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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | Musings from the Chair Lift

Musings from the Chair Lift

Okay, I admit it. I went back for more – and spent a second weekend in the Poconos, skiing. It was a lot less crowded this time. Less crowds means more runs and more time riding the chair lift – which is one of my favorite places to think about writing. Honestly, can you think of a prettier place to ponder your work than suspended above a snow-covered mountain, with all the tree branches around you encased in ice and sparkling like tinsel?

As I complete my latest round of revisions on a manuscript I’m almost ready to share with my agent, Sara, I realize I have to face that WIP I laid aside a few weeks ago. You know – the one where the characters failed to come to life.

I’ve come to understand the characters weren’t really the problem. It was the setting. This was supposed to be a steampunk story – centered somewhat around Nikola Tesla’s laboratory and his would-have, could-have, (did-he?) experiments involving electricity, magnetism, anti-gravity, and lasers. Before writing each chapter, I painstakingly researched the technology involved and talked over everything with my in-house engineer, Bob.

And then I carefully regurgitated what I’d learned onto the page.

Urgh. Who wants to read upchuck?

If I want to do this, the technology has to take a backseat to the story. Even in steampunk or science fiction, the setting is just a backdrop.

When I write historical novels set in the 19th century, the characters travel by train and carriage, communicate by letters and telegrams, and tell time with pocket watches. However, I don’t painstakingly describe the operation of these things or explain how they work. They’re just there. The same must hold true in any fantasy or science fiction story: start explaining the setting and you’re strangling the story.

I need to start over, and I think I need to throw away my outline. (I knew I wasn’t an outliner. Pantstering, here I come!)

And while I rethink the entire project, I’m going to play around with three other ideas I have – well, actually one idea, one scene, and one opening paragraph – all totally unrelated. But on the lift this weekend, I had an idea about how to tie them together into a single story …

Love the chair lift.

7 Responses to Musings from the Chair Lift

  1. salarsenッ says:

    Wish I skied. LOL I think it’s wise to work on a few projects, right now. For nothing else, it might relieve the pressure you’ve put on yourself to ‘fix’ the other story. Just relax. It will all come to you.

  2. Linda G. says:

    For me it’s the shower. On a chairlift, I’m pretty sure all I’d be thinking is, “Oh God, Oh God, Oh God…” (Yeah. Not big on hanging suspended anywhere. So it’s a good thing I don’t ski.)

    But I totally agree with your point about the setting. No matter how important or compelling, it is still just the backdrop.

  3. Gasp!!! You’re going to go back to the darkside. Nooooooo!

  4. Marva Dasef says:

    I’ve named you as a Stylish Blogger. Drop into my blog to see how to “accept” the award. http://mgddasef.blogspot.com/2011/01/stylish-blogger.html

  5. Lenny Lee* says:

    hi miss dianne! wow that picture is soooo cool. those trees are like in a fairy tale. i think i could like that ride if i didnt get froze. that lift got your story lifted up so now you could get going on it again. wow! how cool is that!
    …hugs from lenny

  6. Cool, Dianne. This is a great perspective for me to read. I think I would do well to remember what I need to know or don’t need to know. And that view from the chair lift is not bad! No mention of pain this time.

  7. Shopgirl says:

    I am jealous that you are skiing. I miss the snow and the mountain. I am not big on outline either, so I am glad to hear you are tossing it. Your fiction sounds interesting!