So I just finished a writing retreat in Cuyahoga Valley National Park with six amazing kid lit authors: Cinda Chima, Tricia Springstubb, R.J. Anderson, Megan Whalen Turner, and Shelley Pearsall. Megan Whelan Turner is one of my writing heros, who I had never had the chance to meet. She has the exact "not telling" smile that you would think she'd have, and this is a case where meeting your heroes is an excellent idea.
I wrote 7000 words in four days, turning the magic rush of words from December into the solid first half of a book.
But also we talked and learned from each other and told secrets and drank wine and got caught hailstorms and saw a whole bunch of mice. When words didn't flow the talk did. And when the talk didn't flow there was always the scotch. And life was good.
So my twelve-year-old daughter (the one known online as Ninja Princess Scientist) and I are working on a book together. That is, she had an amazing idea, I added an amazing setting and a dash more premise, and now we have an amazing first few chapters. She does the sketches of the characters and talks through ideas. I do the writing, which she reads every day when she comes home from school.
So far this has been fun for both of us. The only trouble is she's more eager than I am fast, so I occasionally have to tell her to stop poking the rising dough.
Ninja's friend K. asked to be in the book, and Ninja said she could, but that as it was one of my books, she would probably die a terrible death. (It's me, plus there's a war in this one.) Next thing I know she goes to her seventh grade class of 23 and recruits 19 volunteers. She came strutting in Monday, over the moon about her "Murder List" and noting that it's probably good we don't know anyone normal.
So! In November I finished a major edit of Secret Book #5.
Here is how I do it – or how I did it this time. As of the end of October, it had been about six weeks since I looked at this manuscript, which meant I was able to read it and at least TRY to see what’s really on the page, instead of seeing what I intended to put there. This is of course more or less impossible, but time helps. So does printing the manuscript and spiral binding it so that reading it is as much like reading a book as possible. And of course nothing helps more than an actual editor. Thank God for them.
So. I spend some time with the edit letter and some time with my own notes to myself. Then I made an edit plan: I work at the level of scenes and chapters (and occasionally paragraphs), moving things around, deleting things and adding things, to create better pacing and to bring the right elements of the story to the fore.
Sometimes the shed helps me get deep work done. Sometimes I am just in Deep Shed.
To answer the usual questions: the shed came with the house -- our first house, which we bought two and a half years ago. We had it raised to put in a proper foundation, insulated with spray foam, and electrified. The inside is drywalled and floored. It is heated but not air conditioned. There's no wifi.
In the two years the Deep Shed has been finished, I've written two books in it. (Okay, one of them was a novella. STILL COUNTS.)
Newly beflagged for the grey season. I get my flags from The Dharma Shop, which supports respectful trade with Nepal’s artists. They are also the best flags I have found without prayers. (I am not Buddhist so using real prayers for decoration seems iffy for me personally.) They have opening lotuses on them.
Writing stickers for October. That’ll do, October!
I have been giving myself stickers for writing for years. It is my best trick to keep myself on track. There are two big reasons it works for me: first, my inner muse is three and will do anything for sticker. If I've done 300 words, you can bet I'll keep my butt in the chair until I hit 500, and sticker time. So, it’s motivating. Second, on days when I try to write and can’t and Feel like a total failure, I put an X. The X is a sticky awfulness that always seems eternal, but, LOOK AT ALL THE STARS! Even my creative self-loathing is knocked back a bit by stickers.
Writing a novel is impossible. But, getting a red sticker for writing 500 new words or a green one for editing a chapter is totally doable. And they add up.
I know this looks dumb, but it totally works for me.
Yesterday, as previously mentioned, I had a deep read of my editorial letter and my assorted scribblings to myself and based on calls with my editor, with the goal of beginning an edit plan. As predicted I did fall into the pit of despair labelled MY BOOK WASN'T PERFECT THE FIRST TIME AND THEREFORE I AM AN UNFIXABLY TERRIBLE AUTHOR.
But! said pit was only a few hundred kilometers across, and since I was on a train I was able to pass through it in 90 minutes. After that I was able to really begin an edit plan, starting one for the opening (which is the only major structural piece) and actually finishing one for the ALL IS LOST beat toward the end of Act Two. This is big!
Manuscript for fiction #6 submitted yesterday. For my next trick, I am going to re-read the manuscript for fiction #5, pull apart the editorial letter, and try not to fall into a pit of despair and weeping over the fact that the BOOK IS TERRIBLE AND UNFIXABLE AND I AM UNWORTHY, etc. Fun! Wish me luck!
Finished a very rough version of my novella, secret book six. It's so rough and I'm so tired that I don't even feel like celebrating. I feel like I ticked off all the boxes without actually reaching an end.
For instance, there's something wrong with the penultimate chapter. (Possibly it's that nothing happens? On reflection, it might be that.)