Never Let You Go: Staying Connected To Your Story While Travelling

By eating your computer, you ensure that you are never far away from your story.

By the time you read this, I’ll probably be…mm, depending on the time difference, hung over somewhere in Australia. Or maybe sleeping. Or trying to figure out Australian Rules Football. Or…kangaroo boxing? Whatever. I’m not here, by which I mean wherever you imagine me writing all this dubious advice.* I am on “vacation”.

Yes, sarcastic quotes. Because, while I’m not at my desk/in my lair, I am still writing.

I don’t like to take breaks from a novel while it’s in a particular stage: drafting, rewriting, editing. I’ve had to, but I don’t like it. I get disconnected from the heartline of the story and it always takes a while to get back to it.

But I’m not going to spend my whole “vacation” plonked in front of a computer, either. I need to stay connected to the story, not fucking hog-tied to it. Here are my compromises:

1) The Notebook. I always carry one as a matter of course, but while on vacation I started a new one and loaded it up with questions that need to be answered about the story: what happened to that guy’s parents? Why does she love her so much? What’s the deal with that thing’s face? All stuff that needs to be answered, all stuff that might get pushed aside in favour of actual writing on a normal day. Besides, long plane rides are excellent places to have a good long think.

2) The iPad. Technically on loan from my husband, I’ll be using this as my primary computing device. That’s what I’ve (hopefully) been using to moderate comments and respond to the more urgent emails while I’m away. I won’t be doing any hardcore writing on it while I’m travelling between bars, but I will dump most of my daily notes on the above questions into my files and take a look to see what else needs to be answered. I’ll also back everything up because notebooks get fucking lost, yo. And, if the urge hits me at five in the morning, I can always crank out a thousand words to scratch the itch.

3) The Sketch-A-Ma-Bob. Technically, all drawing is done in my notebook as well (another reason why I prefer blank paper). These are mostly characters. Drawing them helps me visualize them completely. Also, it’s fun and yet another activity that can be done sitting on a plane or in an airport with no internet connection. Other possibilities include maps, settings, tattoos, sigils, and graffiti found in the public toilets of my imaginary world.

So, if you’re jarred out of your regular schedule in the middle of a story, how do you stay connected to it?

*I’m not going to say it’s a volcano-based lair surrounded by my loyal robot centipedes, but I’m not going to say it’s not, either.


Monday Challenge: In Between

No airport I’ll be in will look this cool.

I’m probably in an airport right now. What airport, on what continent, I don’t know yet, since I can never remember the time zone conversions, but if you’re passing through one and you see a woman wearing a giant robot t-shirt sacked out in a departure lounge chair re-reading Harry Potter and the Something of Something for the millionth time, say hi. It might not be me, but she still sounds pretty cool.

Airports are weird places. They’re in between. A place you pass through on your way somewhere else. Which only makes it weirder when you have to spend time there. There’s the distinct impression that you should be moving on.

They’re not the only places like that. Waiting rooms, bus stations, other people’s guest rooms, hotels, highway rest stops…these are places that you inhabit only temporarily. No matter how welcoming, no matter how comfortable, you will leave. That’s the point. Unless you’re that guy from The Terminal.

Monday Challenge: write me an in between place. A place you’re not supposed to stay. What makes it that kind of space? What hints did the builders add in to make it perfectly clear that you have to go? Uncomfortable chairs? Awful paint scheme? Chorus of shrieking demons? And what’s it like when your character has to stay there?

I’m going on the hunt for a power outlet.


5 Things I Learned About Writing While Trying To Get Home

Other passengers make excellent cushions when properly subdued.

1. All airport coffee is inferior coffee. Both in terms of taste and caffeine. Five cups and I was barely vibrating.

2. That weird half-doze I inevitably fall into while looking out an airplane window brings me the best ideas. I don’t know what it is. Something about staring at the sunlit tops of the clouds puts me in this strange not-awake, not-asleep trance. My eyes are open, and I’m reasonably sure that if you talk to me, I’ll respond*, but all higher brain functions are temporarily suspended. If you put an ear up to my head, you’d hear white noise. Or maybe the ocean.

Something about the Airplane Trance brings me awesome story ideas, though. I think it’s because, with all logical thought disengaged, my creative parts take over and start freewheeling through my brain like a Ferris wheel cut loose from its moorings. I get characters and stories and scenes that way. All partials, of course, because Airplane Trance Brain is absolute balls with planning, but still interesting stuff. Yesterday, on the tiny prop plane that takes people to where I live, I found two guys having a conversation in my head. I’m not entirely sure what they were talking about, but I sure as hell want to find out.

3. Writing is the best way to kill time when your flight is delayed by eight hours.** Absorbing, entertaining, and magically transports you to another place. Which is more than your airline can do at the moment.

4. People will bite you if you come near their power outlet. Based on the evidence of that guy in the suit with a laptop, iPad, iPhone, bluetooth headset, and travel vibrator connected, spider-like, to a single outlet at Pearson Airport. Relax, dude: I charged at the hotel.

5. If you write on a plane, people will read over your shoulder. Yes, I’m talking to you, Leather Jacket Guy Whose Elbows Extend To The Ends Of The Earth. And you, Miss I Bathed In Perfume Before Boarding So I Can Force Everyone To Sit In An Immoveable Cloud Of My Stink. I can see the reflection of your roving eyes in my laptop’s screen if you’re behind me. If you’re next to me, I can tell that you’re not reading your book because you haven’t turned a page in an hour. Don’t think you fool me with your sidelong glances. I know what you’re doing.

Ditto for notebooks. I’ve had people tilt their head to better decipher my handwriting. Pretend you were stretching your neck for the eighth time in ten minutes all you want. I know what you’re doing.

I just don’t care.

In fact, just for you, I’m going to pull up that crazy sex scene and start editing it right fucking now. Enjoy.

*Or I would if I didn’t have headphones on.
**And then cancelled entirely. Polar vortex wins again.