Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Is it just me?

The porch and small deck are a “recent” add-on.
You wouldn’t know it because I wrote my blog post before leaving, but last week I was out of town, hidden away in a small 180-year-old log home fondly named Craganmor many years ago in Eastern Ontario, and writing my darn fool head off. Or, at least, I was supposed to be doing that.

I have until September first to finish Roses for a Diva, the sequel to The Fallen One, at least to the point where I can submit it to Dundurn Press, who publish my full-length novels. Considering how slowly the writing had been going for the previous three weeks, something had to be done. We have very dear friends who have owned this small piece of heaven for a long time and we’ve grown to love it as much as they do. It’s down a wandering, relatively untravelled, dirt road, set on one hundred acres, and it’s not very big (maybe 30x30 with two floors and a new all-weather basement). There is also a wood shed (I’ve never seen anything nasty there, however*) and a lovely barn. Previously it was a small dairy farm. Of mod cons, there are none. Coincidentally, it is also the setting for the opening scene of The Fallen One as well as several others later on in the story.

With a mere seven days of no Internet, no TV (not that we own one) and dodgy cell phone service, I knew I had to make the most of every minute I had. Monday morning, bright and early (six a.m.), I sat down at the laptop and transcribed several pages I’d written in one of my journals on the previous day’s drive.

I thought I’d had trouble writing in the car because of the bumpy road. In reading over my words, though, I realized the trouble was my crappy prose. What I’d written had little focus, didn’t speak with the correct voice and just did nothing to advance my storyline. I ended up pushing the delete button.

Making a cup of coffee, I went out to the small, screened-in back porch and looked across the small lake our friends dug into one of the meadows. Everything in sight was utterly bucolic. I waited for my characters to resurface and begin speaking to me. One cup turned into two, then my wife got out of bed, and there was a third. By that time, I was too jittery to write, so we went out to breakfast at Wheeler’s Pancake House.

Returning to work in late morning, I stared at the computer screen futilely, I went for a walk, I re-read some of my earlier chapters. Nothing. I decided to practice trumpet (you know, the old “change task” idea), but I just couldn’t get things started. I gave up for the day, fed up with myself.

Next morning, it was the same thing. I decided to write something for a completely different part of the book since I had a clearer idea of what I needed to say and how I needed to say it. It’s an action scene and I always find those easier to do. A few hours later, I finally had something useable. But that done, I was up against a wall again.

I’m not talking about writer’s block here. I had it all worked out, I just could not for the life of me find the right words, get inside my character’s heads.

Part of the view from the screened back porch.
It was then that I noticed (out on the back porch again) that my brain was still in “city mode”: going a mile-a-minute. I was hardly noticing the birds in the nearby trees and bushes, the sound of the wind in the not-yet-mown fields, or the silence that lurked behind it all. When my wife was on the porch, all we’d do is talk.

I made a decision not to talk at all while enjoying a glass of wine before dinner. I extended it through dinner, then into the evening while I had another glass of wine and sat by myself. By the time the sun went down (would it never set?), I had achieved a measure of inner silence.

The writing result was that my brain, all on its own, seemingly, started working on the story. Conversations between characters began. Venice (the location of this part of the story) was being painted in mental pictures. In short, I was once again inside my story.

The rest of the week resulted in about seventy-five useable pages of ms. I could breathe a small size of relief two days ago as we were packing the car.

Buy if I had my druthers, I’d still be up there, happily beavering away until the darn story is finished.

*This comment will not be remotely funny unless you’ve read or seen Cold Comfort Farm.


Hannah Dennison said...

I just love these photographs. Wonderful!

Rick Blechta said...

It is quite a wonderful place -- with a long and colourful history. We're very fortunate that our friends allow us to use it. I must admit, though, that one winter we had to snowshoe in with about 6 feet of snow on the ground. Every trip out to the car was an adventure, and those two wood stoves were going day and night since it was about -20 for most of our stay.

Charlotte Hinger said...

My favorite kind of place will always be a front porch in a summer with leisure time.