So You Want to Write a Novel?

This is a great video spoof on a newbie's perceptions of how easy it is to publish a novel versus one with experience. Laugh out loud funny.

Anyone who is thinking about writing a novel should listen to this video and then ask themselves if they have what it takes to write a novel.


Book Review: Caleb's Crossing

A young Puritan minister's daughter, Bethia, is slightly rebellious and wants to have a formal education--something refused to women in the 1600s, when this book is set. Her desire for knowledge and knack for languages instigates friction between herself and her family as her father teaches her brother Latin, Greek and Hebrew to prepare him for the life of a minister. Father angers when he realizes that Bethia is a better student than her brother, Makepeace, and forbids her from more learning. In order to quench her lust for knowledge, Bethia begins to eavesdrop on her brother’s lessons and "borrow" school books or her father’s books and study them in private.

Bethia’s father is a minister who preaches to the Wampanoag Indians on a New England island, and Bethia is a girl who struggles to accept her place in the world as a woman and future wife. There is no other option for Bethia in the 1600s, and she is determined to follow the example of her mother. Throughout the course of this novel, she struggles to resist rebelling against this destiny, by seeking her own fulfillment. 

And then she meets Caleb. Caleb, who is a Wampanoag Indian and the nephew to the wampaw (witch doctor) that is Bethia’s father’s nemesis. Caleb, who teaches Bethia his language as he learns English from her. Caleb, in more ways than one, changes Bethia’s life. He becomes not just a friend, but more a brother than her own brother has ever--or will ever--be.

What transpires throughout this novel is the telling of Caleb’s education throughout the years, as he is taught English and started in Latin, Hebrew and Greek first from Bethia's father, then becomes the first Indian graduate from Harvard. His knack for language parallels Bethia’s, and she, through a twist of fate (I won’t spoil it), follows him to Harvard. At Harvard, Bethia finds love and continues her education through eavesdropping. 

Although the ending is certainly bittersweet, it is reminiscent of life. Caleb’s Crossing is based on a real person, but the story itself is fictional. The story of Caleb crossing from one world into the next, however, is certainly factual. He crossed from the Wampanoags to the English and found that combining the two was harder than imagined.

My rating: 
4.5/5 stars
I would definitely read this again. It was quiet and thoughtful, sad and yet enjoyable. The writing was fluent and elegant. A worthwhile read.


Compulsive Editing Disorder

Photo credit: Nicolas Karim

I'm always astounded by how long editing an entire novel takes me. I go through peaks and valleys of editing like mad and feeling completely apathetic (or worse freaking out about the state of my manuscript, despite having edited this thing ten times!).

But it never fails. As soon as I finish one round of editing, I immediately want to start the next. Although I know that I should let it sit and come back to it in a week or so, I feel that I never think so clearly as when I have recently completed an edit, I feel as though I am never more aware of my manuscript's flaws and never more able to fix them.

Sometimes, I think I need this "warmup" (i.e. first) edit to fully understand what the purpose of my manuscript is and how I should be editing it.

I struggle with this, since most writers and teachers of writing tell you to let a manuscript "rest" before tackling a new edit. Still, I recognize a lot more flaws when I've just edited as opposed to approaching the piece after a rest.

What I really should be doing is reading my novel and making notes, refraining from line-by-line edits until a second read-through. However, I find that I am such a compulsive editor, that I'm afraid my "perfect sentence" will disappear from all time if I don't immediately edit the sentence at the time of my reading. And although there's merit in that, I admit that I often change the "perfect sentence" when I later edit.

What a second edit does for me is allow me to see my manuscript with more critical eyes, even though I can be very self-critical on a normal day. A second, immediate, edit reveals to me the Big Issues. And although I realize this is backwards from what is recommended, it's made me realize: I am a compulsive editor.

So what I am going to strive to do is to take time to skim my WIP first, look at Big Picture Issues, and then, after fixing those, go line-by-line grammatically. Avoiding fixing grammar mistakes is a difficult thing for me to even imagine, but it is my goal for the next big edit!

What are some of your goals for editing? What do you need to work on?


The Shack: A book review

I just finished reading The Shack by W. Paul Young, and although I found the book thought-provoking and deep at times, at others, I thought the book dragged on to a disappointing degree.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, as I’d heard that this book was good but not really what it was about. That said, I’m glad I only listened to it via my iPod, as I think, had I been physically reading it, I might have gotten tired of it, put it down and not picked it up again. 

This novel centers around a man, Mackenzie Allen Phillips, whose daughter, Missy, was abducted while the family camped in Oregon. It appears that the daughter has been brutally murdered by a serial killer who targets young girls, and the girls are never found again. This plunges Mack into a long depression he dubs “The Great Sadness”. When he receives a note in his mailbox three years later from “Papa”, the name which his wife has for God, asking Mack to meet Him at the shack (the scene of Missy’s abduction) Mack reluctantly heads out to meet God for the weekend. Not knowing what to expect, possibly that this is a trick of the killer or a cruel joke, Mack travels to the shack while the rest of his family goes on a weekend away. There, he meets God and is transformed by the experience.

Young’s writing was eloquent and the plot well developed. I could believe the progression of Mack as he went from angry at God to forgiving God (and others), and, although the book was a bit predictable, it was refreshingly so. My issue was the tediousness that began to develop for me towards the end of the novel. In fact, it became so--forgive me--boring, that I had to put the book (iPod) away for several days and come back to it later. I’m not sure why I felt this way, other than that the “theology” of the book got a bit repetitive and dragged on for too long. I understood the challenge the author faced in not being cliché in converting Mack to his belief in God, and not jumping into this faith with both feet after being so hurt. I was glad that Young did not prematurely wrap up the ending, and took his time in “converting” Mack. However, there came a point in the novel where I just got bored. It became a chore to listen to the book, and I couldn’t finish it at that time.

Overall, the book was an interesting read, and thought-provoking at times, but not a book I would reread or buy.