These are incredibly hard days on the planet and I’m overwhelmed. But as I revised my middle grade novel this morning, I felt a renewed sense of purpose because this story matters. It’s about community, friendship, mass incarceration, and taking one step forward on the long road to abolition.
This story matters and my voice matters. I cannot crawl into a hole and give up.
March 13, 2022. (Photo by Zippy)
I am on this earth to shine my light and lend my voice to the fight for a better world. This post is a reminder for when I begin to falter again. 💓
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.
My strategy to escape reality by burying myself in fiction-writing has already hit a bump. I wrote my 1000+ words today for my NaNoWriMo project, but I don’t like those words or where they’re taking the story. It doesn’t feel as if I’m capturing this character’s voice or have a particularly strong grasp of her arc. I know it’s early days and that these things change and change again along the way. But still. Not a great feeling.
My one consolation is that because there are BIG SCARY things looming in the very, very near future, maybe, just maybe, I can chalk today’s icky writing session up to all that?
Either way, I really hope to find my fictional refuge soon.
I’ve struggled off and on with BIRD BRAIN,
sometimes feeling good about how it was shaping up,
but other times feeling it lacked a certain oomph.
I don’t want to invite the wrath of the universe by getting too confident,
but would like to document here that I believe I’ve finally cracked the code.
Now that I’ve let go of my preconceptions about length and format,
the story is flowing quite nicely.
And even better?
I’ve finally, finally found the narrator’s true voice.
I’m so very happy.
(Which does NOT translate to over-confident. You hear, Universe?)
And just because it’s cute, here’s a squirrel from Westcliffe:
© 2010 Zippy
I just finished a contemporary YA that I really enjoyed.
The writing wasn’t great; there were too many summaries of the main character’s problems.
A kind of "I’m facing X, Y, Z now, and how will I continue?" sort of thing.
Over and over.
And the plot felt a bit contrived.
Yet I found myself eager to continue reading.
And I’ve decided it was due to the main character’s voice.
She’s funny and loyal, and has a genuineness about her.
I realize this isn’t any news flash since editors and agents
are always talking about the importance of voice.
We all know Voice is vital to a story.
But it was interesting to realize how much I’ll overlook if I’m engaged by the narrative.
What’s the must-have element for you to keep reading a less-than-perfect book?
Panicked today as I worked on draft 2 of my project.
The voice just isn’t there.
(And yes, I caught the irony of panic following so close on the heels of this).
The project I just finished is Full of Voice but this current project, not at all.
I started wondering if that was all the voice I had in me,
if possibly the voice had run dry. Or hoarse. Something like that.
So I went back to that last project and read bits of draft 1.
Draft 2. No voice.
Draft 3 didn’t have it, either, and by then I didn’t even want (or need) to know about the 4th.
The moral of this story:
WHEN IN DOUBT, TAKE A STROLL THROUGH YOUR CRAPOLA; YOU JUST MIGHT FEEL ALL BETTER.
(at least temporarily)
Yesterday I posted an excerpt of a letter written to me by the narrator of my new project. I figured my writer friends would appreciate it. We like stuff like that.
Well, last night I made the mistake of letting Zippy read it. Zippy is not a writer, he’s an engineer. Zippy doesn’t read lots of fiction, much less ponder the fiction-writing process.
He turned from the computer screen and frowned. Then he said something like "How old is this kid and was this letter written in the future, like when he’s in his twenties?"
I swear, I wanted to strangle him. And I still wanted to choke him this morning.
But I didn’t.
Instead, I reminded myself Zippy only read a portion of the letter. He had no way of knowing the letter ended up being less about finding the character’s voice than some strong advice from that character on how to go about writing the book. Zippy didn’t know that although I was disappointed in not getting a "flash" of voice in that letter, I did map out my approach a bit more. And because of that, I consider the letter a success.
But Zippy’s reaction got me thinking. For those of you who read the excerpt, were you wondering if the letter was written by my character in his future twenties?
I’m working on a new project and am struggling to find the narrator’s voice. I decided to have him write a letter to me. Here’s an excerpt:
I can feel your thoughts pushing in on mine so I’m not really sure if I’m thinking stuff or if you’re exerting your authorial will upon me. I’d highly recommend you backing off with that authorial will. We aren’t going to have a good time doing this book together if you’re getting into my space. You have to respect me and I’ll try to do the same even though I’m a real character and you’re just the person telling my story. I think I should definitely be the one making decisions here. I’m me and you can only guess what that means OR you can shut up and let me tell the story. The thing is, Tracy, you’re letting me tell this story in first-person which means I’m telling the story. You’re just the person I chose to help get the words down so other people can share in the story. You’re nothing special here. I am. My story and I are the special ones. You’re the hired help. Sorry if this sounds blunt but it’s the truth, and the sooner you accept it the better off we’ll all be.
I guess I should be grateful he apologized.
I hit a rough patch in my WIP and then realized it was because I’d strayed from the narrator’s voice. I needed to anchor myself in that voice so I went back and worked and reworked my first chapter to my satisfaction. The Voice is back and I’m writing again! Gotta start over with the meter but that’s okay by me.