Posted in Words Upon Words

Tiny Tidbits: The War Within

I have lots of different writing projects going on right now–so many that I don’t often blog about it anymore. There isn’t really one thing I’m working really hard toward at the moment. I’m just constantly going back and forth between different stories and writing and editing. So I decided recently to create a new way of sharing my WIPs (works in progress) with you–Tiny Tidbits. In a Tiny Tidbits blog post, I will share either an excerpt from one of my WIPs or maybe give you some insight into my current writing/editing process (i.e., the struggles and/or victories I’m currently facing with that project). I hope to make this a semi-regular thing. But I say that about so many things, so…I better make no promises. 😉

Today I want to share a scene from The War Within, so before I continue, I’ll give you some background information. For those of you who don’t know, I wrote The War Within last year and entered it into a short story contest for a Snow White retelling (I didn’t win, but I did get an honorable mention, which was super cool!). My retelling is historical and takes place during the Civil War era. Lillian Clark is an only child whose mother died when she was a baby. Her father owns a very prosperous cotton plantation in Virginia and he remarries when Lillian is six years old. Lillian is determined to like her new mother–in fact, she’s determined to live a good life–under her terms. When her father arranges her to marry her best friend, Clifton Young, she does everything in her power to break the match. For she believes she has the right to choose who to fall in love with and when.

Now that I’ve gotten you introduced to Lillian’s world, here’s a sneak peek into Chapter One when Clifton and Lillian first meet.

It was a beautiful day in September. Lillian reveled in the feeling of the wind in her hair as she raced through the cotton fields to the apple orchard, her cheeks beginning to hurt from smiling so widely. When she reached it, she collapsed onto the soft grass and looked up at the blue sky through the swaying trees.

Something interfered with her view and her eyes focused on a bee flying a few inches above her head. She waved it off, but two more quickly replaced it. She sat up and heard a subtle buzzing nearby. She looked behind her to see a boy poking a fallen beehive with a stick. No, not just any boy.

Clifton Young.

Lillian rolled her eyes and stood up. She wasn’t sure what she thought of this grubby next-door neighbor who was almost three years older than her. He seemed to always be getting into some kind of trouble. She usually tried to steer clear from him, even though their fathers were good friends. So, she was turning away when she heard a yelp.

When she looked back at him, Clifton dropped his stick and started backing away from the broken hive. A swarm of bees was rising from the mess a few feet away from him.

This would certainly not end well.

“Clifton,” Lillian whispered. “Back up toward me. Then run!”

Without responding, he bolted toward her and shouted, “Run, run!”

Lillian screeched when she saw the bees following close behind him. She turned and began running again. But when she reached her favorite tree in the whole orchard, the biggest one with the most apples, she stopped and looked up. Then she called over her shoulder, “We’ll never outrun them. Hurry and climb this tree!” She jumped and grabbed hold of a sturdy branch.

Clifton was yelling, but he followed her lead and started climbing the tree. Lillian was only a few branches ahead of him when she heard a loud crack! She glanced behind her and saw Clifton grasp a thick tree branch with both hands as another broke under his feet. He held on, screaming as bees began stinging him. Lillian carefully inched down and held out her hand.

“Hurry!” she yelled.

He looked up at her, eyes wide and knuckles turning white, but didn’t budge.

Lillian leaned forward a little closer, her hand less than a foot away from his head. “Reach!”

Reluctantly, Clifton released the fingers from his left hand and thrust them toward hers. She seized his hand and pulled him up. He swung his legs toward the trunk and started to maneuver up the tree until his feet settled on firm branches again. They climbed a little higher and rested on the top boughs of the apple tree. They sat against the trunk, trying to catch their breath. Unfortunately, their plan only partially succeeded. Many bees still managed to find and sting them, but after a few minutes of torment, the rest flew off. She and Clifton worked through their faces, necks, arms and legs, searching for stingers and removing them. Bright red bumps were forming, but Clifton had obviously bore the brunt of it.

“What were you thinking?” Lillian asked bluntly.

Clifton shrugged. “I’ve never seen what a hive looks like on the inside. I didn’t think…”

“What? Did you think there weren’t any bees in there just because it had fallen off the tree?” She sighed.

“Well…” He scrunched up his face. “All right, so I was stupid. Thanks, I guess.”

“You guess?” Lillian asked incredulously. “You’re welcome, then…I guess.”

“You picked a good tree.”

Lillian smiled. “Of all the apple trees in this orchard, this one is my favorite to climb.”

“Do you like apples?”

Like them? I come almost every day each autumn to pick some. I love apples!”

Clifton immediately looked over his head and reached for the nearest apple. He tugged and when it gave way, he handed it to her. It was small and not quite ripe, but she accepted it anyway.

“A thank you gift…I guess.”

Lillian smirked. ” ‘You guess’? Well, I ‘guess’ I like it.” She took a huge bite.

“Do you…want to pick some…together?” Clifton looked at her hopefully.

“Well…”

Clifton blushed. “It’s just…there’s no one else…”

“No one else will play with you?” She knew what that felt like. Sometimes it seemed like Daisy was her only friend in the world.

“It’s just…there is no one else.” His face was pale.

Lillian didn’t know what he meant exactly, but as she started to decline his offer, she thought about the long walk back home…and realized that as much as she enjoyed playing in the woods like she had just now…it was lonely. Maybe, as silly as this boy was, it would be better to be his friend than to continue to play alone. After all, as Daisy was a slave, she wasn’t always free to play. “All right, then. I bet I can pick more than you!”

Clifton’s freckled face broke into a grin. “We’ll see about that.”

Let me know in the comments below if you enjoyed this Tidbit and I hope to share some more with you soon!

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Posted in The Ponderings of Life

Onward and Upward

It’s that time of year again.

As 2017 comes to a close, I’m looking back on my New Year’s resolutions and patting myself on the back for the ones I reached…and crossing my fingers to do better next year with the ones I didn’t reach.

Here are my 2017 New Year’s resolutions I posted a year ago:

  1. Read 40 books.
  2. Finish writing one book (probably Endeavoring).
  3. Edit Bridget Returns.
  4. Edit and self-publish The Whistler Daughters.
  5. Year after year, I want to become more like Christ–as Colossians 3:12-17 says so perfectly.

How did I do?

Continue reading “Onward and Upward”

Posted in NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo 2017: Day 25

Here I sit at my computer, sipping some delicious hot chocolate, my nose running because of a cold, listening contentedly to the La La Land soundtrack. This week has been filled with some much-needed time set aside for resting, writing in my Snow White retelling, playing games with family and watching my beloved British dramas. Thanksgiving always arrives just when I need some time to relax as well as time to remember all that I have to be thankful for.

One of the many things I’m thankful for today is that I finished writing the rough draft of my Snow White retelling for the contest on Wednesday (day 23)! After writing the last paragraph, I have tentatively titled it The War Within and I’m pretty happy with it (title and overall story). It is definitely a major retelling of Snow White (i.e., mostly an original story with splashes of Snow White themes here and there), but I did my best and even if it doesn’t get to be one of the chosen 5 for the Rooglewood novel, I am very happy with it and would love to publish it on my own separately at some point. Besides editing it myself, I sent it to a few trusted friends as well as my aunt for some constructive criticism. All that to say, it should be finished by the deadline in mid-December!

Continue reading “NaNoWriMo 2017: Day 25”

Posted in NaNoWriMo, The Ponderings of Life

NaNoWriMo 2017: Book Reveal

 

This is my fifth year participating in NaNoWriMo. The first time I really participated in 2013 (and won!) it was a thrilling challenge filled with adrenaline and feverish typing. As the years have passed, however, the challenge has become easier. It used to take me hours to write 1,000 words. Now, if I put my mind to it, I can write close to 1,500 words in under an hour. The real challenge NaNoWriMo presented the past two years was finding the time to write rather than the previous struggle of writing fast enough. College takes up a lot of my time and energy and when all my work is done for the day, I’d much rather watch an episode of our current K-Drama with my family than write another scene or two.

Last year, I completed the 50,000 word mark in Endeavoring, the prequel to Everlasting. I haven’t touched that project since March and was hoping to finish it during NaNoWriMo this year. However, I had an important deadline this fall to complete four Lumerit courses (12 credits) by Christmas, so I was not able to finish the other two projects I had planned to work on in September and October. So, this year I’m doing things a little differently.

Continue reading “NaNoWriMo 2017: Book Reveal”

Posted in For Fellow Writers, Words Upon Words

Less is More

Well, here I am after a whole summer of no blogging. In my last post (in May!!) I mentioned wanting to get better at blogging more frequently and proceeded to do…not that. However, I have realized time and time again that we can do nothing to fix how we have acted in the past…but we can attempt to do better in the future.

This month and last I have thought a lot about different posts I’ve been wanting to write up about a plethora of topics. And then there was a day when I wondered if my blog needed a more distinct focus. Looking over the collection of blog posts I’ve made over the past two years, I have written everything from an account of my summer adventures, book reviews, writing updates on current and future projects, NaNoWriMo, mission trips…the list goes on and on. The only recurring theme is my desire to follow the Lord’s lead in my daily life and to continue writing the stories that are constantly buzzing in my head. And I recently decided…that that’s okay. So, my blog is a little bit random in both the timing of its posts and its topics. My personality is kinda like that, too–I like and do a variety of things at a variety of times. Why don’t we just go with it? 🙂

What I want to focus on today is a phrase I’ve been dwelling on for a number of months. Pretty much ever since my aunt edited Everlasting with me two years ago. Any of you who have read my work recently know that I have a habit of being…a little wordy. The more I write, the longer my novels get…which is a natural process–but to an extent. The first book I ever finished was perhaps around 60 pages. My second was closer to 100. Bridget’s Journey was 200 pages once printed and so on.

When I finished writing Everlasting in 2014 (I believe) it was around 125,000 words long. Aunt Andrea helped me get it down to 120,000, but regardless, when printed, it is close to 350 pages. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. When I hold that thick book in my hands, do I feel a sense of accomplishment? As in, I wrote ALL of this? Yes, of course, I do! But is there a time and place for it? Another yes.

When reading through the red notes Aunt Andrea sent me for Everlasting, the phrase she repeated most often was: remember, less is more. I’m not sure I fully appreciated what she was trying to tell me until long after I had published Everlasting. I know not all writers are like me, but I personally get very attached to certain scenes and paragraphs. And when someone (who is obviously outside of my head) shakes their head and says… “that’s a little convoluted” or “I think you could say the same thing in half the amount of words”…I take it as an offense. Or I just don’t want to let go. “But I worked hard to put those sentences together!” I think. Or, “But isn’t that such a great sentence?” or “doesn’t it sound so good, though?” Maybe. Maybe it does. But is it necessary to tell my story? Not always.

Why is the phrase Aunt Andrea had to repeat to me over and over so important? I think the main reason is this: when I’m trying to tell a story with a certain set of characters going through a certain set of circumstances, in my attempt to tell my story in a beautiful, exciting or descriptive way, the true message or meaning of my story (in part or as a whole) can get lost. Lost in all those words. For example, when I was describing Azalea’s wings transformation or her farewell speech to her friends at Fairy Meadow, the true awe of those wings or the poignancy of her speech can lose its shine if I go on and on either about things that don’t matter or about something I’ve basically already said ten times over. If I take twelve okay sentences to say something that I can write in three to five, then are my readers really understanding the importance of the main message?

I am a visual person and I like to be mentally prepared for anything I come across. When I’m reading a book, I like to know exactly where my characters are, how old they are, what they look like, etc. Only then do I feel at peace and ready to go on whatever adventure lay ahead of them because I can picture them clearly in my mind. Hence, that desire leaks into my own writing. So, I over-write.

When I finished writing Bridget Returns almost exactly one year ago, it was 136,000 words. But as a sequel to a 50,000 word novel, I knew it didn’t need to be longer than Everlasting. So I went back and edited in January. Now, I’m editing again. I started several different subplots when first writing this novel, but many either didn’t come to a conclusion or the conclusion wasn’t very satisfying. How much better could Bridget Returns be if I spent my time solely focusing on a main three to five plots instead of having scattered attention over ten to twelve? That’s what I’m hoping to find out.

I hope I’m slowly (quickly??) learning to apply the concept of “Less is More” in my writing life and that the next time I edit a book with Aunt Andrea, I will be better able to accept her comments and be willing to see what my story could be instead of what I think I want it be. Because it can always be better.

The more talk, the less truth. The wise measure their words. Proverbs 10:19