Today is the selection meeting for the Writing Roosters Scholarship for the Michelle Begley Mentor Program. Michelle was a dear friend and critique partner who created an amazing mentor program for the Rocky Mountain kidlit community. When she tragically died in a car accident, our critique group established a scholarship fund in her name. Each year, we get together (zoom again…sigh), along with Michelle’s mother and two sisters, to discuss applications and select a mentee to receive the $500 scholarship.
This year, we have ten applicants! I’m still writing notes for our meeting that begins in less than an hour, but wanted to document this event.
July 3, 2021
The sunflower is nearly as beautiful as Michelle whose light still shines on through her legacy to our writing community.
It might be nearing the end of the day, but it’s never too late to share gratitude. Today I am grateful for a productive critique session with my critique group last night. As always, the Writing Roosters had good insights and offered suggestions that will make my beloved novel shine.
And to celebrate, here’s a bouquet of wild asters that remind me of a fireworks display. I photographed them last summer as we hiked the Oh Be Joyful Trail.
July 15, 2021
Oh, to be joyful and filled with gratitude.
Only 16 days to finish these revisions before I send the middle grade manuscript to my critique group. It was a bold move, requesting that critique slot when I’d only revised slightly less the half the manuscript, but I needed an incentive. And because I’ve been making solid progress, the last few days I’ve congratulated myself for imposing a deadline.
August 4, 2021
Today, though, I feel tiny in the face of all the work that remains. Onward I fly.
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.
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.
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!
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?
I cannot decide what to do.
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.
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 is Day One of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in which people set out to write a 50,000-word manuscript in the month of November. Last year I did a modified NaNo and wrote a draft in about 45 days, and I’d like to try that again. And to hold myself accountable, I reached out to my critique group to ask for the January meeting slot. It’s mine! Hooray! Except, oops. That’s NOT what I did last year.
Last year, I requested the February slot which gave me more time to tidy before asking my critique partners to wade into my messy first draft. I won’t have the luxury of those extra weeks to clean up the worst of the mess. I could email them all now and ask for the February slot instead. But where’s the fun in that?!
Wish me well . . .
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.
Marcel. February 5, 2020.
Or, “Thinking is hard.”
Last night I met with Writing Roosters, my critique group, to discuss my latest novel. As always, they offered solid insights and made plenty of suggestions for how to improve the manuscript. I’ve spent much of the day staring and thinking. Honestly, at times the process is a bit overwhelming.
Perhaps Marcel could plot my course forward.
I’m tidying up the first draft of the middle grade I wrote in a modified NaNoWriMo last November and December. I’m trying something new by asking my critique group to read it for our February meeting. I’m not used to showing my work at such an early stage, but my group excels at identifying plot holes, character inconsistencies, etc., so my thinking is that if I take advantage of their insights earlier in the process, I’ll avoid a lot of unnecessary revision.
This requires me putting on my big girl pants and trying not to let the terror take over.
Photo by Leon Macapagal from Pexels
I’m trying to focus on little bits at a time. Sometimes that means a chapter, or plot point, or character arc, or just a page. A sentence. Whatever it takes to keep me going. The anxiety is real, though. I have only a few more days to smooth out the roughest edges and then hit SEND.
Step by step, I’ll get it done.
Today I am thankful for my friend, mentor, and critique partner Claudia Mills who is spontaneous and responded in the affirmative to my last-minute invitation to get together. We spent an hour and a half this afternoon strolling around Viele Lake in Boulder. The sun shone brightly the entire time we walked and talked. Tanky-the-dog mostly listened, although he interjected a few yips at other mostly-larger dogs on the path.
Claudia and Tanky after our final lap around the lake.
It’s the last day of January (don’t let the door hit you on the way out!) and I’m grateful for the revitalization that comes from friendship and sunshine.
Today I’m thankful for critique partner and friend, Laura Perdew, who encouraged me to try NaNoWriMo this year. I’m positive I wouldn’t even have considered fast-drafting if she hadn’t suggested NaNo as the cure for my exceedingly slooow outlining and drafting of this new project.
Today is the halfway point for NaNo and here’s what I’ve accomplished thus far:
I’m more than halfway to my target of 52,169 words for November (I’d already written 2,169 words and didn’t want to “cheat” on achieving 50,000 words in 30 days so included them in my final draft target). I am thrilled. Absolutely over the moon with my progress. Hooray! Etc. 🙂
It’s amazing what I can accomplish once I banish my internal editor to a corner with tape over her mouth.
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 been at the Letters & Lines Conference which is the annual conference of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators). I didn’t attend the conference for the past four years and so it was very nice to catch up with old friends while also making new connections. Highlights of the weekend were inspirational keynote speeches by Laurie Halse Anderson who opened the conference and critique partner Claudia Mills who gave the closing speech. Those two women inspired me, challenged me, made me laugh*, and brought me to tears. I’m invigorated and ready to get back to my creative life. Well, probably not today. This introvert is worn out after playing extrovert for so many hours.
But tomorrow? I’m back to my stories.
* I received so many rejections and I earned them the old-fashioned way: by turning in books that sucked. ~ Laurie Halse Anderson
I’ve spent the day working on the third draft of my work-in-progress. Thanks to three reads (partial and full manuscripts) from the wonderful Writing Roosters critique group, the book is in pretty decent shape, which makes for a pleasant writing experience. I can see the good that’s already there and can easily envision the good to come. I’m about sixty pages from the end and hope to have the draft completed by the end of the month.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have this creative outlet.
Today Zippy and I went to Berry Patch Farms in Brighton, Colorado.
Michelle’s mother and sisters arranged to have a bench and stone placed there in her memory, seeing as it was one of Michelle’s favorite places to visit with her young daughter.
At the top of the stone is a quote from Michelle: “Now this is what a strawberry should taste like.”
Note: the rooster windchime on the tree was there before Michelle’s bench. Can you say SERENDIPITY?
On their frequent visits to the farm with the old red barn, Michelle and her daughter would watch the chickens and roosters.
They’d pick berries together and take home bouquets of cut flowers.
Today, Michelle’s mother, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews, and friends gathered in her memory. For the past two weeks or so, the weather has been uncharacteristically cold and rainy, but today the sun was shining in a blue, blue sky. The morning was lovely, and I suspect Michelle pulled some strings to make it so.
It was bittersweet being at the farm without Michelle, but here I am warming her cheery red bench along with three of the Writing Roosters, the critique group she lobbied to include me in its membership. Michelle’s generosity lives on.
Jenn Bertman, Tracy Abell, Jen Simms, Laura Perdew (Vanessa Appleby & Claudia Mills were unable to attend)
I’m sifting through the feedback I received from my critique group. Most everything offered either resonated with me right away (YES! That change is a must!) or fell flat on delivery (NOPE! That misses the point and/or is unnecesssary and/or etc). Those are the easy critique points. However, I’ve also got some tough calls to make, and those are now simmering in my middle mind. Should I expand the mystery element of the story? Does X, Y, Z happen? I’m hoping my middle mind has answers for me in the very near future.
In the meanwhile, I’m reveling in some of the truly messed-up things that happen in this book. Lest you think I’m alone in this kind of thinking:
Personally, I see little distinction between an artistic mentality and criminality.
You couldn’t possibly create a compelling story without some wickedness
or some fascination with the disgusting.
Being good is a hindrance to a writer.
~ Russell Smith
Can I get an amen?
It’s been a murky day filled with emotions, confusion, and an overall sense of TIRED. But I finally succumbed to cute Emma the Dog’s wriggling reminder that it was time for our daily walk, and went out to do just that.
Movement plus a smiling, happy dog by my side brought clarity to the day.
I’m feeling so much better. Today, Dog is most definitely this woman’s best friend.
Last night I met with my critique group, The Writing Roosters. (Yes, we’re aware that it’s funny for a membership of six women and zero men to be roosters.)
Our mascot that oversees every meeting.
It was my turn to receive a critique and the group didn’t disappoint. I’m grateful for their willingness to point out holes and weak characterization and plotting improbabilities in my novel, and also to let me know what they felt I’d done well. It was my first draft and I now have a pretty firm grasp on how to revise.
I received lots of guidance last night, but want to give a special shout-out to Claudia Mills for using Track Changes/Comments a whopping 429 times! Thank you for getting down and dirty with my manuscript, friend!
Tip your hat to me
sent first draft to critique group.
Wrote another book!
Just hit SEND on the opening pages of my brand new middle-grade novel to my critique group. We are WRITING ROOSTERS so it feels appropriate to do my celebratory dance with the Bluths:
Lindsay is definitely bustin’ the most rooster-like moves.
Actually, unlike Dug the Dog from the movie UP, I maintained my focus today. I woke this morning with a game plan for working on opening pages of a new middle-grade, and I kept to that schedule. I made good progress and am feeling (slightly) less nervous about sending those pages (plus more) to my critique group on Monday.
I declare today a WIN for this writer.