Beginning a new novel is a lot like venturing onto an unfamiliar hiking trail. Just standing at the trailhead creates a moment of anticipation. Who knows what the journey will bring… Incredible views? Strange hikers? Charming chipmunks? Wind, rain, or even snow? A Sasquatch sighting?
Seeking new thrills, you forge up the hill. But sometimes it’s a tougher climb than you expected.
This June, I started writing a new book—my third. To be honest, my second book (a novel suspense) isn’t finished. It’s somewhere between messy third draft and polished fourth draft, depending on where you look.
I’m excited about how that story is taking shape. But the next step in the writing process—deep, substantive editing—can be draining. It takes mental and emotional energy to dig into a story’s bones and figure out what needs to change. I’ll have to take off my fun, creative writing hat and slip on my picky editor’s hat, evaluating the writing and the story with a critical eye. I’ll need to ask beta readers and critique partners a slew of questions—Is the main character likable? Does the plot flow? Where did you stop reading?—and I may not be happy with their answers.
Time and energy were in short supply this summer. So what did I do instead of beginning that intensive editing process? I started writing something fresh!
Why, oh why?
It’s not an entirely crazy proposition. Beginning a new novel is a shiny, sparkly moment. The early stages of writing a story are about ideas, brainstorms, and “what ifs.” Imagination and possibility. Creation. Excitement. Best of all, this stage often requires research, one of my favorite activities.
So this summer, I returned to the Columbia River Gorge with a friend to research the setting for my new novel. The spot we hiked will likely become a pivotal scene, and yes, I did need to visualize it. But getting outside and hiking also allowed my creativity to flow. Where could a character hide something in the woods? What landmarks could she use? How would she keep something hidden there for years? And what would allow another character to find it?
I’ve included several pictures from this gorgeous spot so you, too, can enjoy exploring the setting.