Fall Snapshots: Looking for the good stuff

They always seem to arrive before I expect them. When the Northern Flicker made his first autumn appearance here I didn’t have my camera handy. I made a dash for it, but I needn’t have hurried. He hopped onto the railing and waited impatiently.

Flicker2014

He peered up at where he’d last seen the suet and bird feeders seven months ago. How does one explain to a bird that it’s too early in the season to hang his food out… that the bears are still roaming around looking for tasty treats?

His presence was a great photo opp for me, but he soon had me feeling guilty as he moved in closer to scrutinize the usual corner where the suet hook sat empty, just under the eaves.

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His buddy, a male Varied Thrush, arrived on the deck at the same time and stomped around, also peeved at his missing repast. He’s a ground feeder like the Flicker, but during past winters they’d grown accustomed to an occasional domestic supplement. Now they were here looking for a handout of the good stuff once again.

Thrush

I finally took pity on both of them and threw a few handfuls of seed on the deck while hubby hung a container of suet. If the bear arrives to chow down, too, I’m going to be frustrated, but there was only so long I could handle the guilt trip these two were dumping on me.

As I watched them enjoying the goodies, I was reminded that I will soon have to do some persistent searching of my own. As I bash out the words of a first draft during this NaNoWriMo writing marathon, I recognize that the underlying story is present, but it’s minus a lot of the good stuff… the rich descriptions, insights into my characters’ motivation, and sensory details, to name some. There is an abundance of weak verbs and supporting adverbs to cull, too, along with a lot of my typical mental meandering.

Once November 30th becomes history it will be time for me to start revising. I’ll have to dig in and search out nuggets to salvage among the drivel. In the meantime, I’m dumping words on the page, a few hundred at a time, and squelching the internal critic that tries to convince me my daily average isn’t half what it should be and I’m pursuing an impossible goal.

Total words to November 13th = 7,786

Are you writing? Are you counting words and making measurable progress, or does that matter to you? Are you focused on finishing a project and gleaning the good stuff later?

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Fall Snapshots: Decline or Dormancy?

As the days of autumn slip and slither along a rainy path, my hope for vivid fall colours continues to wane. There is undeniable beauty in the woods and gardens but it doesn’t leap out and capture my attention as it did last year. The Vine Maples are a good example. The photo in my blog header was taken last fall. The one below is the same shrub, but photographed today.

Vine Maple 2014

We have a number of Hydrangeas around the property. One is a Climbing Hydrangea that clambers up and over the arbour that leads to our marsh trail. In the late spring and summer it sports large white ‘lacecap’ blossoms. Once the blossoms are done, it’s just a nice green cover for the trellis… until fall.

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In the fall it turns a bright yellow. Today, although the leaves are dropping, it’s still a vivid gold that, even in the rain, adds a sunny glow amid the evergreens in that corner of the yard.

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We have other Hydrangeas in the gardens, too… the bush type with ‘mophead’ blooms. Most are pink, but as the season transitions, so does their colour. The individual petals are curling and they’ll be brown by winter, I’ll leave them in place. The birds seem to enjoy them.

Hydrangea1

Hydrangea3

Fall Blossoms

Just as I mentioned on Monday, it would be easy to moan about what was instead of celebrating what is. In the garden, however, the steady deterioration has a purpose. It’s part of the cycle of life — going to seed, resting, waiting for the new season of re-energizing and production.

Today’s blog post was delayed because I spent time at a NaNoWriMo write-in. Some of the other participants were comparing their word counts and feeling embarrassed that they were so low. But everyone admitted to having written something, and I was able to remind them that those words were more than they’d had when they arrived. Those words were motivation for what could come next. Tomorrow will be a fresh start… a time to move on and begin building again on what was achieved in the past.

Sometimes we celebrate the present achievement; sometimes it’s necessary to resign ourselves to some dormancy. Use the time to look ahead and maybe plan the next landscape. There are NaNo-ing days when I wonder why I’m bothering to participate in this literary marathon if my output isn’t going to be more significant. Then I remember that these waning times, even dormant times, are often necessary for future creativity. There is a cyclic nature to all of life… even to our writing. Tomorrow will be a better day!

How’s your writing going this week… or whatever other project you might have ‘on the go’? 

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Fall Snapshots: Changes

The meteorologist revealed the delightful news yesterday that our October had twenty-two days of rain. Not steady rain, of course, but days that received a measurable amount, along with warmer than average temperatures. Maybe that’s why the usual autumn colour hasn’t materialized around here. Usually by now the garden has shots of scarlet, orange and gold, but this year the changes are more subtle. It would be easy to overlook the beauty.

Fall Travel

(Consider clicking on the photos if you’d like a closer look.)

Fall leaves

My two day NaNoWriMo word total is 2,852… a couple pages short of the desired daily average. Some years I start out gung ho the first few days and rack up great numbers. Not so this year. I’m like the tortoise, slow and plodding. It would be easy to overlook the accomplishment and bemoan those 2,852 words instead of celebrate them.

It’s time to jump up and down, wave my arms and shout, “Yay!!! 2,852 great new words!” Then again, I don’t know how great they are. NaNoWriMo words tend to need a lot of later revision, but at least they’re new words. I’m smiling.

What accomplishment, large or small, makes you smile today?

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The countdown has started

When there is only one day left, one last opportunity to finalize details and get myself ready for a major event, I usually panic! I can be heard muttering, “I don’t want to do this! Why did I ever say I would?”

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I think there’s a quotation somewhere about a character riding off in several directions at once. It’s impossible, you say? Well, let me tell you about fragmenting. When enough pressure builds up, you can expect the container to explode, forcing its fragments to be flung in multiple directions. That is SO what I feel like.

This is NaNoWriMo Eve! Ackkk!

I mentioned NaNoWriMo in last Friday’s post. I presented my lecture at the library that evening and made mention of how this final week should be used for preparations. Did I follow my own advice? Of course not! And now, when Halloween shenanigans wind down at midnight tonight and NaNoWriMo gets underway, I’ll be scrambling. ::sigh:: This is my eighth year; how is it that I end up doing this every time?

Remind me next October that panic attacks aren’t pleasant and I should try to avoid them at all costs.

Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo this year? Are you prepared and ready to dive in? (If the second answer is ‘yes’, I don’t want to hear it!)

(I’m NaNoWriMo’s Wildwood Gal,
the one with the glazed expression.
)

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It’s (almost) that time of year again: NaNoWriMo

If you listen carefully you may be able to hear the distant chant starting: “NaNoWriMo! NaNoWriMo! NANOWRIMO!!!” Yes, word-loving folks are beginning to get fired up about the annual month-long, international writing marathon that is known as National Novel Writing Month. It happens every November, and it arrives on the heels of Halloween … eek! …  just one week from tonight.

The idea is to write a complete novel of at least 50,000 words between November 1st and November 30th.

I know, I know, it’s insane. The quality of the writing is secondary to the quantity, and that very concept turns off people who consider giving anything but their best is a waste of time. Why write garbage? Why not slow down and make the effort count for something? Truth is, those who want to write a novel but over-think the details, often bog down before they ever get to ‘The End’.

A well-known line in writing circles is, “You can always revise a first draft, but you can’t revise a blank page.” I suggest adopting Nike’s motto: “Just do it!” Devoting November to NaNoWriMo gives us an opportunity to toss ideas out onto a page, and chase them along in front of us until a story is fully formed. Some multi-published authors use NaNoWriMo for this purpose, so who am I to suggest it’s not a valid novel-writing process?

FVRL PosterIn the spirit of encouraging those who have often thought they might like to write a novel but thought they didn’t have a lot of time to devote to the project, I’m presenting a lecture tonight, sponsored by the Maple Ridge Public Library. It’s called “How to Write a Novel in a Month”, and it’s an introduction to NaNoWriMo.

Yes, I’m an introvert and everyone knows I hate public speaking. Yes, I’m already having palpitations and wondering why I agreed to do this. It’s also going to help me kick start my own writing. Very public commitments have a way of motivating me forward — a little like getting a boot in the backside.

If you’re interested in joining me (either at the Library tonight, or in doing NaNoWriMo yourself), or if you have any questions that could use some answers, give me a shout in the comments below.

Oh, and on the NaNoWriMo website you’ll find me writing as Wildwood Gal. Come look me up and offer some sympathy.

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It’s a long way to go (but it’s worth it)

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When our first daughter was married she went to live in the Yukon. It seemed very far away from our Vancouver Island home, and the next summer when we drove there to visit, we discovered indeed it was — some  2500 kilometres away. Yukon is in the northwestern corner of Canada. It’s sparsely populated, is the home of Mt. Logan, Canada’s highest mountain, as well as the world’s largest non-polar icefield (Kluane). The terrain is mostly boreal forest.

Where we drove, the climate was considered to be subarctic and for a time as we made our way over the ‘Top of the World’ Highway between Yukon and Alaska, we were in the tundra. I would never have broken off any of the plant life to bring home, but near the roadside I found this tiny three inch twisted bit of branch with dried miniature leaves. I still have it thirty years later.

Yukon Root

(To enlarge, click on photo)

I caught my first view of the Northern Lights in the Yukon, and heard my first wolf howl. All of the Yukon scenery was breathtakingly beautiful, but that Top of the World Highway was spectacular. It’s not my photography, but this video will give you a brief taste of what we saw.

The vast wilderness was almost overwhelming. We could drive for an hour and never see another vehicle, person or building. Reaching our destination was an exercise in faith. But it was so very worth it.

There is a writing analogy here. This is November 1st and many writers are undertaking NaNoWriMo — the quest for 50,000 words in thirty days. For novelists who find that total daunting, the journey is one of faith. Yes, it’s a long distance, but if there’s no start made, there’s no destination reached. We have to make the commitment, step on the accelerator, and be prepared for a wild ride.

I won’t be working from scratch this November, but have a revision I need to finish, and it’s a challenge. NaNoWriMo is the perfect opportunity to hunker down and focus on making my words better. What’s your goal for November?

~

“The freshness, the freedom, the farness…”
[Robert Service]

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It’s coming: a new month… a new season… a time of preparation

Yesterday was the last Sunday of the church year. Next Sunday we begin again. Advent — advenio, “to come to” — is a four week period when we prepare for the coming of the Christ. We prepare for his birth at Christmas, his coming into our lives, and his eventual Second Coming.

For many, this preparation also means getting organized for the December 25th celebration… gift purchases, food preparation, home decoration. My hubby has put up outside Christmas lights already, although he won’t turn them on until this weekend. I can hardly wait! I love the special holiday lights that sparkle through December nights. But none of them can equal the glory of God’s light.

This was sunrise a couple weeks ago while we were at our Cariboo cabin.

I began my NaNoWriMo month of writing there, pulling out my laptop every morning soon after dawn when the men left for their day of hunting. Without my usual daily distractions I accumulated words in excess of the daily average and returned home to post over 18,000 words on Day #10. Since then… well, let’s just say I haven’t quite maintained that average.

November 30th, and its conclusion of NaNoWriMo, is creeping steadily closer. I may or may not complete 50,000 words by then, but I will have made significant progress on the first draft of a new novel. I will be ready to change my focus from intense writing to a more normal pace which will give me time to also concentrate on Advent.

I love all the different preparations that will come with the new month. The house will have evergreen boughs and twinkling lights, and the fragrance of sugar cookies and shortbread. There will be family and friends visiting, special music playing, and wrapped presents under a tree. I hope there will be a little snow, too, although I know better than to count on it.

And there will also be time — time to ponder the coming miracle of God’s personal Christmas gift to the world, to me. Oh, the wonder of it!

What’s your favourite part of this season of preparation?

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