Archive | February, 2010

Prioritizing, Yo.

26 Feb

All my notes are typed, sorted, and printed.

All of my hard work?  Is totally paying off so far.  Earlier in the week, I mentioned how tedious last week’s work was, what with all the data entry and whatnot; now, I’m totally glad I took the time to do it.

I’m still not at the start-to-actually-change-things point in my editing, but that’s okay.  Right now, I’m sorting through all of my thoughts, scene by scene, evaluating the magnitude of work required for each.  

Time for a game.  Guess what I did?

A.  Bought a hot pink magic wand¹ and straightened my hair, which made me feel pretty, which gave me confidence, which reinforced that not only CAN I write this novel, but I WILL write it, and well.

B.  Spoke before thinking and decided the perfect way to spend Spring Break would be in Minneapolis, on a mission trip with my church.  Thought about it some more, decided it was still an awesome idea, and committed.  Decided to throw manuscript in the trash.

C.  Made another spreadsheet, on which I am assigning numerical values to each scene; each numerical value corresponds with priority level. (1 = This is a MAJOR ISSUE; 7 = this scene is weak, but can wait to be dealt with because it doesn’t affect the plot. Etc.)  Am one-third of the way through with this step in the process.

D.  All of the above! 

E.  All of the above!  (Except for the whole throwing the manuscript in the trash thing.)

If you guessed E — you have won your very own copy of LOST: Season 7 on Blu-Ray!  I’ll ship that to you right after they decide to not end the series after Season 6, after it is produced, filmed, and packaged for our at-home enjoyment.  Okay?  Okay.²

So, yeah.  That’s where things are right now.  The next step is, obviously, to finish prioritizing: hopefully I’ll finish, or almost-finish, this weekend.  That way, next week will be The Week Where I Start to Fix Stuff.

Perhaps this is an abrupt ending to a post, but well, my hands are FRIGID BLOCKS OF ICE due to this Starbucks’s identity crisis (is it a meat locker? an igloo? a coffee shop on Antarctica?).  Better go outside into the 39°F weather to thaw out.

Peace and hot chocolate and electric blankets to you all.

Revision Update, Phase Two | Sorting through notes, assigning priority to scenes based on the magnitude of work needed.  Am 1/3 of the way through the scenes, so that leaves (obviously) 2/3 to go.

¹Known otherwise, to Muggles ’round the world, as a flat-iron.  

²Disclaimer: Should they, um, decide to actually do the impossible and make a Season 7, despite concrete, set-in-stone evidence to the contrary?  Fulfillment of this absurd promise is contingent upon my improbable inheritance of riches.

To Fall and Crash and Break

22 Feb

Before I update you all on Phase Two of Project: Edit, perhaps I should begin with a little story.

I’m the sort of girl who offers to make her sister’s 250 wedding invitations.  The sort of girl who, when the choices of print shop suddenly become print-shop-with-wonky-discoloration versus print-shop-with-insanely-ridiculous-prices, decides to go with neither print shop and opt instead for make-each-invite-and-response-card-with-her-own-two-loving-tender-hands.  I’m that sort of girl.

Fortunately, my sweet husband is the sort of husband who says, “Look here! I can turn the espresso-and-white maps into black-and-white maps, and squeeze eight onto a page.  This will cut costs and eliminate the issues with discoloration — then, we can do all the color copies at print-shop-with-insanely-ridiculous-prices!  Then you’ll only have to make the RSVP cards by hand, and the original price you quoted will stay about the same!”

Bless him.

So — all that to say, I (sometimes) bite off more than is comfortable to chew.  Not that I can’t chew it.  It’s just uncomfortable.  (See also: my withered hand when I finished the RSVP cards. If I had done everything by hand, in one weekend, as was my original insane solution, I’d probably still be in pain. And that was last June.)

This week has been annoying and discouraging and overwhelming.  Note to self, and to everyone who’s up to speed on what I’m working on these days¹: when taking handwritten notes in a spiral notebook, if the plan is to enter them into the computer in an organized fashion, do it in small chunks at the end of each daily session instead of all at once.  The notes themselves aren’t all that intimidating; the system in which I’ve organized them isn’t the problem, either.  The problem is that it’s tedious.  Worth it?  Almost certainly.  Fun?  Certainly not.

I’ve also felt the tendency to compare myself to others this week, in a way that’s not necessarily healthy.  Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of reading² and while that’s inspiring and all, it’s also a wee bit discouraging.  It’s so easy to pick up a book and forget that it didn’t just magically appear, in polished-and-published form: no.  These things took work.  Just like mine is taking work.  I keep forgetting that this is my first time to edit a novel and that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with learning how to do it.

So.  

Perhaps now is a good time to mention that thanks to the Olympics, I am in awe of snowboarders.  I spent an entire afternoon watching the girls’ halfpipe competition, marveling at Torah Bright, at Gretchen Bleiler, at Hannah Teter, at how easy they make it look.  Also?  I marveled at how insanely painful it must be to mess up, to fall and crash and break.  

I’ve been airing my snowboarding awe to my husband all week.  On Saturday night, when all my little frustrations about editing surfaced along with my ridiculous snowboarding dreams, he just listened patiently and reminded me of some truth: those snowboarders didn’t just hop on a board, jump into a halfpipe, and proceed to nail their switch backside 720’s³.

No.  They practiced.  A lot.  Like, a lot a lot a lot.  And, even gold medalists and their toughest competitors fall at the Olympics, because they’re giving everything they have.  They don’t play it safe, they take risks that may or may not pay off.

You see where I’m going, yes?  Huge goals require huge risks, lots of practice, lots of patience, and the understanding that sometimes, you just might crash in the snow while you’re trying something amazing.  Oh yeah, and to remember that everyone has to start somewhere and learn along the way.

I’m learning.  This novel is a huge project, overwhelming sometimes, uncomfortable sometimes, but not impossible.  Not impossible at all.

Revision Update, Phase Two | All notes have been entered into pretty little spreadsheets.  Still have more work as far as prioritizing them goes, but on the whole, it’s coming along.

¹If you’re not up to speed, click here and here

²FINALLY finished The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger) and Bright Lights, Big Ass (Jen Lancaster).  Had to read them concurrently so as not to fall into total, time-travel-tragedy-induced despair.

³I looked this up.  According to this NYTimes article, this is the cherry-on-top move from Torah Bright’s gold-medal-winning run; it’s “a perplexing double rotation with a blind landing that flummoxes all her competitors.” (I’m loving the abundance of the letter in that sentence, BTW.)

The Plan: Phase Two

15 Feb

Well.  Monday already, is it?

The weekend could fill up a post or two of its own (specifically, I’m thinking of our four-hour-long journey into Top Chef territory, as my sweet husband and I attempted to make ourselves a romantic dinner for Valentine’s day: Pan-Roasted Venison with Crushed-Blackberry Ancho Chile Sauce and Sweet Potato-Pine Nut Polenta), but alas, just typing the name of that recipe takes an hour, so I probably shouldn’t spend any more time writing about it.

Instead, it’s time to trek into different — uncharted, foreign, scary! (to me) — territory, also known as Phase Two of Project: Edit.  Oy.

During Phase One, I read the entire manuscript and made (very colorful, detailed) notes about each and every scene.  While reading my scenes, I kept an eye out for lots of things.  Rather than listing them all out again, here’s a link to The Plan: Phase One — check out the bulleted points in the post.

At this point, I’ve made no changes, only notes.  Lots of them, all handwritten.  I have at least three major categories of things to think about. (PS: If you’re reading this on the main page, the bullet point list appears really smushed — on my browser, at least, it helps if you actually click over to the individual post. Sorry if I make you dizzy!)

  • STORY. | This is my category for everything related to telling the story itself.  This includes thoughts on pacing, plot, sub-plots, characters, suspense, scenes to cut, scenes to add, loose ends to tie or sever. 
  • LISTS. | As I made notes, I marked lots of things in light blue ink, which signifies a sort of to-do list.  Things marked in light blue range from “Make a list of all the furniture in V’s office so it is consistent later” to “Think: what does each person know at the beginning of this scene?”  Basically, it’s a running to-do list of anything I want to think about more so that everything, from setting to character motivation, will be consistent and fitting throughout the whole novel.
  • THE WRITING ITSELF. | My main focus, so far, has been to solidify the story itself — why polish something that will change or get cut later?  Now that the story is largely in-tact, I’ve begun to make notes about the writing itself — where the writing falls flat, where it’s too emotion-y but not really invoking the right feeling, where I need to use my senses to write a stronger scene, where I need more creative words, and on and on and on.

So.  Phase Two is where I’ll begin to deal with some of these things.  In order to digest all of this stuff (as opposed to choking on it) I’m going to do my best to work through these issues in a completely logical manner, starting with STORY and LISTS, and saving THE WRITING ITSELF for Phase Three (or later).

THE PLAN

  • ORGANIZE NOTES. | Some may argue this is unnecessary, but in order to better process my thoughts, I’m going to type up my notes from the read-through.  As I do this, I plan to organize them onto two separate spreadsheets: one spreadsheet devoted to my color-coded categories, the other devoted to the three major categories I listed above.  It may take a bit of time, but I think it will help to prioritize my issues.  I’ll probably assign each issue a ranking number, sort of like Merrilee does with the crits she receives.
  • ASSESS LISTS. | Check through all the light-blue colored comments.  If any of them directly affect STORY, address them first.  Leave any that deal with less critical issues for later.
  • WORK ON STORY. | Start working through the spreadsheet and make changes in the order that makes the most sense.  I may go chronologically, or it might be more appropriate to work from major issues down to the minor ones.  I’ll decide once I see how many issues there are, and how the potential changes affect each other.
  • WRITE NEW SCENES. | This, I know, will be necessary in a few places.  I’ll either do it as I work through the last step, or right after.
  • RE-FORMAT. | For some strange reason, I broke a few chapters in the most odd places.  As I write new scenes and cut old ones, I’ll probably go ahead and re-format the chapters in ways that make more sense.

This is a lot to think about, a lot to work through.  

Like I said before, this is uncharted territory for me. (PS: I’m making all of these phases up as I go along, so I reserve the right to learn as I try out my own system…)  After the first draft, I had so much to change about the plot and my characters, I ended up totally just re-writing the thing.  That’s not in the stars this time (unless something drastic happens), so I’m learning how to work in changes systematically.  That’s quite different than starting from scratch with an entire overhaul — writing out a plan has helped immensely.  I feel better prepared to work through this mountain of paper, better prepared to identify what needs to be done, better prepared to do it in the right order.

I’m not giving myself a deadline on Phase Two just yet.  In order to set a deadline, I need to figure out just how many changes there are, then get a feel for how long it takes me to work through those issues.

Thanks again, everyone, for your encouragement and support!  Phase Two begins…NOW!

In case you’re unfamiliar with this blog, I’m working on editing the second draft of my novel.  You can click here for an organized list of all posts related to this project

Phase One = Complete!

12 Feb

Thanks to our amazing snow day yesterday, I didn’t get any work done at all.  Didn’t even try, to be honest — I’m well aware of what makes for a futile attempt, and this falls squarely in that category.

So!  This morning, with 51 pages left, I went back to work.  Determined to finish Phase One of Project: Edit today, I made myself a latte (which was dang good), planted myself on my couch with a lap-desk (which I had to re-claim from Mr. Cat, who was curled up on its cushioned side) and my multitude of colored pens (which I’ve managed not to lose).

I’m pleased to report that I made it through, without rushing or skimping on the observational notes, and am finished with Phase One!  On Monday, I’ll dig into Phase Two (which will happen right after I come up with a concrete plan for Phase Two)(and, of course, after I share that plan in a new post).  In the meantime?  Fun, and rest.

Yep: fun and rest.  I have a Project Runway episode to catch up on, I still haven’t finished reading The Time Traveler’s Wife, my parents are coming to visit tomorrow, and Valentine’s Day is on Sunday.  Oh yeah, and I need to spend some time looking at the snow since everything is still white.

Happy Valentine’s Day Eve Eve!

Revision Update, Phase One | 336 down, 0 to go | 100% complete!

Everything is White

11 Feb

Thanks to today’s amazing weather, I no longer have to have blizzard envy!  (For those of you just tuning in, I am a Texas girl who loves the snow and the ocean.  I don’t see either often.)

It’s been snowing constantly since about 3:00am, or so I hear.  I, personally, was not awake, so I can’t testify to it; judging from the several inches of snow that had already fallen when I woke up, I’d say it’s spot on.  The weatherpeople say this bliss is supposed to continue until at least ten o’clock tonight, then freeze by morning.

Everything is white and wonderful and fun, absolutely gorgeous.  I’m enjoying it while it lasts — the next thing on today’s agenda is to make myself a latte and read for a bit.  And, bonus: not only is the snow pretty, it scores my husband a night off from grad school.  

Anyway, just thought I’d share this, because the park near our apartment looks especially beautiful today!  Back to my (kinda-sorta) regularly scheduled writing and revision updates soon — hopefully by tomorrow, I’ll get to say Phase One is complete.  Until then: snowfest!

The End of the Beginning

10 Feb

With 285 pages down and only 51 left to read, I’m on the final stretch of Project: Edit | Phase One.  Technically, this is only the beginning of all the work I still have left to do, but I’m pleased nonetheless.  

Since I’ve been diligent trying to catch up this week, and have made pretty good progress, today has been a relax-and-let-my-brain-just-enjoy-things sort of day.¹  I’ve been reading and perusing blogs; it’s also been a much more social day than normal.  

One of the things I read today was the new Writer’s Digest magazine.  There was a quote in one of the articles² I read that made me feel sad and intrigued, with a dash of naïvete:

“‘Nobody cares about you on the Internet,’ [Seth] Godin says.  ‘People care only about themselves.  They’re looking for the answer to the all-important question: ‘What’s in it for me?'”

It’s such a black-and-white statement, one full of cynicism and pessimism, a sorry-folks-this-is-just-how-it-is sort of assertion.  Perhaps that’s why it didn’t sit well with me, since I’m a fan of all things gray and I’m more hopeful optimist than cynical pessimist.  Also, I know for a fact that it’s not an accurate statement, because I do, in fact, care about other people on the Internet.  (In my version of English, nobody means nobody, not almost everybody except for that one girl.)

I like to think you guys care, too — in fact, you’ve proved that you care.  You’ve been great accountability as I edit my work, and you say nice things about my pretty rainboots.  What do you get out of commenting on pretty rainboots, you know?

Of course, I’m really not so naïve (or optimistic) to think that entire quote is off-base — I know there’s truth in it.  As writers, we want to connect with other writers, hone our craft, get accountability, network, and on and on.  There are undeniable benefits to making connections on the Internet.  That doesn’t mean caring about others and caring about yourself are mutually exclusive, though — for me, they work together hand-in-hand.  

Caring about others is an essential part of ‘what’s in it for me,’ and not in an ulterior motives sort of way.  I genuinely like hearing about J.C. Hart‘s and Jennifer Neri‘s pregnancies; I empathize with Linda when she’s having a ‘blue muse’ sort of day; I hurt with Megs when she talks about her tendonitis or having to care for her hospitalized aunt; I know that Melissa hasn’t fallen off the face of the planet or anything, she’s just crazy busy trying to move and take care of her daughter and manage a full-time job.  (Cutting this paragraph off because you get the picture, yes?)

Anyway.  When I read that quote, it made me anxious to let you all know how much I appreciate you.  I’ve got in-person support, to be sure, but it’s wonderful to have met such caring people who are also goal-oriented writers.  

Thank you.

Any thoughts on the quote above?  

Revision Update, Phase One | 285 down, 51 to go | 84.8%

¹It’s safe to say that LOST has had a big part in this decision: my mind has officially been melted by all my recent theorizing and attempts to understand what, exactly, is going on…(Gotta say, though, I am 100% among those who totally love the fact that they’re still giving us new mysteries, despite the fact that it’s the final season.)(Answers are good, too, though.)

²”Make Your Passion Make Money For You,” by Chris Guillebeau.  It starts on page 31 of the March/April 2010 issue.

UPDATE: Chris Guillebeau, the author of the article, posted some helpful insights in the comment section below.  Be sure to check it out, since it puts my concerns about the quote in a more appropriate context.  

Yellow Rainboots

8 Feb

Do you ever have those weeks that, when you get to the other end of them, feel like the past seven days were actually only one day?  That’s what I feel like right now.  It’s like I blinked, and BOOM: one day I was writing about my excitement over the LOST premiere, and then the next day (or, um, almost a week later) here I am wondering how I managed to take an unintentional week-long hiatus from blogging.

So.  I’m back, and I missed everyone!  I spent some of this morning catching up on posts I hadn’t read yet (for example, check out Merrilee’s latest on dealing with criticism: it’s greatness!).  The rest of the morning, I wore my yellow rainboots (both literal and figurative) since our parking lot is a river in this weather, and also since I’m still muddling through Phase One of Project: Edit.

Though I didn’t finish reading by Friday like I hoped I would, I don’t have too much more to do to finish out Phase One.  The Plan (detailed in this post) is going well.  My colored pens have not yet dried out, my spiral notebook isn’t in such pristine shape anymore, and I have thoughts of all sorts on how to make this thing better.  The pacing is more even than I thought it was, my plots and sub-plots are woven pretty well, and I haven’t seen too many loose ends just yet.  As suspected, the scenes are getting better as I read – they aren’t as skeletal as they were toward the beginning of the draft.  There are definitely areas that need work, but by and large it’s a huge improvement over the first draft.  

Anyway!  Time to get back to work if I want to put a bigger dent in today’s to-do list.  Better slip back into my cute yellow rainboots and grab my adorable new umbrella.

(FYI, the umbrella is a floral print of hot pink and yellow, with a navy blue backgrount: matches gray skies and yellow rainboots perfectly!)

Revision Update, Phase One | 245 pages down, 91 to go | 72.9% finished!

Happy LOST Day!

2 Feb

At the risk of sounding like an obsessed freak¹ — after eight months of waiting (impatiently), it’s LOST Season Premiere day!  It’s only ten in the morning, but I’ve already learned a few things today.  (Be warned: I haven’t had many lattes lately, and I’m having one now.  That, combined with my excitement?  Put on your seatbelts, because I’m feeling some energy today.)

First?  Today might as well be a holiday.  Examples include the email I got from my music-teaching mother:

“Happy LOST Day!  I moved around my piano lessons so I can watch — if Obama can rearrange his State of  the Union address, I can rearrange my lessons!”

and the text messages with friends, á la Christmas Eve, yesterday:

“It’s LOST Eve!  One more day!”

and the greetings from not one, but two, of my barista friends at Starbucks (granted, we watch the show together every week, rotating from house-to-house, Bible-study style, with desserts and coffee):

“Happy LOST Day!” (shouted in chorus when I walked in)

Examples abound.  You get the picture.

Second thing I learned this morning?  I’ve been (*sob*) spelling the word premiere without the final e for days and days.  I felt like a schmuckety schmuck when I figured it out and promptly rushed to add the elusive e to my latest Tweet and the invitation to our viewing party this evening.  Crisis somewhat averted.

Third lesson isn’t so much a lesson; it’s more like confirmation that yes, in case there was any doubt, I am excited about the season premiere.  While it is completely abnormal to, say, dream that you are a cast member of the show (who may or may not be Evangeline Lilly) and that you are trying to get back to the Island via military plane leaving from Alaska-slash-Miami (apparently my dream-world has not seen the script for the finale)(or an episode, for that matter)(or a map) — it is completely understandable that this dream would poke its way into my head on LOST Eve.  Especially after watching the brain-melting minute-long teaser-trailer a couple times in slow motion² to catch all the sneak-peaks into what’s to come.  

Lest you think I’m merely jumping up and down as if I’ve just been surprised with a Disney Cruise to the Bahamas³, I should mention that while I have zero focus right now, I am nonetheless completely inspired to work on my novel.  In sort of the same way I’ve been inspired by J.K. Rowling, I feel inspired by the writers of LOST.  

Seriously.  To write a show where, six seasons in, loads of people still care about your characters?  Your mysteries?  Where people feel simultaneous hatred and compassion for your villain(s), simultaneous empathy and frustration with your heroes?  Where people can read a zillion things into what you’ve written because you’ve managed to share just enough to raise questions about religion, literature, and mythology?  Where you write on two levels — one for the casual (though necessarily consistent) viewer, who just wants a story; and one for the engaged viewer who loves to unscramble anagrams, look for symbolism, pick out hidden easter egg clues, read into the very purposeful placement of details?  Where people dare to get this worked up over a season premiere, in full confidence that you’ll deliver because you deliver every single time?

Can you imagine writing, and executing, a story like this?  Can you imagine ideas coming from your brain and resulting with people who wish each other “Happy LOST Day!” in Starbucks, people who rearrange piano lessons, a  President who agreed to not conflict with what you’ve created?  

I can’t really imagine what that must feel like, to be honest.  

I’m consistently amazed by the process of creation, especially when that creation is executed in such a compelling way.  This is at the heart of why I love to write: to watch things form, to hope that the details will fall in such a way that inspire any inkling of resemblance to this sort of thought-provoking stuff.

Now, to try and get some work done before descending into the inevitable pit of party preparation: that’s my challenge for today.

Revision Update, Phase One | 134 pages down, 201 to go | 40.0% finished!

¹We obsessed freaks, by the way, prefer to be called devoted, completely intrigued fans.

²What?  It had new footage.  Very weird new footage.  Plus, it played in the middle of The Bachelor, which I have zero interest in whatsoever (except for the fact that Mr. Jake Pavelka Bachelor himself grew up, literally, about two minutes from where I currently live.  His parents live next door to my friend.) so I was easily distracted.  And it was about one in the morning.

³Which actually happened, by the way — my husband’s work surprised us with an all-expense-paid Disney Cruise that we get to take later this year.  Hello, bathing suits, beaches, sun, and ocean (and the gym!)!

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