A #5amWritersClub virtual retreat
I’m out of bed most mornings by 4:30. It’s worth the trip from the warmth of the blankets down the cold hall to the laptop waiting by the sofa. The cat comes with, and after she’s eaten, shares lap space with the laptop. It’s worth it because I’ve been thriving on the support and camaraderie of the #5amWritersClub on Twitter. This easy group of writers collecting around a hashtag was a fortuitous discovery, and—along with some wonderful writing blogs and books*—has led me forward in my novel-writing journey in a way I wouldn’t have managed, on my own.
This novel was an accident. I watched a TV show where one character kissed another, but there was no story to lead us there, no growing evidence of affection, no true context for the moment. (I know because I watched the show several times, scanning scenes for ever-absent clues.) After the kiss, the two boys in question, companions on a quest, had a short night of snuggling. In the morning, off they went to a sword battle where the kissee was injured. He died. He was buried. His lover was sad, and went home to be knighted, and it was over.
Well, pffft. I set out to write a short fantasy piece that would give these boys a full story and a happy ending. Because, as my character Thaddeus would say, it’s 2021 and we can demand joy for queer people. And here I am, almost a year and 90,000 words later, with a family drama spanning 60 years, more than a dozen characters, two complex plot lines, a 5 a.m. writing habit, and an 8 p.m. bedtime.
I wrote on Twitter that the novel pranced up beside me, dancing prettily, and I jumped on. Together, we have galloped across the world, to find ourselves poised at the lip of a chasm, staring into a rock-strewn torrent. There is a way across. My quest to write a really good story with a happy ending can succeed. But travelling alone, I could spend years finding the path, and years more weaving a rope to get me and my steed across.
So, at the end of April, 2021, I’ll be one of 20 participants in the #5amWritersClub virtual retreat, Unforgettable Characters and Incredible Journeys, led by the incomparable Ralph Walker. Suggested weekly writing exercises beforehand are leading me forward; the retreat itself–two-and-a-half long days of hard work–will help me pull apart my novel-in-progress and weave it together stronger and better. And after, I will be crossing the chasm, with intrepid companions and a new map, able to spot the spires of my destination as I ride out of the trees.
I’ll also write soon about other developments, including my book coach.
*Blogs by Frances Horibe, Jami Gold, Betsy Ellor, Susan Dennard, and Jami Attenberg; books by Chuck Palahniuk, Donald Maass, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Jessica Brody, for example