The Hermeneutic Circle and My Writing Process

Snow day - Guenette photo

(View from my writing desk this morning – stunning!)

Definition: The hermeneutic circle (German: hermeneutischer Zirkel) describes the process of understanding a text hermeneutically. It refers to the idea that one’s understanding of the text as a whole is established by reference to the individual parts and one’s understanding of each individual part by reference to the whole.

As I write furiously on the first draft of the 4th book in the Crater Lake Series – 43,000 words so far and going strong – I am struck by how appropriate the above definition of the hermeneutic circle is to my writing process.

I can list many of the parts: character and setting sketches, research notes, outlining, storyboarding, scene blocking, quiet time for visioning and listening to character voices, to name just a few.

A description of the whole is a more slippery. At some point in the process, the parts begin to coalesce. Waiting for that moment, a moment I have never been able to plan for or anticipate, is agonizing. Embarking on this journey for the fifth time doesn’t mean it’s any less agonizing. But I have learned this – when the moment comes there is no stopping the story from moving forward.

It’s the moving forward that fits the definition of the hermeneutic circle. All the parts are in my head and I work and work for hours on end; the words pile up; the page count rises and it all seems unstoppable. But it isn’t. I reach a saturation point. I jump from my chair, leave the computer and run out the door for a walk or a ride on the stationary bike.

When I return, I pick up at a different spot on the circle. It is time for the whole to feed back into the parts. I might write snippet setting descriptions, review character sketches, update my chapter-by-chapter outline, revisit my storyboard. Then I reread everything I have of the first draft. Only then am I ready to move forward with the parts all tuned up to inform the whole.

So it goes. I must say, I do love what I’m doing. Let me know if any of this resonates. Maybe you have a completely different take on nailing that all important first draft. Feel free to share. I’m always open to tweaking my process.

Snowy Feb Hellebore

February–Love of Reading Month

Love of Reading Month

Special offer in honour of a special month:

Get all three of the Crater Lake novels in one box set for only $5.00

Here’s what one reviewer thought:

Have you ever read a book or a series where you become emotionally bonded to the characters? This is what I did with Francis Guenette’s Crater Lake series. At the end of the last book, I was heartbroken that I would not encounter the beauty that surrounds Crater Lake and the cast of characters anymore.

Yes, I was going to miss my new friends and their lives. In fact, I had to stop reading for a few days so that I could adjust to my life without them. I had a book hangover, one of which I have not experienced in a long time! The complexity of the characters and the realistic relationships shared between them are what propel this saga forward. Pair that with the beautiful descriptions of the surrounding area and Crater Lake comes alive in magnificent colors much like a rainbow which spreads hope in the darkest times.

There is something here for everyone. Love, sex, lust, greed, spirituality, sacrifice, death, murder, life… the list goes on and on. Each book in the series leads you on to a different life lesson much like the lessons you learn within your own family unit.

There was a kinship found within these pages where I as the reader was drawn along, all the while given permission to become part of the family. I feel my life has been enriched for having shared their lives. I will reread these books numerous times because it will feel like coming home.

CLSBox1_KindleCover - Copy

The Crater Lake Series – Boxed Set $5.00

A Week in Photos

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer – Albert Camus

Hellebore 2017

Hellebore – I am in love with this new addition to our garden – a rose like blossoms that comes to life in the dead of winter.

Multi-level solar greenhouse

Our solar greenhouse-guest room-tool shed is coming along. The colours are especially pleasing to me.

Taking a breather

A bright, blue sky day, frost on the ground … caught the builder taking a break.

Ice Sculpture 2017

Ice sculpture BC style. No, we don’t have broken pipes. We just need to leave the water running so we don’t end up with frozen pipes.

Ice Sculpture 2017 - 2

 

Snow at the lake

And then came the snow. Not exactly #snowpocolypse but very pretty.

Snowy view from my desk

The view from my desk makes it hard to keep working. I want to go out and play in the snow.

FREE–Jan. 27-29–Disappearing in Plain Sight

My books - Guenette photo

First promotional offer of 2017 – Disappearing in Plain Sight – book one in the Crater Lake Series – FREE!

To whet your appetite, a couple of recent five-star review:

I was deeply moved on so many levels while reading this richly rewarding book. The characters were fleshed out in perfectly timed increments through the progress of the story. Ms. Guenette demonstrates comprehensive understanding of the varied troubles and traumas that plague people from toddler to adulthood, and she treats them compassionately in their resolution in this novel. I look forward to reading more in the Crater Lake Series.

This book was exceptional in that I was so drawn into the people (it’s funny but it’s strange to call them just “characters”) that, for once, I didn’t really care about the plot. The beautiful thing about this story was the way it made me examine my own core being along with the core beings of others. It made me pause my reading several times to re-evaluate some traumatic events from my past. Few stories have made me review those things with the sense of hope, compassion and peace that came from this particular book.

Amazon.com – Disappearing in Plain Sight

Amazon.ca – Disappearing in Plain Sight

Amazon.co.uk – Disappearing in Plain Sight

Enjoy Smile 

Brit at Maple Ridge Dike - with Hemingway quote

Who Has Seen the Wind

W.O. Mitchell - High River, Alberta

And all about him was the wind now, a pervasive sighing trough, a great emptiness, as though the prairie itself was breathing in long gusting breaths, unhampered by the buildings of town, warm and living against his face and in his hair. (W. O. Mitchell – Who Has Seen The Wind)

I remember being profoundly affected by reading W.O. Mitchell’s novel, Who Has Seen the Wind. I was in my thirties and I had a deep curiosity about the various landscapes mapped out across this huge country I call home … Canada. The way in which Mitchell so artfully described the prairie stayed with me. I had never experienced such a landscape and Mitchell’s words sparked my imagination and engendered a desire to hear the wind hum and twang in the telephone wires, to walk to the edge of a town and feel the prairie all around me. Because the book is set in Saskatchewan, I just carelessly assumed that W.O. Mitchell lived his life in Saskatchewan.

Museum of the High Wood - High River, Alberta

Imagine my surprise when Bruce and I visited the Museum of the Highwood in High River, Alberta and discovered their wonderfully constructed W.O. Mitchell exhibit. I learned that Mitchell had lived for years in High River. That he raised his family in the community and that, in fact, he and his wife were buried in the High River Cemetery.

High River Cemetery

For some background, I’ll turn this over to an article by Kevin Rushworth that appeared in the High River Times in 2014 to celebrate the opening of the exhibit.

By Kevin Rushworth ( http://www.highrivertimes.com/2014/03/10/museum-exhibit-to-celebrate-high-rivers-wo-mitchell ) High River Times, March 9th, 2014

MULTIMEDIA EDITOR

Who Has Seen the Wind, written by late Canadian author and broadcaster W.O. Mitchell in 1947, and his other literary works might have made him a national icon, but a new exhibit at the Museum of the Highwood will shed light on one of High River’s most prominent citizens 100 years after his birth.

William Ormond Mitchell—more commonly known as W.0. Mitchell or Bill to his friends—was born in Weyburn, Saskatchewan on March 13, 1914.

Canada would come to welcome this literary figure with open arms, ultimately providing him with the Order of Canada and the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, but Mitchell’s 20 years spent in High River started simply—he arrived in the community by bus in 1943.

By 1945, he fell in love with the community, brought his wife Merna to High River and his first and arguably most famous book, Who Has Seen the Wind was published in 1947.

W.O. Mitchell exhibit at the Museum of the High Wood

Irene Kerr, curator and director of the Museum of the Highwood, has found herself laughing out loud during research for the exhibit. The exhibit focuses on the years Mitchell spent in High River. “It’s so Canadian, so prairie and it’s so small town,” she said. “His humour was brilliant. He tells all these stories that we often tell at the museum, but he tells them in a little skewed, more humorous way.”

Mitchell drew inspiration for many of his characters from real people he met living in High River. His three children were born and raised in the community. While going about his daily routine, Mitchell would jot down notes about the people he met. Many of them became the so called ‘salty characters’ in his novels.

While being interviewed, Mitchell himself once said much of the inspiration for the town of Crocus—as seen in his Jake and the Kid novel and the CBC radio show—came from High River.

Mitchell wrote that High River was always a special place, “She’s a town with a conservative personality which makes you love her and lose patience with her, but she’s still a cowtown that takes her rhythms with the seasons,”

Rocky Mountains as seen from outskirts of High River, Alberta, Jan. 4, 2017 - bruce witzel photo

We thoroughly enjoyed our time exploring the Museum of the Highwood. The curator – I didn’t get her name and sure wish I had – responded to our questions about the flood in 2013 by sitting us down at a table and bringing out several books with graphic photos. She regaled us with stories that made the whole event come to life and that, I must say, was a scary experience!

Have you ever discovered something previously unknown about a favourite author? Was there ever an author or book that made you want to experience a certain landscape?

Britney, Grandma & Emma at W.O.Mitchell's headstone in High River cemetary, Jan. 4, 2017 - bruce witzl photo

When I visit High River in the summer, I want to walk to the end of a street and have a W.O. Mitchell experience of prairie:

I would walk to the end of the street and over the prairie with the clickety grasshoppers bunging in arcs ahead of me, and I could hear the hum and twang of wind in the great prairie harp of telephone wires. Standing there with the total thrust of prairie sun on my vulnerable head, I guess I learned — at a very young age — that I was mortal.

Outside of High River - Guenette photo

Holiday Reflections

Saint Benidict's Anglican Church (2), High River Alberta, Jan. 04, 2017 - bruce wtizel photo

Reasons to spend holiday time staying with family in another province:

Grandkids change so fast. The opportunity to reconnect with where they are in their lives is a precious one. We took Emma and Brit on a snowy outing to the High River Cemetery. More about why in a later blog. Emma was so excited to run between the gravestones and brush off the powdery snow so she could read the inscriptions. She is at that wonderful stage when the ability to read has clicked and she can’t wait to decipher the written word anywhere she finds it. The day was quite cold and when Brit headed back to the car, Emma looked disappointed. She told me, “I don’t want to leave.” I told her we would come back in the summer and spend as much time as she liked. She said, “Can I wear a dress?” I felt that would be perfectly fine.

High River Cemetery

A couple of snow angels visited the High River Cemetery.

A couple of snow angels

Kristen - Bruce Witzel photo

 

 

 

Grown kids still need their moms. Well, they do! Especially when mom can bite her tongue now and then. Listening matters more than always heaving the proverbial two-bits into every conversation.

 

 

 

The opportunity to do things one wouldn’t do at home. For example, watch ten episodes of The Crown on Netflix – I loved it!

The Crown - Goggle Image

Experience a white Christmas. For someone who grew up on the coast of British Columbia and hasn’t strayed far from coastal waves, this was new. As was watching Emma and Brit skate on an outdoor lake and multiple sledding trips down what passes for a hill in High River.

White Christmas - High River. Albe

Emma sledding - Bruce Witzel photo     Brit sledding - Bruce Witzel photo

Brit - winter skate - Bruce Witzel photo

Winter skate - Bruce Witzel photo

Understand what -30 with wind-chill feels like. Britney told us that her school doesn’t let students play outside at recess if it is colder than -20 with a windshield. I guess announcements over the PA system are hard to decipher whether it be at a school or in an airport.

Tsunami warning - Goggle ImagesBe terrified over one’s first experience at a wave-pool. When the waves hit me, I was standing in the worst place possible – near a wall and in the outflow from one of the water slides. Add to my terror the fact that Kristen told me to stay close to Britney. I seriously felt as though I was on the beach as a tsunami rolled in with no hope of keeping my head above the water let alone staying close to anything. Suffice to say, as Brit bounced towards me with a grin and helped me get my footing, I realized I was to stay close to a five-year-old for my safety not hers.

Baking with grandkids. Making and decorating sugar cookies is my Grandma baking specialty.

Emma & Fran decorating  Christmas cookies

Playing cards and games. We discovered Phase Ten this year and enjoyed it. Pass the Ace continues to be a favourite. As usual, I stayed on the receiving end of loss after loss at crib. Good to know all is as it should be with me and the gaming universe. One day, Emma, observing yet another of my losses, patted me on the back and said, “Don’t worry Grandma. I’m on your side because you’re the thunder-dog.” And so I was.

Candy purchases at the Bulk Barn. Hot Tamales by the pound, anyone? This is the sort of good time you had to be there to enjoy!

Getting familiar with a new, family-oriented community. I am helped to put the day-to-day events of kids and grandkids in context with such information. And we did such a good job at this that we ended up in the local High River paper. Can’t complain about that.

New Year's Eve in High River Times

Reasons why it is wonderful to come home:

No matter how comfy the bed I land in, nothing can replace the tried and true of my own bed and pillows.

The opportunity to eat in tune with personal preferences – fresh baked bread, homemade soups and a spicy black bean dip made with balsamic vinegar that is to die for. Unfortunately, Bruce is not a fan of three things – balsamic vinegar, cilantro and lentils. All of which, I love. But I had read in my Bean Cookbook that balsamic vinegar is a bean’s BFF, so I had to throw caution to the wind. The consequence I am willing to live with is that I must consume all the spicy black bean dip on my own.

The off-chance that I may finally return full-time to writing the fourth book of the Crater Lake Series – yippee!

Significant blocks of quiet that allow me the time to enjoy the memories of a great family holiday. Life is good!

Kristen & Matt - Bruce Witzel photo

A Writer’s Life Under the Microscope

Bow River in Banff Alberta - Bruce Witzel photo

The passage of time is an interesting phenomenon – it can meander along, a slow-flowing river, wide and lazy with hours stretching into what seems like days. On the other hand, it can zip past, nothing but the blur of a high-speed bullet train to take one’s breath away.

Since making a full recovery from our so-called holiday – picture air quotes as I type those last three words – time has been that bullet train thing. While knitting on a cute holiday gift idea, I’ve been thinking about what is needed to get busy writing. Mostly because I wasn’t writing and then suddenly, I was.

Fran at the Falls - Bruce Witzel photo

It comes down to this. There is the need for a still point of quiet at the centre of the writer’s being – once reached it will grow and expand to become the place where the voices of the characters can be heard. The writer retreats deep inside and dwells at that centre, emerging only when it is time to take down the words and actions of the characters like some ancient scribe.

When I’m warming up to writing (by writing) I often pose interview questions for myself. Perhaps it’s my delusions of grandeur but I something think of sitting in one of  George’s red chairs on the Stroumboulopoulos show as I answer them. I find it a helpful exercise in clarifying my thoughts and who doesn’t enjoy an imaginary chat with George.

Here are a few questions and answers related to the writing of the fourth book in the Crater Lake Series – No Compass to Right. (Hey fans, did you catch that title reveal? Hope it gets you thinking!)

If there has been a stumbling block with getting started on the fourth book of the Crater Lake Series, how would you describe that block?

First understand this – a writer can only write about writer’s block when it has ended. To even contemplate the act of not writing while in the state of not writing is cruel and unusual punishment.

I thought the series would end at four books. I’ve now committed to at least five books and most probably, six. Expanding the series gives me a chance to play with the storylines for secondary characters like Brigit, Fiona and Nick. More books expand the Crater Lake brand and lengthen the funnel that readers who are hooked on the series move through. That’s all good. At the same time, the rethinking of the story arcs for the main characters has taken a bit of doing.

I’ve also had a struggle with where this next book should begin. Another issue that can only be spoken of once solved! I managed to find my entry point and I know I’m on my way because it feels right.

Are you feeling you have enough material to expand the series to six books?

Definitely … more than enough! The ideas don’t stop. The planning stage has felt like being a weaver in front of an empty loom with coloured yarn piled all around my feet. All I needed to do was pick up the right balls, one by one, draw out the threads and start to create the pattern.

And I know I’ll mess it up. It is only in wildly grabbing at those threads and trying one after the other that the pattern emerges.

Once I really get going, the writing analogy that works for me is a free-form, patchwork quilt. I create a square and another and another. At some point, I begin to lay them out to see how they fit together. As I go, I realize – ah yes – more of this here and less of that there. A small joining square is required. Maybe the whole work would benefit from a border? I decide on a special colour of thread to do joining seams. The book comes together through the act of creating it.  

Is there a danger that beloved character’s will be lost as additional characters are incorporated?

I’m confident this will not happen in the Crater Lake books. These novels have always been about multiple characters, from many points-of-view, taking a realistic look at how people and relationships change over time. New people come and go and sometimes stay. Far from edging out the tried and true, new characters bring the life and vitality of their own stories to compliment, worry, tease and complete the lives of the beloved characters. They are the fuel that makes the beloved characters interesting and real. There is room for many interwoven stories at Crater Lake.

Well, there you have it – I’ve reached for that still point, I can hear the characters’ voices and the pattern of this quilt is coming together. And guess what – just in time for a Christmas break from the work. That’s a writer’s life – our world draws on us as we draw on our world. And down the stream the whole thing winds.

reds rocks ina stream near sedona