Posts Tagged ‘lists’

photoWhere did the summer go? July, for me, was wonderfully busy with houseguests and family visits, gardening and yard work, summer projects and remembering to relax with my grandkids. But August snuck in on the heels of July and sped off in the direction of autumn. Without warning. As usual.

As I enter the autumn of my life, I realize how much faster time seems to clip by. Time does not stop or even slow for good intentions. So this post is meant to spur all of us on to tackle those plans and dreams still on our bucket lists.

Actually, I don’t have a bucket list. Not being much of a risk-taker, I prefer to avoid flirting with intense discomfort, terror, injury or death. Rather, I make a comprehensive list of things I wish to accomplish in the areas of my interest and expertise. Sure, some of the items on the list force me to stretch and grow, but they are reasonable and attainable. I don’t want to hang-glide (Karen and Katherine can do that) or go deep sea diving (like Deanna and Paul) or float down the Amazon River (Dennis and Liana sent pictures). I’ll read about those experiences and marvel at the photos, thank you very much.

If you are a risk-taker, intent on living life on the edge, then go for it and more power to you, but whatever you want to do, plan for it now, because we don’t even know which season of life we’ll end with.

Some areas into which I plan to push myself, in no particular order, are:

— to learn more about social media and use it for promotional purposes

— to learn more about self-publishing and try it

— to write more books and articles for publication in many forms

— to take time for my family and friends

— to maintain good health, insofar as I am able

The days grow short, as demonstrated by the angst of August. Time to revisit our game plans, review and tweak the steps to our goals, research details and questions. Psalm 103:15-16 (NIV) says, “As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more…”

Seems to me we’d better make the most of the time we’ve been given. All the best to you as you do so.

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When I speak to a group of readers, or to writers in a workshop, I often use a quilt analogy to describe the challenge of writing a novel:  “Writing a novel is like creating a king-sized quilt in a four-by-four room.” Even if you’re not a quilter (as I am not), it still offers a glimpse into the difficulties a writer might encounter in the process.

It’s as difficult for a writer to see his or her entire novel project at once as it is to lay out a large quilt in a small room. There just isn’t space. One must look at it in sections, and plan each piece with the whole project in mind. The seams must all meet in the right places so the overall pattern is intact.

I started my first book not knowing anything about writing a novel, but soon realized I had to develop some kind of system to keep things in order. I had to know the time of year of each scene (so I’d know if the characters would go on a sleigh ride or a buggy ride). I wanted to correlate certain plot points with historic events to maintain accuracy and credibility. I needed to aim for consistency, continuity, flow, integrity and chronology, to name a few, but how could I accomplish these things, especially in such a large work?

Short answer:  lists. Lots of lists, or excel sheets, or binders or Scrivener.

For example, since my books are historical fiction, I created a timeline with a sheet for each year and a narrow column with the month of the year down the middle of the page, lengthwise. On the left I listed political/world events that happened in that month, while on the right I listed the events of my story.

I have since discovered that novel writers have a plethora of methods foe keeping track of details. It’s helpful to see how others do it, and then adapt these methods to your own writing. What works for me does not necessarily work for you, but we need some kind of plan.

This morning on Facebook someone posted a quote by author Patti Hill:  “Writing a novel…is like wrestling an octopus into a mayonnaise jar.” After writing a few more novels, I must concur. It’s never easy. No matter how you describe it, writing a novel is messy and frustrating, and there will be times you just want to ask Grandma to finish the quilt for you, or find a fisherman to incapacitate the octopus or grab a bigger jar, but you won’t. I won’t. We’ll just keep trying, discovering, inventing, creating and praying until at long last, we see the finished product.

And it will be worth it…

Later addition:

I needed a break from my novel, so I wrote a poem, just a snatch of creativity that I can see the entirety of in half a page:

YOU sing to me and I catch the phrase

Although the melody is muted…

This morning’s sky’s been rinsed


Clean as a kindergartner’s face

And just as beaming.

On the side of the road

Naughty dandelions peep

From between blades of glistening grass

At a red-winged blackbird

Sunning herself on a fencepost

And my dog dashes through puddles.

The rain is done.

©Janice L. Dick

May 29, 2012

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