School’s Out!

I’m supposed to write a blog today. It’s something I told myself I would do. I even, at one point, had a little list of possible topics. Unfortunately I’ve lost my list and my mind is totally drawing a blank. I’m going to blame it on the fact it’s the last day of school. Really. It’s fantastic for kids but it’s also an important day for we parent-types.

Today is my daughter’s last day in elementary school. Come September she will be in junior high.

Man, I remember being both excited and terrified to start junior high… it doesn’t actually feel like it was -that- long ago, but apparently it was long enough that now it’s my daughter’s turn.

Oh see? I just got a good blog idea, but one that deserves a post of it’s own so it will have to wait until Thursday… unless I take Thursday off (it’s a holiday in Canada).

I’ve noticed a large number of my LJ friends aren’t using LJ these days. I think it’s time I spread(ed?) my wings a little bit and made some new friends. What livejournal users do you follow you’d recommend I check out?

In writing-related news I’m slowly extricating myself from my self-doubt and other emotional baggage and will be putting pen to paper on this draft of Shadows again very soon. It’s about time, frankly.

/rambling

Strawberry Creek Retreat

So, I just got back from a writing retreat at the Strawberry Creek Lodge. It was an interesting expirience, one I’m still processing. I’m not sure what the take home message is yet. I think it will either be ‘I need to ease up on myself a bit’ or else ‘I am not really a retreat person’. It might even be a combination of those two things.

This picture? I took it while I was there, as well as all the other pictures included in this post. The retreat was good for pictures, it was also good for birds. I love watching birds, listening to birds, photographing them, and I got to do all those things on the retreat as well. The pictures didn’t turn out so well for the most part, but like I told a friend what I expirience trumps what I capture on film. So yes, the birds were good.

The writing? Less good.

Well, perhaps that’s not fair. It wasn’t what I’d wanted though.

The retreat ran from Wednesday afternoon through to Sunday afternoon. That gave me three full days and two half days of writing. There is no television, no internet, no distractions. I thought this would be the perfect chance to pen the new first draft of SHADOWS. My plan was 5k words on the two half days and 10k words on each of the three full days. That’s a lot of writing but, I told myself, I know the story so it’s not like I will get blocked or anything. I’m mostly transcribing from my brain more than writing in any sort of creative way…

Um. Yeah. It’s funny the lies I can convince myself are true.

So I arrived at the cabin, all ready to go. Sure I was going to get the first 40,000 words on this draft done and then be able to finish writing the story in no time when I got home. I’m hoping for about 90,000 words on this draft, so in essence I was hoping to get half of it done while I was writing. Oh yes! A few days of intense writing and I’d be good to go!

The problems with this, as I’m sure you see even though I didn’t until I was right in the middle of everything, are many. One of the biggest ones I ran into right off the bat was that apparently some switch got flipped in my brain, and I suspect it came directly from the ‘I’m transcribing more than writing’ thought process. You see, pretty much everything I wrote while I was on retreat is remarkably dry and lacking any sort of personality or emotion. The current draft of Shadows (the one written pre-retreat) has loads and loads of personality, it needs to be re-drafted to fix plot problems and because if I just revised it to fix them I feel like the whole thing would begin to feel over-revised. Now, the draft I’m in the midst of has a stronger plot but lacks personality.

This is going to be a freaking nightmare to revise. I’m going to have to sort of try to merge the two drafts first and then revise. Wheee! Fun fun. In order to save my own sanity I am sorely tempted to start pulling descriptive passages from the pre-retreat draft and write them out in my new first draft. It will no longer be a ‘fresh’ draft if I do that, but it will have some flavor and since it seems that’s something I’ll end up doing in the first round of revision/merging, might be a timesaver. We’ll see, I guess.

Sadly, that problem wasn’t the biggest one I encountered on retreat. The biggest problem was my own brain.

As I write a novel I go through lots of stages, and I know I’m not alone. In fact, Jim Hines summed it up pretty much perfectly here. Usually while difficult it’s not impossible to work through those things, largely because they are spread out over time. However, I learned last weekend that if you compress the time you are taking to write the novel you also compress all the emotions that go with it. They don’t get weakened either, quite the contrary. By Friday night I was pretty sure I was wasting my time and money by going on retreat to write and by Saturday I was paralyzed. Certain I was a hack who didn’t have an original idea in her head and couldn’t write her way out of…well, take that cliche where ever you want. The point is, I was not writing. I was laying in my room staring at the ceiling, or calling home on the cell phone with the dying battery (no charger, whee!) just to hear Jo and Danica’s voice.

I relaxed my writing goals on Friday morning because I am writing this draft long hand and I didn’t want to cripple my hand. Plus, I was beginning to see the emotional price I was going to be paying for my ‘intensive writing’. Maybe I shouldn’t have, then I might have been able to push through the slump and start climbing back in love with the book, but maybe I also would have made myself feel even worse.

The end result is that I’m at about 20,000 words and I haven’t written a single word of fiction on that draft or anything else since I got home on Sunday. I’ve not even looked at it…though I have considered pros and cons of beginning the merge sooner rather than later. That has to count for something and I’ll take my victories where I can find them.

Despite how bad I made it sound, it wasn’t all bad, certainly. I met some new people, got some pretty nice photographs, ate a lot of fantastic food and had some wonderful non-writing expiriences. I listened to some great audio-stories (The Classic Tales Podcast) because though I made a point of not bringing any books with me in the midst of my writing paralysis I remembered I had some unlistened to ones on my ipod. I got 20,000 words done on my new first draft, and even if I think they are going to need a ridiculous amount of revision, those are 20,000 words I didn’t have before. So it wasn’t all bad and perhaps with this improved insight into myself future retreats would be better, but right now I’m left wondering if I’m really a retreat kind of person. I guess only time will tell…

1k Words for the Day: Foliage

As you read this I am either at, or on my way to, Strawberry Creek Retreat. I’m going to see what kind of progress I can make on a new first draft of Shadows. Happily WordPress will let me plan ahead and schedule things to post in my absence. Things like this picture. I took it on June 5th at the Muttart Conservatory here in Edmonton.

Sekkrit Projekt

So that’s it. That is the secret I’ve been very nearly bouncing in my seat about for the past little while. Lost and Found. First take a moment to admire that freaking awesome cover. Isn’t that fantastic? I commissioned that image from a very talented and super nice artist, Darek Zabrocki and I just love it. <3

So, yes. In case you’ve not guessed already, my plan is to share my novella, Lost and Found, chapter by chapter right here on my blog. Starting in September I will be posting a chapter every other week, then if there’s enough interest once we’ve posted the whole storyΒ  I’ll make a .pdf for people to download and read all at once. Know what else is super, super cool?

Bill Ratner.

Okay, so he’s a who, not a what, but Bill Ratner in all his super coolness offered to narrate the story so in addition to the text version, I can also offer an audio version — all completely free. How amazing is that? Um. Very.

This is a huge group effort. I’m providing the story, Darek the art, Jo added the text to the cover and Bill is lending us his voice and audio editing skills. I think it’s going to be fantastic.

I’ll post a blurb and all that good stuff later, for now I’m just going to be excited πŸ™‚

*bounce bounce*

Early Newsletter?

I’m not going to have a long, interesting blog today because in preparation for my writing retreat next week I’m actually working on my newsletter today. Early. What’s up with that? LoL

As promised I will be revealing the news about one of my super sekkrit projekts in this one. If you don’t subscribe don’t worry, I’ll tell you too…you just need to wait a couple days LOL

Because I wanted to offer something other than ‘Shh I’m trying to think here’* I’ve included a picture from this weekend. Danica was dressed a -little- bit country with a plaid button-up shirt and a huge cowboy hat, so I filtered it in post to emphasize her freckles and really make her look country. πŸ™‚

*If you caught the Jaina Proudmore reference you rock. Just sayin’.