I just got back from a week in Virginia Beach–Dollbaby Week. I’ve been taking this week away to write among women, beside the sea, since 2002. Some of these women have been with me since that first (Bald Head Island) trip. Others have come and gone through the years. The gathered group has been pretty steady for about five years now. I love them beyond words, past and present. Dollbabies all, and some of my dearest friends.
I could go on and on about the food, the sangria, the daily-fresh-baked cake. The brilliant quiet of eleven women writing to the music of waves crashing. I could regale you with the bliss of walking along the beach beside someone you only see once a year, or waking to the sun yawning over the ocean, the scent of coffee brewing, and the sound of soft laughter trying not to rise too loud. I could, but I won’t.
I write five days a week, anywhere between five and seven hours a day most of those days. Dollbaby Week is not necessarily a time I get much done. I have the privilege of squandering writing time there that I don’t take at home. But something magical always happens in VAB. Last year, I finished Seeking Carolina. This year, the perfect missing detail for a major story arc in Waking Savannah simply…appeared.
I probably didn’t add more than 2K* words all week. I’d actually be surprised if I added that many. But in among the detritus of writing when one’s mind is not exactly on the story, I tossed in a scene that was neither planned nor particularly necessary. As I closed down for the day, I was already pondering deleting the scene. It just wasn’t necessary.
I start each writing day going over what I’d done the day before. Nothing new there. Most writers do a variation of the same, as a way of reconnecting to the story with a sort of running start. As I went over that scene and came upon the old, burned-out foundation I tossed in as a cool but unnecessary discovery for my main characters, I gasped. Out loud and not just in my head. You know that heady feeling you get when epiphany takes over your brain and floods your body with joy? Got it. Started in my prickling hair follicles and tingled right down to my toes. One, throwaway detail–once again!–and everything fell into place.
Dollbaby magic? The always-crashing sea? Chance? Fate? The cosmos aligning? Who can say? Maybe it was all of those things coming together. Maybe it was just that glowing section of my brain that keeps secrets from me until I need to know about them, tossing out exactly what it knew the storyteller piece of my brain needed. I’m not here to pick that apart. I’m sure the science behind it is cool. I’m happy leaving it a mystery.
Getting words on a page is the goal, but there are times it’s not about word count. Sometimes it’s about freeing up your brain so it can throw things at you. If you’re focused on the word count, you just might biff the catch.
*Strangely enough, I discovered 5,295 words were added to the manuscript last week. Totally surprised me.