WIP: A Ramble

I’ve heard from a few of you who are curious to know what’s up with my WIP, which made me realize I haven’t discussed it in a while. So here goes.
If you’re familiar with my blog, you know I’m a big believer in pre-writing. That means outlining the story and getting to know the characters. This is never a nice, neat process, at least not for me. As the storyline expands, what I need from my characters changes. And as my characters grow, they alter my storyline. It’s my job to preserve the integrity of both my story and my characters. Pre-writing can take me as long as the actual writing of the book.
When I write the story itself, I don’t revise as I go. Other writers do, with great success (my friend Emilie Richards revises the previous day’s work before she starts in each morning). But I have to write the whole story out before I go back and look at it. I happened to read the New York Times letters to the editor this morning while at the Opium Den. Douglas Light, a creative writing teacher in New York, wrote that he encourages his students to get their first draft down as quickly as possible. (This is what writer Anne LaMott calls the “shitty first draft”.) Light says “. . . as most novelists will attest, the art and the beauty of a work come not in the first draft but in the consequent revisions and rewrites, and one can rewrite and revise only what has already been written.” I love that! 
But before beginning that draft, it’s important to do the pre-writing. You need to know where you’re going and who is going there with you (the characters). Pre-writing takes a good deal of time and effort to allow for the percolation of ideas. Often I think I’ve done enough of it only to discover I haven’t. That’s where I’ve been for the the last few weeks, ever since my marathon writing week at the Weymouth Center. I discovered a few problems while there, and it’s taking me some time to work them out. For example, Joanna, the mother in the story, simply was not becoming the person I wanted her to be. I didn’t feel the sympathy toward her that I wanted to feel, and if I didn’t feel it, the reader surely wouldn’t. I discovered a solution that may sound simplistic, but which is already working for me: changing her name. Two names are “auditioning” for the role. They both end in “ie”. Instantly, they change my interpretation of the mother from serious, sober, stern and sad to someone lighter, approachable and vulnerable. I’ve also made her a school nurse so we can see that she cares for many people, not just her own children. I like her so much better!
In addition to working on the character of the mother, I’ve been “going deeper” with the story. That means I’ve spent time thinking about theme and making sure my story doesn’t lose its focus. It’s very easy to slip off track when writing novels as complex as mine tend to be. Plot twists come to me and I have to ask myself if my reason for wanting them in the book is because they’re fun and clever. . . or because they actually serve the story. If the answer is the former, I’ll save them for some future book. Right now, I’m playing with one such idea (and taking lots of creative naps and brainstorming with friends because I LOVE the twist) but I think I may have to discard it because it doesn’t belong in this book. Sigh.
So, that’s what I’m up to with my WIP. I have an April deadline for it and I’ll soon be moving more seriously into the “shitty first draft” phase. Can’t wait!


  1. Brenda on December 5, 2006 at 5:39 pm

    When I get all med bills paid-and my tuition–I want to treat myself to a workshop with the guru-D. Chamberlain….
    I love the way you are sharing with us…

  2. Brenda on December 5, 2006 at 5:40 pm

    Don’t forget to read biographies by David McCullough—and Doris Goodwin—even though they have been attacked by those who think they made mistakes—their books are great….

  3. Margo on December 6, 2006 at 8:47 am

    I’d love to take a workshop with Diane but am not a writer, so I’m going to save my pennies to travel to NC someday and attend a booksigning of hers!

  4. Brenda on December 7, 2006 at 5:31 pm

    Margo-could you imagine us sitting there and talking to Diane in person….???Wow…That would be fantastic…I am with you…we’ll go at the same time and get her to sign our books…although I really want to “pick her brain”.

  5. Diane Chamberlain on December 7, 2006 at 5:43 pm

    You two are too funny!
    I finished THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL. What a yummy juicy read.
    Let’s vote on Joanna’s new name. I’m down to Carrie Ann (that’s one name), Libby and SueEllen. Remember I’m looking for approachable, loving, guilty, vulnerable, repentent, fiercely protective, and imperfect, all rolled into one complicated woman!

  6. Cheryl on December 7, 2006 at 10:08 pm

    I cast my vote for SueEllen. My second choice would be Carrie Ann. I just don’t feel it for “Libby”. It just doesn’t sound as approachable to me. I also think SueEllen is the name of someone that’s a mom.

  7. Ann on December 7, 2006 at 10:20 pm

    I will vote for Carrie Ann. My grandmother was named Carrie. Had 6 children and was a wonderful mom, grandma and I loved her dearly!!

  8. Margo on December 8, 2006 at 8:42 am

    I vote for SueEllen…Brenda, my DREAM is to meet Diane in person and be able to sit and talk to her…I think it’s a great idea if we go to a book signing at the same time and I could meet you too!…this is definitely a goal to work towards.
    Diane and friends, this is the time of year that I take off abt 3 weeks from my day job, stay home with my hubby and Kramer and seclude myself in my art studio to finish paintings and art orders for customers who need these by X-mas…our computer at home is on the blink so I will have limited access to Dianes blog…next week I will be back at my day job on Wed in the afternoon to attend our annual X-mas party and will checkup on blogging then but after that, I might not visit the site for awhile…I will live and breathe my art and think of everyone I care about during the holidays…love, peace and good health during this beautiful time of year to you all.

  9. Diane Chamberlain on December 8, 2006 at 1:13 pm

    I’ll think about SueEllen and Carrie Ann and see which fits best.
    Margo, we’ll miss you! though it sounds wonderful for you to be off for three weeks and immersed in your art! I know that’s where your heart is. I imagine we’ll all be busy for the rest of the month.

  10. Margo on December 8, 2006 at 1:23 pm

    Thx Diane…I’ll be checking your blog next Wed and make a comment…by the way, as far as the name change is was a hard choice between SueEllen and Carrie Ann…I actually like them both…bye for now…(-:

  11. Brenda on December 8, 2006 at 4:53 pm

    Some of you may be too young-but let’s face it, SueEllen from Dallas-fits Diane’s description perfectly.
    Carrie Ann is an old fashion name-someone who probably would be very motherly, not drink AT ALL…so there goes that lovely name (sorry girls)
    Libby-well-she might just fit the mother who drinks a little-loves her children (remember I am not choosing the names I like the BEST (That would be Carrie)….
    Libby, “How could you have been drinking when you are expecting this baby?”(if she knew she was)
    Libby, “Pull yourself together for the sake of your child.” (THat just sounds so right to me.
    I can’t see “Carrie Ann, sweetie, old fashioned-grandmotherly type-you have to pull your self together…”
    SueEllen (from Dallas) “Stop this drinking for the sake of your child…’
    Hay-that was fun…
    Back to my new meds-grade some papers and study for comps.
    My granddaughters’ guest room is full of a plethora of packages to be wrapped-and I still have to shop (way behind this year)
    Girls-I would love to meet you-and let’s face it-we are D. C. groupies….

  12. Brenda on December 8, 2006 at 4:55 pm

    Don’t you love my spelling of HEY—HAY…I was trying to make a point about old-fashioned people-it was lost in the process…

  13. Lorene on December 8, 2006 at 8:26 pm


  14. Diane Chamberlain on December 9, 2006 at 11:54 am

    Thanks for all the votes. Nice to see none of you agree with one another. LOL. I’ll audition the names this week and see which feels right to me for the character formerly known as Joanna.

  15. Krysia on December 9, 2006 at 10:41 pm

    Carrie Ann puts horror flick in my mind

  16. Diane Chamberlain on December 10, 2006 at 12:43 pm

    ack! that leaves out carrie ann, i guess. i was leaning in her direction despite brenda’s comments on it being an “old lady” name but horror flick cinches it.

  17. Brenda on December 10, 2006 at 5:06 pm

    Now Diane, I said Grandmotherly, not “old lady”
    Carrie Ann is someone I picture making home made food 🙂
    But now I do remember a movie or book CARRIE-horror flick
    I still think Sue Ellen on Dallas was the epitome of the character you described but for originality you might go with Libby.
    We just don’t help you, do we????????
    Point: What happened to the names from the 40’s??? Brenda, Linda, Beverly, Becky????Sandy???Loraine??? Just some of my friends…..I am glad to see the old old names coming back-Hannah, etc….

  18. Diane Chamberlain on December 10, 2006 at 6:40 pm

    . . . but the mother character isn’t at all like sue ellen on dallas, who, if i remember correctly, was kind of a manipulative witch. or maybe i have the wrong character?
    my character was born in 1966. i like the double name because she’s a southerner.
    i, too, like to see the “old” names coming back and sounding so fresh and new.

  19. Krysia on December 10, 2006 at 9:46 pm

    Olivia, Garret, Wyatt and Owen are popular here. My neice refuses to answer to anything but Livie, it’s hilarious. I like weird names but that’s me.
    Don’t throw Carrie out because I thought horror flick. It was the first thing that popped into my head.

  20. Lorene on December 12, 2006 at 10:46 am

    Just some southern double names I like: Joyce Ann, Judy Ann, Patricia Ann, Mary Lois, Mary Sue, Helen Louise, Brenda Kaye, and Mary Katherine.
    Old names I like: Julie, Lakie, Gracie, Hassie, Mandy,and Junell. My mother’s name was Goldie but that sounds a bit too much Goldie Locks or Goldie Hawn 🙂
    Really old names I like: Lydia, Rachel, Esther, Eunice, and Sarah

  21. Diane Chamberlain on December 12, 2006 at 11:30 am

    Lorene, thanks for that great list! Names are such fun. I still have the first book I ever wrote–WITCHVILLE–preserved in saran wrap by my mother. 🙂 I wrote it when I was twelve. Poorly typed, poorly told, and poorly illustrated by the author herself. In the midst of the story, I name every child in the heroine’s classroom–all weird names–because I loved writing down names so much. I also played a game when I was little in which I was a teacher, just so I could call off the roll of names. Reading your list brought that all back to me.

  22. Lorene on December 12, 2006 at 1:54 pm

    “I also played a game when I was little in which I was a teacher, just so I could call off the roll of names.”
    I did this too! Also used our dark door as a chalkboard:)

  23. Diane Chamberlain on December 12, 2006 at 1:56 pm

    >>I did this too! Also used our dark door as a chalkboard:)

  24. Brenda on December 14, 2006 at 10:53 pm

    Wow I also played school and did the same thing-small world.
    Sue Ellen on Dallas was an alcoholic but a woman who loved her son more than life. Because she was married to J.R.–she was a mess…However-she grew from a Texas Beauty Queen with few brains into a dry alcoholic, a mom, and a business woman…I remember her becoming a really strong woman from her beginnings…She might have been witchy at times but I think that was because of her horrendous husband…

  25. Brenda on December 14, 2006 at 10:57 pm

    Born in 1966…
    From that time to about 1972–names like Amy, Lisa, Melissa, Jennifer, Kathy (still somewhat popular), Amanda, etc…that’s when my friends and I started having children. I had mine in late 70 and mid 72 but my friends started in 66 and had kids to late 70’s….I remember going through the lists and finding names–Kristen, Christine, Julie, Beth, …names seem to go in cycles
    What about Beth Ann??????

  26. Diane Chamberlain on December 14, 2006 at 11:11 pm

    As of today, I’m using Sue Ellen, though that may change tomorrow. I remember the character on Dallas now. Brenda, your memory is phenomenal!

  27. Brenda on December 15, 2006 at 6:39 pm

    Great choice…Sue Ellen is the first I thought of because she was actually
    a woman who made great mistakes but overcame them…
    I can’t say enough what it has meant to “go on the ride” with you as you write this book.

  28. Diane Chamberlain on December 16, 2006 at 1:02 pm

    Glad you’re enjoying it, Brenda. I’m having fun sharing the process with y’all.

  29. Brenda on December 17, 2006 at 5:18 pm

    Today-after church=I needed a break from studying for comps—etc.etc…getting ready for holidays-trying to feel totally better-this yuck going around sticks with you…I reread Escape Artist-for those of you who have not read that book by Diane-one of her older ones I ordered from her-you have to read it—especially since we have been discussing names of characters…it is a great-quick read-about a loving mother….

  30. Diane Chamberlain on December 17, 2006 at 6:46 pm

    Glad you enjoyed it, Brenda. I didn’t realize until after I wrote THE SECRET LIFE OF CEECEE WILKES that I’d written two books about moms on the run! Wonder what that’s all about?
    I wish you’d get better! Worried about you.

  31. brenda on December 17, 2006 at 7:15 pm

    I think the moms-on-the run is so important today…because so much of it is going on…both books are relevant-heart-warming…I can’t express how I feel about each of them…
    Ironically-we have been discussing the name thing–and in Escape Artist–the woman changed her name…the way you used that technique was absolutely magical…one person-two personalities-but both fine-not like multiple personality-so the rest of you-don’t be confused–just get that book and read it…
    Now when I have time I am going to reread for the nth time Cee Cee….
    I am already eager to see what Sue Ellen does…in this new novel…

  32. John on November 21, 2007 at 6:47 pm

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  33. mona on March 19, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    interesting post thx

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