For two shining days it looked like our weather was taking a turn for the better, then the jet stream dipped south again, and we’re back to rain and cool temperatures. Yesterday we shattered the previous record for the wettest June in Portland, and we still have half a month to go. At 57°, yesterday was also the coldest June 15th on record. I feel like I’m living in Susan Beth Pfeffer’s book, Life as We Knew It.
Mark Nelsen, local weather guru, was talking about all this on his blog and mentioned the summer of 1954, which had Portland’s second wettest June up until yesterday. That year it only got up to 86°, which happened in May. The next highest temperature was 82° in July. Most of the summer was in the 60s and 70s. I hate to say this, but I think we have to start preparing ourselves for the same thing this year. Sure, you can hope, but let’s face it, hoping only makes it hurt more when day after day of cold, wet weather is tacked onto the end of that 7-day forecast.
It’s hard to give up the idea of having a summer, of waiting a whole ‘nother (yeah, I know that’s not a real word) year to have sun, blue skies, and warmth. But at least it’s not the end of the world, as it was for Pfeffer’s characters. Unless this isn’t just a 50-year anomaly, but an indicator of a major climate shift. In which case, kill me now.
In an effort to cheer myself up, I’ve been trying to outline my next manuscript, which is the fifth and final story about Jess and Cody. In this book I’m using an alternating viewpoint. At first I simply liked the idea of letting my readers see Jess from Cody’s POV, but now I realize this book is going to be a welcome challenge. I frequently read about writers tackling something different to stretch their skills, and I think this will be that kind of project. For one thing, voice has always been tricky for me. It’s not that my stories don’t have strong voice, it’s just that I seem to have one dominant voice in my head (Cody’s) and it’s tough to get past that. I often struggle when writing Jess’s voice because I see Codyisms slipping in. So switching back and forth between the two characters ought to be a good exercise. With any luck, at the end of it I’ll have learned something about how to keep those voices distinct.
Another thing that makes this project challenging is that the alternating viewpoint affects the plot. Obviously some chapters will be more revealing and interesting from a particular character’s POV. But since I have to go back and forth, I need to make sure the order of events corresponds with whose turn it is to be telling the story. That means this is definitely a book that needs to be outlined. Not that I wouldn’t do that already. Those of you who know me well understand my feelings about outlining. To me, an outline is a first draft, a place where I overcome my plotting problems before I fall in love with scenes I can’t bear to lose. In other words, the more I outline, the fewer of my darlings I have to put to death.
I have all my major ideas written down as far as plot and character arc, but I’m having a little trouble coming up with actual scenes. I’m going to experiment today with looking at my notes on paper instead of the computer screen and maybe using index cards to get the ball rolling. With any luck, I’ll get inspired, and then I’ll have some passion to carry me through this weather. So neener neener, you rotten jet stream.