State of the Savage: July 2015

by Keith Savage · 9 comments

Ardmucknish Bay, north of Oban, Scotland

It has been a couple months since I returned from my trip to Scotland’s west highlands, and the sights, sounds, and smells of that trip are still clear in my mind’s eye. The lush woods of Glencoe rife with dew-flecked mosses and broad-capped fungi, the smell of pine and oak and brine, and the rolling sea winds and crashing waves spring forth. I am just now finishing up my writings on last year’s trip to the south of Scotland, but in the coming months I will turn the page on Traveling Savage and begin writing about this most recent swing through old Alba (I’ve already written posts about the most recent trip’s accommodations).

As usual, it wasn’t long before I turned my eyes back to the map and began pondering my next foray into Scotland. I came upon it easily, for this was a region – much like the west highlands – I’ve mostly only driven through: The north highlands. This is a vast swath of land north of an imaginary line drawn from Inverness to the Isle of Skye. This region is a great wilderness largely unpeopled and, if you scan a map, largely navigable only along a series of coastal roads. The interior is high heath, deep lochs, and sweeping glens where roads dare not go.


There are a couple roads that span the interior but given my experience in other out-of-the-way parts of Scotland I’m guessing they’re little more than narrow, one-lane tracks. This area is composed of Easter Ross, Wester Ross, Sutherland, and Caithness, and within its bounds is a rich history that stretches back through the clans, Vikings, Picts, and beyond. The east coast is the most trafficked as the A9 runs north through here to Thurso, a common route for people visiting Orkney. The west and north coasts, on the other hand, are shredded by sea lochs and small, winding roads that press through the wind and the rain to small outposts like Ullapool, Kylesku, and Durness.

During my cursory investigation of this idea I found the North Coast 500, a marketing initiative designed to increase tourism to this region of Scotland. Seems like the perfect organization to team up with on my trip, doesn’t it? I’ve reached out to them recently, so we will see if we can’t put something together, though my track record in this realm is disheartening. Despite being the world’s number one Scotland travel blog, Scottish tourism is quite gun shy when it comes to new media collaborations. Wish me luck! Or better yet, pester them to work with me! If they do, I’ll look like the guy in the picture below.

I do look like him, mainly because that is actually me.

Book Update

I have been working on a novel for three and a half years. When I write it like that it scares me. I finished my second draft a few months back before I went to Scotland, and upon returning I read the manuscript. The great news is that I think the story works (something that was not true of my first draft). The bad, expected news is that it needs a lot of work. In the last couple months I’ve been in the weeds analyzing my 700+ page manuscript from front to back, scene by scene, determining how the pieces fit (if they do) and how they need to be revised.

This is all new territory. I’m learning the craft as I go along, kind of like being thrown in the ocean and teaching yourself how to swim before you drown. I’ve employed various manuals on the craft to help me on this journey, but synthesizing the various systems of often contradictory advice is a skill in its own right.

Yesterday I had a mini breakthrough. My assessment of the second draft had been developing in my subconscious the last couple of months. The pacing seemed off, the characters a little flat. There are scenes with exposition but no shift in values. I realized that many of these problems stem from characterization and character arcs, areas that need more definition. This next draft of the book will tackle my two protagonists and focus on clarifying their motivations and actions. I think it will go a long way toward making it ready for my alpha readers.

When my thoughts darken about this process I hasten to remind myself that I am doing two tasks at once: Writing a novel and learning how to write a novel. There is “start-up time” here that won’t be there down the road. Slowly but surely, it is coming together.

RoseNo Gravatar August 5, 2015 at 10:13 PM

My husband and I will visit Scotland for the first time in September, 2015. We will rent a car and travel from Sept. 15-Oct. 1. I’m anxious to read more of your posts.

Neil MackeyNo Gravatar July 29, 2015 at 11:41 PM


Well, all I can say is that if your finished book is as good as your blog(s), it’ll be a best seller! Keep the faith, brother…

I don’t know what genres you like, but I just finished the “Wasteland Chronicles” and am currently reading “Ready Player One”. Both are excellent!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar July 30, 2015 at 9:04 AM

Thanks for the kind words, Neil. I read Ready Player One last year and found it was a good read. They’re making the movie now.

AlexNo Gravatar July 29, 2015 at 1:37 PM

“When my thoughts darken about this process I hasten to remind myself that I am doing two tasks at once: Writing a novel and learning how to write a novel.” So true! I’ve been working on a novel for a couple years as well, and with each new draft I realize that my plot no longer exists, or a character doesn’t seem to have any real motive. It takes practice and time but I think it’ll all be worth it in the end. I can’t wait to read your finished copy!!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar July 29, 2015 at 2:23 PM

It’s very hard to keep the story on the page in sync with the story in my mind. One moves a lot faster than the other and I’m noticing bits and pieces from previous half-formed iterations. The work is already worth it, I just don’t know if the end will yield a salable work or little more than a vanity press.

Writing is all about fiction – we have to make believe that we’re good enough. I think of Viking explorers setting sail across the Atlantic. They didn’t know what was on the other side – if there even was another side – what they’d find, or if they’d have to turn back. But they sailed anyway, and they found land.

NanNo Gravatar July 30, 2015 at 8:04 PM

I love your blog and can’t wait for your book. Unfortunately, I found your blog after our trip to Scotland. Reading it now takes me back and has started me planning a second trip, this one longer and farther off the beaten path. Your personal story is inspiring as well and for all of that, I say thank you!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar July 30, 2015 at 8:10 PM

Thanks for the kind words, Nan!

Joanie MurrayNo Gravatar July 29, 2015 at 10:57 AM

Just wanted to say – Don’t get discouraged. Keep at it and little by little, it will come together. I’m currently revising the first draft of my second middle-grade novel. It is daunting, so I set small goals that are easier for me to achieve in the limited time I have to work on it.
I can’t seem to get Scotland off my mind, so I’ve talked my husband into a trip for next year. Fodder for book three in the series awaits.
As we figure out what we want to do, we’ll contact you for trip planning services.

Thanks for your awesome blog,

Joanie Murray

Keith SavageNo Gravatar July 29, 2015 at 2:14 PM

Thanks for the kind words, Joanie, and the reminder – I need to set deadlines for this editing/drafting I’m doing. They always help me write.

Looking forward to helping you plan your trip!

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