Last Wednesday I placed myself in relative isolation.  In five days I wanted to:

•    Complete the first draft of my novel When We Come Home
•    Complete not one but TWO non-fiction book proposals (in fairness, one of them is already nearly complete)
•    Organize the first three quarters of 2009 for my accountant
•    Address 48 holiday cards – writing a individualized greeting on each one first

In reality, the cellophane is still wrapped around the boxes of holiday cards, the accounting is untouched, the non-fiction proposals haven’t been opened and I’m two chapters shy of a first draft.

I consider it a very productive five days. I found out why so many novels end up shoved in the back of a desk drawer, unfinished.

But that’s not going to happen to mine.  I’m too close.

I spent the first three days doing exactly what I was told not to do:  reading the manuscript, revising and editing.  I corrected continuity problems and added more history – When We Come Home is, after all, historical fiction.  I needed to immerse myself in the story again – and I did.

I dipped into one brilliant book:  Masters of the Air by Donald L. Miller.  It’s the story of the 8th Army Airforce – the B-17 pilots who fought the air war in WWII.  And I dipped into Leslie Haynsworth and David Toomey’s Amelia Earhart’s Daughters.  A good book, but I found two type-o’s without even trying and that always sort of ticks me off (note to self – spell check).

Oh – and I wrote.  And deleted.  And re-wrote.

I deleted an entire chapter when I considered the logistics of a single woman, without a car, traveling from Palm Springs to Tule Lake and back again in five days during the winter of 1943.

I reconsidered the sweeping romantic gesture of my planned ending.  My characters deserve more.

I reluctantly let go of a major cliché that I will not divulge because – quite frankly – it’s just a bit too embarrassing.

And now, in about an hour, I’m packing my bags and going home to my little studio.  I’m returning to my regular life – the life where I squeeze the writing in at the crack of dawn, during lunch breaks and on weekends.

It would be nice to be heading down the highway with a first draft.  But I’m not disappointed.  It’s possible that I’m leaving here in a better place – with a better understanding of not only the writing process but my writing process.