Kellynch-Hall
Walter Elliot, born March 1, 1760, married, July 15, 1784, Elizabeth, daughter of James Stevenson, Esq. of South Park, in the county of Gloucester; by which lady (who died 1800) he has issue Elizabeth, born June 1, 1785; Anne, born August 9, 1787; a still-born son, Nov. 5, 1789; Mary, born November 20, 1791.

Tomorrow is November 5th and I’m taking a break from Wentworth Wednesday to wonder aloud how Persuasion might have been different if the still-born son of Walter Elliot had lived.

When I first thought of this, my gut feeling was the story would change but not so much that Anne and Frederick wouldn’t get together eventually.

Boy, what a good night’s sleep can accomplish when it comes to a plot line.

My mythic Elliots at play

My mythic Elliots at play

My thinking was, with a son, Sir Walter would have been more preening and ridiculous with that “look at what I’ve done” sort of vibe. Even if Lady Elliot had managed to keep her husband’s financial flamboyance in check, her death would have assured a cascade of son-centric reckless spending, and shortened the trip down the economic wormhole for the Elliots.

Here’s what happens if, instead of fourteen years, it’s only ten years after Lady Elliot’s death that the retrenchment takes place:

 

The Crofts are still in India. This means they do not lease Kellynch Hall. Without the Crofts renting the Hall, the story fails.

Frederick is still at sea. This means Frederick will not return to Somerset and the story fails.

Mary is not yet married to Charles Musgrove. Even if the stars align and the first two events do occur, at this point there is no reason for Anne to remain in the area and not go directly to the white glare of September in Bath.

There is a bright spot. William Elliot never comes into the story. The only reason we even know of him is because he is the heir presumptive to Kellynch Hall. With a son, I’m sure Sir Walter would never deign to seek out “the great grandson of the second Sir Walter.” This being the case, instead of mooning over her cousin, Elizabeth might have married and had a semblance of a happy life.

Heroines who have older brothers are thin on the ground in Austen novels. And even when they appear they have little to do with changing the course of the story. But had Anne’s brother lived, her life would have been very sad indeed.

Well, maybe.

Maybe not.

Austen was a clever woman and she might have created some spectacular adventures to get Frederick and Anne back together. Like the younger brother falls in with Dick Musgrove and runs off to sea, meets Captain Wentworth, and …

What if the son, taking social cues from his father, disdains Wentworth’s pursuit of his sister in the summer of ‘06? Family honor must be satisfied, so the little gherkin challenges the Captain to a duel and kills him. Wait, then the story again fails so we can scratch that one.

Any other ideas? What if the brother is more like his mother and less a knucklehead like his daddy? What if, in ’06, he encourages Anne to run away with Frederick? Or at the very least not break the engagement? Or, if Anne follows through with the break-up he encourages her later to marry Charles Musgrove.

Anyway, you see how an absent character, mentioned outright only once, can make all the difference to a fan fiction writer.

R. I. P. still-born son, born Nov. 5, 1789.