Friday Five: The Where-I’m-At Edition


1)  I’m loving my whiteboard as I sort out characterization and plot for BIRD BRAIN.

2)  But for the sake of my brain cells, I need to make the big investment and buy non-toxic, no-odor markers.

3)  I’m now enjoying all the little revelations that come with revision, and am no longer beating myself up 
for not being an omniscient author.

4)  I’m writing every single day, making progress every single day, and feeling better about myself
every single day.

5)  This week I received a 14+ month response to a query for FRAMED, and all I could do was laugh.

Wishing everyone a grand weekend filled with whatever brand of happiness your hearts desire!

We’re All Bird Brains



Working hard on BIRD BRAIN
and feeling good about making progress.

The cool thing about this project
is that most anytime I look out the window,
I see my inspiration.

These Grackles visited me almost a year ago
but they still make me smile.

                                                                                                                                              © Tracy Abell 2010

I might have to take a break and belly up to the feeder for a snack (or two).

Characters Revealing Themselves


I’m trying not to panic about all this,
but as I work on BIRD BRAIN, 
I keep going back and adding bits and pieces of characterization.
Stuff I just recently discovered about the characters.

I’ve been working on this project off and on
(with lots of OFF), since April of 2008.
You’d think by now I’d know the characters inside and out.

What’s it like for the rest of you?
Do you continue to get glimmers of understanding as you write?
Or do you figure out all the basic, most important stuff beforehand?

Or, like me, have you ever thought you knew all the basic, most important stuff
only to discover you did not really know those characters?

As I said, trying not to panic . . .

Two Birds, Two Birds, Two Birds in One


This morning Zippy dropped Wildebeest and Zebu at the bus station
where they got on a bus headed to Albuquerque.
They will be with Zippy’s sister for the weekend.

Which means….
I get to write and write and write.

So, in honor of my BIRD BRAIN focus,
here is a blurry pic of two birds huddled together on a branch in Kiowa.
I felt their watchful gaze as I took wildflower photos with my macro-lens,
and turned to see them in the tree.

The photo quality is poor but I still think they’re darned cute.
Whatever they are.

Happy writing day to everyone!

Voice: I’ve got it!


I’ve struggled off and on with BIRD BRAIN,
sometimes feeling good about how it was shaping up,
but other times feeling it lacked a certain oomph.

I don’t want to invite the wrath of the  universe by getting too confident,
but would like to document here that I believe I’ve finally cracked the code.
Now that I’ve let go of my preconceptions about length and format,
the story is flowing quite nicely.

And even better?
I’ve finally, finally found the narrator’s true voice.

I’m so very happy.
(Which does NOT translate to over-confident.  You hear, Universe?)

And just because it’s cute, here’s a squirrel from Westcliffe:           

                                                                                     © 2010 Zippy

Friday Five: The Random Synapse Edition


1)  I hope to return to my regularly scheduled blogging from here on out, as I
have emerged from my funk (thank you, friends!)

2)  Zebu and I just got home from a run which feels extra satisfying since it’s
going to be about 20 degrees warmer in an hour or so.

3)  I sent my BIRD BRAIN pages and synopsis off for the conference critique,
and feel good about my decision. 

4)  I’m back at work on BIRD BRAIN but am not rewriting as I’d planned;
turns out I know those pages so well I couldn’t let go of wording so it’s
actually better to tweak what I already have.  Weird, huh?

5)  Happy Birthday to my sister and Wonderful Weekend to all. 

Headed South


Tomorrow (Friday morning) we’re headed to Westcliffe to spend time with family.
We’ll be at 9000 feet elevation
so sunburns will be more likely,
as will being out of breath.

It’s always a challenge to run there.
Listen carefully and you might hear hear me panting.
This year Zebu and Wildebeest plan to run, too,
so if the wheezing is extra loud, know I had company.

I’m taking BIRD BRAIN with me because today some extra special friends
gave me a much-needed boost of confidence.  Thank you, all.

Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend.

Hello, It’s Another Week


Saturday was the official end-of-Mentor-Program picnic in the mountains.
I gave my mentor, Claudia Mills, a little plaque that included this:



This morning I ran on the trails and fell.
But it was the best fall, ever.
When I told Zebu that, he asked "Did you stick it on the dismount?"
I did!

Today I start my new plan for BIRD BRAIN,
which is to rewrite chapters from scratch.
I’ve been working on voice/characterization but it feels as if I’m
nickel and diming the story.
So….time to get serious and write it anew.

I hope everyone’s Monday is off to a stellar start, and that the week just keeps getting
better and better.



I was hearing that nasty voice in my head today
as I worked on a project long dormant.

It tied me up in knots.
Filled me with self-loathing and doubt.

I pushed past it and met the small goal I’d set.

Then I watched one of my favorite movies about writers and writing:

I’m feeling much better.

Ms. Brain, She Desperately Needs a Song


There are lots of contributing factors to my current State of Grumpy:

It’s incredibly windy right now
which means I can’t work in my garden
which means no exercise
since my hip is still messed up and I can’t do much of anything else
which also means I’m gaining weight.
And did I mention it’s Monday?
A really windy Monday?

But I also just realized I haven’t written much of anything in a week
as I’m still in CLOSE TO HOME limbo as I wait for readers’ responses.
I cannot work on BIRD BRAIN until I can give it my undivided attention
because I’ve started and stopped that project so many times I’m
afraid it’ll dwindle into nothing if I don’t give it the respect it’s due.

So there I was.
Crabby, crabby crabby.
Until I grabbed a book off my shelf, THE ELEVENTH DRAFT: Craft and the Writing Life from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop,
and opened it to Barry Hannah‘s piece, Mr. Brain, He Want a Song.
This is what I read:

". . . this is why I find working writers to be among the happiest folks in the world.  Among the unhappiest are those who are not working and have endless questions.  You do not want to get within a block of these people.  The Great Suck – big bottom lip, the sulk, the neurotic and despondent vortex.  But working writers are like unprosecuted felons."      

I’m off to my PT appointment but as soon as I’m home,
I’m going to write some flash fiction or a poem.
I cannot stand wallowing in The Great Suck.
However, I probably won’t go so far as to commit a felony
(unless you count writing really bad poetry as a crime).

Switching Gears


Last night I reached that point of delirium with my revisions.
You’re probably familiar with that point.
When your tweaking is possibly doing more damage than good?

So I said, "¡Bastante!"
and sent the ms off to Claudia (and another reader friend).
Then I cracked open a beer.

But today’s a whole new day, and without those revisions to shape my day I feel, well, shapeless.
What shall I do?!

I know!  I’ll dig out the file for BIRD BRAIN and reacquaint myself with that story.

(image from

That creaking sound you hear?
Just my brain switching gears.

Dorothy, whaddya think?

While waiting for mentor feedback,
I have gone back to another project.

Not having much fun.
It’s hard getting back in this story’s flow.

I feel exceedingly rusty
and wonder if I need a jolt from the oil can,

a bit of courage,

or maybe just a little faith in the journey.


My gift to you . . .


If you happen to be stuck on your work-in-progress
(maybe because you set it aside for a month or so
while working on another project),
I feel your pain.

I’ve been spinning my wheels trying to get traction
on this second draft.
I was ready to give up, convinced the story sucked beyond belief.

But then . . .

I sat down and wrote out a timeline for the book.
And now I can see my way again
because I remember what needs to happen
and when it needs to happen.

Such a simple solution
yet it took me quite some time to figure it out.
Which is why I’m sharing this with you.

If you’re in that bad, scary place in your project
try mapping out the chronology.
Maybe, just maybe, you’ll be on your way again.

Edited to add:
Oh, and you know what else is helpful?
Writing the day/time after chapter heading.
For instance: CHAPTER THIRTEEN (Thurs after school).
Yep.  I’m just full of epiphanies.


Banishing The Doubts


The best remedy for The Doubts is liking your project as you revise.
Thinking to yourself "Hey, this isn’t too bad!"
Or maybe just "Hey, this isn’t too bad." (minus the exclamation point).

I am SO grateful for these glimmers right now.
Whether they’re exclamatory, or not.


Procrastination, Nevermore

Okay, so it’s a grackle rather than a raven.
And I’m no Poe.


I hereby pledge to tackle my revisions today.
I pledge to crack the characterization/plotting code
that has stymied me these past weeks and fueled my ongoing procrastination.

I will prevail.

My feathered friend assures me this is so.  


Research or Time Suck?

I’m reading this right now
to help me figure out character motivation
and resolve a plot issue.

It turns out catchers are an interesting breed
and I’m enjoying the book
which makes me wonder
if I’ve moved beyond Research
into Procrastination.


Hard Work

On Saturday I reintroduced the 1000 Words/Day rule
which puts me at 3000 words on my WIP.
I’m also shooting for the 1 Chapter/Day rule on my revisions.
So far, so good.

We all know the writing life can be difficult.
At times we feel as if we’re banging our heads on walls.
Guess what?

This flicker literally bangs his head.  Everyday.  For hours and hours.

And because today is another WINDY day in Colorado, he’s banging his head
in HIGH winds (notice ruffled feathers on head and back)

Now that’s hard work.



Panicked today as I worked on draft 2 of my project.
The voice just isn’t there.
(And yes, I caught the irony of panic following so close on the heels of this).

The project I just finished is Full of Voice but this current project, not at all.
I started wondering if that was all the voice I had in me,
if possibly the voice had run dry.  Or hoarse.  Something like that.

So I went back to that last project and read bits of draft 1.
No voice.
Draft 2.  No voice.
Draft 3 didn’t have it, either, and by then I didn’t even want (or need) to know about the 4th.

The moral of this story: 
(at least temporarily)

Synopsis Love

I’ve discovered something wonderful:

When I write a synopsis just for me, it’s fun. 
Enjoyable.  Downright liberating.

I have a complete poo-riddled first draft of a middle-grade novel
and am now writing a synopsis to help iron out some issues.

As long as you don’t have to worry about someone else reading it,
synopsis is a relaxing way to map your way out of the wilderness.

Who woulda thunk?


I don’t totally suck!

I just finished reading over a first draft I completed during jonowrimo .  Let’s just say I was underwhelmed for the first twenty pages or so.  But then it kicked into gear and by the time I was done, there was lots to like.  It’s most definitely a shitty first draft but there’s room to move.  I’m excited about digging in and making the next draft less crappy.  (Hey, it’s all about setting attainable goals, right?)

So my plan is to work on this MG project while continuing to draft the somewhat dark YA.  The voices are completely different so I’m hoping I can continue to make progress on both.

Let’s see, that makes my goals: 
MG = less sucky
YA = get ‘er done.

I can do this.


Grief Timeline

Today is four weeks since my dad died.  Early on, several people who do grief counseling told me my thought processes would be messed up/foggy for three weeks.  It’s true.  They were.  Are.

This morning for the first time I not only itched to get working again but felt as if I could do some decent work.  I’ve fallen out of my 1000 words/day habit and haven’t started revising my funny MG boy book.  However, last week I wrote up notes and thoughts surrounding draft 1 of another book (BB) and printed those out so I could hit the ground running on draft 2 when I pull it out again in several months.  I forced myself to do this because I was sure that project was the culprit taking up valuable space in my brain, keeping me from the revisions and writing 1k words/day on a new project.

So this morning, free from that other project, I felt the itch.  Not only that, I felt like my old writer self feeling the itch.  Me and the itch.  I decided it was time to do some scratching, time to get serious about those revisions. 

I opened my laptop and started reading through revisions notes I’ve taken over the past four weeks.  Suddenly, I felt teary and panicked and overwhelmingly tired.  And I knew I wasn’t quite ready.

I closed the laptop and took a nap.

I’m sure I was right about the other project taking up valuable real estate in my head.  But I obviously still need a little more time to make a little more space for my grief.

Patience isn’t one of my strengths but in this case, I guess I don’t really have a choice.  It just means I’ll have more time for watching birds in the feeder.  That is, until the Cooper’s Hawk arrives to sit on my back fence and all the juncos and sparrows and finches disappear until the coast is clear. 

Eventually they’ll be back, and so will I.



Last night Zippy and I went to our poll watchers training so we’ll be ready to protect voting integrity on Tuesday.
This morning I lifted weights and then made some headway in my quest to find a new venue for next September’s RMC-SCBWI fall conference.
I just finished my 1000 words for the day.
And now I’m off to do data entry for Democrats Work.

I feel so energized and optimistic right now.  Hope you’re all feeling the same!

Finding the Voice

Yesterday I posted an excerpt of a letter written to me by the narrator of my new project.  I figured my writer friends would appreciate it.  We like stuff like that.

Well, last night I made the mistake of letting Zippy read it.  Zippy is not a writer, he’s an engineer.  Zippy doesn’t read lots of fiction, much less ponder the fiction-writing process.

He turned from the computer screen and frowned.  Then he said something like "How old is this kid and was this letter written in the future, like when he’s in his twenties?"

I swear, I wanted to strangle him.  And I still wanted to choke him this morning.

But I didn’t.

Instead, I reminded myself Zippy only read a portion of the letter.  He had no way of knowing the letter ended up being less about finding the character’s voice than some strong advice from that character on how to go about writing the book.  Zippy didn’t know that although I was disappointed in not getting a "flash" of voice in that letter, I did map out my approach a bit more.  And because of that, I consider the letter a success. 

But Zippy’s reaction got me thinking.  For those of you who read the excerpt, were you wondering if the letter was written by my character in his future twenties?