Change of Place

Last weekend I got the sad news that one of my grandmothers had passed away. I grew up in Maine and every summer we’d spend a week or two at my grandparents’ house. They had an in-ground pool in the back yard that kept the family entertained all day. We usually went up around the Fourth of July, and watched the fireworks being shot up over Fort Halifax in Winslow, just down the street from where my Dad grew up.

My grandmother loved to entertain. She was a social butterfly, for sure and could talk your ear off about nothing in particular. As I got older we didn’t always see eye to eye. I wanted to wear ripped jeans and have pink hair. She wanted me to wear skirts, lose weight, get a boyfriend, and go to church. But, despite our differences, she was always easy to get along with and happy to be around her family.

Without much notice, I bought a ticket to head up North for the funeral. It’s always tough figuring out how to pack when you’re going from warm to frigidly cold weather (or vice versa) and when you’re too cheap to check your bags. So clothes first, then an ereader, then a notebook, then my tablet with a wireless keyboard.

The first new place I wrote was the airplane. I’ve been working out this story in my head for a while. I’d written the first chapter before Nanowrimo and I keep thinking about it, so I wrote the beginning of Chapter 2 on the flight between Austin and Philadelphia. I picked up the narrator’s voice and personality so quickly and easily. She slipped right on like a comfy sweater.

Writing on the plane was interesting; it’s a much more public writing spot than I’m used to. I go to a weekly writing group at a coffee shop, but that doesn’t feel public, because everyone else is writing –focused on their own work. Pulling out the tray table and setting my screen and keyboard in it, opening a word document, sort of announces to the world, “I’m writing! I’m a writer!” Regardless of the exposure, though, I got a great start to this new part of the story.

The next new place I wrote was at my Mom’s house. I guess it’s not totally new, since I grew up there and wrote a lot as a kid. But it’s new to this phase of my writing life. It was -2 degrees and the outside was blanketed in snow. You could see deer tracks imprinted in the snow in the back yard. None of this is new, exactly, but seeing it with adult eyes makes it different. I set up shop at the kitchen table, where I curled up with a big cup of coffee and a nearly panoramic view of the snow and the quiet of a sparsely populated town with no highway in the backyard.

Here, I lost myself. I ended up writing and writing. I think I wrote 4 pages, single spaced, in about 2 hours. The story, the voice, the feeling, it just came to me. I felt totally inspired by this place. It almost sold me on visiting Maine more often in the winter. Almost.

I love my writing desk at home. I love knowing where my supplies are and what to expect when I sit down. But I definitely uncovered a hidden source of inspiration in moving from place to place. I know I’ll always enjoy the writing space I built at home, but now I know that I can gather ideas and a sense of writing purpose in any location.

RIP Mimi, love you and miss you everyday.

Choosing My Path

I’m far enough into my revision process that I see some major holes in my story. I also have a much better idea of where I want the story to go. There are some scenes that I still really love, but there are some that I no longer see as useful in moving the plot forward. There are some big rewrites in the future

What I’m struggling with now is how to proceed.  Here are the revisions options I’m considering:

  1. I take everything I’ve learned from this revision and just totally start over with a blank slate. I redraft the whole book from scratch, but with a new and, hopefully, tighter story to tell
  2. I take my revision notes and write the new scenes I need and find places for them among the existing scenes, then go back into the current scenes and revise to fit the new story
  3. A combination of 1 and 2 and start rewriting the story from scratch, but pull the scenes I know I like and paste them in as I go

Some of the revisions will be easily added as new scenes, like building character backgrounds and relationships, flashbacking to show rather than tell, following up on foreshadowing hints and fixing the timeline issues.

Some of the revisions will need to take place over many scenes, since the backstory is going to change. I’m also not totally sold on the reason for the conflict in one of the subplots or on how it unfolds. I’m not there yet in my commenting revision, but I know it’s an issue because I keep thinking about it. I hope when I get there I’ll have a general idea of how to work it out. I think I’ve started to untangle it a little, but I’m trying not to jump too far ahead of myself.

I’m also brainstorming ways to give the main character more depth. Luckily, in the drafting process I gave her a few hobbies and interests that weren’t so sad and depressing and some which were in conflict with her self-definition. I’d like to strength the character development, because I think a minor character steals the scene when he’s in it, which means I’m not doing my main character justice. Thanks to a visit from my beautiful 16 year old niece, I was reminded that teenagers aren’t stereotypes and though we may be quick to judge them on their outward appearance and dress, they’re usually experimenting and discovering new interests from day to day. I want to find a way to capture that complexity in my character, and still find a way to keep her toughness intact.

But, before I get into any of that, I still need to finish my first read-through.

Showing Up

So many writers talk about the struggle to turn up to the page. Once we carve out some time, set up our space, follow our routines and finally sit down (or stand, if you have one of crazy treadmill desks!) the writing feels like no big deal. It’s the set-up and the process that turn us off some days. I’m finding the easiest way around that is to write daily. Nanowrimo got me back in that habit and it’s sort of stuck ever since. In fact, now, when my mind starts to wander or I’m less than busy, I write. At work, I sort of miss crafting my writing, so I sneak in a little break here and there to write to myself or to you all.

I think writing, as a habit, is an easy one to maintain because it is extremely and immediately fulfilling. You see the progress and process and words filling up the page. It’s not a habit like exercise that takes months to see results. One, 15 minute sit-down with writing will create loads of words, a possible scene, a character sketch, a poem.
I’ve been doing this daily writing on top of my 10 pages a day revision project. The revision takes around 15-20 minutes, as does the writing. So I’m happy to fill 30-40 minutes each day with writing. On days when I have more time, I spend more time on it. On days when I have less, I try to stick to my 30-40 minute commitment.

So, showing up to the page, thinking through my writing, creating routines, blogging more, revision- it’s been a productive 2013 so far, let’s hope it keeps up!

Revision, Revision, Let Down Your Golden Hair!

Four days into 2013 and I’ve upheld my goal to work on revising. My writing priorities have shifted from story-telling to story-fixing and it’s been an interesting process. So far, it’s not as painful I thought it would be. I thought making changes would be a lot more difficult for me. I’m not particularly stubborn or set in my ways and I usually don’t have trouble admitting I’m wrong, but there’s something about going back through your work and tearing it apart that seems like it could be a little disheartening and depressing. But it’s actually been a really positive experience so far.

The piece I’m revising was written in a month, during Nanowrimo. It’s a very rough draft, but I put a lot of work, thought, and frustrated energy into writing it. So as much as I want to say it’s good the way it is, I know that’s not true- characters disappear into the ether, never to be heard from again, the time line is wonky and subplots are started and then dropped. I let the muse take me the story where she wanted it to go and forgot my story outline basically as soon as I started writing the piece in order write what the cosmos dictated.  The cosmos, though, it seems, is not the most coherent story-teller. In fact, don’t tell anyone, but *whisper* I think the muse has ADD.

My revision process so far is not to rewrite anything just yet. Right now, I’m just rereading and commenting. Now that I know how the story begins, grows, and ends, I’m rereading to get an idea of what needs to change.  I’m working in a Word version of the manuscript, compiled from Scrivener. I’m doing 10 pages a day, which will take me forever, but it’s a manageable goal for now. I read the piece and make edits/line changes and additions if it’s just word or sentence or two.  If it’s a big idea, like a line of thought that needs to carry throughout the piece or a whole new scene I add a comment in the margin. It’s been an easy way to see quickly where I’ve dropped the ball. I have many comments that begin with “Again…” because I’ve already addressed the needed scene or storyline in several previous comments.

My plan is to get through this whole process before I meet with my critique group so that I have some clear revision ideas and questions about where to go from there.  I already have a lot of future ideas in mind, like the ending happens too quickly because I was on a deadline to finish and I know I need to develop the Mom and her boyfriend’s relationship throughout the story. But, I haven’t gotten there yet, so I’m trying to just focus on the ten pages that need work each day. I’ll keep you posted about my process and where I go next with it!