Oregon Summer Recalled Due to Manufacturer Defects

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.

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16 Responses to Oregon Summer Recalled Due to Manufacturer Defects

  1. Roxie says:

    On the silver lining side, at least your knee is getting a rest.

    Your outlining penchant fills me with shock and awe. You totally, totally rock! You are the hardest working writer I know.


  2. Calgary weather is mirroring yours. We get a tease of great weather and then rain. Lots of cold, dreary rain!

    I’m with you on the outlining. I couldn’t imagine the nightmare of being a panster, and have no idea what they mean about outlining killing the creative flow. Don’t they realize you have to be creative to write a great outline in the first place? 😉

    Hopefully we’ll both get great weather soon (and that it lasts). 😀


  3. Lisa Nowak says:

    Roxie, my knee doesn’t want a rest. My knee wants to get all my pending customer jobs done before my surgery.

    Stina, for some reason it makes me feel a little better to know it’s not just the Pacific Northwest that’s getting the lousy weather. Not that I want you guys to suffer, it just makes me feel less isolated. And I am totally with you on the outlining thing!


  4. Elisabeth Miles says:

    Trying to write without an outline leaves me floundering around, lost in the rain on a dark (and stormy) night. That’s what is happening right now. I realized I needed to add a chapter’s worth of wrap up just before the end one, but I didn’t bother to work it out, and I am writing blind.

    If it’s a teleological universe, maybe if I stop right now and write that chapter outline the weather will get better??? Can’t hurt to try.


  5. Lisa Nowak says:

    Beth, I thought if I put the flannel sheets back on my bed the weather would improve. It got slightly warmer, but it kept raining, and now we’re back to cold again. Then I thought maybe if I rescheduled my surgery the weather would get nice just to spite me, because then I’d be unable to make use of it to get any customer jobs done.


  6. I can’t deal with the idea of no summer. Looking forward to summer is how I get through winter. The only day that went over 80 degrees, I was working and completely missed it. I am seriously grouchy.

    My abandoned novel was alternating voices, and it was hard! But once I had a few chapters of each under my belt, it got easier to “hear” each voice distinctly, when I needed to. Have fun with it!


  7. Katy Skinner says:

    It’s funny how we both read Mark Nelson’s weather blog. 🙂 I also like reading some of the weather nerd comments on there. This weather sucks, but I have a picture of our digital outdoor thermometer from last summer. I took a picture of it because it was reading 104 degrees in the shade.


  8. Helen Wand says:

    Changing POV is really challanging. I think I started to do it in my story because of my total innocence about the difficulty. I am starting my revisions and see some problems I have had with it. I think you’re smart to have waited until you had a few stories under your belt before you are doing it. Good Luck…it should be a fun journey..


  9. Rose Lefebvre says:

    I am thinking positive that sunshine is coming! Today I woe sandals and a t-shirt. Even on cloudy days, I find a bit of beauty to lift my outlook.
    I call the rain “liquid sunshine.” LOL


  10. Elisabeth Miles says:

    Yeah, those alternating voices can be a pain. My novel is being told by three women: the grandmother, through diary excerpts, one of her daughters in first person, and her granddaughter (niece of the other narrator) in third person. They all sound like me!

    But I got the outline done for the penultimate chapter, and I hope, rain or shine, I get the whole bloody thing done soon.



  11. Lisa Nowak says:

    Chris, Helen, and Beth, I don’t think switching POV will be as hard as it could be because I already know these characters really well.

    Katy, you’re the one who turned me on to Mark Nelsen’s weather blog. I’ve only been reading it for a couple of weeks. He uses weather jargon in it that I totally don’t understand, which really bums me because I’m a weather geek, and not knowing that stuff makes me feel unworthy of assuming that title.

    Rose, I’m glad you can be optimistic. I draw the line at wearing summer clothes when it’s cold, though. I’d find that physically painful. Yesterday, even though it was in the mid-60s, I kept my insulated flannel and fleece vest on over my sweatshirt while I was working. I was too warm, but I’d been so cold that morning that I couldn’t bear the thought of taking them off. This weather is making me feel too hot and too cold at the same time while I’m working, which I know doesn’t make sense.


  12. Katy Skinner says:

    I feel the same way about calling myself a “weather nerd,” because have you read some of the posts by the *real* weather nerds there? They have weather stations at their houses and shit. I’m not worthy of the title, either. Maybe we should call ourselves “wannabe” weather nerds. 🙂


  13. Lisa Nowak says:


    Actually, I do have a weather station, though it’s not one of the expensive ones. And I keep weather records on an Excel spreadsheet. And I have a college textbook about meteorology, but I’ve never read it. I wish a local college had a meteorology course so I could take it.

    I know you don’t read fiction, but you might be interested to know that one of the characters in my books is a weather geek.


  14. Alice Lynn says:

    I feel almost guilty today, lying in the sunshine here in green Vermont, listening to the ripples of the brook running past the backyard. I did arrive in rain though and it wasn’t sunny yesterday but today is great. I was hoping it was great in Oregon too! A rainy summer, a very rainy summer, really depresses the soul! Hoping that it will finally get with the program and be an ideal stretch of blue, gold and green days. Loving it in Vermont. (Until the 28th)


  15. Charlie says:

    Cold rainy summers must be really annoying when you’re a landscape gardener, but at least you’re getting some writing done. We’ve had a little bit of everything, brilliant sunshine, thunderstorms and cloudy days, but it’s fairly warm. I hope the weather clears up, if not go buy a pair of cute rain boots and find some puddles to jump in 🙂


  16. Lisa Nowak says:

    Alice, I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying that Vermont sunshine! Bring some home for us, huh?

    Charlie, it’s great to hear from you again. I actually do have some rain boots, but they’re not cute, they’re Muck boots. 🙂 They’re great for working in, though.


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