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.
Kapok Park. April 1, 2019.
I just spent the last several hours tying up some loose threads on the YA project I’ve (most recently ) been working on since last fall. Basically, I wrote pages of notes in order to have a map for the next time I pick it up. The thing is, I cannot put any more energy into this project right now. My critique group gave me feedback last Wednesday on the first 30 pages and it’s still a hot mess. My words, not theirs. Their feedback was spot-on and they offered some great suggestions, but my heart isn’t in it anymore. This is a project I drafted ten years ago and over the following decade revised multiple times. It’s definitely a better story than it was before, but it’s still not where it needs to be.
So. I’m setting it aside because the characters and plot have become a jumble in my mind. I can’t see the forest for the trees and I’m sick of trying.
Whew. I’m feeling a mixture of emotions right now, but there’s a whole lot of relief in letting go.
Early this morning it was below zero and, despite the sun, the temperature is still hovering below freezing. I’m working on revisions right now from a chair strategically located in a patch of sunshine and just remembered this photo I took in Kapok Park last January.
I feel a kinship with this sun-worshipping turtle. If there was a big, warm rock for me to embrace, I’d be doing the same right now.
When you’re in the muck you can only see muck.
If you somehow manage to float above it,
you still see the muck but you see it from a different perspective.
~ David Cronenberg
Today as I work to revise my contemporary young adult novel that’s been in my life for what seems like FOREVER, I send prayers that the goddesses will grant me a different perspective on these pages and pages of muck. While an ibis thrives on muck, this writer does not. I’m ready for wings to help me float above it all and see this manuscript differently.
Revising a manuscript can be overwhelming, especially when your agent sends two pages of notes. I’m hugely grateful for her insights and feedback, but there are moments when I panic and think it’s gonna be impossible to bring coherency to this messy draft. That’s where the colorful fun comes into play.
Highlighters + sticky notes + bound manuscript = me forging ahead.
I’m holding tight to my color-coded revision process because it keeps me organized, but also because using different colors bring me happiness. Novel-writing should include joy and happiness as much as possible. And because coffee and peanut butter rice cakes also bring joy and happiness, they are equally mandatory to my process.
I will bring order to this messed-up draft. You heard it here first.
I’m revising a young adult novel I fast-drafted in 2009. Since that time I’ve, in a very on-again-off-again manner, written several drafts. I’ve known the protagonist’s emotional arc pretty much all along. The action plot has come more slowly, but I’ve also had a pretty good grasp of that for quite some time.
My struggle is with the climactic scene. I’ve written several versions and like each of them. Today as I wallowed in confusion and indecision, I decided maybe the best solution would be to make this manuscript a Choose Your Adventure story. That way, the reader’s choices would dictate how it all plays out and I’d be off the hook.
It’s either that or I flip a coin.
Worked much of today revising a young adult manuscript. There’s still lots to be done, but I made progress and am beginning to believe I’ll meet my self-imposed deadline.
Novels are such mysterious and amorphous and tender things.
~ Arundhati Roy
True that. And not only am I treating my novel gently today, but also myself. This revision doesn’t need to be perfect, and will never be so. No nasty voices allowed.
What will matter most at the end of the day is that I showed up.
For the past twelve days I read a whole bunch (The Hazel Wood; The Secret Life of Anna Blanc; Storyworthy; The Truth About Twinkie Pie; Boys and Girls Together; The Infinite Pieces of Us;), did some de-cluttering, scrapbooked photos, watched college basketball and Netflix, exercised, and did ZERO writing.
The no-writing started out easy because I was pretty worn out from my NaNoWriMo draft and in serious need of a break from that kind of thinking. Then I began to notice an increase in grumpy feelings and overall anxiety, and realized it was probably writing withdrawal. But I still wasn’t ready to get back to it. I had a gut feeling I’d view any new writing as crap and any older project as crap, and sure enough, I read 20 pages of a YA I’d set aside in June and thought “This is irredeemable garbage.” So I went back to reading other people’s words and cleaning out drawers.
Last night I realized I was ready to write again. Somehow, I knew it was safe to go back to the pages and I’m pleased to report I was absolutely correct. I just finished reading the entirety of the aforementioned YA. I took copious notes and am excited about the project that is NOT irredeemable garbage. It’s a manuscript in need of revision and I just happen to love me some revision.
Back in the saddle again, baby.
Because every step in the process is its own milestone.
Here’s to completed manuscripts!
As I wait to hear back from my agent on the middle-grade manuscript I sent her way, I want to document a new approach in my revision process. For the first time ever in the history of me writing books, I paid to have a manuscript bound. Here it is:
I was inspired by this tweet from author-extraordinaire Laurel Snyder:
Intrigued by the idea of revising in that tidy format, I asked Laurel if she printed single or double-sided and she responded that she did single sides because then she could write on the backs of pages. She also said she requested extra blank pages bound in the back for notes. Genius!
Before having my manuscript printed I switched it from the manuscript default (Times New Roman 12-point) to Garamond 12-point. I did that so my brain would see and read the pages differently. It came out to about 200 pages and cost me $22.
I applied my usual revision approach of reading the entire manuscript in one sitting. I always set the goal of reading without revising or making notes, but this time around was not at all successful. I tweaked sentences here and there early on and then forced myself to merely mark troublesome passages with CLUNKY. I made other general notes in the margins and then after finishing the manuscript wrote out big-picture thoughts/questions on a blank page in back.
Verdict? I loved working with a bound manuscript. All my notes and thoughts were in one place. I transferred my edits to my Word doc that was also color-coded with revision threads (green for anything dealing with X and yellow for Y and blue for Z and fuschia for wording still in need of tweaking). It was so easy to follow a plot/characterization thread from beginning to end.
I can’t wait to use this process again.