Saturday, 25 April 2015

Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. ― E.L. Doctorow

I am taking a break from fretting about finished work and, instead, I am diving back into the sequel to Raven’s Path, tentatively titled Crossroads. I started it back in October, doing extensive research before putting word to paper. I also had a general sense of where I wanted the first segment to go. It was fairly easy to pick up where I left off and follow that path. But then, coincidentally, I hit a crossroad.
Panic struck. There are multiple directions and I was overwhelmed by choice. I dipped back into the research, hoping it would provide clues. But, while research is foundational to the series, it is the characters who are directing this drama, not historical events. Still, I felt pressured by the need to know exactly where it was heading before I could continue. Frustrated, I took a break and began Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird, where I found the quote for this week’s post.
I am not really a panster but neither am I a pedigree plotter. I do need to see my final destination, to have a general sense of the overall arc of the novel. Yet, I long ago recognized that I enjoy not knowing all of it. It is fun to deviate from the prospective path and travel to unexpected places. So, despite the overwhelming fear of selecting the wrong route, I sat at the computer and listened carefully. Ana and Brandan began to speak. And, they chose a direction. I don't know where it will lead, but I’m breathing easier. I am driving slowly in the fog—that’s okay because I know I am once again heading somewhere and, eventually, I will get there.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

...and repeat.

Love Denied has been complete for some time. It has undergone multiple revisions and even more edits. Yet, I pulled it out again and have just finished another round of line editing. I enjoyed the process, happy to catch the odd little typo (an is for an it kind of thing) or spot the odd pleonasm. I feel good about it but have once again shelved it. Why?

I have been pondering that why. “When is a story done? Truly finished?” There are multiple stages to writing for most authors. The first draft, then the second—maybe more. Beta readers and critique partners read your story and it’s back to the table to sort through their feedback for those nuggets that will strengthen the story, tighten the plot or add fluidity to the prose. When the story is finalized, it is on to editing, where you are specifically looking for those technical pitfalls and follies.

However, the journey does not end there. If one is lucky, an agent appreciates all of the work and sees potential in your novel. They may ask for more revisions and edits. When they find the perfect editor, that person may again ask for changes. Then, prior to publishing, the galleys provide yet another opportunity to find nits and fix them. It is not until after this stage that authors actually let go of their novels, at least physically. I’m guessing they continue to fret about them.

So, why have I shelved Love Denied rather than submit? One writer peep accused me of being afraid to submit. I quickly corrected her. No fear of submission, only of rejection. J And, perhaps there is some truth in that. Or, maybe I just need to let it sit for a while and come at it one more time. After all, it is what a writer does. Create, revise, edit...and repeat.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

You can do anything as long as you have the passion, the drive, the focus, and the support. —Sabrina Bryan

Writing is an insular and solitary activity. It is just you and your laptop and your words. Day in and day out, you lose yourself in a world of your making, converse with characters you create and live vicariously through events you orchestrate. In thinking about all of this aloneness, I realized I am not remotely lonely. Nor am I truly isolated. I am blessed with a plethora of support.

My friends are enthusiastic and encouraging. They celebrate landmark moments in my writing and give gifts that honour and support the process. They look forward to my first published book. And, they do this despite the fact that I have not let a single one of them read a word of what I have written.

While I have hugged my writing close to my breast, I have not been foolish enough not to seek feedback. I merely wanted it from folks who have no vested interest in liking what I wrote. My beta readers live in opposite corners of the world. From Germany to the United States, these strangers have taken the time, not just to read my work but also to provide valuable feedback. It’s hard work to beta read, yet they do it despite the fact that they have never met me and probably never will.

I have writer peeps, too, who offer feedback, encouragement and laughter every day. We share on a writers’ forum and we chat regularly on Twitter. I have learned so much through their courage to share and critique, as well as through their willingness to reach out across the cyber distance and hold my hand when I need it held or tell it like it is when I need to grow.

When I wanted to leave my career and focus on writing, DH supported me unconditionally. He believes in my writing. He believes in me. When I am filled with self-doubt, he rallies me with his faith.

Yes, writing is an insular and solitary activity, but it sure doesn't have to be lonely. Thank you, my friends, near and far.


Sunday, 5 April 2015

Change: to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone

As a teen and young adult, I was restless. I moved a lot, I switched jobs often and I changed up friends as frequently as my wardrobe. Somewhere along the way, things shifted. I chose a career path, I settled down and I became the model of a grown up. I thought it was due to the stabilizing influence of my life’s partner and, perhaps, part and parcel of maturing. Until the past few years.

A restlessness began to whisper quietly in the recesses of my mind. I was enjoying a fulfilling career, still performing with my theatre gang and the love of my life remained firmly by my side. Writing chased the voices away, but stolen moments in a busy life were not enough to keep the growing agitation at bay. To top it off, there were reminders everywhere that life is finite—too many warning signs not to put important experiences off for a tomorrow that may never come.

So, I shook up my world. With DH’s hand in mine, I said goodbye to the career I loved. It has been nine months and I have enjoyed spending more time together, escaping winter for warmer climes and making writing a part of every day. A dream come true. Yet, the voice has not finished challenging me to take hold of life. And, it seems, the restlessness stirs within DH too.

He announced his desire to move. Well, not just move but to make a dramatic change by leaving central Canada and heading west. The whispers stopped and the voice shouted in glee. My young self resurfaced, thrilled to let go of the staid and predictable and reach out to adventure. We have daringly sold our home without having found a new one yet. The adrenalin is high and it is exciting not to know. It is as simple as that. It is exciting not to know what lies ahead.

Sometimes you just have to take hold of your world, turn it upside down, give it a shake and see what falls out.