They say there are two types of writers: those who outline and those that don’t. But aside from outlines, writing a novel can produce an enormous amount of material that needs to be organized. What kind of writer are you? Floating along happily lost in the creative process, your words flowing out in a continuous stream of creativity? Or are you looking at the novel in front of you wondering how to bring it all together? [Read more…]
Most writers are looking for a way to pump out their first novel, as quickly as possible. A fast first draft would be a gift, afterwards you can spend a full six months to a year revising it, if you like. Maybe, you already have a novel, shoved in your desk drawer, you’ve spent the past seven years editing or ignoring? Don’t feel too bad; I have approximately fourteen of them pressed into a few binders, nestled nicely on the bottom shelf of my office bookshelf.
Yes, you read that correctly, I said fourteen. Or is it fifteen?
You see, now I’ve lost count. Anyway, with each novel that I have attempted to write, I get a little bit better at figuring out the best way of approaching the creation of a novel. Practice, practice, practice is how you win the big publishing contract, or so I am told. In my opinion, trying to write the first draft of your novel all at one time is definitely the way to go. A deadline. That’s the true secret. You sit down in your chair and you pound the keyboard until time is up.
How do you make that happen?
When people ask me what I do, and I tell them I write, I get some pretty interesting responses. I’ve had people tell me they think it must be interesting to read as a writer. And I think, “But you’re a writer.”
I’ve had people say they’ve always wanted to be a writer and some day they intend to do just that. And I think, “But you’re already a writer.”
I’ve had people say they’ll never be a writer, they can’t write. And I think, “But you are already a writer.” [Read more…]
Elmer Meeker was obsessed with basements. When Elmer visited my previous house in Owen Sound, he insisted on checking out the basement. He had to enter through a trapdoor in the hall closet which descended to a four foot high dirt canal that ran around the perimeter under the house. The rest of the “basement” wasn’t dug out more than about 1 foot deep.
“You know,” he said with his head sticking out the trap door, “if you do 2 buckets a day, you could have a full basement in about one year’s time.” He would even supply the buckets. He had some spares in his basement, which he had hand dug out over a two year period, 2 buckets a day.
After one year and no buckets done, I stared at that trap door. If only I had done it, I would have a basement. Instead, I had a spider-infested hole. After two years, I thought: if only I had done just 1 bucket a day, I would now have a basement. But I did nothing because I was busy with every day life. After eight years, I sold the house and upon walking around it one final time, I thought: I probably could have dug that basement doing only 2 cups a day.
Writing a novel can be like hand digging out a basement. At the start, it’s a daunting task. Maybe all you have is a few characters and a rough idea for a plot but there’s so much missing. We all make excuses about why we can’t get it done. I’ve told myself for years that I just can’t find enough time during the work week to write.
I have fallen in love with my bookcases lately. So full of books to read. I was in love with bookstores before, you see.
I would come home from the store and unpack all the books I bought and stand before my bookcases trying to find a spot I could slide these new ones into. And the books just kept filling up those bookcases because I just wasn’t done with bookstores yet. Some I’ve read, but more are waiting patiently for me to open their covers, only just as wide as the binding allows, to feel the paper, to gaze at the first word, the first sentence. It feels like I’m embarking on a new journey, each and every time, and once the first chapter is behind me I am fully engrossed. Sometimes when I am finished a book, when I feel the need to read the last few sentences over and over again, when the story has been particularly emotional, I need to wait a day or two to begin another journey. I need to let the story flow through me all over again. I feel attached to it. Sometimes I love that feeling so much I can’t read another book until that feeling passes.
Quick way to get a thrill huh?
The first couple of books were enjoyable, well written, easy to read, and pulled at my heart-strings. (Have you read “The End of The Alphabet” by CS Richardson?) On with the next one, and the next…I lay on the couch with a brown furry throw over my legs, (it is promptly kicked off during a hot flash!). I’m propped up just write…sorry – right…with perfectly plump pillows, my glasses are clean, the house is dark except for the reading light strategically placed behind me, a can of gingerale is within reach on the corner of the coffee table, and once I settle in, George the cat climbs into my lap. He is restless, but he doesn’t stop me from turning pages. Sometimes I doze off, my stillness and the silence is so comforting. But when my eyes open again, I raise the book up off my lap and continue. Until I doze again….
This is what my evenings have been like lately. I LOVE THIS. And when I head off to bed, I take the book with me and do the same thing there. Until I doze off for good.
The latest book has got me thinking though. About writing. I’m noticing this time, that I’m reading, but taking into account what is being said, when, and why, and how. It’s not distracting me from the book very much. I think though, that this book is less emotional – it’s called The Big Tiny (about Dee Williams building her own tiny home! brackets within brackets here (I wanna do it too!)) than my preferred type of book and I’m able to analyze the structure in a more detached way. Perhaps this is why I should re-read some of my other favourite books to see what the author has done to affect me so much.
How has the author sucked me in emotionally that I need to read a book twice to figure it out! Now that’s a successful book in my opinion. That’s exactly how I’d like to write. To engross the reader so deeply in the story and the characters, and the feelings of the characters, that they are unaware that they have attached themselves to your creation, a set of pages bound up in a paper cover, words and sentences, phrasing and timing..
Excuse me now, I have books to read.
As writers of fiction, we agonize over the flow of events that carry our characters through their conflict to a resolution. Ask yourself, what if Harry Potter had never met Ron on the train platform? Would they have bonded over trading wizard cards before the house sorting? Would Harry have wished himself into Gryffindor with such vigour?
You may call it networking, however, I choose to believe that the amazing individuals who have entered my writing life were gifted through moments of serendipity. When I completed my first draft and was looking for writing support, I made a comment to a local bookseller and she gave me Diane’s name. Diane and I formed a writing partnership. We met over a two year period; reading aloud, encouraging each other and eventually we planned our own writing retreat to exchange our full manuscripts. To this day, it still amazes Diane and I both, how ‘fate filled’ our relationship has and continues to be. I have been waiting (rather anxiously) to hear back from an agent, and at lunch this week, I unexpectedly discovered Diane in the same restaurant and her support brought me immeasurable comfort.
We all experience dreams, these random scenes and experiences that happen when we are asleep. Sometimes they are wondrous and strike us with awe, sometimes they thrill us with amazing delights, and sometimes they terrify us. Dreams have the power to transport us to many places and allow us to see and experience many things that we might never experience otherwise. [Read more…]
It was a week of struggle and triumph in our little neighbourhood last week as we coped with the winter storms that plummeted Grey & Bruce Counties.
Six households share the small side street, all visible to each other therefore easily surveyed for signs of life and progress digging out. A new neighbour with an obvious back injury was not long shoveling by himself. Help arrived from several directions like a well trained SWAT team easily dispatched to assist.
The initial flurry and fuss slowed to a steady pace by mid week and a cycle of work, rest and fun was established. Daily check ins were the norm and collaboration ensured the best approach to broken snow blowers and snowman sized boulders at the end of our lanes. Everyone was eventually able to come and go – if they wanted to.
As fun as it is to meet the challenges of so much snow, my favourite part is when we surrender and decide that resistance is futile. I love that moment of doing a quick inventory of essentials and realizing that, yes, we’ll survive just fine for a day or two. When there is no worry about getting out or going anywhere and there’s nothing to do but enjoy the beauty around us; from a warm, snug spot by the fire.
Friday afternoon was just such a time. Neighbours arrived bearing all things necessary for a snow day celebration; music, wine and snacks. We played euchre, cribbage, scrabble, sang some tunes and got to know each other a little better. Nothing like a shared work project to pull folks together.
Let it snow, let it snow.