The Writing Life

  Campbell River Spit

Each morning, I start my writing session by opening a document called Warm-Up Pages. I put my fingers down on the keyboard and type without stopping for five minutes of wild writing – anything and everything that comes into my head. The wildness of that opening exercise kick starts me into serious work. Before I know it, I’ve got my draft document open and I’m on my way.

My current work in process – book five in the Crater Lake series – topped out at 21,500 words this afternoon. I’ve got most of the first two chapters written and seventeen of the thirty characters I want to hear from our now on the written page.

I thought I’d share a few excerpts from my warm-up pages. I can type a lot in five minutes chunks everyday but most of it is as you would expect warming up and stretching to be. Not so exciting if you aren’t there for the subsequent work out.

Fried egg mushrooms

Feb. 7, 2019

In the space and in the chair – first steps. The day is dullish grey with a snow threatening sky. We’ll see what comes.

For this novel, I am liberating myself from the need to explain huge chunks of back story. Here is my message to the reader who picks up book five in a series without having read any of the previous books – expect to be somewhat confused. Not completely out to sea, but not totally in the know either.

Feb. 8, 2019

Bookmarked a couple of log salvage and boat research sites. I’m as awkward writing some of today’s scenes as the characters are to be in them.

Feb. 9, 2019

Just because something might be sad doesn’t mean I shouldn’t go there – readers don’t mind being sad as long as the emotion is real.

Feb. 10, 2019 – 10:20 am

A two hour block of writing time slips by quickly. The discipline of knowing when to stop is as important as getting my butt in the chair to start.

Had some great ideas while I was out walking yesterday.

There is a gentle snow falling outside my dormer window this morning. I love this space for focus.

I’ve been looking at Paper Raven’s notes on the novel blueprint method and the Act One Tipping Point. I love this … “The story starts when life can no longer go on the way it has in the past. Something threatens the worldview of the characters. There is a sense that all is not well – trouble looms on the horizon. Big change is coming.”

Feb. 11, 2019 – 10:10 am

I finished chapter one yesterday! Rough, of course. To be expected. Setting descriptions and detail work will come later. Cut a huge section from the piece I had roughed out. Way too much talking.

A writing routine has emerged. Write for two hours, walk for an hour, have lunch, knit on my current sock project, work for another two hours.

Feb. 12, 2019 – 10:00 am

Another day – bright sunny skies but the cold continues. I love the feeling of my fingers moving swiftly over these keys. When I come up to the dormer room to get started, I anxiously await those few moment that Word takes to get my document open, so I can start. It is wonderful and exhilarating to feel this way again!

I wrote in my head for my entire hour-long walk. Now, I feel as though I’m going to explode if I don’t get some of these ideas on paper.

Sunset on the Fraser River

Well, that was six days in the writing life. How do you get your writing day going? Is a routine important? Are you rigid with a schedule or is it anything goes? Let me know.

I decided to perk this post up with some pics from Day one of our fall trip because photos of my writing sessions would be dead boring. We travelled from our Island home to the lower mainland, visited Minnekhada park in Coquitlam and caught sunset on the Fraser River.

My Mom is a Gnome

Quote Wednesday–Keep Writing

Quote Wednesday Sept 2, 2015

There are days when I sit in front of my computer screen with fingers poised over the keyboard … and nothing happens. My mind goes blank, the story lines twist and tangle, the ideas that seemed so inspired as I prepared to write, drift away like a cloud scudding across the sky in a stiff wind.

And yet, as the quote above so clearly states, I must turn on that tap. I have to get that water flowing. I must write – full stop – no negotiation.

There are a few things I’ve learned to do that can help prime the pump. If I’m stuck in general, I might try some wild writing and see what comes of it. I’ve given this exercise to students – from grade 5 all the way up to fourth year university students. Write for five minutes without stopping. Write about anything that comes into your head, but no stopping. No rewriting or editing. No erasing or backspacing. That’s the only rule. No stopping. It’s a hard exercise. I’m often stunned at what emerges during these five minutes.

If I’m stuck on not being able to hear a character’s voice, I’ll write a lengthy letter from that character to another. Or, I’ll come up with a series of interview questions and put them to this character and type away at the answers he or she gives me.

If these methods aren’t getting me anywhere, I’ll go for a long walk or a stationary bike ride to clear the cobwebs out of my head, then try again. If I think the story is going off the rails in some way, I’ll revisit character sketches, stare at my storyboard and rearrange sticky notes, then try again. I might have to take a total break and read a book by someone else, then try again.

I think all of you get the message. Try again. Turn that tap on. Keep writing.

Colleen's Writer Quote Wed. cartoon

I’m happy to be participating in Colleen’s post chain once again. Make sure to visit her blog – Silver Threading – on Tuesdays to catch a compilation of all the great quote Wednesday posts.