Categories
Camino de Santiago On Writing The Camino Club

Writing With a Goal But Not A Plan – The Camino Club

I don’t know if this happens with all writers or not, but I’m not all writers. I firmly believe we each have to find our own way. There is no one path. There are, in fact, as many paths as there are people who write. The trick is to NOT fall into the belief that you must choose a path in order to write. Writing is meandering.

When I set out to write my upcoming release THE CAMINO CLUB, I did so with a goal. I also set out without a single solitary plan to help me achieve that final goal. I find that if I plan things, they basically don’t come to fruition. I get trapped in the details of the plan and my feet remain firmly in place, trapped in the quagmire of my own little labyrinth of ideas.

I need a leap of faith.

To say I didn’t plan the novel is not to say I didn’t put obstacles in my path to help me achieve the final goal. Of course I did. I threw myself into the original kernel of an idea, hoping (knowing) that it would eventually bear fruit.

I boarded a plane and I went to Spain.

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I made things a bit of a fairy tale. I romanticized the idea and kept my eye on the prize. I sang little snippets of Elton John in my head while I watched reruns of Will & Grace on the little in-flight screen on the seat-back in front of me while we cruised over the Atlantic Ocean.

Daniel is traveling tonight on a plane
I can see the red tail lights heading for Spain
Oh and I can see Daniel waving goodbye
God it looks like Daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes
They say Spain is pretty, though I’ve never been
Well Daniel says it’s the best place that he’s ever seen
Oh and he should know, he’s been there enough
Lord I miss Daniel, oh I miss him so much
It was a long flight. And, hey…I was heading for Spain. I visualized the tail lights getting smaller and smaller in the distance and eventually fading away. But, hey! I was Daniel. I was heading to Spain with one goal. Walk across the country and see what happens, see if inspiration hit.
Although The Breakfast Club is now in a clump of 80s teen movies that are atrociously problematic, it’s also a movie from my teen years. We watched all the Brat Pack movies. We saw ourselves in some of the characters. We felt their angst.
I wanted to honor the good idea of The Breakfast Club, but supplant it into NOW. I wanted the bad kids to get together for more than a Saturday in a school library. I wanted them trapped with each other for a longer period of time, in a setting that was new and scary and, yes, even undesirable to most of them. I wanted them to be forced into depending on one another, actually getting to know one another. I envisioned The Breakfast Club where they don’t become shitty to each other the following Monday when they see each other in the school halls again and ignore each other or continue to bully each other and look down on each other.
I wanted to shake up the boundaries. The lesson of The Breakfast Club, at its heart, was a good one. Here’s Exhibit A:
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The lesson is that we are not just one identifier. We can all be all the things. Not only do people sometimes only see us as one element of our own selves…our lowest common denominator, but sometimes that’s even how we see ourselves. But when we break the barriers and work together, we can find that we have more in common than we thought we did. It’s a struggle to pinpoint what qualifier you identify with when you only get to choose one. We are all a myriad of things, and we are always changing.
I wanted to put six teens into an inescapable situation where it was even a little bit possible that they would grow from the experience, walk away with meaningful memories and friendships.
But I didn’t know how to write the story. I only knew what I wanted it to look like when it was finished.
When I started my own Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, the path to the end of the novel sort of opened up to me while my feet moved steadily in the direction of Santiago de Compostela and the church at the end of the long walk across Spain.
Different people came into my life each day. They each had different lessons for me, different insights. I paid attention. Although I had planned on writing things down along the way–maybe even starting the novel–I didn’t. Something else began to happen. I became more and more immersed in a special culture that happens out there on the path to Santiago. I opened up. I blossomed. And all those around me began to open up also. Just as the fields of poppies exploded into an undulating sea of red, our hearts began to open and magic began to happen.
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I met people on the Camino who made their way into my narrative. And I met people who magically had insights for the direction of my novel without having known my intentions to write it. Like the two sisters from the UK who had planned to take their two daughters on the Camino for a summer vacation. But they were walking with three teens, not just two. Obviously, I was a bit puzzled.
The women finally opened up to me about how they didn’t tell the one woman’s son he was going on the pilgrimage until he was at the airport. He had, in fact, envisioned a summer in his dark basement playing video games all day long…thrilled to be free of his mother and sister for a few weeks.
The two women laughed when they told this story, but in a conspiratorial guilty way. They explained how fit-to-be-tied the boy was when he discovered their evil plan. I couldn’t believe anyone would actually do something like that. The boy–who was practically skipping in the dirt up ahead of us as we walked and talked–had vowed to make the trip a living hell of misery for all four of the other pilgrims. And for a day he did just that. He made them regret life itself.
THIS is how I envisioned my juvenile delinquents. They would HATE the idea and they would kick and scream all the way to Spain. The women were telling me a story that was helping to fuel my vision. And what really played into my novel’s idea was what the women told me next…about what happened after that first miserable day of living on the road with a hostile teen-aged boy’s anger.
By day two the biggest fan of the Camino de Santiago in that whole group of five was the boy. He had forgotten about video games and the horrible ruse his mother and aunt had played on him. He had immersed himself fully into walking. He had begun to change and blossom. My idea was at least beginning to resemble actual real-life experience.
Then I met a man from France who turned out to be a surprise element in the story I would later tell. The man could hold court wherever he went. He was sort of like a pied piper on the Camino. When he spoke, other pilgrims gathered round, listened in, became a part of the conversation. At first, I didn’t immediately recognize that I needed someone like him in my story. HOW THE HELL could I justify having an old man in a young adult novel?! It would never work.
Then I thought about the Camino vibe. The whole THE CAMINO PROVIDES chant. You look for something, and the Camino delivers it to you. It happened all along the path. Everyone had a story about how they would think on something and somewhere along their day’s walking they would come up with an answer, a gift, a bit of wisdom. The Camino is a long chain that stretches across an entire country…and it’s a radio frequency. Once you’re on it, you’re tuned in. The camaraderie is strong, palpable. The Camino offered up this incredibly charismatic man named Claude to me. It was a gift. It was as though the Camino itself had whispered in my ear, “Here is one of your characters!”
My first reaction was, “YOU’RE CRAZY!” Until it made sense.
Just because Mr. Vernon was a steaming pile of shit who lost all respect, goodwill and kindness for the teenagers in his life, it didn’t mean all the adults in the world were like him. Some adults can be role models. And some can even learn from the teens in their lives. Claude was my Camino gift…one of many.
I came home from Spain with a full novel, unwritten. It would take me almost two years to even write the first word. But those two years were spent watching the movie of the novel form in my mind’s eye. It played out in a few different ways before I finally committed myself to set it in stone on paper. I hope I did a good job. I went in with the best of intentions and a whole lot of the Camino Spirit that I had come home with at the end of my own pilgrimage.
You can find out what happened to the 6 teens in my story on October 6th!
Diego
Shania
Troy
Manny
Claire
Greg
They all committed crimes. They all were given the choice of incarceration or the Get Out Of Jail Free card of participating in THE WALK program. They all either chose to walk the Camino, or were forced into this option by their parents. For the most part they went to Spain with bees in their bonnets, unhappy about losing a portion of their summer vacation to a stupid court appointment walk across a frigging county. I mean, yeah…Troy was happy about seeing a new country. But the rest were pretty much hostile.
THE CAMINO CLUB is told in three POVs, with alternating chapters. Diego, Shania, and Troy tell the story. But it’s all of their stories. Whether or not they ALL make it to the church in Santiago de Compostela remains to be seen. But they’re all in for the adventure of their lives.
This book came to me in a dream, the loveliest dream I ever had. In it, I walked across an entire country and I met the most beautiful of souls. My hope is that the story I created with the Camino backdrop strikes a chord with readers.
It worked this time around. I had a goal in mind and ZERO plan for how I would make it happen. I took a leap…a really big one. Writers…we need to have a lot of faith, don’t we? Sometimes we even need to take REALLY LONG walks before the story comes to us. I took a walk…and I hope you’ll take one with me…
THE CAMINO CLUB IS ALREADY AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER. The cover reveal is coming very soon! I can’t wait for you all to see it.
Categories
On Writing Paris

Paris – ‘Research’ in the Wandering City of Light

Someone asked me recently if I did research, and if so…how much and in what way. Like a lying liar I said, “Nah…I just make shit up.”

It was only after I gave that off the cuff reply that I realized I do research every single time I go away. I research places…I find new settings. Travel is my research.

I first met Paris in the Springtime. Oh, what a beautiful time of the year to see such a gorgeous city come alive.

There’s something about beginning a slow wander from the courtyard of the Louvre, taking the Tuileries through to the base of Champs-Élysées, and wandering all the way up the boulevard to the Arc de Triomphe.

And climbing that spiral staircase and stepping outside at the top of the Arc. (YES…the last time I climbed this staircase, it was a mere couple weeks after my first Camino pilgrimage and I did see a seashell formation when I looked down the staircase from above! It all relates…)

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Oh, to see the streets breaking away in an almost wheel from the spoke of the Arc. The lush spring greenery! The buzz of the traffic and the crowds below marching up and down the Champs. It’s just…it’s a place in my heart, that wander.

And it’s such a small portion of the city, really. A couple kilometres at most. And so lovely that one can see the Eiffel Tower in the near distance, like a gift ready to be opened, like a sentinel watching over the city…and the trees crowding the thoroughfares, nesting it all in a quaint little aura of hushed tones.

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The Eiffel Tower, as seen from the top of the Arc de Triomphe (May 2014)

We’re returning to the city of lights and love. Paris in September, I am sure, will have such a different but equally magical vibe. I tend to think of it as a city of wandering. What city is better to walk in, explore, get lost in? It’s like it was made for lazy afternoon strolls and meanderings.

There is the slightly crippled cathedral, and the pretty walkabouts of the Seine. Shakespeare and Company in the shadow of Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris…just waiting to be explored…the smell of old books and older legends wafting through the air like a literary elixir summoning all those wanderers who love the written word.

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And I can’t forget Montmartre the village in the heart of the city. A day trip for sure! For the views of the city from Sacré-Cœur alone, it is worth the trip!

Also, I have such fond memories of writing with my fellow LEFT BANK WRITERS RETREAT participants in Luxembourg Gardens in the shadow of the Luxembourg Palace! I will have to revisit!

We’ll be heading to some of the sights I didn’t quite make it to on my first visit. Like Père Lachaise Cemetery and the Catacombes de Paris. And hopefully Monet’s Garden and even Palace of Versailles for a day trip. We shall see.

This will be a walking holiday…a wandering meandering outdoor adventure. THIS WILL ALSO VERY MUCH BE A RESEARCH TRIP. I plan on keeping a journal. I have set so many short stories in Paris, but never a novel. It is something I wish to do…though I don’t feel quite familiar enough with the landscape to tackle it as of yet. After this trip, I hope to attempt it. I already feel like Paris is MY city. I imagine most who visit Paris have that feeling of belonging that I experienced the moment I first set foot in Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île. I knew right away it had my heart.

Do I research? Nah. I just make shit up. But in the near future, I hope to have a novel where all the made up shit takes place in Paris.

See you in September my dear city…

Categories
Camino de Santiago On Writing Writers Writing Life Writing Program Writing Retreat

Author Life Month – Dream Retreat – Camino de Santiago

If you’re an author/writer and you’re over on Instagram, you may be familiar with #AuthorLifeMonth This is a one-month prompt based daily photo challenge for writers, created by @missdahlelama

Yesterday’s challenge (Day 17) was DREAM EVENT OR RETREAT. Though I didn’t focus on the one I’ve been imagining for the past 5 years, I was surprised to see that one of the other writers DID.

The idea that has been brewing in my head ever since the spring of 2014 is something I didn’t realize others would be considering. But then, I can also imagine every writer who ever walked the Camino de Santiago imagining taking part in a WALKING WRITING RETREAT on the Camino. It just makes sense. So, I was shocked, but not shocked to see it come up in the DREAM EVENT OR RETREAT day on Instagram.

It’s. The. Perfect. Marriage. I. Swear. To. God.

What I have been envisioning is a pilgrimage slash writing retreat that begins in PONFERRADA. Because writers would SUPER dig waking up on their first morning on the Camino with a view to Castillo de los Templarios (a literal castle of the Templars). I mean, come on!

This castle is the thing that dreams are made of. To start at the castle, with a group of 8 to 10 writers…it would be magical.

So, I would suggest a two week pilgrimage…but over an amount of land that would normally take a few days less. Because every day we would meander, walk a shorter distance than is normally walked by pilgrims. We would stop to write in open fields and on mountaintops, have picnic lunches in pastures, with food bought in little shops from small villages we stopped in along the way. We would eat our meals together, talk shop as much as possible…and enshroud the whole Camino experience into the writing prompts and exercises.

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With Connie. Camino de Santiago, Spain. 2014. A picnic along The Way…

I guess I’m not surprised by the fact that another writer has the same dream as me. I have always seen WALKING and WRITING as perfect compliments to each other. Walking embraces creativity in ways that standing still cannot. We think when we walk, we parse, we ponder, we roam in our own headspace. For writers, that’s such a luxury. I work out so many things in my writing projects while walking. To come up with an idea that incorporates both writing and walking is really a no-brainer. If a writer walks the Camino, they probably come up with this idea as a matter of course.

After coming home from my first Camino, I wrote a novel set on the ancient pilgrimage route. It’s now up for PREORDER on AMAZON. The Camino is fuel for creativity. There’s no denying it. I think other writers would experience the same phenomenon. It fuels your writing life!

WALK & WRITE ALONG THE WAY – A WRITING RETREAT ON THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO

-14 days in Spain on the Camino de Santiago

-From Ponferrada to Santiago de Compostela

-Days of walking and writing filled with prompts and exercises to enliven the imagination

-beautiful landscapes, incredible meals, the camaraderie of fellow creatives

-walk into Santiago de Compostela with notebooks filled with new words you wrote along the way

-Fiction, non-fiction, memoir—it works for any type of writing you’d like to explore

This idea literally sells itself.

Who’s with me?!

Categories
Gay YA On Writing Young Adult Fiction

Non-Binary in YA Fiction? Okay, But Only to a Point Please…

With all my Camino de Santiago talk, I’m afraid readers of this blog may begin to suspect that I’m a little bit obsessed. That’s okay. I actually am. And even more obsessed now that my novel, THE CAMINO CLUB, which is set on the Camino de Santiago, has a release date and is currently up for pre-order on Amazon. Obsessed and excited.

But if you think I can’t talk about–or write about–anything else, you’d be mistaken. 🙂

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PLEASE FORGIVE THIS DIGRESSION—>The bookmark above was given to the participants of the 2019 Muskoka Novel Marathon. The back was left blank. My friend and fellow MNM participant, Colum, took my bookmark down into town and got it engraved with my WIP novel’s title, NO VISIBLE DAMAGE. I LOVE that Colum did this for me! The working title was THE ÉPOQUE OF ETHAN…named after the title of one of the character’s blog. But I had an aha moment while at the marathon. One of the characters did, actually. They dropped their laptop and looked at it and said something like, “No visible damage. Hey, that would be a great name for a band.” I was relating that story to Colum. His immediate reaction, based on what he knew about my novel, was, “THAT WOULD BE AN AWESOME TITLE FOR THE BOOK.” And so the title switch was born. He sealed the deal with the lovely gesture above.

/digression

Today, I’m at the point with my next novel where I begin to question EVERYTHING about it. I’ve shared portions of it with various beta readers, friends, fellow writers, etc. I’m at the point where it seems I need to pick my battles and find a hill to either die on or abandon. I’m at a crossroads. I’m confused. I’m uncertain. And I feel like I’m fighting for my non-binary character. And others like them.

The push-back on this novel has been strong. Don’t get me wrong…everyone was fully supportive. To a one, every reader thought it was a great idea to have a non-binary character. They all agreed that representation mattered…that having a non-binary character in a YA would be good. They envisioned potential young readers finding themselves in the story. It was celebrated with each reader.

For the most part, however, there was an issue with the non-binary narrator’s refusal to use gendered pronouns. It was mostly a consensus. It was too confusing with the using of plural for singular, etc. The people the non-binary character were referring to while using non-gendered pronouns identified as gendered…so why should the narrator refer to them with non-gendered pronouns and muck up the flow of the narrative with the confusion when they themselves were perfectly fine with the use of gendered pronouns? Etc, etc, etc.

I appreciate feedback. I love it! I make SO MANY CHANGES in my manuscripts based on the feedback I receive from my many helpful and generous first readers. But the more I think about it, I feel the more I should fight for this narrator. I just have a gut feeling that this should be a hill I die on. Who knows…it may not matter. The manuscript may never get finished. The pitches may never get requests. It may die before it sees the light of day.

The narrator for half the book (alternating chapters) is Cooper Mason. They have decided not to accept gendered pronouns. This is a character trait. They are going to keep this trait. If it kills any hopes for this book’s publication, I suppose SO BE IT. I have to think about Cooper and others like them. The reader will have to either throw the manuscript/book across the room OR get used to reading a narrative where he/she him/her are NOT used. I’ve decided. I will die on this hill, despite all encouragement and suggestions to the contrary. Cooper’s voice depends on this. They made this decision. Slight adaptations are the little nuggets that open the door to acceptance…to change…to normativity. We shall see what happens.

Now that I have made this decision, I’m hoping I can move forward in completing this novel. I feel like this sticking point is a little bit about what was causing my reluctance to dive in and finish the last 30 or so pages.

If you’ll excuse me, I have a hill to die on. I’m sure Cooper Mason is already up on that hill, showing their fierceness in that magical Cooper-ish way they have of demanding things be precisely the way they wish them to be.

Categories
On Writing Writing Life

It’s Been 13 Years & I Love You Just the Same…

Today marks the 13th anniversary of this website. I’ve been babbling about writing and travelling and life for a long time on this platform! When I returned to writing in 2002, after a rather lengthy absence, I thought it would only be for a couple years. I was just working through some heavy stuff at the time and figured I’d get my words down and abandon the creative pastime when I was done with the cleanse. Turns out it was a return to a passion that haunted me my entire life…one I avoided for various reasons I don’t really feel like getting into. I’m grateful the return was permanent…as permanent as something can be in an ever changing universe. Writing brings me no end of pleasure. It always has…even while I avoided it. A writer is always writing…even when they’re not. From 2002 to 2007, I was seriously prolific. I was purging decades…attempting all the various forms of writing at once, from poetry to short fiction to song writing to memoir to novels to articles. You name it…that 5 year period had me trying everything.

I have had SO MUCH FUN! 6 novels published, a 7th sold. 5 Muskoka Novel Marathon BEST NOVEL AWARDS. Memoir recorded on CBC Radio. Memoir published in Globe & Mail. Poetry published all over the world. 12 plays produced…all over the world. Contests wins. Short stories published. Anthology inclusions. Anthologies contacting me for content. It’s been a whirlwind. But I’m JUST GETTING STARTED. (-:

I’m so grateful I decided to create this blog/website. It’s the thing that’s kept be going after I wasn’t so sure I should. So, HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO MY CREATIVITY!

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Categories
Muskoka Muskoka Author Association Muskoka Novel Marathon On Writing

Upcoming Event at Muskoka Authors Association…

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I will be speaking at the Muskoka Authors Association in Bracebridge on WEDNESDAY, November 13th. Looking forward to some on-the-spot writing exercises and communion with fellow creatives. For several years I have felt a bit like an adopted child of the Muskoka region on Northern Ontario. It’s the place where I do the lion’s share of my novel writing. I have been going up to Huntsville, Ontario, in the heart of Muskoka, every year for over ten years. Huntsville is host to the yearly fundraiser for literacy known as the Muskoka Novel Marathon…where 40 or so writers get locked into a room together for 72 hours so that they each may attempt to write a complete novel in one sitting. It’s a magical experience that has had me falling deeply in love with Muskoka and its creative community.
From the Muskoka Authors Association website:
Novelist and Playwright, Kevin Craig, Shares Tips on Jump Starting Your Writing!

About this Event

Try Everything! Quirks and Tips to Help You Jump-Start Your Writing…

On Wednesday, November 13, Muskoka Authors Association welcomes, Kevin Craig, author of six published novels (Summer on Fire, Sebastian’s Poet, The Reasons, Burn Baby Burn Baby, Half Dead & Fully Broken, and, Pride Must Be A Place). Kevin will give a short overview of their own writing journey, including how they bounced from one form of writing to another while attempting to stay focused on their long-term goal of writing young adult novels. Kevin will also share how they discovered there is more than one way to write a novel, and that you should explore the different ways with each consecutive novel you write. They will discuss how invigorating it can be to explore alternate writing forms along the way to your own writing goals, whether they are to write the Great Canadian Novel, a screenplay, a memoir, or a poem. As well, Kevin will discuss how important it is to allow yourself to escape your comfort zones while getting to those goals.

Whether you’re new to writing or a seasoned pro, you should never be afraid to try something new. New forms of writing can often trick our creativity and jump-start a stalled project back to life. They may even accidentally help you to discover new creative callings. What if the novel you’re writing is actually a play? Maybe the short story you’ve been struggling with is really a collection of poems.

Kevin will introduce some of their favourite exercises and prompts that helped in their own creative journey. Like Kevin, you may find that the journey is just as exhilarating and rewarding as the destination. Attendees should come prepared to write and share their work.

Kevin Craig is also a five-time winner of the Muskoka Novel Marathon’s Best Novel Award. Kevin’s seventh novel, THE CAMINO CLUB, is forthcoming from Duet Books, the YA imprint of Interlude Press (October 2020). In addition, they are a playwright with a resume of ten short plays and two one-act plays staged in various places from Toronto to Mumbai, Australia, and the United States. Kevin’s poetry and short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals throughout the world. For several years Kevin worked as a freelance writer, writing everything from articles on interior design and travel to interviews with musicians such as Bif Naked. Several of Kevin’s songs have been recorded by various artists. Kevin was a founding member on the board of directors for the Ontario Writers Conference and is currently a member of the Writers Community of Durham Region. Kevin lives in Toronto, Ontario.

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You can visit the EVENTS PAGE HERE FOR TICKET INFORMATION.

Here’s a link to the MUSKOKA AUTHORS ASSOCIATION WEBSITE.

Categories
On Writing Short Story Stratford Rotary Writing Contest

2019 Stratford Rotary Short Story Contest Shortlist Announced…

What a great way to get back into the writing mindset!

I made the list! Such a thrill to discover yourself on a shortlist! Rotary Club of Stratford’s annual short story contest winners will be announced at the Stratford Writers Festival on October 19th.

Up for grabs in the contest?

19 and under-Teen

  • First: $300
  • Second: $200
  • Third: $100
  • 3 Honourable Mentions

20 and over-Adult

  • First: $500
  • Second: $250
  • Third: $100
  • 3 Honourable Mentions

For me, just making the shortlist is a great reward and honour. I submitted a short story about a lesbian couple struggling with a recent cancer diagnosis and revisiting one of their favourite places on earth for a respite from their harsh new reality. PARIS AT SUNSET AND INTO THE NIGHT made the first cut, and in my book that’s pretty awesome in and of itself!

YOU CAN VIEW THE FULL SHORTLIST HERE

Good luck to my fellow shortlisted writers! And to all those who entered, KEEP DOING WHAT YOU’RE DOING!

Categories
Camino de Santiago Muskoka Novel Marathon On Writing

From One Passion to Another – Back to Writing…

Now that the Camino de Santiago is behind me yet again, I’ll attempt to stop talking about it on here for a while. I can’t make any promises, though (like, I could drop a pic from the Camino without warning at any given moment!).

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Galicia Morning, Unfiltered Light.

I’m moving on to my next passion for a bit. On July 12th I participated in a 3 day novel writing marathon in Huntsville, Ontario. During the 72 hours, I wrote almost 40,000 words. My goal for October is to finish the first draft of this novel. Let’s see if I can keep the momentum going. I’ve been at it for 2 days so far and I’m feeling pretty good about it.

The manuscripts written at the marathon are entered into a juried competition at the end of the weekend. My novel, NO VISIBLE DAMAGE, was awarded Runner Up in the YOUNG ADULT category of the competition. I’m thrilled with that outcome. First draft, written frenetically in 72 hours? I’ll take it!

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A bookmark gifted to writers at the Muskoka Novel Marathon!

So I’m locking myself into writer mode for a bit. This may mean that I come at you with some exuberant writing advice every now and again. When I’m in that zone, it’s all I think about. Adios por ahora, mi Camino! Writing is my October jam!

One last story from my Muskoka Novel Marathon weekend prior to diving back into my manuscript. The bookmarks pictured above were given to ALL marathon participators. The back of each bookmark was blank. My fellow marathoner, Colum (who is literally the sweetest most kindhearted person) took my bookmark down to a local store in town and had the back personalized after I told him about a line that POPPED out of my manuscript. I wrote the line about a laptop that was thrown across a room in the story. During our conversation about the line in question, I told Colum it sounded like a great name for a punk band. Colum said it sounded like a perfect novel title. That’s the exact second my THE EPOQUE OF ETHAN manuscript became NO VISIBLE DAMAGE. Thanks, Colum! Both for giving me the TITLE and for getting the personalization of the bookmark done!

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Happy WRITING!

Categories
Muskoka Novel Marathon On Writing

Home from the Marathon – My 11th MNM

I usually write about my Muskoka Novel Marathon (MNM) experience shortly after it’s over. But I wasn’t sure how to deal with this one. I’ve been home from it a week today. I felt like I got nothing done this year. But I also managed to write almost 40,000 words in 72 hours. Perception and reality vastly conflict with one another. It’s the same ole same ole.

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Another of the many distraction tactics I look forward to every year at the MNM…a long walk up a short hill to this place. LION’S LOOKOUT. Down below me, in the background, is the MNM venue.

Why is it this way? Because of the automaton feature that writers will often tap into. They can begin a project by being a writer writing and end up just being writing. Writer disappears at these marathons. Writer becomes writing. The act itself…with no one at the wheel.

This is why I always underestimate my creative output and my productivity. I disappear.

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These are the 10-Page marker ribbons that all writers add to the clothesline every time they get to another 10-page milestone. They add up over the course of the 72hr novel writing marathon!

I was driving yesterday and a thought about my Muskoka Novel Marathon novel came to me in a flash of brilliance. It was more like a eureka moment. ‘I really should have my one character meet with a therapist.’

I mean, something big and terrible happened to them. Most likely, a therapist would be foisted upon them practically against their will in real life after experiencing what they experienced. I should write a scene where they visit a therapist.

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This is the Active Living Centre in Huntsville, Ontario, at night. Shot from the dock at the water’s edge down below during Saturday evening’s distraction period of socializing. (-:

Then, when I finally sat down in front of my manuscript to continue my read-through, a funny thing happened. I came upon a fairly long scene (several pages in length) where my character visits a therapist. Who knows, there may even be more therapist meetings in the manuscript. I’m still reading through. This is one of the reasons I try not to edit while doing that first read-through after arriving home from the marathon. I often have no recollection of what my manuscript contains. And I never know what I’m gonna find. Literally, I have no idea. The therapist scene is a case in point. Blindsided.

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A shot from the dock beside the Muskoka Novel Marathon venue.

I also know that I’m a monumental distraction to other writers at the marathon. I do my best focusing when I’m not focusing at all. I have too much energy to do things in another way. I write my ass off while drinking coffee and eating garbage candy and shooting myself madly off in every direction. Somehow, I walk away from the marathon with most of a novel…and somehow I get that novel completed in the few weeks immediately following the marathon. It’s how I function as a writer.

Another year in the can, another diabetic coma narrowly avoided. My novel is coming along. I may even like what I came away with. I’ll like it more once this read-through is complete and I know exactly what it is I wrote.

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Categories
Novel Writing On Writing

Write What You Don’t Write & MNM Brain

I woke up this morning with Writer Instructor dialogue running through my thoughts. I notice this phenomenon ratcheting up as the yearly Muskoka Novel Marathon slowly approaches. This is the time when I truly begin to think about the writing process in general and the upcoming MNM novel in particular. I become this super coach who prepares a team of ONE for a marathon that does not involve any form of running, jogging or walking.

This morning I woke up thinking about all the stuff the writer has to do to learn about their characters, their plots, their settings, their universes. We have to write the stuff down that we don’t use in our story. I’m not talking about the stuff we’ll sneak in as the dreaded INFO DUMP. I’m not really talking about backstory, even, even though I am. I know that doesn’t make sense on the surface, but trust me…it makes sense.

Backstory, in general, is stuff you sprinkle into your story for the reader—stuff they discover about the characters’ pasts. Their motivations, their goals, etc, etc, etc. BUT—there’s another kind of backstory the WRITER should think about. Yes, there are motivational epiphanies we should share with our readers. That’s obvious. But there’s a whole life behind every character we create. Have you ever thought about writing out memories and experiences the characters have that have NOTHING TO DO WITH THE STORY YOU’RE WRITING? I mean, HAVE YOU? Because you should.

This is not a new concept, even for me. But it is one I keep going back to. I wrote an article for a writing newsletter once upon a time about diary entries. It’s now on my blog and for some reason it’s one of my most popular posts. People come to it by these bizarre Google searches about writing and diaries and characters and the like. I linked the blog post above…and I might be repeating myself today.

The backstory you give your characters stays inside you and you remember it as you’re navigating your way through your story. You become an expert on what your characters would or wouldn’t do, how they would or wouldn’t react based on this backstory. And again—I’m not talking about the backstory you feed your readers. I’m talking about the backstory ONLY YOU KNOW. So, the more you explore the people you create, the more you know them…the more you intuitively know their path through the story you create. This is why I spend a lot of time this time of year in developing my people for my  Muskoka Novel Marathon novel. We 40 writers get together for a long weekend in July and we all attempt to write a novel in 72 hours. I like to know who my characters are before I leap into that kind of an abyss.

Now, you can write their unseen-by-any-readers-ever backstory on paper or on your word processor, OR you can just chew away at it in your own little head. Either way works. The more stories you create about their past, the more it helps you to predict their future. And the future is the arc in which they travel through your novel. By setting up these pre-story lives as much as possible, you are doing a kind of homework that would otherwise be impossible. Even if you ‘practice’ with these characters for a hundred pages and then toss it away…those hundred pages are not wasted words. They are a foundation on which you can build the first sentence of your novel, and the second and the third.

For me, this works. Especially since I hit the ground running on a Friday evening and attempt to walk away on a Monday evening with a fully written first draft novel. I need every edge I can get.

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Random photo because I wanted to add something to look at. There’s a magical place along the Camino de Santiago where you get to walk through vineyards and it’s gorgeous. Here’s a peek.

Do yourself a favour and try this. Write situations, scenes, memories with your potential characters. Form a backstory for them that you will NEVER use in your finished work. Get to know them. They’ll pay you back in spades when you’re deep in the heart of your novel and trying to decide what your character will do next. If you know your character, you know how they’ll choose to move forward in your story…

Happy writing!

HERE’S MY AUTHOR PAGE ON THE MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON WEBSITE. YOU CAN CLICK ON THE SUPPORT THIS WRITER BUTTON TO BE TAKEN TO MY DONATION PAGE…BECAUSE THE MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON IS NOT ONLY A 72 HOUR NOVEL WRITING MARATHON, BUT IT’S ALSO A FUNDRAISER FOR LITERACY PROGRAMS. WE’RE WRITERS HELPING READERS.