One Novel Idea

Looking at photos on the computer, I came across this:

(I can't find photographer's name)

This picture is in my bedroom. I bought the print when I was pregnant with Wildebeest because of the Kurt Vonnegut quote from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.**

One night while we were reading in bed, I mentioned to Zippy that I needed a new writing project. He pointed across the room and suggested I write the story of those five babies.
I did, and it became Framed: Toby Hart’s Official Police Statement. (In the second draft or so of the middle-grade novel, I had to kill off one of the kids. Well, not bump her off, but delete her storyline. Oddly enough, it was the baby who is front and center.)

The book didn’t sell and I have a bunch of notes on how to rewrite it, but in the meantime, despite the rejection, the babies and I share a kind coexistence. Kurt would want it that way.

** Full quote:
“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth.
It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded.
At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here.
There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
~ Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Manuscript Demolition


I'm contemplating going back to one of my novels and doing an overhaul.
I've read it for the first time in almost two years and believe I've got The Fix.
Doing so will mean some demolition and reconstruction,
and a fair amount of sweat and tears.

The thought is a bit intimidating, but I've always enjoyed swinging a crowbar.

                                                                                                          © Tracy Abell 2008


Conference Wrap-Up


I’m coming out of my RMC-SCBWI conference-induced fatigue,
and wanted to share some morsels 
before the passion and meaning behind the words grow too dim.

Bruce Coville gave our keynote speech on Saturday morning.
My favorite line:  "The blank page is hard, not because nothing’s
there, but because everything is there.  The whole world."

He ended his talk (titled The Art of the Heart: Writing True for the Child)
with this: "Let us not take joy, let us give it.  Let us give it courageously."

Just a short while later, I had my one-on-one critique with him.
He read the first 10 pages of BIRD BRAIN.  
Good news: he thinks the voice is strong.
Not-as-good news: I need to rework the opening pages to set them in a scene
rather than exposition.  I kind of knew that, but had a secret hope he’d love it as is!
(Major thanks again to  for helping me out of a slump so I could get those
pages ready for submission!)

One of the few sessions I was able to attend (due to responsibilities), was Social Media 101.
Drew Shope, of Thrive Social Media, is a 25-year-old social media guru who convinced me to start tweeting.
I’m having fun thus far but fear the Undisciplined Time Suck.
(I’m @TracyAbell)

I attended Elizabeth Law’s session on First Pages.
The overwhelming message of the day was Slow Down the Action.
(This is what was said regarding my first page from FRAMED, too.)
Of course, during another session, editor Kate Harrison and agent Elena Mechlin
both said they like a story that gets going immediately to pull them in.

(L-R Moderator Bobbi, Elizabeth Law, Elena Mechlin, Kate Harrison, Rotem Moscovich)

My favorite Elizabeth Law line of the weekend came in response to a question.
Q: If an editor or agent suggests revisions, is it appropriate to ask for clarification?
A:  No, work in the dark.  Spend a lot of time.  Hope you get it right.
(The answer is, Of course!)

I had a wonderful time and bonded with Bruce Coville.
When my critique time was up, I thanked him.
He said, "You betcha!" then said with considerable dismay, "I sound like Sarah Palin."
That’s all it took.  We were off and running (next writer hadn’t yet shown up).

It was a wonderful, exhausting weekend.
But next year, I hope to scale back on conference-day duties so I can fully enjoy.

(Local writers Stephanie Blake and Jeanne Kaufman yukking it up)


Hello, Universe?


It’s time to face reality.
The Winter Olympics have come and gone,
and I did not win a medal.

The Academy Awards have come and gone,
and, to my dismay, I did not win an Oscar.

Which can only mean one thing:
this is my year to win a publishing contract.

Right?  Right!

Oy Vey: synopsis time again


I wrote a synopsis last fall
that ended up being two pages with 1.5 spacing.
I felt pretty good about it.

Just found out I need to make it a one-page synopsis.

And not only do I need to shrink it,
I need to rewrite much of it to reflect the revisions I made afterward.

Anyone have a few words of wisdom?
Or a magical shrinking device?


The book that shall (not) remain nameless

I stink at making up titles.
But with FRAMED, I thought I’d finally done it:
created the perfect title
right from the start!

It’s been FRAMED through
every single draft
and revision.
I was so proud of my multi-layered title.

But now it’s been pointed out that
FRAMED is too subtle for a middle-grade novel.
Sadly, I believe that’s true.
So now I need something else,
perhaps FRAMED plus subtitle.

Or maybe something completely different.

Have I mentioned I stink at titles?

Compare and contrast

Yesterday I didn’t do a bit of writing.
I took the day off.

Instead, I aired out mattresses,
sprayed mini-blinds,
washed windows,
washed and rehung curtains,
and cleaned two bathrooms.

Today I worked on revisions
for about four hours.

I’m trying to decide which day’s work
gives me a greater sense of satisfaction.

My manuscript is almost ready to go.
On the other hand, those windows were really dirty.

Cutting and Pasting

Yesterday I had big plans for my revision work
and except for using 12-pt font and choosing the counter over the hair-covered floor,
I stuck to my plan.

Here is my original ending in all its glory.

And here, after hours of agonizing and brain-sweating,
is the cut and paste version of my revised ending.

I don’t think I could’ve slogged through all that without
a huge visual aid.

Word processors are grand
but nothing beats paper and scissors.

Not even rock
(sorry, couldn’t resist).

Seeing the big picture

I’m reworking my ending.
I’ve realized it reads like GROUNDHOG DAY.

Similar things happen over and over.
Diluting the action.

But I’ve got so many characters and so many plot lines
I’m not sure how to figure it all out.
It’s a bit intimidating.

I’d like a hovercraft that allows me a bird’s eye view
of everything that happens in those twenty pages.

But I don’t have such a thing so I’m going to settle for
printing out those pages
in larger font
and spreading them out on my floor.

Note to self: vacuum up dog/cat hair, first.

Gnarly Issues


Not sure if

  and   noticed
but today while they were busy revising,
I snuck away.

Not because I wanted to avoid my revisions
but because I was in a tangled situation
and had gone as far as I could go.

I needed word from afar.

So I went outside and tackled my garden-run-amok.
Tore out some stuff that needed to go.

Two and one-half hours later when I went inside,
there was a shift.
I’d received word.

And now my tangle is one step closer to resolution.

All hail the Implements of Destruction!
Both literary and garden-ary.

Brain Contortions


I’ve spent much of today trying to decide
whether I need to halt the agent search via
my middle-grade novel
in order to give the manuscript a complete overhaul.
Or maybe just a partial overhaul.
More of a lube and tune-up.

But the way my brain keeps twisting
as I struggle with the question
makes me feel I’m about as qualified
to fix this book as work on a car.

Not a good feeling.


Tweaking for Sanity


When a project first goes out into the world,
it’s easy for me to focus on other work.
I’m still satisfied with the outgoing project’s polish,
and proud of the accomplishment.
I don’t need to think about that project anymore.

Up to a point, that is.

My project has not yet yielded the desired results
which means The Doubts have descended upon me.
Pitched a tent in my head
and settled in to whisper crazy, non-helpful stuff.

For the sake of my sanity, I needed to shift that energy.

Today I made a slight change in that project’s format.
It only took about an hour and just like that,
I feel so much better.
More confident.
Less like a campground for negative, whispered voices.

Once again I’m proud to have created that book.

Which means it’s time for me to get back to my other work.


Dreary With a Dollop of Optimism

The sky is gray.
The temperature is below average.
The sun is nowhere to be seen.


I’m feeling something today.
Something positive.

It makes no sense.
And I’m almost afraid to admit all this.
But I’m going with the optimism.

EDITED TO ADD:  The sun just came out.  Hooray!



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)

On the upswing

Waiting for feedback on revisions of funny boy book.
Feeling good about the changes that make it a stronger book.

Rather than obsessively peeking at that ms again
I read my second middle grade.  Again.
Decided I love that book too much to let it die.

Hear that, universe? 
Close to Home deserves a publishing home
and I’m not giving up on it.

I have no idea what any of this means except that
it feels good to have positive feelings about one’s writing.
Now and again.
Because I know all too well how that pendulum swings the other way.

But as of this moment, the pendulum and I are on the upswing.


Revision Angst

I’m having one of those moments.
One of those "this is crap, who are you trying to kid?!" moments.
One of those "what made you think you could pull this off?" moments.
One of those "this isn’t even close to working so you might as well
go fill out an application at Taco Smell" moments.

I hate these moments.
But I know they always pass.
Especially when I read those vile criticisms aloud in R’s voice.

Okay, now I’m smiling again.  
Thanks for listening.

I gotta get back to it.



Today I finished reading through my manuscript and inserting notations.
I’m ready to tackle revisions.
This makes me very happy.
I went to YouTube and plugged in "happiness."
This is what popped (hopped?) up:  Happiness by Goldfrapp.



Today I finally sat down and worked with the MG I want to revise.   For the past almost two months I took notes as ideas percolated but I knew better than to touch the manuscript for fear of making BlearyBrain-induced mistakes. 

I kept wondering if I was finally ready to get out the pen and scissors, and as the days passed without touching the ms I began to think I’d never screw up the courage to give it another try.

But today I tried and it felt good.  The revisions are going to be lots of work but I’m confident I can do the job.  And the best part is I still love the story.  It’s good.  And when I’m done, it’s going to be even better.

The miracle of revision.


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.