The Frightening Reality of Revision

Yesterday was Halloween, which means today is Day One of National Novel Writing Month. Having completed the challenge last November and CampNaNo in April, I’m not participating this time around. Instead, I’m engaging in something perhaps even more terrifying than trying to write 50,000 words in a short month with a long weekend: I’m editing my first novel for the jillionth time.

I have been working on this novel since my five-year-old was this big:

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They say the first novel is one to throw out, but I’ve been encouraged to keep at this one, and I’m glad I am. I made a bunch of large-scale changes when I finally revised it in September. I felt good about them as I wrote, and I was thrilled that I finished before the stroke of midnight on October 1.

But as this month has passed, I’ve grown skeptical. I haven’t allowed myself a single peek at the revision in thirty-one days. What’s really in there? Did it work? Did it fail? What still needs reworking? Will I be able to see it?

Now, I dive back in. I’m nervous, but I’m reminded how far I’ve come over the last four and a half years of working on this thing. I have beta readers waiting for the revision December 1, and I’ve set myself the reward of ordering a 2016 planner when the new revision is complete.

So today, my thirty-day challenge begins. Once I’m in it, I think I’ll be more excited than scared. But I’m going to have a bowl of fun-size Kit Kats by my side, just in case.

Update and Pitch to Publication Announcement

The writing life is happily busy these days. While I clearly haven’t been writing blog posts, I have been at work on a number of other pursuits that have me feeling creative, productive, and artistically encouraged.

After four years of its being on my shelf, I finally read On Writing by Stephen King. I was, frankly, terrified of this book. (I know, Stephen, I know, drop the adverb.) I was going to seek writing advice from someone as successful at King? Really? I didn’t expect to be able to assimilate a word on the page. Turns out, the book is incredibly accessible, and honest and encouraging to boot. My copy is underlined and dog-eared, and won’t be spending too long on the shelf before I break into it again.

Earlier this month, I published an article with Verily about my experience with miscarriage and a few seemingly minor changes everyone can make in the way we speak to help those who suffer such losses to acknowledge the pain for what it is. In a day, it had over a thousand shares, and now it’s over 9K. I’m amazed and humbled to see how working at my craft has affected so many other people. Practicing writing by reading, editing, writing fiction meant that I could communicate my story in a way that resonated with readers. For the first time, writing really feels like a gift. There isn’t an endpoint on the journey of being a writer, but this is a milestone I will treasure.

In addition to caring for my three little humans (the youngest will be four months this week!), I have also been editing my CampNaNo project from April and reading a ton. The novel is not finished, not even close to the polish stage, but I’ve been making time for it, and it’s exciting to see it coming along, even as I chuck pages and pages out at a time.

I also start half marathon training today. The schedule I have is almost the same as my writing schedule, as to which days are on and off. It was a totally subconscious move, but I guess I’ve found my groove. I’m a little concerned about how I’ll fit it all in, and still have the hours I need with my kiddos, but it will work out. In both pursuits, I have family and friends supporting me, and I know from experience that engaging in activities that grow my artistic and physical dimensions make me a better mom—as long as I don’t let the scheduling get out of hand.

Both finally and simultaneously, I am about to embark on the first Pitch to Publication event at WriterPitch. I’m participating as an editor. It works like this: Writers submit queries for their finished manuscripts, along with a list of five editors they’d like to work with. Editors then get to select the authors they’d like to see more from. We see partials, then work together to determine who works with whom. After a month-long editing period, the manuscripts are off to agents and then to publishing houses, if things are ready to go. It’s the whole process in a matter of months, which promises to be challenging in a good way. I’m looking forward to it!

So much on my plate, and so many things to be grateful for in this artistic life. Here’s hopes for a fruitful summer! Stay tuned—another editor/author interview is in the works, too!

Editing, When You’re Four

The other day, my four-year-old overheard me telling my husband I have a lot of work to do to edit my latest NaNo novel. Always helpful and convinced he can do anything (and be the best at it), he piped up, “I’ll edit it for you, Mommy.”

I said sure and thanked him for his help. A moment later, he spoke up again.

“What’s editing?”

Don’t we all feel that way sometimes? I have 50,000 words that I’m sure aren’t in the right order, and most of which probably won’t even stay on the page. If there are strict rules to editing, I haven’t figured them out. It’s a layered process of cutting what isn’t helping the whole and adding in other pieces to make each line sing. It’s push and pull. It’s frustrating. It’s hard to know when you’re finished. But it’s a necessity.

Before editing, all I have is a first draft. That’s something commendable, for sure, but the “first” part sticks out to me. It will probably be months before I can put “final” on this draft. Often, the time goals I set are too ambitious. But every time I sit down to work on it, I get a bit closer.

Sure, there are days it seems that handing it off to my little guy might not be such a bad idea. What I really need, though, is his attitude—that I can do anything, and because this novel is mine and mine alone, I am going to be best editor for it.

Camp NaNo

This year, two of my goals were to repeat challenges I completed and enjoyed last year.

One is running a half marathon. I have my sights set on one in September, with training to start at the end of June.

The other is NaNoWriMo, which . . . I just finished! But wait, it’s not November!?!?

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April is one of the Camp NaNo months the site offers. Thank goodness! While, of course, I could sit down and commit to thirty days of novel writing starting any day of the year, I love the little bar graph on the site that tracks my progress. Small joys, big results.

Today is a day of celebration! I have a third novel on the page, so to speak, and I didn’t have to wait another six months to get it there. There’s a ton of editing work to do on this—the chapters aren’t even in order—but I’m looking forward to that challenge. It’s good to have it out of my head, and it’s taken some twists I can’t wait to push and pursue.

To sum up, current novel standing looks like this:

Novel A: agented, rejected on first round of submissions, major rewrite paused for birth of child

Novel B: November 2014 NaNo novel, editing not yet begun

Novel C: April 2015 Camp NaNo novel, editing to commence mid-May, after a short story edit for writers’ group

And now, it’s time to make dinner.

Stay tuned for another interview coming your way very soon . . .

Return to Blogging

My late winter hiatus turned out much longer than expected. But then, it was a long winter—too much sickness, the passing of my grandmother, and more heavy snow than I would have liked.

But now we are here in spring. I have a beautiful little girl, whom my bigger boys love dearly. My first contraction came at our local library, which I hope says something about her interests as she grows. In the few weeks after she was born, I spent a lot of time in our rocking chair snuggling, nursing, and reading. A few of my favorite things, you might say, and good inspiration for new writing projects.

Currently, I am two-thirds of the way through a CampNaNoWriMo WIP that is pulling together a lot of ideas I’ve had over the last few years, as well as surprising me with a bunch of new ones. It may sound crazy to be writing right now, but life has slowed down so much since my girl was born that my brain has had a good deal of space to be creative. Must find a way to keep this up as she gets bigger!

Here on the blog, there are a couple of interviews on the horizon, one I hope to post later this week or early next. Freelance work is up and running, and my writers’ group is active and well.

This spring feels like a new chapter in so many ways, more than normal. I hope it’s that way for you, too, and that there are exciting pages coming your way soon.

Back to work!

New Year’s and All That

Here we are, at the dawn of 2015. I must be intimidated by multiples of five, because that number feels so much more dramatic than 2014 did. It sounds like a Year Something Happens. And maybe it will be. Or maybe I need to take the significance of dates less seriously.

My family is young yet, and we are still establishing our traditions. On New Year’s Eve, I brought up the topic of resolutions, and was surprised to find that not only my husband, but also our four-year-old had something in mind. My husband has a plan to get more sleep, which I am totally behind. My son has resolved to play every day, but also to work . . . hard. Our two-year-old was on board for the playing part, but didn’t mention the work. Good goals all around.

My goals are more plentiful and strongly influenced by the nesting impulse of the third trimester of a pregnancy. I intend to complete a revision on my first novel in the next two months, before our next child is due. In September or October, I’d like to run another half marathon. And in November, I want to win NaNoWriMo again, this time with a middle-grade or young adult novel. In the meantime, I’ve compiled a sizable reading list, which prompted a satisfying bookshelf reorganization (see nesting, above). I want to edit my NaNo novel as well, but haven’t set a solid goal for that work.

I would love to see something I’ve written get published this year. But having experienced the process of submission and rejection last year, I am more comfortable with the time it will take to produce writing of real, honest quality. I am getting close; I am on the way. I hope that with more experience, my writing and editing will become more efficient, but I realize that will only happen with practice.

So this year is about continuing the journey I’ve been on for the last four years. Or perhaps better, the journey I’ve been on my whole life.

This year, I will read. I will write fiction. I will write cards to friends. I will edit. I will participate in my writers’ group. I will continue blogging here. I will keep building my freelance business. I will do what comes naturally and I will challenge myself. I will keep moving forward.

I will be a writer.

Happy Consequences of NaNoWriMo

It’s nearly halfway through December, and I am still on a NaNo high. Apparently, the results are long lasting, especially when I consider the unexpected consequences of being a first-time NaNo winner.

 

The cookies and coffee I shared with my husband the night I finished (a day early, because there wasn’t the time on Sunday) were the first leg of the celebration, and undoubtedly the best. But in the days that followed, I also received a congratulatory Facebook message from my kindergarten teacher, who still holds a special place in my heart. Turns out, Mrs. B. remembers the stories I wrote those many years ago, complete with “inventive spelling,” which I hope has been remedied by this point.

 

Another bonus to the experience was a resurgence in interest in Nighttime Ninja, one of my favorite picture books to read to my kids. When I won the word sprint at my local kick-off party, the prize was a ninja hood, supposedly intended to be a “thinking cap” of sorts when we hit a wall. I took it home and used it to reread the story, which had languished too long on the shelf. My younger son, especially, fell back in love with the book, and has asked for it many times since. We always have to find the hood first, and we take turns wearing it.

 

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Now I am enjoying just knowing that I have two full manuscripts in my repertoire! I didn’t make any solid writing plans for December. I am enjoying the rest after a determined month-long focus.

 

I intend to start the new year with a literary bang, and am beginning to gear up to revise my previous novel in January. My writing time the next few weeks will be devoted to note-taking and editing my synopsis to figure out how to solve the problems my rejections illuminated. I am encouraged by the progress I made in a single month, and am already looking forward to next year’s NaNo.

 

But in the meantime, I have a heck of a lot of editing to do . . . and ninjas to read to, and Christmas cookies to eat.