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.

Grackle logic

Today is not an easy writing day. I received positive feedback on my four opening chapters, including suggestions for increasing tension between my two main characters. As always, it’s valuable input from my Writing Roosters critique partners for which I am exceedingly grateful. However, I’m struggling to stay focused as I try to figure out which changes to tackle first. Each foray into the manuscript distracts me with “oh yeah, then I’ll also need to fix this and this and . . .”

October 12, 2016.

For some reason, this gathering of raucous grackles seems an appropriate image for the day.

Chipping away

Bushtit , March 11, 2019.

As I work chapter-by-chapter to revise my manuscript, my task feels similar to that of this Bushtit. We both take aim and then chip away at what’s there. The difference is, this feathered friend gets a tasty treat for her troubles while my satisfaction comes from page count.

Maybe I should print out a page or two, and see how they taste . . .

Hoopy New Year!

It’s the last day of 2019 and the final day of the decade, which feels like an awful lot of pressure. What exactly have I accomplished in that time?

I quickly realized that contemplating this past year and the previous nine years was not morale-boosting if I only focused on my quest for traditional publication of my novels. So. I shifted my gaze to another aspect of my life.

Self-portrait, December 31, 2019.

I just went through my calendar and added up all my 2019 hoop-dancing sessions. And you know what? I hooped for 1,162 minutes this year (and there’s still time to add more today)! All those minutes translate to just over 19 hours of hoop-dancing this year. Nineteen hours of me dancing, whether I felt like it or not, knowing I always, always feel better after a hoop session. I didn’t sell the novel about my beloved character Poppy Valentine this year, but I danced myself through that disappointment (and the overall fog of hard-times-on-the-planet) and drafted another book.

Hoop-dancing and drafting? Not too shabby. Turns out I did accomplish a few things in 2019.

Happy New Year to everyone! May we all keep dancing in 2020!

Gratitude x 3 = Celebration

Yesterday at 5:45 pm I realized I hadn’t seen my indoor cat, Marcel, in hours. Zippy, Zebu, and I spent the next several hours in the cold and dark, calling to Marcel who goes silent when afraid. We eventually quit and went to bed to toss and turn, trying in vain to forget how cold it was outside. At 6:30 this morning, Zippy (again) checked the garage we’d left open four inches. This time, Marcel was curled up in the cat bed Zebu had put on top of the recyling bin. SO GRATEFUL.

Five minutes ago, I finished writing the first draft of my new middle-grade novel. It clocks in at 42,793 words and is a whole lot of talking heads and not a whole lot of description, which means it’s kinda skeletal. But I’d hoped to finish by the end of today and, despite my lack of sleep (see Above), I did it! Will I cringe when I read the draft in a couple weeks? Possibly. But there’s no revision without a first draft, baby. Again, I AM SO GRATEFUL.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Tomorrow morning Zippy, Zebu, Wildebeest’s childhood friend (Kyle C), and I are driving to Durango, CO, where Wildebeest lives. His graduation ceremony is on Friday and we’ll be there to witness that incredible milestone. Wildebeest was an avid student until he hit middle school and then had some bad “learning” experiences that completely turned him off school. His was an on-again-off-again college journey and he laments being such an “old graduate,” but I was also 26 when I graduated college (and look how well I turned out!) I’m proud of my tenacious son and GRATEFUL we’ll be there to witness his accomplishment.

Art’s crowning reward

House Finch. November 27, 2019

Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.            ~ Frederic Chopin

 

On cultivating bold freedom

State Forest State Park. June 13, 2019.

How does the Meadow flower its bloom unfold? Because the lovely little flower is free down to its root, and in that freedom bold.    ~ William Wordsworth

So it’s after 5:00 pm here in Colorado and I haven’t yet added one single word to my work-in-progress. Why? In part, I had much to do today. But in greater part? I’ve reached the point in which I need to write BIG climatic scenes and I’m intimidated. It was easier to tend to other business today.

I need to make like a Meadow flower and feel free to try and fail, all the way down to my roots. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Thankful Thursday: No sun means writing fun

Loki on Oct 3, 2018

Here’s Loki more than a year ago, basking in sun so bright his pupils are slits. None of that toasty warmth today. It’s gray. Cold. Drizzling and threatening snow. Soul-crushing, if I’d allow it. BUT. I’m parked at my standing desk, drafting my new novel.

Maybe if it was sunny and warm, I’d be curled in a patch of sunshine. Napping instead of writing. Guess that’s my silver lining on this miserable day. Color me grudgingly grateful.

In which Emma keeps me in line

I’m drafting my way through this new project and am past the halfway point, which certainly feels good. I’m noticing, though, that the “mushy middle” angst is suddenly alive and well. And I find myself thinking about jumping. Or running away. Or maybe abandoning this particular ship for a different ship .

“Don’t jump, Tracy!”

But that’s silly. Because as Emma and I both know, every project has moments in which it ceases to feel like great fun /  feels less shiny than another idea / intimidates the crap out of me.

So I’m gonna stay on the beam and keep drafting. I promise, Emma.

Got to have the terror

Today is cold and icy. Again. Unlike two weeks ago, I am not venturing outside because I very much do not want to slip and fall again. Instead, I went in search of an appropriate quotation for this ice-encrusted day. I found the following . It speaks to me, despite never having directed a film. I read it as “Writing a novel is mystifying…”

Directing is mystifying. It’s a long, long, skid on an icy road, and you do the best you can trying to stay on the road… If you’re still here when you come out of the spin, it’s a relief. But you’ve got to have the terror if you’re going to do anything worthwhile.
~ Mike Nichols

Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

Suffice to say, I’m firmly in the white-knuckle, can-I-pull-this-off portion of the writing process right now. First drafts can be simultaneously exhilarating and puke-inducing.

Reflections of my creative mind

I just finished reading a young adult (YA) novel that was recommended as a good example of multiple point-of-view (POV) characters. The book recommendation came weeks ago as I debated whether I wanted to write my new project in multiple POVs rather than my usual first-person, but I just got around to reading it. It’s a very good book and I’m glad I read.

Except. One of the POV characters in the book has a home situation and coping strategy that very closely mirrors how I’m writing one of my characters. AND, there are some general similarities to the plots.

Photo by Lucas Pezeta from Pexels

Panic! Doubt! OMG, should I stop reading this? Do I need to rework my character? Rethink my plot? Drop the project altogether and buy a sailboat or take up harmonica lessons?

Well. As mentioned, I did finish the book. And the panic has (mostly) subsided because the draft I’m working on isn’t a YA but a middle-grade (MG) which means it’s for different readers. Plus, the book I read was published in 2012. So, I’m putting on my big girl pants and resuming my project.

 

I will admit, however, it was very unsettling to come across a reflection of something I thought existed only in my mind.

Fox sans socks

It’s currently 22 degrees outside.

November 11, 2019

If I were a nicer person, I’d offer this fox a couple pairs of warm, woolen socks.
As it is, I’m staying inside where I can absorb the heat from my laptop as I work on my new writing project that makes me happy, happy, happy.

It’s a whole new week, people. Let’s do this!

Rolling with the punches

I got some bad writing news this afternoon that wasn’t unexpected, but was still difficult to hear. I had tears in my eyes. But because my agent is so kind and supportive, within minutes of our conversation I felt okay. (The two slices of butter-and- strawberry-jam toast definitely helped). And not only did I feel better post-toast, I felt a renewed resolve.

A few minutes ago I finished drafting 1,062 words of my new project. How do I feel? Pretty damned good.

Knock down this clown and I’ll just bounce back for more!

Coffee shop writing

Last year I officially signed up to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and so am getting emails from the Colorado NaNo people. As noted earlier, I’m taking a modified approach** this year, so when I received an email about a write-in happening at a coffee shop near me I decided to attend. Big deal, right? Wrong.

I do about 99% of my writing at home and wasn’t sure it’d be a good fit. But I liked the idea of all that collective energy, so packed up and went. I arrived two hours into the session today and people were busily writing away. I found a seat in back, put in my ear plugs to muffle the loud music, and got to work.

Wow. I wrote 2500 words (many of which were keepers) in about three hours. Part of my success was because I didn’t ask for the wifi password which meant I couldn’t procrastinate online. When I’m at home, closed off in my writing room, I find all sorts of ways to waste time. Despite all the sounds and movement taking place around me, something about writing in public kept me more focused. It felt all official-like or something.

I thought I’d be writing this novel at my standing desk, but will most definitely be going back to that coffee shop for more writing sessions!

** My goal is to finish a draft by the end of December.

Infinite possibilities

I’m brainstorming and jotting notes for a new middle-grade novel, and sometimes feel slightly overwhelmed by the possibilities for this story. Is it this? Or that? Here or there? There’s so much to consider.

This photo of me feels like the perfect image for this stage in the process and I’m posting it here as a reminder to myself: infinite possibilities are a gift.

Rustler Gulch Trail, July 26, 2018.

May I continue enjoying the creative journey as much as I did that wonderful hike. May I continue embracing the infinite landscape of my creative mind.