Category Archives: writing

The Peach Tree Conundrum

While on holiday I managed a few revisions on Part 12 of The Hawk.  Going through that section, I found a slight discrepancy surrounding peach trees that Eric and Lynne want to put in behind his studio.  Part of the inconsistency stems from when I took a lengthy break from the work in the middle of a chapter, which I hope never happens again.  Coming back to this project, I scrapped that uncompleted chapter, but the notion of peach trees lingered.  Within the manuscript, it was a minor discussion between Eric and Laurie, but in my mind it became a plot point to such a degree that I included it in later dialogues, even if the original conversation no longer remained in the novel.

Fabrics for a baby quilt waiting to be fashioned into four-inch squares….

This morning I decided to uncover just where the peach trees emerged, and while I was partly successful, something still nagged at me, which brought me back to reading over Part 11.  One can only skim through paragraphs so many times before the eyes glaze over and every other sentence has peach trees staring back at me.  I even made notes of who said it and on what page, and am hopeful to discover just where this idea began.  This is a part of writing that isn’t glamorous or perhaps not widely discussed; the ramifications of long breaks within the creation of a WIP.

While my husband inspected part of his music collection, I put this quilt on the wall….

Continuity is vital within any novel, and I’m feeling pretty positive about The Hawk, peach trees notwithstanding.  If nothing else, I’m sticking close to this project when no real writing is happening.  Keeping it relatively fresh in my head helps enormously, not just in straightening out when the peach trees first made their appearance, but in the more important element of not getting too far from this story.  This time last year I had the grandiose plan of wrapping it up before 2017; now I’m hoping to do the same before 2018 hits.  In this respect, writing and quilting aren’t much alike; a project can sit on the wall for ages, then easily fall back underneath the presser foot as if no time has elapsed.  Right now I have two quilts vying for my attention, just a matter of collecting fabric, then sewing pieces together.  But those dang peach trees are a much tougher beast to tame.

Adorable bumblebees on navy are scattered amidst low volume fabrics. Now to sew those rows into a cohesive, peach tree sort of quilt, lol….

I suppose what I need to remind myself is all things happen in their own good time, be they novels, quilts, or fictional peach trees.  Or maybe they are figurative trees at this juncture, since Eric hasn’t even planted them yet.  At least I know he’s considering them, and I’ve included them in the lengthy notes at the end of Part 12.   Plus two post-it notes sit right under my keyboard, just in case those trees again slip my mind.  My brain isn’t as quick as when I started this tale, and I need all the help I can find to keep churning it out.  That too has been a lesson which is humbling in nature, and essential in practice.  Writing is a gift, it’s also perseverance.  At times I dream of what novel will follow The Hawk, then I laugh at myself, praying to merely complete this behemoth.  I always wanted to write books, but there is that notion of being careful for what you wish.  I’m walking that fine line, hedged in by peach trees, along with low volume fabrics.  As Eric is currently in search of guidance, so am I.  May we both trust in the one who never fails, enjoying a little pie and coffee on the way….

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NaNoWriMo magic

Only a week until the first of November; one week to get my act together on what I’m going to write.  I’m listening to a playlist right now, making sure the flow is correct.  This will be my seventh NaNo, many books under the bridge.  If not for National Novel Writing Month, I wouldn’t be typing this post, wouldn’t be sitting at my computer this day.

Maybe it seems a little silly for me to wax so enthusiastically about NaNo.  But I’ll be honest; if not for that kick in the pants, my noveling dreams would still be just that, musings in my head.  But I participated, won, kept writing.  And I’ll be writing until the day I can’t.

But what is it about one month, one challenge, that stirs my noveling blood?  I’ve been thinking about that, as October winds down.  This month isn’t just about baseball (although my beloved SF Giants are in The World Series which starts tonight, heh heh heh…); October is when I plot the next book, when I jump into the forums, when I connect with other writers.  Aha!  Writing is so solitary, but NaNo offers an open window, hoots and shouts and sometimes groans of others who like me want to create.  Varied reasons and goals, but 50,000 words calls to us all.  Some will make it, some won’t.  Some will come back next year, but not all.  Some will write only in November, some will continue throughout the year.  NaNo is what each person makes of it, but the underlying foundation is telling a story.

I’ve got a story only I can share.

Well, I have a few.  I’ll be trying two novels this month; the plan is for concurrent writing, but we’ll see.  Mostly I want to immerse myself in the mystery and joy that is writing alongside thousands of others.  Thousands of people participate in NaNo, dude!  That’s the other amazing fact; not just a handful, or a couple hundred.  Try a couple hundred THOUSAND!  Now that’s some word counts, that’s some stories.  That’s a huge boost when I think about it; others like me, wanting to regale via language some part of the soul.  I write because it’s in my soul to do so.  NaNo gave me the opportunity, the guide.  All I needed was a shove in the right direction.

Baby gonna shut you down

Writing about the WIP made me realize how wrapped up in one set of characters I have been, and while they are a vast lot of folks, since I first typed the initial manuscript in spring 2009, I’ve been inundated with the same people.  Now, they’re not real of course, but they are pretty encompassing.  Yet as those last two novels inch closer to publication, a light shines, as if I’ve been walking down a long tunnel.  There is life past Jenny, Alvin, Sam, and Tommie.

No, really…

I’ve had a few busy years, so a nice array of manuscripts awaits, once I’m clear of this station.  I can catch a new train, leave those lovely characters behind, but who will populate the next journey?  I have a couple which I’m leaning toward, a revolving door of familiar faces, voices reminiscent from 2009 and 2010.  Those were wordy years, and 2011 wasn’t bad either.  But as I’ve said, I won’t attack all those drafts; there just isn’t time and I don’t want to work that hard.  I’ve poured my heart into Alvin’s Farm, but something less demanding is preferred.

It’s also odd thinking I won’t do any more with Jenny, Alvin, Sam, and Tommie than poke through their stories like a bystander, an outsider, even if I know how it all ties together.  Once those books are out of my hands, goodness, it’s like cutting off a limb that you really thought you needed.  But guess what?  You don’t.  Or I don’t; they turn out like so many others, only alive when I happen to open that digital file.  Hence the title; like it or not, baby, I am gonna shut you down.

There’s no other choice, a writer has to move on.  The next possible project was written in summer 2009, but takes place in autumn 2013, a ghost story, a love story too.  A Scent of Heaven also examines San Jose, California, the city with the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam.  The Bay Area’s arid climate is a very different setting compared to Oregon’s damp Willamette Valley.

But for now, I’m still grappling with the Cassels, Smiths, and Alvin Harris.  I think, and it might just be that I’m still so close to them, Alvin might be one of my favorites, quickly followed by Jenny, Sam, and Tommie.  But for as much as I love them, it is time to start shutting this baby down.

Sometimes teenagers are right

I’ve had three, so that title doesn’t lie.  I wouldn’t be writing this post if my then seventeen-year-old eldest hadn’t said the immortal lines, “Hey Mom, there’s this writing competition called National Novel Writing Month.  You should look into it.”

She doesn’t recall this conversation, but I will never forget it; in late summer of 2006, my daughter brought NaNoWriMo to my attention  and nothing was ever the same.  I was forty, we were living in Yorkshire, England.  She would leave home the next year for university, but unknown at that specific moment was that all of us would be coming with her.  By the end of November, 100K was written on my first real attempt at fiction.  Also by then, we had decided to move back to America.

2006 was a funny year for me; hitting forty, NaNo, choosing to go back to California, realizing my lovely oldest child knew me better than I knew myself.  Yes, we homeschooled, so perhaps she saw me more than most teens hang out with their mums.  I was always scribbling something, usually journal entries, letters, or a non-fictional account of the year after my brother died.  But that was in 1997; she was just nine, and was still in British schools.  I spent a lot of time on that tome, but maybe it stuck with her.  Then, as she went from a child to a teen, her eyes noted that I never quit writing.

Yet there was no focus, no goal, until NaNo.

Fortunately no one else died in those nine years, certainly not my dream of becoming a writer.  But I was busy teaching, all but the math and science; my husband took those subjects.  I was living a dream of sorts, trekking around North Yorkshire and other spots in the United Kingdom, raising three kids, but in the back of my mind, ideas percolated.  When she mentioned NaNo, I was stunned that she might think of me in that regard, then I was blown away at what noveling offered my soul.  I didn’t need to write to expunge grief (although that beloved sibling pops up when I least expect him); I needed to write to fulfill who I was beyond someone’s wife and mum.  Six years and forty-two manuscripts later, I’m still on that path.

That’s why NaNoWriMo is so important.  It unlocked the creative scribbler in me, giving me more to do than shop and watch daytime TV after my kids started fleeing the nest.  It freed within my heart so many past niggles, liberated a plethora of plots, introduced me to so many wonderful folks!  It allowed me to delve into how many other lives, gave me another reason to love autumn.  It led directly to this website, blog, these actual words.  And so many more.

All because a teenager knew what she was talking about.  Go figure!  (Ha ha ha…)

In a NaNoWriMo frame of mind

Many things of which I want to note this morning; both the 49ers and Packers won, whew!  My Niner game wasn’t too stressful, although the offense played poorly in the first half.  During the Packer game, I went to my room and read In Watermelon Sugar, by Richard Brautigan.  I could still note my husband’s groans, we live in a small house.  Then hearing his raucous YES, I had to investigate.  By hook and by crook the Pack beat the New Orleans Saints, which made the remainder of the evening pleasant.

Football means that much to my spouse and me, and will finally make its way into my fiction.  For the next short story for Top Writers Block, I will be incorporating that beloved sport, about time!

This is why I love October so much; gridiron action every Sunday, baseball most other days, signaling the end of the regular season and the beginning of the post season.  My SF Giants are in LA today, will play their last three games against the Dodgers.  Then they will meet the Nationals or Reds in the first round of the 2012 playoffs.  And then, large smile and relaxed breath, there is National Novel Writing Month.

That has nothing to do with the Washington Nationals.  NaNoWriMo has to do with 50,000 words in 30 days.  It means writing, and all that goes with it; plotting, procrastination, forums (which can fall under procrastination), write-ins, swag.  I have a new t-shirt, stickers, and a hoodie.  I wanted that sweatshirt last year, but it found its way to me this year.  Once our brief but blazing Silicon Valley heatwave ends, I’ll even wear it!

In the meantime, the NaNo site resets today, forums wiped, time to upload new novel info, and revel in the joy that is autumn.  October is a good time to meet new writing buddies and steep oneself in all the noveling magic available.  It’s shoehorned in between sport and cooling (or eventually temperate) weather.  It’s why I’m here, writing this post.  In a few days, I’ll regale anyone willing to read just how I started NaNoWriMo, way back in ’06.  But for today I’ll be keeping one eye on the NaNo site, one on the WIP (revising Alvin’s Farm #6, The Timeless Nature of Patience, written for NaNo in 2010).  I’ll peek to the hummingbirds, then to snippets of sport news.  My Niners are in second place in the NFC West, the husband’s Packers in third in the NFC North.  Chicago plays Dallas tonight; perhaps the Packers will benefit from a Cowboys win, and move in front of the Bears!

But now, back to the editing…

Some reasons I write

Music; tunes stir the stories, invoke characters, nudge nuances.  As long as I listen to music, I’ll probably be writing something, be it manuscripts, blog posts, letters to family.

Paper; notebooks, journals, small legal pads, and folders filled with loose sheets litter my desk.  Every time I come across blank pages, I’m compelled to put words on those empty stretches.  Not that I could ever use up all those sheets, but they tease, as do the multitude of pens on either side of my monitor, or in the cup behind me on the buffet.

Pens; see above.  (I do prefer black gel, fine line.  For cards, ball points are best, as they don’t smear.)

Plots; I have more ideas than sense.  Not enough time to write them all, so it’s a balance of what half-baked notion bests another slightly formed story as the WIP.  More than not, there are a few battling for that crown, which at the moment includes ideas for NaNoWriMo alongside a short story for a cooperative of which I am a part.  I’m just starting to get my feet wet with short stories, although my first wasn’t that brief.  More on that soon enough.

Sport; how dramatic is the tension as hopes, dreams, and sorrows play out in real-time?  My SF 49ers lost this weekend; it happens.  My husband’s beloved Green Bay Packers play tonight, lord help us!  Watching sport, be it footie or baseball, tennis or athletics, stirs the deepest dramatic longings, which I have incorporated into a few books via baseball.  Such an easy sport of which to write, but American football calls to me, begging to receive that same fictional treatment.  Perhaps someday…

Communication; I have these words, even here in this post.  I’m telling anyone willing to read it why I write, but perhaps the most honest reason is just to be heard.  All the rest are tools, getting me to where I sit in front of a large screen, wishing to convey the brutal need of my heart to express plentiful nonsense, many truths, some lies, all dressed in tunes and sport, laid out in longhand or typed with wrapped hands.  I’m fighting tendonitis in my left forearm, carpal tunnel in my right wrist, but I’ll be darned to stay silent.  When the choice exists, like a pitcher with a worn and aching arm, or the running back going with nothing in the tank, here I am, blathering away, glad for the chance to speak my peace.

That’s all I want to do, just speak my peace.

Crit Partner Appreciation Day

A year ago, I wrote a post about this very subject, and here it is, September 21st, 2012.  This is still as vital as it was twelve months ago, whether you call them crit partners, beta readers, or any other title.  For a writer, these folks are beyond necessary.  They are what keeps the words honest, plots coherent, typos to a minimum.  They are my right arm, and seeing that arm is still suffering from niggly aches, I need all the help I can get.

This is just another reason why self-publishing is such an inadequate manner to describe indie publishing; this doesn’t happen all on my own watch.  But regardless of how or if a writer publishes, to grow in this craft requires critiques, commentary.  Gentle and with appreciation for what has been created, but also with an honest heart.  I wouldn’t have improved over this last year if not for those who give generously of their time and attention.  And for the assistance I have provided to others; it’s a reciprocal process, and I am always happy to offer my time for those who need the same feedback as I often seek.

So to my beloved partners in this artsy, writerly hive, I give you the Bettys pot of tea award.  For there is nothing more I’d love to do than sit and gab about everything books over several cuppas.  Julie, Suzy, Lisa, and Kate, hats off to you today!