Writing Retreat 2020

Minnedosa writ­ing goals

  • Fin­ish the last scene in “The Slow Apoc­a­lypse”, first draft
  • 1,5002,000 words a day in either Trans­la­tions or “Dried Flow­ers”
  • Pho­tos of the Milky Way (pos­si­bly a video) and Comet NEOWISE
  • Pho­tos of the coun­try­side
  • Dai­ly bike ride
  • Some kayak­ing

The cab­in does­n’t have wifi any­more, so I’m going to have to post stuff from the cof­fee shop. No promis­es of any kind of reg­u­lar sched­ule.

Series: Writing Retreat 2020

The entire series: Writ­ing Retreat 2020; Writ­ing Retreat 2020, Day 1 & 2; Writ­ing Retreat 2020, Day 3; Writ­ing Retreat, Day 4; Writ­ing Retreat 2020, day 5; Writ­ing Retreat 2020, Day 6; Writ­ing Retreat 2020, Day 7; Writ­ing Retreat 2020, Day 8; Writ­ing Retreat 2020, Day 9; Writ­ing Retreat 2020: The Num­bers.

These things happen

fountain pen on notepad

And then I got home, and made some notes, and it turns out that the “bril­liant sto­ry sug­ges­tions” intro­duce some more con­flict, at the cost of mov­ing a few scenes around.

No spoil­ers for the short sto­ry, but it a) makes my antag­o­nist a more inter­est­ing char­ac­ter, b) makes my pro­tag­o­nist have to make a very dif­fi­cult deci­sion, and c) allows me to illu­mi­nate how the pro­tag­o­nist plays games with the truth.

And now, to actu­al­ly fin­ish this draft.

Two sentence Tuesday

fountain pen on notepad

All the lies he’d told her were, so far as he knew, still undis­cov­ered. To his cred­it, they were few, and most­ly unim­por­tant.

₣rom “The Slow Apoc­a­lypse”

I’m work­ing on the last flash­back sec­tion of my short sto­ry. It’s still in first draft. I’m not sure if these lines will sur­vive the even­tu­al edit, but I feel like they’re impor­tant.

Who is the Black Beast?

Red-winged blackbird

Some time ago, I start­ed writ­ing a short sto­ry, which at that point was titled “The Lake in the Library”. In its neb­u­lous first lines, it fea­tured a librar­i­an, a library, and a lake in that library. Oh, and a lake mon­ster of some sort.

Lat­er, I had more ideas for the sto­ry, and a theme came to me like a bolt from the blue. I excised the lake and the lake mon­ster, not with­out regret. (There’s no guar­an­tee they won’t reap­pear; the sto­ry is very dreamy, in the lit­er­al sense of the word.)

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Who is the Black Beast?”

No spoilers, please

fountain pen on notepad

On my bike ride this after­noon, I think I fig­ured out a the­mat­i­cal­ly-sat­is­fy­ing scene near the end of the short sto­ry I’m work­ing on. It involves the doc­trine of true names, a lawyer, a wiz­ard, their son, and a rather dire threat.

I’m look­ing for­ward to writ­ing it. I’ve got a cou­ple sec­tions to write before I get there, but now I’ve got a tar­get to aim for.

Head­er image: Pho­to by Aaron Bur­den on Unsplash.

An epiphany

Photo of standing stones (Photo by Simon Hattinga Verschure on Unsplash)

I had an epiphany, at lunch time, about my cur­rent short sto­ry project. I have an end­ing, now, a nasty bul­l’s-eye to aim my nar­ra­tive at.

What’s more, a lot of things I’d already sprin­kled into the sto­ry have come into focus, espe­cial­ly the doc­trine of true names. The pro­tag­o­nist has a solu­tion to his prob­lem, but he’s so des­per­ate to avoid it that he’s unwill­ing to admit it to any­one, even him­self.

I won­der if I knew the end­ing all along, too, and did­n’t want to admit it to myself.

Pho­to by Simon Hat­tin­ga Ver­schure on Unsplash.

Breathing Underwater

Lis­ten­ing to Met­ric’s “Breath­ing Under­wa­ter”, I sud­den­ly real­ized that one of the lines — “I can see the end / But it has­n’t hap­pened yet” — res­onates pret­ty hard with my cur­rent work-in-progress. Like that’s a pret­ty pithy encap­su­la­tion of the entire theme of the sto­ry.

Also, if you haven’t encoun­tered Met­ric before, you should real­ly check them out. I haven’t heard a song from them I haven’t loved.

Logline for the next story

Writer's Tears Irish Whiskey

I’m work­ing away on my library-full-of-self-eras­ing books, and I have a nov­el to fin­ish writ­ing, but I’ve had an idea and I want to pur­sue it soon. (Actu­al­ly, it’s not a new idea; it’s a re-use of a con­cept from one of my nanow­rimo projects.)

The Slow-Motion Apoc­a­lypse” is a “day in the life” por­trait of an aging wiz­ard who hap­pens to be all that’s stand­ing in the way of a nuclear blast oblit­er­at­ing part of Man­hat­tan.


Subvert all the expectations

Maman, the spider, with Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica behind

I came across this well-worn but still valid piece of writ­ing advice on Twit­ter yes­ter­day:

If you plan on sub­vert­ing [expec­ta­tions], you need to sub­vert with the goal of some­thing BETTER.

And now today, on CBC’s Sun­day Edi­tion, they’re talk­ing about Robert Mun­sch’s game-chang­ing book The Paper Bag Princess, which came out in that long-ago era of 1980 and sub­vert­ed all the expec­ta­tions about what a fairy tale should be.

I remem­ber dis­cov­er­ing (or per­haps re-dis­cov­er­ing) The Paper Bag Princess in my twen­ties. As a young man who had heard a mil­lion fairy tales with the “and then they got mar­ried” hap­pi­ly-ever-after end­ing, it was a very dif­fer­ent end­ing than I was expect­ing: the princess does­n’t mar­ry the prince, not even after res­cu­ing him from the drag­on.

It was a dif­fer­ent kind of end­ing, but still a hap­py end­ing. Maybe not so hap­py for the prince, but then he did noth­ing to earn a hap­py end­ing. It sub­vert­ed the trope and made a new, bet­ter thing from it.

So go: sub­vert the expec­ta­tions. Sub­vert all the expec­ta­tions. Make it bet­ter.

Head­er image: Maman, across the street from Notre-Dame Cathe­dral Basil­i­ca, in Ottawa.