Gulf Island Adventure and the truth behind Instagram photos

Victoria is a small town and if you live here, you will inevitably run into everyone that you know everywhere you go, and often. I haven’t blogged about my time here, just in case I accidentally offended someone—I put my foot in my mouth a lot—and then saw them on the street and had an awkward meet up as a result. But, now that I’m moving back home to Calgary, I think it’s safe to share a few tales about my time here on this little island. My first story is about the time I went to Salt Spring Island. It was a solo trip, so I likely won’t hurt anyone’s feelings today.

My friends kept telling me how fantastic Salt Spring Island was and how I needed to go to it and check out the artisan market while there. I googled a bit and found a few other things I could do on the island in a day and I created an adventure plan. It began with catching the first ferry in the morning out from Sidney, eating breakfast at Salt Spring Inn, visiting the market, hitting up Salt Spring Island Ales and hiking up Mount Maxwell before catching a ferry home.

All aboard

The first part of the plan went well, I boarded the first ferry over to the island and watched the sun rise over the ocean. It was breathtaking and I highly recommend getting up early for the view.

View of the sunrise over the ocean from the ferry to Salt Spring Island.

I got there so early that the Inn wasn’t open yet and so I drove around the town just checking out the layout for about an hour. My stomach rumbled and I went back to eat a decent breakfast at the Inn while looking over my backroad mapbook to see if there was anything else I’d be able to check out if I had additional time.

First to market

After breakfast, I ambled over to the market which was a block away and peeked at the various arts, crafts and farm-fresh vegetable booths. It took about 15 minutes. I was pretty underwhelmed and I wondered if I had maybe arrived too early. I took a walk around the area to do some sightseeing with the hope that when I returned, more booths would be set up. I saw a seal having himself a little sun bathing party.

I went back to the market and found no one else had set up during my time away. I figured that maybe I went at the wrong time of year. It was late August after all, and markets were probably wrapping up.

You can’t go wrong with ale

I left the market and headed to get some delicious beers at Salt Spring Island Ales. I picked out a flight, enjoyed the sun and chatted with some people I met on the patio (surprisingly, I chatted for an hour with a couple from Alberta. We’re everywhere.).

The Earl Grey Ale was the best.

And now, for the pièce de résistance: the hike up Mount Maxwell.

I am the WORST at finding my way around, to, out of, into, places. I’ve learned this even moreso during my time on the island while trying to find many different trailheads.

Following Google maps directions (always the first mistake), I drove up a winding road on my way towards a parking lot where the trailhead began. The road narrowed and I skirted to the very edge, almost riding in the ditch as I let cars pass me on the other side. One of these swervings resulted in my car getting it’s itches scratched by tree branches.

Finally after about 30-45 minutes of driving, I got to the parking lot and got out of my car to check out the trail map. It showed that I had driven to the top of the mountain that I had intended to hike up. Rolling my eyes at myself, I walked to the view point, snapped a photo and drove back down the mountain.

View from the peak of Mount Maxwell.

So great, right? No! I wasn’t willing to let this be my only “hiking” experience on Salt Spring Island. I was determined to actually hike somewhere and so I drove to another trail. I can’t remember which one I went to, but I do know that I did find the right parking lot. That was about it as far as going in the right direction though, because I managed to take the wrong turn while hiking and wandered for about an hour in the wrong direction along another trail on private land. After taking in the view while trespassing, I decided to go back to the ferry and get home where I knew where things were.

View from private land while trespassing.

I got home and posted my pictures on Instagram, which made my friend think that she was missing out by not exploring all these fine places. She quickly changed her mind after I told her the backstory of the day.

So friends, life on social media is not what it seems. Neither is life on Salt Spring Island.

Stay tuned for more Vancouver Island stories.

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Writing advice to ignore

I recently read an article titled 10 worst story openings that sparked the flame of annoyance for me. To sum it up, the advice was “don’t start your story with something boring, but don’t start it with something interesting either.” The foundation for this advice was the belief that both of these were dead giveaways that you’re an amateur. As if that was a bad thing to be.

Side note: it’s not bad to be an amateur. Everyone has to start somewhere, and everyone started as an amateur. It is brave. So, be brave. Be an amateur and wear that badge proudly.

Here’s what I think about that advice

First, it was contradictory. Of course, I oversimplified it, but essentially that’s how it read for me.

Second, if we all wrote the way these lists tell us to, every book would be the same and you wouldn’t need to read more than one since you’d know how every other one was going to end, and then all the authors could just curl into themselves and burn out like dying stars.

The product of our writing, like any art form, is subjective. Everyone will have a different opinion about what it should be, and they’ll like whatever they like for whatever reason that is personal to them. You can’t control that, nor should you try to.

Now that I’ve told you to ignore advice, I’m going to leave you with my two cents for what I’ve found helpful. Take it or leave it:

  • Start your story exactly where it starts. Continue writing until it’s finished.
  • Don’t second guess yourself. You know your story best.
  • Write for yourself, not for anyone else.

When it comes to having beta readers and editors looking at your work, you need to know what it is you are trying to convey, and make sure your work reflects that.

Pull the things you find helpful from these people who are offering suggestions, but don’t for one second think they know what’s best. You decide what goes and what stays. It is YOUR story.

Okay, that is my rant for today.

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Moving write along

It’s been a while since I posted

What the hell have I been doing for over a month?

Writing

I finished revisions on Deer Ethan! I ended up cutting a huge chunk of words out, over 30,000 of them and reduced the book to a novella. This was just the first round of revisions though and I know I need to build my characters and setting out quite a bit. It could potentially reach novel length again at some point, but for now, it’s a novella.

I also started writing my next book and I’m using pen and paper instead of my laptop. It’s really slowing the process down for me, but I feel like what I’m putting down is of a better quality. It gives me time to think through things and I’m feeling a stronger connection to my work, which is exciting for me.

Crafting

I’m working on some new crafting projects for Christmas gifts. In case people I’m gifting choose to read this, I won’t elaborate. After Christmas, maybe I’ll share pictures of what I made. Or maybe I won’t. This is a blog dedicated to writing, not my weirdo crafting projects. Although, I like to take time to be creative in other ways as part of my writing process – it gives me a break and lets me see something else through to completion.

Living

I took a week off around my birthday (yeah, I got older since I last wrote). I usually take the week off and just hang out, relax, de-stress, and this year was no different. I tried climbing (so much fun!), explored the island, explored the city, and didn’t write more than a paragraph. It was perfect.

Getting back to it

Last night, as I was trying to go to sleep, my brain decided it was the perfect time to scrutinize my connection to the things I write. Of course I’m going to share some of those thoughts with you, considering this is supposed to be about my writing process.

When I was writing Deer Ethan in 2015, I was in the midst of a relationship that inspired a lot of the character and action of the story. I’m no longer in this relationship and working through the book brought up a lot of memories and emotions.

For my current novel, the main character is based heavily on my own personality and it’s set in my current geographical location. This might change, but for now it’s working for me.

I remember advice I heard in 2013 when I was writing my first book, to write what I know. I didn’t pay much attention to it because at the time I was writing an epic, high fantasy novel where everything was made up. How can you write what you know when there is absolutely no knowledge base? Thinking back though, a lot of dialogue, events, and characters were inspired by conversations I had with friends and family. Now, I’m almost certain you can’t help but write what you know. I’m inspired by everything around me.

Considering my work is loosely based on my life and the people in it, does it worry you that I write about murder? 😉

I do wonder if my connection is a detriment to my writing, and maybe I should stop basing them off specific people in my life, including myself.

I’m curious to know how other writers feel about this, about their connection to their work, and the characters they build. Are they based on you at all? On people you know? Do you completely separate them from your own life? What do you think about the impact of any of this on yourself and your reader? 

Comment below, or feel free to message me privately at ang.unsworth@gmail.com.

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From computer, to paper, and back again

There she goes, overthinking again

As you know, I’m trying to get through revisions of Deer Ethan so I can write a new book during Nanowrimo. And, as you know, I’ve been struggling through these revisions and attributed this to many different reasons, all of which are still applicable. But, I think I found a new one – because I can’t seem to shut my brain off when it tries to figure everything out in the attempt to find an all-encompassing solution.

Here’s my long-winded explanation of a solution

I love writing. I enjoy creating worlds where the forces of good and evil battle day in and day out, or just a space where we can question human behaviour, dancing along the edge between sanity and murderous madness and wonder if we would topple over it put in the same situations.

Side note: even though I have a degree in communications and write daily for work, I am not the best with grammar. I have an obsession with commas and unnecessarily long sentences. It’s a problem. I find it amusing that I’m the editor of an intranet, but am happy to have something that challenges me to overcome this issue.

I love editing – other people’s work anyway. When I edit, it’s mostly just to make suggestions for better ways to phrase things, or to identify holes in storylines, rather than for grammar.

Anywho, I was listening to a podcast which covered how Neil Gaiman (my idol) works. He writes his first draft out in long hand, and then his second draft comes from fixing it as he types it. That’s it. He doesn’t revise afterwards, other than to send it to an editor.

While I don’t believe I could get away with only writing and revising once, it does make me question my process of writing a book in 30 days, and then having to basically rewrite the entire thing, because, for me, writing fast doesn’t equate to writing well. (Note: count how many commas I had in the last sentence. See? It’s crazy.) Maybe that’s why I am having such a hard time with revisions, because I’m not revising. I’m rewriting. The whole damned book.

I know rewriting some sections of a book during the revision process is likely to happen no matter how I get the first draft out, but rewriting the entire thing is another monster.

I think for my next book, I want to try writing it differently. I’m going to try Neil Gaiman’s process, and I’m not going to stuff it into 30 days. I’m still aiming to finish revisions on Deer Ethan by the end of this month, so that goal is the same, but I won’t be participating in Nanowrimo.

I still love Nanowrimo

Nanowrimo was a great experience for me. Through it, I learned I have the ability to write a novel. Many of them, in fact. And now, I get to take that knowledge and experience and build on it to start writing great novel-length stories. I’m excited.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

The customer is always write

I mentioned in my last post that I found yet another way to keep my writing on track and that I might share it. So that’s what this post is all about.

Bagging your groceries…and my life
One thing I’ve learned from moving to a new province is that no matter where I am, living on a single income is frigging difficult. I took a pay cut when I moved to B.C., but it was worth it to me to be surrounded by the fresh, misty, ocean air that revived my soul at a time when I needed it most. I knew that pay cut would make life hard for me for the first two years, and holy shit, am I ever feeling it now. To try to cover my ass and stop buying groceries using my credit cards, I picked up a second job at a local grocery store.

I don’t want to work, I just want to bang on the typewriter all day
I worked at this store for one week, making minimum wage, when I realized the extra cash I was making wasn’t going to go far. I thought to myself, “Self…what the f*&k are you doing? You have two bachelor degrees, make them work for you dammit!” So I quit. It felt great. I really like quitting.

Now, you might be thinking that some cash is better than no cash, and you wouldn’t be wrong. I just figured I can get it another way.

You see, I get this weekly email full of freelance writing opportunities. These include publications putting calls out for short stories, essays, article pitches, etc. So, what if I took those 8 to 16 hour shifts I was working at the grocery store and put them towards writing article pitches and submitting my short stories for publications? Sure, it’s not consistent income, but it’s in line with my favourite thing in the world: writing.

If my pitches get picked up, then they’d be rewarded by a nice chunk of cash and my name would get published. It’s easier to apply for freelance opportunities once your name is published and you can send live links of your work along with your pitches.

All this extra writing will be excellent practice for me and it’s so much fun! And, isn’t that what life is supposed to be all about?

Yes. Yes, it is.

In my next post, I will take you on a journey as I debate whether or not to participate in Nanowrimo this year, and if so, how. I know…I said I really wanted to before. It’s not about a desire to participate, it’s all about my writing process. Stay tuned.