Writing on Vacation: More Progress Than in a Month at Home

 

One son’s family.

Prepare, Escape, Progress

 

I didn’t believe it would work, but it did.

Prepare

It was hellish. I’d be gone twelve days on vacation. Blog posts still needed to be written and published. I had endorsements to garner for my nonfiction book on writing. Another publisher required I fill out four work-intensive forms on their system. I had interview questions to answer.

I didn’t write one word on my story the week before we left for the Dominican Republic. That week, as I worked hard to get tasks done in advance, I made myself a promise, one I wasn’t sure I could keep. I told myself I’d have fun writing my story while sipping a virgin lime concoction and lounging on the beach under palms swaying in the Punta Cana breezes.

Escape

Once the airplane lifted off a Charlotte, NC runway, my muscles relaxed. I opened my MacBook Air, and I was no longer on the stuffy airplane but in my fictional town, falling in love with my hero and enjoying the cleverness of my heroine.

We arrived in Punta Cana at a resort we enjoy. Just as I remembered, the breezes chased away heat and humidity, the bright sunshine danced on aqua water, and fronds on tall palms provided shade. We spent the rest of the travel day orienting our children and grandchildren to the resort. We’d invited them along for the first six days. Then we lavished our tummies on the endless offerings the main restaurant laid out in numerous buffets. No meals to plan, shop for, or prepare.

Progress

I spent time with my family, snorkeling, sailing on a small catamaran with my husband, and building sand castles with the kids. But while they enjoyed the sun at the pool and my husband windsurfed, I crept away to my favorite beach spot, where my fingers translated the images in my mind into words on my MacBook Air.

 

It was almost heaven. When I needed to mull over a scene, I closed the laptop and looked at water, sand, and palms, instead of the piles of papers from ten different marketing projects on my desk, table, and floor, those annoying stacks that always made me feel anxious. In our room for an hour before breakfast and another before turning out the lights, I inserted all the cool edits that rose in my uncluttered mind during the night or day.

This most enjoyable time away taught me how important vacations or retreats are. Time away from all the tasks that are not writing and from our homes and their problems can unleash creativity. (Our freezer died and the hot water heater started leaking right before we left.)

The place doesn’t have to be ten days on a tropical island. It could be a

         week in a cabin by the river,

                  weekend in a motel with a view,

                           day in a national forest,

                                    housesitting someone’s house, or

                                             camping at a lake.

Writing on vacation can be fun and highly productive. Click to tweet.

When have you been away from home and enjoyed a productive writing session?

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Candace Parks lives a passionless life in Richmond, Virginia. The computer programmer returns to the empty family home in the Blue Ridge Mountains to evaluate her job, faith, and boyfriend. Her high school crush, star football player and prom king Trigg Alderman, is in Twisty Creek visiting his grandmother who lives next door to Candace’s family home. He doesn’t recognize her at first and remembers little about her. He’s not alone. Candace’s rekindled attraction to Trigg adds unexpected complications to finding her passions. Sorting her life out? How about nothing of the sort!

 

Is Just Justified in Writing?

The little word just often gets a bad rap. Writers are warned to get rid of it. Like any overused word, writers need to manage the frequency of just in manuscripts. It tends to get used frequently. Let’s take a closer look at the uses of just.

Definitions of Just (The Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

1. exactly; very recently; barely; directly; only; quite; possibly

Very recently: Danny’s still warm coffee mug proved he’d just left the house.

Without just the meaning would drastically change. If I’d written, Danny’s still warm coffee mug proved he’d very recently left the house, I’d be dinged for using very. But recently is too vague; it could represent minutes to hours ago. Why not replace the two words with one – just.

Barely: When the car careened toward him, it just missed hitting his right bumper.

Taking just out changes the meaning. Then, we wouldn’t know how close he came to being part of a car accident. His car could have been missed by an inch or twelve feet. Just is vague, but it puts the space closer to the inch.

image by tajenli

Directly: “Honey, look just right of the tree trunk on that tiny branch and you’ll see the owl.”

Again just is vague, but it’s less wordy than: very close to the left of the tree trunk …

2. reasonable; correct or proper; morally or legally right; deserved or merited

His partner could argue all he wanted, but helping the victim was a just cause.

I think uses of just under these second definitions are … justified. Using synonyms, such as upright, honorable, conscientious, and honest will help if just becomes overused.

When Just Becomes a Weasel Word

When you enter the hunt to kill occurrences of just, start with cases similar to the examples below. They supply no benefit, unless the character would use the word in dialogue. Like weasels suck the egg from egg shells, just in the examples steals the power of the words adjacent to them.

I just hated going to crowded theaters.

He always just had to have his way.

Couldn’t he just see that I was sorry?

“There’s just no reason you should go.”

Careful. Don’t blindly remove the “just” occurrences from your manuscripts.  Click to tweet.

What do you consider before removing words like just?

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5 Tips for Including Humor in Your Story

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You want to write humor into your story, but it’s funny only in your head. Keep trying, because all genres benefit from some humor.

Sometimes humor isn’t well done and poor reviews are valid. But other times, the problem is some readers don’t have funny bones. Ignore their reviews. However, we must continue to hone our humor. I’ll share what I’ve observed.

Humor: What Works and What Drags

1. Every moment doesn’t have to be funny. While reading my favorite humorous author aloud to my husband, I noticed the funny character was beginning to repeat the same types of humorous actions, dialogue, and internal thoughts. I no longer found them as funny as I did at first. I stopped experiencing the element of surprise. Her techniques are good, but she overused them in the first half of the book to the harm of the second half.

2. Forced humor never works well. If the humor is too much like slapstick, fewer readers will like it. If you’re determined to make a situation funny, it probably won’t be.

3. Try subtle humor. Subtle humor goes a long way for many readers. For example, take an introverted hero overburdened with responsibilities. Use small actions that he does while alone that produce smiles and are endearing. He’s determined to meet his obligations. What he says and does in public aren’t strange to him but are to the heroine and others. Then occasionally, he unwittingly becomes the straight man for a family member to exhibit her dry humor.

image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images

4. Keep humorous activities original with all the elements of a serious scene. The humorous scenes should have conflict and engaging dialogue. For example, in my novel, Gift of the Magpie, Amanda’s fingers and toes become almost frostbitten while she and Cam build an igloo. He makes her come to his house where he searches the Internet on his phone for how to thaw appendages. To Amanda’s chagrin, the exercises require large leg-swinging and arm-revolving exercises to force blood to her fingers and toes. She demands to see his phone to make sure he’s not having her perform unnecessary, embarrassing motions. Her running commentary on the exercises not working and her preference to put her frozen feet and hands on Cam’s bare back and sides flips the situation to Cam’s discomfort and his voiced opinions.

5. Banter must be lively but not inane. Go for clever remarks and zingers. Don’t do this:

Brad pinched Gilda’s arm. “Behave.

“Ouch, that hurts.” She rubbed her arm.

“I meant it to.”

“Maybe I’ll pinch you.”

“Better not.”

Here’s banter from my Book Calculated Risk, after Cisney has shown actuary Nick how far up the tub of popcorn he should stop eating and give the bucket to her. We start with Nick’s comment.

“The movie hasn’t started yet, you don’t have to whisper.”

“In movies, my family never talked above a whisper, if at all, or Daddy wouldn’t bring us again for a long time.” Her beautiful eyes widened. “You don’t talk during the movie, do you?”

“No.” He held up the popcorn container, glad they agreed on one thing. “You do know the bucket is somewhat cone-shaped and half the popcorn is about here.” He moved his finger up the bucket from where she’d drawn her line.

“Shame on you, Risk Man. You didn’t take into consideration that they were chintzy on popcorn. The kernels reach a half-inch short of the top. And you didn’t take into account that I’m smaller than you and don’t eat as much.”

He chuckled. Risk Man?

She put her finger to her puckered lips. “Shh.”

Humor in novels – what works and what drags. Click to tweet.

What tip can you add in writing humor?

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Amanda Larrowe’s lack of trust sabotages her relationships. The English teacher and award-winning author of middle-grade adventure books for boys has shut off communication with friends and family to meet her January 2 book deadline. Now, in the deepest snow accumulation Richmond, Virginia has experienced in years, Camden Lancaster moves in across the street. After ten years, her heart still smarts from the humiliating aftermath of their perfect high school Valentine’s Day date. He may have transformed into a handsome, amiable man, but his likeability doesn’t instill trust in Amanda’s heart. When Cam doesn’t recognize her on their first two encounters, she thinks it’s safe to be his fair-weather neighbor. Boy is she wrong.