This is Emma at our campsite during last month’s camping trip. We had a jolly time hiking, birding, staring into the campfire, and then sleeping in the tent as elk bugled in the near distance and moose browsed in the immediate vicinity (as in, a few yards from our tent). I can’t wait to go again. But we can’t pack up for our next adventure until I finish some writing projects, so I’m putting Emma here as a reminder of the fun ahead of us next week.
This afternoon our son invited us to go to the movies with him and his girlfriend. I thanked him for the invite, but said I wanted to get some writing done. Then I thought about it some more and realized it felt important to spend time with them plus have a little outing. My writing projects could wait. My decision caused a tinge of anxiety and on the drive to the theater I silently repeated that mantra to myself several times: my writing projects can wait.
I’m so glad I changed my mind. BOOKSMART made me laugh and laugh. It’s a smart, funny, and poignant film. I didn’t really know what it was about before going and in case you also live under a rock, here’s the summary:
Academic overachievers Amy and Molly thought keeping their noses to the grindstone gave them a leg up on their high school peers. But on the eve of graduation, the best friends suddenly realize that they may have missed out on the special moments of their teenage years. Determined to make up for lost time, the girls decide to cram four years of not-to-be missed fun into one night — a chaotic adventure that no amount of book smarts could prepare them for.
HA! On a much smaller scale, that was me this afternoon. Just like Amy and Molly, I thought the most important use of my time was to keep my nose to the grindstone. Wrong! Sharing smiles and laughter in a dark theater was the very best use of my time. If you haven’t yet seen this movie, what are you waiting for?
Last night I dreamt I got a card in the mail from my agent. I opened the card and read what she’d written: “We finally did it! We sold your book!”
It was such a wonderful feeling. I screamed and jumped over and over. Much higher than I’ve ever jumped in real life. I don’t know what my vertical leap was in the dream, but I’m pretty sure I could’ve dunked over LeBron.
My elation powered my legs as up, up, up I went. I floated on pure joy. I can kinda, sorta still feel it, but the sensation’s starting to fade. Wish I could’ve bottled it so I could get a whiff of that feeling when I need a boost of confidence/optimism.
That was a damned good dream.
The more specific we are, the more universal something can become.
Life is in the details. If you generalize, it doesn’t resonate.
The specificity of it is what resonates.
~ Jacqueline Woodson
As I revise a young adult novel written years ago, I’m adding specific details in hopes of creating a resonance. May my story bloom as specifically and beautifully as this iris from my garden!
If you are born an artist,
you have no choice but to fight to stay an artist.
~ Lana Del Rey
Per my experience, this feels like a true sentiment. There’s an inner urge/drive/motivation that doesn’t seem to ever go away. No matter what.
However, some days it’s harder than others to put on those boxing gloves and assume the fighting stance.
I just spent the last several hours tying up some loose threads on the YA project I’ve (most recently ) been working on since last fall. Basically, I wrote pages of notes in order to have a map for the next time I pick it up. The thing is, I cannot put any more energy into this project right now. My critique group gave me feedback last Wednesday on the first 30 pages and it’s still a hot mess. My words, not theirs. Their feedback was spot-on and they offered some great suggestions, but my heart isn’t in it anymore. This is a project I drafted ten years ago and over the following decade revised multiple times. It’s definitely a better story than it was before, but it’s still not where it needs to be.
So. I’m setting it aside because the characters and plot have become a jumble in my mind. I can’t see the forest for the trees and I’m sick of trying.
Whew. I’m feeling a mixture of emotions right now, but there’s a whole lot of relief in letting go.
Today as I work to revise my contemporary young adult novel that’s been in my life for what seems like FOREVER, I send prayers that the goddesses will grant me a different perspective on these pages and pages of muck. While an ibis thrives on muck, this writer does not. I’m ready for wings to help me float above it all and see this manuscript differently.
I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat. ~Unknown
I’m revising a young adult novel I fast-drafted in 2009. Since that time I’ve, in a very on-again-off-again manner, written several drafts. I’ve known the protagonist’s emotional arc pretty much all along. The action plot has come more slowly, but I’ve also had a pretty good grasp of that for quite some time.
My struggle is with the climactic scene. I’ve written several versions and like each of them. Today as I wallowed in confusion and indecision, I decided maybe the best solution would be to make this manuscript a Choose Your Adventure story. That way, the reader’s choices would dictate how it all plays out and I’d be off the hook.
It’s either that or I flip a coin.
There are seven writing days left in November and I’m confident I will have 50,000 words by the end of this month. That is not to say it’s been easy. I’ve written every single day — many more words than usual — and fatigue is starting to set in. I’ve never done rock-climbing or even climbed a wall, but this image sums up how I’m feeling today.
While the end is in sight, I’m still smack-dab in the middle of things. Reaching for toe and hand holds as I navigate this first draft. Novel-writing is an endurance activity and my brain and sitting muscles are feeling the strain. Good thing I’ve got the reserves to get me over the top because quitting is not an option.
I will prevail.
It’s Day Eleven of NaNoWriMo and while I’ve managed to achieve my word count each day (a minimum of 1700 words), I’m still susceptible to panic and overwhelm. For example, yesterday as I drove home from my solo writing retreat in Estes Park I wasn’t congratulating myself on the progress I’d made. Instead, I worried that I hadn’t yet found my narrator’s true voice. Then I switched to agonizing over my “too many plot lines” I’d never be able to connect, followed by the certainty that my first draft was such an irredeemable mess it would take years to revise the manuscript into anything coherent.
I felt like a poser. I wanted to run away from the whole thing.
Those feelings mirror what it’s like when I stand in the ocean and watch a huge wave come my way. I experience a slew of emotions. Panic. Exhilaration. Awe. Fear. An urge to run for shore.
While I frequently do run from big waves, I don’t like to run from my writing commitments. So this morning when I woke with those same angsty feelings, I looked for some online support and wisdom to help me reel in negative thoughts about my first draft. I found this: 7 Things NOT to Worry About During Your First Draft
All my worries are addressed in that article which makes me think I’m not the first writer in history to freak out about her shitty first draft. Newsflash, huh?
Today I continue working on my NaNo project. And as the words add up I have those same big-wave feelings I experience when I choose to dive into the wave and then come out the other side. Exhilaration. Pride. Awe.
The desire to do it again.
Writing a novel isn’t like building a brick wall.
You don’t figure out how to do it, and then it gets easier
each time because you know what you’re doing.
With writing a novel, you have to figure it out each time.
Each time you start over, you just have the language and the idea and the hope.
~ Kate DiCamillo
I’m working on my revisions and mostly succeeding in ignoring the nasty voice in my head that says “this is crap” and “why even bother?”
What’s the key to my (mostly) success?
Remembering there’s no such thing as a perfect manuscript. Perfection is an unattainable ideal that just so happens to also be highly subjective.
From my perspective this purple coneflower is perfection. Flawed petals and all. I love it and have spent quite a bit of time gazing at its loveliness. However, your mileage may vary. And that’s okay.
With great writing there is great clarity.
~ David Costabile
That is precisely why I’ve got my notebook out again, jotting down elements of the manuscript I’m revising in hopes of making connections I’ve missed so far. It’s hard to admit, but my story lacks focus. How that can still be true in the fourth draft I do not know. What I do know is this:
With mediocre writing there are muddy waters and confusion which result in the reader not knowing exactly what she’s supposed to root for or why any of it matters.
Word of the day (and probably however long it takes to finish this draft) = CLARITY.