I’m tidying up the first draft of the middle grade I wrote in a modified NaNoWriMo last November and December. I’m trying something new by asking my critique group to read it for our February meeting. I’m not used to showing my work at such an early stage, but my group excels at identifying plot holes, character inconsistencies, etc., so my thinking is that if I take advantage of their insights earlier in the process, I’ll avoid a lot of unnecessary revision.
This requires me putting on my big girl pants and trying not to let the terror take over.
Photo by Leon Macapagal from Pexels
I’m trying to focus on little bits at a time. Sometimes that means a chapter, or plot point, or character arc, or just a page. A sentence. Whatever it takes to keep me going. The anxiety is real, though. I have only a few more days to smooth out the roughest edges and then hit SEND.
Step by step, I’ll get it done.
Yesterday at 5:45 pm I realized I hadn’t seen my indoor cat, Marcel, in hours. Zippy, Zebu, and I spent the next several hours in the cold and dark, calling to Marcel who goes silent when afraid. We eventually quit and went to bed to toss and turn, trying in vain to forget how cold it was outside. At 6:30 this morning, Zippy (again) checked the garage we’d left open four inches. This time, Marcel was curled up in the cat bed Zebu had put on top of the recyling bin. SO GRATEFUL.
Five minutes ago, I finished writing the first draft of my new middle-grade novel. It clocks in at 42,793 words and is a whole lot of talking heads and not a whole lot of description, which means it’s kinda skeletal. But I’d hoped to finish by the end of today and, despite my lack of sleep (see Above), I did it! Will I cringe when I read the draft in a couple weeks? Possibly. But there’s no revision without a first draft, baby. Again, I AM SO GRATEFUL.
Tomorrow morning Zippy, Zebu, Wildebeest’s childhood friend (Kyle C), and I are driving to Durango, CO, where Wildebeest lives. His graduation ceremony is on Friday and we’ll be there to witness that incredible milestone. Wildebeest was an avid student until he hit middle school and then had some bad “learning” experiences that completely turned him off school. His was an on-again-off-again college journey and he laments being such an “old graduate,” but I was also 26 when I graduated college (and look how well I turned out!) I’m proud of my tenacious son and GRATEFUL we’ll be there to witness his accomplishment.
State Forest State Park. June 13, 2019.
How does the Meadow flower its bloom unfold? Because the lovely little flower is free down to its root, and in that freedom bold. ~ William Wordsworth
So it’s after 5:00 pm here in Colorado and I haven’t yet added one single word to my work-in-progress. Why? In part, I had much to do today. But in greater part? I’ve reached the point in which I need to write BIG climatic scenes and I’m intimidated. It was easier to tend to other business today.
I need to make like a Meadow flower and feel free to try and fail, all the way down to my roots. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Loki on Oct 3, 2018
Here’s Loki more than a year ago, basking in sun so bright his pupils are slits. None of that toasty warmth today. It’s gray. Cold. Drizzling and threatening snow. Soul-crushing, if I’d allow it. BUT. I’m parked at my standing desk, drafting my new novel.
Maybe if it was sunny and warm, I’d be curled in a patch of sunshine. Napping instead of writing. Guess that’s my silver lining on this miserable day. Color me grudgingly grateful.
I’m drafting my way through this new project and am past the halfway point, which certainly feels good. I’m noticing, though, that the “mushy middle” angst is suddenly alive and well. And I find myself thinking about jumping. Or running away. Or maybe abandoning this particular ship for a different ship .
“Don’t jump, Tracy!”
But that’s silly. Because as Emma and I both know, every project has moments in which it ceases to feel like great fun / feels less shiny than another idea / intimidates the crap out of me.
So I’m gonna stay on the beam and keep drafting. I promise, Emma.
Today is cold and icy. Again. Unlike two weeks ago, I am not venturing outside because I very much do not want to slip and fall again. Instead, I went in search of an appropriate quotation for this ice-encrusted day. I found the following . It speaks to me, despite never having directed a film. I read it as “Writing a novel is mystifying…”
Directing is mystifying. It’s a long, long, skid on an icy road, and you do the best you can trying to stay on the road… If you’re still here when you come out of the spin, it’s a relief. But you’ve got to have the terror if you’re going to do anything worthwhile.
~ Mike Nichols
Suffice to say, I’m firmly in the white-knuckle, can-I-pull-this-off portion of the writing process right now. First drafts can be simultaneously exhilarating and puke-inducing.
I just finished reading a young adult (YA) novel that was recommended as a good example of multiple point-of-view (POV) characters. The book recommendation came weeks ago as I debated whether I wanted to write my new project in multiple POVs rather than my usual first-person, but I just got around to reading it. It’s a very good book and I’m glad I read.
Except. One of the POV characters in the book has a home situation and coping strategy that very closely mirrors how I’m writing one of my characters. AND, there are some general similarities to the plots.
Photo by Lucas Pezeta from Pexels
Panic! Doubt! OMG, should I stop reading this? Do I need to rework my character? Rethink my plot? Drop the project altogether and buy a sailboat or take up harmonica lessons?
Well. As mentioned, I did finish the book. And the panic has (mostly) subsided because the draft I’m working on isn’t a YA but a middle-grade (MG) which means it’s for different readers. Plus, the book I read was published in 2012. So, I’m putting on my big girl pants and resuming my project.
I will admit, however, it was very unsettling to come across a reflection of something I thought existed only in my mind.
It’s currently 22 degrees outside.
November 11, 2019
If I were a nicer person, I’d offer this fox a couple pairs of warm, woolen socks.
As it is, I’m staying inside where I can absorb the heat from my laptop as I work on my new writing project that makes me happy, happy, happy.
It’s a whole new week, people. Let’s do this!
Last year I officially signed up to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and so am getting emails from the Colorado NaNo people. As noted earlier, I’m taking a modified approach** this year, so when I received an email about a write-in happening at a coffee shop near me I decided to attend. Big deal, right? Wrong.
I do about 99% of my writing at home and wasn’t sure it’d be a good fit. But I liked the idea of all that collective energy, so packed up and went. I arrived two hours into the session today and people were busily writing away. I found a seat in back, put in my ear plugs to muffle the loud music, and got to work.
Wow. I wrote 2500 words (many of which were keepers) in about three hours. Part of my success was because I didn’t ask for the wifi password which meant I couldn’t procrastinate online. When I’m at home, closed off in my writing room, I find all sorts of ways to waste time. Despite all the sounds and movement taking place around me, something about writing in public kept me more focused. It felt all official-like or something.
I thought I’d be writing this novel at my standing desk, but will most definitely be going back to that coffee shop for more writing sessions!
** My goal is to finish a draft by the end of December.
We all have our own life to pursue, our own kind of dream to be weaving, and we all have the power to make wishes come true, as long as we keep believing.
~ Louisa May Alcott
Okay, Ms. Alcott, count me in.
Yesterday I made the decision to crash-land my manuscript rather than agonize over the ending. As a result, I wrote 3700+ words in order to achieve 50k words and be free of the NaNoWriMo intensity that felt as if it was destroying my body and melting my brain. Kidding. Except, not really.
Here’s the certificate that landed in my inbox after I validated my novel:
And here’s my Project Target counter at the end of that writing session:
I plan to celebrate in the coming week or so by doing two things:
- NOT writing
- Reading, reading, reading
I’m exhausted. I’ve got mud in my eyes and aches in my bones from sitting so much this past month. Worst of all, my ending isn’t coming together as envisioned. Time to create a new vision in preparation for next month’s revision.
There are seven writing days left in November and I’m confident I will have 50,000 words by the end of this month. That is not to say it’s been easy. I’ve written every single day — many more words than usual — and fatigue is starting to set in. I’ve never done rock-climbing or even climbed a wall, but this image sums up how I’m feeling today.
While the end is in sight, I’m still smack-dab in the middle of things. Reaching for toe and hand holds as I navigate this first draft. Novel-writing is an endurance activity and my brain and sitting muscles are feeling the strain. Good thing I’ve got the reserves to get me over the top because quitting is not an option.
I will prevail.
Parts of this photo are in focus, but much of it is not. And that sums up where I’m at with this first draft of my new manuscript. Several key elements are firmly in place while other elements were either abandoned along the way or inserted later in the narrative. In a few places the draft reads like a jumble of characters and motivations.
But the moments of insight counteract that blurriness, giving me faith it’s all gonna be okay. I will prevail.
Today I’m thankful for critique partner and friend, Laura Perdew, who encouraged me to try NaNoWriMo this year. I’m positive I wouldn’t even have considered fast-drafting if she hadn’t suggested NaNo as the cure for my exceedingly slooow outlining and drafting of this new project.
Today is the halfway point for NaNo and here’s what I’ve accomplished thus far:
I’m more than halfway to my target of 52,169 words for November (I’d already written 2,169 words and didn’t want to “cheat” on achieving 50,000 words in 30 days so included them in my final draft target). I am thrilled. Absolutely over the moon with my progress. Hooray! Etc. 🙂
It’s amazing what I can accomplish once I banish my internal editor to a corner with tape over her mouth.
GET FUZZY by Darby Conley
Today I’m grateful to Bucky Katt for lowering the bar. This first draft of my middle grade novel is at least a couple rungs above a list of the stuff I’ve eaten today.
That’s not to say I want anyone reading what I’ve written so far . . .
It’s Day Eleven of NaNoWriMo and while I’ve managed to achieve my word count each day (a minimum of 1700 words), I’m still susceptible to panic and overwhelm. For example, yesterday as I drove home from my solo writing retreat in Estes Park I wasn’t congratulating myself on the progress I’d made. Instead, I worried that I hadn’t yet found my narrator’s true voice. Then I switched to agonizing over my “too many plot lines” I’d never be able to connect, followed by the certainty that my first draft was such an irredeemable mess it would take years to revise the manuscript into anything coherent.
I felt like a poser. I wanted to run away from the whole thing.
Those feelings mirror what it’s like when I stand in the ocean and watch a huge wave come my way. I experience a slew of emotions. Panic. Exhilaration. Awe. Fear. An urge to run for shore.
While I frequently do run from big waves, I don’t like to run from my writing commitments. So this morning when I woke with those same angsty feelings, I looked for some online support and wisdom to help me reel in negative thoughts about my first draft. I found this: 7 Things NOT to Worry About During Your First Draft
All my worries are addressed in that article which makes me think I’m not the first writer in history to freak out about her shitty first draft. Newsflash, huh?
Today I continue working on my NaNo project. And as the words add up I have those same big-wave feelings I experience when I choose to dive into the wave and then come out the other side. Exhilaration. Pride. Awe.
The desire to do it again.
As the election results came in on Tuesday night I was seized by a sudden urge to get away. So I went online and found a good deal for two nights at a lodge next to a river. The room has a woodburning stove and a table for my laptop and big monitor.
I’m leaving in about an hour to drive to Estes Park. The temperature is hovering around freezing and I’m looking forward to hunkering down in my tiny room. Just me, my NaNo project, and a crackling fire.
I’m very grateful I have the means to make this happen and plan to enjoy every moment of creative solitude.
It’s confession time
the blank page intimidates
Today was Day One of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I came here with the intent of posting an image that celebrated the 1900 words I wrote today (and, possibly more importantly, the fact that I wrote past my doubts and ended up having genuine fun working on those scenes). However, when I went to Pixabay in search of SUCCESS or CELEBRATION or HIGH-FIVE images, I found:
This photo makes me happy. I love cows and big nostrils and whiskers. Plus, my novel is set in Wisconsin. It’s practically written in the stars that I celebrate today’s work with a cow’s nose.
Hey, Laughing Gull! How about an assist for this lowly writer toiling down below? Could you please tell me how to organize the scenes in this new project?
There’s a bread crust in it for you . . .
As I work this afternoon to get ready for my NaNo adventure next month, I’m trying hard to be like Marcel. Not so much by waggling my big pink ears or biting my toenails (although I would welcome that kind of flexibility), but in maintaining my focus. When Marcel’s in grooming mode, that’s all that matters. Don’t even think about interrupting his session.
Um, guess I should get back to my prep work.
Last night I met with my critique group, The Writing Roosters. (Yes, we’re aware that it’s funny for a membership of six women and zero men to be roosters.)
Our mascot that oversees every meeting.
It was my turn to receive a critique and the group didn’t disappoint. I’m grateful for their willingness to point out holes and weak characterization and plotting improbabilities in my novel, and also to let me know what they felt I’d done well. It was my first draft and I now have a pretty firm grasp on how to revise.
I received lots of guidance last night, but want to give a special shout-out to Claudia Mills for using Track Changes/Comments a whopping 429 times! Thank you for getting down and dirty with my manuscript, friend!