Writing Retreat, Part 1: Getting Away!

Jeff ponders Reefs first draft.

Pondering my first draft

In the last few years, I’ve learned that nothing lifts me out of a writing slump faster than going away on a retreat.

Usually it’s my wife Allysen who recognizes the signs and sets it up for me. (Everyone should have a wife like that.) She doesn’t mind spending the money, which I am always reluctant to do. She’s smart, that one.

My current writing project, which sometimes seems as if it will never reach its destination, is a novel called The Reefs of Time, the fifth book in a character-driven, hard-SF series called The Chaos Chronicles. (The first three books are in our bookstore, if you’re interested.) I recently finished the sprawling, 900+ page first draft of Reefs, and have started the massive job of rewriting. I am also using the writing tool Scrivener for the first time.

Here’s what I wrote, on my first day of my first retreat in 2014:

I’m on Cape Cod for a few days, to clear my head and try to get some traction in the rewrite of The Reefs of Time. I’ve got the whole book loaded into Scrivener now, with notes all over the place, and Scrivener has already proved its usefulness in letting me move the chapters of different subplots around like chess pieces. I think I’ve got them lined up the way I want them, though of course I might feel differently as the rewriting proceeds.

Part of what I love about coming to the Cape is a chance to walk along the beach and the dunes, and refresh my brain with ocean air. Whenever I do that, I seem to see patterns in nature that somehow connect with what I’m writing. The tide coming in over the sand, for example, creates little ephemeral rivers that remind me of the starstream, a cosmic structure of my own imaginary design which figures prominently in the new book. (See From a Changeling Star and Down the Stream of Stars for more about the starstream, which was born of a supernova and a long cosmic hyperstring.)


Incoming tide at Sandy Neck beach


I’m not sure what these vistas of sand dunes remind me of, but I felt strongly that they symbolize something in the story I’m writing. I guess I’ll find out what, later.

SandyNeckBeach_20140319_005_med SandyNeckBeach_20140319_006_med
In case you think I just stole these pictures off the internet, here’s one of me standing where the dunes give way to the beach and the water. (Would you trust this guy with your daughter? Hmm.)

Jeff at the beach

The “author” by the sea. Sure.


How about this guy? (He claimed to be rollerblading. But it was way too cold to be rollerblading. What was he really doing?)

Jeff on the Cape Cod Canal bike path

He claims to be enjoying the Spring weather.


Actually, I really was rollerblading, which is my favorite way of getting out after an afternoon of pounding (my head) on the keyboard. I may have overestimated the degree to which the weather was warming up. It was cold out there. But here, if you’d like to see what the bike path looks like in more glorious weather, I still have some pictures from a prior year.

Next: Two Views of My Novel

(This post was adapted from Jeffrey A. Carver’s blog, Pushing a Snake Up a Hill.)


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