We shall not cease from exploration, and at the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

T.S. Eliot

Greetings from my post-vacation fog. It’s been a while. How are you? I’m sharing one vacay photo here–a bit of exploration along a river’s edge in Ohio. (See more photos over at my page on FB.) Ahead of me there, to the north, is Lake Erie, though this kayaking newbie didn’t make it that far. I did spy several great egrets, some red-winged blackbirds, and a row of tiny ducklings on this one outing. (Thanks for the pic, Dad!)

Much of my vacation was spent on, in, or near the water–just how I like it–but you know I got some reading in. I brought along a good mix of fiction, essays, and poetry and finished up Fierce and Delicate: Essays on Dance and Illness by Renée Nicholson, which I adored. (Look for a review over at Goodreads at some point.)

My vacation felt extra-celebratory, this year, as I had just finished up the first (very exploratory) draft of my new novel. (The first chapter, as it stands now, was published in the latest issue of The Halcyone Literary Review.) I’m enjoying this period of simmering–keeping the novel draft on the back burner a while. (May it grow rich for my absence!)

Have you had such a fallow period in your own writing? What do you do while you’re letting a manuscript rest? I tend to fill my writing time with reading, and it’s been fun to pick up potential “comps”–novels that might compare in some way to mine. Among them is the new historical, coming-of-age novel, The People We Keep by Allison Larkin–so far, so good. (Though I have to say I feel a little offended that books set in the 1990s are now labeled “historical.” Wasn’t that just last week?)

What are you reading or writing this week? What’s your favorite writing advice? What kind of exploration are you on?

Let’s keep in touch in the comments here, over at FB, at Goodreads, or at @MoonRuark over at Twitter and IG. (What did we do before all this socializing. Oh yeah, socialize irl.)

Looking for Rust Belt author interviews, book reviews, and more? Check out my categories above. I hope you’ll follow me here, if you don’t already, so you never miss a (quite infrequent) post. Thanks! ~Rebecca

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28 thoughts on “A bit of writerly advice for July 12, 2021…

  1. Oh! So good to hear how you are…and I cringe to think I’ve not blogged in forever. Glad you had a lovely vacation and that you. are. finished. Eeeeeek! With your first draft! I hope to read it soon and to give you mine. Though I’m “finished,” I have some structural things to “tweak” (haha, eye twitch). Have you read The Midnight Library?

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    1. I’m excited for both of us!!! Can’t wait to read yours. I will probably have some major things to re-do before you see it–don’t want to waste a good beta read, the best beta reader I’ve got! I’ve heard great things about The Midnight Library but haven’t picked it up yet. Did you love it?

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      1. Awwwww (blushing). Yes. Loved it. But I don’t want to do that thing I do, which is to build up a book, and then you’ll be disappointed. The Midnight Library made me think deeply about my life choices and gave me a sense of peace. And it was a page-turner. I couldn’t wait to get back to it. I think libraries should be using it for book discussion clubs. Maybe they will if the new normal doesn’t preclude them. Sigh…

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  2. I’ve been on a pause from writing as I tended to my very ill husband and then began to process his passing. What I have realized however, is that the depth of this experience has given me the keys to finishing the book I am working on. A silver lining. Living fully — be it vacation or any other experience that pulls one out of routine ways of seeing things is always a tonic for creativity. I am looking forward to your new novel!

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    1. I am so sorry to hear of your husband’s passing, and I do hope the time away from writing is rejuvinating for your spirit as well as your work. Grief is terribly hard work, and you deserve all the silver linings you can find! That is wonderful. And I’m in agreement with your prescription for creativity. I was so thrilled to be in that kayak–away from my phone and everything but the birds! (I’m sure those birds will show up in my work somewhere, eventually). I look forward to your book, too. Do let me know if you ever need a beta reader. Helping other writers is a joy I treasure!

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  3. Sounds like you had a lovely and relaxing time! And congratulations on finishing your first draft! 🥳 That’s something to celebrate. I’ve been learning more about telling stories. The mechanics behind stories. It’s been interesting! 😁

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  4. Congrats on finishing your first draft! Glad you had a good vacation to celebrate and unwind. Isn’t being near water so restorative? Thanks for the addition to my TBR list, too! I love ballet and reading such insider insights about it. And the Eliot quote you opened with here is one of my favorites!

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    1. Thank you, Valerie! Yes, being lake-side was the break I needed. Wish I was back there now, as I melt in 90-something degree temps here in MD. I do hope you like the book of essays, if you pick it up. Having been a dancer, I’ve read lots of dancer memoirs and essays, and this collection is legit. Also, I love that the author doesn’t denegrate ballet (something easy enough to do) as much as celebrate it, warts (and blisters, etc., etc.) and all! I appreciate you being here and commenting. Just checked out your latest post, which gave me so much to think about!

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      1. Thanks (again), Rebecca! Much appreciated. I’m a former dancer as well! I grew up taking ballet (and later pointe), jazz, and tap, but I started later than most in my age group and have always wished I’d done more with it. I finally found some fun adult classes near me just before the pandemic hit so am hoping to be able to get back to that soon. I always love reading and watching movies/shows about ballet!

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      2. It’s amazing how we once-dancers-now-writers end up finding each other. Such fun! I’m jealous of your adult dance classes. I’d love to go back and do a tap class maybe, unless I could find a flamenco class–my favorite! I hope you have the best time–way more fun that going for a jog for exercise, imo!

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  5. I’m glad you had such a fantastic vacation. Nothing like the great outdoors to help slough off away all those dreary months indoors. And congrats on getting that first draft done!

    * Applause. *

    So much writing advice… I think you’re doing it. Taking a break, whether it’s a blog post, essay or book, it’s amazing how much that time off helps.

    Currently exploring the never before ventured territory “moving across country during a pandemic but not freaking out about it”. So far so good 😛 xo

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    1. Oh wow, Lani! Moving–exciting! I can’t wait to hear more.

      And thank you for the first-draft claps! Just the first step in a long journey, but I am glad to have the story out of my head–and saved anywhere and everywhere.

      I do think you’re right about time off from writing. I actually say there’s no time off. We’re always writing somewhere, maybe just while we’re sleeping. But time off from actively writing means more reading and resting and letting things percolate maybe…I hope.

      Good luck with your latest exploration. Be safe! xo, R.

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  6. Congratulations on completing the first draft of your novel, Rebecca! Wow, that’s a great accomplishment. I can’t even imagine writing something long, and I admire those who do. And congrats for the publication of part of it—terrific news! And … glad you had a fun vacation. I always take books with me, too. 🙂 I know what you mean about reading during fallow periods. I’ve been doing a lot more reading lately while I hope to wait for “the well to fill up” again. I’m reading everything but the kitchen sink, a lot of nonfiction mostly. I hope to soon be heading back north, which is where I seem to be getting more drafting done. Then I come back home and revise/edit/send—maybe my home life is too hectic to draft/write? I don’t know! But somehow I just hope to eventually get something done.😆 Wishing your and your family a fun, relaxing rest of the summer! Deb

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    1. Thank you, Deb! I am happy to have to have an empty well at present! And, I admire your flash-ability. I guess every writer has their strengths…I am just long-winded, I think. Sounds like you have a good schedule–and know your writing self well. It is tough to draft around all the laundry and dishes and everything else that piles up! Wishing you a good writing/editing routine and cooler temps this summer than we’re having here in MD–sweltering! Thanks so much for being here, my friend!

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  7. I enjoyed seeing all of your trip photos on IG! Looks like you had a wonderful time. Perfect weather and scenery for taking a writing break. I love this comment you shared above: “Though I have to say I feel a little offended that books set in the 1990s are now labeled “historical.” Wasn’t that just last week?) I smiled and chuckled out loud. My daughters were born in the 1990s and they’re far from historical now. 🤣🤷‍♀️😉 I’m so happy you’re novel draft is done and resting as you revive your thoughts about the next steps. I can’t top any advice you’ve shared or know to use, other than to keep on finding inspiration in all the little moments you treasure in life! xoxo

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    1. It’s taking note of those little moments–actually noticing them–that I find tough when not on vacation…when not working on a to-do list a mile long. I know you know all about that! Vacation is good for that. And thank you for putting up with all my vacation photos on IG. It was such fun, and it’s always a good reminder of how much we got in–boating, swimming, kayaking, sailing. Oh, the 1990s as historical–I find it funny too! I do think sometimes authors set their books then simply as a way to avoid cell phone use. Cell phones make it too easy for characters to get out of a bind! But the book I’m reading now is fun and reminds me especially of the music of the time–grunge and also The Dave Matthews Band, which is discovered when I lived in Virginia.

      I’m happy my novel draft is out, too–one step done! And…that I got it done before our latest big life event. You’ll love this, Shelley–we’re getting a puppy. Rufus arrives on Thursday–of course I’ll post pics on IG. He’s a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, perfect for our area here, where he can get in the water as much as he likes. It took me a while to warm up to the idea, but my (3!) boys are over the moon about it. We’ve got some sleepless nights and a lot of dog-training in our near future, but I hope it will be a learning experience for all of us! (I happily take any and all tips!) xoxo!

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      1. A mile-long to-do-list has no place on a vacation, glad you’ve learned that trick. And that you still got in all that you did – hopefully very spontaneously too!
        The 90s grunge and DMB! YAY – I remember those too!
        You’re expecting a puppy!!! Rufus is a great name. He’ll give you plenty of opportunity to get exercise. My only advice for being a dog-mom is don’t parent him like a thinking child. You’ll spoil him rotten and regret it. Dogs do much better all around when they know their humans are their leaders. I look forward to all the pictures and tales/tails you’ll share!

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      2. Thanks, Shelley! I think my whole family–the dog included–has some serious training in our future. Chessie’s are a notoriously strong breed and need a strong masters–and, yes, a ton of exercise. My boys are already excited about playing fetch with him at the river. Seems like one of us needs to take up duck hunting!?

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      3. Yes, training is a great idea. Consistency is key – the whole family has to be consistent, otherwise the pup gets confused and manipulates their way into naughtiness. That’s great the boys are excited! They’ll burn off energy chasing the dog around!

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  8. Glad you had a lovely vacation! Wishing you all the best with your new novel! I’m still organising mine being published but I have the next one sort of planned, I keep having new ideas for it though, so there’s definitely something to be said for just letting it brew.

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    1. “Letting it brew”–the coffee lover (and procrastinator) in me loves that! But really, I think the subconscious writer’s mind does a lot of good work, even when we’re not actively writing. I LOVE the point when you can start planning the next novel–it feels so freeing! Good luck with your publishing venture–I look forward to the big cover reveal!

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    1. If my boys were younger, a “chessie” might not be such a good fit, but I think you’re right, Poppy. Luckily, my husband has a lot of experience with dogs. (We only had an “outside dog,” growing up, who came to us trained–so the training part of things will be a new challenge for me.) I’ll keep you posted!

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