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Posts tagged ‘first novels’

Cathy: oh writing, let me count the ways…

…you can frustrate me:

1. my new printer won’t communicate with my computer, so I can’t print out the edits I did at writing group to read and redline a bit more by pages in hand.

2. you come to me in fits and starts while occupying half my concentration all the time.

…you make me do cartwheels, figuratively speaking, of course:

1. I love a new idea, it makes my heart race and my arms want to write or type in that very moment to the exclusion of all else. I get that tingly feeling like a teen falling in love.

2. I love rewriting, reworking, getting it right.

3. (Please let there be a 3 so the positive side can win today.) That netherworld feeling of one foot here, in the house with the kids and the laundry, and one foot there, in my imagination with my character and his family and friends and dog. This week has been hovering around 100 degrees outside and in my manuscript, it’s Thanksgiving in New England — bare trees, the beginnings of snow, nose reddening winds.

Ah, thank you writing, for the cool, cool breeze!

[Crossposted from musings in mayhem]

Cathy: Results!

Remember this list?

I spent the previous two days at writing camp with my writing group. Two whole days dedicated to writing. Yesterday I had a different meeting in the morning, but then I headed straight to  my writing camp’s day two, and thought I was going to have trouble, but amazingly got right to it! I seriously surprised myself by what I accomplished in the last 48 hours!

The List now looks like this:

DONE~continue to edit Joe out/Mike into Thanksgiving and Observatory scenes

DONE~write observatory scene using A. H.’s notes

Fixed~pay attention to name changes for T. B. and T. N.

working on~characterize supporting characters more through action and physical description

working on~make ‘thought bubbles’ action scenes or move them to more fitting scene

working on~edit down cooking relevance

mostly finished, maybe a bit more at the end~more on comets

I also edited it a bit more in making sentences and paragraphs more succinct in the first 50 or so pages.

I need to edit the observatory scene now, but at least it’s on paper – er, computer screen. I think my next stage is to print and edit again by hand. I read very differently on paper than on screen, and can see needed changes so much better.

I obviously need to be in a different environment than my office with my home distractions to be able to concentrate on my manuscript edits.

The other five women I sat in quiet with for the past two days expressed the same thing. Here’s the funny part: I thought it was because of my kids, etc, but only half of us have children at home, and of varying ages. I am the only one with a toddler or a special-needs child, of course, I have one of each. Two are grandmothers who live with their retired spouses, who are both very good at busying themselves. And one is home while her husband still goes to the office.

We’re all at a stage of editing a large work we’re committed to. All of our projects are middle reader or young adult novels. Yesterday we planned that the rest of our usual twice a month meetings for the summer will be devoted to writing, no critique.

This way, when autumn comes around, we will all have work to critique. How’s that for commitment? I couldn’t do this without them. I am so grateful to my writing group and to the time we commit to working together.

[crossposted from musings in mayhem]

Cathy: Denver retreat

Friday night, I arrived with Honey in Denver, CO. Gor-ge-ous sunset on the drive from the airport. Sorry, I did not bring a camera for this trip. I was going to write, after all, not fool around taking pictures! But I did curse myself up and down for lack of camera when it came to that sunset.

We helped my husband’s cousin set up his speaking engagement/seminar, and ate a late dinner of hotel bar food. the Grand Hyatt 1876 Lounge had a three-sauce sampler for fried zucchini and portabello mushrooms that was a bit greasy, but the middle sauce for dipping was a tomato jam I could have eaten on anything for eternity and never missed another flavor. I ate it on Honey’s sweet potato fries that came with his pork sliders. I couldn’t get enough of that tomato jam.

Food rhapsody over for the moment, I turn to the purpose for leaving my children on Mother’s Day weekend: to write!!!

My manuscript is, after all, my other child. They do vie for attention constantly.

Saturday morning, my dear Honey trotted off to do his tech support function for his cousin, while I stayed in the hotel room under the auspices of writing. I proceeded to drive myself completely berserk, agonizing over getting past the block I had regarding what I knew I needed to do to the manuscript. I’d been having this block for months and was blaming my lack of time alone for it. So I got the time alone, and still went bonkers.

I finally said, I must walk! I am in a new city. I have never set foot in Denver proper. I must find the nearest green space to find some solace in my frustrated writer’s soul.

I rode the elevator down to concierge and she pointed me toward the capitol and its park. Then she looked dejected as she recalled, “But there is a huge Cinco de Mayo Festival going on there, so you won’t see much of the green.”

I replied, “No problem, I love to people watch.” Along the walk, I met an adorable nine-week-old brindle coated sweet little pit bull puppy. And the young man on the other end of the leash, who had a big smile, proud to show off his new little girl. It’s been a long time since my “Boston days” between tall buildings, seeing the slant of light and shadow play down the walls and windows. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Then I hit the busy amusement park set up of Cinco de Mayo, on the eighth of May. Lots of good sights and sounds and distractions and rhythms, and some construction of the park, and children on rides, and walking and Spanish and dancing, and a lot of Dos Equis displays.

I didn’t stay long, and the capitol building in Denver is a gold domed beaut, like my beloved Boston capitol building, so that was nice for my suburban aching heart to see. Then I turned back to the hotel and to face the open document on the laptop.

More agonizing. I called a friend, who asked me to send it to her, to which I promptly said NO! Then backtracked that I was sitting there staring at seven critiques already. She kindly said, “Oh, no, you don’t need me to look at it. You need to know that what you know you have to do to your manuscript is good because it will make it better!”

I said, “Aha! That was the missing piece! Editing will make it better!”

And so I began to edit. It wasn’t easy, but I did it. I still struggled, was still largely attached to what I had already written, but I moved stuff around, rewrote the beginning.

Loads more to the weekend, but as far as the writing, that’s what I did. I agonized, I moved something around, I agonized, I moved stuff around. I agonized, I deleted a few lines here and there. And I agonized some more. I made it to page 5 out of 120. And I was disappointed enormously with my new first line.

I thought, “If I picked this book up off the shelf, and read that opening line? I’d put it back.”

And then, the day after my arrival home, my writing group met to write on Tuesday. All of a sudden, I was able to work much more effectively in the company of my writing group all sitting quietly with their laptops and notebooks, doing largely the same thing I was doing: editing what we already had.

But if I had not gone to Denver; had not driven myself crazy until I chiseled away a crack in the writer’s block, I would have been of no use to myself or my manuscript on Tuesday.

And, like Edith Ann says, “That’s the Truth, thpblbubblepppbubth!”

[Cross-posted from my personal blog.]

Cathy: The Universe works in mysterious ways

I will kvetch no more — this week anyway — as after my last two days of considering every option and feeling like I had none left, suddenly:

a friend offered to barter my tutoring her 13-year-old daughter for watching my 2-year-old daughter on writers’ group days.  So I don’t need to find and pay for immediate daycare just so I can have a few hours of writing and critique time a couple of times a month.

aaaand!

drumroll, please…..

Honey’s cousin needs some of Honey’s professional expertise on a public speaking gig in Colorado in a couple of weeks. And he offered to let me tag along, too. I will go to his public speaking gig, but largely, I am going to blissfully sit in my hotel room, without any interruptions and edit the bejeez out of my manuscript on Honey’s laptop!!!

and Grandma offered to watch the kids for that weekend.

I hope I didn’t die, because this sure feels like heaven.

[slightly edited crosspost from musings in mayhem]

Cathy: writerly crisis of faith and confirmation of all my fears

This entry is a combination of a couple of recent posts on my personal blog.

on Monday, I wrote:

writerly crisis of faith
Almost two weeks ago, I gave the first 33 pages of my baby, er, children’s novel manuscript to my critique group. We meet tomorrow. During school vacation. At my house. With my gang of mayhem and two other kids added to the mix. And the one person I know outside the group will not be there, so she returned my pages with her comments yesterday.

I’ve done a lot of work on those first 30 pages in the past 6ish years since I started writing this little tale. They are the initial inspiration, and what I always felt really worked about the book. The changes I had made were on the small side, grammar, tense, slight rearranging of things. Now I feel like I have to move a thought bubble that wraps the first third of the novel very nicely and turn into a scene that will be the new opening of the book. Not that that was her exact suggestion, but that’s where my mind took it.

But I love my opening! There’s a great slow build to what happened to make this kid so upset in the opening lines.

I have had other readers who really loved the opening. I have four more readers to hear from tomorrow.

How can my heart be simultaneously in my throat and in the bottom of my gut at the same time? I feel like I have a big envelope to open, and it either has very very good news, or absolutely horrid news to bear. Quite possibly both. And once I open it, I will have to cut my big ball of dough in half, knead it, fold it over and over again into itself, pound on it, and hopefully, a beautiful loaf will emerge from the oven.

I know, mixed metaphor central, but give me a break!

Anticipation is a killer.

On Tuesday, came:

confirmation of all my fears

Great writers’ group this morning — afternoon. We wrote, I was interrupted by kids a variety of ways (school vacation and toddler), and then we got hungry, ate lunch and discussed the first third of my novel, as I mentioned yesterday.

They confirmed all of my misgivings about the manuscript’s current state, and now, boy do I have a lot of work to do. But it’s good, not the dread that my anticipation was giving me.

I kind of wish I was done already…but I guess this is what they mean about 2nd draft work. It’s not just about picking through the first draft and the million and a half edits already done, but about the complete restructuring of the storytelling… focus description into action, rearrange parts, rethink what is important about characters and how they serve the story, get rid of unnecessary adverbs…you know, the big stuff.

So big stuff, here I come. Right after this diaper change….

Psst! And guess what else?  They liked it, too!

Cathy: I can’t even peek.

In my travels over a week ago, I retrieved one well inked copy of my first manuscript draft I had sent to a dear friend in the Boston area for critique and suggested edits.

Many moons ago, I lived in a 2nd floor walk-up on Newbury Street dubbed the shoebox, and he rented a room in the former servants’ quarters on the fourth floor (even more stairs, I had to take them two at a time at a momentum run to survive the ascent) of an old Commonwealth Avenue townhouse that had been broken into condos. We regularly spent entire days walking around Copley Square, sitting on benches on Comm Ave, in the BPL Courtyard, a few regular cafes, Newbury Pizza or each other’s humble abodes, discussing Literature, Art, listening to Mozart, Schubert, old time Rockabilly, Frank Sinatra’s In the Wee Small Hours, and critiquing poetry and plays each wrote. We really dissected each other’s work, at times taking personal affronts, at others, able to make useful and take useful suggestions. Sometimes another friend joined us, but mostly it was just the two of us, picking apart each other’s work in order to build it back up again into something better. That was fifteen and then some years ago.

When he handed back my baby, er, first draft in Cambridge, he very kindly told me it was a great story and excellent characterizations. He gave a few verbal points of interest. But mostly, I noticed just how much ink he laid on each page in my quick thumb through in the dark of the rainy night under a street light.

How very film noir.

I still can’t look at it.

Cathy: And now for something completely different

I’ve been so wrapped up in the idea that I need to finish my manuscript, that the feeling has resulted in much the same as shooting one’s self in the foot, can’t win for trying, or a hundred other clichés. So when I saw the opportunity from Elizabeth Beck to be a part of Do Not Leave Unattended! by Judy Beckett of run4istrun.blogspot.com, I jumped at it.

It reminded me of last spring to summer when I discovered Kerri Smith’s Wreck this Journal. I was so stuck, I hadn’t worked on the manuscript since about three to four years prior, even though it had never left my mind. I had let life get in the way of art, and I needed to find a way back. I discovered the way back to art through Wreck. It has everything to do with being able to be free about it, make it messy, have fun with it and play. Because of that little tome and my use of it, I was able to return to the manuscript with a renewed sense of fun and inspiration about it. It didn’t matter if I made it work, what mattered was that I was writing about kids and what they go through in sixth grade, and that even if some of it is hard, it’s also fun to be a kid, have a family who loves you, even when they’re a pain, have friends who stick by you, even if you’re not exactly sure why, and that no matter who you are, you can do something great, maybe even change the world a little.

So, now that I really am right at the end of the ‘first’ draft (which has already been through practically word-by-word edits), like two to three scenes from the end, I find myself trying to make it work, or avoiding doing so, or whatever so that I won’t finish. I took a moment to breath, to get messy, to create something completely different and let it go out into the universe, especially not perfect. Here is the result:springjournal2

springjournal

I wanted to feel like a kid, so I played with markers, I wanted the sense of youth and fun and something new and had been thinking a lot about spring because it’s spring. On my dog walks and in my gardening, I’ve been noticing lots of itty bitty wildflowers, like confetti all over my lawn and around the public areas in my subdivision. I thought about them being fairy footprints left behind after a night of dancing. I wrote a haiku. Then I free wrote in the journal about spring, how it’s about change and new and color…

So it looks like a kid did it, and I’m glad. I needed to feel more like a kid to finish writing about one. And I put a lot more productive hours into my manuscript the week i did this page. Letting go and playing in creativity really can set you free.

Who wants to be next?

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