American White Pelican. May 27, 2021
Without the emotion of the beautiful,
there is no art,
~ John Burroughs
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.
This afternoon I sat in the chair I’d situated just-so in a patch of sunshine and remained there until the sun dropped below the foothills. January is always a struggle for me and in anticipation of posting something here, I went to brainyquotes.com in search of a quote about the excruciating difficulty that is January. Instead, I found this:
I like starting projects in January.
That’s the best time to start something.
It’s so inward.
~ Carolyn Chute
That quotation feels right for today because as I struggled emotionally earlier this afternoon, I kept returning to the two opening sentences I’d jotted in my ideas notebook. There’s a story in those two sentences, I’m sure of it, and my mind keeps going back to them in an attempt to figure out what that story might be. Those two sentences are like a lifeboat to me now and I’m grabbing on tight.
Who knows? This cold and dark January might kickstart something truly wonderful.
Parts of this photo are in focus, but much of it is not. And that sums up where I’m at with this first draft of my new manuscript. Several key elements are firmly in place while other elements were either abandoned along the way or inserted later in the narrative. In a few places the draft reads like a jumble of characters and motivations.
But the moments of insight counteract that blurriness, giving me faith it’s all gonna be okay. I will prevail.
So I’ve decided to do NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) this year and am spending my time before November 1st figuring out characters and outline. It’s intimidating to think about 50k words in 30 days and I’m fully aware my success depends on the very best road map I can create.
I had a cold shock the other day with the realization that my outline was a series of “and then” scenes (one event following another, without an increase in tension). As written, my outline was worthless. I’m not gonna have the luxury of taking breaks to noodle on how to increase conflict in the NaNo draft. I must have built-in conflict before I begin which means I need to link my scenes with “but” and “therefore.” Note: there are many links out there regarding Trey Parker’s explanation regarding “but, therefore”).
Last night I couldn’t sleep and spent hours in the dark thinking about my protagonist and what he’ll be up against in my new book. Tons of ideas bounced around my head (none of which I wrote down) and then I remembered what I’d read in Damn Fine Story (written by Chuck Wendig, profane and big-hearted gift to the writing world). To paraphrase: it doesn’t work to cram a plot onto a character; the characters drive the story.
This morning I reread Damn Fine Story’s chapter two: “Soylent Story: It’s Made Out of People.” And guess what? I’m feeling much better about my upcoming NaNo experience.
Thank you, Chuck!
Last night I met with my critique group (Writing Roosters) which always results in renewed energy and inspiration. What was different about last night’s experience is that I came home with a whole new game plan for my work-in-progress. A kinda scary yet exhilerating plan!
Laura Perdew and I were talking before the others arrived and after describing where I was at in my new project (outlining, figuring out stuff, writing VERY VERY slowly), she suggested I do NaNoWriMo. For those who don’t know, National Novel Writing Month takes place in November and participants set a goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I’ve never done it before (although back in the glory days of LiveJournal I used to participate in writer Jo Knowles’s modified JoNoWriMo+1.5 which ran September 15-November 30).
Normally, I’m not a proponent of banging out a whole bunch of words in a short time because I know how easily I can get off track. Fast-drafting can also lead to SLOW revising as I struggle to make sense of the “story” I created. However, I think I can get myself set by November 1 so that I have a strong outline and characterization in place before writing this book. I realize that part of the reason for the SLOW writing on this project thus far is due to me second-guessing every other word. I need to give myself permission to get the story down as outlined and then revise from there.
So. Today I’m grateful for my critique partner’s kick in the butt.
I’m in for NaNoWriMo. Anyone else participating this year?
I’ve used the writing software Scrivener in the past, but haven’t touched it in quite a while which means I’ve forgotten how to navigate it. I was never a pro user and only utilized a small percentage of its capabilities, but even those basic skills have vanished in the mists. So today I’m using Scrivener for Dummies by Gwen Hernandez to reacquaint myself with the program. (I find the Scrivener manual to be more of a rabbit hole of confusion than a help). This Dummies book isn’t perfect, but I am finding my way and making progress outlining my work-in-progress.
Proof I’m hard at work!
My favorite aspect of Scrivener is the corkboard because I do so much better when I can take in the whole of something. Plus, I can label and color code my index cards! Despite the learning curve that’s always involved when Tracy Meets Software, I’m pretty sure I’m having more fun than Bartelby the Scrivener ever experienced.
Yesterday I got zero writing done on my work-in-progress. I was enraged and exhausted by news and events. Late last night I fell asleep wondering whether, in the face of relentless misogyny and violence against women, my idea for a middle-grade novel narrated by a boy was what I should pursue. Maybe, I thought, I should abandon that story and instead write a burn-it-all-down book filled with pitchfork-wielding girls.
Well, I’ve spent the last several hours analyzing and fleshing out the beginning outline for my boy-based work-in-progress and have decided it’s a GO. Not only am I moving ahead with this story, I’m kinda excited about the plot lines. My main character won’t be fighting the power structure, but he is a decent human being.
In today’s climate that’s worth a lot.
Enthusiasm is everything. It must be taut and vibrating like a guitar string.
Today as I continue exploring a new story idea, filling pages in a new notebook, I’m filled with excitement and anticipation. There’s nothing but pure potential at this point. I haven’t yet taken any wrong turns or gotten bogged down in the swampy middle of the novel. It’s just me and a 12-year-old boy finding our way.
Enthusiasm is running high.
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’ve spent the last couple hours working on my revisions that are moving along, but are also causing me a bit of angst as I struggle to achieve the vision I have for this middle-grade project. I just decided to take a break to put up a blog post and went to my photo files for an image. I chose a picture from a couple days ago of a poppy in bloom along with a lovely not-yet-bloomed bud. As I cropped the image, I considered blog post titles and immediately landed on Poppy and Potential Poppy. I’m embarrassed to confess that it took a few moments for this extremely relevant factoid to hit me:
The protagonist in the manuscript I’m revising is named Poppy.
Oy. Here’s hoping we both achieve our potential today.
The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.
~ Maya Angelou