I’m revising my middle grade manuscript and am having one of those HOW WILL I EVER DO THIS? days. Today’s revision session felt like one cold, hard realization after another. As in, “Wait a minute, if I move that chunk earlier in the story, that will blow up this part of the story” or “When I cut this scene, where do I put this one snippet that absolutely needs to remain in the story?” or the evergreen “Damn, if I tug this thread it will *sob* unravel throughout the entire story.”
The good news is that I wrote a tight draft. The bad news? The tighter the draft, the larger the repercussions during revision.
I’ve been moving back and forth in the timeline so much today I’m not even sure what’s what anymore. Definitely time for me to stop and let my brain reorient itself.
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!
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 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.
I’m brainstorming and jotting notes for a new middle-grade novel, and sometimes feel slightly overwhelmed by the possibilities for this story. Is it this? Or that? Here or there? There’s so much to consider.
This photo of me feels like the perfect image for this stage in the process and I’m posting it here as a reminder to myself: infinite possibilities are a gift.
Rustler Gulch Trail, July 26, 2018.
May I continue enjoying the creative journey as much as I did that wonderful hike. May I continue embracing the infinite landscape of my creative mind.
The conference stuff continues to marinate in my back-office brain and this afternoon I had a breakthrough on a book idea I’ve been playing with. For a variety of reasons, I haven’t much felt like committing to writing another middle-grade novel. But today’s epiphany gave me a jolt of excitement that I haven’t felt in months. And now I’m seriously contemplating doing NaNoWriMo again this year.
Image from Pexels.com
What?! Last year’s experience nearly broke my body from all that sitting and writing, and I wasn’t sure I’d try writing 50,000 words in one month ever again. Which is why I’m thinking a modified version might be better. Something like working at my standing desk to write 1,000 words per day for 50 days. From my perspective, that’s still fast-drafting (and I hope the NaNo police don’t show up at my door to issue me a citation).
I need to ponder this idea, but no matter what I decide I’m grateful to feel excitement again.
Centennial Cone Park hike. July 10, 2019.
I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom,
till you yourself burst into bloom.
~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes
I’ve mentioned before that I’m usually a one-project-at-a-time kinda writer. It seems my brain and creative juices struggle when I switch focus. BUT. I think it’s a good skill to cultivate, juggling projects, so I bought myself a brand new notebook for a brand new middle-grade novel idea I’d like to noodle on while working on my work-for-hire nonfiction project. If you hear the sound of shrieking gears, that’ll be my brain right before I burst into bloom.
Neither snow nor rain nor nasty blowing winds can keep a good poppy down.
Battered, but still standing proud.
I love me a fierce Poppy.
Here are two books I read and greatly enjoyed this week:
Sheila Turnage’s THREE TIMES LUCKY is a fun romp filled with twists and turns. Cece Bell’s EL DEAFO is a funny and heartfelt graphic novel about the author’s elementary school years wearing the hearing aid that gave her superpowers.
I highly recommend these gems published in 2012 and 2014. (Yes, I’m woefully behind in my reading. You know what they say: so many books, so little time.)
Yesterday I got zero writing done on my work-in-progress. I was enraged and exhausted by news and events. Late last night I fell asleep wondering whether, in the face of relentless misogyny and violence against women, my idea for a middle-grade novel narrated by a boy was what I should pursue. Maybe, I thought, I should abandon that story and instead write a burn-it-all-down book filled with pitchfork-wielding girls.
Well, I’ve spent the last several hours analyzing and fleshing out the beginning outline for my boy-based work-in-progress and have decided it’s a GO. Not only am I moving ahead with this story, I’m kinda excited about the plot lines. My main character won’t be fighting the power structure, but he is a decent human being.
In today’s climate that’s worth a lot.
Because every step in the process is its own milestone.
Here’s to completed manuscripts!
Enthusiasm is everything. It must be taut and vibrating like a guitar string.
Today as I continue exploring a new story idea, filling pages in a new notebook, I’m filled with excitement and anticipation. There’s nothing but pure potential at this point. I haven’t yet taken any wrong turns or gotten bogged down in the swampy middle of the novel. It’s just me and a 12-year-old boy finding our way.
Enthusiasm is running high.
As I wait to hear back from my agent on the middle-grade manuscript I sent her way, I want to document a new approach in my revision process. For the first time ever in the history of me writing books, I paid to have a manuscript bound. Here it is:
I was inspired by this tweet from author-extraordinaire Laurel Snyder:
Intrigued by the idea of revising in that tidy format, I asked Laurel if she printed single or double-sided and she responded that she did single sides because then she could write on the backs of pages. She also said she requested extra blank pages bound in the back for notes. Genius!
Before having my manuscript printed I switched it from the manuscript default (Times New Roman 12-point) to Garamond 12-point. I did that so my brain would see and read the pages differently. It came out to about 200 pages and cost me $22.
I applied my usual revision approach of reading the entire manuscript in one sitting. I always set the goal of reading without revising or making notes, but this time around was not at all successful. I tweaked sentences here and there early on and then forced myself to merely mark troublesome passages with CLUNKY. I made other general notes in the margins and then after finishing the manuscript wrote out big-picture thoughts/questions on a blank page in back.
Verdict? I loved working with a bound manuscript. All my notes and thoughts were in one place. I transferred my edits to my Word doc that was also color-coded with revision threads (green for anything dealing with X and yellow for Y and blue for Z and fuschia for wording still in need of tweaking). It was so easy to follow a plot/characterization thread from beginning to end.
I can’t wait to use this process again.
Today I’m suffering from a self-inflicted case of the writer’s malady known as Shiny New Idea Syndrome. I’ve been revising a middle-grade novel and mostly liking it and, in fact, the other day had a breakthrough regarding how to rewrite the opening and quickly reworked it to my satisfaction. The revision is mostly going well and there’s no reason to set aside the project.
I learned of a submission call for picture books and decided it would be good for my brain (that’s been almost 100% devoted to writing novels) to try something new. I figured noodling on a completely different type of project would lubricate my creative juices and invigorate my work. Am I invigorated? Who knows? All I can say for certain is that I just spent the last couple hours going through my Picture Book Ideas notebook and now my brain is ping-ponging between multiple story possibilities. None of which are suited for this specific submission call, but details like that don’t ever matter to Shiny New Idea Syndrome.
Universal truth: The grass is always greener on the other side of the work-in-progress. All that not-yet-effed-up potential is so very tempting.
I’m going to keep working on my middle-grade. If a suitable picture book idea comes to me, I’ll pursue it. Otherwise, I won’t go beating the bushes for other distractions.
You read it here first.
I’m writing a new opening for my madcap middle-grade novel, one that (hopefully) sets the correct tone for the manuscript. It’s been a struggle. Over the past five days I’ve written draft after draft after draft and today started thinking I’d be better off if I gave a chimpanzee a typewriter and locked her in here while I took a long nap.
Time to step away from the keyboard . . .
I’m programmed to believe it’s best to take the shortest route between Point A and Point B. Why waste time, right? Get where I want to be as quickly as possible. To do otherwise is proof I’m lost and confused. I’m hyper-sensitive to that judgment because I have a horrible sense of direction and spend a fair amount of time feeling disoriented. I’ve literally pulled over and cried in frustration when my brain couldn’t sort out where I was headed. Even when I get somewhere without mishap, I frequently berate myself for taking a longer route than necessary.
Why? The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. And anyone who takes a longer route is someone who’s doing it wrong.
That’s an unhelpful way of thinking and is particularly dangerous in terms of my writing journey. And yet, those thoughts pop in my head. Right now I’m wondering how I could’ve written three drafts of my manuscript without recognizing a key problem. How did I not know?! What is wrong with me?!
Well, nothing’s wrong with me. It’s called the writing process. I’ve been here before and I’ll be here again. Guaranteed.
Today I celebrate side roads, scenic detours, and fourth drafts.
I was all ready to blog about how I’d received feedback on the latest draft of my middle-grade manuscript along with a suggestion on how to address a core problem. It was going to be a blog post about trusting my gut, in that the revision suggestion had initially resonated with me but after further thought I knew it was all wrong. The post’s title was a straight-forward “Trusting my gut.”
I wrote a few words and went off in search of “gut” images. Nothing. I searched “belly” and came up with a slew of pregnant bellies which I nixed because I didn’t want to sound a pregnancy alarm. “Stomach” and “tummy” brought more pregnant women pics.
And then I searched for “chubby baby” and came across this:
I’m trusting my gut that this image is what I was looking for all along.
Sometimes taking the most simple action can quell my anxiety. Yesterday as I worked on this revision and felt overwhelmed by the many, many details of my madcap story that must be explained by the end of the manuscript, I started a list.
LOOSE ENDS / EXPLANATIONS NEEDED
Whoa. Behold this literary rocket scientist at work!
I’m trying hard to stop kicking myself for not creating the list at the outset of this round of revisions and, instead, be grateful for my peace of mind in the here and now.
The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.
~ Maya Angelou
I’ve spent the day working on the third draft of my work-in-progress. Thanks to three reads (partial and full manuscripts) from the wonderful Writing Roosters critique group, the book is in pretty decent shape, which makes for a pleasant writing experience. I can see the good that’s already there and can easily envision the good to come. I’m about sixty pages from the end and hope to have the draft completed by the end of the month.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have this creative outlet.
Sometimes the universe gifts you a tin filled with popcorn kernels. And sometimes the gift comes in the form of a writing project that transports you away from life’s challenges and makes your heart sing.