Thursday, October 15, 2009

Plotting the Window

As I ponder what to write for my very first blog, I keep getting distracted by the insulation contractor thudding up and down the ramp to my addition. Construction has consumed all my energy of late, and at the moment its hard not to be resentful of the time it has taken away from my manuscripts.

But even with all the physical activity, my mind is never far from writing. Take “pantsing” versus plotting and my recent experience installing windows. Windows require framing the opening just so. If you just wing things, you might need some serious rearranging before you can actually display to the world your shiny new glass. On my addition, when I lifted the first pane into place, I discovered the opening was an inch and a half too short.

It really stinks to put in a whole lot of effort only to discover that what you created doesn’t work and has to be chopped and hacked. Think sawzalls and chisels and the awful squeak of galvanized nails coming out of boards you were just sure would be stout enough to withstand the strongest Alaskan earthquake. They probably would have, but I had to rip them out. I still used the same opening, but it was a lot of work to rearrange king studs and cripples and header boards and the OSB siding I’d already installed. And my beautiful framing is now a mess. If only I’d plotted that window beforehand!

No one will ever know I went through all this by looking at the window. The trim and siding cover up errors on the outside, while sheetrock will eventually hide all the mistakes on the inside. But much like my first novel, I wish I had saved myself the effort.

On the other hand, each window you install gets easier and better. The second window I planned better, and it went much more smoothly, with only minor bubbles in the flashing and a few bent nails in the lip. By the time I got to my fifth and largest window, I was darn proud to have it on the front of the house.

And just like those windows, my fifth manuscript, February Trust, was pretty enough to place second in the Emerald City Writer’s Conference.

So I will keep writing. I will think of it like installing windows into imaginary lives. And someday, my manuscript will be skillful enough to be a pane of shiny new glass with a publishing house.

Until then, it’s back to the addition on my own house.

8 comments:

Tielle St. Clare said...

Love it, Tamera! I'm reading your blog, thinking about plotting but the whole time the back of my brain is thinking, "holy crap, she knows how to put in windows?" You rock!

And I'm in the same plotting place right now. I plotted this current book really well but I'm still finding places that don't quite fit and I'm going to be doing a wee bit of editing. Sigh. You go back to your reconstruction and I'll go back to mine!

Tielle

Morgan O'Reilly said...

I'm impressed you only had to reframe one window! Now if this were a project at my house... lol. Yes, there is a whole lot to be said for planning and plotting, but sometimes...you just have to wing it. I think there's room for both types of plotting to co-exist.

And that framing? As as long as it's strong, beauty doesn't really matter because it will still be doing it's job, holding the window and supporting the roof and providing a place to hang the sheetrock.

You're doing great! Keep on.

LizeeS said...

What a great post! And, for myself, I couldn't agree more. The more manuscripts I finish, the more I've realized how much I hate going back and making the "pantsed" part fit with the "plotted" part. I was going to leave my next book simmering as an idea for a while and then eventually sit down and duke it out with the story--pantsing all the way as usual. Instead, I semi-accidentally got involved with an online plotting group. I've put the effort into a little planning and, suddenly, I'm rarin' to go on a book I haven't got time to write at the moment. Happy dilemma!

I'm having as much fun thinking out the details as I would be making them up as I go. I know I'll get to "pants" the details of the story--that's where all the fun of writing will come in. I'm totally looking forward to it.

Thanks for your insight. You came up with an amazing metaphor for writing--windows are amazing!

And, yes, I genuflect to the woman who can put one in a house. You do rock!!

Juniper Bell said...

You are the ultimate Alaska woman, Tamera! Windows, sheesh. If I tried to put in a window I'd probably knock down the house in the process. Love the plotting analogy. I'm like a child, I work better with a little structure.

Anonymous said...

Tamera Lynn ---
You are the epitome of a true Alaskan Woman, right down to your Master Gardener status, livestock & orchards.

It's a proud thing to know that women like you are representing womankind with the exhibition of so much talent in such a well-rounded life.

Bravo on your Emerald City triumph with second place - you are going places and it's exciting!

Your novel, 'FEBRUARY TRUST' will be greatly anticipated - keep us posted.

Best of luck to a woman who deserves to be noticed.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is it is a true pleasure to be surounded by your talent and wisdom on a regular basis, and I have the tomatoes and manuscripts to prove it :)

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Windows and writing, what a great comparison. Yes, a little planning goes a long way!
And like a true Alaskan woman you have a lot of skills and talents that come in handy when you least expect it. I'm confident that February Trust will be published one day. Keep building!

Boone Brux said...

Tami, this is so cute. As a do-it-yourselfer, I'm impressed that you conquered the window project! I once tried to change my faucet and ended up spewing hot water all over the bathroom. But that's another blog. Congrats on the conference win. You rock, my friend.
Boone