Blog #6

The Writing of Lily

An Unedited Jounal

March 3, 1998

            Here I am again—no closer to a finished novel. How many years have I been struggling?

            I have a Pen Women meeting Saturday and I’d like to have a new chapter ready to read.  Will I be able to do it?

            I think I’ll do a one page synopsis for the members to read so they’ll have an idea of what Lily is about.

March 9, 1998

            I took an eight page synopsis of Lily and read it to Pen Women.  I asked them to be brutal with a critique. 

            I will list some of the critique suggestions here and refer to this when I work on Lily.  

            More than one member suggested keeping Tess, but she shouldn’t be James’ cousin.  Several also thought it was a cliché story—like Gone with the Wind. Some wanted to see James and Luke together—maybe at Lily’s funeral. They see it as a trilogy.

Several want to see James and Lily get together.  Didn’t like Lily being in prison for 20 years and they want a happy ending.

            I need subplots in the synopsis. What is going on with James and Tess, what about Harold and White Dove and Lily’s sons?

March 10, 1998

Good characterization taken from This Side of Glory by Gwen Bristow, pg. 193.

At the age of eighteen Isabel graduated.  She was gentle, . . . and soft-voiced, with a lovely face, golden hair a yard long and large, innocent eyes.

            But under its abundance of waves and velvet fillets Isabel’s head contained a brain that was clever, calculating and productive of ambition.  Convinced that a girl’s life

was determined by a kind of marriage she made, Isabel had channeled all her talents toward making a very superior marriage indeed.  Her upbringing had been exactly what she needed.  She could dance beautifully, listen ardently, tinkle tunes on the piano, and dress in such a fashion as to make everybody look in admiration when she entered a room…

Bottom of pg. 194

            She learned that while her face and figure were invaluable assets, looks alone were not sufficient working capital; for the best results one must also use one’s mind.  Recalling that somewhere in her schoolbooks she had seen a line about speech being given to man to conceal his thoughts, she reflected very soon that cleverness was given to woman to conceal her intellect; simply, that if a girl wished to captivate young gentlemen the best use she could make of her intelligence would be to employ it in devising means to prevent their suspecting that she had any.  For Isabel to pose as less gifted than some of the young beaus she met that winter required mental agility of a very high order.  But she did it, walking through the first weeks of the social season in a flutter of helpless loveliness.

            Then, gradually, she became wiser.  She discovered that the more brilliant of her male acquaintances did not admire such an utterly brainless beauty as she was pretending to be.  She observed then that the cleverer a man was, the more he liked a clever woman, his only requirement being that she be just a trifle less clever than himself; he wanted her to look up to him, but the higher the pinnacle on which she could convince him she must stand in order to be just beneath him, the more he would be flattered by her adoration.  And while she had not yet come across a young gentleman whom she sincerely considered wiser than herself, none of them suspected it.

While Isabel is a southern belle, Lily is like her in many ways.

            If she wanted it, Lily could have been the most popular girl in town.  I’ll use some of these ideas with the development of Lily’s character.

March 17, 1998

            I think the reason I’m having trouble with writing chapter 19 (the scene at the Conti home after James returns from WWI) is because it is too soon to talk about opening a blind school.  I need to have a plant sooner.  Tess will know of James’ blindness sooner and will be working through ideas how to help him.    

            Some possible story (synopsis) changes:

            James will come to Lily’s rescue when she is sentenced to life?  Did they sentence them for that long back then?  Find out.  But there will be no intimacy; James is married to Tess.  But James never forgot his feelings for Lily.  He will be a good friend.  He will find her a dynamic new attorney from his blind school to represent her.  Lily will eventually be acquitted.   

            I still don’t know if there will be a reunion between James, Lily, and Luke. 

May 26, 1998

            To date I have 88 submissions in the mail, but not many sales. I’ll be teaching two workshops at the Write on the Sound Conference in Edmonds, Washington, in October. I’m excited. I’ve also been accepted as a workshop presenter at the Children’s Pastors Conference in Nashville in January 1999 and will be teaching four workshops.

            Through my job as Children’s Ministry Director at Hydesville Community Church I’m writing a grant; I feel good about the grant because of the experience. All in all I’m pleased, yet I always seem to want more.

May 30, 1998

            I did as Judy Pella suggested and put Lily into chapter outline form.  I have reread the chapters I have already written and outlined them and hopefully, I’m now ready to go on and outline the rest of the book.

June 2, 1998

Notes written earlier:

            After train depot scene: I have to get James and Tess alone—where?  In the kitchen?  On a drive? When were there bridges instead of ferries? What time of year is it? Could it be bad weather? Look up date—this might help with writing this chapter. Of course if they stay inside the house, I don’t have a weather problem. But what was the weather like at the depot? James said, “I won’t be a charity case.” If I’m not ready to write this chapter, which chapter am I ready to write?

June 2, 1998

            Thing to do:

            Write a paragraph description of nurse and military life. She is a brunette—white uniform, cap, blue cape with red lining, white stockings, white shoes, patient, yet firm, and caring blue eyes. He’s blind. He can’t see her. Will he ask someone else what she looks like or will she volunteer information? 

            The picnic will be in a place untouched by war. Where will they get a car? What nationality is she? What does the hospital look like? Would she take him to a canteen? No, he doesn’t want to be stared at.

            Possible names:  Jo, Catherine, Kathryn.

            The nurse will write to Tess because she reads and writes for him.  The nurse will add her concerns when she writes to Tess.

April 26, 1919

Maybe they will teach him everything he needs to know to function before they send him home.

            James and Tess will open a school for the blind—now it will be appropriate for Tess’ father to approach James with a business proposition.

June 9, 1998

I tried to do some rewriting of chapter 17.  Bring in what is happening to James after the war while he’s in a hospital.  I want the reader to know he is blind, but not Lily until he disembarks from the train.  Having trouble; I can only seem to get about a page written in an hour.  I think I’ll take a break and do something physical, and think.

July 7, 1998

I spent three hours at the Benbow Inn in Garberville, California reviewing notes on first murder trial scene. (The Benbow Inn is my favorite place to think, read, write, relax and swim. At 3:00 I go up to the lobby and have tea and scones and work on a jigsaw puzzle.) After a day at the Benbow Inn I’m ready to get back to work.

July 9, 1998

I’ll enter more on trial scene in computer.

July 30, 1998

I received a call from Sabine Ball concerning ghost writing. This is an exciting possibility. Sabine is a German lady compared to Corrie Ten Boom. She lived in Germany during WWII. After coming to the United States she founded a commune in Mendocino, California where young people stayed as they tried to get off drugs. Later she became a Christian in 1971 and eventually returned to Dresden, Germany and funded a ministry for skinheads. She’s called the Mother Teresa of Dresden.

I met with Sabine and she interviewed me and my friend Nick Harrison. She decided we were not the right fit to write her biography.  Instead she chose a German writer to write her book in German. Needless to say Nick and I were disappointed.

August 18, 1998

            We had grandsons Ben and Brock with us last week and now I’m melancholy. Is it because I miss them or is it the rejection I got from Poets and Writers? Maybe both.

November 5, 1998

I’m experiencing another dry spell with writing Lily.  I’d like to write another chapter.  Actually I’d like to complete this manuscript.  What is taking me so long?  Am I misdirected? 

I’ve tried to do research on blindness, etc. 

November 16, 1998

Things I need to do:

            Write a description of Josephine (the nurse).

            Write some scenes with Josephine—she is concerned about James and will write to Tess.

Dear Tess,

            My name is Josephine Fregeau. James Conti has been one of my patients and will be leaving the hospital soon.

            He was blinded near the end of the war, and he’s frustrated, bitter, and discouraged. He does not want to be a burden on his family. In time he will adjust. I have told him about a school for the blind in Boston, which can teach him how to live life to its fullest under the circumstances.

            I have read all of your letters to him . . . (Lily pg. 80)

Do more research on blindness. Do some research on marketing Lily.

February 12, 1999

A breakthrough on chapter 17, etc. I have been struggling with this scene for too long.  Today when I forced myself to sit down and work on this chapter some things became clear. 

I read that a Lily of the Valley is for good luck in France.  What a good idea for Josephine to pin a Lily of the Valley on James’ uniform when he leaves the hospital to return to the US in May. “The lily of the valley is the lucky flower of France.” She added, “I wish you more than luck. I’ll keep you in my prayers, soldier.” Just then the train whistle shrilled. “We’d better get abroad,” the other soldier said. Jo kissed James on his cheek and waiting as his companion helped James up the steps of the train. “Bye, Jo,” James called over his soldier. “Bye, soldier,” she said. He heard the tears in her voice. (Lily pg. 81)

Will the flower cause James to think about Lily? What will be his thoughts? Is he over Lily or just resigned to the fact that she is not available?  Will his thoughts still be all muffled when he returns to the US or will he be resigned to the fact?  What about Tess?  Doesn’t she deserve him totally without baggage?

May 3, 1999

            What am I going to do with Lily?  I have Evergreen Writers (a critique group) on Saturday and I need to have a chapter or part of one to read.  Should I try to continue with the last scene I read concerning the nurse Jo with James in WWI, or a scene after William has a debilitating stroke?  Or when Harold sends Lily away for R and R?  I sure don’t know which direction to take.  I guess I’m lucky to have so many choices.

            Concerning other writing—I’m so excited about my contact with Harcourt Brace and two assignments to write educational material.  Today I sent them three more ideas to consider.  I sold “The Three Step Query Letter” to the Writer magazine. It’ll be reprinted in the Writer’s Handbook 2000.  This is a feat for me.

            In my personal life:  Dad has incurable bile duct cancer.  They aren’t sure how much time he has and no suggested treatments or surgery.  He is handling it well and I think I am too.  Time will tell.  I am so much like him. I’m glad to have his good qualities—his persistence, positive attitude, and hopefully his playfulness.  My mother is also more positive now that Dr. Tuck has increased her medication dosage. (My mother suffers from depression.)

            So here goes.  I will start to write something on Lily today. 

            Later:  I wrote one and a half pages on the Bradford Inn scene which later needed a lot of work.

August 25, 1999

            My Time with God, the work-for-hire children’s devotion book for Focus on the Family, is hard work; a fifth rewrite still to do. Ugh!

September 1999

            I went to Sharon Brown’s cabin in Southern Humboldt for an Evergreen Writer’s retreat.  Jean Murray and Christine Sackey also went. 

            I spent Friday afternoon and all day Saturday.  Didn’t write a lot, but happy with what I did do—chapter titles for Part II and Part III of Lily provided some structure to the  project; some writing on the Bradford Inn scene when Lily meets Sven (about 350 words); revised writing goals; I did some clustering on a commitment piece; marketing my children’s book review column . . . and a two hour nap this PM.

            All in all the retreat was very beneficial.

Published in: on February 25, 2013 at 9:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

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