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!
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. 💓
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.
. . .a writer who finally, finally figured out how to revise a certain knot-ridden chapter to her satisfaction. Huzzah! Way to go, Tracy!
September 28, 2020
Peanuts all around!
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.
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
- 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
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.)
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.
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.
[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.
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!
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!
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.
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. 🙂
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.
American White Pelican. May 27, 2021
Without the emotion of the beautiful,
there is no art,
~ John Burroughs
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.
It’s a gray day here and the high will be 23 degrees colder than yesterday.
Purple Coneflowers. July 16, 2020
I’m beneath a blanket on the couch, reading Bryan Stevenson’s JUST MERCY: A Story of Justice and Redemption. It began as research for my work-in-progress, but I’m grateful my project brought me to this book. It’s fierce and tender, all at once. Both rage-inducing and strangely calming** in its depiction of humanity at its worst and best.
Change is possible. Spring is on its way. And today, I am grateful for both those truths.
(** ETA when I wrote about the calming aspect of this book, I was in opening chapters. Having read for much of day, I have to admit there’s more content that enrages rather than soothes. We are a messed up and deeply racist society.)
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.
My Writing Roosters critique group had our zoom meeting last night to discuss my work-in-progress. As mentioned here and here and here, I was paralyzed with indecision for several weeks because I’d become convinced my story was an irredeemable hot mess. Guess what? It’s not! As one member said on our call, “I think maybe you were getting inside your own head.”
Me? Inside my own head? How could that possibly be?! 🤣 🤣 🤣
I’ve got some plotting issues to sort out, but the two main characters got a thumbs-up from the group. Whew. Color me noodly with relief.
Poppy blooming in front garden. May 16, 2020.
I chose the poppy image for this post because (1) it’s a very cheery and vibrant color and (2) last night one of my critique partners caught a reference to a previous manuscript about a girl named Poppy Valentine.