I love skiing, but I hate being cold. That may seem like an untenable conflict, but it’s actually not. You see, I have spent considerable time and energy (not to mention money) creating the perfect layering philosophy.
For you novelists out there, you’ll appreciate how this philosophy aligns with writing strategies:
- Double layers. To stay warm in single, and low double digits temperatures, make sure every body part is covered with three or even four layers. Camisole, shirt, sweater and jacket on top and socks, leggings, long underwear and ski pants on the bottom.
For writing, I equate double layers to the symbolism you should weave through your writing. By adding repeating themes or elements, you can give your reader a jolt of pleasure when they recognize a pattern–it’s like finding a prize on a treasure hunt. In Dare to Love, Nivea’s favorite flower was the forget-me-not. I used it to represent her hope that Dare would not cast her aside, and it provided a nice tangible element that ties them together throughout. Nivea’s wedding dress is blue and Dare gives her a handkerchief embroidered with the delicate flower.
- Make sure all your layers are smooth. When wearing so many layers of clothing, it’s hard to bring everything together smoothly. But there is nothing worse than stepping out on the slope and realizing you have a big wrinkle in your sock, right under your left heel. And it’s driving you crazy. But you’d have to take off six layers of clothes in the freezing cold, to smooth it out. So, while you’re dressing, make sure everything is comfortable before adding another layer.
Writers – figure out your pacing. Your readers want a satisfying conclusion. But they don’t want the ending to feel rushed. Build the attraction, draw out the conflict and then develop a satisfying resolution. Readers want the hero and heroine to overcome challenges, but deserve each other in the end.
- Tuck everything in. Shirt tucked inside leggings, gator tucked into jacket, glove liners tucked into sleeves. The cold will creep into the smallest openings and drive you nuts.
Writers – don’t leave the reader hanging. If you mention a person/place/situation, make sure there’s a reason. If your heroine references a crazy Aunt Doris in chapter two, be sure she pops up in chapter 17 to offer unexpectedly sage advice or to diffuse a tense situation. Readers don’t appreciate dead ends…unless they serve as a teaser for your next novel.
- Fill your pockets – On the mountain, you are at the mercy of mother nature. The cold will make your lips freeze, your nose run, your eyes tear. You’ll get hungry, thirsty and tired. But you will also see amazing sights you’ll want to share with your friends. This is where the ski pockets come in. My jacket currently contains: a mask (Covid!), chapstick, tissues, ski pass, money (hot chocolate with Kahlua is da’bomb!), hand/foot warmers, trail map, cell phone, a PB&J sandwich (because ski food is expensive!) and a small flask (ditto). If you’re aptly prepared, you can ski all day!
Writers – get the tools you need. There are a number of great books to help you–Stephen King’s book On Writing is my favorite. Find a writing chapter, support group, or writers conference where you can learn the finer points of writing dialogue, researching, copy editing, creating a plot board, etc. and hopefully, the best resource–a critique partner. No matter how smoothly the story sounds in your head, it is most likely not translating as seamlessly on paper. Creating a support network of writers will help boost you up when times get tough, cheer you on when you have doubts and celebrate when you finally achieve your dreams. Gather these tools and your writing career can last a lifetime!
Happy writing. Happy 2021!