I drove Zebu to the airport this afternoon and hugged him goodbye, a parting made easier with the knowledge he’s happy to return to his new home and life in Seattle. After driving the 40 minutes back here, I resumed drafting a new scene in my work-in-progress I’ve neglected for the past four days. The scene is bumpy, but I keep reminding myself it’s impossible to revise a blank page which means ugly writing is better than no writing. I’ve set a goal to finish this draft by June 30 and then will reward myself with a printed and bound copy of the draft.
“June 30th” is my new mantra and it’s pulling me through some rough patches as I write this book. Two years ago today I was camping and photographing birds, without any notion of this latest middle grade novel.
Dark-eyed Junco, State Forest State Park. June 12, 2019
Then again, maybe the story was already beginning to simmer and I just didn’t know it. Either way, I will honor my commitment and finish this draft by June 30. I owe it to myself and the characters.
Cooper’s Hawk by Zippy. Sept 18, 2020
I’ve been driving the struggle bus lately and haven’t been disciplined about working on my latest book. In the past, I’d work hours and hours at a time on my projects, coming up for air only to discover it was late afternoon and that I’d done little else. These days, I don’t have that drive. Sometimes I’m at peace with this change. Other days, not so much; those critical voices can get pretty damned loud in my head.
Yesterday I realized it felt worse to not work on my book. So I opened the document and reworked a critical early scene between one major and one minor character. Page-wise, I didn’t make huge progress. But characterization and plot-wise, that little bit of work moved the revision forward in a significant manner. Plus, by taking action I was able to douse my angsty-guilty feelings. I hope to do the same today. However, whatever happens I’m going to try hard not to judge myself. It’s hard times on the planet and we all deserve some grace.
As mentioned before, I have a new middle-grade project that I (mostly) drafted in November and December. My critique group read it and offered excellent insights in mid-January. Since then, I’ve jotted many thoughts and ideas in my trusty notebook. But I didn’t start working with the actual manuscript until last week.
When I began reading it again after all that time away, I fell in love. One critique partner commented that the draft has good bones, and I totally agree. I’m so grateful for this project and the enthusiasm I feel when working on it.
However, various difficult Life issues are taking up lots of head space lately so I’m following the lead of another critique partner who writes one hour per day (and even has her own hourglass). I’m reading through the draft, making revision notes that I highlight in yellow. There are still a bunch of plot issues I need to resolve, but I’m making progress.
I will prevail. One hour at a time.
As I stand here at my desk, revising a beloved manuscript (yet again), I’m feeling prickles of doubt about the direction I’ve taken. I’m wondering and worrying and feeling a bit shaky on my writer-legs. There’s one eternal question:
“Are you making things better or worse, Tracy?”
Muse-dog Emma on November 20, 2020.
I’d dearly love the answer to this question in the right-here-and-now. However, only time will tell. And only if I complete this revision. So, best get back to it.
It’s cold, gray, and snowing right now. Ten days ago, it was cold, gray, and snowing when this Northern Flicker posed on the wire.
Northern Flicker, December 18, 2020.
Today I’m battling indecision and feelings of overwhelm as I work to instill a semblance of structure and order to the draft and memo I need to send my critique group in a week. Ten days ago, I battled indecision and overwhelm as I worked to instill structure and order to the materials for my critique group.
I guess I could take comfort in the consistency?
I’ve got strong feelings about ALL SORTS OF STUFF right now and felt a rant rising inside me. But as I tried to pin down exactly what I wanted to convey, I paused and reconsidered. Maybe what I really wanted to do was post about the writing life: the process, my progress, the angst and insecurities, etc. I’ve written many such posts over the years and appreciate that documentation which reminds me I’ve been here before and survived. Breathe, Tracy.
Which is how I began searching through Douglas Adams quotes, knowing he wasn’t an angsty guy but would provide me with the tone needed today. And here’s what resonated with me:
My absolute favourite piece of information is the fact that young sloths are so inept that they frequently grab their own arms and legs instead of tree limbs, and fall out of trees. ~ Douglas Adams
Why does this resonate? One: it cracked me up. Two: I can relate to those young sloths because Three: as I near the end of this first draft, I vacillate between an overwhelming sense of ineptness and glimmers of “hot damn, this might actually not suck too much!”
And at the risk of sounding like a sloth-shamer: I haven’t yet fallen out of the tree.
I’m adhering to the 1,000-words/day schedule I began on November 1st as I write the first draft of a new middle-grade novel. That’s the very good news. One other piece of good news is that as I draft, I’m learning more about my characters. Hooray for more well-rounded characters, right?
Yes, except for the fact that those character revelations frequently punch holes in how the story’s written thus far. Holes that slightly alter the plot. Holes that put the entire timeline in question. Holes that shake my confidence about how to best proceed. Forge ahead? Or, cut and paste so the entire draft reflects what I now know about how the story plays out?
I’m 29,000 words in and some of what I wrote/figured out yesterday should come much earlier in the story. Go back? Move forward? Insert notes in earlier chapters that will (hopefully) help me sort it all out after I’ve completed a 45,000-word draft?
One thing I know for sure is that it’s important for me to maintain momentum on first drafts. So, I guess that means forge ahead. Apologies in advance to me when I frantically work to shape this tangled mess into a semi-cohesive manuscript for my critique group to read in January.
Yikes, I missed one day of writing and am now suffering an acute case of Lost Momentum. Per my NaNoWriMo goals (45,000 words in 45 days), I need to get a minimum of 1,700 words down today if I’m to remain on schedule.
*sob* That feels like SO. MANY. WORDS.
*deep breath* Here I go, getting started. This is me, starting. One-two-three, write! Come on, Tracy, you can do it!
Black-billed Magpie in neighbor’s yard. August 29, 2019.
*exhale* Even though completing my words feels less likely than the magpie pushing that wheelbarrow, I’m going to write those 1,700 words. Right now. Truly.
As I walked into my writing room this afternoon, determined to add 1,000 words to my new project, I felt pretty good about facing another day’s word count. Because not only am I keeping pace with my NaNoWriMo goals, I’m a wee bit ahead of schedule. But when I saw the prism-created light display around my computer, my confidence evaporated. Instant pressure!
November 15, 2020
What if my words didn’t shine? What if they landed on the page, cold and lifeless? How would I possibly produce anything approaching this level of magical? Waaaah.
Fast forward to a couple minutes ago when I closed my Scrivener file after adding 1,000 words to the story. Are those words cold and lifeless? Absolutely not. Are they shiny? Some of them, yes. Magical? Only time will tell. The only things I know for sure are that I met my goal, the pretty lights have vanished along with the sun behind the foothills, and I’m grateful I didn’t cave to the pressure.
Clearwater, FL. May 5, 2019.
There’s a very good chance you can’t tell the bird in this blurred photo is an Osprey. It is, trust me. Looking closely, I pieced together enough info to make the identification. White undersides. A white head with a dark band running through the eyes. Sharply hooked beak. The way it holds its wings in flight. This is an Osprey.
Why post this low-quality photo today?
Because it’s a fair representation of the new middle grade I’m drafting via my modified NaNoWriMo efforts. I’m 11,000 words into the story and while much feels blurred and unidentifiable, specific and undeniable elements are guiding my way. When the panic and doubts set in (as they are today), I want to remember that I know the basic elements of this story. I want to remember I will find my way through the blurry, messy collection of words.
I want to remember to trust in the process.
Today is Day One of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in which people set out to write a 50,000-word manuscript in the month of November. Last year I did a modified NaNo and wrote a draft in about 45 days, and I’d like to try that again. And to hold myself accountable, I reached out to my critique group to ask for the January meeting slot. It’s mine! Hooray! Except, oops. That’s NOT what I did last year.
Last year, I requested the February slot which gave me more time to tidy before asking my critique partners to wade into my messy first draft. I won’t have the luxury of those extra weeks to clean up the worst of the mess. I could email them all now and ask for the February slot instead. But where’s the fun in that?!
Wish me well . . .
Hard days on the planet, yo. However, this morning I sent my revised manuscript to my agent and that feels so very good. While that project has definitely been my refuge, there were times it was hard to focus because of *gestures* everything. But after two months, the revisions are complete and I’m very proud of my tenacity (call me Tenacious T) and the finished product. Huge shout-out to all the readers who offered their insights, suggestions, and support at various stages of the process. ❤️
Blue Jay, Florida. May 3, 2019.
I’m also grateful for birds. They never, ever let me down. No matter what — watching them, listening to them, studying them — always soothes my soul and returns me to balance. More birds, please.
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.
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.
Holding my head high as we head into this new year and decade.
No apologies as I fight for the planet and all inhabitants.
Won’t always look as regal as this bird, but messy is okay.
Achieving a Green New Deal is all that matters.
Mexican Jay. Cave Creek Canyon Ranch, May 16, 2019.
It’s the last day of 2019 and the final day of the decade, which feels like an awful lot of pressure. What exactly have I accomplished in that time?
I quickly realized that contemplating this past year and the previous nine years was not morale-boosting if I only focused on my quest for traditional publication of my novels. So. I shifted my gaze to another aspect of my life.
Self-portrait, December 31, 2019.
I just went through my calendar and added up all my 2019 hoop-dancing sessions. And you know what? I hooped for 1,162 minutes this year (and there’s still time to add more today)! All those minutes translate to just over 19 hours of hoop-dancing this year. Nineteen hours of me dancing, whether I felt like it or not, knowing I always, always feel better after a hoop session. I didn’t sell the novel about my beloved character Poppy Valentine this year, but I danced myself through that disappointment (and the overall fog of hard-times-on-the-planet) and drafted another book.
Hoop-dancing and drafting? Not too shabby. Turns out I did accomplish a few things in 2019.
Happy New Year to everyone! May we all keep dancing in 2020!
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.
Oy. I’ve been working all afternoon, trying to finish the edits on my work-for-hire project. I’m this close to being done and wanted the satisfaction of waking tomorrow morning to a clean slate (aka, time to pursue my own project). Alas, it’s not to be.
Instead, I’m admitting it’s time to call it for the day. I’m off to wash my face and have a cold beer. Tomorrow is another day and COMPLETION WILL BE MINE.
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!
We all have our own life to pursue, our own kind of dream to be weaving, and we all have the power to make wishes come true, as long as we keep believing.
~ Louisa May Alcott
Okay, Ms. Alcott, count me in.
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.
For the past couple months, I’ve felt discouraged by various aspects of my life. Those feelings aren’t a constant, they tend to ebb and flow, but this morning the discouragement rose up in me again. With a vengeance.
Then I thought back to what I felt last month when I was offered an assignment to write a book about birds. Not only was I so darned happy, but I was also filled with a sudden certainty: without a doubt, more good things were coming my way.
If only I could’ve bottled those feelings. But right now I’m doing the next best thing to help reexperience that confidence and certainty. I’m opening my arms wide and chanting my mantra: More good things are coming my way.
Yep, that feels so much better.
If you’re feeling not-great right now, say it with me: More good things are coming my way.
Happy to report I survived this morning’s visit to the dentist without throwing any punches. Woot! However, the whole thing got off to a rocky start when my sandal strap broke as I walked across the parking lot. I somehow kept the shoe on my foot as the strap slapped against the ground. But then the front desk woman asked for my insurance card and I emptied out my purse searching for my wallet that wasn’t there. The good news is Zippy located it at home.
So here’s the score:
Teeth cleaned without me breaking into tears (yes, this has happened before).
Sandal broken but fixable, I believe.
Wallet back in purse and the bill’s in the mail.
Mondays gonna Monday. All I can do is keep my head down and push ahead. Wishing the same for you.