Tackling the Impossible

The ‘back road’ we travel for the twenty minute trip to and from our son’s home takes us along a winding rural route through forest lands, past two lakes and over an hydroelectric dam. We’ve watched with mild interest as BC Hydro has logged and created a right-of-way that cuts across the landscape for a new 500 kilovolt transmission line being built over mountains and through the wilderness between Merritt and a substation in Coquitlam, BC.

Late last week we drove over the dam while keeping an eye on one of the helicopters that is helping in the stringing of the transmission wires along the new towers. It was an impressive sight with one helicopter hovering so low above us, and linesmen working so high! (That’s one person on a platform by the top wires. They don’t always stay on those platforms. At times we’ve seen people scrambling around on the metal braces of the towers.)

TransmissionTowers

Global TV News did a brief update on the project recently, and it includes a video showing one of the other helicopters that we’ve seen, that one a massive construction helicopter maneuvering the top section of a tower into place. All four of its corners had to meet with something like one-half inch precision! It’s mind boggling.

I wonder if, in the initial stages, designers and construction crews are ever overwhelmed by the impossible magnitude of such a project. Or do you think they have a mental overview of the entire thing, and an understanding of how to break the undertaking into manageable pieces?

Do you think maybe that’s the approach authors are meant to take when beginning a new novel? I don’t know if it would work for me. I like a seat-of-the-pants method but that’s only because I know I can do extensive revisions later. There’s no doing over of 100 metre high transmission towers and a 500 kilovolt power line. I’m afraid, if I had to get it right the first time, I’d never make it through to the end of the first draft. How about you?

~  ~  ~

#wipMadness Day 12: Revising and Renovating

How is your second week of March Madness progressing, fellow Wipsters? I know some of us are working on new manuscripts this month, while others are revising, reworking or rewriting completed drafts. I’m one who likes the revision process, although I know not everyone does. I like finding ways to make the storytelling more effective even if it involves a lot more effort than writing the first draft.

Some improvements require a rearrangement of scenes, others may be better with some scenes totally eliminated. It’s always difficult making that kind of decision. We work hard for those words and cutting them out can be painful. At this point the unbiased opinion of a professional editor is invaluable.

I liken the process to the impending upheaval in my household — a kitchen renovation. Our house is now twenty-four years old and, while it’s been well maintained, it hasn’t had any updating. A total makeover is out of the question, so my hubby and I had to decide what changes would be the most beneficial to its enjoyment and value. The kitchen is an obvious place to start.

Kitchen-BeforeReno

The view “before”. (Stay tuned for “after”.)

 

The oak cupboards are classic, all three major appliances are quite new and the floor was replaced not that many years ago. They will stay.

QuartzSamplesOn the other hand, the sink and range hood are rusting and need replacing, the island will be rebuilt to one level, counters and backsplash will be replaced, as will cupboard door knobs and hinges. The light fixture will get an update, too. Once all the contractors depart, the walls that I mentioned last month will finally get their coat of fresh white paint (although, admittedly, I still haven’t found just the right shade of white yet!).

Like revising a story, an honest evaluation usually tells us when something needs fixing, but the help of someone more knowledgeable can be invaluable in identifying how the changes should best be implemented. Tackling them piecemeal can result in chaos. In our case, we went to a kitchen consultant, shared our ideas, and received some great advice. Now it’s time to make a start.

My kitchen is going to get very messy before the new improved version emerges. (That’s true with a revision, too.) But a good working plan is in place and I’m confident I’ll like the end result.

What’s your usual process for manuscript revisions? Do you follow a plan or go through and fix things as you encounter them?

~

Are you happy with the progress you’re making towards your March goals? What, you haven’t set any goals yet??? It’s not too late. Head on over to co-ordinator Denise Jaden’s introductory post (here) and add yours in the comment section. While you’re there, check out all the great prizes being offered this month, too. Then tomorrow, be sure to stop by Tonette’s blog for a Friday dose of inspiration and encouragement.

Happy writing (or revising), Wipsters!

~  ~  ~

Is there a genre for fictional tulips and daffodils?

Tulips don’t grow in my garden. Deer eat them before the buds even develop. I’ve planted dozens upon dozens of daffodils and narcissus because I’m told deer don’t like them. They bloom beautifully the first year, but only a few make it through to the next, and by the third year there are none. I suspect the squirrels are to blame, but I have no proof.

I love the cheery colour of spring bulbs but have to make do with the store-bought variety. There’s no point trying to grow them where they aren’t going to thrive.

Tulips 2

I’m discovering a novel is a little like a garden. If the conditions aren’t right, it can’t develop its full potential. Unfortunately, I’m the one responsible for providing a nurturing environment, and that involves more than fencing out marauders.

I can do extensive research and come up with lots to nourish a budding idea. I can refuse to let the I.E. thwart my attempts, invest time and energy to revise and rewrite, get professional editing and helpful critiques. But transplant that ready-to-blossom story into a less than receptive location and it’s probably going to wither and die.  Or be buried indefinitely in an agent’s slush pile.

Compiling a list of agents and going from A to Z in a dedicated submission process is like throwing a handful of flower bulbs into the air and hoping they’ll land in a fertile growing medium and survive. There are websites like Chuck Sambuchino‘s that provide listings of what agents are currently looking for, others that demystify the many different genres, and still others that explain how to classify our novels and/or understand why it’s important to know where they fit so we send them only to those agents who read our genre.

One thing I’ve learned over the past fifteen years of writing novels and studying the publishing industry is that we can do everything right and still not meet with success. Perhaps it’s time to change tactics.

I’m thinking of planting crocuses for next spring. Oh, wait…there was a flash of fur in the garden. I wonder if squirrels like crocus bulbs.

Squirrel

~

Tulips

By A. E. Stallings

The tulips make me want to paint,
Something about the way they drop
Their petals on the tabletop
And do not wilt so much as faint,
Something about their burnt-out hearts,
Something about their pallid stems
Wearing decay like diadems,
Parading finishes like starts,
Something about the way they twist
As if to catch the last applause,
And drink the moment through long straws,
And how, tomorrow, they’ll be missed.
The way they’re somehow getting clearer,
The tulips make me want to see
The tulips make the other me
(The backwards one who’s in the mirror,
The one who can’t tell left from right),
Glance now over the wrong shoulder
To watch them get a little older
And give themselves up to the light.

Source: Poetry (June 2009)

~

#wipMadness Day 5: On the Shady Side

Every spring my hubby does battle with the invasion of moss and lichen in our lawns. He’s already making plans to do the annual de-thatching, raking and liming, and he’s muttering non-too-quietly about it.

Despite the myth that says moss grows on the north side of trees, moss grows wherever it can find moisture and shade — it requires them to survive and reproduce — and our property provides the ideal conditions. It’s not just on the trees; it happily multiplies through the lawns and gardens.

DSC04562

We have a neighbour who wonders why our rites of spring always include de-mossing the lawns. She says moss is green, it doesn’t require mowing, and it’s soft under foot, so she’s content to let it have its way with her yard. She’s right on all three counts, but given its freedom, it would (and does) spread through our flowerbeds, too, and eventually would choke all the plants we’ve tried so hard to nurture.

Of course there’s a writing analogy here. The moss reminds me of lethargy, which can be very pervasive and, if allowed to take hold, can spread to every one of our endeavours and choke our ambition and creativity.

Lethargy starts with a tiny seed of procrastination. The things we choose to do in those times we would normally be writing, aren’t bad. In fact, they can be quite pleasant, useful, even necessary things. But given half a chance, procrastination can grow into a nasty patch of writer’s block, so that when we eventually try to return to writing, it’s a struggle.

I’m here to tell you that we make that miserable old Internal Editor’s day when we give in to the first temptation to skip writing in favour of scrubbing the garage floor with an old toothbrush. From there he knows he’s got it made because we’ll have to recuperate with tea, a magazine and chocolate. (I know full well every writer has a store of hidden chocolate somewhere for just such moments of dire need!) Once we’re on the couch, guilt will sneak in, hand in hand with lethargy, and all is lost.

Let’s make up our minds to hang on to our March commitments and spend time every day working on our goals. We won’t allow the tiniest bit of procrastination to take hold and give lethargy a chance to settle in. We certainly don’t want to give our I.E. any gloating opportunities, do we? It’s too hard on morale. ;)

~

I hope you’re well on the way to reaching your first week’s goal(s). Let us know in the comments how you’re doing. Check-in tomorrow at Tonette’s blog: http://tonettedelaluna.com , and keep an eye on the list of prize winners. You never know when your name may come up in a random draw.

~

What’s your weakness when it comes to making excuses for not writing? With all this sunshine coaxing me outside, mine could easily be gardening. The moss is calling my name.

~  ~  ~

Moss

Oh, no! It’s almost March Madness time again!

Didn’t we just have Christmas? How can we possibly be on the eve of March? I could swear the calendar is lying to me, but there are people around me mentioning March Madness in hushed voices.

IMGP7750_2It’s the writing version (not football), and it’s a collaborative effort where we all — writers, readers, illustrators, and bloggers — set our own goals for the month of March, and encourage each other towards reaching them. It’s all about commitment, accountability, encouragement and achievement.

As the coordinator, Denise Jaden has introduced it on her blog. I’m saving you clicking time by reprinting her message below, but if you’d like to join us you’ll need to click on over to her space on Sunday and add your name and goals in the comment section there so she has you registered.

Think about joining us. It’ll be a blast! At least, it will be once I get myself psyched up for the commitment. AND THERE’S JUST ONE MORE DAY TO DO IT! ACK!! ;)

~

From Denise Jaden’s Blog

MARCH MADNESS Writing, Reading, and Blogging Challenge! #WIPMadness

It’s almost March and time for an Almost-Nano Challenge! If you have a writing project you’re ready to start, or a work in progress you’re ready to finish, come and join the fun. Accountability is our main aim and the more support we have, the easier it will be to sail on through the month of March, bouncing along on each others successes!

And, like last year, we’re opening up March Madness to readers who want to challenge themselves to read more, bloggers who want to challenge themselves to blog more, and illustrators who want to challenge themselves to illustrate more! Basically, anything to do with books!

And did I mention there will be PRIZES? Prizes will not be awarded based on how much you write, read, draw, or blog, but simply on how involved you are in the Big Accountability Plan. There will be check-in points most days throughout the month of March. Each time you check in and record your progress, your name will be entered into a draw for some great prizes, donated by our fabulous blog hosts, including some high demand advance copy books, audiobooks, and a writer’s survival kit! And not only that, but the more you encourage others along the way (in the comments), the more times your name will go into the hat!

Spread the word, and check out http://denisejaden.blogspot.com on Sunday, March 1st, to put your goals officially in writing and find out the locations of the check-in points. If you’re ready to get serious, don’t do it alone…Get serious with us!

Now is the time to be setting your Ambitious Goals for the month of March! (Trust me, you will be able to accomplish much more than you normally would with the added camaraderie and support, so don’t be afraid to set the bar a little higher.) If you haven’t already, start meeting up with us on Twitter under the hashtag #WIPMadness .

Please spread the word about this Challenge. There will be lots to win throughout the month and the more support we have, the better all of our goals will go this month!

So check back in at my blog March 1st. If you’re such a proud participant that you want to let everyone know, grab the March Madness badge from below, and put it somewhere prominent.
#Wipmadness Participant!

 

Everyone is welcome and the more the merrier! Let’s march into March like the mad group of writers we are!!!

~

Okay, that’s the skinny on March Madness. Now start thinking about your goals, and on Sunday head on over to Denise’s place to share them and sign up!!

~  ~  ~

From the Archives: Partying in the Bedroom

DSC04361

Once the bed is made, thoughts or dreams from the night before usually disappear into the fabric of a new day. But not always. The following account comes from my 2008 archives.

~

By 2:00 a.m. last night (technically, I guess it was this morning) I was ready to evict everyone. Some time prior to midnight characters from my novels had decided to gather at the foot of my bed and challenge my right to go to sleep.

Normally such nightly encounters are welcome. The twilight zone between yawning and oblivion is often my mind’s most productive time. As the day’s memories slip away they are replaced with solutions to story telling dilemmas that eluded me during an earlier writing session. Conversations with my characters are not unusual. It is in those not-quite-asleep-yet moments that just the right words jump into my unfettered brain.

What was distressing about last night’s group was that they weren’t the characters from only my current w.i.p. (work in progress), but also from the previous book. Granted, some of them appear in both, but their stories are not connected and last night’s dialogues won’t fit into either plot. It was a useless waste of my mental energy. I would rather have been sleeping, but the unruly guests wouldn’t go home.

We were out for dinner during the evening. Maybe I drank too much coffee? (Or not enough wine?)

~  ~  ~

Finding inspiration

Quilt-1

One of my newest treasures is this hand stitched Double Irish Chain scrap quilt made by my aunt. She was 86 at the time. It took her two years, and I believe was the last one she made. I apologize for the cliché, but it truly is a work of art.

She had a sewing machine, but it was too heavy to lift from the cupboard shelf, so she decided she would sew the quilt entirely by hand, just as her mother and her grandmother had, and as she had done before. She said if she’d realized at the beginning, however, just how much work this one was going to be, she might not have undertaken it.

Quilt-2

I wonder if that isn’t true for many novelists, too. Few realize how much work will go into producing 90,000 ‘just right’ words, until ‘The End’ is staring back at us from the page. If we knew how much effort and time it was going to take, and the possibility that it would never be of publishable quality anyway, would we even begin?

While some might not, I believe the dedicated ones would, simply because they have a creative spirit and the desire to try. The drive to produce something special, something of significance, has to be followed by the determination to make a start. Then, word by word, stitch by stitch, we keep going. We know our earliest creative attempts aren’t going to be perfect, but only by learning and experience will we improve, and we have to begin somewhere.

Like playing a concerto, hand stitching an intricate pattern, or painting a masterpiece, writing an outstanding story takes more than desire. It takes ability, dedication, perseverance, and very hard work.

I’m not there yet as a writer, but the exquisite beauty created by my Aunt Norma inspires me to continue on my journey.

What inspires you in your creative pursuits?

~

“For everything that was written in the past
was written to teach us,
so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures
and the encouragement they provide
we might have hope.”

[Romans 15:4]

~  ~  ~

 (Photos by Norma McGuire)