A Great Vacation May Be Closer Than You Think
PHS columnist and author, Kristina Knight, tells us what she loves about taking a vacation that's close to home.
Getting stuck is no fun, and yet it happens to me at least once with each book I write. It could be a sagging middle, it could be getting the beginning just right, it could be the ending is too coincidental, or it could be none of those things. Maybe I’ve lost the heart of my hero or heroine, maybe I’ve lost one of the plot threads.
The point is, getting stuck in a manuscript is no fun.
It can slow us down, lead us to deleting thousands of words—only to need them back the next day—and make for too much chocolate eating. Conventional wisdom tells us to walk away from the manuscript when we’re lost. To do something else, think of something else. More often than not, I think about vacation.
I love to travel. Give me the opportunity to jump on a 747 or a cruise ship to just about anywhere in the world, and I’m game. I’ll pack lightly, I’ll pack way too much. I’ll bring along only bathing suits or all formal attire. I just want to go somewhere.
My budget, however, fails me on my travel lust. It fails me a lot. Not to mention the fact that if I took a two week vacation every time I felt a little lost from the characters in one of my books, I would never finish a single book!
That’s why I’ve learned to take vacations that are only a day at a time—the packing is much easier, you’re at your destination in a heartbeat, and you can still take a thousand pictures to share on social media.
How does one vacation a day at a time? By vacationing at home. No, not necessarily in your backyard —although, if you have a pool or lake, or maybe just a fun sprinkler system and an adult beverage, an afternoon in your backyard might be just the ticket—though not farther. What I’m talking about is taking a vacation in your town, your county, or within an hour or so drive. The key is to find something new to you and to do it, you may have to make a few calls.
Start with your local tourism bureau
Seriously, you probably have one. Most counties do these days, even if your only claim to fame is a weirdly shaped rock on a hill. The tourism office will also have information on nearby attractions. Maybe an overly large sunflower field should you be in Kansas. Maybe an amazing lookout point if you’re near the mountains. Or maybe, if you live in a small town in Ohio, a piece of the Underground Railroad.
Call the tourism board and ask about any local interest areas such as historical landmarks, famous residents, or museums.
Hit up the search engines
After you’ve called the tourism bureau, you may have a whole list of fun and exciting day-trip ideas. Or, you may have a long list of things that might be interesting to someone out there, but not you specifically. That’s okay. Keep that list, and turn to the Internet.
Search engines and social media are your friends in this endeavor. Search phrases like ‘fun things to do in [your city/town/county/region]’, ‘vacation ideas for [your region]’, or ‘field trip ideas [your region]’. That ‘field trip’ search? You’ll get a ton of returns because teachers are very good at using local spots of interest to teach kids about history, culture and even math.
Plan your trip
Whether it’s a tour of a local winery that allows you to stomp the grapes or hiking to Lookout Point, use the time to free yourself from whatever is bothering you about the book. Don’t take your computer, your notebook, or even your phone if it will lead you to trying to take notes on your plot problem. Do take your camera, some money for a souvenir, and a spirit of adventure.
Think about your next day trip
You’ve done the hard part now—called the tourism board, Googled your heart out, and maybe even checked in with social media on where to go. You likely have a long list. Put that list in a folder and when the muse has you wishing your characters were dead, dip into the folder and find a new place to get you out of your office and away from your writing troubles.
What I have found is, no matter how stuck I am in a book, taking a day away from my office, my characters, and my story is a good way to freshen things up within the story. While I’m taking in the changing fall leaves around Lake Erie, my subconscious is figuring out how my heroine can overcome her emotional fears. When I’m picnicking at a local lighthouse, my subconscious is picking up that fallen plot thread and figuring out how to braid it back in.
When you get stuck with your writing, how do you cope? Have you vacationed in your locale? What interesting things did you discover? Tell us in the comments or use #Staycation to join the #PHS community's discussion on Social Media.
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