More Book Progress

It has been a long, cold, snowy winter in Vermont. Still is, in fact, even though the calendar says March 31st.

I hoped winter would be a good time to write my book. It has been, in some ways. But I learned something about myself: I do most of my writing in the afternoon and evening hours. Throughout January, sunset came between 4:30 – 5:00 pm. By the end of February sunset was at 5:30. Today, the sun will set at 7:15 pm.

As the days lengthened, so did my writing time.

To me, evening is those few hours after dinner and before sunset. Apparently, once it’s dark outside, by brain starts preparing for sleep. Part of my ritual before bed is a glass of wine (and probably two if life is stressful) as I wind down my day. But in winter? That ritual might start at 5 pm, while in summer, not until 9 pm or later. And while I keep writing as I sip my wine, bed and sleep beckon.

I wrote 95% of my first book between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends in 2013. The summer months. Long days, with Idaho sunset arriving at 9:38 pm on July 15th, the summer solstice. Plenty of daylight for my early-morning runs, daily life chores, a noon-time nap, then several hours of serious writing and researching through the afternoon and evening.

The short, frequently stormy days this winter (e.g., the system that came through like a freight train the first week of February, with overnight temperatures of -29F and sustained winds of 30+ mph and a big dump of snow) had me eating dinner at 4 pm and wanting to retreat under my bed’s electric blanket by 6 pm, reading on my Kindle. There really was no “evening.” If I was still writing at 7 pm, well after dark, that was a victory.

Yet I did get a lot of writing done. Much of it good (I think and hope).

And in that process (so far), I learned something else: sometimes I have to write about something, or someone, spilling it all out on the page and revising it, in order to convince myself to remove it from the manuscript. What seemed like a good idea in my head didn’t survive the harsh light of the page on my computer screen.

I spent mid-January through mid-February working on sections about my family. I thought those topics were important to provide context and background for my life-long habit of running, both literally and figuratively (as in, running away from toxic people in order to run toward a better life and version of me). I recently learned that one of those family members I planned to write about, someone toxic to me whom I’ve avoided for over a decade, has dementia. At first I welcomed the news, thinking, Now I can write honestly about her without fear of a lawsuit. But as I wrote, and revised, I realized those words were depressing me. Why would I subject readers to such unhappy stuff? For what purpose? What would I gain, other than a sense of purging? Is it really necessary? Maybe a simple sentence, an allusion in the right place, will suffice.

I deleted roughly 10,000 words from what was at that time a 35,000-word draft manuscript. No regrets. I got it out of my system. Cheap therapy.

Focus on what’s uplifting and enlightening, I told myself. Showcase places (forests, wilderness, mountains) that few get visit, let alone run through with their dogs. Describe the ways dogs have expanded your worldview, your ability to venture into wilderness without other humans. Talk about becoming intimately acquainted with the wildlife, wildflowers, trees. Work on describing those scenes and events in ways that allow the reader to feel they’ve been there, too. Explain why such experiences are valuable.

With that shift in mindset, writing is fun again.

There will, of course, be some negativity in the book. How can there not be, when writing in part about wolves, their history, and how they’re currently mistreated in the western states? But those chapters will serve a greater purpose beyond a personal purging. I want to highlight the cultural/social disconnect between goals of preserving the natural world and human “management” of portions of it in ways that are short-sighted and beneficial to only a few, small, politically-connected interest groups. I want to expose some of the dark sides of wildlife management, and the impacts I witnessed up close in the 15 years I lived in Idaho. I hope to motivate, get readers to question, take action.

Today, the draft manuscript has 43,776 words. Structure, which has eluded me for so long, is coming together and finally making sense.

As the days lengthen, so do the hours of my productivity. Maybe sometime this summer I’ll have a manuscript ready to send to an editor and to a few “first” or “friendly” readers for feedback. (If you might be up for that, please send me an email.)

I’ve missed my WordPress blogging family! I’ve fallen horribly behind in reading and commenting on your blogs. I’m sorry. You’re important to me, as is the larger blogging community. I also miss creating my own blog posts. For now, though, I want/need to keep concentrating on birthing this book.

I’ll finish this post as I did the last one, from January, with some photos and a couple videos of my dogs as we enjoyed the (still) winter landscape under sunny skies this morning. First, Conall and I went for a run, then we brought Finn (age 15!) out for a walk. There’s still so much snow on the ground that it looks the same as it did in January. Last year by this time there were large patches of bare ground in the fields, the snow quickly melting. As I type this, there’s a least a foot of hard, crusty snow on the ground, everywhere, and… it’s snowing. Again. I am starting to hear bird songs when we’re in the woods, though, so apparently spring isn’t too far off…

snow-covered field with wind-blown waves, trees and sky in background
It’s windy up here on our ridge, sculpting the snow into frozen waves.
Dog sniffing hare tracks in snow, wild canid tracks to the right, trees and sky in background.
Snow makes following tracks easy. Conall especially likes the scent left by snowshoe hares. Here, he added his own tracks to that of a hare near the trees, and to the right are the tracks of a fox or coyote.
Dog following wild canid tracks across a snowy field, trees and sky in background.
Conall following fresh wild canid tracks through a different field, with hare tracks near the trees.
Dog and wild canid tracks across snowy field, dog standing in the middle ground, trees and mountains in the background.
When following tracks, Conall walks right over them so his nose is always picking up any scent. I watched with pride as he stayed on these canid tracks across a wind-blown crusty section where I lost sight of them until 20 yards later they reappeared in the fresh snow. Conall, I am certain, could still smell them.

Because of weather and other stuff, Finn hadn’t had a proper walk in two days. As you can see in the videos, this morning he had lots of energy when we started our walk. In the first video, all Finn wanted to do was pee and all Conall wanted to do was get Finn to chase him by being annoying. Once Conall’s shenanigans stopped and we got underway (second video), Finn trotted right along with Conall but stopped to do a happy roll. Getting up and discovering I wasn’t right behind him, Finn came running back to me. Given his age, I love seeing Finn roll, and run! I hope when I’m as old in people years as he is in dog years, I’ll still occasionally run with as much joy. I don’t plan to imitate Finn’s rolls, though.

“Conall, leave me alone, I need to pee!” –Finn
In our happy place.
two dogs near trees at edge of a snow-covered field.
The boys searching for snowshoe hare pellets. I don’t let them go far into the woods (don’t want a skunk or porcupine encounter) but the hares seems to leave plenty of snacks for them where woods meet fields.
two dogs on snow drifts with a line of trees behind them, a snow-covered field and tree-covered hills in the background.
The boys in snow drifts along a line of trees between fields. It’s frequently windy up here.

Featured image: morning sun filtered by one of my favorite trees on a knoll, casting long shadows, taken during this morning’s run with Conall.

8 thoughts on “More Book Progress”

  1. Over the last few days I had visitors. It was great. My friend brought me a picture my brother had done in the 90s. I don’t know why, but the dam broke, and I talked about the stuff I went through with him. My friend knew him when they were teenagers. Her husband said the stories would make a great book. They are mesmerizing stories, but incredibly sad. My feelings about myself around them are conflicted, too. I don’t want to spend my limited remaining years writing them. I already spent a lot of my productive years trying to help him, to no avail. I will never forget them — or him — and all of that is part of the person I am today, but to live them again? No. In the grand scheme of life I’m wondering now how much those stories actually define us — maybe not as much as we imagine they do. Maybe that’s part of your experience with your toxic people. They’re not “here” now. We are here now. And thank the fates for dogs, nature and running. I do every single day. 🐾❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing that, Martha. Clearly, you get it. The memories, drama, and emotions will always be with us, but they don’t always need to be shared, especially when their meaning and impact on us change over time. To dwell on the past is to be stuck there. So much more positive to focus on the here and now, as you note, moving forward with what time we have. With our dogs, of course!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful news about your book progress… wonderful pics and videos of your boys. They look like they’re enjoying Vermont! Glad you saw some snow this winter, ours has been basically nonexistent.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good to hear your book is on track! I can’t even remember how much stuff I have written just to get it out and then deleted. I think that is a healthy activity. My second dog book is back on track. It ended up taking a 90 degree turn that I did not plan on but I am going with it as well. Back in VA mountains and loving life!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lee, sorry for the slow reply, I’ve been too immersed in book work (revision, revision, research, revision) to properly attend to my blog. Hope to jump back into blogging regularly again soon.

      Yay for you getting back in the groove with your second dog book! You fiction writers have the wonderful advantage of taking those 90 degree turns and following the story wherever it wants to take you. Glad you’re back in the mountains, too; hope it isn’t too buggy (it’s black fly season here and I HATE those buggers). In non-book-related news I know you can relate to: a Malamute puppy, born May 11th, will be arriving here in early July to join my pack. Conall will be over the moon. Finn will feel outnumbered at first, but I think he’ll enjoy wrestling with the puppy while it’s smaller than him 🙂 At 15.5 years now, Finn still enjoys playing with Conall but wears out quickly. The puppy, I hope, will re-energize us all.

      Keep on writing!


  4. Becky,
    Your dogs seem so happy, as do you! As always, I enjoy reading your offerings. Hope all is well. Sounds like writing is coming along nicely. I’m back into writing my book and blogging again. The first few weeks after my cataracts were removed, it was incredibly difficult to sit down, focus and write. What you wrote above about writing resonated with me. So glad you put that out there. I’ll probably refer back to it every once in a while. Mona

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mona! I’ve been neglecting my blog and just now saw your comment. Need to jump back in, soon. I miss the regular writing and interaction with readers. But I’m trying to focus on my book. Oh, and a new puppy who was born May 11th and will be arriving here in early July 🙂

      I’m so happy to read your eyesight is restored and you’re back working on your book and blogging again. I’ll get back to WordPress soon and re-engage, I promise!


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