This photo seems fitting today as I continue revising my middle-grade novel based on a critique partner’s (CP) comments.
House Finches + Goldfinch. May 23, 2020.
Her insights are helping me ground each character in key scenes. This CP excels at noting the many moving pieces in my story, reminding me to take into account each character’s perspective. Revision is a dream when I’m equipped with such a good map. Much gratitude to Marcia.
(Another CP is reading the same version Marcia received and I’m beaming thoughts to the universe that his feedback aligns with hers because otherwise, yikes. What will I do with a whole new map? Breathe, Tracy. Breathe.)
I’ve been struggling and I know I’m not alone. We in the United States have been told in very clear terms that we are on our own. Our government serves the wealthy and powerful, and that’s it. We the People get crumbs while the elites party on.
Photo by Rakicevic Nenad from Pexels
Mental health is a huge issue for many, many people right now. Life’s always been a tough row to hoe, but this pandemic has upped the ante. I’m fortunate in that I have my writing. The middle-grade novel I’ve worked on for the past eight months has been my lifeline. I am very grateful for this project. However, if all goes according to plan, I’ll be sending the manuscript to my agent by the end of the month. And then what? Each time I think of COVID minus a writing project, my anxiety surges.
So here’s my official statement to the universe: Hellooo, I am open to new story ideas!
I just hit SEND on the 44,000-word middle-grade manuscript I’ve been revising. I sent it to two readers who haven’t seen it before which means fresh eyes/fresh insights. Woot! Hitting SEND also means this project is no longer my concern (temporarily, but still!) and that I’m free to be and do as I please for the next week or so.
Right now, I’m feeling like this doggo that walked past my house this morning.
Unknown happy dog. June 28, 2020.
I didn’t leave my house today, not even for my daily walk around the neighborhood. In fact, I didn’t get exercise of any kind, unless I include snuggling with my cats and dog.
I did, however, sit in front of my computer most of the day, revising the final chapter of my novel. I’m not thrilled with the results.
Young scrub jay. June 21, 2020.
I did also photograph a young scrub jay as it preened its wet feathers. In fact, I took about 50 photos of that scrub jay and this one is probably the best. (I can’t say for sure as I tired of looking at/deleting them and somewhat randomly selected this one).
Am I satisfied with this Sunday?
Does it matter at this point?
It is what it is and was what it was.
ONE: I was worried I wouldn’t have iris blooms this year, but here’s the first to flower. The dependable purple comes through yet again!
Iris bloom on May 13, 2020.
TWO: Yesterday’s writing session was angsty and difficult as I flailed about, trying to find my way through the revision. I brainstormed last night before going to sleep and then instructed my brain to help me find the best path forward. I woke this morning with the answer (which wasn’t even on the list). Today, working on my book was a joy.
Today is not an easy writing day. I received positive feedback on my four opening chapters, including suggestions for increasing tension between my two main characters. As always, it’s valuable input from my Writing Roosters critique partners for which I am exceedingly grateful. However, I’m struggling to stay focused as I try to figure out which changes to tackle first. Each foray into the manuscript distracts me with “oh yeah, then I’ll also need to fix this and this and . . .”
October 12, 2016.
For some reason, this gathering of raucous grackles seems an appropriate image for the day.
Reality is a scary and anger-inducing thing these days, and today I am grateful for the middle-grade novel I’m writing. Last week, I completed the second draft (hooray!) and then had it printed and bound. I let it sit for a few days and then eagerly began working within those tidy pages. It makes me so very happy to have a compact, mobile version that I can work on anytime, anywhere. Bed? Yes! Patio? Absolutely? Kitchen table? Why not?
And when I wake in the middle of the night with anxious thoughts that prevent me falling back asleep, I focus on Geo and Sam, the two girls at the heart of my story. I aim to do them proud.
I spent the majority of this day offline. In the morning, I exercised and then spent the afternoon reading through the second draft of my middle-grade novel while jotting notes to myself. After that, as some kind of misguided reward for my discipline and productivity, I went online for a peek at reality. Oh, my.
Rage. Rage. Rage.
April 27, 2020.
I quickly logged out of Twitter and went outside to calm myself. That’s when I heard a whole lot of buzzing. I grabbed my camera and patio chair, and parked next to one of our shrubs that’s flowering. As the bees buzzed and flew around my head, I achieved my calm.
I highly recommend this remedy.
I’ve been trying to work on my revisions this afternoon. I’m listening to Beethoven through my earbuds in an attempt to drown out the present reality and it seems to work in short bursts. I’m focused and then . . .I’m not. So I decided to look at some photos to find something to put here, and began examining pictures of birds, flowers, waterways, and other typically calming images.
May 3, 2019. Clearwater, Florida.
Well? Right now, my heart is racing. Adrenaline is pumping and it’s as if there’s no escaping my anxiety.
Rather than try to (unsuccessfully) distract myself from these feelings, I’m going to try another approach. I’m going to sit with my anxiety. Because maybe it’s like how you’re not supposed to run when you encounter a bear: if I don’t run from my anxiety, maybe it’ll quit chasing me.
I’m quite sure it’s only stress-induced illness, but I haven’t consistently felt like my normal self over the past 12 days. As soon as I feel better and exert myself, it sets me back again. So, I’m now embracing my inner slug. Today, for instance, I spent all day in bed. And you know what helps make me feel the very best?
I’ve been closed off in my bedroom, reading and writing, while the humidifier sends a constant stream of vapor into the air. My cough doesn’t stand a chance against all the moisture. Don’t worry, there’s no fungal in this bedroom jungle. Not yet, anyway.
Bushtit , March 11, 2019.
As I work chapter-by-chapter to revise my manuscript, my task feels similar to that of this Bushtit. We both take aim and then chip away at what’s there. The difference is, this feathered friend gets a tasty treat for her troubles while my satisfaction comes from page count.
Maybe I should print out a page or two, and see how they taste . . .
I’m not as far along with my revisions as I’d hoped, but I’m still here. Showing up to the page and making incremental progress. Progress that today felt drenched in doubt and anxiety. However, as every writer knows: words coated in any kind of emotion, positive or negative, beat a blank page.
After meeting with my critique group, I’m tweaking some plot lines and revising my opening chapters. I’m struggling today because I’m not 100% confident about how to change one plot line. I keep telling myself to make a decision and write it out, and that if it doesn’t work, I can write it again another way. But I want to be “right” the first time; I don’t want to write it again.
Tenacious wildflowers in Uncompahre National Forest. July 30, 2019.
And so I sit, paralyzed by indecision.
The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward. ~ Amelia Earhart
This is my public statement: I’m going to act. I will make a plot decision and keep writing. And I will prevail in these revisions because there’s one thing I can say with 100% confidence: I am tenacious.
Marcel. February 5, 2020.
Or, “Thinking is hard.”
Last night I met with Writing Roosters, my critique group, to discuss my latest novel. As always, they offered solid insights and made plenty of suggestions for how to improve the manuscript. I’ve spent much of the day staring and thinking. Honestly, at times the process is a bit overwhelming.
Perhaps Marcel could plot my course forward.
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.
House Finch. November 27, 2019
Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art. ~ Frederic Chopin
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?
I’m pretty consistent about posting here, not because I have a following that waits with bated breath, but because this blog is like a record of my life. The documentation helps me keep my memories in order.
Western/Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay. December 8, 2017
I didn’t post the past two days and it wasn’t because I turned my back on this ongoing life project. But as a result of not posting, I feel a bit anxious about those holes in my “official record.” I’ll do a quick update.
Friday, December 6, was another Global Climate Strike. I rode the light rail into Denver and then met my fellow Sunrise Movement (Colorado) activists at 10:30. We marched to the capitol, chanting and singing songs. There were maybe five hundred people total? The rally was inspiring and informative, and I loved hearing perspectives from a diverse range of young voices.
Afterward, our Sunrise group went to Governor Polis’s office to deliver climate action demands and request a meeting. Earlier efforts have been ignored. So this time we stuck around for a while. Three hours of a sit-in that included more storytelling, chanting, and songs. We left his office peacefully at the end of the day, walking and singing out to the rotunda where we slowly collapsed to a die-in. As we lowered ourselves in silence, we covered our faces with black bandanas that said either TIME’S UP or WHAT’S YOUR PLAN?
It was my first die-in and I loved it. It was a meditative and profound experience to lie on that cold marble, motionless as capitol activity continued around us.
And Saturday? I spent much of the day reading Running With Sherman: The Donkey With the Heart of a Hero (Christopher McDougall). The book inspired me to run that afternoon for the first time in two weeks. (Note: Denver metro air quality is frequently too unhealthy for running. See “Friday.”)
I’m back at my regularly scheduled life today, taking care of things that need doing. Answering emails. Worm bin maintenance and feeding. Adding words to my work-in-progress. Posting on this blog. Wishing everyone a good Sunday and much good stuff in the coming week.
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.
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!
I got some bad writing news this afternoon that wasn’t unexpected, but was still difficult to hear. I had tears in my eyes. But because my agent is so kind and supportive, within minutes of our conversation I felt okay. (The two slices of butter-and- strawberry-jam toast definitely helped). And not only did I feel better post-toast, I felt a renewed resolve.
A few minutes ago I finished drafting 1,062 words of my new project. How do I feel? Pretty damned good.
Knock down this clown and I’ll just bounce back for more!
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.