Do you know when to lie down?

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Earlier this month I went to the 152nd Highland Games in Victoria BC.  Arriving early we had excellent seats to watch the Border Collies work. I’ve seen these dogs in action on huge sheep properties in Australia and admired their skill and enthusiasm. Their talents, demonstrated in the video called Power of the Border Collie, are:

  • Speed
  • Concentration
  • Focus
  • Patience
  • Persistence

Word count: 374                                                            Reading time: 1-2 minutes

As I watched them at the Games, I thought of how their work was like a writer’s.

  • Writers need speed when attempting a NaNoWriMo challenge or simply trying to make an editorial deadline.
  • Swearing off the distractions of the internet and other social temptations is only possible by the sheer force of concentration.
  • Without focus, novels ramble and become weighted down by too many characters and random actions. Finding Focus in Your Fiction by the Literary Corner Café discusses the pitfalls of unfocused writing.
  • Patience, and a lot of it, is needed in the editing phase. Watch the Border Collies as they herd—they don’t run the entire time. Sometimes they seem to almost tiptoe around the mob. Other times they simply lie down and strong eye the stock.
  • Persistence—have I mentioned the need for this in writing before? Persistence is what carries me beyond the prosaic dull words that first fly off my fingers. It leads me to the occasional moment of that’s it! That’s what I’m striving for. Tobias Wolff said it best: “We are made to persist. That’s how we find out who we are.”

Of all these virtues, for me patience is the most difficult one. I want to chase those sheep until they’re rounded up and through the gate but that’s not how life works. Watch this champion dog Nell as she lies down and nudges the sheep to her will. Sometimes I need to just back off and strong eye my manuscript. Look for the stray story lines and extraneous characters that are cluttering up the scenes.

What is the hardest part of the writing discipline for you? Are you impatient? Do you focus on word count while giving character and plot development less time than they deserve? Do you need to get in front of your work, lie down, and give it the strong eye?

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons: Sheep & Sheep Dog by Rosendahl

Where to from here?

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At the bottom of a steep staircase, at the end of a twisted trail in a corner of West Vancouver, there is a spot that used to be one of my favourite places when I was a scuba diver. Copper Cove was a short drive from my West End apartment. Costs were limited to gas for the car and air for the tank. Once I was in the water, the wall on the right side of the cove was full of hidden treasures. To this day the dive site remains relatively under-utilized, which is extraordinary in a city of almost two and a half million people. To end the dive perfectly there is a lovely rocky beach with driftwood logs to sit on for the all-essential, post-dive debriefing.

Word count: 345Reading time: 1-2 minutes

I loved diving there but, to be truthful, I didn’t look forward to the long ascent afterward, hiking the hundred pounds or so of gear up those stairs and back to the car. If I wanted to get home, or more importantly to my next dive, I had to make that climb.

My book launch two weeks ago was like diving at Copper Cove. Getting there, although somewhat fraught with jittery nerves, wasn’t too bad. Once I entered the venue, there was no looking back. It was like putting the reg in my mouth and deflating my buoyancy compensator—there was only time to look around and enjoy the ride. Afterwards sitting and talking about it with friends helped me understand and appreciate the experience even more. Just like diving.

Something important happened two weeks ago. I had the uncommon experience of launching a professionally-published book into the public domain. That was a privilege and a delight. That initiation ritual is behind me. Now I’m climbing the staircase back to my next novel.

How did you feel after your first book launch? Did it energize you for your next writing project? Did you race up those stairs two at a time? Or did you feel slightly daunted at the new prospect of a secondary career in sales?

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Photo from Wikipedia Commons: Concrete stairs 2007 by Diego Godoy

Merci! Gracias! and other thoughts about my book launch

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Friday May 2nd, fifty or so people gathered for the launch of Lockdown my debut novel. The weather was kind, the assistants from the Young Writers' Club were helpful and enthusiastic, and the mc's were wonderful.
Certain thank you's are in order -

  • to my two wonderful mc’s at Friday night’s book launch, Lisa Voisin and Lynn Crymble.
  • to the members of the Young Writers’ Club who helped set up the room and worked on the draw for the door prizes.
  • to my family who have encouraged me every step of the way. 
  • to all of you who showed up to support my launch.
  • to those who could not make it but sent congratulations and encouragement.
  • to my publisher, Great Plains Publications, without whom there would have been nothing to launch.
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