When is a manuscript finished?

Does a manuscript become a novel when someone finally picks it off a store bookshelf? When is a writer through with changing the colour of a character’s eyes, or sending them off to the outback, or possibly removing them from the story line entirely?

I believe it was Joni Mitchell who once said she could never listen to her songs because she always heard things she wished she’d done differently, and at a writers’ festival, Alistair MacLeod, one of Canada’s best loved writers, said that his manuscripts had to be torn from his hands.

Recently, I read somewhere that a manuscript is complete when you’ve given it all that you possibly could, when the story is finished within you. For now, that is the point that I have reached. Over five years of writing and re-writing, fermenting, thinking, re-writing, changing the colour of a character’s eyes, sending them down new roads.

Time to see what other readers think.

Time for a walk in the mountain. Morning fog is setting in, the leaves are changing colour, and I need to breathe some forest air.




Spring on Mt. Doug


Like the flowers, I am finding my way back to the mountain. This Easter hike led me to the blooming skunk cabbage, a path and view I had forgotten about, and to a place where rocks define a space. Curious about the rocks in this setting; I’ll try and find out more.

Similarly, in searching for a publisher for the long work (to my mind it will only be a novel when it is published and in book stores) there have been a few discoveries––a few inconsistent rejections, kind personal publisher emails, ‘we like it, but aren’t sure it fits with our list.’ Like the mountain hiking, this pursuit is leading me along some interesting paths. Rejection is hard, but keep believing in the work. Keep the long view in mind.

Strait of Juan de Fuca through arbutus

Strait of Juan de Fuca through arbutus

How is a forest like a novel?

Yesterday evening I took a break from the long narrative work, which will be consuming all of my days and nights for the foreseeable future, to see how spring has advanced on Mt. Doug. I have no idea when I last hiked. (I sound like I never get out and that isn’t entirely true.)

The last time I was in the mountain, though, the trees had just begun to bud–that was about three chapters ago. As I looked around at all the trees in full leaf now, it struck me that words are like leaves, revealing themselves in their own time.

I want the words, and this long narrative, to bloom easily and quickly. The forest teaches me to be patient with my writing. A novel unfolds a word at a time. There can be no rushing of words, just as there is no rushing of the forest to full bloom.

My narrative will never be as beautiful as the forest is at this my favorite time of year, but I receive equal amounts of joy in discovering every word and each new leaf.

Mt. Doug Hiking

Almost summery weather today. Introduced photo journalist Heather to the mountain. She pointed out turkey vultures and responded in song to an olive-sided flycatcher. We talked about the various calls of robins, especially at different times of the day. She has just bought a new camera, so check out her site and photos.

A young dad was hiking with his children.  The little girl, who may have been five, pointed out that yesterday had been her brother’s birthday and “he was four.” The kids wore size extra-small hiking shoes, and each carried their own backpack. The little girl showed us some silver-painted leaves.

I was impressed with this dad having the patience to walk at the little ones’ pace. He said they are able to handle long hikes with a snack and some water, and after all the fresh air, they conk out early.

Much like the rest of us.

Mt. Doug Hiking

Deep into Spring now, the forest flowers at the top of “little” Mt. Doug have transformed the plateau into a meadow.

On Mother’s Day, I had a great hike with number one son who hasn’t climbed the mountain since he was in high school.

He had many questions, which I was unable to answer. I wander the mountain taking in its beauty, and trying not to be too analytical. However, there are times when I feel that respecting this place will also require a naming of the flowers, birds, paths, and those who are there to protect and preserve it.

On that note, the Friends of Mt Doug Society tell me they will arrange continual meetings with Saanich Parks and hope to come to a new agreement on where, which, and how many trees will be cut.

The wind in the past month seems to have taken care of its own.