Words, the Sea, and Thee…

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.


Filed under Writing is Life

10 responses to “Words, the Sea, and Thee…

  1. Sounds like that epiphany was worth tens of thousands of words. I’m so glad it happened for you. And the fact that it happened with the magical mantle of Virginia Beach and the Dollbabies wrapped around you makes it all the more special. (Virginia Beach and the Dollbabies – sounds like a the name of a sixties girl-band…)

    I love hearing about your yearly retreat. I need to find something like that in my life. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Terri-Lynne DeFino

      It was definitely worth it. And I realized later that I actually added almost 6,000 words last week. I had no idea I wrote that much. All that bliss makes things a little foggy.

      Maybe A CoLoNY retreat, somewhere down the line. 🙂


  2. Good friends, good food, the seashore and writing time…It sounds like a week in heaven!


    • Terri-Lynne DeFino

      Complete heaven. I’m already counting down the days until next year. (363 days left, because next year is a leap year.)


  3. Awesome post, Terri. And what an awesome week! I’m so happy and excited for you and everything that is happening with your writing right now. You know what I’m really looking forward to? Your posts about the RWA meetings in July! I have a feeling it’s going to be such a great experience, and I can’t wait to hear all about it.


    • Terri-Lynne DeFino

      Made more awesome by your divine (and divining!) presence. A dollbaby week without medicine cards is no week at all! 🙂

      I’m excited about RWA. Never been to such a huge con. A little daunting. Good thing I have my tiaras.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. When I read about these trips, what I see in my head is magical. It’s almost too magical to be true. (I know it is true!) It looks like a movie – there ought to be a movie called ‘Dollbabies’ – or a book. 😉

    Do you think we’re all living story ideas more often then we realise? xXx


    • Terri-Lynne DeFino

      It is too magical to actually get across, Carol. It truly is.

      I definitely think we’re all living story ideas. We can’t help ourselves.


Leave a Reply to Sharon Struth Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s