Tag Archives: project

Patience + Discipline = REALLY HARD.

13 May

So, as I’ve been writing this week, the same struggle has been popping up over and over and over again: it’s REALLY HARD to balance discipline with patience.

Seriously.

I can be Czar of Productivity, or I can be Girl Who Puts Thought Into What She Does.  It’s not easy to be both.

On one hand, we have the Czar¹of Productivity version of me.  Give me a calendar, and I will whip up the most ambitious color-coded schedule, complete with alarm alerts that sound like submarines.  I’ll even follow it, and be excited about following it.

On the other hand, we have Girl Who Puts Thought Into What She Does.  Though this girl loves discipline in theory, she also loves freedom.  Freedom to write what she feels like writing, when she feels like writing it.  Freedom to write for another hour past that stupid submarine alert (which then begins to remind her of the Jin and Sun Tragedy).

What I’m learning this week is that the Czar has the tendency to be a bit more dominant.  This leads to a feeling of go, go, go, Go, GO! in me, an unsettled get-everything-done-NOW! feeling.  This feeling lies to me, telling me that I must produce, and produce a lot.  That words are the fruit of each hour, and the less I have, the worse I’ve done.

That.  Is.  Not.  True.

Just because I’m devoting more hours to writing, and devoting more hours to different projects, it does not mean the writing itself will automatically go faster.  That, at the end of the day, just because I’m in ‘productive mode,’ I’ll end up with pages upon pages to show for it.

To remedy this, here’s what I’m doing.

First, I’ve realized that hour-long blocks of time make me feel too rushed.  The time flies too quickly, and I try to cram too many hour-long blocks of different tasks into the same morning/afternoon.  This produces that unsettled bubbly feeling in me, and it makes me write fast instead of write well.  Therefore, I’m doing things in 1.5- to 2-hour blocks, instead, and I’m putting them in different times of the day instead of back-to-back.  Making, and sticking to, a schedule does not mean that schedule has to be tight, tight, tight.  Kind of like a financial budget, it needs to allow for real life tendencies, not just the ideal.

Second, I’m learning patience.  Patience to allow myself the freedom to think, and to think deeply, about the words I put on the page.  Patience to sit in the chair and think, or write, hopefully both, during the whole time I’ve scheduled for the project at hand.  I’m reminding myself to slow down, to insert myself into whatever scene I’m writing, and not worry about quantity as long as what I’ve written feels like quality.

These fixes are already working well.  I finished revising a particularly stubborn scene this morning, one who’s been quite the diva.  That felt good.

Ironically, I’m on a time crunch right now — I’m about to go pick up my sister-in-law at the airport.  A few more things before I go, though: in case you’re wondering why I put a picture of my potted plants, it’s not just because they’re pretty.  I thought they were a good representation of discipline and patience, and planned to write more about that.  (Basically, just that you have to have discipline to water them, but you can’t force them to grow.  Helpful writing analogy, in my opinion.)

Also, to all you sweet new friends I’ve met through Merrilee’s workshop, I’ve given you a horrible impression of my ability to respond to comments in a reasonable time!  This week has been abnormally crazy, and I’m dying to write back to all of your comments.  Thank you for leaving them, and I plan to get better at responding in the future.

You people rock.  It’s off to the airport, and out of this freezing place they call a coffee shop.  I’m guessing they keep it below zero to encourage patrons to purchase more steaming mugs of awesomeness?  (It works on me.)

¹Czaress?

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Bird By Bird | Concrete Creativity Workshop Goals!

6 May

I don’t know if it’s the French press of coffee I drank this morning, or if it’s due to my zesty little green Moleskine notebook, but the ideas?  Are flowing.  Flooding, even.  (I prefer to imagine this flood is made of Fiji artesian water, FYI.)

Guess that just goes to show that with a little time and a little thought, ideas are everywhere, just waiting to be acknowledged.

As many of you are already aware, I’m taking part in Merrilee Faber’s Creativity Workshop, which began this week.  (If you’re in the dark on this, click here.)  A few days ago, I set some general goals — now, it’s time to streamline them into measurable (and thus, achievable) goals.  That’s where this whole idea flood comes in.

We’re to write three sets of short stories, four stories in each set.  That’s one story per week, for twelve weeks straight.  Knowing myself, I know this pace could flip from stretching to breakneck in an instant if I’m not prepared.  So, I went ahead and outlined some concrete ideas to work with for each set.

PS: If you’re reading this on a reader with a white background, there are a few lines of light green, under the lime green, that may be easier to see on mine (which has a dark gray background).

Set #1

Weeks 2 – 5

Powerlessness over irreparable circumstances

In the first set, I decided to write about people who find themselves in circumstances over which they have no power, but nonetheless make futile attempts to fix things.  I plan to use nursery rhymes as inspiration.  In each story, I want contrast to be essential in my character development: characters who have similar motives, yet manifest opposite actions. (For example, two characters who both feel love, but show it in completely different ways.)  Here’s the breakdown for each week, with the irreparable aspect listed first, followed by its nursery rhyme inspiration:

Week #2 | A shattered egg | “Humpty, Dumpty”

Week #3 | Something that has burned to ash. | “Ladybug, Ladybug”

Week #4 | Severed tails. | “Little Bo Peep”

Week #5 | Love interrupted by nature and time; waiting. | “Sailing, Sailing”

Set #2

Weeks 6 – 9

Stories inspired by songs about birds

One of the goals I mentioned in the last post was that I want to write stories inspired by song lyrics.  Well, there’s no shortage of good material there, so I decided to narrow it down a little bit more.  Even so, I’m having trouble narrowing five choices down to four, so I’ll list the four I’m 97% sure about, and then put the fifth idea last.  I chose these songs because I think they’ll work well in a set together.  Other than the bird theme, they deal with broken wings, hope despite adversity, captivity, and freedom.  To challenge myself, I’m choosing two I never heard before this morning, though the rest are old favorites.  Here’s the plan for Set #2, with song title/artist followed by its general theme.

Week #6 | “Blackbird” (Lennon/McCartney) | Spreading broken wings

Week #7 | “Top of the World” (Patty Griffin) | Wings broken by someone else

Week #8 | “Two Birds” (Regina Spektor) | Love, but tied to someone who won’t fly

Week #9 | “Bird of the Summer” (A Fine Frenzy) | Letting love fly away, hoping it returns

Possible Option | “Still Fighting It” (Ben Folds) | Wants to keep love, but sets free with no expectation of it returning

Set #3

Weeks 10 – 13

Grimm Fairy Tale, “One Eyes, Two Eyes, Three Eyes”

My first two sets, you may have noticed, have the potential to be kind of heavy.  I don’t plan to make them all heavy, but nonetheless, the potential is there.  For the last set of the workshop, I’m going to gear things more toward FUN!  (Yes, an all-caps, shouty version of fun.)  My mother is an expert at story-telling.  When we were little, she’d make up versions of “Little One Eyes, Little Two Eyes, and Little Three Eyes,” coming up with some crazy plots on the spot.  They were entertaining, and were usually about how spoiled Little One Eyes and Little Three Eyes ganged up on their ‘perfect’ sister, Little Two Eyes.  Her version is a universe away from Grimm’s original, and I’m thinking mine will be a universe away from both of these.

In this set, I’m going to try some new things while I have fun.  This whole set will focus on these young sisters.  I want to do futuristic/fantasy/mystery here, and experiment with other POVs.

Week #10 | Tell a story in 3rd person omniscient

Week #11 | Write in first person, from the perspective of Little Two Eyes

Week #12 | Write in first person, from the perspective of Little One Eyes

Week #13 | Write in 3rd person limited, focusing on Little Three Eyes

Task List

Though I have specific starting points for each set, and even for each story, I’ve hardly given any thought toward what each will actually BE when it’s time to sit down and write them.  Between that, and my all-encompassing goal to make a schedule and stick to it, my task list is the same for each week, unless I discover the need to amend it along the way.  If I need to amend it, I’ll wait until the end of the current set, then make new ones for the set that comes next.

Weeks 2 – 13

Spend one hour, five days per week, devoted to that week’s project.

Days one and two: use ideas I already have as inspiration, come up with actual characters, plot, setting, and other necessary details.  Begin writing on Day 2.

Days three through five: Write, without distractions, for the entire hour.  No Twitter, no blog, no browsers open.  Aim for 750-1,000 words each day.

Devote extra time as needed on Day 6 if I have not completed the story.

(Wow.  Long post, dudes.  Now that I have ideas in mind, I’m even more excited about this workshop.  Thinking about it in concrete terms is a bit overwhelming, so I’m not going to think about The Big Picture right now.  One day at a time.  “Bird by Bird,” to borrow the title of Anne Lamott’s book, which — I’ve heard — is fantastic.)(Perhaps I’ll read it, oh, fourteen weeks from now.)

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Out of the Box | Creativity Workshop Goals

2 May

Mr. Cat and I have something in common: we like our boxes.

He likes to curl up inside them, get comfortable, maybe play a little while, and only exit said box if provoked.  Like I said, we have some things in common.

My box is not made from cardboard; it’s made from routine.  I write where I’m used to writing, what I’m used to writing, how I’m used to writing, and so on.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m no stranger to discipline or hard work — it’s just that these efforts, thus far, have been focused on one project, and one project only: my novel.

Something has provoked me to poke my head out of the box, and that something — as I mentioned the other day — is Merrilee Faber’s Creativity Workshop.  Both because we’re supposed to, and because I want (need) to, I’m setting some goals here.  By my calculations, each of these goals has to do with shedding and shredding my cardboard boxes, in one way or another.

Box #1: When I write, I write one thing: my novel.

Boxbuster Goal #1: Work on my ability to switch gears; make quality progress on two projects in the same week. I’m editing the second draft of my novel, and I don’t want to take a fourteen-week hiatus from it.  Thing is, though, I’ve been working on this novel for a while now, and have never tried to write anything on the side (other than blog posts).  One thing I want to get out of this workshop is the ability to switch gears from one project to the next, which means a) clear focus on each in its time, and b) quality progress made on each.

Box #2: I work on an über-flexible schedule.  This is comfortable.

Boxbuster Goal #2: Make a tighter schedule and stick to it. If I’m going to effectively break out of Box #1, this is imperative.  Having a flexible schedule works just fine for what I’ve been doing.  However, if I’m going to make quality progress on two different projects, I need to be a bit more specific in the way I plan my writing time.  This may include earlier wake-up calls or a few midnight-oil-burning sessions — early mornings and late nights are two times of the day I rarely use for writing.  It would be good to stretch myself to work in times other than those I’m accustomed to.  Specific application of this goal looks like making a weekly schedule on Sundays, with specific goals for each block of writing time.  Then, obviously, try to follow it.

Box #3: I don’t write short stories.

Boxbuster Goal #3: Learn how to write them and turn out some good ones. So, it’s not that I don’t like short stories, or think I can’t write them — it’s just that I’ve never focused any energy on learning about them, or trying to write them.  I’m in that writing-my-novel box, not the come-up-with-several-shorter-things-that-are-fresh-and-totally-unrelated-to-your-novel box, and frankly?  The idea of the second box sounds kind of scary.  That said, I’m excited about crawling inside, because it sounds like a worthy (and fun) challenge.

Box #4: Coming up with fresh ideas has never been my strong suit.

Boxbuster Goal #4: Write interesting things, from fresh ideas, that mean something. I can come up with fresh ideas for stories, but a lot of times, they either take forever to occur to me, or just don’t feel special enough.  I want to train myself to think out of the box when it comes to writing fresh ideas.  This includes everything from the plot itself, to the characters, to descriptions, to settings, to scenes: I want to make something special, something that cannot be labeled cliché.  I want to write not my first idea, but maybe the fifth.

The key to this goal is the phrase “train myself” — I want to devote time to working on ideas, to be more intentionally observant in everyday life, and to think away from paper.  What I mean by that is, I’ve noticed it’s hard for me to think through ideas while jogging on the treadmill, for example, or while doing anything where I can’t physically write/type my thoughts out.

Box #5: I like to make general goals instead of specific ones.  General ones aren’t as painful to fail.

Boxbuster #5: The first four goals were pretty all-encompassing, so I’d better include some specific goals that pertain to the writing itself. I tend to write about generally non-controversial issues; it would be a challenge for me to write something outside this comfort zone.  My current WIP stars a young male; I’d like to write about a young female (I’m thinking anywhere from five to thirty-five).  I want to write at least one piece that’s been inspired by song lyrics, and at least one piece that takes something extremely clichéed and puts a fresh twist on it.  I want to write something inspired by my experiences in Shanghai.  And, I shall give myself the freedom to make these inspirations manifest themselves as either an invisible top-layer of lacquer, or as the more in-your-face splash of red paint.

So, there you go.  This is going to be a lot of work, but I’m excited about it.  Also, just so you know, part of the workshop includes writing updates about our progress.  We’re to post every Sunday, so expect that here.

Other participants from around here include Linda Cassidy Lewis, Melissa, Cassie Hart, Chibi Doucet, Amber Dawn WeaverAshley Nava, and (of course) Merrilee Faber — I’ve linked to their blogs from their names, if you want to check out their goals (which should be up soon, if they’re not up yet) or their progress along the way.

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Merrilee Faber’s Creativity Workshop

23 Apr

Something really cool just landed in my lap, and no, it’s not a spilled glass of iced water.

It’s an opportunity.

A challenge.

A here’s-a-chance-to-grow-in-your-skills-and-discipline-and-creativity sort of opportunity-slash-challenge, dropped down from the sky courtesy of the amazing Merrilee Faber.

Basically, she’s taken the initiative to organize and put on a fourteen-week Creativity Workshop (one week of intro, thirteen weeks of workshop) from May 2 – August 5.  There’s a whole slew of awesomeness wrapped up in this opportunity, including a wide range of applicable topics to be covered by Merrilee and the various guest bloggers she’s lined up. Here in a minute, I’m going to direct you to her two most recent posts for more information.

To quote Merrilee, “It is a workshop about teaching yourself to be creative when you need to be, not at the whim of the muse or the tides or the phase of the moon.”

I don’t know about you guys, but this sounds great to me.  For more information about what kind of work is involved, what kind of topics will be covered, who the guest bloggers are, and to sign up, follow the links below.

A brief overview (the what, the why, and other answers to questions)

More details, schedule, and sign-ups

Let me know if you decide to join Melissa, Cassie (JC), yours truly, and — of course — Merrilee, as we brave this adventure.  I fully expect it will rock.  In fact, it will probably rock so hard that I’ll spill iced water all over my lap and then be inspired to write something creative about it.

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The Specifics: Learning to Beta

5 Apr

Armed with a (new) totebag full of supplies — highlighters, my stack of notecards, pens galore, post-its, flip-flops (so my awesome new boots don’t die if these dark clouds make good on their threats), and two file folders full of paper — I’m ready to work.

Not that I haven’t been ready to work this past week and a half — quite the opposite, actually.  Last week was quite a productive one.  So productive, in fact, that I looked up this morning and noticed I was verging on an unprecedented two week gap between posts.

Perhaps you assume that I’m working on turning my second draft from clunky to glorious.  Or, perhaps you assume that by “productive,” I mean making major progress in getting a friend caught up on LOST by hosting a marathon last Wednesday.  Or, if you’re really really really optimistic, you assume that I’m SO BUSY because I’m spending at least an hour at the gym every day.

In these assumptions, you’d be partly right.  (An hour at the gym each day is too generous.  And the LOST marathon?  We limited ourselves to three episodes.)  Actually, a big portion of last week, in addition to all of those things, was devoted to learning something new.

For the first time, I’m learning how to beta read for someone.  (Feel free to out yourself, special someone!)

“What’s the big deal?  Don’t you just read the thing and tell them what you think about it?” Well, yes and no.  In essence, you read the thing and tell the writer what you think.  Really, though, I’m learning to READ the thing and TELL the writer what I think and WHY.  (In case you missed it, I emphasized a few words there…)

Being a beta reader has been excellent practice in both communication and in reading with an observant eye.  Does this work?  Why does it work?  Why not?  Do I like this part?  Why do I like it?  What is going on underneath the surface of the printed words?  Do I have any guesses at what’s coming next?  Too many guesses, or just the right amount?  Am I confused during any parts?  At what point did I become confused?

You get the picture.  All of these examples can be summed up like this: I’m learning to be specific.  To say, “I liked this scene because ______ and _______ and ______, and it really works well with the overall theme you’re trying to communicate (which is _____, if I’m right?) because of ______.” versus “That scene seemed to go well with her character and I liked reading it.”  What does that even mean, you know?  Being specific, as you go, lets the writer see exactly where she has accomplished her goals, and where she wasn’t as clear as she’d hoped to be.

Beta reading has also taught me how much to insert myself into my comments.  It’s a little bit tricky to balance subjectivity with objectivity.  My approach has evolved into I’m going to go ahead and communicate my opinions, but not as FACT with capital letters.  The truth is, I am a reader, and I have an opinion.  Those truths alone make my perspective valid, so if I’m getting something from what she wrote, that means it is possible for someone to perceive it in that particular way.  However, the trick is to communicate that perspective with the understanding that I am only one person.  My comments and thoughts, while valid, may only represent 1% of all readers, so I should present them in a way that’s honest and sincere, yet objective.

Therein lies freedom.  Freedom for the beta reader to honestly communicate what she thinks works and what doesn’t; freedom for the writer to take those thoughts and do what she thinks is best for the WIP and for all readers.

Not only is this helpful for the writer, it’s (obviously) a good learning lesson for you as the reader.  It’s a good way to take a break from your own work while still working out your mind — I’m super excited about diving back into my own novel today, now that I’ve had so much practice reading someone else’s work objectively and looking for specifics.

Those of you who have experience in this — whether from the perspective of the writer or the beta reader — do you have any advice or comments to add?

Now!  To dive into work…

All Was Well.

24 Mar

“All was well.”

– J.K. Rowling | (The final sentence in the Harry Potter series.)

And, indeed, I imagine all was well with J.K. Rowling as she settled on those final words, those ten little letters, last in line behind the several million letters that spelled out the story about a boy, a scar, how he got it, and what it meant.

Work like hers does not happen by accident.

Letters don’t just fall into place, and ideas — no matter how magical — don’t just tumble, fully formed, beautiful, captivating, onto the page.  At the end, all is well.  In the beginning?  An idea.  Then, a first word, then many more words, until words fade into story.

But what about in between?  What happens, if not magic, between the first word and the final sentence, to make something special out of mere words, something logical and coherent out of ideas, something empathetic and captivating about characters?

I don’t know yet.  Whatever technical skill is involved, though, I’m inclined to believe that patience and determination are the yeast that make the whole thing rise into something great.

Before my long hiatus (spent in the unseasonally warm and disappointingly un-snowy Minneapolis, Minnesota), I promised a post about editing.  I thought it only fitting to start talking about this overwhelming process with a little bit of inspiration: even J.K. Rowling had to start somewhere, with a single word.  Everyone is a beginner at some point, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.  Some beginners quit, and some beginners end up writing seven Harry Potter books.

I’m a beginner.  Specifically, I’m a beginner who is determined to learn how to do this thing, to do it well, and to end up more toward the second category (and definitely far away from the first).  This is my latest post on what I’m learning, and as I warned in my pre-hiatus post, it may be a long one.  After almost two weeks of not posting, though (Not a trend I intend to keep up, by the way.  That was just due to Minneapolis.), I don’t feel too bad about the length.

The Problem

Editing a novel?  It’s a little (okay, a LOT) overwhelming, to say the least.  I thought I was more prepared to tackle this part of the project, but as it turns out, I was only somewhat prepared.  Though I’ve read loads about what to look for while editing, and have even done a great deal of actually looking for, and finding, those things to change, I noticed a problem.  How, exactly, was I supposed to go about changing things?

After making pages of color-coded notes for each scene, I wasn’t quite sure where to begin with them: do I start chronologically?  Or, with major issues and plot changes?  Do I switch the scene order first and then start with the changes?  I had stellar ideas about what actually needed changing, but was clueless when it came to physically making those changes.

The Solution

My Novel

Index cards.  After staring at the various iterations of my notes for a while, I finally figured it out: a stack of 336 pages of black on white is not the easiest thing to navigate.  I needed something tangible, an outline I could hold, a deck of scene cards.  At a glance, each scene needed to be as recognizable as aces or spades; one look at the whole hand, and I’d know in an instant the layout of that section.

The Process

Here’s what I’m doing, step-by-step, to begin physical editing work.  I’ll start with the cards, and move on from there.

  • INDEX CARDS. | One card = one scene.  Title of the scene goes on the front, in bold black.  On the back, I wrote the scene number and listed the pages on which it currently appears, for easy reference.
  • SECTIONS. | I read through the deck of index cards, scene title by scene title.  I grouped them into logical sections of varying lengths, each one ending in a climax of some sort.  This project currently has nine sections.
  • TO-DO CARDS. | For each of my nine sections, I created “TO-DO” cards.  They are hot pink, and I placed them at the beginning of each section.  Each one is flagged with a post-it flag, so I can easily flip between sections.
  • POST-ITS. | On the back of each “TO-DO” card, there are three small post-it notes.  From left to right, there is a pink, a green, and an orange stuck to each “TO-DO” card.  Starting with Section One and ending with Section Nine, I evaluated each section’s major issues.  On the pink post-its, I made notes regarding those issues: which scenes need to be moved/cut, where new scenes need to be written, what problems need to be dealt with first when dealing with that section.  On the green post-its, I made notes on plot and continuity issues.  On the orange post-its, I made notes about pacing, language, and other things that need general smoothing-out.
  • FEELING PREPARED. | Dividing the novel into sections, and figuring out what needed work within those sections, helped me feel more prepared to start physically editing.  My novel in deck-of-cards format helped me make notes about specific preparations I need to take in order to make major changes.  I feel confident that I can go chronologically now, because I’ve planted notes for myself wherever later-in-the-book changes need to occur.
  • MARK THE PAGES. | Starting with Section One, I completely obliterated my pages.  They already had red pen on them; this time, I went in with pink and orange.  Red, I used to mark general observations; now, pink marks specific changes to make, while orange is for thoughts and other ideas.

    Section One

  • MAKE THE CHANGES. | After marking up Section One, I will make the actual changes on my computer.  This is where I am right now; I finished marking the pages right before my trip, and plan to start making the changes on Monday.
  • RINSE + REPEAT. | My plan, obviously, is to work my way through all nine sections.  I never intended for what I’m working on to be a final edit, so I’m sure I’ll have to go back once I’m done and tweak some things.  However, I think it will be much better after this pass.

So, there you go.  I’ll let you breathe, or eat, or sleep, or theorize about LOST now.  Just thought I’d share what I’m doing with you guys, because for all the what to look for when editing posts I’ve come across, there haven’t been too many that deal with the order in which to work those changes in.  As always, I reserve the right to humbly change my process, should it become mind-numbingly terrible.

For now, though, all is well.

Where Did The Time Go?

11 Mar

I have SO MUCH to tell you guys.

It’s been one crazy week, let me tell you.  This is the…uh…second time I’ve stopped to sit down today and rest.  Things have been a little crazy, what with my attempts to prepare for a trip, rearrange-slash-organize-slash-completely clean my whole apartment (laundry included), and yes, get some work done on the novel.

[I interrupt this blog post with outrage: Ryan Seacrest, did I just overhear you say America voted out Katelyn Epperly?  One of my favorites, THE Katelyn Epperly?  Okay.  Just making sure.  Crap.]

I’ve been planning to write a good long post about my editing progress this week — after that whole Smoke Monster incident, after all, you might have worried that I’ve been sulking in despair, ignoring the world and my writing.  I’m pleased to report that there’s been very little sulking, and loads of progress.  Monday morning, I sat down to work, and something just completely clicked.  I’m not stuck anymore, and am poised to get a lot of work done when I return from my trip.

Unfortunately, it’s been one of those days that’s left me in a state of dazedness, and all I can really think about right now is a huge plate of pasta, white wine, and a night full of Survivor and NBC comedies.  The unfortunate part of that sentence (since we all know pasta, white wine, and TV is a recipe for awesomeness) is that my long blog post about the editing itself will have to wait.  There’s still quite a bit of work I have left to do before embarking on a loooooooooong drive to Minneapolis tomorrow with my church group — this, most likely, means my next post won’t be until I get back to Texas a week from Sunday.  Just thought I’d let y’all know, you know, so you don’t worry when I’m MIA all week.

Oh: those of you who love LOST as much as I do, you should know that I won’t be able to watch it until after I get back, so this is my preemptive strike against accidental spoilers!  (Why, yes, I am planning to bring my laptop justincase there’s an Internet connection and I get a chance to watch it at, like, five a.m. one morning when I’m not busy hanging out with 20 freshmen.)

Happy week to you all!  I’ll be back soon.

PS: Another Outrage Alert!  Two of my other favorites — Lilly Scott and Alex Lambert — got voted off tonight, too.  This is not because my taste = horrible.  It’s because America’s does.

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.

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!