Jeanne: When the Going Gets Tough

Shell at KiawahMy elementary school gym teacher was fond of saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I have a variation on that maxim: “When the writing gets tough, writers go on retreat.”

So here I am, very near the end of what has been a really long and painful road to The Demon Wore Stilettos, Book 3 of my Touched by a Demon series. What better way to cap this thing off than to hang out on Kiawah Island, off the coast of South Carolina, with three other writers? So that’s where I spent last week.

(Sadly, they weren’t Eight Ladies, but other writing friends I’ve made along the way.)

I was seriously, truly hoping to type “The End” before we left on Sunday, but that didn’t happen. What did happen was:

  1. I added 7000 words to my manuscript, bringing the total over 50K, which means it’s now a novel and not just a novella.

    Gull on Kiawah

    Enter a caption

  2. I managed to write my way through a couple of scenes I’ve been struggling with for months.
  3. I added back some scenes from the original manuscript (before I decided to split it into two different stories). Happy to report that putting those scenes back, in slightly altered form, gave the story a much more rounded feel. (Before it felt like I was just doggedly trekking from one plot point to another.)
  4. I figured out what to do with my protagonist’s developmentally disabled nephew while she and her lawyer boyfriend make the jaunt to Hell. (Tip: Never isolate your heroine so completely that you don’t have a babysitter when you need one.)

And when it was time to take a break, I got to go out and walk on the beach and through a nature conservancy park and see lots of plants (not much blooming at this time of year, unfortunately) and animals. Including this heron:

Heron on Kiawah

And, in the lagoon below him, this guy!

What do you do to refill your creative well?

11 thoughts on “Jeanne: When the Going Gets Tough

  1. What a great way to work on your story and fill the creative well. Sounds like you had a very productive time. Love the pictures, but glad that gator is only in video – not something I’d care to encounter close up.

  2. Only perspective I’d like on an alligator!

    I’m currently living on my sailboat. I intend to use parts of the day at anchor to write. I’d appreciate all the ladies insight on managing the writing process-do all of you write directly to a laptop? Write to paper and transfer? I’ve been hand-writing/editing on paper but as it develops, I’m realizing I’ll have a lot of typing to catch up. As always thanks for the time and insight.

    • Living on a sailboat sounds like a wonderful way to keep filling the creative well.

      I write directly to a laptop, but I do my initial brainstorming with pen and paper. Before I tackle a new story or scene I’ll work out ideas, list names, sketch out settings, and block out dialogue in my fave Moleskine notebooks. I often flip back through previous books to look at diagrams or steal unused names. I’m now most of the way through my tenth Caldermor notebook. The first one is dated 2016. Not sure how that happened 🙂

      I don’t think there is a right process–only the one that works for you. We have a friend whose late father was a famous novelist. The father wrote in copper-plate longhand with a fountain pen and never made edits or corrections. I asked how that was possible, and our friend said his father never wrote a word down until he was sure it was in its proper place.

      • Thank you for the reply! I’m still working out what my process will be! It’s currently long hand, double spaced into an expandable notebook; double spaced because I definitely still edit. I tried the Hemingway method of “write drunk, edit sober” and I had a LOT more edits after drinking! ; )
        I have my laptop with me so hopefully my typing will get faster!

    • I write directly to a laptop (or, more often, my desktop computer in my writing cave) but that probably has to do with my background. I worked as a computer programmer for many years, so it’s burned into my synapses to go directly from brain to computer.

      I have found it useful, sometimes when I’m stuck, to revert to paper and pencil. Also, possibly because of my subject matter, I sometimes get hits of inspiration at church, so I always take a little notebook with me to jot things down. (If my preacher sees this, I’d like to go on record that I also make notes on interesting point in the sermon.)

    • That sounds like a romance! “Romance of the Sea!”

      I think writing tools just differ from person to person. As a kid, I had a lot of personal satisfaction in writing long-hand, then re-writing/editing on a manual typewriter. All through high school, that’s how I wrote — long-hand to long-hand, or long-hand to typewritten. It was a different era.

      Computers were first coming into the newsroom when I started college, so our professors encouraged us to compose directly on the keyboard, and I have to say I like that best from an ergonomic standpoint. My fingers move much faster than a pencil, and almost keep pace with my thoughts. Plus, gripping a pencil for 45 minutes at a time just isn’t going to happen at my age.

      I still jot down notes, write poetry and sometimes sketch out scenes that just can’t wait until I fire up the ol’ laptop longhand. My handwriting has improved over the years, but when I write at the speed of thought, a lot becomes illegible, and I have to re-think things. I often think I’d like to write longhand again.

      After a first draft (or a few first drafts), I’ll print out the thing on paper, and take a pencil (red, greasy one that slides across the paper for preference) to it. I can edit on the keyboard, but it’s different when it’s on paper. I critique using track changes on Word when doing beta reads for other people, and sometimes for myself.

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