OK, OK, it’s September!



It’s really only August 29th. But, today was the official first day of school, and apparently I’m stuck in the past when school began after Labour Day, so to me it’s September and all that comes with it.

September is time to get organized, time to clean away the piles of mess collected during the summer, time to start paying attention to the clock again. Time for early mornings, and packing lunches. Time for homework, and practices, and rehearsals, and monster schedules that eat away almost every waking moment.

For me, it’s also a time of separation from my children who have followed me around like a litter of puppies, nipping at my heels, all summer long. Truthfully, this is the hardest part for me, letting my kids go again every year (and for the first time of my 2 year-old, who began preschool today).

September is the beginning of fall here in Montreal. It’s the season of closure and preparation and possibility. It’s a season of colour and crispness and fresh air. It’s my favourite season (not only because I was born in autumn).

September is the time I get to do everything that was put on pause during the heat. I can panic at the hours required to return my house to its state of calm, but I try not to. Instead, I ignore the catastrophe that is every inch of the house. I sit and write this post, reminding myself of all the wonders of this day, and I return to my WIP that has been waiting patiently for me these last three weeks as I tended to one of nature’s most fundamental elements, death. How appropriate that the timing of it all is linked to a transition in seasons. And soon it will be apple picking time; the air is already full of the delicious scents of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon.

I wish you a wonderful September, with all the catching up and returns that come with it!



A loss of sorts

I’ve always collected books. Growing up, one of my favourite authors became Gay Gavriel Kay. I returned to his novels at many different points in my life, re-reading, and re-reading. And, I am not a re-reader – once I read something it’s very rare I return to it. However, I’m also a hoarder of books. I can’t part with one, even if it means it’ll sit on my shelf for ten years without being re-read.

When I was a little girl I wouldn’t lend out a book because I couldn’t tolerate it if the book came back with a crease in the spine, or a rumbled page. I used to read somehow without breaking in the spine. I’ve relaxed as I got older, but I do very distinctly remember hunting someone down for months when I was in my late teens to get back a series of books I had lent him. I finally showed up at his door with a few friends and demanded it back from his parents. I was a book bully!

This summer we found out we had a severe mold infestation in our basement. We had to tear apart the whole basement, and throw out a lot of stuff. We had to throw out all of my books. It wasn’t hard to do it. My husband was shocked at how easy I let go. We’d been having health problems for four years, and to find out that was the cause, I just wanted it all gone.

BUT, it’s been about two and half months now, and this morning I felt a pang at all those books gone. I wanted to re-read one of Gay Gavriel Kay’s books, and I realized I didn’t have it anymore. This got me thinking about all the books I lost. Some that took me ages to find, gifts, others that represented certain moments in my life, and others that were just fantastic books that added to me, and were a wonderful experience. All my textbooks were gone, my fantastic reference books.

It’s the second time I lose my collection of books. When I was a kid and my parents moved, somehow all the boxes with my books were misplaced. Yes, the very ones I was so anal about keeping brand spanking new, gone. All my Little Women, and yes, Little Men, my Anne of Green Gables – gone!! I think to this day my Anne books are the ones I miss the most. My Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and my Sweet Valley Highs, and VC Andrews, and even my Dr. Seuss and Judy Blooms! The list can gone on and on! I was an avid reader and won the summer reading book list at the library every year by leaps and bounds. All those books – gone!

So, now I begin collecting books again. I start this collection with The Canadian Writers Market (cause I had loaned it out and it was saved), Twilight (for the same reason). I have a few mommy babby books, and my kids have some books in their rooms but all our holiday collections and special books that I kept on shelves were thrown out as well, so I begin with some children’s Halloween story books that I bought to get us going again. And the one book that was salvaged (that my husband cleaned because he couldn’t part with), is my graduate thesis: Regulation of Translation from the Internal Ribosomal Entry Site of the Hepatitis C Virus. How’s that for stale reading?

Back to the beginning

I have spent the last month re-writing my opening. Openings are the most difficult part of the novel or short story for me to write.

When an inspirations hits me, and an idea begins to form and clarify in my head, it’s as though I’m watching something under water. Before clarity, the words come, and as I write the tale begins to rise to the surface.

The result is that the stories I have written always begin with pretty prose – not a question, idea, situation, or setting, but normally just a person, some feelings, and some words. For a reader, this makes for some pretty boring beginnings.

So, I’ve had to create situations, let the reader get to know the MC through actions rather than introspect (at least in my current wip). At times this comes easy, at others I go through situation after situation, sometimes writing the opening over and over until I find the right one. This time I was pretty lucky, but I also got smarter 🙂 I didn’t let myself re-write the opening until I found it. And find it I did!

Now that I have my opening scenes (because the whole first 50 pages changed along with the very first ones), I’ve been reading it, and re-reading it, and slowly adding on, until I come to the point where I’ll merge into the rest of the draft.

I ask myself questions with each and every scene. Some of them are:

What’s the purpose of the scene?

What’s the motivation (driving force) here?

Does my mc attain her want too quickly?

What do I want to reveal? And is it done through action rather than telling?

Are my characters consistent?

How about you: how do you handle your beginnings?

Announcement: In the coming weeks I will be having three guests! Andre K. Baby, Cathryn Grant, and Teresa Frohock. Each will be talking about their book and the publication process!

Happy writing

now that i have it….

Five, sometimes six different critiques from the members of my group. It’s taken me not one week but two to go back through two submissions from the opening pages of my wip. The most important part of any novel in my opinion. And for me, always the most difficult. Normally the beginning that gets my story going is not the one I think it should be by the time first draft is done. This time however I was quite confident about my opening, until one member of my group suggested re-sequencing! ahhhhh! The problem was that I liked the suggestion, while liking the opening the way it is now!!!! I haven’t moved things around quite yet, I’ll see.

So, I’ve been going through each member’s critique, and I have created a notebook file (something I have never done before!) and have written down each piece of criticism that I agree with. Be it language, paragraphing, word choice, characterization, whatever, you all know the drill. The ones that i am not certain but warrant further contemplation also go into that notebook. Now I have pages of notes, but it’s all in one spot, and what’s been most interesting combining it all in one file is seeing the overlaps. The sentences that jarred 3 or 4 members, the imageries that didn’t work. Once in a while one person will point something out no one else did, see things completely unique to him, and I think wow – what an interpretation!

In the past I implemented the changes after reading the critique from one person, and then moving on to the next. This way works much better for me. It allows for a much stronger interpretation of the feedback. And it gives me time to really make that feedback mine.

I was wondering how you process your feedback that you receive, from any source(s).

The other thing on my mind is this: how often do you re-write your opening? And do you wait until novel is at end stages to re-work it because  you know it can change so much from early to late stages?

Happy writing!