Sunday, May 22, 2016

Noticing the Little Things

A first draft is all about the big picture. Who are these people? What happens to them? Why should I care? If done right, it paints a sweeping picture of the story.  

Draft two adds more layers to the story and makes it come alive. And to do that, we need details.

Last October, I decided to cheer myself up by dedicating a week to noticing the beauty around me by photographing one beautiful thing every day. An interesting finding from this project was that it isn't usually the huge, expansive views that make me smile. It's the little things.

A plant growing bravely out of a depression in a rock.                                                                                                                                                                           

The sudden flicker of a lizard running across the trail .

Evidence that people have been in this land, living and loving, long before most of the people I've read about in history books were born. And like me, they felt the need to leave their mark.  And eons before that, sea creatures who lived and died and left their fossilized remains.                                                                                                

I love this one orange flower defiantly blooming in the middle of a drift of white flowers. This is the sort of detail that makes a story come alive.

 We want our readers to be able to experience the story along with the characters. To blink at a sudden flash of sunlight streaming through a crack in the rock above.

To hear the rippling water in a cold mountain creek.

To feel the smooth texture of aspen bark.

To fill their lungs with the clean scent of desert wildflowers.

 But before readers experience these things, the writer has to experience them. Not necessarily exactly what the character is feeling. We can't travel to the moon and experience the desolation and silence, but we can be alone in the desert. If our character gets drenched in a thunderstorm, we need to remember what it feels like to be wet, and cold, and scared. We need to remember the smell of the rain, the rumble of thunder. And before we can remember, we have to notice. 
So every once in a while, writers need to close our laptops and take a walk, hang out with friends, and eat good food. And when we do these things, we need to notice the details - the sounds of the birds in the forest, the way a friend clicks her tongue when she's deciding whether to order cheesecake or pie, and the creamy texture of the cheesecake when she shares it. 

Consider it research.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Waiting for Blooms

Anticipation   -  Why don’t we celebrate Christmas all year long? One of my kids asked me that once in January when the bloom was off the new toys. I told him it wouldn’t be special if we did it every day. Anticipation is part of the reason Christmas is so much fun. I think the same is true of gardening.

In early February, I found this cranesbill in full bloom in London. In Alaska, mine won’t be blooming until June. The picture below was taken in July. The cranesbill are in the lower left.

I planted tulips under a deep mulch on the north side of the house once, and they actually bloomed on the Fourth of July.


I don’t know if I appreciate flowers more than a Londoner, but I suspect I get more excited about them. If I hadn’t waited all winter, I wouldn’t be so thrilled at the first sign of a rhubarb leaf unfurling, or run outside to take pictures of the pansies in pots on my deck. 

But after keeping us waiting in the dark all winter, the long cool days of summer mean the flowers practically explode into bloom in Anchorage, and the gardeners there go a little crazy.

Writers know all about waiting. I have a full submission, a requested revision, and a proposal in right now, and I’m waiting to hear back from the editor. Waiting is hard. But I’m telling myself it’s like the flowers, that I’ll appreciate it even more because of the anticipation. In the meantime, I’m sowing my seeds and fertilizing my garden, getting ready to blossum.

Are you blooming yet? 

Update 5/20/2016: I heard back on the proposal. They like it and want to see a full. So it was worth the wait. Now to get that manuscript into full bloom.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mother's Day

Yesterday was Mother's Day. With my broken leg I'm basically home-bound, so it wasn't terribly exciting, but I had a good day. I had a long talk with my own mother, who will turn 90 this year. My kids spoiled me with flowers, chocolate, and books -- my three favorite luxuries. My husband took good care of me and made me tea. 

Bottom line - it's good to be loved. I'm thankful.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Sowing Again

You may remember my experiment in early March with setting out lettuce and Brussels sprout seedlings early to see what happened. It failed.

As often happens, the hazard was unforeseen. I planted them in a fenced garden lined with welded wire to keep the deer and rabbits out. I mulched to give some protection from frost and weed competition.  But I forgot to look up.

After spending the winter foraging on dried seeds and plants, the birds were hungry for fresh salad. Those tender green shoots lasted no time at all. The good news is that as soon as I set out the seedlings, I started another set indoors and they’re ready to be set out, this time under netting. The bad news is my broken leg isn’t going anywhere near that garden, but judging by the tomato plants he brought home yesterday, my hubby is catching spring fever, so he’ll be doing all the planting this time. And my leg should be better by time for harvest.

Hope everything is greening up and growing for you this spring.