Saturday, October 6, 2012


So I'm stuck, right?

I'm plotting a novel, assembling the scaffolding on which my story will hang. Connecting bones, thigh to hip, spine to brain stem. Who knows if I'm getting it right. Novels don't come with instructions.
Still, some of the pieces seem to saddle up, and I start getting that relieved feeling like this might all hang together after all.


Blast it all, who is this chick? The one who steers the ship, the flawed and weak hero about to visit this mild death? Cannot get a handle on her. I know what I will have her do. Know the holes she will have to squeeze through, the love she will face, the failure that will swat her sideways like a bug. But she's silent. Until she speaks, I have nothing.

So I force it.

What else can I do but curl up on my writing couch (you have one too, don't you?) pencil in hand (I think better with a pencil), and write lousy dialogue. Makes sense. Dialogue is the fastest way to character revelation for this student of theatre. It's always worked for me before.


Nothing comes of my dialogue. I'm moving her lips, but she's not in the words. It's just my monkey chatter flowing onto the page. My hero is a no show. Maybe if I move to the computer, try typing instead of writing by hand.


Not only is my hero a no show, but now I'm wasting time on Facebook. I need to heed Jonathan Franzen's advice and write on a computer that has no internet access. There's only one thing to do now. Pout. The whole things a waste of time anyway. No one will want to read this mess.


It's autumn up here in Canada. I have two ash trees in my front yard. Ash known for being the last trees out in spring, and the first to lose their leaves in fall. My ash trees live up to this reputation and have littered all over the lawn. I grab a rake.


I'm pushing tree debris around the yard, the air is snappy-cool, the sun is falling behind my house. I'm muttering to myself, Who is she? What's she really all about? Rake, rake. Mutter, mutter.


She starts yapping. Really letting it flow. And--get this--it's not dialogue. It's narrative. Huh? I keep raking while I listen to her narrate. After a few minutes she starts adding things, internal dialogue, nuggets of perception, even a few plot details I had no idea about. She's brilliant!


I drop the rake, run into the house, throw myself onto my writing couch. "Where's a pencil? I need paper? Where'd I put my glasses?"

Hubby, who is used to me in this mode, silently hands me all I ask for, and I start writing. Long hand. I don't know the reasons, but pencil and paper are what work for me. I write five pages without looking up. When I finish, I smile at my hubby.


Of course. I know this. Whenever I'm stuck, I need to go do something else. I can't sit and try to force the words. Novels don't flow from the frontal lobe. They leek out sideways, come at you from the peripheral. The answers come when you fully engage your mind and body elsewhere.

I knew that.
I just forgot.
Thanks brain, for the reminder.

I bid you good writing.


Susie Finkbeiner said...


Bonnie Grove said...

You're too kind, Susie.

Steve G said...

It's a great way to approach life, too. Sometimes we need gear changes just to keep fresh and present.

Great post. There's a birch tree in the backyard that is starting to drop its leaves...

Patti Hill said...

Bonnie, I'm so glad you linked to the Novel Matters FB page. I wouldn't want to have missed this. Not only have you caught the truth of the emerging character--she's always born breach!--but you've told your story with beautifully metered structure. Bravo!

Danica Grunert said...

This makes me excited. I enjoy reading your blog but I don't usually comment. Last week I was chatting in the church foyer with a girlfriend about your last book. We both loved it and can't wait for the next one.
I bid YOU good writing. ;-)

Bonnie Grove said...

Patti: Mwah!

Danica: Thank you for the breeze in these writer's sails. I'm writing, I promise. It's difficult to get these novels into readers hands these days. I'll keep trying.

Jennifer Major said...

This is my first time commenting, but I'v been lurking.

That sounds like I've just shuffled into the room and said "Mastah, your dinnah awaits".

Anyway, I've enjoyed reading your insights and observations. I'm somewhat of a newbie, but I've been writing for a newspaper for 4 years (op-ed stuff) and I've had an online journal/blog for 11 years.

I really like how your words dance with each other, as opposed to stomping in circles in an effort to be impressive. Instead, they listen to the music, and bend and sway together.

And hello, you're Canadian!! I'm from Vancouver but live near Fredericton, NB. And I much prefer Saskatoon to Regina.

Bonnie Grove said...

Thanks for the kind words, Jennifer. I recognize you from Novel Matters. ;)

Yes! Canadian! How smart you are for moving from a coast to another coast. Landlocked-that's my Canadian experience. We'd love to live near water one day. But, as you pointed out, at least we're in Saskatoon and not Regina.