4 or 5 Books I Read in May 2019

My reading was haphazard in May, to say the least. I read snippets of several books here and there. I read three books, listened to one book, and read 35% of another one before it had to go back to the public library. I’m having some issues with my computer, but here goes.

The First Conspiracy:  The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington, by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch

The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington, by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch

I love learning things, and it’s amazing how much I don’t know at my age. One thing I learned from this book seems so basic I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t know it. In my history studies I didn’t learn that the Continental Congress created the Continental Army in 1775. In my mind, I assumed the Continental Army was formed after the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

The First Conspiracy:  The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington, by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch is almost a day-by-day telling of American Revolutionary history with focus on the little known facts of the things that happened in the shadows – behind the scenes. I minored in history in college, but I didn’t know about the conspiracy to kill George Washington as Commander of the Continental Army.

Most of what I knew about William Tryon was how he robbed the citizens of North Carolina blind to build “Tryon Palace” in New Bern, North Carolina while he served as the colony’s governor. I knew he left that position to take the more lucrative office of governor of the New York colony.

One thing I learned from The First Conspiracy was how Tryon was ruthless in his dealings with the rebels in New York and how he continued on that mission even after taking refuge in a British ship in New York Harbor.

An amusing part of the book was the description of the arrest and questioning of the four men who had decided to print paper currency in secret for the colonies. They hadn’t agreed on an alibi, so each one had a different explanation than the others and, of course, one denied having any knowledge of the printing press in the attic.

I’d read about 70% of the book before it had to be returned to the public library because another patron was waiting for it. I’ll check in out again later in order to read the rest of the story.

The Waxhaws, by Louise Pettus, assisted by Nancy Crockett

The Waxhaws, by Louise Pettus with Nancy Crockett

I wish I’d known in 1983 to purchase a copy of this book when it was published. Now, if you can find a copy to buy, it will likely cost you more than $150. I was delighted to find a circulating library copy in May, and I devoured the content.

This book, more than anything else I’ve read, helped me get a feel for life in The Waxhaws just south of the North Carolina-South Carolina border in colonial times. I hope I’m able to communicate that sense of place and time in my historical novel, The Doubloon, which primarily takes place in that Carolina backcountry settlement in 1769-70.

Anyone interested in day-to-day life in colonial America owes Louise Pettus and Nancy Crockett a debt of gratitude for all the South Carolina history they preserved and shared with each other and their readers.

The Mother-in-Law, by Sally Hepworth  

The Mother-in-Law, by Sally Hepworth

I’ve become a fan of Sally Hepworth’s novels, so I got on the wait list for her latest book as soon as it showed up on the “on order” list on the public library’s online catalog. I’ve read all her novels except The Secrets of Midwives.

This novel will keep you guessing “who dunnit.” Everyone seems to have issues with the mother-in-law. Her daughter-in-law tells this story. She has issues with her mother-in-law. So does her husband, his sister, his sister’s husband. It seems like most people who come in contact with the mother-in-law have a hard time dealing with her quirks and aloofness.

There is a totally different side the mother-in-law shows the people she helps through her volunteerism, though. It’s difficult for her family members to understand this part of her life because it seems out-of-character.

As the reader begins to learn the mother-in-law’s backstory, he or she will understand what made her the way she is or was. She’s found dead in her home. Who killed her? You might be surprised.

The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women, edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman in association with NPR (National Public Radio)

I listened to this book. It contains “This I Believe” essays written by people from all walks of life. Some are or were famous, others I had not heard of. Among those whose essays are in this current audio collection are Helen Keller, John McCain, Oscar Hammerstein II, William O. Douglas, Albert Einstein, Leonard Bernstein, Martha Graham, John Updike, Carl Sandburg, Jackie Robinson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Gloria Steinem, Colin Powell, Helen Hays, and Bill Gates.

The Afterword by Dan Gediman gives the history of This I Believe. The original book contained 100 essays and was done by legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow. The first of the essays was broadcast on radio on Easter Sunday in 1949.

In a nutshell, the This I Believe essays are supposed to be about “the guiding beliefs by which they live their lives.” They are short, being about five minutes long.

One of the goals of the This I Believe organization is “to facilitate a higher standard of public discourse.”

If you wish to know more about this international organization, visit

https://thisibelieve.org/.

Stony the Road:   Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow, by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and The Rise of Jim Crow, by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

I learned a lot from this book. I knew I would. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is an icon when it comes to history. I only had time to read the first two chapters of Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow, before it disappeared from my Kindle and went back to the public library. (Don’t worry. I immediately got back on the wait list for it so I can continue reading it.)

Look for my blog post next Monday about the important lesson I learned as a writer while reading Stony the Road. It wasn’t a lack of interest that caused me to read only two chapters. It was a case of “too many books, so little time” and the fact that I dedicated most of my time to writing instead of reading in May.

Since my last blog post

Since last Monday’s blog post, we jumped right over spring and went into summer. Last week it was 95 degrees on five days and 94 on the other two. According to the calendar, summer begins in three weeks. We have gone from too much rain to no rain in about three weeks. I’d rather have heat and drought than flooding or tornadoes like they’re having in the central part of the US, so I’m not complaining.

I got some good feedback about last Monday’s blog post. Thank you, Jules Horne and all the others who took the time to comment on here and on my Facebook pages.

Until my next blog post

A couple of weeks ago I read that a blogger should use second person point-of-view instead of first person. There are too many rules. I’ll try to do better in the future.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time and your projects are moving right along.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.

Let’s continue the conversation

Have you read any of these books? If so, please share your thoughts below. What are you reading?

Janet

#FixYourNovel #1: Read it Aloud

In my blog last Monday, https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/05/20/the-hard-work-lies-ahead-what-did-i-mean-by-that/, I said this:  “Do I have the audacity to write about how a writer goes about “fixing” his or her novel? Only time will tell.” I’m learning as I go, so maybe you and I can learn together.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Today let’s grapple with “fixing” the rough draft of your novel by reading the entire novel aloud to yourself to make sure it flows naturally, makes sense, has the right amount of backstory, doesn’t have information dumps, and doesn’t have plot holes.

I know, many of you bailed out on that last sentence. If you’re still with me, though, I thank you. If you aren’t interested in today’s topic, just scroll down to see what I’ve been doing, what I’m reading, and what my blog has in store for you next week.

Purposes of reading aloud to yourself

Among other things, the purposes of reading the rough draft aloud to yourself are to:

            * See if the story flows naturally;

            * Make sure there’s the right amount of backstory;

            * See if the pacing is good;

            * Make sure the story makes sense;

            * Make sure events are in proper order;

            * Make sure there are no information dumps;

            * Catch obvious typographical errors; and

            * Look for plot holes.  

Some things I found on my read-through

I’m writing what I hope will be my first historical novel. The working title is The Doubloon. I recently typed “The End” at the end of the rough draft, let it rest a couple of weeks, and then read through it out loud last week. “Out Loud” is very important.

One thing that came to light in my read-through was that some of the scenes weren’t in the best order.

Once the location of a scene is changed – especially if you move it to a point later in your book – you must carefully review the scenes between its original location and its new location to make sure there are no references to what happens or is said in that moved scene in the in-between scenes.

For example, if you reveal a clue in the scene you moved from the end of the first chapter to the beginning of the third chapter, you must make sure you don’t refer to anything in that scene in the second chapter.

There were places where sentences weren’t in the best order. You might not catch those instances if you don’t read your rough draft out loud.

There were instances where a word didn’t do the sentence justice. Sometimes a sentence needed a stronger verb or more accurate adjective. If you can’t think of a better substitute immediately, just highlight it in red and keep going.

I discovered cases where I had not told the reader something they needed to know in order for a scene to make sense. As the author, I knew the background, but I had failed to give the reader enough information.

A number of scenes take place in the meeting house. In my head, I knew exactly what the log meeting house looked like inside, but I had not described it well. That task was added to that running list I mentioned above.

Photo by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash

I was surprised to find some typos, which means I’m too confident in my typing skills. There were several cases where I’d typed the wrong word, for instance, “where” when I meant “when” and “of” when I meant “in.” (What was that about?) The spell-check function on your computer won’t catch these errors.

How to deal with problems you find

In some of these cases, I edited the rough draft. In some cases, I highlighted the word, phrase, or sentence so I can go back later and take time to make corrections or changes. I started a running list of things I need to research or be sure to check on later. I only made changes that could easily be done without taking much time. I didn’t want to get distracted from the read-through to the point I got bogged down in editing.

Nice surprise in the read-through

It was a pleasant surprise to find some humor in the manuscript. I wrote all 85,000 words, so how could I forget? Maybe you can keep up with such things, but I obviously did not. I was really pleased with some of the humor and the liveliness of some of the dialogue.

Based on my meager experience, I would say this read-through of your novel’s rough draft should be fun. It certainly was for me. I enjoyed getting reacquainted with some of the characters’ personalities and events in the book.

In addition to the humor in this novel that deals with several serious issues, I hope my readers will try throughout the novel to figure out “who dunnit.”

One of the most important things I learned

One of the most important things I learned through this rough draft rewrite and read-through is how to get words on the page and move on. For years I was guilty of trying to write perfectly the first time. If I had something I needed to research or go back to look for in my research notes, I would stop right then and chase after the answer.

I’ve finally learned to throw in a red question mark or type my question in read red, and keep writing. This was a hard lesson for me to learn. I hope you have learned that or will learn it faster than I did. It makes a huge difference in how quickly your writing can move along.

#FixYourNovel

Look for the second installment in my #FixYourNovel blog series in mid-July:  Scene Outline Critique will probably be the topic.

Since my last blog post

We had house guests and also tried to get as much yardwork done as possible before the heatwave started on Saturday with 95 degrees.

Until my next blog post

I hope you’re reading a good book. I’m reading The First Conspiracy:  The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington, by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch. Next Monday’s blog post will be about the books I’ve read in May.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time and your projects are moving right along.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.

Let’s continue the conversation

What are you reading?

Janet