Bear Burgers = Finishing A Novel

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

     I had bear sausage for breakfast the other day and bear burgers for dinner, compliments of a daughter who migrated to Alaska over a decade ago to seek adventure in the wild and in the classrooms of the Valdez school system. She's embraced the lifestyle. She seldom eats domestic meat. There's no need. She, her husband, son and daughter bring in all the salmon, halibut, shrimp, moose, caribou and bear they could ever consume.
    You might wonder where this is all leading and what bear burgers have to do with writing? Well hold onto your stuffed Smokey the Bear toys, I'm getting there.
      While standing at the stove cooking up the bear sausages, I was contemplating the novel I'd just finished. As I flipped sausages, the smell wafting through the house, my mind wandered back three years earlier when I thought my novel was finished once before and I wondered, was it really finished this time around?
     Time got away from me while I was cooking, my mind on the novel not on what I was flipping. So imagine my surprise when I looked down at what I thought might be overcooked, near burnt burgers to see the meat still red, as red as can be, fresh out of the package red, raw meat red.
     Were my eyes deceiving me? I looked at the clock and back at the pan, surely they'd been cooking long enough, but had they? They didn't look done. How was I to know?
     Okay, now I think you can guess my point.
     Three years ago, I thought my novel was finished, would have sworn it was, but it wasn't, no where near. I didn't know it then. Fortunately for me, an agent liked the premise and took the time to tell me exactly where improvements were needed. I could have chalked her comments up as only one agent's opinion, but I didn't. I am serious about my writing and I want it to be the best it can be, so I listened.
     Now, three years later, it's done, at least ready, really ready for submission. How do I know? I know because during the last three years while revising, I've also been honing my novel writing skills, listening and discussing pieces parts of the manuscript as I've gone along, added and enhanced and cut multiple passages and scenes and words and pages I was in love with. I know because when I re-read it, I'm no longer stopping to make changes along the way. It's ready to submit and I'm excited.
     Now back to the almost burnt bear sausages. They were done, they just didn't look done. Apparently, unlike domestic meat, bear meat does not brown when cooked. How did they taste? Well, let's just say they'll take some getting used to. I didn't dislike them I just didn't love them. Bear burgers served with all the typical hamburger trimmings was tastier to me than the breakfast sausages. Will I have them again? Probably. My daughter is still in Alaska living and loving the lifestyle and sharing the bounty.
     What are you markers for knowing when your manuscript is complete? I'd love to hear from you.


When Life Parallels Your Character's Life

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

     I finished a novel the other day that I've been working on for over five years. Three years ago I thought I was done but it was awful, truly awful. Thanks to an agent who took the time to critique it, I was able to do a rewrite and fix the problems. I believe in this story or I would have just pitched it. Now, it's ready and I'm hopeful that this time will be the charm.
     The characters are friends, like distant relatives but more because I know them intimately. And strangely, my life has paralleled events written into my character's life. You'd think it would be the other way around but no, not in this case.
     In the novel, a life was put on hold for fifty years while my main character searched for his long lost brother. My character believed that all would be well once his little brother was found. Until then, everything else in his life, his marriage and his son, was pushed aside.  
     I realized about three quarters of the way through the final rewrite that in real life, I was doing the same thing as my main character, putting my life on hold, house work, yard work, cleaning out overstuffed closets and cupboards, until the manuscript was finished. I believed that all would straighten out once the novel was done.
     But, as we writer's know, finishing a manuscript is not the end of the work. Up ahead will come more rewrites as an editor has their say. The writing won't really be done until the book rolls off the presses ready for market. And then the real work begins, the promoting, the marketing, the selling.
     Perhaps I should revise the beginning of this post to say that I finished my novel enough to put into a book proposal package, enough to present to an agent or editor. Regardless, I feel a tremendous sense of relief and joy to have completed the story arc, the plot points and sequence, the character development and the tearful conclusion in a way that pleases my critique partners and pleases me.
     Have you seen yourself in your characters in surprising ways? If so, please share.



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Hi! I’m Sandra Warren, a writer with very eclectic writing tastes. I’ve been fortunate to have publications in multiple genres including children’s, gifted education, parenting, how to, poetry, journal, educational activity guides and biography as well as audio and video production. I'm a city gal recently transplanted to the mountains of NC where glorious mountain vistas inspire latest renderings.

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