Dazed and Confused

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.

Aha.

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.

Down the research rabbit hole

Where did the day go? Last thing I knew, I was sitting down to figure out some stuff about the fictional community I’m creating. I did learn lots about pea viners and farming trends, and my revision notes are more fleshed out. I definitely made progress.

Still. Where did the day go?

Thankful Thursday

  1. I am almost finished with revisions and will send off manuscript tomorrow.
  2. My smiling, happy Emma dog and I had a nice run around the neighborhood after I finished working for the day.
  3. Zippy vacuumed while Emma and I were out running.
  4. Michigan State is up by 20 over Notre Dame at the half.
  5. I can still feel gratitude in the face of so many scary-difficult realities in the world.                                                                                                                                                           

Where’s Tracy going with that axe?

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.

Me and Theda Bara

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.)

Channeling my inner squirrel

This guy was at the feeder that hangs right outside our living room window.  When I sat to watch him liberate shelled peanuts from the cylinder, he immediately copped an attitude. He was furious that I was interfering with his efforts, and most certainly the chatter aimed at me was profane.

This squirrel’s head about popped off.

I admired him so much. Check out his body language. At first glance, you’d think the guy was chill, focused and absolutely motionless. Except. Note the blurred tail.

That is my goal for today as I tackle my revisions: to work with intense focus while also keeping in constant motion.

Flushed with success

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.

Souvenir of the day

My writing often contains souvenirs of the day
– a song I heard, a bird I saw –
which I then put into the novel.
~ Amy Tan

Thinking back on my writing day, I didn’t include a snippet of song or any bird images. Instead, I referenced a heartbreaking news item about a ten-year-old girl with serious health issues who has been caught up in this administration’s xenophobia-on-steroids policies. Tomorrow, I’ll try hard for a bird.

Riding through the storm

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.

Thinking globally while head explodes locally

Zippy and I just returned from a city council candidates’ forum. We heard from the three candidates running for one of the two seats in our ward. It was my first time attending a ward function.

Ugh. Our neighborhood ward is essentially run by a cabal of older, reactionary people.

Know what? After fifteen minutes trying to arrange my thoughts in a coherent manner for this post, I give up. I can’t bring myself to rehash their disrespectful, clique-ish behavior or the dog whistle language they use to work everyone into a fear-based lather. It pissses me off too much.

Instead, I’m going to escape into my fiction. Some of the characters in my novel are also horrible people, but I ultimately have power over their lives. If I want to load them all on a bus and drive them over a cliff, I can do that. In real life, not so much.

When it’s all too much

I know I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed by all the horrifying happenings in the world right now. In an act of self-preservation, I’ve spent today in a fictional world that exists in my head. I’m revising my middle-grade novel, spending time with some funny girls and “bad” guys who, in the big scheme of things, aren’t really all that bad. I know that I need to return to reality tomorrow and behave as a contributing member of society, but right now I’m hunkered down in a happier place.

Artist or criminal?

I’m sifting through the feedback I received from my critique group. Most everything offered either resonated with me right away (YES! That change is a must!) or fell flat on delivery (NOPE! That misses the point and/or is unnecesssary and/or etc). Those are the easy critique points. However, I’ve also got some tough calls to make, and those are now simmering in my middle mind.  Should I expand the mystery element of the story? Does X, Y, Z happen?  I’m hoping my middle mind has answers for me in the very near future.

In the meanwhile, I’m reveling in some of the truly messed-up things that happen in this book. Lest you think I’m alone in this kind of thinking:

Personally, I see little distinction between an artistic mentality and criminality.
You couldn’t possibly create a compelling story without some wickedness
or some fascination with the disgusting.
Being good is a hindrance to a writer.
~ Russell Smith

cremation ashes

Can I get an amen?

Today I’m earning my fortune

As I revise my middle-grade novel, plugging holes and solving plot problems, I’m keeping this sentiment in mind:

Luck is not chance, it’s toil;
fortune’s expensive smile is earned.
~ Emily Dickinson

Honey bees don’t need a pithy quote; they made the connection between luck and toil a looong time ago.

Thankful Thursday: Writing Roosters edition

Last night I met with my critique group, The Writing Roosters. (Yes, we’re aware that it’s funny for a membership of six women and zero men to be roosters.)

Our mascot that oversees every meeting.

It was my turn to receive a critique and the group didn’t disappoint. I’m grateful for their willingness to point out holes and weak characterization and plotting improbabilities in my novel, and also to let me know what they felt I’d done well. It was my first draft and I now have a pretty firm grasp on how to revise.

I received lots of guidance last night, but want to give a special shout-out to Claudia Mills for using Track Changes/Comments a whopping 429 times! Thank you for getting down and dirty with my manuscript, friend!

 

The Opposite of Writer’s Block

Too many ideas graphic

You know that expression “So many books, so little time”?
Right now my main issue is “So many ideas, so little time.”

The bulb in my head keeps flashing with new ideas for
non-fiction, fiction, picture book ideas, young adult novels,
magazine articles . . .

I’m also participating in Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month
in which I hope to generate at least 30 picture book ideas,
and am having great fun letting my imagination run wild.
I’ve come up with some truly horrendous ideas but have also
jotted down several promising concepts. Someday soon I hope
to pick one of those ideas and see where it takes me.

In the meanwhile, I’m still working on my middle-grade revisions.

Still?

Yeah, still. (You got a problem with that?)

So this is me putting that light bulb on notice. Flash all you want,
but I can only commit to jotting down ideas before getting back
to my manuscript.
 That middle-grade novel is my priority right now.
Capiche?

Kestrel on a Wire

Kestrel 024
© Tracy Abell 2012

It seems only fitting I would interrupt today’s revisions of BIRD BRAIN
to photograph this American Kestrel hanging out behind my house.

The feeder birds probably weren’t too thrilled when the predator flew into the
neighborhood, but I feel as if this little falcon brought me some good revision karma.

There’s a certain clarity of vision that accompanies hooked beaks.

Revising in Circles

My awesome new critique partner read the first seven chapters of my book
last week along with chapter summaries of the remainder.
He was the first person to read this new project.

Waiting for his response was flutter-inducing,
and when it came, it was like an AHA! explosion in my head
because he put into words stuff that’d been simmering in the dim regions of my consciousness.

So now I’m reworking the opening of my story – again.
Revising chapters just a week ago I thought were grand while
battling feelings I’m not making any progress
because
I
keep
circling
back
to
the
beginning.

But when I went to morguefile.com and put “circle” into the search,
this is what jumped out at me:

So, hey! It’s cool I’m back at the beginning! (okay, maybe “cool” is a stretch).
However, it IS completely truthful to say this circling back represents
an opportunity to create a stronger core.

Today I am weaving words I hope will sustain those that follow.

Revising in Circles

     

My awesome new critique partner read the first seven chapters of my book
last week along with chapter summaries of the remainder.
He was the first person to read this new project.

Waiting for his response was flutter-inducing,
and when it came, it was like an AHA! explosion in my head
because he put into words stuff that'd been simmering in the dim regions of my consciousness.

So now I'm reworking the opening of my story – again.
Revising chapters just a week ago I thought were grand while
battling feelings I'm not making any progress
because
I
keep
circling
back
to
the
beginning.

But when I went to morguefile.com and put "circle" into the search,
this is what jumped out at me:

So, hey!  It's cool I'm back at the beginning! (okay, maybe "cool" is a stretch).
However, it IS completely truthful to say this circling back represents
an opportunity to create a stronger core.

Today I am weaving words I hope will sustain those that follow.
 
                      

Manuscript Demolition

            

I'm contemplating going back to one of my novels and doing an overhaul.
I've read it for the first time in almost two years and believe I've got The Fix.
Doing so will mean some demolition and reconstruction,
and a fair amount of sweat and tears.

The thought is a bit intimidating, but I've always enjoyed swinging a crowbar.


                                                                                                          © Tracy Abell 2008

            

Guided Revisions

                

I’m nearing the end of BIRD BRAIN revisions, 
and have called upon my spirit guide.

                                                                                 Image from morguefiles.com
Methinks I’m home free.