Thoughts from the Writing Trenches – Part II

Juniper Berries, Snow Canyon Utah Oct. 8, 2016 - bruce witzel photo

79,000 words at last glance. My draft file for  No Compass to Right (the fourth book in the Crater Lake Series) continues to grow.

I went on a couple of interesting diversions today. Have you ever read the advice about making every scene count? At later stages in the writing process – rewrites and editing – I’ll be refining that advice down to making every word count. But for now, in the first draft construction of the story, it’s putting scenes together to make chapters that is building the word count.

I’m working from a detailed outline for this with all the chapters laid out and the scenes within each chapter defined as subheadings. I went through the whole list today and added a section to the top of every unwritten scene: Purpose of this scene. This proved to be an excellent use of my time. I found two scenes that would be completely redundant and one that served no purpose at all. Out they went before I ever wasted the time writing them. Of more use to me were all the new ideas that came up as I forced myself to consider how each scene could accomplish more. Scenes that do double-duty by achieving multiple purposes are dynamite.

I also had a research task to accomplish today. How does one convert a school bus to a living space? What does such a space look like when it’s finished? I’m here to report amazement on my part over what creative individuals can do with small spaces! I have this old library bus that one of my characters has renovated – you’ll be happy to know he’s leaving the large multi-coloured bookworm mural on the side of the bus.

The other day I had to Google which NHL teams played hockey on TV during the playoffs in 2012. Little details matter. In a rural town like the one I’m writing about, if you invite someone for dinner on a Saturday night in May, that person better expect to arrive at your house to find the hockey game on and more than a few of the family watching.

That’s it for me today. I’m enjoying these instalments from the trenches. Reflecting on the writing process is like priming a pump – words just begin to flow.

Mind statue - Bruce Witzel photo

Thoughts from the Writing Trenches

Fran - Bruce Witzel photo

(Yes indeed – that’s me. Wandering in the canyon of my own thoughts – LOL)

75,000 words and counting on this fourth book in the Crater Lake series. The whole story is blocked out. This is the first time I have written a draft using Word’s navigation pane function with level one and two headings to create a highly effective outline. The ease with which I can navigate through the text has turned me into a fan.

I’ve come up on the first minor climax. Writing any type of climax is an interesting process for me. I can’t do it sequentially. I need to write characters’ actions, reactions and dialogue on either side first. Knowing what led up to the action and the fallout afterwards means writing the actual event is a piece of cake. I experienced this in The Light Never Lies when it took me forever to write Lisa-Marie into labour. I circled and circled like an old dog around her bed, waiting and hoping I’d find the perfect spot in the turning process where I knew enough to write the damn scene!

I have been buried in my current work-in-progress for almost a month. Every day, it becomes more intense, more demanding. There are days when I can hardly bear to come up for air in the real world but lucky for me, life does ensure that sanity breaks occur – there is food to prepare, laundry to deal with and a bed to be made. Not to mention, walks on the trails to solidify dialogue and story ideas.

Though the work is draining, it’s a huge relief to know that nothing can sideline the writing of this first draft. The characters’ voices are too much with me to allow anything – short of breaking all my fingers – to get in the way. And even then, I suppose I would have to dictate the novel.

I eat, sleep and breathe this book, leaving the computer screen at night bleary-eyed to fall into bed and drift off with characters from one scene talking and wake up in another scene all together. Some mornings, I jump out of bed knowing that something I wrote the day before won’t work or desperate to get to the computer because I must fix something while it’s fresh in my mind.

I’d love to hear how other writers keep up their strength. I’ve got at least six more weeks before my first draft will be complete. All I can say is this – writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint.

Petroglyph in Nevada (3) - bruce witzel photo

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.