Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Excavating, Change, and Treasure

viewpoint from top of hill 2016
"My theory in anything you do is to keep exploring, keep digging deeper to find new stuff." 
                                                                                                                        --Blythe Danner

We did it again, hubby and I--walked up a nearby hill that overlooks the valley where our house is. As always, we hoped to be able to see our red roof from up there, but like our other excursions (we've taken this walk several times through the years--like here) the brush and tangled tree cover on the hillside precluded us being able to see anything but a neighbor's house on the hill beyond and the historic 1860s barn below. Even so, the view each time was most often about the same. 

Until this time. This time we came upon an excavation site.

Oh, we've known this was happening. A whole collection of new homes would be built on the ridge above us. But until now, building had slowed and the few new homes up there were scattered. But now? Now there is a house being built that will be able to see us from their upstairs windows. Seems a bit intrusive after over 35 years in a neighborhood that hadn't changed much in all that time. Sigh.

I've been doing a bit of excavating of my own--in my office, through my books, and through my files. Seems I've done quite a bit of this, too, through the years (such as here), but such an exercise does give occasion to unearthing some gems of writing advice.

Papers long forgotten surfaced containing such words of wisdom as:

"Whatever part of the craft you look at--voice, images, narrative, character--it all begins in the writer's heart. It is from there that the voice, images, narrative, character--indeed the story itself!--emerge. Say it a different way: how much does a writer love his or her story; it's that passion that becomes the obsession that drives all the parts." --Patricia Lee Gauch

"Rhythm used well creates musicality in our stories. A variety of slow and fast beats work toward an exciting and interesting text. Rhythm is like the blood flowing or racing through the body of a story...An author can reinforce a mood or create interest in his or her story by altering sentence length. To increase tension, excitement, or action, try using short staccato sentences. When using description or a pause in action, use longer sentences. A mixture of long and short sentences creates interest. Try reading your story aloud several times. It's a great way to catch snags in the rhythm and flow of a text." --Barbara Santucci

"Tight writing is related to focus. There are two aspects involved, which for lack of better terms I'll call close-up and wide-angle. When taking pictures with a camera, you usually use one or the other, but when editing, you need both. Close-up focus is the line-by-line, word-by-word process of trimming out unnecessary words and phrases to streamline each sentence...Equally important is wide-angle focus, in which you examine the structure, organization, and development of the entire manuscript. Do you have a clear narrative arc that builds inexorably to a memorable climax and then resolves quickly? How much backstory is actually necessary? How much detail is required, and how much is padding? Could you delete the first paragraph? The first page?...When you're tightening a manuscript, read it multiple times. Focus on either the close-up or the wide-angle in each reading--but not both at once." --Paula Morrow

"Writing your book simply has to do with tapping into whatever we have. We all grow up, and all we're doing is simply making use of something that is as common as gravity-memories. When we grow up, our past is not irretrievably lost to us, like the juice squeezed from an orange. The past stays with us. Tap into it for your writing...It's just a matter of extracting it refining it, and purifying it until you're laying out pure wrought iron." --Jerry Spinelli

"Kids aren't afraid of risks. It's a wonder we're all here alive for all the risks we took when we were younger. You'll be more able to do what you need to do and take risks if you kind of let the other parts go. Let the marketing go. Make the marketing the lower rung on the ladder rather than the top rung. The top rung needs to be the writing and the joy that you derive from it, even if you never get published." --Eileen Spinelli

Changing the face of a neighborhood is one thing. Digging through piles of papers and files is another. Though time-consuming, I like my excavating better than what's going on on the hill above us. At least here I can hope to uncover a treasure or two beneath the mess! 

What treasures have you unearthed lately? Any words of wisdom or books you've read that resonated with you? Are there changes going on in your neighborhood?


  1. Sad to see your neighborhood changing, isn't it? We have a similar situation, houses being built across the street in a field that's been vacant during all the 32 years we've lived here. I echo your sigh.

    I liked your "treasures" - especially the one about the rhythm of the writing. That's something I often work at.

    Something I read recently that I liked had to do with making the setting a character in the story through vivid, detailed description. The idea is to make the reader feel something about the setting. I thought that was interesting and worth trying.

  2. Peggy, so we have something else in common (along with love of writing, grandchildren, family, etc)--the changes in our neighborhoods after 30+ years. I feel for you, too :-)

    And thanks for sharing your insight into setting being a character--so important in any genre, but especially in your chosen field of fantasy, I'd say. Good luck in exploring that in your writing. Wishing you a great (and warm!) weekend...

  3. Thanks for sharing the quotes. I especially like the one about tight writing. Never thought about it quite like that!

    Sorry about the new development coming in. Hopefully all their windows will face away from your house. :) I would feel the same as you, especially after that much time.

    Have a good weekend!

  4. Karen, glad you liked the quote--I like that one, too, especially with it's analogy to photography. As for the house that's being built, about all we can hope for is spring when the leaves begin to fill out. That will hide most of the view...I hope! Thanks for coming by :-)

  5. I know exactly how you feel. A few years ago my neighborhood underwent quite a bit of development and they tore down the beautiful ravine that was right across from my house. It's sad, isn't it?

  6. Sorry to hear your hill is going. I'm sure you and your hubby have great memories there. I loved the quotes you shared. Especially the ones by Jerry Spinelli and Patricia Lee Gauch.