Monday, July 21, 2008

Writing on the run

Writing! How hard can it be? You just sit in front of a computer all day, pressing little plastic keys... Well, not exactly. You have to have a story. Some days your characters are recalcitrant. Some days life doesn't cooperate. Some days you're just plain brain dead.

I'm among the fortunate few who can write all day long without having to deal with the day job. And the more I talk to writers who write while working a day job or juggling home and children, the more I know how very fortunate that is. For me, I expect that the juggling act would be impossible.

There was a time that I juggled with the best. I had four teenagers, worked full time, went to college full time, and in my spare time served as taxi mom. But those days are thankfully over and the most strenuous thing I do now is feed the cat. Given that, you would think that the writing gig would be pretty easy, right? Wrong.

I'm mostly a seat of the pants writer once my world building is complete so when nothing is happening, then nothing is REALLY happening. I may as well go back to bed or read a book or polish the furniture. That's the disadvantage to flying by the seat of your pants. The advantage of being a pantster is that you take the scenic route so you arrive at the most interesting out-of-the-way places--places you would never think to go.

In one of my current works in progress, my characters are in the future. And it's not a happy future. In this scene, the hero has escaped from the warlord that captured him several years before...

On the other side of the gaping rift, a lone man stumbled and fell as he ran from his pursuers. He scrambled up and ran on, desperately searching his surroundings for a hiding place. If he could just find a place to rest for a few hours, safe from the vicious hunters of the Green Boys clan he might have a chance. Without warning, he tripped over a buried log, falling headlong in a pile of leaves and debris.

Later, he was able to reflect on the good fortune that hurled him down the deep hole hidden by the debris where he came to rest against a pile of timber with such a thump that he was temporarily lost for breath. His cry of surprise was cut off, saving his life as the hunters searched feverishly for him. He lay panting quietly in the cold dark hole. High above him the pile of debris had bounced back into place, hiding his shelter.

Well, he’d prayed for a place to rest. He chuckled beneath his breath. Always that damned two edged sword. He’d forgotten to specify a hiding place he could escape from. He stretched out as best he could in the confined area and sighed. Rest first. Escape later. Then with something like surprise, he felt himself slide inexorably toward sleep.

He woke soaking wet and cold. Water trickled through the opening above him and he could hear the rush of the heavy rain and wind. He fumbled in his pocket and found the precious lighter. He remembered a time when the little plastic cigarette lighters were cheap and plentiful. Extracting it with care, he twisted it in his fingers until he could flick the tiny switch with his thumb. Flick my Bic. The expression ambushed him from the dark shadows of his memory. He puzzled over it for a moment until he caught the reference. It was an old advertising slogan for the lighters.

The switch caught and there was a flare of light from the tiny flame. He groped around in the shadows searching for a dry stick or piece of tinder. His fingers encountered a stick wrapped in cloth. He picked it up and carefully touched the flame to the edge of the torn fabric until it caught and flared with a rush.

With sick horror, he realized that the “stick” was a human bone. Just in time, he ruthlessly suppressed the instinct to throw it down. He needed the light and the human was long past the time when it was important to him or her. After drawing a long shaky breath, he shifted to a hunched squat and surveyed his shelter.

It wasn’t much as shelters went. He thought it might be an ancient mine working. Very ancient. There were hack marks on the roughly squared off walls and the faint reflection of gold and quartz glittered from the thin veins in the rock. Tumbled bones from at least two skeletons rested against the back wall. Remains of crude tools were scattered on the muddy floor.

He hefted the solid weight of an ancient stone ax. Yeah. Really, really old. Putting it back down where he found it, he reluctantly moved to examine the remains, hoping and praying that they hadn’t died from the Plague. He studied the untidy sprawl of bones. It looked like animals had found them. Whoever had discovered the ancient gold mine, it was certain it wasn’t these guys. They wore cross-trainers. He held his torch a little closer. Nike. New Balance. He whistled silently. On the black market just one shoe from either foot would fetch enough to buy food for a month. Maybe two months. Thinking about his own battered footwear, he determined that he would check the sizes in a little while. Maybe his prayers hadn’t turned out so bad, after all.



  1. OOH, we'll be looking forward to this one!

  2. oh yeah... that is a great scene. I can't wait to read what happens next. :D

  3. Enjoyed chatting with you this weekend, and looking forward to your upcoming releases:)

  4. WOW...I love this excerpt. Lots of action. Isn't it great to be able to write all day if you want? I love it,too, if we can only get those pesky characters to co-operate.

  5. I love love love this one. And when I say love I mean I might even possibly like it (shhhh) better than the Mystic Valley series.... when this one gets finished. This one excites me.

  6. Wow! Maybe I should nudge this one closer to the top of the TBW pile! Thank you so much for the fine comments!


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