Friday, February 27, 2015

Working Space

I read Stephen King’s On Writing years ago and took his advice on laying out a writing workspace to heart. I gave myself a small desk in front of a bare wall—to minimize distractions—and grew used to it.

However, the time came for a change. I gave up my tiny workstation and moved myself and my old laptop to a larger desk.

The goal was for me to have two computer screens at eye level and better posture while sitting.

With the help from my IT staff of one and Christmas gift cards, I ordered some handy gadgets to make this happen:

·        Portable folding table desk stand with adjustable angle legs

·        Wireless mini keyboard

·        Wireless mouse

My workspace now: bigger, I can spread out; better, I am sitting upright; and more modern, I think so. It certainly looks good, but every thing is still relatively clean. Will it improve my productivity along with my posture? That remains to be seen.

But seriously—I have to keep the blank wall. I am still prone to distraction.

Don’t think I can buy anything to fix that issue.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Seeing the Whole

Writing for me has been numerous rounds of building scenes, shaping characters, and forming plot lines. I work through bits and pieces and string them together. Then I let it all sit for awhile. Allow some time pass and come back to tackle it all again with a fresh eye. Maybe with a better understanding on how things fit together. Perhaps with a new insight or angle to explore.

During these breaks I’ll read something and a portion of it will stick out as perfect for me to use in my own work. It may be a word or two, something that isn’t in my working vocabulary. Sometimes it’s a clever idea of how a scene should go. Or perhaps a better way to strengthen a character or theme.

Something good always happens when I take the novel up again.

However, I’ve recently done two back-to-back readings and edits without any long breaks. It has given me a new feeling, a sense for the work as a whole. My novel has become familiar and friendly. Its own entity.

There is still much to do, all the fine finishing details, but I like the close, cozy feeling of experiencing the whole.

Friday, February 13, 2015


Endings are hard. I've read some that are disappointingly too brief, stopping short, a real let down. Some where confusing and needed more work. Some wrapped things up, but didn't leave a message.

My ending is still evolving. I want to get a message across. Two actually: preservation and forgiveness.

Back when I lived in Bishop Hill, I was walking past the columns of the 1854 Steeple building’s wood and stucco porch, past the hand made bricks of the 1851 Carpenter and Paint shop, and past the 1857 Blacksmith shop thinking about writing a book. I knew that preservation had to be a main theme.

There are so many ways to handle the preservation of buildings: precise, methodical, and by-the-book; caring, but limited by a budget; fast with modern materials; or doing nothing at all, letting it “go back to nature.” Saving wood and metal artifacts have a similar range of possibilities. Paper and fabric are the most fragile and need the most care. Paper documentation has the added dimensions of translation, interpretation, and censorship.

Forgiveness has been on my mind ever since I read about a Forgiveness Day in a Dear Abby column. I thought it was a wonderful idea and used it to help get some family members to talk to each other, get along, and move past the old hurts. It worked—for awhile. Whenever Forgiveness Day shows up again, I pay attention.

As I close in on a “good” ending for my novel, I've expanded my view of preservation to include personal relationships: between friends, between parents and children, within communities. 

I've likewise enlarged my scope of forgiveness to include actions from the distant past. They can set off chains of events that go far beyond any one person’s knowledge or control.

Preservation and forgiveness—important themes for me to explore.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Misspelling Misgivings

Fun facts: after numerous revisions and readings, both silently and aloud, mistakes are still being found. Some are small: like her instead of here. Some are huge.

Here are two beauties:

The first was pointed out by my husband and best reader—Copula instead of cupola. The first word refers to a connecting word, a particular form of the verb be. Add a couple of more letters and the meaning can enlarge into a whole of world of risqué. The second is an architectural feature. All kidding aside, it was a good mistake to find, since I was trying to describe a venerable old structure in an historic village with more than its share of prudes.

The odd thing, I swear I looked this up in the OED and online and I still got it wrong. I transposed the vowels while typing. Usually, I mess up the letters on the first word of a sentence. I used to catch myself shifting pronouns as well as letters. In general, it makes reading a little more difficult. I have to spend extra time going back over things to figure out what I’ve missed. What can I say; it is a unique talent to have and to live with.

The second was found by me after I submitted many, many query letters—Continuance instead of countenance. The first word as a legal term refers to postponement or adjournment. The second word, the one I really wanted, refers to a face or facial expression. Not as embarrassing, but still important for describing a portrait and major element of my novel.

Spell check was no help in these cases. Another pair of eyes attached to another brain might be useful, but that can’t always be depended upon either.

I listened to the Feb 6th edition of The Writer’s Almanac and when I later looked it up online I found this quote:

“Every worthwhile book contains many faults, and every worthwhile writer commits them.” –Eric Partridge

I think I’ll try to keep that in mind as I just keep slogging away.