Process Continues

Still sick with this %$#%$# flu/cold, I have done little workwork this week. However, I did participate in an online webinar on writing from Balboa Press by Donna Hatch which turned out to be (to my surprise) useful. I am already pretty aware of most of the points she made, but there were a few new-to-me editing tips which I appreciated. These suggestions are particularly well timed for me as I am (or should be) deep in revision.

You will hear in detail about this editing process in coming weeks as my pathetic first draft definitely needs more than just the elimination of weak verbs like was and seemed.

The other process related ah ha moment I had (or re-had) this week was, once started, how important it is to work every day, weekends included. If I don’t it takes me sooooooo much longer to get into the manuscript.

Now back to the couch or the bed.

Editing and Doubt

Another week and I finally have got back to editing the pathetic first draft of my next manuscript. It is written from the point of view of two characters. I have edited Carli and through the process she has grown and revealed herself to me in many new ways. Great.  And now I start with Bronwyn.  Already I see even more problems than I realized.

Of course, there’re all the little words like just and still and really and but that need weeding out. Then there’s the consistency of timing between the two story threads and who has revealed what to whom when. And there’s tying up loose ends.

But really, is it still just another story with no worth and no one to read it?

Hmm. Yes, editing is a huge and important part of the process. And so is doubt.

Process plus Faerie by Eisha Marjara

One of the delights of writing is that reading the genre you write is heartily encouraged. So, while my analytic energy because of the aftermath of flu is not up to deciding what words/paragraphs/ideas to delete or not from my current manuscript, I can still read. Therefore I can argue that I’m still working–sort of. Reading in the genre is part of my process, any writer’s process.

Told in flashbacks, Faerie by Eisha Marjara is a candid and sympathetically drawn YA novel about anorexia. Lila, a chunky brown kid growing up on the Prairies in the 1980s, does not want to become an adult, at least an adult like the ones around her. Life (and the passage of time?) seems controllable by restricting her caloric intake. When her weight becomes dangerously low she is admitted to hospital as a psychiatric patient.

A great novel for teens, girls especially. It is complex and believable. I give Faerie four stars.

Consider the Uses of This Time

Most of another week flew by without feeling I have accomplished anything. Yes I have worked hard at getting well–lots of lying around, drinking hot lemonade and being cross with myself at not getting better. After all I never get sick. Right?

But then it got worse. The frustration at wasted time. Then the should I be doing this anyway chatter. The self-deprecation. I’m not good enough. Why bother? There are far better writers out there….etc etc.

Eventually I got to consider-the-uses-of-this-time. I realized it can be a time for cleaning out and healing in other ways. A time for remembering my purpose, or refocusing. And asking how I can accomplish this purpose in the best manner for me? And this process brought me back to writing, once again, because I feel I have something to say.

But even if I don’t get published again and kids don’t hear my marvelous conclusions on life, the act itself of expressing myself through writing nourishes and so I will continue.

Continue until another bout of self-doubt happens and I have to re-remember this part of the process.

A week of Non-writing

When I wrote last week’s blog (yes 3 weeks in a row, but who’s counting?) I had in mind describing the editing process I would be going through this week. Except the editing didn’t happen. The flu hit and is still tugging at me.

Today, still weak and tired and achy, I force myself upright to get a blog written before my self-imposed deadline. I can’t break my New Year’s resolution yet, can I? Here goes.

I learned something in almost a week of non-writing. Yes I still believe it is important to write everyday. But if you can’t and must lie there to heal, then listen. My brain (yours too?) chatters continually. Under normal circumstances, much of what I hear is negative commentary on me, so I spend energy pushing it away. Surprisingly, at my fluiest and foggiest, that normal negative chatter is gone. In its place is a stream of creative meanderings.

I now have two new ideas for stories. Whether those ideas become anything more than ideas is irrelevant. It’s that I listened and found them. And maybe I’ll find that creative place again without the flu as a necessary bedfellow.

Figuring Stuff Out

We writers want to figure things out and say them. Whether we explore our ideas/opinions on the ways of the world in novel or in essay form, it is what we do. We try to figure stuff out. It’s as simple as that. At least it is for me.

But, oddly, I often don’t know what I want to say until I’ve said it. Or my characters have said or done it.

It is in the writing process, in listening to the voices and demands of the characters in our heads, that the figuring out happens, that the story emerges.

New Year’s resolution and The Swallow by Charis Cotter

My resolution this year in regard to my website was in two parts. The first was to do something on it at least every Friday. So far so good.

The second part was to blog about process as opposed to product. So far not so good. Since being nudged to do that by a friend, I read the YA book The Swallow.

It is a delightful, well written and conceived book about two lonely girls, very much opposite in character. Polly is part of a large noisy family, Rose an only child with absent parents. They live side by side overlooking a cemetery. Polly wants to see ghosts; Rose sees too many. They meet and together unravel a mystery that takes a quirky twist at the end.

So nothing about my process and yet another short review of a YA book. But that book is well worth it.

Happy New Year.

On Re-reading

Each time you read a book, you read it differently. At least I do. With the Poisonwood Bible, I read the first time for the story, the second for the luscious writing.

Recently I happened upon Emily’s Quest, the third in the Emily series by L.M. Montgomery. I remembered from my teens Emily’s great friendship with Teddy and  her various other attractions. This time, guess what? This reading was totally different. I had no recollection of her angst about her writing. And how I related.

–her three o’clocks “that found her wide eyed and anguished.” (37)

–her daylights “that found things less tragic and more endurable” (38)

–her “dream-world into which she could escape” (40)

–the elation of finishing a manuscript: “Finished–Complete! There it lay….her first book. Not a great book–oh no, but hers–her very own.”

–rejections: “their readers had found some merit in the story but not enough to warrant an acceptance.” And the doubt that follows. (55)

–times and agony of no writing, of feeling she can’t write (8, 65, 115)

–the joy that she knew she could write (116)

–her “mania for scribbling” (3)

It goes on and on and  I enjoyed every bit. I felt I was hearing Montgomery’s experience and somehow it was comforting. Who knew?

Unspeakable by Caroline Pignat

As you can tell I am not sleeping.

Last night I read Unspeakable by Caroline Pignat (Razorbill 2014). This is a very good YA novel, the best I have read in quite some time.

Ellen has a secret history, Jim too. They meet in 1915 as stewardess and fire stoker on the Empress of Ireland. This is their love story.

Ellen survives the sinking of The Empress—Canada’s worst naval disaster—only to be harassed by a journalist from The New York Times. She is desperate to discover Jim’s fate. But when the journalist admits to having Jim’s journal she reluctantly reveals her secrets in return for being able to read it herself .

The book is well written and researched, with many layers and much emotional complexity. The structure involves chapters going back and forth in time and initially I had to keep checking the day or the month. But it was worth it and definitely  a sleepless night well spent.

Five stars.

The New Normal by Ashley Little

I only review books I like.

Over the last few months, as usual, I have read a lot—adult and YA and middle grade. They stack up beside my bed and I read them every night, especially when I am sleepless. But as you can tell not many made the to-be-reviewed grade. The latest, The New Normal by Ashley Little (Orca 2013), has.

It’s a story of loss.

Tamar Robinson’s twin sisters have died in a car crash and her whole family are reacting to their deaths, each in their own way, for good or not so good. Tamar is determined to get on with life but her body doesn’t cooperate: she loses all the hair on her body. Embarrassment. Rage. Regret. It all figures in.

This is a poignant, even sometimes humorous, study of dealing with life’s incredible difficulties and, with tenacity, finding a new normal.