Friday, August 2, 2013

The Illustrated Guide to Writing A Novel (Grand Canyon edition)

I was realizing the other day that while I've shown off plenty of pics here of the Sierra Nevada, the Rockies, even Utah's canyon country, I've neglected one of my other favorite haunts: the Grand Canyon.  Ever since I first hiked rim to river and back on one memorable February day back in the early 1990s, I've been returning to backpack the canyon's many trails and explore its majesty.  I did something like eight backpacking trips there during the years before my son was born, but my favorite adventure of all was a 3.5 week rafting trip in which we floated the entire length of the canyon, rollicking through North America's largest navigable rapids and scrambling up scores of rugged side canyons along the way.

It occurred to me that writing a novel is a lot like that rafting trip.  You start out typing your story all perky and excited, knowing the journey will be long and arduous but confident you have the strength to make it.

Day 1 of our Grand Canyon raft trip: wheee, rowing is fun!
  Gradually, you become aware the boat you're rowing is really damn heavy.  Also, there's a headwind.  The perkiness fades, replaced by determination.

Day 3: rowing is hard work.
You pause, take a look at the bigger picture...and realize exactly how far you have yet to travel.

Looking down the Colorado River from the Nankoweap overlook.
Then you hit the rapids. They are bigger than you imagined.  You master your fear and face them head on.

Helloooooo, big rapids.

Sometimes you fall out of the boat and get a bit more of a ride than you bargained for.

Swimming the rapids of the Little Colorado River. (This, we were doing for fun. I don't have any pics of the people who fell out of the raft in the real rapids, because we were too busy rescuing them.)

Other times, you take a detour and end up someplace surprising.

Me exploring a lovely little side canyon.
There are other people on the same journey who understand the trials, tribulations, and joys.  If you feel a little overwhelmed, you can always get silly with them.

River guides pretending they are scuba mice. (Long story. You had to be there.)
No matter how arduous the journey, there are times when you're overcome by its beauty.  

Gorgeous Grand Canyon landscape.
And so, day after day, you forge on.  Knowing that even when this journey comes to an end, there will always be another story waiting for you to explore it.

The Little Colorado River beckons.


  1. Great story about telling a story!

    I just saw this video on the earliest rafters of the Grand Canyon, so I can really appreciate what you did.

    1. Nice, thanks for sharing the link! Have you read the book "Canyon" by Michael Ghiglieri? Upon reading it way back in my college days, I immediately made it a life goal to raft the Grand Canyon. (Ha, and now that I've done that, I've got a new goal: raft the GC with my son, soon as he's old enough. :)