Cooper’s Hawk by Zippy. Sept 18, 2020
I’ve been driving the struggle bus lately and haven’t been disciplined about working on my latest book. In the past, I’d work hours and hours at a time on my projects, coming up for air only to discover it was late afternoon and that I’d done little else. These days, I don’t have that drive. Sometimes I’m at peace with this change. Other days, not so much; those critical voices can get pretty damned loud in my head.
Yesterday I realized it felt worse to not work on my book. So I opened the document and reworked a critical early scene between one major and one minor character. Page-wise, I didn’t make huge progress. But characterization and plot-wise, that little bit of work moved the revision forward in a significant manner. Plus, by taking action I was able to douse my angsty-guilty feelings. I hope to do the same today. However, whatever happens I’m going to try hard not to judge myself. It’s hard times on the planet and we all deserve some grace.
Last night I was reading ECHO MOUNTAIN by Lauren Wolk, basking in her gorgeous prose, when I felt a pang about my work-in-progress that isn’t progressing very quickly. I set down the book and closed my eyes. And then it came to me. I reached for my project notebook and wrote:
This is what I think needs to happen if I am to finish this book.
I must let myself write WITHOUT checking facts & figures. Write this story as I feel it and know it and believe it. THEN I may check facts and figures, and revise accordingly.
Cooper’s Hawk out my window. January 22, 2021
I know, I know. Pretty basic insight. That doesn’t mean it’s not also liberating and kinda profound.
And now I’m off to write/revise without scurrying off in search of confirmation, validation, or procrastination.
As mentioned before, I have a new middle-grade project that I (mostly) drafted in November and December. My critique group read it and offered excellent insights in mid-January. Since then, I’ve jotted many thoughts and ideas in my trusty notebook. But I didn’t start working with the actual manuscript until last week.
When I began reading it again after all that time away, I fell in love. One critique partner commented that the draft has good bones, and I totally agree. I’m so grateful for this project and the enthusiasm I feel when working on it.
However, various difficult Life issues are taking up lots of head space lately so I’m following the lead of another critique partner who writes one hour per day (and even has her own hourglass). I’m reading through the draft, making revision notes that I highlight in yellow. There are still a bunch of plot issues I need to resolve, but I’m making progress.
I will prevail. One hour at a time.
As I stand here at my desk, revising a beloved manuscript (yet again), I’m feeling prickles of doubt about the direction I’ve taken. I’m wondering and worrying and feeling a bit shaky on my writer-legs. There’s one eternal question:
“Are you making things better or worse, Tracy?”
Muse-dog Emma on November 20, 2020.
I’d dearly love the answer to this question in the right-here-and-now. However, only time will tell. And only if I complete this revision. So, best get back to it.
Hard days on the planet, yo. However, this morning I sent my revised manuscript to my agent and that feels so very good. While that project has definitely been my refuge, there were times it was hard to focus because of *gestures* everything. But after two months, the revisions are complete and I’m very proud of my tenacity (call me Tenacious T) and the finished product. Huge shout-out to all the readers who offered their insights, suggestions, and support at various stages of the process. ❤️
Blue Jay, Florida. May 3, 2019.
I’m also grateful for birds. They never, ever let me down. No matter what — watching them, listening to them, studying them — always soothes my soul and returns me to balance. More birds, please.
I’m revising my middle grade manuscript and am having one of those HOW WILL I EVER DO THIS? days. Today’s revision session felt like one cold, hard realization after another. As in, “Wait a minute, if I move that chunk earlier in the story, that will blow up this part of the story” or “When I cut this scene, where do I put this one snippet that absolutely needs to remain in the story?” or the evergreen “Damn, if I tug this thread it will *sob* unravel throughout the entire story.”
The good news is that I wrote a tight draft. The bad news? The tighter the draft, the larger the repercussions during revision.
I’ve been moving back and forth in the timeline so much today I’m not even sure what’s what anymore. Definitely time for me to stop and let my brain reorient itself.
I got out of bed at 7:20 this morning, which is early for me (I know, I know), because I had a call scheduled with my agent to discuss revising my middle grade novel. The good news is that although there’s much work ahead of me, I’m excited about this book again.
Bee on Fern Bush. August 4, 2020
Before the call, I felt zero enthusiasm. I couldn’t imagine how I’d revise this book in a way that would satisfy my agent’s (valid) concerns while remaining true to my vision. Fortunately, my agent has a keen editorial eye and made several excellent suggestions that give me a path forward. I’m so relieved! So happy!
Now, all that’s left to do is the actual work. HA! This busy bee needs to get revising.
I’m gearing up to do another round of revisions on my middle grade novel and realized it would be helpful to have a chapter breakdown of the latest version. Enter the spreadsheet! While I do love being organized and having all that information in one place (chapter, POV, setting/day/time, summary, page #s, revision ideas), I’m not exactly oozing enthusiasm right now. Not, say, like this pup.
But when I went in search of a free image of a spreadsheet, this smiling doggo was on the home page and I challenge anyone to resist that face.
I’m sure we can all just visualize a spreadsheet.
Finished my revisions! Time to do the Emu!
Wait, do the what? Well, according to Wikipedia, emus spend their day:
- preening their plumage with their beak
- dust bathing
Two out of four ain’t bad.
This photo seems fitting today as I continue revising my middle-grade novel based on a critique partner’s (CP) comments.
House Finches + Goldfinch. May 23, 2020.
Her insights are helping me ground each character in key scenes. This CP excels at noting the many moving pieces in my story, reminding me to take into account each character’s perspective. Revision is a dream when I’m equipped with such a good map. Much gratitude to Marcia.
(Another CP is reading the same version Marcia received and I’m beaming thoughts to the universe that his feedback aligns with hers because otherwise, yikes. What will I do with a whole new map? Breathe, Tracy. Breathe.)
I just hit SEND on the 44,000-word middle-grade manuscript I’ve been revising. I sent it to two readers who haven’t seen it before which means fresh eyes/fresh insights. Woot! Hitting SEND also means this project is no longer my concern (temporarily, but still!) and that I’m free to be and do as I please for the next week or so.
Right now, I’m feeling like this doggo that walked past my house this morning.
Unknown happy dog. June 28, 2020.
I didn’t leave my house today, not even for my daily walk around the neighborhood. In fact, I didn’t get exercise of any kind, unless I include snuggling with my cats and dog.
I did, however, sit in front of my computer most of the day, revising the final chapter of my novel. I’m not thrilled with the results.
Young scrub jay. June 21, 2020.
I did also photograph a young scrub jay as it preened its wet feathers. In fact, I took about 50 photos of that scrub jay and this one is probably the best. (I can’t say for sure as I tired of looking at/deleting them and somewhat randomly selected this one).
Am I satisfied with this Sunday?
Does it matter at this point?
It is what it is and was what it was.
ONE: I was worried I wouldn’t have iris blooms this year, but here’s the first to flower. The dependable purple comes through yet again!
Iris bloom on May 13, 2020.
TWO: Yesterday’s writing session was angsty and difficult as I flailed about, trying to find my way through the revision. I brainstormed last night before going to sleep and then instructed my brain to help me find the best path forward. I woke this morning with the answer (which wasn’t even on the list). Today, working on my book was a joy.
Today is not an easy writing day. I received positive feedback on my four opening chapters, including suggestions for increasing tension between my two main characters. As always, it’s valuable input from my Writing Roosters critique partners for which I am exceedingly grateful. However, I’m struggling to stay focused as I try to figure out which changes to tackle first. Each foray into the manuscript distracts me with “oh yeah, then I’ll also need to fix this and this and . . .”
October 12, 2016.
For some reason, this gathering of raucous grackles seems an appropriate image for the day.
Reality is a scary and anger-inducing thing these days, and today I am grateful for the middle-grade novel I’m writing. Last week, I completed the second draft (hooray!) and then had it printed and bound. I let it sit for a few days and then eagerly began working within those tidy pages. It makes me so very happy to have a compact, mobile version that I can work on anytime, anywhere. Bed? Yes! Patio? Absolutely? Kitchen table? Why not?
And when I wake in the middle of the night with anxious thoughts that prevent me falling back asleep, I focus on Geo and Sam, the two girls at the heart of my story. I aim to do them proud.
I spent the majority of this day offline. In the morning, I exercised and then spent the afternoon reading through the second draft of my middle-grade novel while jotting notes to myself. After that, as some kind of misguided reward for my discipline and productivity, I went online for a peek at reality. Oh, my.
Rage. Rage. Rage.
April 27, 2020.
I quickly logged out of Twitter and went outside to calm myself. That’s when I heard a whole lot of buzzing. I grabbed my camera and patio chair, and parked next to one of our shrubs that’s flowering. As the bees buzzed and flew around my head, I achieved my calm.
I highly recommend this remedy.
I’ve been trying to work on my revisions this afternoon. I’m listening to Beethoven through my earbuds in an attempt to drown out the present reality and it seems to work in short bursts. I’m focused and then . . .I’m not. So I decided to look at some photos to find something to put here, and began examining pictures of birds, flowers, waterways, and other typically calming images.
May 3, 2019. Clearwater, Florida.
Well? Right now, my heart is racing. Adrenaline is pumping and it’s as if there’s no escaping my anxiety.
Rather than try to (unsuccessfully) distract myself from these feelings, I’m going to try another approach. I’m going to sit with my anxiety. Because maybe it’s like how you’re not supposed to run when you encounter a bear: if I don’t run from my anxiety, maybe it’ll quit chasing me.
I’m quite sure it’s only stress-induced illness, but I haven’t consistently felt like my normal self over the past 12 days. As soon as I feel better and exert myself, it sets me back again. So, I’m now embracing my inner slug. Today, for instance, I spent all day in bed. And you know what helps make me feel the very best?
I’ve been closed off in my bedroom, reading and writing, while the humidifier sends a constant stream of vapor into the air. My cough doesn’t stand a chance against all the moisture. Don’t worry, there’s no fungal in this bedroom jungle. Not yet, anyway.
Bushtit , March 11, 2019.
As I work chapter-by-chapter to revise my manuscript, my task feels similar to that of this Bushtit. We both take aim and then chip away at what’s there. The difference is, this feathered friend gets a tasty treat for her troubles while my satisfaction comes from page count.
Maybe I should print out a page or two, and see how they taste . . .
I’m not as far along with my revisions as I’d hoped, but I’m still here. Showing up to the page and making incremental progress. Progress that today felt drenched in doubt and anxiety. However, as every writer knows: words coated in any kind of emotion, positive or negative, beat a blank page.
After meeting with my critique group, I’m tweaking some plot lines and revising my opening chapters. I’m struggling today because I’m not 100% confident about how to change one plot line. I keep telling myself to make a decision and write it out, and that if it doesn’t work, I can write it again another way. But I want to be “right” the first time; I don’t want to write it again.
Tenacious wildflowers in Uncompahre National Forest. July 30, 2019.
And so I sit, paralyzed by indecision.
The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward. ~ Amelia Earhart
This is my public statement: I’m going to act. I will make a plot decision and keep writing. And I will prevail in these revisions because there’s one thing I can say with 100% confidence: I am tenacious.
Oy. I’ve been working all afternoon, trying to finish the edits on my work-for-hire project. I’m this close to being done and wanted the satisfaction of waking tomorrow morning to a clean slate (aka, time to pursue my own project). Alas, it’s not to be.
Instead, I’m admitting it’s time to call it for the day. I’m off to wash my face and have a cold beer. Tomorrow is another day and COMPLETION WILL BE MINE.
The more specific we are, the more universal something can become.
Life is in the details. If you generalize, it doesn’t resonate.
The specificity of it is what resonates.
~ Jacqueline Woodson
As I revise a young adult novel written years ago, I’m adding specific details in hopes of creating a resonance. May my story bloom as specifically and beautifully as this iris from my garden!
Or better yet, chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate to keep me going on these edits of my work-for-hire project. As Warren Zevon noted, the shit has most definitely hit the fan.
Today I salute my friend Laura who talked me off an editorial ledge. After I sent some angry, frustrated texts, she called and listened to my rant. Then wise Laura offered some very good suggestions for moving forward and I will be implementing her ideas when I get back to work. Which won’t be until Monday.
Because right now it’s the weekend and I refuse to spend any more time and energy on this project.