Tick… Tick… Tick…

Paula’s Post #4 — I’m writing this post on October 6th, 2012. Why is this date important? Because this date marks exactly one month and a day since we, the 5writers, rashly set out to complete our epic writing challenge.

One month behind us, four months to go!


As our loyal followers will have discerned from our collective blog posts, none of us have actually started writing yet, (well, except for maybe Joe – you can never tell what Joe is up to, he’s the strong silent type).

But I’m pretty sure the rest of us are still researching, outlining, creating memorable characters and ‘world building’. We’re also worrying about story arcs and the ‘Three Act Structure’.

And, as literary agent and writing guru Donald Maass  has so often exhorted us to do, we’re attempting to craft storylines that create ‘conflict on every page’. (As a sidebar, if you haven’t heard of Donald Maass, you may want to check out his excellent Writing the Breakout Novel, and the companion Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook).

But, once again I digress. Suffice it to say that with all that plotting and planning and worrying about my plot lines, today, with one month down, I have yet to set pen to paper to write the second most exciting of all phrases “Chapter One“. (I say second most, because anyone who has ever actually finished a novel knows that the most exciting of all phrases is “The End“).

So, four months to go. No big deal. Plenty of time, right? Except of course for the ever present distractions of real life that so frequently seem to intervene. And of course Silk’s ‘Arithmetic.  But I’ve already written about distractions, and Silk’s already written about arithmetic, so instead I’m going to share some of the things I find most pleasurable about writing.

For me, writing is an avocation that provides infinite pleasure to the person so engaged. Note that I chose the word ‘avocation’. I did so judiciously, for I feel that until one is a published author, writing is my avocation. In other words, no matter how hard I work to accomplish the goal of becoming a published author, I am still engaged in this activity as a ‘supplement’ to the many demands of my every day life: family, professional obligations and, of course, the myriad other responsibilities and chores that occupy so much of one’s time.

Time away from the world of writing.

Some may disagree with my word choice. Some may feel that writing is already their ‘vocation’. If you feel this way that’s great and I’m happy for you.  But for me, I still consider writing an ‘avocation’ though, as I started out to say, one I find most pleasurable.

At least most of the time.

At least when I’m not caught firmly within the grasp of the writer’s omnipresent trinity of fear, panic and ‘looming deadlines’.

But despite the tick…tick…tick of the clock, I’m still finding pleasure during these tension filled days of this 5writers challenge. Pleasure in the process of writing. Oh heck, let’s be honest, at this point, the proper verb isn’t writing, the proper word is planning.

Like Joe and Silk and Karalee and Helga, right now I’m engaged in planning. I’m engaged in research. I’m engaged in ‘world building’. Pleasurable, nevertheless, but not really writing. Not yet.

Part of the world I’m ‘building’ is somewhat familiar, but other parts are completely foreign to me, though no less pleasurable to research, no less pleasurable to construct.

The Familiar:

You may have already guessed from my last post that at least part of the setting of my novel will be San Diego, a city that I not only love but also have more than a passing familiarity with. I studied law for a year at the University of San Diego and returned a few years later, staying for three months to study for the California Bar. Somehow, although I love San Diego, I ended up back in Vancouver.  But I still love San Diego, and, as we’ve heard so many times in our writing classes: ‘write what you know’.

So far so good. I like San Diego. I know San Diego. It’s a fabulous place and a safe and familiar setting for my novel. I’ve travelled from one end of the county to the other: boogie boarding in the waters off Solana and Pacific Beach; savouring the excellent restaurants in the Gaslamp Quarter, Little Italy and Old Town; wandering the upscale neighbourhoods of La Jolla, Del Mar and Rancho Santa Fe. All familiar and pleasurable territory. So I’m finding my research, both online and in person, infinitely pleasurable.

The Unfamiliar:

On the other hand, the subject matter of my novel is not so safe and familiar. I’m not going to share with you, (at least not quite yet) what my novel is about, but let’s just say I’ve been doing a lot of research. Research on subjects totally foreign to me: the military, medical science and, most frightening of all: teenagers.

Did I mention I know almost nothing at all about teenagers? I’m on the ‘straight-to-grandchildren‘ program. When I got married, my youngest stepchild was already eighteen. That hardly counts as a teenager at all, at least not in YA fiction. Thankfully, I do have my wonderful nephew and niece, but what help are they? At 17 and 20, they’re now, frankly, a mite too old. And though I spent plenty of time with them when they were younger, I’m afraid that, by and large, they were fantastic teenagers! Great students, well adjusted, hard-working … not rebellious at all. (I know if they’re reading this they’ll hate me for saying this, but it’s true).

So I have a dilemma: how am I going to find some authentic teenage angst to observe? Hello! I’m sending a casting call out there: if you’ve got a rebellious teenager, I may need to hear from you. I’m in unchartered waters where teenagers are concerned.

Still, even this unfamiliar territory is fun to explore. I’m checking out pages on facebook, listening to rap music, reading YA fiction –  all in an effort to develop some understanding of the world of today’s teenagers.

Hopefully this will help me develop the main characters in my novel for, as I mentioned in a previous post, I’m writing a YA Thriller. Some may characterize my book as ‘science fiction’ (ooh, more unfamiliar territory) but I like to think of it more as ‘science fact’,  or at least a plausible storyline, based upon the realm of the ‘possible’ in today’s world of science and medicine, though certainly stretched a bit from the ‘probable’ too make the story more exciting.

But since I am immersed in such unfamiliar territory, that means I get to do research. Did I tell you I love research? This is another thing that makes writing so pleasurable for me. Who doesn’t love finding out cool stuff that they know next to nothing about? It feeds the brain: neuroscience, surfing, guns, politics – Whoa! I could research these subjects for hours on end. Did I mention I love the internet?

This weekend is a long weekend in Canada. Our Canadian Thanksgiving.

Lots of time to write. Lots of food to eat. Two things I love best. This afternoon, which is turning out to be an exquisite, early fall day, with the sun shining on my terrace and the sail boats scampering across the mouth of Howe Sound, I’m going to enjoy getting lost in my research.

I’m going to enjoy constructing the outline of several more thrilling scenes for my “Act II” of The Three Act Structure.  I’m even going to listen to a little hip hop and check out some of the many facebook pages aimed mostly at teenagers. And for me, this will all be very pleasurable.

Except for the fact that somewhere, very close to me, I can’t help hearing a very soft but omnipresent sound:

Tick… Tick… Tick…

3 thoughts on “Tick… Tick… Tick…

  1. Our twin daughters were, for the most part, good kids who turned out well, but I’ve still repressed the teen year memories. You might want to redirect your research and story towards something less anxiety filled, like mass murder or drug resistant plagues.

  2. Haha! This is great! Good to know at least someone thinks I wasn’t rebellious as a teenager, Mom and Dad might beg to differ, but either way I think I turned out alright!

    Hmm researching teens, they are a strange species these days since the Twilight outbreak. I have to say I feel rather out of touch as well, but always good to include your classic pot-smoking toque wearing long boarding boy (unless longboards are out now, but I still see guys at uni with them), seems to be cool and chill on the outside, but has a deeper issue.

    Also, not sure how much kids still listen to rap music, since dubstep (rumoured to be phasing out) and indie music. And of course, hipsters change everything!

    Happy researching!

    • Oh, dear, once again I feel so uncool. I have no idea what dubstep is! You may have to help me Michelle. I hereby nominate you as an official reader of my ‘first draft’ (should be ready somewhere around the New Year (I hope).

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