Thanks to The Seekers for inviting me back to their blog. I’m just so amazed at all the success these writers have had over the last few years. What an inspiration to us all!
When Mary Connealy asked me to blog we both agreed the topic would require two days, so I’ll be here today and tomorrow. Of course, I’ll also be giving away a few prizes. Leave a comment today and you will get a chance to win a copy of my current release LOVING BELLA, the third book in my Charity House series for Steeple Hill’s Love Inspired Historical line. Leave a comment tomorrow and you will put in a separate drawing for a copy of the book as well. Leave a comment either day and you will be eligible to win the grand prize: a copy of all three books in the Charity House series.
What I’m going to discuss is one of my favorite writing topics. The Art of Layering, From First Draft to Finished Manuscript.
The first draft is what many authors consider the hardest part of writing a novel. The common saying goes something like this: Nothing’s worse than a blank page. Consequently, getting that first draft onto that blank page is nothing more than getting words on paper. After all, words can be fixed. Sentences can be rearranged and/or deleted. That’s what the second draft is for and where layering comes in as well.
Although many believe the first draft is where all the creativity takes place, some of the most creative aspects of putting a novel together can also come in the later stages. The third, fourth or even tenth draft. This process is called layering.
Layering is both an art form and a skill. It is a process that can be learned and honed. What we layer, when we layer, and why we layer all matter.
So let’s begin.
Step One: WRITE THE FIRST DRAFT
This step is obvious. You can’t begin the layering process unless you have a first draft. But please note, I am not telling you one way is better than the other. This first draft can either be a draft of a scene, chapter, section, or the complete novel. Do what works for you.
Step Two: LAYER MOVEMENT INTO EACH SCENE
This step is what I call: NO TALKING HEADS. Your characters must be moving around at all times. They must be doing something. Stationary people do not exist in the real world, nor should they exist in a scene. Try watching a scene of a favorite movie without the sound. Notice how the actors convey emotion with their body language. Here are some written examples.
“Miss Jane, all is not lost.”
She gave him a ragged, quivering sigh.
“You may still survive if you turn from this life forever,” he offered. “We could leave for Colorado Springs this afternoon.”
“No.” A slow, harsh breath wheezed out of her. “It’s too late.”
He lifted a skinny, limp hand into his, closed his fingers over the pale, graying skin. “Miss Jane, all is not lost.”
She gave him a ragged, quivering sigh.
With his own answering sigh, he released her hand and brought a glass of water to her cracked lips. He lifted her shoulders with one hand and helped her navigate the glass with the other. “You may still survive if you turn from this life forever. We could leave for Colorado Springs this afternoon.”
Jane took a slow, choking sip, and then leaned back. “No.” A harsh breath wheezed out of her. “It’s too late.”
Step Three: LAYER THE FIVE SENSES INTO EACH SCENE
Although most of us tend to be visual by nature, we live life in a three-dimensional world. We experience the world around us with all five senses. Smells have a powerful pull over our memory. As do songs. How many times have you heard a song from your childhood and was instantly transported to another time and place. Here are some examples of how to layer in the senses (other than sight)
A burst of wind whipped the doorknob from Rebecca Gundersen’s fingers. The storm was coming in too fast. The town wasn’t prepared. She wasn’t prepared.
Forcing back her panic, Rebecca sprinted down the boarding house steps. She shoved her hair out of her face and cast a quick glance to her left. Dark clouds were moving in, foretelling of a bad storm.
She was not alone on the street, though the thought gave her no comfort. Caught in their own terror, people of all ages and sizes rushed past her, scrambling for cover. Three horses galloped by.
Navigating the labyrinth of activity, Rebecca dashed around the mercantile. She cast another glance to the sky. Time was running out.
A burst of wind whipped the doorknob from Rebecca Gundersen’s fingers. Hail pelted her face, leaving behind a nasty sting. The storm was coming in too fast.
Forcing back her panic, Rebecca sprinted down the boarding house steps and ran straight into the growling wind. There was an oppressive stench of rotting earth and grass, an unmistakable warning that a deadly tornado loomed in the distance.
Rebecca shoved her hair out of her face and cast a quick glance to her left. A shelf of ominous looking clouds cut a sharp line of black against the pale blue sky.
She was not alone on the street, though the thought gave her no comfort. Caught in their own terror, people of all ages and sizes rushed past her, scrambling for cover. Three horses galloped by, their high-pitched whinnies echoing the panic they held in their eyes.
Navigating the labyrinth of activity, Rebecca dashed around the mercantile. She cast another glance to the sky. The rapidly approaching clouds had taken on a sickly, greenish tint.
Step Four: LAYER THE SETTING INTO EACH SCENE
Setting is very important in commercial fiction. After all, our books aren’t just competing with one another they’re competing with the television and movies. Think of this step as an opportunity to transport your character into your story world. An example:
The pink structure was a typical Victorian house, or what some called a Painted Lady.
If houses had gender, this one was surely female. Elegant, whimsical, the two-story building was made of rose-colored stone. The bold lines of the roof were softened by rounded windows and sweeping vines. On closer inspection the house looked a bit neglected, the twisting wisteria covered a few sags and wrinkles that made the building look like a woman refusing to accept her age.
And that’s all we’re going to talk about today. Tune in tomorrow. I’ll present the final four steps in the process.