Shopping List: amended

Yesterday morning I added “binder clips” to the shopping list. Because even though years ago I’d purchased a large package of assorted clips, they’d somehow disappeared, one by one. Time to restock.

Fast forward a couple hours: I decided to do some de-cluttering and focused my efforts on my manuscript boxes. Or, as in the case of the first two books I ever wrote: manuscript bins. When I first began writing novels, I thought “revision” equaled “editing,” and had printed out multiple copies of the full manuscript each time I “revised” even though my “revisions” were typically line edits. (Yes, I was a clueless newbie.) As a result, it required one 66-quart bin each to hold the many copies of those first projects. It didn’t help that I’d made another newbie mistake and wrote in Courier New font which is a big and ugly font that required more pages. Those manuscripts were voluminous! Well, I’m happy to announce those projects are now stored in letter-sized cardboard boxes.

The good news is that I understood revision better on the next two novels I wrote and, instead of bins, the stuff I’d printed out “only” required two letter-sized boxes each. Four boxes for two manuscripts. A definite improvement, but why so many pages? Apparently, I was anticipating school visits in which I’d show students samples of my revision process. In addition to the full manuscripts I’d printed out along the way, I’d also saved many, many chapters with crossed-out lines, inserted phrases, and arrows pointing to new paragraph placement. Proof of the revision process, man.

Really, Tracy?

By late afternoon, the back of my Subaru was filled with boxes of paper I’ll take to the recycling center. And now every single book I’ve written is stored in its own tidy cardboard box and stacked in my writing room closet. It’s like a happy reunion of my creative process because the projects in the bins were formerly stored in the basement!

And that shopping list? Binder clips → Binder clips.

Because guess what was holding together all the chapters and manuscripts in those bins and boxes?

Today, it made sense

One of the best things about being a writer is that we can always learn and become better storytellers. Today, I happened upon two insights regarding character motivation (wants vs needs, and choices)  that were worded in such a way that I immediately spotted what was wrong with my work-in-progress. What I read wasn’t new to me, but information doesn’t always sink in the first (or second or fifth) time I come across it. Today, things clicked. And that makes this writer very, very happy.

Art can’t be taught;
passion can’t be taught;
discipline can’t be taught;
but craft can be taught.
And writing is both an art and a craft.
~ Elizabeth George

Writing, Running, & Ruminating

Yesterday I sent off the manuscript for the first book of mine that will be published. It’s a short work-fore-hire book about composting and how to build a compost tumbler. (One of my critique partners (yo, LP!) is a nonfiction goddess who guided me every step of the way as I applied to the editorial company. Thank you, friend!)

One of the hardest parts of that writing process was switching from my fiction brain to my nonfiction brain. Plus there was the research that triggered my ADD tendencies, writing to a lower reading level, explaining complex concepts in a simplified format, footnoting and formatting, glossary terms and pronunciation keys . . . Suffice to say there was a steep learning curve and a few tears of frustration.

learning curve back and forth

But I put my head down to push through the doubts and nasty voices, and I prevailed. Plus, I (mostly) kept to my promise to myself and worked on my middle-grade novel revisions every day. I learned to bounce from fiction to nonfiction and back again. And it felt like a real accomplishment to hit SEND when I emailed my manuscript yesterday.

This morning Zippy and I went out for our run on the trails. As we took off, I mentioned how I wished we could take a different route out there in the open space. I love the trails and they’re kinder to my body than pavement as I pound out the miles, but lately I’ve noticed my mind wanders when I run. And my mind shouldn’t wander when there are rocks and knapweed and eroded trail segments to navigate. But it wanders because I’m comfortable with my route; I’ve run it so often I can close my eyes and visualize exactly where the rabbit brush stalk sticks out onto the trail and how far up the trail past the turn-off it is that I need to side-step a cluster of partially submerged rocks.

So today Zippy took the lead and he mixed it up. He took us on side trails and detours, but the biggest change was we ran parts of the route in reverse. Which meant I was running downhill where I’m usually straining to run uphill, and struggling up the steep inclines where I’m used to flying down the trail.

TrulyErgonomic_LearningCurve

Talk about a learning curve. I thought my brain was going to explode! (Not to mention the other very real concern that I was about to barf up a lung).

Well, I eventually made it home and recovered enough to have today’s deep thought:

It’s good to step outside my comfort zone because doing so allows me to learn new skills and expand my muscles (whether brain or brawn). Becoming more flexible ain’t always pretty, but it’s necessary.

Learning to Fly

Discovered a finch on the deck rail this morning. Eyes closed. Visible, rhythmic breathing and tufted feathers on her head. I guessed she’d hit a window and was recovering from the trauma. As I watched, she opened her eyes and tilted her head before hopping to the edge of the rail. But she didn’t take off. A few moments later, a male finch landed on the rail and hopped closer in order to give her a safflower seed from the feeder.

Baby bird!

I grabbed the camera and documented what came next. Mostly, hopping about and looking around as finches and doves busied themselves at the feeder about ten feet away.Baby finch 009A few minutes later she fluttered down to the deck.Baby finch 015 Then she took off for the basketball rim.Baby finch 016Baby finch 018After several moments perched there she tried flying toward the feeder. Unfortunately, she didn’t take into account the backboard and hit it (lightly) before dropping to the branch below.Baby finch 020She stayed on that branch for quite a while before taking off and landing on another branch hanging about a foot away from the feeder. This photographic documentation ended there because I didn’t want to startle her by moving closer, but I’m confident she’s doing fine. That little finch did some growing up in a hurry.

Friday Five: The Scrivener Edition

                 

In honor of massively computer-challenged Me learning how to use Scrivener for Windows

(writing software adored by oodles of writers), here are some glimpses into my journey:
 
                                                                                            image from morguefile.com
 
1) Yesterday I shed tears of frustration and pulled my hair. Literally.
 
2)  Today I teared up a tiny bit when faced with something I absolutely did not understand,
and then wiped away those tears and told myself "You might not even need to know that."
 
3)  My mantra: Even if I master only a tiny percentage of what this program can do, 
that tiny percentage will be huge in comparison to what I knew about Scrivener last week.
 
4)  The thought of writing with a "corkboard" and "index cards" has kept me going, and sure enough,
those are the features I’m "mastering" and will be able to use right from the start.
 
5)  I’m sure it doesn’t count for anything but I feel better prepared to learn this software
having read Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener in my sophomore English class.
 
Anyone else out there have an emotion-laden time learning this software?
(For those who mastered it without a problem, it’s probably best to keep that to yourself.)