Monday, November 28, 2011

Your love is a song

Ah, l’amour. There is nothing like a good love story. For all you hopeless romantics out there, like me, we thrive on the chase, the wooing, those first few innocent touches that set the world on fire. The cadence of the heroine’s racing heart with that first kiss. The humming nerves sending shivers over our flesh as the music of falling in love plays in our minds.

Now, I am not a huge fan of sweet romance. You know, the hero and heroine are perfectly content holding hands until they profess their love and share one chaste and perfectly restrained kiss. Snore. I tend to favor the zsa zsa zoo kind of romance. No, not the naughty kind. More the honest struggle that comes with intense attraction. And I got to wondering, though I maintain a wholesome stance in my writing, does any of it push the envelope?

As I was agonizing over whether certain parts of my romance are a bit too honest, or too juicy, I sought out the Lord to see if I had crossed the line anywhere. He led me to the Song of Songs. I still almost snicker like that twelve year old girl reading the seemingly forbidden words of King Solomon when I open to the biblical bodice ripper wedged in my Old Testament. And while reading the poetic verses of the king disguised as a shepherd to woo the Shulamite woman, I got my answer. Much like the Lord is passionate in His pursuit and love of us, He imparts that similar flame to bless our own love stories. Ooo la la!

During church this weekend, the worship song by Misty Edward’s called “You Won’t Relent” had me in tears as I stood belting the words into the Amazonian woman in the row in front of me’s nest of acoustic dampening hair.--If you’ve never heard the song, Google immediately. I tend to be a bit of a crier as it is. Worship, a good book, a commercial. I even recently teared up at the end of Cars while I watched with my two-year old as Lightning McQueen selflessly forfeits the big win to push the injured old racecar across the finish line. Shameful, I know.

But I feel if we write from a Christian view point, it is almost impossible not to put an allegorical form of the greatest love of all into our stories. And the words to this song, like many worship songs, felt like a conversation with the Lord. A lover’s reprieve. A love song. “You won’t relent until You have it all. My heart is Yours…Many waters cannot quench this love.” Didn’t really feel like a hand holding song to me.

As a songwriter most of my life, music has always inspired my creativity and my emotions, and now that I write fiction, I still find that I draw tremendous inspiration from the lyrics of a great love song.

What about you? Do you hear a certain song playing in that scene when you are reading? Are there any songs that have inspired your love stories?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Don’t stop til you get enough

Oh, the bane, the bear, the brutality of the relentless self-editing.

Perfectly adequate sleeping hours are waving as they pass me by. The threat of yet another late night feeding from my little Rafey forebodes with each fleeting hour. And yet I convince myself that this is THE FINAL READ THROUGH. “You are almost there,” I chant in my head, providing my own personal pep squad—and no, I was not a cheerleader. Speaking aloud while my hubby sleeps nearby is a sure fire way to get booted from the comforts of my bed. I get enough grief from the supposed “jack hammering” of my fingers on the keys and the soft glow of the screen as it is. But honestly, the man can fall asleep sitting up on the couch with every light in the house on, and the TV roaring at absurd decibels. Men are peculiar creatures.

So here goes the final edit, the final read through, until page 3. How on earth have I read that sentence fifty-five times and still never noticed that for is supposed to be from? And why is she smiling so much, there is a dead body in this scene?

For those of you with irritating perfectionistic tendencies like me, the vastness of 90K+ words proves to be a daunting task to comb through. And as my self-prescribed deadlines come and go, I wonder if I will ever bite the bullet, pry the electronic, and thus metaphorical, pages from my white knuckled grip and lay it all on the line.

Okay, so maybe I am a baby writer. And some glorious day, I will know exactly what my editor will look for, my observations and insights into my own work will become super-keen and second-nature, but what about now? How much editing is enough?

And if I keep going, past the point of sanity, will I edit the life out of the pages? Is there such a thing as too much?

Now, obviously, editing is a good thing. My first novel, Beauty for Ashes, barely resembles the original text I pounded out in six short weeks. Thank goodness! We have all seen the amazing fruits of our labors when it comes to editing, shaping the story, adding the detail that really puts the reader in the moment. As if the words on the page were a holographic image instead of lines and curves of black and white.

But how do you know when it’s done? Ready? As good as you can possibly get it?

What is your litmus test for a truly complete manuscript?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

One is the loneliest number

So often writing is considered a lonely profession. Now as a mother of two—two boys under the age of two for that matter—I can hardly remember a time when I felt lonely. But even when the kids are tucked in for the night, and my husband is in blissful slumber beside me while I hammer away on my laptop into the wee hours of the morning, I seldom feel alone. My characters have become these real people I spend time with. Sometimes they balk at my suggestions of how they should respond, laugh along as I initiate witty banter on their behalf, or cry as I tear open the old wounds hidden in their pasts. So while my life as a writer seems to be a solitary endeavor, I find I am constantly accompanied by these crazy people I have created. Scary to be an adult and have imaginary friends, no? And when I am crafting these stories centered on redemption and grace, God’s presence seems so heavy, so tangible. At times it almost feels like an act of worship. Pretty cool when you think about it.

But yes, if we are going to be literal, when we write most often we are alone. We don’t report to the office, converse with other writers on the way to our desk, eyeball the quirky secretary and jot down a few of her unique mannerisms to include for that free-spirited extra in Chapter 12. We sit at home, alone. No shop talk with the boys at the water cooler, no shameful gossip from the neighboring cubicle.

This whole break room concept came to me from my hubby. Now, my man does not work in an office building. He works with his hands, at a job site. And a far too dangerous job for my comfort, however, with the exception of the things I ask him to sensor for my own sanity, his amusing tales of ‘on the job’ mishaps and, yes, drama, always stir my creativity. Whether it be a frustrating setback with their equipment or the homeless man shivering at the gate of the parking lot, accepting my amazing husband’s sweatshirt, even though he would need it for the rest of the day. This shop talk is universal in the working world, not just to bring home to the wife and kids as an answer to the standard “How was your day?” curiosity.  

What about you as a writer? Or even a reader for that matter? Did you have a sympathetic ear to share that struggle with your protagonist? Or that victory of seeing those tiny pieces come together? Now I love my husband, but he does not fully appreciate my “I finished this first kiss scene and I think it really sizzles.” Or “I don’t know what to do about this lull in the middle of the suspense, what do you think?” The whole process just doesn’t compute. Just like I often can’t be fully sympathetic to his plight about the work-site woes. I simply am not coming from the same place.

What was your work day like? Did you edit, write the funniest scene that you laughed out loud at yourself, or struggle over one measly page of painful writer’s blocked prose?

If you need another outlet aside from your “Honey, how was your day?... Let’s take a break and talk shop. Anyone? Anyone? …Bueller?