This photo was selected in honor of a manuscript I haven’t thought about in a few years — POPPY VALENTINE LUCKS OUT — because when I remembered it yesterday, my first thought was “that book was so much fun to write!” Poppy, her little sister Fiona, and some cremation ashes. Because I wholeheartedly loved that book and believed in it so fully, I drafted a companion novel (which was also a blast to write).
I’m proud that in addition to creating those characters and their hijinks, it was a joyful experience. And because I’m making a concerted effort to celebrate my creative achievements, I selected this photo to accompany today’s tribute to those literary efforts.
A garden bloom on May 16, 2020
Then I examined the image more closely and had a completely off-topic/bonus thought: this photo reminds me of Gladys Knight & the Pips! Look at the choreography of how those buds are leaning in and swaying behind the blooming Gladys. If I squint my eyes, I can practically see the three buds execute a synchronized spin as Gladys belts out “Midnight Train to Georgia.”
Just me, my quirky brain, and Poppy having a little more fun.
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.
It’s the last day of 2019 and the final day of the decade, which feels like an awful lot of pressure. What exactly have I accomplished in that time?
I quickly realized that contemplating this past year and the previous nine years was not morale-boosting if I only focused on my quest for traditional publication of my novels. So. I shifted my gaze to another aspect of my life.
Self-portrait, December 31, 2019.
I just went through my calendar and added up all my 2019 hoop-dancing sessions. And you know what? I hooped for 1,162 minutes this year (and there’s still time to add more today)! All those minutes translate to just over 19 hours of hoop-dancing this year. Nineteen hours of me dancing, whether I felt like it or not, knowing I always, always feel better after a hoop session. I didn’t sell the novel about my beloved character Poppy Valentine this year, but I danced myself through that disappointment (and the overall fog of hard-times-on-the-planet) and drafted another book.
Hoop-dancing and drafting? Not too shabby. Turns out I did accomplish a few things in 2019.
Happy New Year to everyone! May we all keep dancing in 2020!
Many people welcome and celebrate autumn’s arrival, and I agree there’s much to be said for cooler temperatures. However, I’m not a fan of stuff dying off. I get that it has to happen, but what makes my heart soar is the new growth and bright colors after long, dark winters.
So today I take another look back at the poppies from my front yard. Look at all that glorious color and all that potential for many more blooms!
On this final day of September, I celebrate the exuberant poppy.
Last night I dreamt I got a card in the mail from my agent. I opened the card and read what she’d written: “We finally did it! We sold your book!”
Photo by Padli Pradana from Pexels
It was such a wonderful feeling. I screamed and jumped over and over. Much higher than I’ve ever jumped in real life. I don’t know what my vertical leap was in the dream, but I’m pretty sure I could’ve dunked over LeBron.
My elation powered my legs as up, up, up I went. I floated on pure joy. I can kinda, sorta still feel it, but the sensation’s starting to fade. Wish I could’ve bottled it so I could get a whiff of that feeling when I need a boost of confidence/optimism.
That was a damned good dream.
Neither snow nor rain nor nasty blowing winds can keep a good poppy down.
Battered, but still standing proud.
I love me a fierce Poppy.
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.
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.
I’m working on my revisions and mostly succeeding in ignoring the nasty voice in my head that says “this is crap” and “why even bother?”
What’s the key to my (mostly) success?
Remembering there’s no such thing as a perfect manuscript. Perfection is an unattainable ideal that just so happens to also be highly subjective.
From my perspective this purple coneflower is perfection. Flawed petals and all. I love it and have spent quite a bit of time gazing at its loveliness. However, your mileage may vary. And that’s okay.
Today I wander the wilderness of my manuscript, hoping I’m (finally) headed in the right direction with these revisions. Remembering to acknowledge the process and enjoy the journey as best I can.
With great writing there is great clarity.
~ David Costabile
That is precisely why I’ve got my notebook out again, jotting down elements of the manuscript I’m revising in hopes of making connections I’ve missed so far. It’s hard to admit, but my story lacks focus. How that can still be true in the fourth draft I do not know. What I do know is this:
With mediocre writing there are muddy waters and confusion which result in the reader not knowing exactly what she’s supposed to root for or why any of it matters.
Word of the day (and probably however long it takes to finish this draft) = CLARITY.
Today I’m suffering from a self-inflicted case of the writer’s malady known as Shiny New Idea Syndrome. I’ve been revising a middle-grade novel and mostly liking it and, in fact, the other day had a breakthrough regarding how to rewrite the opening and quickly reworked it to my satisfaction. The revision is mostly going well and there’s no reason to set aside the project.
I learned of a submission call for picture books and decided it would be good for my brain (that’s been almost 100% devoted to writing novels) to try something new. I figured noodling on a completely different type of project would lubricate my creative juices and invigorate my work. Am I invigorated? Who knows? All I can say for certain is that I just spent the last couple hours going through my Picture Book Ideas notebook and now my brain is ping-ponging between multiple story possibilities. None of which are suited for this specific submission call, but details like that don’t ever matter to Shiny New Idea Syndrome.
Universal truth: The grass is always greener on the other side of the work-in-progress. All that not-yet-effed-up potential is so very tempting.
I’m going to keep working on my middle-grade. If a suitable picture book idea comes to me, I’ll pursue it. Otherwise, I won’t go beating the bushes for other distractions.
You read it here first.
The snores are making it difficult to concentrate on revisions, but the elevated levels of cuteness make it worth sharing my writing space with the napping Zoey and Emma.
I’m writing a new opening for my madcap middle-grade novel, one that (hopefully) sets the correct tone for the manuscript. It’s been a struggle. Over the past five days I’ve written draft after draft after draft and today started thinking I’d be better off if I gave a chimpanzee a typewriter and locked her in here while I took a long nap.
Time to step away from the keyboard . . .
I’m programmed to believe it’s best to take the shortest route between Point A and Point B. Why waste time, right? Get where I want to be as quickly as possible. To do otherwise is proof I’m lost and confused. I’m hyper-sensitive to that judgment because I have a horrible sense of direction and spend a fair amount of time feeling disoriented. I’ve literally pulled over and cried in frustration when my brain couldn’t sort out where I was headed. Even when I get somewhere without mishap, I frequently berate myself for taking a longer route than necessary.
Why? The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. And anyone who takes a longer route is someone who’s doing it wrong.
That’s an unhelpful way of thinking and is particularly dangerous in terms of my writing journey. And yet, those thoughts pop in my head. Right now I’m wondering how I could’ve written three drafts of my manuscript without recognizing a key problem. How did I not know?! What is wrong with me?!
Well, nothing’s wrong with me. It’s called the writing process. I’ve been here before and I’ll be here again. Guaranteed.
Today I celebrate side roads, scenic detours, and fourth drafts.
I was all ready to blog about how I’d received feedback on the latest draft of my middle-grade manuscript along with a suggestion on how to address a core problem. It was going to be a blog post about trusting my gut, in that the revision suggestion had initially resonated with me but after further thought I knew it was all wrong. The post’s title was a straight-forward “Trusting my gut.”
I wrote a few words and went off in search of “gut” images. Nothing. I searched “belly” and came up with a slew of pregnant bellies which I nixed because I didn’t want to sound a pregnancy alarm. “Stomach” and “tummy” brought more pregnant women pics.
And then I searched for “chubby baby” and came across this:
I’m trusting my gut that this image is what I was looking for all along.
I just hit SEND on my manuscript and am doing the Ed Grimley happy dance!
Finishing that round of revisions is totally decent, I must say!
My self-imposed deadline for finishing this draft is fast-approaching and I’m torn between wishing I had another couple days of work time and being SO GLAD the end is near. I’m at that point in which I’d just as soon throw the manuscript in the lake.
Soggy or not, here I come.
Sometimes taking the most simple action can quell my anxiety. Yesterday as I worked on this revision and felt overwhelmed by the many, many details of my madcap story that must be explained by the end of the manuscript, I started a list.
LOOSE ENDS / EXPLANATIONS NEEDED
Whoa. Behold this literary rocket scientist at work!
I’m trying hard to stop kicking myself for not creating the list at the outset of this round of revisions and, instead, be grateful for my peace of mind in the here and now.
I’ve spent the last couple hours working on my revisions that are moving along, but are also causing me a bit of angst as I struggle to achieve the vision I have for this middle-grade project. I just decided to take a break to put up a blog post and went to my photo files for an image. I chose a picture from a couple days ago of a poppy in bloom along with a lovely not-yet-bloomed bud. As I cropped the image, I considered blog post titles and immediately landed on Poppy and Potential Poppy. I’m embarrassed to confess that it took a few moments for this extremely relevant factoid to hit me:
The protagonist in the manuscript I’m revising is named Poppy.
Oy. Here’s hoping we both achieve our potential today.
The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.
~ Maya Angelou
I’ve spent the day working on the third draft of my work-in-progress. Thanks to three reads (partial and full manuscripts) from the wonderful Writing Roosters critique group, the book is in pretty decent shape, which makes for a pleasant writing experience. I can see the good that’s already there and can easily envision the good to come. I’m about sixty pages from the end and hope to have the draft completed by the end of the month.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have this creative outlet.
Sometimes the universe gifts you a tin filled with popcorn kernels. And sometimes the gift comes in the form of a writing project that transports you away from life’s challenges and makes your heart sing.
Hey, I sent the messy second draft of my middle-grade novel to my critique group!
I immeditately felt lighter. Happier. Peppier.
(More peppy? Pep-infused? Pepped-out?)
Time for the Happy Dance!