Fall is in the Air–Oh, Say it Isn’t So

Fall is in the air - Bruce Witzel photo

Labour Day has come and gone. It’s time to pack away the wardrobe of white and dust off some warmer clothes for the coming fall. Eek – I’m not ready to let summer go. We had more than a few days of dullish weather last week but the upcoming one promises to be sunny. The garden is geared up for its last push – pepper and tomato plants are bowed over with bounty and the green beans are in a daily race to see if they can produce more than we can eat.

Evaluation - google imagesBruce and I are working on something we do every couple of years. We call it our lifestyle evaluation. We check in on the various things we’re doing as individuals and as a couple along a number of dimensions to see where we want to tweak or change direction. We congratulate ourselves where we’ve met goals and faced up to challenges. It’s a good exercise for the upcoming fall.

I saw my doctor the other day and she put me on to a great internet tool – My Fitness Pal. Have you heard of this site? Participation can be as private or as social as one likes. I go in and track food intake and activity and all these great calculating tools tell me how I’ll end up in a month if I stick with my current pattern. Enlightening, shocking and sometimes terrifying. But mostly it’s a fun tool – definitely a step up from a handwritten food log or activity journal. Basically the same idea, though. Research shows that people who actively keep track of food intake or activity have double the chance of sticking to their goals. Good old research – always there to bolster one claim or another.

The Orenda by Joseph BoydenI managed to find the time to sit down and thoroughly devour Joseph Boyden’s novel, The Orenda – 2014’s Canada Reads Winner. I received the hardcover as a Christmas gift and I have put off the read, like someone delaying the gratification to be had from the first sip of a fine wine. The book is absolutely exquisite – word by word so finely written it will break your heart. I wondered if he could top my experience of reading, Three Day Road. He could and he did. I’m in awe of the man’s writing talent.

Guenette - Inspiration for Chasing Down the NightThe first fifteen chapters of Chasing Down the Night have gone to a trusted reader. Targeted feedback at this stage of the writing is very helpful. I’ve asked questions such as – what grabs you, what leaves you cold, what makes you laugh, what makes you squirm, is someone getting too much exposure, is someone not getting enough, are you intrigued, do you want to read more?

I’ve been taking the time to reorganize my computer files before the next writing push. I generally start a work-in-progress with a number of word documents saved by date. These can be anything from character sketches, to timelines, to outlines, to blocked out scenes in various stages of writing polish. At some point, I have to go back through every one of those dated documents, pull out each scene and resave with the proper name. The process is time consuming and I’m always afraid I’ll lose something but the way I work is the way I work. I haven’t been able to change that and I’m not sure I want to. So, I’m willing to live with what is.

Storyboard - Guenette photo

An additional layer of paper needed to be added to the storyboard so that I could go into greater scene by scene detail with my coloured post-it-notes. The next section is coming together.  

I’ve been struggling to write the arrival of a new character – Liam’s sister, Fiona. I’ve walked around and around and around all my notes like an old dog taking the plunge to settle down on her bed. What I discovered was that I wasn’t quite ready – I couldn’t hear her voice clearly enough to cover something so important as how she arrives at Crater Lake. I didn’t know (yet) whose point-of-view to allow sway as she arrived. Who has the most at stake?

The solution has been to work on dramatic scenes that Fiona appears in further along the way. The other characters who surround her are letting me know in no uncertain terms what having her around means. With each day of writing I get closer to understanding how Fiona impacts the story. I begin to hear her voice. There is nothing like some high drama to reveal a character’s true colours.

Green Party Sunflower - Guenette & Witzel photo

So, fall is in the air – though some of us would like to deny it when the sun shines as warm as it does today. I’m wishing all of you the best with the last of the garden harvest, writing projects, lifestyle changes and anything else the coming autumn season brings your way. Though I’ve been away from the rhythms of the school system for a few years now, I always think of September as a time for new beginnings. I have the urge to run out and buy school supplies.

Before I sign-off – last month, I blogged a post entitled, Should Indie Authors Pay for Promotion. The post generated a great discussion. The comment stream has become far more useful than the post itself. I encourage you to check it out if you haven’t already and please do take the time to join your voice to the interaction.

16 comments on “Fall is in the Air–Oh, Say it Isn’t So

  1. ocjarman1 says:

    Thanks for the wee bit of a ‘run down’ on how you work, and for what you ask your readers. Now, when I get to that point in my story-writing, I’ve got a better notion of what ask!

    • You’re most welcome. I have learned (the hard way) that a writer needs to ask for targeted feedback, depending on the stage of the writing process. What is required at this first draft stage is not what I will need further down the road when the gloves can come off and we get down to the nitty gritty. That kind of feedback has its place but it needs to be built up to. I wonder how many writers are squashed right down to the ground by the wrong type of feedback early in the process.

  2. Gallivanta says:

    What a great idea to have a lifestyle check. And I did have a giggle about your urge to run out and buy school supplies.

    • You’d laugh even more if you saw my various stashes of office supplies. I am definitely all stocked up for some time to come. But there is just something about an abundance of paper, pens, post-it-notes, erasers, and felt pens that gets to me.

  3. Gwen Stephens says:

    Great, newsy update, Fran. I love hearing about your writing process, because I always learn something. I know there’s no “right way” to write, but my efforts are always shrouded in doubt. No signs of fall yet here in the Chicago area, with today’s high of 90. There will likely be a day later this month that reminds us Mother Nature knows what she’s doing. Fall will come in with a bang like it always does, and we’ll switch right from A/C to heat. That’s life in the Windy City.

    • I have come to believe that being shrouded in doubt is a writer’s constant state 🙂 Whew – still in the 90’s in Chicago. As I commented to you once in the winter – you people from Chicago have to be tough weather wise. From AC to furnace on – wow.

  4. Carrie Rubin says:

    I downloaded My Fitness Pal, but I don’t use it much. Got lazy entering the data. But I exercise regularly and eat pretty much the same things over and over so it probably doesn’t add much for me. But I think it’s a great tool to help keep us on the right track.

    I love fall, but I’m not ready for it yet. 🙂

    • That will be the thing about My Fitness Pal – will I get sick of checking in with him or her? Right now the novelty of recording is okay. I always have such mixed feelings about fall. It’s a beautiful season, though we don’t get as much of the drama of the colours here in evergreen land. And not having to water every day endlessly is a treat. Even the bugs seemed to have gotten a bit sluggish. But then I think about the waning hours of light and sunshine and I’m back to wanting to hang onto summer again.

  5. jackiemallon says:

    I prepared a little q

  6. jackiemallon says:

    Whoopsies! I prepared a little quiz for my initial readers of my novel and it was so useful. I have been attempting to outline plot on cork board and it hasn’t quite taken yet but I will persevere. I NEVER tidy my computer files. It’s like under the bed or the attic on my Mac!

    • I love the idea of a quiz – makes it sound like fun. I can’t really recommend the cleaning up of computer files one way or the other – I do it because I get super frustrated when I have to open 20 files before I find what I’m looking for but there are risks. I have deleted something I’ve wanted later and of course that piece of writing becomes the proverbial fish that got away – the best writing I’ve ever done, never to be replaced.

  7. P. C. Zick says:

    The signs are everywhere here in western Pennsylvania. Slight peeks of red on the maples, leaves falling slowly in the yard, and the slowing down of the tomato production. All the while, I whittle away at the edits for my next novel. Sigh. We might have a nice weekend though so we’ll race to enjoy the last days of summer by boating, kayaking, and basking in the sun.

  8. First off I want to say great blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if
    you don’t mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your head before writing.
    I have had a hard time clearing my mind in getting
    my thoughts out. I do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes tend to
    be lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or hints?

    • I’ve used a technique before called wild writing to get going. You set a timer and make a commitment to write for five minutes without stopping or taking time to censor – just write. That often primes the pump. Another thing I’ve done, if I’m slow to figure out where I want to start working, is read over a section I’ve written the other day and then ask questions of the piece and try to answer them. All the methods I’ve ever heard of are about starting to write – write anything and see what happens. Good question and good luck.

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