I am thrilled to feature Beth White today!
Back in September when I attended the ACFW conference, I left a post on Go Teen Writers about favorite books. One of you guys mentioned Tour de Force by (Eliza)Beth White, and that night I happened to sit by her at dinner! I was thrilled to have the chance to tell her how much I loved Controlling Interest, but also to tell her she had just been mentioned on Go Teen Writers.
For those of you who aren't familiar with Ms. White, here is a little about her:
Beth White’s day job is teaching chorus and piano at LeFlore High School in Mobile, Alabama. A native Southerner, she is a pastor’s wife, mother to two married young adult children, and grandmother to ten-month-old Judah. Beth’s hobbies include playing flute and pennywhistle and painting, but her real passion is writing historical romance and romantic suspense with a Christian worldview. Her novel Controlling Interest won American Christian Fiction Writers’ 2009 Book of the Year award, and Crescent City Courtship won the RT Book Club Reviewers Choice award. She is currently working on a historical romance series set on the Colonial Gulf Coast. Visit her on the web at http://www.bethwhite.net.
And now I'll let her tell you about her writing process. Ms. White has been generous enough to offer to give away a copy of Tour de Force. Details for getting entered ton a down below! (US Residents only, please.)
1. Idea Seed
Story ideas come from all sorts of places: articles, people I meet, songs, photographs, spin-offs from my previous novels. Sometimes the idea is rooted in a fascinating profession — like fireworks designer, ballet dancer, Border Patrol agent, Supreme Court justice, landscaper. If that's the case, the first thing I do is interview someone in that job, and ask him or her as many nosy questions as I can think of! The two most important questions are:
• What's the worst day you ever had on the job, or what's the worst thing you could imagine happening?
• What are a few of your top goals in your job?
The book I'm working on now—The Pelican Brides, set to release in January 2014—is a historical, and the idea came from a random fact I came across while researching a previous novel, Redeeming Gabriel. Gabriel is set in Mobile during the Civil War, and it originated from a visit to the Museum of Mobile with my son, who was then in the fourth grade. While researching Gulf Coast history, I discovered that Mobile was settled by French-Canadians under Louis XIV. To discourage intermarriage with the Indians, the French Crown sent twenty-five young Frenchwomen across the ocean as brides for the explorers. Exciting stuff!
2. Once I’ve settled on the basic premise, I have to nail down the protagonist’s story goal and motivation and, conversely, what keeps him or her from attaining that goal. This is a little harder than it sounds, because those two elements must be strong enough to sustain an 80,000-100,000-word novel. The more heroic the goal, the better—and the more life-and-death the conflict, the better. There are entire books written on the subject, and I recommend studying them. Deb Dixon’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict is a classic, as is James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure. Another great resource is Randy Ingermanson’s “Snowflake” plot method: www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com. Have fun checking that out!
3. Using one of the above methods (sometimes all three), I take a couple of weeks or months (depending on how much time I’m allotted by a mind-numbing list of personal life factors) to develop a 10-20 page synopsis. Have I always done this? No. Many times I’ve taken off writing, knowing little more than who the main characters are. That “strategy” is, to my more mature mind, the equivalent of trying to get around New York with nothing but a child’s crayon drawing in hand. Shall we just say, that’s an invitation to taking the scenic route? You might get to some interesting places, but you’re just as likely to wind up in a nasty, dark, blind alley without a flashlight.
4. Anyway, once I have a solid synopsis (some people call it an outline, but don’t think of it as an English essay-type outline—not the same thing at all), I look for a place to start the story. Again, that’s easier said than done. Often, I’ll write a chapter or two and realize I’m just laying down backstory, which then must be ruthlessly cut. But nothing is wasted. Backstory (what happened to the characters before the story starts) lends motivation and emotional complexity, and readers love it. They just don’t want it dumped all in one place at the beginning of the book. It has to be fed in by teaspoonfuls via onstage action, dialogue and internal thought.
5. Writing the first draft, as most writers will tell you, is like pushing a refrigerator uphill (I borrowed that phrase from somebody, can’t remember who). I procrastinate, rethink, chase rabbits, research, and pray as I go. I’ve taken as long as six years to finish a book, and as short a time as two months. I have no writing schedule, because I’m a high school music teacher, and I just cram in writing time wherever I can. Some people function well if writing is their only gig; that’s not me. In order to have something worthwhile to say, I need to live life. I need friends, I need family, I need to give myself away, and most of all I need my relationship with Jesus Christ. All those things require time. I may short-change one area or the other while meeting a book deadline, but that can’t last for long—or else the writing would be a hollow, meaningless shell. I encourage you to think that last sentence through. Meditate on it. Talk it over with a writing buddy. If I’m going to invest one of my precious life-hours in anything, it had better mean something to eternity. I hope you’ll come to the same conclusion.
The book I’m giving away today is Tour de Force, my most recent release from Zondervan. It’s about a young ballet dancer who meets the man of her dreams in a season of her life when she’s experiencing phenomenal worldly success—but neither fame nor romance nor even her own giftedness can sustain her when everything comes crashing down. If you’ve ever had the rug yanked out from under you by circumstances, you’ll identify with Gilly’s struggle to come out of despair into joy. Just chime into the conversation, and you’ll be entered into the drawing!