Saturday, October 11, 2008

Weekend Wind-Down - Walking

This weekend Donna Alward talks about one of her biggest pleasures in an otherwise busy life - walking.

One of the things I've always enjoyed is walking. I'm not a power walker, I'm a stroller. I know, maybe not as good for me as a brisk, heart-rate jumping go-round with the pavement, but as a de-stresser and a mood booster, it can't be beat. I tie up my runners and away I go.

This is also my favourite time of year for walking. I love fall. I love the blue of the sky, the crisp cool in the air, the smell of the leaves. I don't like walking in the city - at the very least I need to find a park. So one of the things I truly love about where we've moved to is that I can walk our neighbourhood. The leaves are changing but the grass is still so green. Now that we've added the mutt to our family, I walk twice a day most days. I listen to the birds and try to distinguish their calls. I smell the air and let everything soak in.

I'm an open air as a "treat" when my husband was off this week and the kids were in school, we packed up the dog and drove a mere 10 minutes away to a local provincial park. The roads within are paved, but right now it's completely gated. Walkers park their vehicles outside the gates and enjoy the park without worrying about cars and crowds. We saw one vehicle and no people on our walk. We did see lots of birds and squirrels. And the lake is gorgeous right now.

Last week, we had company and instead of heading to the forest and lakes, we went to the shore and watched surfers on the beach in Lawrencetown. The wind was cold and my hair was a tangle, my lips tasted like salt and it was wild and glorious.

The days are getting shorter, the nights cooler and frosty. Before too long it will be cold and snowy and walking will be a bit different, so for now I'm determined to enjoy it as much as I can. Now I'm off for a walk - what about you?

Donna's upcoming release is THE RANCHER'S RUNAWAY PRINCESS...available from amazon in hardback starting in November.

Now it's that time again - A Book With Biddy is back with a new, improved Brigid!

The bounce is back in Biddy’s step after last month’s small meltdown. Thank you for all your wonderful advice, it was noted and some even acted on.

And yes… I am still doing revisions; although they should really be called ‘the first draft of the end of the book’. All the changing of conflict and motivation has rendered the first ending (or rather the whole second part) pretty much useless. I am hoping to salvage a pretty hot love scene just before the black moment but as I must learn to kill my babies to make a better book it could still be for the chop!

And these revisions are teaching me a lot. A WHOLE LOT! More than I ever thought I would learn. New insights into structure, pace and conflict are happening every time I open the file and get down to it. Now that I have stopped trying to polish everything and am now digging deep to make this story the best it can be I realise how flimsy the original draft was. So thin if it were on paper it would be tracing paper and you could see right through it.

In terms of structure I have been reading Blake Snyder’s ‘Save The Cat’ and ‘Save The Cat Goes To The Movies’. I heard him speak at the RWA Nationals and was keen to read the book that went with it. Ok so it is about screenwriting rather than novel writing but what it deals with is the structure of telling a story. And man do I need to learn how to do that! It also discusses it in terms of movies which I find easier to deal with sometimes than books. I know that sounds odd but it just works that way at the moment. It seems to have pointed out to me that I have missed a few key ingredients out or have them in the wrong place.

With pace it was a little harder to figure out but as I hit the saggy middle (where I am still wallowing) I realised that if I, the writer, was wallowing here then how on earth would I get the reader past the bog! And why was it so boggy anyway? I have begun to realise that I haven’t been evil enough to my characters; I keep resolving things too easily or having them tell things instead of show things. Also hopping between heads and generally not being a very good writer! And as a result the pace has fallen from rompish to funereal… hmmmm I’m still struggling with this but I WILL succeed (even if it kills me)

Ahhh and the joy that is conflict!! Now it would have been easier to revise this… this… book if I had actually had any conflict or at least had a better articulated conflict at the start. But I didn’t. The challenge has been to

a) Articulate the conflict in my own head
b) Get that down on paper
c) Weave it through the whole book

It has been a headache of monumental proportions, even more tricky for me than the structure. If I was feeling richer I would have thrown my Mac out the window on numerous occasions! But I think I now have the conflict articulated and most of it is on paper it is just the weaving bit that is outstanding.

All in all this past month has been one of taking a step back, going back to basics and working on the fundamentals. I have seen the path in front of me stretch even further into the clouds; it is much longer than I thought this time last year when I had hit my first milestone of finishing a draft. But all the ups and downs have made me realise that every little step forwards and every huge stumble backwards is making me a better writer.


  1. Yes, I agree there should be a Save the Cat! fan club. It is a great book.

    Hooray that Donna is walking and Biddy is getting a handle on her book. All the bumps now make the road ahead smoother.

  2. Donna,

    Hmm, I love walking too, but I have to say I love cycling more, something about being able to get somewhere under your own steam but quicker... Clearly I'm not a stroller!

    When I was in Yosemite National Park last October I did the cycling trails there. Awesome. I've also been cycling along the Dutch canals, the French Loire Valley, Wiltshire's South Downs (we're talking real Thomas Hardy country), North Carolina's Outer Banks and even in the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee - not to mention negotiating London traffic round St Paul's Cathedral on my way to work. It's the best way to see any country (if you don't mind the odd saddle sore and explaining at top volume what indicators are for when necessary!). Sounds like I need to get my bike up to your neck of the woods though, it sounds gorgeous.

    And Biddy, yeah conflict is a real killer isn't it. I've had some major wrestling matches with it myself from time to time. I guess my advice (which I ought to take more often myself) is to always go back to character. Once you really know them, you'll know what's keeping them apart. And don't let them wimp out on you (something mine always try and sneak up on me during that ole sagging middle too). Good luck with bashing your head against that brick way - I'm there with you in spirit. Just think of me standing next to you bashing my head against my own personal brick wall.

    The good news, once you've sorted your conflict, everything else is easy peasy.

  3. Thank you all!! Sorry to be so late to the party but I have been on a one day course on screenwriting. Was a good reminder to concentrate on character ;-) oh and to watch films and pretend it is work!