Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Progress Report

I have been seriously working on the revisions of my middle grade ms, to the point where yesterday I moved all my stuff to the toy room to "parallel play" with Cowgirl.

While reconnecting with this story, I realized a couple of things--first I really like this novel. Second, it's come a long way from that first draft. A really long way.

In case you're wondering about my process, things that are included in this photo are; a brainstorm of possible scenes that I want to add/change (middle circle thing), the arc of the character I am working on (the two pages beneath the circle thing), outline, a notebook full of song words from the soundtrack that puts me in my groove to write--some of my best scenes are written in the margins of that notebook. The smallest notebook is the one that keeps me on track with the day's goals, and the green notebook is the one I'm writing the changed scenes in, when I'm away from the computer. There's also an old draft with revisions penned in, and of course, TEA!

The funny thing about all these extraneous things is that when I draft, I just write. Fast and furious. I spend a lot of time thinking about things, but it's all in my head. Until my revisions. Then I outline, draw graphs, and brainstorm on actual paper. I bring the world of writing outside of my head.

And, this works for me. This novel has dual point of views, and with one, the fantasy character-- I get her. Her arc is easy for me. For my earth-bound boy, oh, I struggle. But in a good way. It's not that I don't hear his voice, or know what he's all about, it's just a struggle moving his tension forward in a deliberate way. When I first imagined their story, I imagined that it would be mostly about the fantasy character, and about exploring her world. Balancing this out, so the story is firmly rooted in reality, in the boy character, is a challenge.

But one I'm definitely up for.

What does your process look like? What are you working on today? What are your struggles? What does it look like when you bring your writing process out of your head?

And, please be sure to come back and visit on Friday, to give Terry Lynn Johnson some love. She's the interviewee for the Friday Feature this week.

Cowgirl just came and plopped a "Crown of Wisdom" on my head. Let's see if it works with revisions...


  1. I find your process fascinating. Perhaps because I'm always looking for ways to tweak my own. Perhaps because we are close to the same places in our novels. And pictures are so nice. And looking at things from other perspectives. I'm excited to hear of your progress. And more about your book.

    As for myself, yesterday I had kind of a hard meeting in the morning and it threw my whole day off kilter. I did some other writing but I couldn't quite face the revision. Alas, there are off days and on days.

    I hope you keep powering on.

  2. Tina--what can I do to support your revision process right now? Maybe we can challenge each other right now to move forward.

  3. Thanks, Heather. That is an excellent(and really generous) question.

    Maybe we could provide some deadlines for each other? Read over new scenes. Or even read more systematically, chapter by chapter? I'd be happy to do it for you.

  4. A deadline would be wonderful. An exchange would be fantastic.

  5. The process for my current rewrite: I listed the scenes in sequence and the purpose of each scene and then looked at my story in relation to the Three Act Structure. This all resulted in some cutting and some combining. Today I am playing with the beginning, trying to get the right mix of character dev., showing, background info, and setting details.

    Good luck with your revisions!!

  6. I love what you've done with the place!

  7. Paul--I am working on keeping the tension alive from mini crisis to mini crisis for my character's arc. In earlier drafts, a couple of scenes didn't advance the tension enough.

    Good luck with your revisions as well.

  8. Jon--looking back over that picture, I kind-of want to bang on the drum a bit, instead of write!

  9. It's funny how one character is always easier to write than another. Especially in a story with 2 different povs. Sounds like the contrast between the two will make for an interesting story. Good luck!

    I am doing revisions to make sure my logic is sound, and I'm in the middle of switching my story over to first person - so I'm deepening my characterization and finding the humor that I couldn't finagle with 3rd person pov.

  10. I love seeing other people's process. I wouldn't dare spread out my pages in the toy room or my 4 y.o. would tear it apart. I write out plot arcs on another piece of paper noting chapter and character, then I go through and restructure as needed.

  11. The drums do look tempting. It makes me think of the crowd responses from comedy shows. When the punchline is delivered and the drummer gives the "ba-dum-bum-CHING". This could be a great way to assess your writing, mostly if the scene is meant to be funny. Sometimes, the jokes fall flat, especially during the late night monologues, but those are written. Maybe the drums could come in handy after all.

    If your book is dark, sit at the piano.

  12. Why is everybody so much more organized than me?!!!

  13. Laura--good luck! I love first person. (My current WiP is third, but the next ms in the revision queue is first person.) It's kind of nice to have something concrete to change in a revision--instead of the open-ended 'something's not working, so let's play around with it until it does...'

  14. karenb--I was a bit worried, especially with the huge mug of hot tea that was I was drinking, but my daughter gave me the space I needed that day.

    My middle child was safely at school. He would have gone tornado on that collection of papers!

    It sounds like you have a great process in place.

  15. Jon-- I was thinking more along the lines of going all Animal on that drum set. It put me in the mind of The Muppet Show. Am I dating myself?

    You know-- when the writing's not going well...

  16. Anita--Procrastination and obsession, maybe. Not sure it's actual organization.

  17. That's a great process! (I can't parallel work on writing alongside the kids though-I get so distracted! I do read blogs with my little buddy snuggled next to me sometimes!) I'm a little worried that your child will knock over your drink though...;)
    I am not as organized, but like you, in my first draft, the basics are in my head, then I just write. Revisions I cut, paste, put notes from critique group in a notebook and so on.
    Tonight I will keep working on my query letter. I dreaded starting it, but it's actually not too bad so far!

  18. Kelly--I can't always work with the kids playing there, but when it's just my daughter (4) home, I set the timer, and every 10-15 minutes I read her a book, or build something with her. She gets my full attention at intervals, and I know that I can work for small snippets at a time. It's not ideal, but at least I get something done.

    The revisions notebook sounds like a good tool. Very organized.

    Good luck on the query letter. I'm so excited for you to be at that point!

  19. Hi Heather,
    I found your blog via Lee Wind's comment challenge. The photo and the description of your process amazed me. The character arc chart was really cool. I'm like you, I just write and write, but I do find it helpful to go back and outline it all, etc. to see if it makes sense.
    Best wishes as you press on!

  20. Lori--Welcome, and thanks for commenting! I get a little crazy with charts and stuff when I'm revising. I think it's a need to order my writing universe. Thanks for the kind words!