With great writing there is great clarity.
~ David Costabile
That is precisely why I’ve got my notebook out again, jotting down elements of the manuscript I’m revising in hopes of making connections I’ve missed so far. It’s hard to admit, but my story lacks focus. How that can still be true in the fourth draft I do not know. What I do know is this:
With mediocre writing there are muddy waters and confusion which result in the reader not knowing exactly what she’s supposed to root for or why any of it matters.
Word of the day (and probably however long it takes to finish this draft) = CLARITY.
It’s a new week and I’m in fake-it-’til-I-make-it mode. There are seriously messed up things happening on the planet and my gut instinct is to stay in bed reading books and eating toast for the rest of my life. But that’s exactly what all the horrible people out there wreaking havoc right now want; they’re counting on wearing us down so that we start averting our gaze.
Nope. Books and toast are good, but constant vigilance is essential.
Today I’m gonna make like a prairie dog . . . and keep fighting the good fight.
I’m afraid of heights and frequently have dreams in which I’m waaay too far from the ground. My fear is a known quantity in my household. So when I announced before leaving for Crested Butte a couple weeks ago that I was going to ride the ski-lift, Zebu’s response was a skeptical/worried “Really?”
Then I arrived and watched the lift from our rental balcony. My heart picked up the pace and my chest got tight. Zippy suggested we check it out and then I could decide, assuring me it was okay to back out. We walked to the lift-line filled with people in helmets, body armor, and mountain bikes. Turns out Wednesday evenings allow unlimited lifts up the mountain for bikers wanting to ride the trails to the bottom. I was in line next to little girls not only brave enough to ride the chair lift but to bomb down the mountain on bikes! Those two young sisters listened politely as their dad reassured this grown-ass woman I’d be fine on the lift.
And I was.
On the ride down the mountain (which was much easier and more relaxing for me, to the extent I released my death grips on the lap bar and Zippy’s shirt), we passed the biker girls and their dad riding up the mountain again. We all waved and one of the girls shouted, “Enjoy your ride!”
Thanks in no small part to their example. Girl power!
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 . . .
As I continue to work on the YA-manuscript-with-many-warts, I take solace in this bit of wisdom:
Every great work,
every big accomplishment,
has been brought into manifestation through holding to the vision,
and often just before the big achievement,
comes apparent failure and discouragement.
~Florence Scovel Shinn
The way I see it, I’m currently smack-dab in the middle of an enormous puddle of failure and discouragement which means Big Achievement could very well be nigh.
*scans horizon before getting back to revisions*
I’ve gone back to a project I haven’t looked at in 18 months, a project that hasn’t been shopped at all so should still have a brand-new shiny feel. Instead, this project that’s given me fits over the years continues to make me nervous. I think the nerves are a result of the MANY hours I’ve put into this book without an end in sight. I read it through in one sitting yesterday and while I admired much about the manuscript, I’m still not confident the story structure is correct.
You know what that means . . .
I just hit SEND on my manuscript and am doing the Ed Grimley happy dance!
Finishing that round of revisions is totally decent, I must say!
My self-imposed deadline for finishing this draft is fast-approaching and I’m torn between wishing I had another couple days of work time and being SO GLAD the end is near. I’m at that point in which I’d just as soon throw the manuscript in the lake.
Soggy or not, here I come.
I’ve kept a gratitude journal on and off for a number of years, but am currently in an off phase. I hope to resume my bedtime ritual of listing five things I’m grateful for, but in the meanwhile:
Today I am grateful . . .
- my sister helped me feel more at peace about a friend’s death.
- my critique group gifted me another week to finish the draft of my work-in-progress and that
- I am, indeed, making progress on that work.
- I enjoyed a calm, non-aggressive walk in the warm sunshine with Emma, even though we passed other dogs.
- I completed my four-minute plank despite learning the hard way that Led Zeppelin’s Four Sticks is absolutely not a good motivational song. Nope, not even close.
Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.
~ Khalil Gibran
Today I kept writing despite
the nasty voice
the feelings of futility
the sweet seduction of giving up
the stack of unread library books
Today, I’m thankful I kept writing.
All week I’ve struggled to revise the same couple chapters, making very little progress. The nasty voice in my head has had a good old time, telling me I’m not a good writer, that my novel is crap, that there’s no salvaging the mess I’ve made, that I’m delusional to think I can pull off the story I want to tell, etc.
I started to believe that.
Because of all my revising, moving back-and-forth within the first 100+ pages, I was confused and disoriented regarding plot lines and character motivations. I didn’t know which way was up. So. This afternoon, I resorted to The Running Start Technique. I went back to page 1 and read through to my sticking point on page 104, taking notes along the way to remind myself exactly certain key events happened.
I hadn’t spun my wheels all this week because I’m a bad writer; rather, somewhere inside me I understood that I was headed in the wrong direction. The reason I didn’t make forward progress wasn’t because I suck, but because I wasn’t supposed to go that way. Stubborn tenacity isn’t always a good thing, yo. Whew. I feel so much better about my work-in-progress and me right now.
The sad/funny/pathetic/embarrassing thing is, I’ve already experienced that exact same stalled feeling followed by the Hey, Trace! You’re taking the wrong road! realization. Multiple times. I can only hope that the next time it happens (and it will), the nasty voice is banished much more quickly.
Farewell to this year
poetry all around us
must never forget
Today is the shortest day of the year.
BUT, tomorrow we start gaining daylight!
*sobs in gratitude*
You’ve spent the entire day in revision mode, staring at a computer screen.
Time for a cool cloth and some yoga.
There’s no limit to how complicated things can get,
on account of one thing always leading to another.
~ E. B. White
I don’t know the context for this quotation, but it speaks to me today as I struggle to revise my once tightly-plotted novel. The changes I’m making are needed and will strengthen the manuscript. I know this. But that knowledge doesn’t make the process any easier or less painful.
Every single tug on a story thread results in a temporary snarl that must be untangled in order for the revisions to flow. Today it feels as if I’m falling behind on the untangling process.
I’m hoping E.B. White was wrong and that there is actually a limit on how complicated things can get.
It was a productive day in the revision cave
and I’m feeling a bit like this:
Theda Bara in “Cleopatra,” 1917
Focused and just a wee bit crazed.
(Hey, it’s a better look than pasty-faced Tom Wolfe in his white suit.)
Today we woke to a gray blanket of fog which has mostly dissipated,
revealing an iron- gray sky.
The sun is nowhere to be seen. The mood is pure gloom.
Except out my kitchen window.
I’m grateful for those tenacious maple leaves.
Today’s revision work felt a bit like mucking around in the pipes. It was worth the somewhat grimy effort, though, because all plot and subplot lines are now in synch and flowing quite nicely. Hallelujah!
Now if only I could pee standing up.
Today is frigid
and it’s just the beginning.
Eye on the spring prize.
Today I’m feeling a bit like this as I revise:
There are visibility issues, doubts and uncertainties, and a nagging worry that the whole endeavor is about to go into a skid. Nonetheless, I’m enjoying the ride and can’t wait to see the end result when the dust settles.
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.
Right now, I’m feeling a bit like this:
After several days working on the same chapter, I’m (finally) feeling floaty and optimistic about what I’ve written.
Photo by Zippy
Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.
~ Khalil Gibran
Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain.
~ Charlie Chaplin
Zippy and I attended the funeral for a young woman this morning. So much sadness in the church. And yet, there was also laughter.
Rest in peace, K.