Sunday Confessional: I, too, dislike the synopsis

I find myself without literary representation after nearly five years working with my former agent. We parted ways in August because her list has changed and she no longer feels well-connected with children’s lit editors and publishers. She worked very hard on behalf of me and my stories, but now I’m agentless. That’s the bad news. The good news is that I have a brand-new, shiny middle grade manuscript ready to query other agents. Unfortunately, the querying process often requires the inclusion of a one-page synopsis of the entire work.

Have you ever tried distilling a 48,000-word novel down to 500 words? It ain’t easy.

However, a writer friend reminded me of Susan Dennard’s 2012 post on the Pub(lishing) Crawl site: How to Write a 1-Page Synopsis so I’m using that format. Still, it’s not fun and I keep finding other stuff to do instead. Such as writing this blog post which is basically me complaining about how I’d really rather not have to write a synopsis! And searching for a fun goat photo to make me smile!

So, aside from announcing I share the near-universal dislike for writing a synopsis,  what’s my confession here? Well, it’s that I keep learning and relearning how different my writing brain is from many other writers. I don’t think in Three Acts or even Beginning, Middle, and End. I write more on an instinctual level. That’s fine, but it also means it takes me longer to pinpoint my novel’s Plot Points and the story’s Midpoint (which doesn’t refer to whatever happens on the exact middle page of the manuscript). No doubt I’ll figure it out as soon as I stop procrastinating. After all, I’ve written synopses before and can do it again.  Still, it’s kinda a bummer to realize after all this time that it’s still a struggle to write the darn things.

Thankful Thursday

Today I am thankful for:
beautiful surprises along the trail,

Lynx Pass Campground. July 13, 2022

creatives & their creations,
hitting SEND on a brand new manuscript to my agent,
rain last night & cooler temperatures today,
and my family, friends, and comrades in this beautiful & brutal world.

Snacks all around!

I spent the afternoon reading through my middle grade manuscript after a ten-day break and am very pleased. There are a few tiny continuity issues to clean up, but that’s it. I am really proud of this novel in which I shine a light on the prison industrial complex via a story of friendship set in a little town called Grapple.

None of us is free until we are all free. Abolition, yo.

July 13, 2022

I’ll say it again . . . I love this book.
Snacks on me!

Intentional peace

Yesterday, we drove Moby the Great White Campervan to the mountains for some rest and relaxation. Our intention was a few hours of peace and rejuvenation. We’d never been there before and were thrilled to claim a small parking area next to Buffalo Creek. I explored with the camera and captured some nice shots. This is where I sat to work on my novel revisions.

Buffalo Creek. June 22, 2022

I sat in a chair on the little patch of beach at the bottom of the photo and revised a chapter on my laptop as Zippy and Emma napped in the van. Rushing water. Clean air. A shiny, green hummingbird buzzing in for a visit.

The entire experience soothed my spirit and, as I type these words, I’m already looking forward to a return visit. May each of us experience peace and rejuvenation in these very difficult days.

Joyful tidings

I am overflowing with joy right now after finishing the latest round of revisions on my middle grade novel. One full day ahead of my self-imposed deadline!

July 15, 2021

I love this book. But for the next little while (two weeks, at the absolute minimum), I’m not going to think about those characters and their problems at all. I’m gonna soak up some of the life that takes place away from my standing desk and refill my well. Starting with our first camping trip of the season later this week. Woot!

Joyful tidings, indeed.

P.S. Did you know that a flock of magpies is called a “tiding”? Me, neither. So how cool is it that this morning’s oracle card drawing from my feathered messengers deck was . . . MAGPIE!

Lending my voice

These are incredibly hard days on the planet and I’m overwhelmed. But as I revised my middle grade novel this morning, I felt a renewed sense of purpose because this story matters. It’s about community, friendship, mass incarceration, and taking one step forward on the long road to abolition.

This story matters and my voice matters. I cannot crawl into a hole and give up.

March 13, 2022. (Photo by Zippy)

I am on this earth to shine my light and lend my voice to the fight for a better world. This post is a reminder for when I begin to falter again. 💓

Twofer Tuesday: feline edition

When the brothers began a joint grooming session this morning, their synchronized licking (back legs held high) made for a great photo, and I hurried to grab the camera. But by the time I returned, the session had come to an end.

Loki & Marcel. March 22, 2022

They’ve been napping there for hours (surprise-surprise) and the entire time, Marcel has kept watch over my project notebook. When I gently removed it from beneath his sleeping body just now, the pages were warm. I choose to interpret that as a positive review for my latest middle grade novel.

O Monday where art thou?

Here it is nearly 5:30 of the p.m., sun gone for the day as temperatures drop and daylight slips away. I’ll admit, this is my least favorite time of winter days because of the increased risk of gloomy feelings that often involve beating myself up. As in, “you squandered those precious hours and what do you have to show for yourself now that it’s cold, dark, and dreary?”

Not playing those reindeer games today.

Bouquet from BB. February 2, 2022

Right now I’m basking in the glow of my accomplishments: Coffee and Wordle. Exercise.  Smoothing out trouble spots in my middle-grade novel, revising chapter 8, and falling in love with the manuscript all over again. A thoughtful phone conversation with Zebu. Laughter. Laundry. Email plus research for climate action meeting later this week. Finishing the excellent We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan. Healthy eating. Sharing snuggles with dog and cats (with special shout-out to Loki for lying down next to me while I did foam roller stretching).

It is true I respond best to blue skies and sunshine glinting off snow. But on this Monday evening, I’m content.

Apropos

This image of our Christmas Cactus (aka Schlumbergera) is sharp in places and soft in others because the camera’s focus wasn’t evenly distributed. In other words, a perfect image for today.

November 17, 2021

Why? Because:

  1. I’m experiencing ptsd-related issues in which my eyes struggle to process detail**, which means this mixture of sharp and soft feels familiar and
  2. while rereading my critique partners’ notes during today’s session of revision work on my latest middle grade novel, their comments revealed that while some parts of my story were in sharp, undeniable detail, other components were so soft around the edges those readers were unable to interpret intent.

This lovely bloom is a reminder that I need to keep working on my focus.

**for which I’m doing daily vision therapy to bring my eyes back into balance

Thankful Thursday

It might be nearing the end of the day, but it’s never too late to share gratitude. Today I am grateful for a productive critique session with my critique group last night.  As always, the Writing Roosters had good insights and offered suggestions that will make my beloved novel shine.

And to celebrate, here’s a bouquet of wild asters  that remind me of a fireworks display. I photographed them last summer as we hiked the Oh Be Joyful Trail.

July 15, 2021

Oh, to be joyful and filled with gratitude.

Today I’m the tiny wasp

Only 16 days to finish these revisions before I send the middle grade manuscript to my critique group. It was a bold move, requesting that critique slot when I’d only revised slightly less the half the manuscript, but I needed an incentive. And because I’ve been making solid progress, the last few days I’ve congratulated myself for imposing a deadline.

August 4, 2021

Today, though, I feel tiny in the face of all the work that remains. Onward I fly.

Send lawyers guns and money

Okay, I’m being a big dramatic. But something’s gotta give here in Day 4 (or is it Day 5?) of working on the same damned chapter. I’m stuck.

Image by TheDigitalWay from Pixabay

Each time I think I’ve sorted things and gotten some momentum, I come to another screeching halt. It’s part brain, part exhausted-by-reality, part lack of confidence, and part what’s-the-freaking-point.

Maybe I’ve jinxed myself by repeatedly expressing my gratitude for being able to create during these incredibly difficult days. Earlier this week, I did just that, sharing with a non-writer friend how grateful I was to be able to immerse myself in my project. I told her many creatives aren’t functioning as they’d like these days.

And now I’m not, either. Instead, I’m stuck between the rock and a hard place. Send lawyers, guns, and money.

Revision is like a flower

This Rocky Mountain Bee Plant feels like a symbol of where I’m at with the revisions of my middle grade novel. Some aspects of the story have fully bloomed and won’t change much as I continue revising.

August 7, 2021

Other aspects are still revealing themselves to me. Slowly unfurling their blossoms to become beautiful, integral, and incredibly obvious how-did-I-not-already-know-that components of the whole.

It’s an exciting and gratifying place to be in the process.

#Caturday editorial assistant

I was working on revisions in bed this morning when Marcel decided to check out the happenings. In true feline form, he chose to curl up on the very document I’d just set next to me.

As gently as possible, I removed it from beneath his vast bulk. Not to be dissuaded from his mission of chaos, Marcel began noisily licking the plastic bag containing my highlighters and post-its. I was less gentle in that removal.

A few minutes later, I relocated to the patio. Marcel is an indoor-only cat.

P.S. While they didn’t directly obscure my materials, a couple hummingbirds got into multiple dust-ups as I worked outside, distracting me with their darting aggression.

It’s pretty obvious that I deserve a medal for getting any work done today.

Sunday Confessional: stealthy art

I get where Patti Smith is coming from in this quote: “In art and dream may you proceed with abandon. In life may you proceed with balance and stealth.” And I think when I originally drafted my work-in-progress, I did approach my art with abandon.

But today, as I continue to revise, I’m feeling a bit stealthy as I sow bits and pieces of backstory throughout the first 50 pages of this middle grade novel. I need the reader to know certain things, but I don’t want the reader aware of my presence. I very much do NOT want those bits and pieces to scream
BACKSTORY!
INFO DUMP!
WARNING: HEAVY-HANDED AUTHOR ON THE LOOSE!

Instead, I’m trying my best to adopt this squirrel’s attitude.

July 30, 2021

No sudden moves. Only careful and deliberate revisions that I hope won’t call attention to my presence.

(Note: Patti’s quote resonates with me so much I previously used it here.)

Reward: three of my favorite things

Bees, blooms, and butterflies.

Showy Milkweed and pollinators.  July 9, 2021

I’m posting this photo as my reward for all I’ve accomplished today:

  • Exercise (indoor, again)
  • Revised a chapter
  • Healthy (mostly) eating
  • Finished Shirley Jackson’s LIFE AMONG THE SAVAGES
  • Swept the floor
  • Stayed the hell off Twitter (mostly)
  • Focused (mostly) on things within my control
  • Played with Emma and snuggled with Marcel (and allowed Loki to nap without interruption)

Yes, I’m one of those people who derive great satisfaction from checklists. And they’re especially important to me on days in which I feel very close to the edge.

Well done, Tracy.

Pondering

I feel a bit like this today as I work to fully realize one of the main characters in my work-in-progress:

Marcel. February 5, 2020

I know who the character is and what he’s about. And yet, two drafts in, he’s still a bit of a mystery. Most of his petals have unfurled, displaying his basic essence, but others remain closed to me. But just as this geranium flower eventually bloomed in full, so shall my character. And like Marcel, I’ll be there. Ready and waiting to absorb all that’s revealed.

I like it, I really like it

[Update on Please don’t be dead . . . my laptop isn’t zombie-infested ! When I called to verify the computer doc was open for business, he asked a couple questions, then diagnosed and prescribed treatment over the phone . All is well!]

In other good news: after letting my manuscript sit for 10 days, this afternoon I read it in one sitting and am very pleased with the draft. My work-in-progress has good bones AND most of the flesh on those bones is also good. There’s still much work to be done, but the middle-grade story is definitely much closer to my vision.

How did I know it was time to read and get back to work? When I shut off the light to go to sleep last night and then moments later, turned on the light again in order to jot a revision note to myself. Up until then I hadn’t thought about my novel at all.

But I’m now back in the thick of things and it feels quite nice.

Goal met!

As mentioned here (and here and here), I set a goal to finish another draft of my middle grade novel by June 30th. Today is that day and I’m pleased to report I just placed an order to have the manuscript printed and bound!

Image by Febri Amar from Pixabay

To be clear, this is NOT a photo of me. I don’t have mad hops, not even on my best days, and right now I’m too tuckered to leap anywhere except possibly onto the couch. Rest assured, though, my inner Tracy is currently jumping for joy.

Hooray for setting and meeting personal goals!

Choose your challenge

At this point, I’m not sure which is more difficult: a flat-out sprint on a narrow wire suspended many feet above the ground

 

 

 

 

or successfully and seamlessly including all desired character and plot elements in this draft I’m committed to finishing by June 30.

The pressure comes from knowing I’m going to print and bind this draft and that it’ll be much easier to work on it if all elements are already included. The thing is, I’m probably being too ambitious because there’s SO MUCH going on with this subject matter that I’m trying to include. But at this point, I’m inserting stuff as placeholders with the knowledge that some (most?) will get cut farther along in the process.

Anyway, that power line challenge looks pretty appealing right now.

Writing space

My self-imposed June 30th deadline is fast approaching and today I chose to write in a different location. Specifically, the driveway. More specifically, the great white campervan known as Moby.

Temporary set-up as we wait to have a van conversion company pop Moby’s top.

I did that for a couple reasons. One, I really wish I was off camping somewhere and working inside the comfort of Moby felt like the next best thing. And two, the WiFi connection is iffy inside the van which meant I couldn’t procrastinate by going online.

I’m pleased to say I got much work done, not so much word count as layering in  plot/character stuff. Some of that happened after I woke from a short nap and had an immediate epiphany about how the story’s pieces fit together. I love me some epiphanies!

Writing a novel is like riding a rollercoaster of emotions that can change in a flash (this sucks this is great I can’t do this I’m almost there I hate these characters so much I’m gonna drive them all off a cliff), but in this particular moment–the right here, right now– my arms are raised in triumph as the car roars along the tracks and I scream WOOHOO!

This draft might possibly be quite solid.  🙂

Then and now

I drove Zebu to the airport this afternoon and hugged him goodbye, a parting made easier with the knowledge he’s happy to return to his new home and life in Seattle. After driving the 40 minutes back here, I resumed drafting a new scene in my work-in-progress I’ve neglected for the past four days. The scene is bumpy, but I keep reminding myself it’s impossible to revise a blank page which means ugly writing is better than no writing. I’ve set a goal to finish this draft by June 30 and then will reward myself with a printed and bound copy of the draft.

“June 30th” is my new mantra and it’s pulling me through some rough patches as I write this book. Two years ago today I was camping and photographing birds, without any notion of this latest middle grade novel.

Dark-eyed Junco, State Forest State Park. June 12, 2019

Then again, maybe the story was already beginning to simmer and I just didn’t know it. Either way, I will honor my commitment and finish this draft by June 30. I owe it to myself and the characters.

No judgment

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.