That unexpected happening…

IMG_0140Something unexpected happened yesterday, and I’m kind of hoping that the same thing will do so again today. Of course, then it wouldn’t be unexpected. But enough of splitting hairs.

I have been struggling—for longer than I care to even think about—with the novel, Birchwood’s Secret, which I began years ago. It is to be my third book published, and a continuation of the lives of the two main characters, Rick and Karen Brenson, who performed so bravely in Black Wolf Lodge. That one came out in 2010, after many starts and stops along the way.

This current adventure in which Rick and Karen find themselves involved was actually begun long before Black Wolf Lodge. For whatever reasons, I simply wasn’t enthused about working on Birchwood’s Secret and pretty much abandoned it altogether. The rough outlines and ideas remained tucked away in the depths of a manilla folder, in the depths of purgatory in my writing file box. It was then that I plunged into writing Black Wolf, a couple of short stories, “Hobo Willie” and “Pinewood Farm,” and a very fun book titled The Good Luck Highway.

What was I going to work on next? About that time, November rolled around and NaNoWriMo reared its beckoning head and drew me in. And then it hit me that I had a wonderful opportunity to finally do something with all of the notes, scribblings, outlines, etc., still serving out their sentence in the confines of that manilla folder. Thus, the beginnings of my current work in progress began to come together.

At the end of the month, I had accumulated well over the 50,000 word target, but the work itself was scattered, unorganized, and full of problems too numerous to even mention here. Suffice it to say, I was once again ready to re-commit this whole thing to the darkness of the writing file box and some out-of-the-way abyss in a Scrivener Projects folder on my Mac.

But that didn’t happen. I actually went back to the beginning of the novel and began to rework it and attempt to develop it toward some kind of logical and satisfying conclusion. As before, though, that process didn’t go as I’d liked, and the frustration and inability to write much of anything grew and grew.

From the very beginning, I’ve always known what the main premise of the story is all about and who the main characters and the roles they’ll play are. It took me a very long time, however, to know how the thing would end. And that’s when yesterday’s “unexpected happening” happened!

Yesterday, as I try to do on most mornings, I sat down at my Mac and opened my Birchwood’s Secret Scrivener project and re-read what I’d written just a few days before. And for whatever reason, I suddenly knew that a couple of characters needed changed as to their roles in the story, and that another major character (main villain) would have to be worked in.

English: A stereotypical caricature of a villa...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Realizing this, it became clear in my mind how I could finally build things to the conclusion and outcome that has been eluding me for a long, long time. And I was able to crank out well over two-and-a-half hours worth of writing, the words seeming to flow as they hadn’t in such an extended stretch of time. And, to be honest, it was a wonderful feeling!

Now, as I wrap up this post, I will pour another cup of hot coffee, jump back to dear, old Birchwood’s Secret, and hope that yesterday’s magic shows itself once more.

Thoughts on a near-perfect “writing day” …

Courtesy of MORGUEFILE
Courtesy of MORGUEFILE

The morning had dawned gray and cold, and—here and there—light traces of snow that had fallen in the night were visible. Far out to the east, across so many empty and barren fields, the sunrise had valiantly tried to make itself known, but the thick, dark cloud bank hanging so ominously low would have nothing of it.

A few snowflakes had blown about and had brushed lightly against my writing room window and then were gone. The backyard, that I had mowed for the final time last week, lay quiet and resigned to the fact that those wonderful warm days of summer and fall were but a memory now, and winter’s chill, with its snow blanket soon to arrive, was creeping in unopposed.

Alone in my house out in the country, I listen to the quiet all around…and the quiet is good.  From my computer, the relaxing and pleasant classical music station soothes the roughness of the world outside, transporting me into a good writing mood, and thoughts about the next chapter of Sandbar’s Secret begin to take shape. Periodically, the furnace “kicks in,” offering reassurance that our house is warm, and the newly arrived cold, a preamble to winter, can do nothing about it.

I finish writing the letters that have needed writing for many days, and they’re ready for a trip to the post office later. I send a couple of quick e-mails and clean out an overcrowded Inbox. I spend some time trying to figure out where I want to go with this week’s blog post—which “road” shall I travel today?—and settle on sharing my thoughts and impressions about this wonderfully inspiring day, glad that I don’t have to be outside other than to visit the post office, dump the recycling over at the Waste Management site, and maybe go to the store to see if the sale on Budweiser is still on!

It has been a busy week with appointments of one kind or another: Lab work for routine six-month doctor visit on Monday; a trip to the Apple Store on Tuesday morning for a battery replacement in the iPhone; pick up the grandsons from school on Wednesday and take them to basketball practice; finally, the trip in to the doctor’s office early this morning to go over the lab results and the routine check-up (which all turned out very well).

In short, I love this sort of day, especially when the past weeks have been endless strings of sun-drenched, blindingly bright days. On days such as this, the writing seems to be better, and the energy and drive to accomplish much is stronger than ever! And now that the rush of this week has subsided, I can stay inside now, on this cold and gray day, and focus on moving my writing along on this near-perfect “writing day.”….CortlandWriter

Courtesy of MORGUEFILE.
Courtesy of MORGUEFILE.

Update from the hinterlands…

jollyYetHello, friends and fellow writers! Just a quick post this morning from my self-imposed exile here in the southwest Michigan hinterlands. It’s a very unique morning, in that the sun is shining, the lake down below is calm and inviting, and the overhead skies are not one massive gray ceiling, promising rain.

Most days and nights during this past week (since my last post) have been chock full of rain, punctuated with thunder and lightning. Thankfully, there has been little wind to contend with.storm However, yesterday’s early morning “monsoon” not only created little ponds and lakes out on the back lane behind the cottages, it also caused some damage to one of our neighboring cottages just down the way a bit.

Situated under these old and tired oaks and maples and ashes, the cottages–and everything else–is in constant peril when storms decide to do their thing. And it’s those  stately ancient trees that get the brunt of the storm’s fury. It’s truly amazing how fortunate these 101-year-old cottages are to have withstood the ravages of nature.

I have been busily at work on my next book–Sandbar’s Secret–and I have taken advantage of the stormy weather to make wonderful progress, particularly since it’s the perfect kind of “indoor” weather for doing so.

I hope that your week is moving along well and there are no storms with which to contend….CortlandWriter

My writer’s window…

My writer's window - winter out there!
My writer’s window – winter out there!

I read an interesting post yesterday by Scrivener expert and blogger, Gwen Hernandez, in which she wrote about her new office and comfortable surroundings. Included was a photo of her new writing office, and I can well imagine the enjoyment she’ll have working there.

Her post got me to thinking, again, about how important it is to have a regular place designated as my office, study, work room, workshop, etc. But whatever name I give it, though, the only thing that matters is that this is a place where I write…regularly!

And, like Gwen, I’m fortunate to have my own room. It is complete with three large floor-to-ceiling book cases, two cabinet/shelf units for storage and printer and stereo, and a perfect-sized writing desk.

I have a view of trees and the street through two windows, and a room all to myself.

And, just as Gwen writes about her new office’s view of trees and the street, I also have onemy writer’s window. The view it provides is very important. I believe that if I wasn’t able to look up from my writing every now and then, out onto the back yard and the farm fields beyond to the east, and our small town’s water tower standing sentinel out a few hundred yards away, the Union Pacific Railroad freight line tracks below, I wouldn’t be as productive.

There are so many stories out there through my writer’s window in every season of the year. Right now, at -2° and the wind chill -26°, Jack London seems to come to mind. Quite timely, I think, with the  special miniseries, Klondike, that I watched on Discovery Channel this week.

In spring I watch the planting of the fields, which at the moment are empty and waiting; summer is heat and watching the corn grow so tall much of the water tower is lost from sight; autumn is harvest time, amidst the golden tinges and a feeling of closing up for another year. And then, it’s winter all over again, and the search continues for new stories through my writer’s window….CortlandWriter

Looking westward from our garage across to our neighbors in this winter of 2014
Looking westward from our garage across to our neighbors in this winter of 2014
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‘Tis the season for “ideal” writing conditions…

English: A cold day in December!
English: A cold day in December! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s cold, and it’s good to be inside! Sage words, I know, but winter has definitely crept in and it’s the perfect time to get that revising/editing completed on the novel before too many more days fly off the calendar.

NaNoWriMo has come and gone, and I’ve read a lot of summaries and testimonials by fellow writers this past week regarding the levels of success attained during that most hectic November. And, for the most part, no one seems to feel as though they failed, even though they may not have reached the 50,000 word target. Most felt that the process of building a draft, albeit short of the “winning” word count, was what really mattered.

I stopped at just over 52,000 words, yet the novel is not complete. As those other writers did, I found the experience of getting a novel that far along to be worth every minute and hour I invested during November. Like them, I now have a solid first draft that needs a conclusion. But that’s for later this winter and spring. Again, that is the true beauty that is NaNoWriMo.

Right now, though, it’s time to get serious once again and put this year’s NaNo creation away–let it sleep and mellow–and knock the cobwebs off The Bet, my next novel to be published. This novel is the one I knocked out in NaNoWriMo 2012 and worked on finishing up over the summer and early fall. Now, I’m in the revising/editing/polishing phase and eager to be finished with it and have it ready for publication before the end of the year. And, as I’ve written about previously, I really have no other excuses now since November with all of its “interruptions” has fled the scene.

December, with the advent of cold and inclement weather, is certainly one of my favorite times to get work done. My ideal time to write/revise/edit/polish is when it’s mean outside and quiet and comfy inside, with calm and pleasant beautiful music in my ear buds. Even though the sun is shining brightly on this Saturday morning, the temperature is not going to climb out of the ‘teens, so it’s one of those “ideal” times to be inspired to work on the novel that patiently awaits in my Scrivener projects folder.

Scrivener (software)
Scrivener (software) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the many positives that came from the month-long grind of NaNoWriMo is that there was no time to think about The Bet. It was forced into that “sleeping and mellowing” stage, away from my eyes, where I might have been tempted to jump back in to tinker with the plot, characters, or setting and distract me from work on this year’s NaNoWriMo novel.

But now that NaNoWriMo is finished, I have re-awakened the story after a month’s hiatus, and much of what I was growing weary with has taken on a fresh, new look, and I have already seen ways to make the whole novel better. Thus, I’m finding the rewriting/revising to actually be kind of fun for a change!

Now, all we need are some gray skies, some swirling snow, and a wonderful sense of shelter inside where it’s warm and comfy. That would be truly ideal writing weather! Without a doubt, I don’t think I’ll have to wait too long for that weather to arrive if current forecasts are correct. Can’t wait!

Anyone else feel the same way? Happy revising, all…CortlandWriter