Spotlight on Writing

I write this having achieved a huge feat: I finished the last chapter of Darkness, Set Us Free. In the last few chapters, Ashley and I were racing to the end. It’s like when you’re on the home run. On that last push, just a few meters from the base. A surge of energy comes to you, and you know that this is it. You’ve basically made it. You smashed the ball out of the park, and all that’s left is to take it home.

This time though, I was determined to give it my all. I prepped like I was going into battle, and I was.

In the last chapter of Darkness, Set Us Free, it’s all action. Do or die. And I knew that this wasn’t a chapter where I could sit idly on the sidelines and ponder my character’s mental state. I had to dive right in there with her; I had to see what she sees. Think as she thinks. The whole shebang. From 10.30am till 5.30 in the evening I barely took a break. I was there with her, living every moment. Feeling every fear, every emotion. It was the most intense chapter I’ve ever written. And boy, does it show.

For all the trials I went through with my characters, I would say over the length of this book that that has to be the skill I’m most proud of achieving. It took a while to learn it, and I’m sure there’re plenty of learning curves ahead, but I’m confident now, that I can write an action scene along with the best of them. How did I do it?

I’ve got a few tips I can share:

  1. Have a plan. And then turn the plan on its head. The character thinks they know what’s going to happen, but they can’t plan for every eventuality. Something has to go wrong. Whether it stays wrong, well that’s up to you. You can find a way to get them out, or you can throw them to the dogs. But, if you want the audience on the edge of their seat, if you want nail biting drama, something has to go wrong.
  2. Shorten your sentences. Divide them. Splice them. And make every word count.
  3. Use your paragraphs. If there’s something I want emphasized, I start a new paragraph. Sometimes it will only be a word or two. Words look scarier, on their own.
  4. Hone in on the senses. You don’t need to describe everything in an action scene, because that would take too long. Besides, your character’s a bit busy to be seeing everything anyway. But choose significant details to enhance. The look on someone’s face at a key moment. The sounds they hear. Their sense of touch.

So there you have it.

And what’s next for us, now that this new installment is down on paper? Well, now the editing starts. Ashley has some edits to complete on the last book, The Price of Pandemonium, and I will be diving straight on into the edits of Darkness, Set Us Free. Then, we switch. Writing is a process, and though we’ve climbed one hurdle today, many more remain.

Storytime with Sarah

I found escapism in my writing this week, which was just as well, because I’ve been slowly going out of my mind.

This COVID-19 thing is tough. Right now, as I write this safe at home, it is spring in Calgary. The change of seasons always fills me with restlessness, but none more so than spring. I wake up and the mornings are lighter, the birds are chirruping quietly, and there is something in the air…warmth, renewal. It’s a feeling of change more than an actual change. The air seems lighter somehow. Less heavy. Like nature itself has swapped its woolen winter blanket for a pale cotton sheet.

All this makes me want to spend my time how I used to in my teenage years; roaming the grassy green paddocks, or going for a romp through the cool woods on the farm at my parent’s home. I miss the outdoors terribly, and not just that. I miss New Zealand.

No place like home. The beautiful sight of New Zealand Farmland and Native Bush.

When I was young, my grandad would often take us on bush walks. Sometimes they’d be close to home; Whakerewarewa (the Redwoods) in Rotorua where I grew up. Sometimes around Lake Tikitapu. On these walks he taught my siblings and I about the land. About the birds, and the plants, and the trees. Grandad always took a piece of polystyrene in his pocket, which he used to rub against his glasses and attract the birds, simply so he could listen and watch. He was a keen photographer too.

I still think about these walks when I write our book—from time to time we add a special touch that speaks of the beauty in the native New Zealand bush. Because that, to me, is New Zealand.

I love Alberta too; I love Canada and my new home here. Fish Creek Park is my new favorite spot. I like how wide open it is, with the wind rushing through wild grass, the tall trees and the endless pathways. You can walk for hours there. And I know I’m romanticizing my childhood. My memory likes to skip over all those rainy spring days, and the number times spent cursing as we tried to herd a mob of sheep that decided to take a tiki-tour through a gorse forest.

But, all the same. We can’t walk far at the moment. Outdoor exercise is limited to where we can get by foot. The suburbs have never held much interest for walking, even the local storm pond (prettier than it sounds) is losing its appeal.

What I wouldn’t give today to be wandering those paddocks of home, brushing through ferns studded with dewdrops, and my black knee-high gumboots crunching over the twigs in the forest.

~ Sarah