Stephanie Burgis
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Patrick just posted more pictures of our Hardcastle Crags trip at his blog, and looking at them still makes me really happy. We took Nika to a lot of amazing places for hikes, from Austrian hills to Pennsylvanian woods and Hadrian's Wall; going to Hardcastle Crags was Maya's first big trip, but it made her so happy, it certainly won't be her last. One of the best things about having a dog is the motivation it gives for going out to beautiful places. Living in Leeds, you're never more than an hour's drive away from a gorgeous part of the Yorkshire Dales, but without our dogs, we never would have taken advantage of it.

Today has mostly been devoted to packing for Patrick's trip tomorrow, but we did manage 45 minutes in Borders, where I drank a Signature hot chocolate and read most of Fables, Vol. 1, which I loved - which is more surprising than it might sound, since I don't normally connect very well with graphic novels. This one was just my sort of thing, though, and I thought it was really fun (especially horrible Prince perfectly done!). Sadly, we had to go before I could finish it (and at £9.99 for a slim volume, buying a copy wasn't really an option!), but I'm looking forward to reading the rest of it next time I get out to Borders. (In case anyone else hasn't read it yet, you can download the first issue for free here.)

It feels so strange to have finished Kat - I'm back in that between-novels limbo! I found myself searching through my catalogue of unfinished short stories in today's writing session. With most of them, I thought, "Hmm, nice first scene. Wonder what the actual story is?" - which is exactly the reason I ended up shelving them in the first place. I did find one, though, that I'd started way back in November of 2005. I loved the concept and the voice, I wrote 2/3 of the story..but I just couldn't figure out an ending for it, and I ended up dropping it to work on other projects. It's been a niggling frustration on the back-burner of my consciousness ever since then, and yet again, when I read through the first 3,000 words of the story today, I got really into it, loved the heroine and her dilemma, was absolutely sure that it was finish-able and that it would be good once it was just finished...but I didn't know how to do it.

Patrick suggested that I go back through the story taking notes on everything that had been set up so far. I followed his advice, sighing and thinking "oh, what's the use, I know all this stuff already"...but I was wrong. I already knew the fantasy plot, I already knew her important internal dilemma - but I'd never been able to hit on a climax and resolution that would feel interesting to me. A while ago, my brother Ben passed on a wonderful Ian MacLeod quote from last year's Clarion West: "Everything you need is already there inside the story". I'm constantly amazed by just how true that really is. It turns out there was a third subplot already buried in the story, an interpersonal conflict built up through every scene, that I had never even thought about - I just knew that that particular side character was a good foil for the heroine, and scenes worked better if I included him in them. But today when I gave the story a close reading, I finally saw the undercurrents that were already built into their relationship, throughout all their conversations, and the tensions that were already there, pointing toward a conflict/resolution. And with that realization, the story suddenly acquired a richness and texture in my mind that it had never had before. I got it, for the first time.

And hey, it only took a year and a half to work it out...

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