Joy of cooking

Today I used my Scrivener corkboard and calendar pages to finish plotting out this revision along with the story’s revised time line. I made good progress, but am still not sure how the newly envisioned climatic scene will unfold. So I made a list of the fifteen or so ingredients that will be in play during that scene, and am now letting my subconscious do the cooking.

My aim is true

Today as I work on my novel, I am thinking ahead, hoping ahead, to the day when a reader reaches for my story. Last May, I photographed this man perusing a “Book Exchange” in Stockholm and am posting it as a motivator. I aim to create the most compelling, reader-enticing story I can write, dammit.

Forest for the trees

Revision is all about keeping in mind the big picture and the many, many details that go into creating that big picture. Because a novel is kinda like a forest, which is nothing without its trees.

Hike in Staunton State Park, Oct 13, 2017

 

Word spew

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.

Yay, me.

Flexing my literary muscle

Whenever I write a novel,
I have a strong sense that I am doing something I was unable to do before.
With each new work, I move up a step and discover something new inside me.

~ Haruki Murakami

Image from pexels.com

Thankful Thursday: The I-finally-freakin’-did-it edition

If you happen upon this, writer-friend Linda Salzman, you might be happy to know that yesterday I finally, finally wrote the final scenes of the YA I’ve been wrestling with since the beginning of time. Are they perfectly written scenes? Hells no. Are they fleshed-out scenes? Absolutely not. Are they even close to being what they’d need to be in a final draft? HAHAHAHAHA.

In which Linda is the pug offering encouragement to the tortoise-slow Tracy.

In which Linda is the pug offering encouragement (“Do it!”) to the tortoise-slow Tracy.

The scenes I wrote yesterday are, at this point, a collection of placeholder words. A roadmap for the next draft (should I ever have the inclination to wade into the manuscript that right now feels like a horrible, torturous place to spend time). I learned about the value of using placeholder words from writer-friend Laurie Schneider, and I must say it’s one of the most liberating tools in my writing kit. The pressure is off when I’m creating placeholder words; all that’s required of me is to literally hold the place in the manuscript with clues for my authorial intent. The details come later.

So after writing those scenes, I printed out a hard copy and wrote out a few notes for myself before packing everything away in an accordion file. At the soonest, I’ll read that manuscript again in a month. But I have a feeling it’ll take longer than that for me to muster enthusiasm. After finishing, I’d gone back to read the opening chapter, thinking it would fire me up by reminding me the rest of the book is stronger than the ending. *insert hysterical laughter* Turns out, I’d arrived at the THIS BOOK SUCKS MORE THAN A HOOVER stage, and it’s gonna take some time for those feelings to fade.

The good news? I’m already reacquainting myself with another project. This one has huge potential and fills me with excitement. So take that, nasty voice! (Also, I was very grateful for the distraction of this “new” project when I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about Debbie Reynolds dying the day after losing her beloved daughter.)

There are sad and horrible things happening all over the planet, but I’m grateful for the fictional worlds I create in my mind. Sometimes the pretend is the only thing keeping me from being crushed by the real.

 

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Kidder and Fitzgerald for the assist

I just read GOOD PROSE: THE ART OF NONFICTION by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd. As the cover says, it is “Stories and advice from a lifetime of writing and editing.” I highly recommend this wise and funny book.

goodprose-coverThere are many gems scattered throughout (and not just for nonfiction writers, but anyone who loves playing with words), and one has been in the front of my brain since reading it:

I remember in college reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s unfinished novel The Last Tycoon and studying a note that he left in the manuscript: “Rewrite from mood. Has become stilted with rewriting. Don’t look — rewrite from mood.” I reread those lines so often, trying to understand them, that they stuck in my memory. Fitzgerald knew that there are at least two kinds of rewriting. The first is trying to fix what you’ve already written, but doing this can keep you from facing up to the second kind, from figuring out the essential thing you’re trying to do and looking for better ways to tell your story. If Fitzgerald had been advising a young writer and not himself, he might have said, “Rewrite from principle,” or “Don’t just push the same old stuff around. Throw it away and start over.”

I’m getting close to The End (of this draft) of my YA project, and very much appreciate Mr. Kidder sharing Mr. Fitzgerald’s wisdom with me. Maybe it will reach someone else who needs it now.

 

 

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Thumb’s out

I’m ready to skip town.
Still not finished with this draft of the YA-from-hell.
Intended to finish by November 30 in my version of NaNo, but life intervened in a couple big ways and derailed those efforts.

Photo by Atlas Green

This young hitchhiker could have walked out of the pages of my manuscript. (Photo by Atlas Green)

I have written several drafts of this book, but never the final scenes. While I’ve mapped out those scenes, they’ve never been fully realized. I’m starting to wonder if it’s a case of “talking myself out of a book;” in other words, precisely because I have visualized and plotted out those scenes, I’ve lost all interest in writing them. Maybe they already feel done? Maybe I’ve lost faith in my abilities and so want to give up? Maybe I feel my efforts would be better spent on a more high concept story?

I can’t help thinking that my uncharacteristic antipathy toward this project somehow holds the key to my stuckness. I also can’t help thinking that if I just wrote the effing scenes, I’d escape these circles of hell.

 

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Like having a dream

For me, writing a novel is like having a dream.
Writing a novel lets me intentionally dream while I’m still awake.
I can continue yesterday’s dream today,
something you can’t normally do in everyday life.

~  Haruki Murakami

dream-landscape

Writing a novel is a pretty cool gig, all right. Except for when the process turns nightmarish. Other than that, though, it’s a dream. Really.

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Forgive me, Sherlock

I’ve just started working again on a YA project that’s gone through many on-again-off-again phases. The reasons for that aren’t important (mostly because I’m not entirely sure why this project has been the biggest-mule-of-a-novel-ever.) What does matter is that I’m reminded (again) how difficult it is to bounce back from an off-again period when working on a project that is kinda, sorta a mystery. Mysteries require a precise sprinkling of clues and epiphanies, and that sprinkling would be hard enough to pull off if I’d written this book in a timely and consistent manner. As in, a day-after-day writing schedule that helped me keep ALL the details straight until this draft was finished, rather than periods of intense work followed by months of neglect.

So much unnecessary confusion.
Oy.

sherlock

Sherlock’s disdain burns in my soul . . .

 

 

 

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Winner winner veggie dinner

I don’t think the goal is, ‘How big a star did you ever become?’
I think the goal is, ‘Were you able to express yourself?’
And if you’re able to say yes, in any field, you’ve won.
If you paint, write, do mosaics, knit –
if it’s solving that part of your brain saying,
‘I need to do this,’ you’ve won.

~  Albert Brooks

Guess what? Today was a win!

emmy-award

To be clear: I didn’t get an Emmy. I just like the look.

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Houston, we have a problem

A few minutes ago I searched for something on my desk. I found what I wanted.

However, I also discovered a whole stack of stapled-together drafts of various scenes from two different projects plus a pile of chronologically-organized query versions for one of those projects. Clearly, I have a paper problem.

paper-problem

But even more distressing than the avalanche of paper that has become my life is the realization that all those pieces of paper had one thing in common: handwritten revisions.

What am I thinking? That the literary world will need those important documents for the museum created in my memory after I die?! That someday someone will publish a study of one of my books à la E.B. White and THE ANNOTATED CHARLOTTE’S WEB?!

I tossed all of them in the recycle bin.

 

 

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First commit and then prevail

Yesterday I was tearing out my hair in frustration over my revisions. I struggled with a couple paragraphs for hours before finally calling it quits. I was in a pretty foul mood.

Today I returned to those paragraphs and am happy to report that the words cooperated. And I didn’t even have to bludgeon them into place.

Even better news is that I then spent the rest of the day going over the entire manuscript and am now ready to send it to a brand-new reader. Do you know what this means? This means I am five whole days ahead of schedule! FIVE WHOLE DAYS, people!

Bracelets

Bracelets made by Laura Hamor of Silver Freckles. Find her on Etsy.

What’s the key to my success?

As always, it comes down to two little words.

 

 

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Real feelings

There’s a real feeling when you know you’re getting it right. It’s a physical feeling.
~  Robert Caro

pop_art_cartoon_ginger_woman_tearing_hair_out_-_154569740__medium_4x3

Yeah, but what about when you’re not getting it right? Huh? What’s that physical feeling called, Mister I’ve-won-multiple-Pulitzer-Prizes-and-National-Book-Awards??

Around these parts it’s starting to feel an awful lot like baldness.

 

 

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Hello, Monday

Took a cue from Marcel, and spent the day reading and revising in our patch of sunshine.

marcel-in-sun

Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.
~  Walt Whitman

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The eyes have had it

After a revision-filled day, I’m pleased with my progress. In fact, if I pushed on for just one more hour, I’d probably make it to The End. But my eyes are screaming for a break and, since my peepers work very, very hard for me every single day, I owe them a respite.

file4831302548667

This lemur’s calling it a day.

 

 

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Can I get an amen?

I’ve made huge progress on my middle-grade revisions, and am ahead of schedule. Woot! My plan was to have the revision finished before leaving to visit my mother at the end of the month and, because I’ve kept to my pages-per-day commitment, I will succeed. And that feels very good.

However, I can’t help thinking about how much revision has gone into this particular project. Oy. It’s been a long, long haul.

crumpled-papers

But a wise children’s writer with WAY more experience than me once said:

Revision is the heart of writing.
Every page I do is done over seven or eight times.

~  Patricia Reilly Giff

It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

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All does not suck

The bad news?
I’m suddenly feeling a bit rundown
and kinda puny
which is triggering pissed-off thoughts
such as
ARE YOU FREAKIN’ KIDDING ME?
AUTUMN IS JUST BARELY, OFFICIALLY HERE
AND I’M ALREADY GETTING SICK?!

Sick person

The good news?
I’ve hit my page goal every day this week, including today,
which means that despite
the fact that humanity is failing on a global level,
(a hugely depressing truth that’s undoubtedly contributing to my
run-down
worn-out
had-enough-already
puny feelings),
all does not suck.

happy-stick-girl

My plan of action?
Take it easy and repeat my new mantra:

ALL DOES NOT SUCK
ALL DOES NOT SUCK
ALL DOES NOT SUCK

 

 

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Most tired when I don’t

I’ve been having a really hard time with my middle-grade this past week or so. I didn’t meet my revision goal for the week and was struggling with how to move forward. I was feeling burned out and not-so-enthusiastic about my writing endeavors. Any of them.

It was like an ongoing game of tug-of-war in my head. Back and forth swung my thoughts, emotions, and physical responses. Quit or not quit? Some or all? Finish this or start that? Fiction or nonficiton?

Image from Morguefile.

Image from Morguefile.

But as I did my cool-down walk this morning after a trail run, I realized that not making progress on the revision of my middle grade was part of why I feel burned out. It’s exhausting to be in forever-limbo with a project.

I wanted to quit because I felt shitty but I can’t quit because that will make me feel even shittier. In other words, writing can most certainly tire me out, BUT not writing may ultimately be even more draining.

Memo to self: sometimes I’m most tired when I don’t.

(Despite my wonderful little epihany, I am REALLY looking forward to finishing the damned book.)

 

 

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Procrastination: Exhibit A

I’m “supposed” to be working on my middle-grade revisions, but am having a hard time getting motivated. As in, I haven’t touched it at all today. Instead, I took some photos of visitors to the new feeder location and realized it’ll be a whole new learning experience due to the lighting differences. The feeder used to be sheltered by the branches and leaves of the maple tree. Now the feeder is exposed on a slope where the afternoon light hits it hard.

My feathered friends’ photos ended up washed out, and I just spent a while playing with contrast, white balance, etc. settings.

finch-retooled

All that time playing with settings, you’d think I’d have something more impressive to show for it. Guess I need to get on those revisions so I actually accomplish something today.

 

 

 

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Making room for anxiety

Can’t point my finger at just one thing that’s provoking anxiety today,
it’s more an accumulation of a whole lot of stuff twirling in my head.

Image from Morguefile.com

Image from Morguefile.com

Anxiety and I are well-acquainted with one another,
and I know the best approach
is to acknowledge that the anxiety is there,
accept its existence rather than try to fight it,
and then move on with my life.

So.

I’m feeling anxious,
it’s not a good feeling but I accept that it’s happening,
and now I’m going to go work on my middle-grade revisions.

Take that, Anxiety.

 

 

 

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The right tool for the job

Sometimes a manuscript’s revision requires a total knock-down.
hammer-sledgehammer-mallet-tool

Other times a lighter touch is needed.
DSC_0024

Today my process feels closer to weaving than rewriting. I’m focusing on existing threads and interlacing them with other strands.
Loom

Note: This woman has a distinct advantage in that she will, without a doubt, know when she’s finished her project. When it comes to revision, I don’t always know when enough is enough.

 

 

 

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Channeling Muhammad Ali

Bee on coneflower

I must dig deep to find the essence I’ve overlooked, hoping that as I revise I don’t trample the delicate structure already in place.

Gotta float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.

 

 

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