As you may have guessed, I’ve gone slightly underground to finish the book-in-progress, 100 Breakfasts, which is due in six short weeks. Last weekend, I spent three days in Pasadena, mostly holed up with the manuscript, combing and combing, unbraiding and reweaving. In the spirit of my friend Anne Stuart, who often keeps track of her writing marathons, I logged my progress, and thought you might be interested in the back-scenes process.
First, a little background. While I was in Australia last year, the Langham Hotel in Melbourne was giving away B&B packages around the world, one each day, in honor of the Olympics. They have six hotels, two in the US, and to my great delight and amazement, I won a package. To Pasadena, where my eldest son had just moved for a year-long clerkship. The hotel was approximately a mile and a half from the hotel.
Serendipitous on so many levels. There is the weird and obvious benefit of landing within walking distance of my child, from a hotel halfway around the world. I also really was ready for some immersion time in the book, and in fact timed the trip so I could do this work for three days without any phone or other dogs distractions. Oh, and sleep. I had the Colorado Plague for nearly two weeks and still haven’t quite kicked the dregs of it.
So, last weekend, I packed up the laptop, some good walking shoes, and a notebook and headed to the Pasadena Langham Hotel, which used to be the Ritz-Carlton. It sits in the midst of well tended, California Craftsmans and Frank Lloyd Wright style homes on zillion dollar lots. There are gardens and courtyards and a Painted Bridge that was created in 1932. In those days, it spanned a gulch. Today it gracefully leads to the cottages between the swimming pool and the garden pools that tumble down the hill.
Anyway, this is my writing log for the weekend.
I just had a very nice breakfast with Ian and then he took me to Trader Joe’s (the original TJ) so I could lay in some supplies–cashews and apples and a giant pile of very sweet grape tomatoes and cheese.
Walk was very nice, rejuvenating. I am making some hot water for tea and will work now until 4:15, at which time I can take the long walk around the neighborhood that I’m dying to do, and come back to eat my very simple supper of apples, cheese and nuts. And I have to work again after that.
3 pm Edited two more scenes. Pretty sleepy. Will nap for a quick minute.
4 pm. Napped 15 minutes, read through the dinner scene and it still sucks but I don’t know what the fix is yet. Still missing information. Going for a long walk now, clear my head. Will work some more later.
So far: edited/read 80 pages.
Had a good long walk, an hour or more, around the neighborhood, ate leftover pizza and read a little bit of Alice Hoffman.
I’ve been rewriting all day. Which is fine. That’s writing, too. I’m still not happy with a couple of spots, and there are some quality problems with [one scene in particular] but I can fix them later. [Deleted spoiler details here. ]
The Amazing Race comes on in an hour, so I’m going to work until then.
Added another scene, worked through some of the trouble. Finished with edited 100+ pageds and about 1500 new words. REALLY tired now.
Monday, March 30, 2009
It’s 9:50 am. I had a really good night’s sleep. I had a shower then a nice breakfast at the Terrace restaurant, and sat with my notebook for a little while. One character is not coming through on the page as well as I’d like. I let her talk through my pen and she gave me enough insight that I have a place to start.
Scene from Vita POV. Dozed for ten minutes and they’re doing something with noisy, noisy machines, so I’m going to go write by hand in the garden. Give the computer a chance to cool, too. It really gets hot if it stays up all day.
Oh, hmm. Now the machine is off. Maybe I can just stay here.
So, got the bread scene moving. Feeling kind of restless now. Maybe I’ll go write by hand in the garden simply because I would enjoy it. Have done five pages this morning so far. That’s slow, but I’ll live with it.
Wrote by hand and then read awhile. Typed in the pages and feel much better about the scene. Not meeting Ian until 8 or so, and I’ll walk up to the shopping center in a little while, have some supper, get the cobwebs out of my head. Maybe come back and write a little more. We’ll see.
Feels better, though. That’s a good thing. I’m really in the belly of the book now, and the only thing to do is just be with it. I’m tired. I’ve been working and working and working!
I walked over to the shops and had a very nice combination of salads at the local Corner Bakery. It was absolutely delicious and made me realize there are ten million things you can do with salad that I never think about. I love salads and don’t make them very often enough. Met Ian at his apartment and spent a couple of hours with him and his cats, then he brought me back to the hotel.
Enough. I am very, very tired tonight. It might not have seemed as if I accomplished a lot, but I was at it the whole weekend, taking time only for walks and Ian. That’s all a person can do.
Ready for bed now.
Something broke free in all that work, because the minute I arrived at the LA airport, I started writing in my notebook, scene after scene after scene, and wrote all the way home. (Until the horrific turbulence–it was scary horrible, and I’m not a nervous flyer.) A very productive three days and I feel quite well rested, too.
But of course, the best part was seeing Ian. Hanging out. Being able to give him a big hug and feed him the lovely breakfast at the Langham.
(I notice that I cat-napped a lot during this telling, and almost deleted it, but chose to be faithful to my true process. Anyone else cat nap a lot?)
Writing is lonely work sometimes, that’s the truth. What do the girls want? Maybe a nice walk around the grounds, or just over to the bridge.
Stop being so cerebral, the girls say. Just go write the next part. Rewrite the scene with Natalie and Tessa, then maybe have a little nap and a walk around the grounds and come back and do another scene. I can do a lot of work here. I’m here to work and I love my job so let’s just get to it.
Okay, I dozed for a little while, wrote the scene with photos, and the computer is really hot, so I’m going to take a walk around the grounds and look at the bridge and come back.