That said, the second Annual Markham Retreat was held this past weekend. Only 3 members of the mind were able to attend, so we are scheduling a second retreat the first weekend in January, where up to six will attend from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, a 48 hour extravaganza of writing and communal meals. This was much shorter. I arrived first at almost 1pm and worked to 4pm on Sunday, so it was just over 24 hours. Karin arrived at about 3pm, when Jennifer and I stopped to eat. I usually stay in a separate apartment over the garage by myself, but we were so few that I didn't feel claustrophobic this time. In fact, I had a better vibe in the big house.
The house sits on 8 acres with a pond and dogs, but the weather was inhospitable for the walks I took last year. Cloudy and snow flurries on Saturday, windy and cold on Sunday. There is only one "neighbor" and the mountains surround the property. It's far more isolated than mine. Unlike last year, I kept in touch with The Dude by ichat through most of it. The house is a crazy quilt. The builder made a log house from a kit and then added onto it a more conventional house. It has stairs that go to different sections and blind alleys and dead ends and secret passages that put you where you don't expect to be. The "window" in the bathroom associated with the guest bedrooms is a sheet of plywood behind plantation shutters because otherwise, it would look down on a living room. There's a corkscrew staircase leading up to our bedrooms. Light from downstairs can be seen through the floorboards.
If that weren't enough, Jennifer was once a caterer, so we always have something special, like eggs benedict florentine with eggs from my chickens for Sunday brunch. I bring a pot of homemade soup which simmers.
Now that you have the ambiance, back to my process.
I wanted to freewrite on Cumin's story. And I wanted to begin editing the fairy story that I finished in NaNo. I also copied my documents folder over to my new laptop before I left so I would have all my stories when I was there because there were two others I thought I might work on.
Realization #1: When I brought drafts into Scrivener, I discovered that I have 13 stories in draft at various stages now. That's not bad. Most of them I had to put down because I couldn't figure out how to fix them or finish them. I felt this sudden confidence that I've passed through that difficulty and can complete them, that my toolbox has tools.
Realization #2: Cumin's story is still in its infancy. I could only spend so much time working on it because I'm still trying to see the shape. I know who's in it, I know some things about it. But, for example, I don't know where in the story certain things happen. I don't know what the overall shape is. Is this central event the beginning or the end of the story? I just don't know yet. I now have 2500 words, which should be 25% written down. Mostly brainstorming. My fairies are trying to decide how to choose a king. Translation: the writer is trying to decide how the fairies decide how to choose a king.
Realization #3: By contrast, editing the fairy story from November was easy. The story has a title now. It's called "And From His Lips." It's part of a line from a Leonard Cohen song that influenced the storyline. I cut 2500 words pretty quickly, most from the opening where I was writing my way into the final storyline. Some from late in the writing where I laid out an outline and had notes for the possible endings, about 80% of the way in.
I took a hard copy of the story with me, double-sided, because I knew this was an early rewrite. I did some editing on screen and some on the paper. I enjoyed cutting huge chunks of text, I really did. It was no longer needed, those times when I wrote to keep writing in NaNo, more interested in word count than quality. It didn't hurt, it didn't frustrate me. It was exciting, because underneath was a Real Story. Whenever I reached a passage where I had caught fire, I just got more excited. I made a couple of notes about things I needed to do. Not decisions, though. One thing that has me excited is that I don't feel alternate paths in this story. The arc is there and it's the right one, whether or not some editor agrees with me. I hope they will, but I'm writing this to *my* standards right now.
My conclusions at the end of the first edit were:
1. Introduces characters right away at a crucial decision point.
2. has foreshadowing
3. has a reversal
4. has a definite plot, definite ending
5. demonstrates character change
6. character is not passive
7. uses triangulation to increase the tension when a balance of power is imminent.
8. is nasty in places and I believe I can build to that nastiness, back off, and build again, and again
9. is definitely dark fantasy, which is what I was trying to do
10. ending as written feels right without an epilogue in character #3's pov. epilogue is implied sufficiently well
My notes were things like:
1. possible inconsistency that has to be resolved THIS way because that's the correct arc
2. what's character #2's secondary trigger, given that she's 'always been this way'?
3. does character #2 know character #1 is a king, whether or not she cares?
4. character #1's changes need to be x, y, z, etc. to the final ending