Works in Progress

View from mountain with large boulders in foreground and misty ridges leading to horizon
A mediocre view, before the storm.

I’ve been MIA on the blogging front. Ironically because I’ve been busy promoting Endurance but also distracted by life as well as crunching out a draft of Book 2, which follows Endurance and is now safely out for critique.

With that off my desk, I launched into Book 3, which is incredibly exciting. I love that creative equivalent of a new car smell (though today’s new cars don’t smell nearly as good as I remember from my childhood). By now, I know my cast of characters quite well, and I love discovering someone knew to add to the motley crew. And I love figuring out what they want, what they’ll do to get it, and how hard that will be along the way.

When I get the notes back on Book 2, I’m sure I’ll want to cry for a few days. I hope I won’t have to drastically rethink the story, because that would be heartbreaking. I know I’ll feel overwhelmed, but I’ll get over it and eventually buckle in for that revision ride.

I’ll have to set Book 3 aside at that point, which will be sad. I don’t think I have a happier place than when deep in a story, working out details, finding the opening scene, discovering the “inciting incident,” hearing characters pick up the story and talk to each other.

My next happiest place is revision. Some writers hate that part. I hate the First Draft, the blank page waiting to be filled, me hoping I’ll fill it immediately with award-winning prose. I’ve gotten used to the fact that won’t happen. It’ll be terrible, horrible, no good, very bad.

The horrible stuff is easy to make mediocre, and that’s where I stall. I’ll read a book and weep for the beautiful sentences, wishing I could do that. Mediocre is a false summit. You think you are there, that it’s good enough, but then you see the true summit, that glorious 360-degree view with blue sky and puffy clouds casting shadows on an endless expanse of forest dotted with lakes shimmering in the light, maybe peak fall colors of brilliant oranges, reds, and yellows contrasting against pines or firs.

That last climb, usually through trees or over boulders is the worst. Am I there yet? Am I there yet? Each read through a draft points out more weaknesses, weird writing ticks, odd errors, dreaded plot holes. You’re exhausted, sick of the whole venture, doubting yourself. Should I turn back, just give up? But I soldier on until I’m happy with the end product. Because as far as I’m concerned that will live forever, etched on paper and pixels if not in stone.

I once stood halfway up a mountain, hiking with a friend, and saw her hair stand on end. A storm was brewing, the air filled with electricity. We were above tree line, and the first rule then is go back. But we didn’t. The weather held and we made it to the summit. It was on the way down that the clouds unloaded. The thing about being close to clouds when it rains is that the drops are really big. The trail soon became a river. I took my glasses off because I could see better without them. We were lucky, and it was part of our calculation that it was warm and we were unlikely to get hypothermia. We got below tree line before the worst of it. I don’t remember lightning, but that would have been an order of magnitude scarier. We arrived at the trailhead, boots caked with mud and dripping wet but unscathed. Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. A hiker will make one bad decision and a cascade of disasters doom them.

A theme of my current series, I’m discovering, is not only leadership but also decisions. Every day we face choices, decisions. Sometimes those decisions lead to safety, other times to disaster. Should I help you? What if I don’t? What if I do? And not being able to see around the corner, past that false summit, means my protagonist, Lyn, can’t know where each path will take her.

And that’s the fun of fiction. No real humans will be harmed in the making of this novel.

Check out Endurance here.


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