Gone Dreaming

gone clamminIt’s officially the offseason here on Cape Cod. Houses are boarded up and the beach is turning into a wasteland of blowing sand.

It must be liberating to put up a sign like this while going off to pursue a dream. I’ve never gone clamming so my sign would have to say something like “Gone Dreaming.”

There’s never enough time for writing or dreaming. In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway describes trying to write in cafés while ignoring anyone who interrupts him. He makes himself unpresentable by wearing old clothes and growing his hair out so that he won’t be tempted to visit friends. I’ve been doing that for years now and it hasn’t helped.

Sometimes we have to be hermits. We have to go off and dream, even while other people are around, so that we can come up with different ways of looking at the world.

The only drawback is that you end up missing everyone. I’ve missed you all. I kept thinking I’d reappear earlier, but then life would get in the way and I’d have to disappear before reappearing. And I’m not even a magician.

I’m still dreaming. After revising for most of the year, I’m in the querying stage. So we’ll see. My hope is that, like all of us, this book will only get better with age.

Whenever I start thinking it might be done or close to it, I’m reminded of this quote by Paul Gardner:

“A painting is never finished – it simply stops in interesting places.”

It’s the same for novels. Maybe they’re only done when they’re published, but even then, are they really? Each reader brings something different to a book. So then, it’s continually recreated with each reading. That’s part of the magic. As the winds pick up around here, I’m looking forward to the magic of books.

book magic

How’s everything going with you? Have you read any great books lately?

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Melting Into Words

melting leaf

Frozen gray skies melt into blue. Signs of life appear: a singing stream, babbling birds, ducks visiting the birdfeeder.

visiting ducks

ducks in the woods

Ducks don’t usually visit a house in the woods. But somehow, these ducks sniffed out the birdseed from their lakeside home. Now the springtime sound of chirping combines with quacks, reminding me how funny life can be.

frozen pond

As the snow glaciers retreat, we smell the Earth again. It smells like life. We inhale it. Slices of green delight poke through the ground, waiting to bloom. Cranberry bogs that served as skating rinks over the winter are thawing out.

cranberry bog

I’ve been revising and tinkering with the novel through the winter, but it still seemed frozen into place while I knew it needed more. Lately though, whatever was frozen has been melting into words. Whether our words drip or flood in, it’s progress. Every word, every revision, brings us closer to a finished book. It takes time but that’s true for anything worth doing. If your words were frozen over the winter, I hope they’re melting.

stream

“Spring drew on…and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.” – Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

“As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.” – John Muir

Happy Spring! Have you ever had a pet duck? Does the weather affect your creativity?

Snow Days and Catching Up On Old Resolutions

snowy house

I’m hoping for more snow. It’s much more fun than rain and dreariness. I love to read while glancing up every once in a while to see the snow fall. I love the excitement of wondering how deep it will get and the silence that comes along with it. Snow is magic. It changes everything, if only for a little while.

Besides, if we get buried in snow maybe I’ll be forced into staying home and that means more time for writing and revising. I love all the possibilities of a snow day so much that it makes me wonder how anyone could ever curse the snow away.

My new year’s resolutions will pretty much be the same as last year. I’m used to recycling resolutions but with some of them I actually accomplished the opposite this time around. Instead of moving more (a scaled down version of exercising more), I moved much less than usual. The only resolution I did keep was to eat more chocolate. When combined with moving much less, the results could be called pretty scary.

And so in a final attempt to move more often while finishing everlasting novel revisions, I’m going to take a little extra time for those things this holiday season. I’ll be back to my regular Wednesday postings in mid-January with more Cape Cod photos and maybe even a few alpacas or goats. I’ll also be doing some new things here like author interviews. Until then, I’ll be on Twitter @SheilaHurst11.

Wishing everyone a new year filled with laughter, happiness, and snow days!

snow, photo by Sheila Hurst

Do you love or hate the snow? What are some of your new year’s resolutions? Is there anything else you’d like to see here next year?

Learning from Vacations and Evaluations

Thank you to everyone for hanging in there while I went off on my blogging vacation. I missed you all. I wish I could say I visited exotic lands, but in a way I did just because of the power of reading, writing, and imagination.

slow turtle crawl to publishing

Remember this guy? He’s my symbol for writing, revising, and publishing. But hey, at least he’s smiling?

Mostly, my blogging vacation gave me the chance to concentrate on my book. I’ve lost count of how many drafts it’s gone through but now it’s at least a few turtle steps closer. Three agents have evaluated the first few chapters. Their advice has been invaluable and I’ve kept their suggestions in mind while making revisions throughout the novel.

A few things I’ve learned along the way:

Everyone is going to have a different opinion. One agent loved certain paragraphs while another marked the same paragraphs up and changed them all around. This just shows there is no secret formula. There is no “best way” to write. There’s only writing and the love of writing.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. If someone suggests adding in a zombie, try throwing one in and see what happens. You can always change it back if it doesn’t work. (I haven’t gotten a zombie suggestion….yet. But some pretty crazy suggestions have come through and I’ve even used a few.)

Know the rules, but also know that if you follow all of the rules all of the time your writing just might end up sounding too stilted and devoid of life. It’s more important to develop your own writing style than to follow all the rules.

The more revisions a book goes through, the better it will be. At least that better be true. I thought my book was done years ago but that was only the beginning.

Even if your book never gets published, it’s still a success. At least that’s what I’m telling myself. It was a learning experience and I had a lot of fun along the way.

Don’t take yourself too seriously and don’t go insane. I have a sneaking suspicion that one has to do with the other.

Have fun. If you’re not having fun while writing and revising and revising, try reading for a while. Reading can only help and it’s a chance to get away from it all while visiting that exotic land.

How was your summer (or winter)? Do you agree or disagree with any of this? Any advice to add?

Writing, revising, and the magic in between

For most of this year, I’ve been revising a novel. With the encouragement of family and friends, I finished writing it around the end of January. I thought it might take a few months to revise. Instead, it took about a year.

It’s easy to get frustrated with revising. At first, it doesn’t seem as fun as writing. It can be a slow process and sometimes I’m not sure if all the revising makes the story better or worse. Sometimes I revise too much, to the point of excessive second guessing. I’ll change a sentence, then change it back, then change it again. That’s when the fun really begins.

So I was surprised to learn that revising can be just as fun as writing. I’ve gotten to know the story and the characters better this year. They did a few things they hadn’t done before, unexpected things that ended up strangely making sense.

One of the things I love about writing is when the words somehow fall into place and something comes through that wasn’t intended. It just works and it’s magic. That can happen with revising too. While deleting scenes or chunks and adding different ones in, I never know exactly what I’m doing. I only know as a reader when something doesn’t work. Then I tear it to pieces. Somehow the pieces fall back together. I still have no idea how that happens.

I’ve heard writers say they don’t feel like they’re the ones writing. When the writing is working, it does feel that way. So then when the writing or revising isn’t working, it’s probably just me interfering with the magic.

Because it’s magic, I can’t fully figure it out. I just have to try not to interfere with it too much.