As I worked on the pitch for my web series, I realized that even though I’d put my novel writing on hold, I didn’t want to give up the story entirely. It wasn’t going to be as easy to pick my novel back up as it was to put down. A story has peaks and valleys; I’d stopped in a valley and it was difficult to find the momentum to reach the next peak from there. So I turned to research, where I always turn when I want to get my head into the story without actually writing. However, on this occasion, Google wasn’t enough.
I needed the mountains.
Over Labour Day long weekend, I somehow convinced my mom and siblings to embark on a day trip to the very places my main character goes in my book. Off to Banff National Park we went, and our first stop was Lake Minnewanka.
The plan had been to hike the trail my MC follows at the part of the book I was at, but I’d brought my camera and my mom and sister wanted pictures, and soon enough it turned into just one big photo-op trip and we never got farther than the lake’s island.
Even though we didn’t manage the whole path my MC takes in my book, we managed to go along much of it, even if by car. It definitely helped to be in the setting I was trying to write and to see things from my character’s point of view. It was good to see how crowded the place was and gauge how long it takes to travel those paths. Most of all, it was beautiful. The forests of Alberta are always inspiring.
And for the rest of the day, I did get some good pictures.
After a few hours of climbing on rocks and taking pictures, we went to Banff because we had a dinner reservation. A lot of my novel also takes place in Banff, so it was good to explore the town too, but I go there a lot and there’s lots on the internet about it, so I didn’t take as many pictures.
I did not stop writing because I lost inspiration. Rather, I lost inspiration because I stopped writing. Pausing progress on my book was a conscious decision and I did it in order to use my creativity on other pursuits for a set amount of time. But all novelists know that there’s more to working on a book than sitting down and writing.
The development of our stories never stops. When we’re not at our desks, our minds are working on it. When we get stuck and hide them in a drawer for years, they age like wine until the right time. When we purposefully put them aside to work on other things, we may still drag our families into the mountains in which our story is set in the name of research. And at the end of the day, it’s all worth it.