Hiking = Writing

Yesterday, Sunday, TMOTH and I took my daughter, son, and Labrador Retriever for a hike at a nearby lake.

A photo from a trail I frequent… yes, this *is* Kansas!

Upon reflection, I learned a lot on that hike… about writing.

The trail we chose started out flat, across grass in a wide-open field. As we approached the woods, it got muddy, then rocky, and had a steep slope down to the lake. Once on the shore, we trudged over driftwood, rocks, and, again, mud until we decided to turn around and head back the way we came.

The flat, open part of the hike reminded me of how I usually start out on a writing project: good initial progress, seeing a portion of where I’m going, but not clearly the whole trail (even when I’ve outlined.) I usually hit some point where I’ve got a good feel for where I’m headed, but the writing gets rocky, and I slow down, carefully finding my next step.

Then, I get to the middle. Fits and starts, I’ll progress in quick bursts, then find something I have to climb over, go under, or around. (In the actual hike yesterday, this was difficult since my son was in a carrier, pulling me off balance!) My daughter taught me a few things in this portion, as she forced us to take breaks (allowing for reflection, possible changes, or redirection in my writing analogy) and look at bobbers, shells, rocks, or throwing sticks and stones into the water.

Sometimes, in these sections of my writing, I get hurt, as I did on the hike (it wasn’t bad–a scrape on my shin when my foot slipped as I was climbing over a large, fallen tree.) I have to backtrack, rethink what I’m doing. Often, these instances happen when I’m editing. On my most recent edit of Homebody, I had several major changes, some of which I’m still tweaking. When I started writing this story, now going on five years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined some of these types of twists in my story.

On the way back up the hill, I’m starting to pick up steam. While I’m watching my footing carefully, I know I’m headed for the climax: I’m about to write “The End” soon. I may have to take a breather now and again–after all, it is a steep climb!–I’m moving steadily upward, and know how far I’ve got to go.

Then, I crest that hill.

I can see the end!

For me, this is often the fastest part of the hike–and the writing. Renewed energy hits. Frequently, I can write a 30 or 40 page section in first draft mode in a single evening, especially the closer to the climax I get.

Then I reach the car–or write my last lines. Relief! My characters are out of danger, my feet can rest (and I can get another cool bottle of water from the cooler and turn on the A/C!)

Do you have a favorite analogy on how you write? How has that taught you about your writing?

Also, I want to extend my hearty congratulations to Linda Yezak, who guest posted for me last summer, on the publication of her debut novel, Give the Lady a Ride. I can’t wait to get it (hopefully on my Kindle!) and read it!

Until next time,

The Creative Process

About once a month or so, my husband, after listening to me jabber on about one of my current projects, asks me, “So, what’s going on with the other book? The one you started submitting to agents?”

I usually reply along the lines of, “Not much. I need to do some rewrites. But, I’m trying to get the draft done on this other one first.”

This is usually grumbled about by my lovely husband, asking why I can’t finish one project before working on the other one. Mentions of making money at my craft are also stated. And while that would be nice, I realize that he is not a writer, so I try not to take his grumblings too seriously–he doesn’t understand the creative process, even after being around me for seven-plus years, during which I’ve written at least 3 whole novels and started at least 5 others.

His latest tirade (maybe too strong a word, but at the time, it usually seems that way!) led me to write this post.

Non-writers very, very rarely understand the processes we writers go through. They very rarely realize that the first draft is just that–the first in a process. Unless we’ve been writing for years and have been published numerous times, we can’t just whip up a draft and shoot it off to our agent-du-jour. It must go in the drawer (or for me, into the depths of my trusty flash drive) for a while before taking it up again to view the draft with fresh eyes and begin to perfect and tweak it.

And, even when we think we’ve got it done, we need to have another person review our work–whether that’s in the form of a critique partner/group, an editor, or agent. From that point, there may be further rewrites, even such things as chopping characters, adding scenes, deleting sub-plots, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

If only our friends and family understood half of what we go through. All they usually see is the finished product (sometimes not even that), and they can read that in a few hours. They don’t get the fact that we spend months, sometimes even years laboring over that work that takes them an afternoon or a day to read.

As I write this, I’m wrapping up the first draft of my science fiction project. While it’s been fun, and my normal process is to jump right into the initial rewrite, I’m actually looking forward to picking up my present-day mystery/romance and working on what I believe is the fifth draft. I lost count after number three, and it’s been a long time since I’ve spent any time on it–probably before the birth of my daughter last fall. With some luck by this time next year one or both of these projects will be well enough put together that I’ll be confident in sending them off to an agent or three again.

Then my husband will be happy. At least until I start the process over again.

Until next time,