Archive for October 23rd, 2006

10/22/06: Never blow retreat

This weekend Kate and I went to McMenamin’s Grand Lodge, a former Masonic retirement home, now hotel, in Forest Grove. It was far enough out of town to be an out-of-town trip, but close enough that we got the benefits without a lot of pesky travel.

The occasion for the trip was a knitting workshop. In a reversal of our usual pattern, Kate would be hanging out with her knitting friends, knitting and talking about knitting, while I sat in the corner and wrote — a little one-man writing retreat in the middle of the knitting workshop. I hoped to get a lot of prep work done on the novel.

I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped, but I did accomplish a lot. I used a technique Chris York had shown me several years ago at an OryCon to sketch out a rough outline of the novel in about two hours. This was mostly an exercise in answering questions (like “what is the character just about to do as the novel opens?” and “how do the character’s strengths and weaknesses help and hinder him/her as the story progresses?”) in timed bursts of writing — I chose a 5-minute burst period. I wrote about 3300 words in an intense hour or two. It was mostly a matter of writing out stuff I already knew about the character and the plot, albeit subconsciously, with a few bits of brainstorming. Sometimes it was hard to tell whether I was remembering something I’d worked out previously or making it up. I was typing as fast as I could.

Do I know everything that happens now? No. But I have a better feel for the overall shape of the novel — beginning, rising action, climax, and resolution. There’s a whole lot of middle that I know this exercise isn’t much help with — in the coming week I’ll work on fleshing that area out.

My goal for the rest of the month is to learn as much as possible about the characters and plot, with the intention of beginning the first draft on or before November 1. Then I’ll celebrate NaNoWriMo by writing every day, shooting for 10,000 words (that would be an average of 333 words per day) to get off to a good start. Wish me luck.

In addition to that, I put the finishing touches on the firewall story and sent it off to the editors of the anthology via email. I hope to hear back in a week or so. And I did some critiques and nonfiction writing that were way overdue.

Also this weekend, we heard some live music, visited the farm where our vegetables come from (it was not too far from Forest Grove, and besides it was Pumpkin Pickup time — we picked out a nice sincere one), went to the gym, ate some very nice meals (and some mediocre ones), and booked our tickets for Japan. 330 days in advance is when tickets for frequent flyer miles become available, and there were upgrade seats available on our preferred flights. So we’re going business class, baby!

So it was a fun and relaxing weekend, and I had a surprisingly good time hanging out with the knitters — a charming and intelligent bunch, and I’m not just saying that because a couple of them turned out to be SF fans (or had family back home who are) and two of them asked me for my autograph.