Tipping Over …

Giving up the Fight (2)

Today marks an important transition: the day I tipped over from note taking to writing book five in the Crater Lake series. Word count – 1500. A modest start, you say. True … but I am thrilled. My dormer desk is working like an early spring tonic. The chance to focus and let my thoughts roam free is invigorating and productive. Even just a couple of hours at the keyboard in this new setting, when combined with my daily walk on the lake trails, has the creative pump gushing ideas all day long.

Not all is easy breezy, though. There is the early stage of idea overwhelm to deal with. I have been here before but that doesn’t seem to help. It goes something like this – I get one scene roughed out. I’m comfy in the heads of a couple of characters. Then, before I can stop myself, I’m thinking of all the other characters who are literally clamouring for attention and I start to panic. Can one brain hold so many storylines?

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When it starts, I tell myself – that’s what paper is for. Get it down, one section at a time and move on.

Prior to getting my cherished 1500 words today, I had combined all my notes into one Word doc. I set up the handy-dandy navigation tool in order to quickly move between sections.

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I recall blogging about this feature when working on my last book. First, choose a heading under styles for your chapter and section titles. Generate a table of contents and then with a simple click, turn on the navigation pane (under view) and quickly move to any section. At this stage of writing, I make my chapter and section titles super descriptive.

The Word doc I’m describing is now my prelim, prelim, prelim first draft. And that is one exciting statement! Next, I begin roughing in each section of the first four chapters. These I’ve already outlined in some detail. Once that is done, all my characters will be on the playing board ready to rock and roll. If experience is any guide, I won’t need to do much outlining after that – the characters will take over the story. I will simply be the scribe.

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I wonder what the cover number five will look like? Too soon to even guess.

The Process of Preparing to Write

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You might well ask – what does that headline mean – the process of preparing? This phase must have as many variations as there are writers practicing their craft. For me, it looks something like this: I work on a storyboard, I do research, take notes and draft up scene post-it-notes to stick on bits of paper. I do interviews with each of the characters who will be coming back along with detailed character sketches for all the new characters.

Scene post-it-notes - Guenette photoOne day I will tip over from all this preparation to actually writing the book. This is the fifth time I embark on this adventure and I have no reason to expect anything different.

I thought it might be fun to share Justin’s interview. He’s been a pivotal character in all the Crater Lake books and no one will be surprised to see him return in the fourth novel.

Where Are You Now, Justin Roberts?

What have you been doing over the last two years?

It’s mostly been school and coming back to Crater Lake in the breaks. I’ve just finished my undergrad degree at UBC and I’m working at the sawmill again. Reg is like some kind of a whirlwind this year. He’s on and on about production and racking in the money before he retires. Mike brushes it all off because he’s so happy about him and Wynter, he probably wouldn’t notice if a tsunami slammed its way right up from Brookes Peninsula and swamped the sawmill. I don’t find the job as great as it used to be but that could be because I’ve got my sights on full-time work somewhere else. I want to stay in the North Island and use what I learned at university. I’ve got applications out to a few of the independent logging operations.

What has been your biggest achievement?

Finishing my degree was a huge accomplishment.

Your biggest disappointment?

My relationship with Lauren – it continues to be up and down, on and off and now we’re in a constant state of sniping at each over me wanting to work up here. She insists I would do better in the city and refuses to even consider joining me in the middle of nowhere.

What issues from the past still haunt you?

I’ve never really been able to get Lisa-Marie out of my head though I’ve hardly seen her in the last two years. I’m pretty sure she’s avoiding me and I can’t say I blame her.

Out of the blue, my mom is back in my life and writing to me. The first letter totally freaked me out. Her psychiatrist wrote as well. She said not to rush to my mom’s side. She seemed to know that would be my first reaction. She said that my mother has made some radical progress in the last year – coming out of an almost catatonic depression. They’ve stabilized her on a new medication. She may move to a group home in a few months. She can only handle writing for now. I’m working to accept this without getting my hopes up for some kind of miracle reunion in the future.

How do you rate your various relationships?

The people at Crater Lake are family and I cling to that. I want to love Lauren but sometimes I wonder if I really do. There are so many things about my life that I can’t bring myself to share. I could never see myself telling her about my mom. We’ve been in this relationship for three years and I want to make it work but in my heart I’m not sure we have what it takes. She says I am too hooked into every one at Crater Lake. She thinks my commitments here are a way of distancing myself from her. But where would I be without Izzy and Liam and Robbie and Sophie?

Mike Sampson is a solid friend. I stay in touch with Dylan and Jesse. These guys know more about me than Lauren ever will.

I was going to say they know more about me than anyone but that wouldn’t be true. Lisa-Marie is the person who knows the most about me and I doubt there will ever be anyone else in my life that I could be so open with. I miss her. I ruined our friendship and that haunts me. It’s like I told her that first summer when she was sixteen – you can’t have sex without repercussions. After the cougar thing and all of that – I could have easily changed my mind about choosing Lauren. I wanted to. Liam urged me to tell Lauren I was in love with someone else. But LM wouldn’t let me. She wanted me to let her go. I had hurt her way too much to go and do a 180 degree turn.

What are your current goals?

I want a good job in the forest industry – maybe an engineer working on road development or something like that. Eventually, I want to be a forester. I want to make some money, have a nice place of my own and a truck that runs well – it doesn’t have to be fancy. I want to kick back now and then. Maybe take up a hobby like hiking or kayaking. Now that I’m back at Crater Lake and connecting with the Dearborn community, I’m thinking of studying to be a part-time paramedic. I’ve always been good in a crisis. I’ve also got some plans to renovate Liam’s old cabin. At one time, I would have thought every one of these goals was pie-in-the-sky crazy. But I’ve already come so far in the last five years. Why shouldn’t I just keep going? Go big or go home – right?

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Here I go on the next trilogy Smile Hope this little glimpse into where Justin’s at now whets your appetite to carry on with the series.

Frozen Pipes, Book Promotion and Scrivener

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After bragging about hanging laundry on the clothesline in January, I have now received my February comeuppance. We are in the deep freeze (-8C overnight is way too cold for the temperate rain forest). Going into day two of frozen pipes and no running water – gotta say – that’s pretty darn high on my list of least favourite cabin conditions.

I just came in from a walk in the cold, crisp air. While I enjoyed the bright blue sky and the sunshine sparkling off the lake, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right. Then I realized that the backdrop of sound I’ve come to take for granted – rumbling, roaring streams tumbling down the slopes – was missing. None of that white noise today. All is frozen and silent.

Back in the cabin, I rattle between obsessively checking my sales/ranking on Amazon, fretting over how much self-promotion is too much self-promotion and heating water from buckets for any number of chores. All the while, there is a part of me anxious to immerse myself in the next writing adventure.

The current work-in-progress is definitely on the go with what I call the back writing taking up a couple of blissful hours each day. I’m trying out a free trial version of the Scrivener software and I love it! I’m not sure I would stay in this program through the actual first draft writing (but maybe – every day I discover another great feature) but it sure works like a house-a-fire for the back writing. What has hooked me is the program’s capability to let me see everything I’ve done – character sketches, settings, notes, storylines, events, and peak moments – all via these wonderful  little computer-screen cork boards filled with post-it notes.

Scrivener is all pretty and sleek but it can’t replace my ‘real’ bulletin board, which has taken up permanent residence in my work space. I need to see this visual reminder every time I walk through the room. I love adding little bits and pieces to it. My ‘real’ bulletin board is tactile, messy, clunky and oh so adorable.

Here’s a concrete example – I printed out my title in fancy script and then went in search of some backing for this slip of paper. I found a beautiful card we received in the mail from the Green Party, thanking us for our support. I cut up this card and strategically pasted my title over the beautiful forest scene. With scissors and glue stick in hand, my imagination loosens in a way that working at the keyboard can never accomplish. Ideas flow, connections are made, characters speak to me.

If you haven’t experienced Scrivener, I say give it a whirl. Having the free trial version for thirty days allows plenty of time to play around and decide whether this tool is for you. At the same time, consider a real bulletin board and get yourself some post-it-notes, scissors and glue.

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Okay, time for that blatant plug. The Kindle version of The Light Never Lies is up on Amazon just waiting to be purchased and enjoyed. Go for it!