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A Train to Louisiana

Time to stop and get oriented. I am now a little more than halfway through the HTTS course and almost halfway through the First Draft of my novel. Based upon this the most recent HTTS Lesson was really apropos. It was all about evaluating where you are midway through the novel and what you may need to do if you are off track. Getting off track is not an uncommon problem. After all, when you start a novel you really don’t know where it is going.

I think Ernest J. Gaines (Author of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and A Lesson Before Dying) expressed it nicely when he said “A novel is like getting on a train to Louisiana. All you know at the moment is that you’re getting on the train, and you’re going to Louisiana. But you don’t know who you’re going to sit behind, or in front of, or beside; you don’t know what the weather is going to be when you pass through certain areas of the country; you don’t know what’s going to happen South; you don’t know all these things, but you know you’re going to Louisiana.

“So what does a train have to do with anything?” Willow’s ever present and deceivingly sweet voice sounded over my shoulder. “I though you were going to write about evaluating where you are with your writing?”

Swiveling around I put hands on knees, “Whereas I have never been on a Train to Louisiana, I can certainly relate to the analogy here. When I started I knew that this series was going to be anywhere from three or four books because I just couldn’t imagine capturing it all in one manuscript.”  As I have mentioned before I LOVE Epic stories. I will rarely read a fictional novel unless I know the story continues through at least three books. “And I had a general idea where I was going to break the story to end each book, along with a few major scenes spread throughout Book One, but I didn’t know exactly how each novel was going to unfold. Basically I knew my departure point and my destination, but not how I was going to get there.”

Her twisted lips told me she was thinking this over and then she gave me that questioning look. You know the head tilted like the Terrier in the old RCA ads along with eyes squinted, “I still don’t see how this helps with figuring out if everything is okay or if you need to fix something?”

“Well first off the number one thing that has been drilled into me since I started this course was never, and I mean NEVER, go back and fix anything during First Draft.” I go to sleep with this mantra nearly every night. “But you can fix things going forward. And that is what I am supposed to be doing. Looking at a few different indicators to see if I need to make changes going forward.”

“And what are these…indicators?” She was persistent if nothing else.

I had printed out the recent Lesson earlier so I read through it again. “I can’t provide the details here, but basically am I still having fun?” Which I am very happy to say, immensely so. “And how do I feel about how my characters have developed?” Which I am happy with this also.

Frowning is not generally an attractive look and it wasn’t on her face at this point either. “Is that it? Doesn’t sound like much to go on.”

“There were a couple of other things,” I spun the chair back to bring up a previous blog, “But the most important from my perspective was to see if I was even working on the story that I began with 42,000 words ago.” Not sure if you remember my previous blog about The Sentence (http://www.petercruikshank.com.customers.tigertech.net/2012/04/under-the-covers-of-my-story/), but it was sort of a high level summary of the basic story and would become my guiding light for the book. “The main indicator here is if I am still writing the same story as The Sentence I had created.” Actually every time I start a new Scene (I am in the middle of Scene 17 as of this blog post) I read The Sentence again to make sure that what I am thinking for the upcoming Scene is in-line with what I wrote back in March. And so far I have not strayed too far, though I have flushed it out quite a bit.

“Hey I just read that Blog and you lied!” The voice over my shoulder shouted in my ear.

After I pulled my finger out of my ear I turned to Willow and where I would never hit a woman, child, or pretty much anyone (I am not very aggressive) a lot of other options passed through my mind. Each one sadly discarded. “And just how did I lie in that Blog.”

Hands on hips and leaning towards me, her eyes went wide, “You said in that Blog, and I Quote” I hate it when she quotes, “While the above might provide a little information and keep a few of you temporary satisfied, I know it probably leaves many of you with a lot more questions…Well, as I start to actually put pen to paper…, in a couple of months, my future Blog Posts will clarify all this.” She leaned back smugly arms crossed on her chest, “Well it’s been more than a couple of months. Where’s the clarification?”

“Oh that” I smiled which seemed to have the opposite affect on her. “I admit a little behind schedule on that—“

Her snort was not very lady-like.

“I am working on a separate page, from the regular Blog; that will strictly be focused on details about the Series. It will have its own website address.” Not sure if I told you before but it is called The Fire Fall Saga. “It will provide things like character descriptions, snippets of various scenes, pictures, outlines of the story, and other things.” She didn’t look impressed. “Think of it as a behind the scenes look at the series. Maybe like a trailer to a movie, but with more detail. At the heart of it will be The Sentence.”

“So where is it? And how does it relate to this Post?”

I find myself sighing a lot when talking with Willow. “It is coming soon. I am just waiting for some artwork to go on the new site and then I will bring it on-line.”

Something must have just come to her mind becae she had a shocked look on her face, “Does that mean we won’t be doing this blog anymore?”

“No, no. I—“ Her glare interrupted me “I mean you and I will still be doing this blog as it is about the course I am taking and the one I will be taking after it (How To Revise Your Novel), and the process I am going through actually writing the novel.” The glare softened, but only a little.

A bark followed by the clearing of a deep graveled voice made me look to the door. Lou Grant stood there with Grover next to him, floppy ears and all – Grover was the one with the floppy ears.

“I meant the four of us.”

“Humph” was Lou Grant’s response and Grover dropped down on his stomach.

Willow relaxed and turned to the newcomers, “Did he?” she directed to Lou Grant.

He looked down at Grover and then back to me, “Yes, but I am afraid Scene 17 is a little messy.” Grover’s eyes drooped even more; which I thought was impossible, and he gave me a sheepish look.

“No!” I could only envision the mess I would have to clean up in Scene 17.

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