I wanted to include a chapter from my next book, Death Bark, and have also been working on that. This book takes place during the same time frame as Fading Thunder and includes many of the same characters, Zeke, Grace, Marla, Dan, Matthew Drake and cameos of Jay and Michael. That was a bit challenging--to set the scene for the new series while tying up the loose ends of the old series.
Also difficult is deciding where to begin Death Bark. Should I start with scenes integral to the mystery that are included in Fading Thunder? Will readers be bored re-reading the scenes, even if from a new point of view character, Zeke?
I like to make things complicated for myself, as if writing a book is not hard enough. I'm sure it'll all work out in the end.
With my last book, Thunder's Shadow, and with this one, Fading Thunder, I think I've finally hit upon a writing plan that works for me. Sharing it might help others who struggle with some of the same things I do.
First, I keep a calendar and record on what day each scene occurs. Fading Thunder begins May 27, 1946. I print out calendars to use and also draw a huge calendar on a blackboard wall I have in my home. It helps me keep dates straight, at least most of the time.
I have tried various writing software over the years and have not found one that works for me. I'm probably too old school. So I use notebooks, small notebooks I can carry with me in case I have ideas or run across a quote, song, or anecdote I like.
Here's my notebook I used for Fading Thunder (I changed the title midway).
The notebook I used for Fading Thunder is not very organized, much like the way my brain works. I do some journaling, sometimes about my book, sometimes about my life. I'll ask questions about the motivation of the characters, for example. The storyline might be fascinating but if the characters do not have the correct motivation, it ain't gonna work. And I often second-guess myself on things like this, even after I think I've made a final decision, even as the book is being sent off into the wide world for other eyes to read.
When it's too late to change, I let it go, clutching onto my pages for dear life, it's true, but I let it go, sawing through the umbilical cord, even if the knife is a bit rusty and dull.
And that often involves prayer. I'll jot down a prayer on the pages of the notebook. A prayer on March 26th says "Be with me as I write. Help me to glorify you always."
Another thing I did was to dedicate a couple of pages to the characters, writing out brief descriptions for each. This is very helpful when I forget names or what a character looks like. Also, each of my books in this series has an Indian legend. I did a bit of thinking on this, scratching down ideas, before choosing a legend to use.
Last year, when I wrote Thunder's Shadow, I found it helpful to divide the book into three parts (acts, if you wish to call them that). I keep it simple and call them the beginning, middle, and end. My brain likes simple. I began my notebook by jotting down a rough story idea and then dividing it into the three parts. Note this--the end result bears little resemblance to what I jotted down, but it gave me a beginning point. Some of the story ideas were abandoned, some fully developed, and some never seriously considered, but it set me on track.
After making a decision on what to include in the beginning, I next jotted down one sentence ideas for scenes, such as this one: Uncle Howard has a heart attack. I roughly estimated the number of words needed to develop each scene. When I thought I had enough, I wrote Part One. Again, some of the scenes were abandoned and new scenes were added. I also moved some scenes later in the book.
I have an interest in symbolism, metaphors, similes, and the like. I kept a list of things I considered symbolic in this particular book. Somewhere I ran across this riddle--First you throw away the outside to eat what's inside and then you eat what's outside and throw away the inside. Not knowing when or where or even if I would use it, I eventually incorporated it symbolically into a scene. There are three or four other symbols, but I'll let my readers figure them out on their own.
After finishing Part One on March 26th, I began to plot out Part Two, deciding the scene I wanted to be in the very center of Part Two (and also the middle of the entire book). I finished half of Part Two on April 1st. I wrote this faster than my normal speed. I seem to have three speeds, very slow, slow, and reckless.
On April 7th, I realized the book was heading in the wrong direction. I came to a screeching halt and backtracked, deleting several thousand words. It was also around this time that I did a bit more research and discovered a historical error that I had to edit out in Part One. I finished Part Two in its entirety on April 12th.
The last part was finished on April 23rd. At the end, God surprised me (or the devil or my subconscious--often it's hard to tell which) with something I found funny. I'm leaving it in but agonizing over it.
And so I'm finished with the first draft and have started editing. The editing is going smoothly, so far.
I've made a list, in my notebook, of things I need to add or change as I go back through the book.
A couple of other things are in my notebook--research notes and songs.
I wrote out the lyrics to "God Moves in a Mysterious Way" by William Cowper. I listen to music as I write, and it seems to help the creative process. When I run across songs I like, I add them to my playlist. I love the words but haven't found the right artist singing it.
This song is in the public domain. Here are the words:
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm
Deep in His dark and hidden mines
With never-failing skill
He fashions all His bright designs
And works His sovereign will
O bless the Lord with heart and soul
Let all within me sing
And trust the wisdom of my God
My Father, Lord, my King.
O fearful saints new courage take
The clouds that you now dread
Are big with mercy and will break
In blessings on your head
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense
But trust Him for His grace
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face
God’s purposes will ripen fast
Unfolding every hour
The bud may have a bitter taste
But sweet will be the flower
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain
God is His own interpreter
And He will make it plain.
There are different versions of the song, and I'll leave you with this one: