While The Cardinal Divide had taken shape in a few days late in 2003, it was several years before it found any substantive form. During the winter of 2004 I managed to pen the first six chapters of the book, but I lost my momentum and the book languished for a while. I didn’t stop writing, I just stopped typing. I do a lot of “writing” in my head, playing with the characters and mapping out story ideas while I’m running or walking in the mountains.
An injury in the summer of 2004 was a boon for the book. I pinched my sciatic nerve (playing with Lego with my nephew) and had to bail halfway through a 250-kilometre backpacking trip. I swallowed a fist full of Advil, found a bottle of gin in the freezer, and drove to the Columbia Valley to hide out at my friend Mark Holmes’ place. I used the remaining six days of my down time to write an outline of the entire book.
Which then sat untouched for more than a year and a half.
In April 2006 my first book, Carry Tiger to Mountain: the Tao of Activism and Leadership, was published by Arsenal Pulp Press. The year previous was consumed with the writing, editing, and marketing of that work, so Cole Blackwater was again put on the backburner. When Carry Tiger was set loose on the unsuspecting public, I found new energy for Cole Blackwater. In just over a month I penned 17 chapters, 75,000 words, and 278 pages. My one-day record was over the May long weekend, when on Sunday I wrote 31 pages and almost 8,000 words. Many, many tea bags were sacrificed to accomplish this feat.
I like writing first drafts, but to me this is a mechanical process. The detailed chapter outline written at Mark Holmes’ place two years before made the first draft easy to compose. With a detailed outline, the first draft is just a process of adding the filler to the plot. Much good narrative emerges and the general gist of the story forms, and from time to time I experience the pure bliss of creativity. But it’s the second draft where I find the real magic of writing. Here I can concentrate on the subtleties of character development and add prose to landscape descriptions. The second draft is my favourite part of the writing process. The next seven, eight, nine or ten drafts are a little tedious….