Thankful Thursday: Writing Roosters edition

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!

 

Feeling a bit like this

I’m writing the final scenes of my middle-grade novel.
I know where the story goes and how it ends.
However, that doesn’t make the process  any less exhausting.

I’ve got lots of characters coming together,
and they’re all toting individual motivations and plot lines.
Choreographing these scenes feels a bit like juggling chainsaws and kittens.

The good news is that it’s only a first draft.
I need to remember that these scenes do not need to be perfect.

PSA: Get thee some waterproof paper!

I just had a nice shower and a very productive plotting session. AT THE SAME TIME.

Whoa, Tracy! How is that even possible?!

It was possible because  of an amazing invention called AQUA NOTES.

AQUA NOTES are pads of waterproof paper that you can write on with a pencil while taking a shower. I just wrote out three pages of stellar notes for my work-in-progress, and I’m thrilled because I figured out stuff I didn’t even realize needed figuring. Those pages of notes are like bonus material! And it all came to me during my relaxing shower, an activity that frequently gets my subconscious to come out and play. This time, I was prepared!

Where can I get some of those magical AQUA NOTES, Tracy?

I recommend buying them here, where you can buy 4 pads and get the 5th for free. Write on, friends!

Chekhov on a Bunny Monday

I’m not sure what put the light in this rabbit’s eye*, but I know where mine came from: today’s writing session was great fun. Even though I’m writing a first draft and, therefore, not overly hung up on language, I put down some good stuff. And that makes me very happy. Even after reading the following:

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
~ Anton Chekhov

Much of what I wrote today is more tell than show, but I still had a damned good time.

*okay, it was probably the sun

Word spew

Some writing days are excruciating. The worst are those when I don’t get any words down, and instead spend my time catastrophizing and twirling in my head. The next worse are those days that feel like a death march through neck-deep glue, in which every word has to be dragged kicking and screaming to the page.

Today was the latter. I achieved my word count, and now possess a messy mass of sentences which have the potential to be revised into something less vomitous.

Yay, me.

Sidetracked by aquatic mannequins

I’m drafting a new scene for my middle-grade novel, a scene that takes place on a lake. There’s a raft and it’s a hot summer day, and the protagonist is learning how to do a back flip off the diving board. Anyway, I wanted to document where I’m at with this book and so went to Pixabay in search of a lake-raft-swimmer image to use.

I found this:

The photo has absolutely no connection to my scene (okay, this lake is comprised of water, as is the lake in my book), but upon discovering this image, I quit my search. I mean, this piece of photographic genius deserves its own documentation.

There’s so much weird going on here. You could focus on the fact that these women are playing cards / gambling in swim caps and goggles or that the mannequins are wearing robotic assassin expressions, but all I can think about is how it’d feel to stand in lake muck while slimy lily pad stems wrap around my legs.

Eww.

So. Many. Words.

Only 26 letters in the alphabet, yet so many words to choose from as I write this book. I’m not talking “damp” vs “moist.” ** I’m talking about the pressure of potentially stringing together words that inadvertently take my novel in a whole new direction. Words wield so much power.

But words are also a writer’s playground, and it can be very cool to play with them. Sometimes, though, writing a first draft reminds me what it was like to get off one of these old merry-go-rounds.

I’d be disoriented and slightly fearful about what I was about to crash into. I’m having that same feeling today.

** (Sorry, moist-haters, couldn’t resist)

No blood on the tracks

Over the past two days, I’ve felt stalled and demoralized about the middle-grade novel I’m writing. When I woke this morning, I was determined to face the pages and write myself out of that morale-sucking place. No matter what it took.

Well, I’m pleased to say that (1) there was no bloodshed involved in the writing of those pages and that (2), I’ve officially regained my momentum and am back on track.

However, I can’t be complacent about my efforts. Tomorrow I must plant my butt in the chair and face the pages again. And so on, day after day, until this draft is finished.

Even if you’re on the right track,
you’ll get run over if you just sit there.
~ Will Rogers

Ginormous Whiteboard Envy

                                                                        

I’m at just over 200 pages of this first draft.
Wrote 1000 words every day for 71 days.
And am just now thinking I know the story.

Don’t laugh.

But as I wrote notes the last couple days
trying to find my way out of the wilderness
I kept thinking
"I wish I had a huge whiteboard"
one large enough to pace in front of
and step back to look at
in order to see the big picture.

Guess what?
All sorts of kind people have posted
DIY directions for making your own ginormous whiteboard.

I hope to be back soon with photos and helpful links!

                 

Down Off the Ledge

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.
It means so much to me (and my mental health)
having this writing community.

Yesterday I shared my panic and angst
and kind writer friends took time to talk me down from the ledge.
Sharing wise truths along the way.
Reminders that I wasn’t delusional.
That I could continue my project in good faith.

I want you to know I just finished my 1000 words for the day
and it was a great session.
I wasn’t nervous or angsty or anything like that.
I was calm.
Deliberate.
Confident that the initial story spark and its ensuing emotions
were still there for me to mine.

Thank you, friends.
Have a wonderful laughter-filled weekend!
                            

Name My Angst

I’m in a bit of a panic.

I’m 200 pages into the first draft of a YA that came to be because of a name.
A name that presented itself to me when I was playing around with this Band Name Generator.
I immediately loved the name.
The name offered so many possibilities for a main character.

Without going into details, the name includes a noun that stands for a specific kind of crime.
My entire storyline (and I use that word loosely since I’m firmly entrenched in blither-blather territory at this point in the draft) comes from that noun.

And now I’m wondering (mostly because of that blither-blather angst I’m currently experiencing) if I’m nuts to let a name
dictate a story.

Have any of you ever written a book based on a name?
Did it all work out in the end?

I cannot believe I have 200 pages written but am suddenly insecure about the whole project.

              

Awarding My Effort

As of today, I’m at 39,000 words on my WIP.
That’s Butt In Chair for 39 days straight.

Just sayin’.

(By the way, I discovered that an online search for "trophy" images results in
numerous penis drawings.  Hmmm.  Why do you suppose that is?)

              

The Personality of First Drafts

Writing is like driving at night in the fog.
You can only see as far as your headlights,
but you can make the whole trip that way.

 
                                                 – – – E. L. Doctorow

I’ve always loved this quote.
But I’m sure it’s anathema
to John Irving who believes
if you’re making it up as you go along
you’re not a writer, just a liar.

Each first draft is different for me.
Each process unique.
What I know ahead of time varies.

Yesterday I felt a combination of
fear and exhilaration as I wrote my 1000 words.
Squinting ahead into the fog.

I haven’t written yet today.
I’m worried the story might be headed for a cliff.
But if that’s the case,
I’ll just have to grab the wheel and make a sharp turn.

And hope I don’t run over any liars 
who might be staggering around in the fog.

           

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.

         

New Project, New Notebook

Bad lighting and big shadows can’t obscure this recommendation.
THE POCKET MUSE: ideas & inspirations for writing By Monica Wood
is a fine little book.  Filled with black and white photos and quotes
and story starters and snippets of genius such as

There is a special throne in heaven
for poets, who labor in obscurity.
The rest of us harbor an unexpressed
hope for fame and glory.
You might be tempted to write
for a market.  You might be tempted
to ride the crest of a trend.
That kind of writing is about as stable
and fulfilling as day trading.
Write what moves you.  Write what
interests you.  Write what frightens
you.  Write what thrills you.  Take a
cue from the poets, bless their
underfunded little hearts.

Two days ago I happened upon a name that resonated with me.
I wasn’t sure what to do with that name.
I pulled out THE POCKET MUSE and started turning pages.
I found what I needed.
My new project has a new notebook.
I’m excited again.

         

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?

          

Character Assassination?

I’m working on a new project and am struggling to find the narrator’s voice.  I decided to have him write a letter to me.  Here’s an excerpt:

I can feel your thoughts pushing in on mine so I’m not really sure if I’m thinking stuff or if you’re exerting your authorial will upon me.  I’d highly recommend you backing off with that authorial will.  We aren’t going to have a good time doing this book together if you’re getting into my space.  You have to respect me and I’ll try to do the same even though I’m a real character and you’re just the person telling my story.  I think I should definitely be the one making decisions here.  I’m me and you can only guess what that means OR you can shut up and let me tell the story.  The thing is, Tracy, you’re letting me tell this story in first-person which means I’m telling the story.  You’re just the person I chose to help get the words down so other people can share in the story.  You’re nothing special here.  I am.  My story and I are the special ones.  You’re the hired help.  Sorry if this sounds blunt but it’s the truth, and the sooner you accept it the better off we’ll all be.

I guess I should be grateful he apologized.

 

Crash Landing

I just finished the first draft of my contemporary YA.  It was ugly.  Pointed the nose to the ground and crash-landed the project.  The draft is 65k words which I mostly wrote in 1k-word installments.  I wrote every single day except for when I put it on hold to do revisions on other projects.  I’m proud to have finished a draft so quickly because even though it blithers and blathers, and does a fair amount of wandering, there are glimmers of a real story in there.  I proved to myself I can be disciplined (formerly viewed as "rigid") and produce (hopefully) decent work. 

Normally I’d print out a copy and stick it in a drawer for months before looking at it again.  But having discovered I’m capable of sticking to a daily word count, I started wondering if I should also tweak my revision process and try something new there.  

So.  I’m going to read the draft and then immediately go through all my notes I took as I wrote the book so that I can create a new Official Notes List.  This list will only contain the plot and character ideas that still make sense, whether they’re already in the story or just in my notes.  I’m in the habit of jotting down notes as I write and sometimes those notes are viable by the end of the story but sometimes they don’t make a damned bit of sense.  And sometimes there’s lots and lots of the nonsensical.  By creating an Official Notes List right now, I hope to alleviate much confusion and staggering in the wilderness when I read this draft several months from now.

That’s my Big Plan for Success.  Anyone else care to share?

(And if you haven’t yet read them yet you might be interested in stopping by  jeannineatkins to read her last couple posts on her revision process.  She gave me lots to think about).

AARGH!  I read over this before hitting the Post button, and realized something:  it doesn’t make any sense to write out a list without making changes in this draft because otherwise I’ll just be distracted all over again by the tangents and mis-characterizations.  I won’t be buying myself much time.  Does this mean I have to go in and do heavy-lifting (in terms of plot and characterization) before putting the ms in a drawer?

HELP!  Tracy’s Big Plan for Success just sprang a leak.

                     

Feeling Good

I’ve written every single day for the past 36 days.  And with just a couple exceptions (several days when I tinkered  – over and over – with the final pages of my draft), each day I wrote 1000 words. 

This new disciplined approach to my writing process has been a pleasant surprise. 

It’s easier slipping into the flow.
The words come more easily.
The nasty inner critic’s voice is fading.
I’m not feeling nearly the angst and envy that dogged me this spring and early summer.
My writing muscles are stronger.  Leaner.

I really and truly feel like a writer.

It finally hit me that it’s now or never time.  I’m forty-five, and if I want a career as a writer I need to work at it.  Every day.  I can’t afford to take days off and allow my muscles to atrophy.  I have to keep writing so the stories are fresh in my mind, the characters living and breathing alongside me.  I have to be there for them.  Every day.

As of this morning I have 5000 words of my new project which, when completed, will be my fifth novel.  I like the sound of that: My fifth novel.

I’m a writer and I write novels. 
I’m working on my fifth.

Yes!

         

Me and My Notebook

I know it sounds crazy but I’ve never used a spiral notebook for a writing project.  Each book has come out differently: the first was handwritten with a fountain pen on legal pads without any outlining or character sketches that I can remember (which might account for the blithering, blathering, circuitous route I followed before finally calling it finished); the second was outlined in part on a dry erase board and then written longhand and via word processing; the third and fourth were born through notes jotted notes here and there, some in a composition book divided into sections for PLOT and CHARACTER and DIALOGUE, others on loose leaf paper clumped together on a clipboard before getting transferred to a computer file. 

Even though I haven’t finished revising the fourth book and even though I usually don’t move onto a new project until I’ve completed the old (at least a draft), this time I’m doing just that.  I hope it doesn’t mean the death of Book Four but regardless, I’ve been swept away by a new idea ALL of which I’m scribbling in my blue notebook.  Willy nilly.  I’m dating stuff as I write it and do have full pages set aside for character notes but mostly I’m just letting it rip.

Right now I’m having great fun.  And that’s my main concern these days.

                     

Mad Dash for THE END

I’ve finished writing the draft of my MG for JoNoWriMo+1.5 and am currently plugging holes in the ms (I use BLANK in the text and then go back later to fill in the character’s last name, or the food item someone was eating, or whatever I hadn’t yet figured out at the time I was writing) before making my official announcement that I finished.

But I wanted to share what I discovered about those 3000 words I cranked out last week in one sitting.  Those words were in the last big scene of the book which I knew pretty well since I’d written lots of notes and could visualize it.   Today as I moved around the document plugging holes, I realized that the last big scene slipped from past tense into present.  It read like an announcer at a horse track calling out the  race.  You know, that neck-in-neck kind of stuff.

Anyway, it made me laugh.