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Archive for November, 2010

 

We’re settling in to our new temporary home in Sedona. It took a few days to get both of our computers talking to the router, but after some lengthy conflict mediation with Dell and Qwest both laptops seem to have forged a successful, if at times spotty, alliance.

And, just for the record, we don’t always write right across from each other.

The couch is always an option.

And if things get noisy, I use these:

For a couple of years now, we've been referring to these as "the addition" in our house.

They do a great job of muffling all kinds of sounds from eating a crunchy apple to talking on the phone.

I’m most productive when I’m in a quiet setting, or if I can at least block out the distractions around me. When I was teaching I’d go to school really early to do my lesson planning, and as soon as other people started arriving I’d shut my office door to block out all the noise.

When I was in high school I used to do my homework at the kitchen table. My mom says that she had to be extra quiet while she was preparing dinner. We laugh about it now, but back then I think it was kind of stressful for her. And if I wanted it quiet, why did I choose to sit in the busiest place in the whole freaking house?

Do you like or need it quiet to write? What is your ideal writing space?

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We took a little detour on the way to Sedona.

Last week, we hung out with my brother and his wife in the Caribbean on a little island called St. Bart’s. Through his work my brother has access to a house St. Bart’s for one week a year. They’ve invited us in the past but we’ve never been able to go because we were both teaching, and school was in session. So, we seized the moment.

Needless to say, we had a great time. Warm air. Warm ocean. Wonderful people.

Writing wise, I didn’t work on the two YA novels I’ve been rewriting. Nor did I start a third one that I have plans for.

Instead, in my journal I scribbled a rough draft of a picture book about a boy on the beach, which stretched my writer-mind. Having only 500 words to tell a story really makes you pick them carefully.

The time off from the YA novels was good for me. Physically, it helped to heal up my wrist. And mentally, sometimes distance from my work is the missing ingredient in being able to see the way forward.

This week I’ll be revising a YA novel that is just past the first draft stage.

I’m also working out some internet connection issues.  New place. New network. My computer and the wireless router here just aren’t communicating the way they should be. Luckily, my wife’s computer and the router have hit it off. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to post this.

What are you working on this week?

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The house is in order, ready for our friend to take over for a while.

"We should try cleaning it like this when we're actually going to be here. What a concept."

We’ll be leaving early Friday morning. Yikes! That’s Tomorrow!

"Hm....I wonder if I've got everything I need?"

After a couple of stops to visit friends and family, and to dip our toes into some warm ocean water, (it’s kind of a crazy amount of flying), we’ll be resurfacing in the red rock country of Northern Arizona around November 21st and will be there for a few months.

If you missed the explanation about why we are leaving Alaska for a little while, you can read about it here.

I’ll have WiFi here and there along the way so you might see me on Twitter or on your blog, but I probably won’t post here until we arrive in Arizona on the 21st.

Thanks for stopping by. Have a great week!

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Image provided by the National Park Service.

My wife and I spent six years living in a one room cabin with a sleeping loft. Total area: 600 square feet. And yes, cabin means no running water.

One Sunday in October I wasn’t feeling well. It was about 5 pm. I decided to just go to bed. I climbed the stairway to the loft, was about to lay down when I spied an animal on the road.

“Dana,” I called, my eyes glued to the window. “Come here. Now.”

She must’ve known from my tone of voice that something was up. Because believe me I don’t usually issue commands like that. I heard Dana’s footsteps on the stairs, lifted my arm and waved her over.

Together we watched this lynx walk down our dirt road and turn into our driveway. It proceeded down the driveway all the way to the cabin and turned again, like it was going to walk across our deck.

We ran down the stairs and positioned ourselves at the small window looking out onto one side of the L-shaped deck, and sure enough, this big cat was strolling down the deck like he owned it.

It stopped right at the window and turned its head our way. It was so close—just three feet away—that I could see the little tufts of fur on its ears. It didn’t seem to be looking directly at us, more like over or beyond us.

This is not my photo, but it gives you an idea of what we saw.

It kept going and turned the corner on the deck. We ran to the next window and watched the lynx move to the edge of the deck. It faced away from us and assumed a pouncing position, its muscles contracting, like it was going to spring.

I looked beyond the lynx and there, in the fireweed, was a snow shoe hare, nibbling. The lynx pounced. The hare bolted, and they both disappeared into the forest. 

Nature operates on relationships.

I don’t know the outcome of the chase, but would’ve missed the whole thing if I hadn’t decided to go to bed at 5 o’clock.

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Camaraderie

(photo by Phil Marion.)

I just handed off a manuscript to a few readers to see what they think—thanks Terry, Natalie and Ali—and have just picked up another WIP after letting the first draft sit for a month. So, I’m pretty much in rewrite-mode for the next few weeks.

"Now, what was the purpose of that scene?"

Some year, if I get the timing right, I’d like to participate in NaNo. I’ve written first drafts in a NaNo-like fashion but never with the camaraderie which I sense is part of the experience.

Are you participating in NaNo? If so, how did your first week go? Did you get a lot of support from your buddies? If, like me, you’re not participating in NaNo, what are you working on? And, are you getting the support you need?

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"Hmmm... I need to make a decision soon. I mean, I won't live forever."

One of the things I’ve been doing in my current rewrite is looking at backstory.

Here’s my little off-the-cuff definition of backstory:  events that take place before the story that are potentially part of the story because they influence a character’s motivation and actions.

In my revision I’m both eliminating and adding backstory. I’m also moving it around.

Here are a few of the questions I’m asking myself (in no particular order) as I consider cutting or adding or moving backstory details:

Does the backstory detail in question move the story forward in some way?

Does the reader learn something that makes what is happening in the story more meaningful and/or intense?

Does the reader learn something that helps them indentify with a character?

Am I inserting the backstory details at the right times, i.e. just as the reader needs to know them?

Does the amount of backstory I’m including fit with the style and rhythm of the story? And, does the way I’m including it fit?

I don’t want to gut my story to the point where it is just a series of events happening in the present without context, but I don’t want to bog it down with unnecessary details either.

I took a workshop with YA author Jeanette Ingold a few years ago and she recommended using an eye-dropper (as opposed to a shovel) to insert backstory, and that image has stuck with me.

(And, just to bend your mind a little more in regards to backstory, Jeanette left a thought provoking comment below. Thanks, Jeanette!!) 

How do you make decisions on where and how to include backstory details?

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