Hitting the Wall–Danger!

Danger 1

Okay – it happens. We all know it happens. There you are logging hundreds of words a day, going full-steam ahead, typing with one hand and patting yourself on the back with the other. Then, wham! The wall. Danger. All of the above!

I had probably written 35,000 words when it happened – that horrible feeling that there is nowhere for any of my characters to go. I’d somehow managed to tell all their collective stories and to solve all their problems without ever getting the book off the ground. Talk about a wall. Talk about undertows! Talk about fear of all manner of wild beasts.

Danger 3

When I hit the wall, I go out walking. And lucky for me, my trails in Feb. don’t need the above warning signs. Pretty quiet these days. On one of those walks, I got the idea to put each storyline to the question.

Ah … you say … the question? What can that be?

Where is the tension? Where is this going?

Danger 2

Yesterday, the ideas began to explode in my head like cannon fire. And I could see why I hit the wall. I’d revealed far too much about the characters far too soon. That’s easy to fix. One can always switch blocks of writing from here to there. And I hadn’t allowed myself to come up with enough action events to propel the storylines.

Danger - no problem

 

I was in possession of a plethora of action events. So, I took a scene plotter approach. I plugged my characters into those events and thought about how putting them in certain places at certain times was going to move their individual and collection storylines along. I know where they’re all going to end up – so that helps. As you can see, I’m out on that dangerous bridge without a care in the world. Of course, I’m not planning to dive.

 

Inevitable though, one day’s wild excitement is followed by a day of panic. As I contemplate the work involved in weaving all the threads together to create the tapestry that is unfolding in my mind, as I think about cobbling the pieces of story fabric together to create my quilt … it is daunting. Back to the walking.

(The photo below is the church on Zuckerberg Island near Castlegar. That is where the bridge above went to.)

Zuckenberg Island chapel house 2, Castlegar BC Oct 22-2018 - francis guenette photo

This whole writing process is like these socks I just finished knitting for myself. I call them my socks of many colours composed of all the bits of yarn leftover from my various holiday sock knitting projects. What I love about them is that I only need to look down at my feet and I can see the yarn that went into socks I’ve made for so many people I love. The book is like the socks of many colours – bits and pieces of my whole life knit into something wholly new that came from me but isn’t me at all.

Socks of many colours (2)_LI

Going Silent and Coming Back

Jar Room Wonder

Well, WordPress followers … if you’re still out there … I’ve gone silent since September 18th, 2018 with my Lady Ashburn Mustard Pickles post. What a post to go out on. By the way, those pickles are so delicious! Okay, all kidding aside, months can fly by when one is filling non-writing time with food preservation, road trips, holidays and sock knitting.

Happy feet

There are about a hundred good posts in the above activities, but this blog is supposed to be all about writing. If I come to a dry spell again, I might start an all about non-writing blog. Then again, not writing really meant not writing. I have been hard pressed to put something as short and simple as an email together.

Let’s talk writing blocks. Every author has them. Getting my last book (No Compass to Right) out in 2017 was a huge effort – faster than usual writing timeline for all stages, a rush to publication to meet certain promotion opportunities then blissful nothingness. Stepping back from the whirlwind was much needed.

Kayak & kid magic

My well-earned rest flowed right into summer at the lake, visitors and a bountiful garden to enjoy. Along comes fall and there is the imperative of fresh produce begging for preservation. Then immersion as a sideline cheerleader on our jar and freezer room project (check it out in the first pic on this post). More than satisfying to see that space completed! And suddenly it is time for a road trip. We get home, catch our breath and we are in the Christmas rush. Busy, busy, busy.

Brit, Fran and Emma at Crowsnest Pass in Alberta Nov3-2018 - bruce witzel photo

I’m not fooling any of the writers out there with my busyness excuses. When we need to write, nothing gets in the way and everything else still gets done – for the most part. Writers are efficient with their time.

Coming back is hard. I can’t deny it. The longer I stayed away from daily writing, the more of a brick wall went up. Deconstructing the wall takes time. My endurance for sustained writing is low. In the first fifteen minutes I fight down a constant stream of demanding thoughts. I need to get up for a snack, perhaps another cup of coffee, maybe I should check my email and on it goes. Then, without any fanfare, I fall into the zone and the next forty-five minutes whiz by.

In a rush of energy at the end of writing No Compass to Right, I created extensive notes for the next book. Last week, I started back to those notes and simply hanging out with the characters. Asking questions. What is on their minds, where do they want to go, what do they want to be doing in book five? And do those characters ever clamour for attention. They speak, oh man do they speak – some go so far as to yell and scream. The ideas come in front of the keyboard as I write and while I do my daily walk. I snapped this photo through the glass of our greenhouse the other day. Datura in full bloom with evergreen reflection.

January Greenhouse Datura

Once I am back to writing, the desire to send my thoughts out into the blogosphere returns. This has been my longest WordPress silence since I started blogging in 2012. Here’s to going silent and here’s to coming back. If anyone is still listening … here’s a couple of pics of me and Bruce at Emerald Lake in YoHo National Park.

Me and Bruce at Emerald Lake         Emerald Lake - Yo Ho National Park

Getting inside a Writer’s Head

DSC_0975

Now, if that title doesn’t scare you, it should – the venue can be a crowded one. A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be interviewed on The Flying Pony Blog about my writer’s process. Pamela Cook knows how to ask some great questions. Welcome to Part 1 of that interview.

What activities (other than writing) get your creative juices flowing?

For me, creativity has a lot to do with carving out a space where silence reigns. I need alone time and quiet to allow my thoughts to percolate.

Walking has always been the time when I mull over ideas. For years, I thought of this as nothing more than daydreaming. When I started to write my first novel, the daydreaming became extremely focused on a group of characters (and, believe me, I’m still asking myself where they came from) and how they might handle being tossed into a variety of situations.

On a more abstract scale, I think my creativity comes from my curiosity. I’m always wondering – what if? This trait has made me a people watcher and every observation becomes more grist to the mill.

What kind of writing routine do you have – disciplined or undisciplined, regular or irregular, focused or easily distracted?

If I’m on my own, I can write twelve hours at a stretch. I might spend the whole day in my PJ’s, eating over the keyboard, and forgetting to allow the elderly dog out until she makes her needs rather vocal. I wouldn’t say this equals discipline; it feels more like obsession. But it is what it is.

When I’m alone, I feel extremely focused. I can dislike the dog, the ringing of the phone, and the need for bathroom and stretching breaks. When other people are around it’s easy to get distracted, but I am also thankful for a good reason to quiet the voices in my head for a time.

When I’m actively writing, I write every day. But I can’t maintain a pace like that for too long. I need extended breaks every couple of months. It’s necessary to leave the seclusion of a cabin by the lake and go out into the world, if for no other reason than the need for new material.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block and if so what do you do about it?

I am happy to say that since I started writing fiction, I have rarely had a serious writer’s block. I did have the experience many times with academic writing, and it was excruciating.

When I get in a tangle with fiction writing, it’s because I’ve strayed off course. I’m zipping along the writing freeway and whiz down an exit ramp I wasn’t planning to take. The writing bogs down. I have to stop and figure out where I’ve ended up in terms of where I thought I wanted to go. This doesn’t always mean retracing my path – sometimes it means rethinking what has come before or what I have envisioned for later.

Which aspects of the writing life do you most love?

Hands down, I love the experience of being caught up completely in the lives’ of my characters. Having them become so real to me that I can’t let them go. I actually dream about them. They become part of my life. When this happens, the writing flows. It’s as if I can’t take down what the characters are doing and saying fast enough. I hear their voices. I know what they would say in a given situation and how they would say it.

What books and writers have most influenced your own writing?

I’ve been influenced by Canadian authors whose novels are firmly rooted in a specific place. Reading these novels gives me a felt sense of what it would be like to live in that area of my country. There is also the sense of understanding how people are formed by that particular environment. Some of my favourite Canadian authors who write in this way are: Alistair MacLeod (Cape Breton), Eden Robinson (Pacific Coast), Timothy Taylor (city of Vancouver) Jane Urquhart (rural Ontario), Elizabeth Hay (city of Ottawa, the Canadian North and the prairies), and Wayne Johnson (Newfoundland).

I think it has been this influence that made me strive to provide the readers of my novel with an understanding of what rural life, on the Northern part of Vancouver Island, on the Pacific coast of British Columbia, might be like and how that geographical area could affect the people.

DSC_0853