No judgment

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.

Moment of clarity

Last night I was reading ECHO MOUNTAIN by Lauren Wolk, basking in her gorgeous prose, when I felt a pang about my work-in-progress that isn’t progressing very quickly. I set down the book and closed my eyes. And then it came to me. I reached for my project notebook and wrote:

This is what I think needs to happen if I am to finish this book.

I must let myself write WITHOUT checking facts & figures. Write this story as I feel it and know it and believe it. THEN I may check facts and figures, and revise accordingly.

Cooper’s Hawk out my window. January 22, 2021

I know, I know. Pretty basic insight. That doesn’t mean it’s not also liberating and kinda profound.

And now I’m off to write/revise without scurrying off in search of confirmation, validation, or procrastination.

Hidey-hole

April 27, 2020

Writing is an amazing place to hide, to go into the rabbit hole, and pull the trap door down over your head.  ~ Ann Patchett

Note: I didn’t have any rabbit hole photos so opted for this hole in the neighbor’s crab apple tree that hosted a pair of chickadees last spring. (Photos by Zippy)

One hour per day

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.

Image by nile from Pixabay

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.

For better or worse

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.

Thankful Thursday: all in my head

My Writing Roosters critique group had our zoom meeting last night to discuss my work-in-progress. As mentioned here and here and here, I was paralyzed with indecision for several weeks because I’d become convinced my story was an irredeemable hot mess. Guess what? It’s not! As one member said on our call, “I think maybe you were getting inside your own head.”

Me? Inside my own head? How could that possibly be?! 🤣 🤣 🤣

I’ve got some plotting issues to sort out, but the two main characters got a thumbs-up from the group. Whew. Color me noodly with relief.

Poppy blooming in front garden. May 16, 2020.

I chose the poppy image for this post because (1) it’s a very cheery and vibrant color and (2) last night one of my critique partners caught a reference to a previous manuscript about a girl named Poppy Valentine.

Doing the baby goat dance

After weeks of angst and confusion over my latest middle grade project, I just hit SEND on an email to my critique group. I am so relieved! The email has multiple attachments including an unfinished first draft + a Word document with my revisions ideas and a whole lot of questions for them + an alternative chapter written in 3rd person (rather than 1st person). Basically, I sent them a big, fat mess, the likes of which I’ve never done before. I didn’t want to inflict that on them or embarrass myself, but I had no choice. I need help.

Now, I’m going to try my best to stop thinking about the project until January 13th, when the collective genius of the Writing Roosters comes to my rescue.

This calls for a happy, hoppy goat dance!

Same old, same old

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?

Sunday Confessional: literary limbo

I cannot decide what to do.

The situation:

I have an incomplete first draft of my new project because just before reaching 40k words I realized the dual  point of view (POV) was not serving the story and as a result of that epiphany I began rethinking all sorts of things (characterization, plot) and I’m now so muddled by the MANY possible directions for this story that I’m unable to complete the draft which is causing me huge anxiety** that I will lose this project forever if I do not complete a draft  because the one and only manuscript I failed, the one I’ve never been able to write to my satisfaction, was a project that began with an incomplete first draft.

But how to complete something that is quite possibly fatally flawed ?

Yesterday I decided I’d utilize my upcoming January critique group reading slot as a brainstorming session. YES!, I thought. Instead of asking them to read that mess of a draft, I’ll provide my critique partners with the ingredients I know for sure I want to keep and their collective genius will get me back on track. YES!

Today I thought it would be a good idea to read the draft so far to note what I like and want to keep so that I can share that with the group, and now I’m muddled all over again! Some of the things I love in the draft came about as a result of the dual POV.

Image by nir_design from Pixabay

Damn damn damn. What circle of Hell is this?!

** eta: my mental health needs the refuge of this project because of the horrific reality we’re experiencing, as evidenced by Congress today announcing they’ll give us each $600, for a grand total of $1800 during 9 months of a pandemic.

Today I embrace procrastination

It’s 2:30 of the p.m. in Colorado and while I have opened my Scrivener document, I haven’t done any writing. But hey, I didn’t even get that far yesterday. I’ve been in recovery and thinking mode as I sort through the wreckage of my incomplete first draft, and guilt-feelings sent me to BrainyQuote in search of insights regarding procrastination. I thought I’d find some tsk-tsk kind of quote that would be like a slap upside the head, something to “shame” me into getting back to work.

Instead, I found these two quotes from psychologist and author, Adam Grant:

Procrastinating is a vice when it comes to productivity, but it can be a virtue for creativity.

Procrastination gives you time to consider divergent ideas, to think in nonlinear ways, to make unexpected leaps.

Image by mohamed ramzee from Pixabay

And while this may sound self-serving, I have experienced a couple out-of-left-field realizations about my story. Which is all to say, I’m gonna let go of the guilt and shame, post this, and then explore those realizations more thoroughly.

Missteps

I’d written just under 40,000 words of my latest middle-grade novel when it hit me: it’s not working. As in, not working as written. The story’s premise is solid (I believe), but the way I was telling the story was not working.

Yesterday I went all the way back to chapter two and tried again. The good news is that approach  feels stronger. More sustainable. The bad news? Adopting that approach will mean scrapping a whole lot of those 40k words. Yikes. How could I get it so wrong?

Welp, as author Thomas Mann noted: A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

I’m feeling a bit discouraged. But like this House Finch outside my window today, I need to accept that I bobbled the initial landing.

    

And just keep on writing so that

I regain my footing in the story. It’s all I can do.

Sunday Confessional: saved by a sloth

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

Image by Minke Wink from Pixabay

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.

Sunday Confessional: thoughts in a twist

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?

Image by modi74 from Pixabay

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.

In search of momentum

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.

Trusting the process

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.

Sunday Confessional: one week in & already days behind

Last Sunday was Day One of my modified NaNoWriMo efforts. For a very short time, I was ahead of my goals. Hooray, I thought, I have a little padding for those inevitable days when the words don’t come so easily!

Image by klimkin from Pixabay

HAHAHAHAHHAHA.

In one week, I’ve changed a major premise of the story. All the original elements remain, but the plot line has shifted. What does this mean for my goals? Well, I dumped much of what was written and now have a grand total of 4,430 words when I should have 8,000.

Guess I’d best get to it.

Knotty problem

I’m revising my middle grade manuscript and am having one of those HOW WILL I EVER DO THIS? days. Today’s revision session felt like one cold, hard realization after another. As in, “Wait a minute, if I move that chunk earlier in the story, that will blow up this part of the story” or “When I cut this scene, where do I put this one snippet that absolutely needs to remain in the story?” or the evergreen “Damn, if I tug this thread it will *sob* unravel throughout the entire story.”

Image by LeoNeoBoy from Pixabay

The good news is that I wrote a tight draft. The bad news? The tighter the draft, the larger the repercussions during revision.

I’ve been moving back and forth in the timeline so much today I’m not even sure what’s what anymore. Definitely time for me to stop and let my brain reorient itself.

Shopping List: amended

Yesterday morning I added “binder clips” to the shopping list. Because even though years ago I’d purchased a large package of assorted clips, they’d somehow disappeared, one by one. Time to restock.

Fast forward a couple hours: I decided to do some de-cluttering and focused my efforts on my manuscript boxes. Or, as in the case of the first two books I ever wrote: manuscript bins. When I first began writing novels, I thought “revision” equaled “editing,” and had printed out multiple copies of the full manuscript each time I “revised” even though my “revisions” were typically line edits. (Yes, I was a clueless newbie.) As a result, it required one 66-quart bin each to hold the many copies of those first projects. It didn’t help that I’d made another newbie mistake and wrote in Courier New font which is a big and ugly font that required more pages. Those manuscripts were voluminous! Well, I’m happy to announce those projects are now stored in letter-sized cardboard boxes.

The good news is that I understood revision better on the next two novels I wrote and, instead of bins, the stuff I’d printed out “only” required two letter-sized boxes each. Four boxes for two manuscripts. A definite improvement, but why so many pages? Apparently, I was anticipating school visits in which I’d show students samples of my revision process. In addition to the full manuscripts I’d printed out along the way, I’d also saved many, many chapters with crossed-out lines, inserted phrases, and arrows pointing to new paragraph placement. Proof of the revision process, man.

Really, Tracy?

By late afternoon, the back of my Subaru was filled with boxes of paper I’ll take to the recycling center. And now every single book I’ve written is stored in its own tidy cardboard box and stacked in my writing room closet. It’s like a happy reunion of my creative process because the projects in the bins were formerly stored in the basement!

And that shopping list? Binder clips → Binder clips.

Because guess what was holding together all the chapters and manuscripts in those bins and boxes?

Busy bee

I got out of bed at 7:20 this morning, which is early for me (I know, I know), because I had a call scheduled with my agent to discuss revising my middle grade novel. The good news is that although there’s much work ahead of me, I’m excited about this book again.

Bee on Fern Bush. August 4, 2020

Before the call, I felt zero enthusiasm. I couldn’t imagine how I’d revise this book in a way that would satisfy my agent’s (valid) concerns while remaining true to my vision. Fortunately, my agent has a keen editorial eye and made several excellent suggestions that give me a path forward. I’m so relieved! So happy!

Now, all that’s left to do is the actual work. HA! This busy bee needs to get revising.

Hello, spreadsheet!

I’m gearing up to do another round of revisions on my middle grade novel and realized it would be helpful to have a chapter breakdown of the latest version. Enter the spreadsheet! While I do love being organized and having all that information in one place (chapter, POV, setting/day/time, summary, page #s, revision ideas), I’m not exactly oozing enthusiasm right now. Not, say, like this pup.

Pixabay.com

But when I went in search of a free image of a spreadsheet, this smiling doggo was on the home page and I challenge anyone to resist that face.

I’m sure we can all just visualize a spreadsheet.

Hello, Universe

I’ve been struggling  and I know I’m not alone. We in the United States have been told in very clear terms that we are on our own. Our government serves the wealthy and powerful, and that’s it. We the People get crumbs while the elites party on.

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad from Pexels

Mental health is a huge issue for many, many people right now. Life’s always been a tough row to hoe, but this pandemic has upped the ante. I’m fortunate in that I have my writing. The middle-grade novel I’ve worked on for the past eight months has been my lifeline. I am very grateful for this project. However, if all goes according to plan, I’ll be sending the manuscript to my agent by the end of the month. And then what? Each time I think of COVID minus a writing project, my anxiety surges.

So here’s my official statement to the universe: Hellooo, I am open to new story ideas!

 

One happy dog

I just hit SEND on the 44,000-word middle-grade manuscript I’ve been revising. I sent it to two readers who haven’t seen it before which means fresh eyes/fresh insights. Woot! Hitting SEND also means this project is no longer my concern (temporarily, but still!) and that I’m free to be and do as I please for the next week or so.

Right now, I’m feeling like this doggo that walked past my house this morning.

Unknown happy dog. June 28, 2020.

Woof!

Sunday Confessional: Underwhelmed edition

I didn’t leave my house today, not even for my daily walk around the neighborhood. In fact, I didn’t get exercise of any kind, unless I include snuggling with my cats and dog.

I did, however, sit in front of my computer most of the day, revising the final chapter of my novel. I’m not thrilled with the results.

Young scrub jay.  June 21, 2020.

I did also photograph a young scrub jay as it preened its wet feathers. In fact, I took about 50 photos of that scrub jay and this one is probably the best. (I can’t say for sure as I tired of looking at/deleting them and somewhat randomly selected this one).

Am I satisfied with this Sunday?
Does it matter at this point?
It is what it is and was what it was.