Sentence Challenge – Day 18

*My sentence challenge is simple. I craft, design and ruthlessly edit one sentence until I like it. The only rules are to write one in a given day and to like the finished product.

Day 18

Her little hands held mine as she readily searched my soul with her crystalline eyes and asked, “Mama, are you happy?”

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What if

What if?

What. If.

I brainstormed an alternate plot line for my novel that could make all the difference. Actually, brainstormed is too strong of a word. It was more like I stumbled upon a fleeting, tangential thought at an unexpected moment. It was entirely unintentional. I have no idea how and why it came to me when it did. But it did.

And it might be brilliant.

It also could be a total stink-bomb of an idea, but that’s beside the point. The point is…this randomly sparked light bulb shone for a moment long enough to inspire me re-write and finish the first book I wrote this past year. The one that has been on pause for months, floundering due to a story line that just wasn’t right.

Today, I may have uncovered the key to make it right.

There is much work to be done. Research. Outlining. Cutting and chopping. Re-writing. And always my favorite: storytelling.

Day 307 – A snippet from my second book

Day three hundred seven of my 365 Day Writing Project.

In the midst of writing my second book, I’m having a good time. The first draft of my first book is resting. I need more distance from it to be able to do a proper re-write. So it rests, and I write. As I fling myself into the throes of a second book, I have found a completely different voice. It has been fun to explore.

I decided it’s time to share a bit. I gave the first beta-read of this snippet to my seven year-old son. That may be the smartest thing I have done in a while. Well, you be the judge:

I was a young girl once. I remember it. Well, parts of it anyway. I remember the sky was a brighter blue than it ever looks to me now, even on its most beautiful days. I remember the grass smelled so sweet in the summer, my best friend Bea and I came up with the idea of the sweet grass lollipop. We loved that smell so much we just knew it would be the most delicious lollipop we’d ever have. Like too many childhood dreams, it never came to be. But it was sure fun to talk about. I remember climbing trees and skinning my jeans on the rough bark, making my mama so mad I thought she’d tan my hide to purple. She didn’t. She sewed patches on my jeans instead.

I remember playing ball with the boys and running just as fast as them, hitting the ball just as hard. My mama yelled from the front porch, “be careful!” and “don’t get so filthy!” None of the other moms ever yelled those things at the boys.

I remember being sprawled out on the front yard, looking up at the clouds, dreaming about all the things I could do someday. You know, someday when I was a grown-up. I could be an astronaut, or a chef, or own a candy store – the first ever to sell sweet grass lollipops, of course. My mama told me I could be a teacher or a nurse someday. My daddy agreed. “Those are fine choices,” he’d say. “Fine choices for girls.”

Day 290 – How do we know?

Day two-hundred ninety of my 365 Day Writing Project.

How do we know that we are doing something worthwhile and that it isn’t all for naught? How do we know that we are writing something that will interest others and will bring them enjoyment in life? How do we know that our time building a dream isn’t time wasted? Or even worse, are we just chasing that dream? How do we know? Well, here is a dingle berry of an answer: we don’t.

Doubt is as much our friend as it is our foe. Doubt can infest our minds to the point of paralysis of motivation. It can choke our creativity and stifle our drive to succeed. In my opinion, doubt is worse than fear, because fear is born out of doubt which is a fear of the unknown. It’s an ugly thing. But on the flip side, doubt helps us self-govern and self-regulate. It causes us to keep ourselves in check, to not let our egos take over. Doubt forces us to subscribe to an “all or nothing” philosophy. We either give our all to crush that doubt to rubble, or we get too scared to crush anything. Yes, we can fail and crash in a pile of flaming turd, but just think: we can soar and reach the stars.

As a writer, doubt be damned…I keep thinking about those stars.

Day 246 – Out of sync, but not out of time

Day two hundred forty-six of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Not too long ago I had a good thing going. I was writing every day and chronicling my experience of writing my first novel. I was on a roll at a comfortable pace and settled into a comfortable groove. After about six months, I completed the first draft. But ever since then, my “roll” has turned into more of an awkward tumble. Somehow, I lost my groove.

I’m working on getting it back but I’m still out of sync. I think it is just going to take some time, patience and continued determination to reach my goal. Hopefully soon, I’ll tumble my way back into my groove again.

Day 237 – Am I in revising hell?

Day two hundred thirty-seven of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Am I in revising hell? Some days it feels like I am because in all honesty, I’d rather be writing. Writing is an exercise that allows one to stretch her legs and push herself to her limits, pulse a-ticking and mind a-blaze. Revising is…well, to me revising feels like the equivalent of the timer watching the clock on the sidelines, starting and stopping play.

It’s no wonder, then, that I have not been inclined to blog as often while in this revision phase. Motivation has been waning and I have not been spending as much daily time on my book like I was when I was writing. Is there something I can do to make this revision phase better? Does anyone have tips on how to make it more enjoyable than it actually is?

Day 233 – Narrowing the revision lens

Day two hundred thirty-three of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Revising and rewriting is much more difficult than I anticipated. I’m too often squabbling over minor things, reluctant to take out parts that probably should be removed, and unsure of ways to make a chapter better. It has been overwhelming, really, so I have been searching for ways to improve the process. Finally, I think I found a solution.

Instead of revising by chapter, I have narrowed my focus to revise by paragraph. I ask myself several questions with each paragraph, picking my way through in small bites. It is no longer overwhelming. Bringing my lens closer has also allowed me to not get bogged down in trying to create a perfect 2nd draft. I have to remind myself: Make a pass and remember that you will need to make more passes before it is done. Just make a pass, one paragraph at a time.

These are the questions I have come up with to work on each paragraph:

  1. Is the paragraph necessary to move the story forward? If it isn’t, get rid of it.
  2. Does the paragraph serve its purpose to convey information to the reader in a clear way? If it doesn’t, revise it.
  3. Is the information in the paragraph consistent with the plot? If it isn’t, get rid of it or rewrite it to fit the plot.
  4. Does the paragraph keep the readers attention? If not, rewrite it.
  5. Does the writing in the paragraph keep a smooth flow and rhythm, connecting well with the previous paragraph? If not, revise it.

Whether this method works for everyone is doubtful, but so far, it works for me. In fact, it may be just what I need to get to a finished manuscript.

Day 230 – Back into the rewrite

Day two hundred thirty of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I’m back. Back into the rewrite. I did some other writing for a bit, but began to again feel that niggling urge to get up to my elbows in revising my first draft. And I must say, it feels good to get back at it.

I’m revisiting the second half of Chapter 3 with purpose in mind to make changes to the plot. So far, so good. It’s even a little exciting. I have discovered that plot changes have that effect on me. With renewed creative energy, I look forward to working on it some more tomorrow.

Day 224 – It turns out, it’s boring

Day two hundred twenty-two of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Since I completed my first draft and have been in the rewriting/revising mode, I haven’t been posting here as much. Revising just isn’t interesting to blog about. When there were daily word counts to report and I was going through the process of writing my book chapter by chapter, I had more to discuss. The struggles, the excitement, the challenges I never even anticipated. It was more interesting, at least it was for me. But now, not so much. I’m merely tweaking and reworking what’s already done. It isn’t sexy, not that this blog ever was.

It turns out, revising is downright boring, really. So it’s only natural that I have been pulled away from the rewrite to write other things. Because I have been doing other writing, keeping steady progress of the rewrite has been difficult. Like I posted here last week, it’s okay to get sidetracked. Especially if there is enjoyment in writing to be had. And there is! The new piece I have started is totally different from the first. I’m writing it in the first person instead of the third, which I have always found to be a fun experience. Plus, this new piece is a much more raw and emotional story. Although I am still getting in some sporadic time on the first book, it feels much less fulfilling than writing the new piece. At the moment, anyway. So I’m just going to go with it for a while. I’m still writing, and still happy to be doing so.

Day 216 – It’s okay to get sidetracked

Day two hundred sixteen of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I haven’t posted here in several days. I got sidetracked with other writing but I have also been going to bed earlier than usual to try to shake this sickness I have had for three weeks. While I have managed to still work on my book, I have fallen off a bit from my usual progress. I actually started writing something else a few days ago. I feel like I’m just messing around at this point, but it was something that was screaming in my head and I just had to let it out.

Which leaves me wondering, do I have the ability to write two books at the same time? Many writers have more than one work in progress at a time. With my day job and life in general, I feel like I am maxed out most days. Working on more than one piece of writing strikes me as crazy right now but I guess I’ll see where things take me. If I feel compelled to work on this new piece of writing, I’ll go for it. But I want to keep focused on my book and continue the rewriting phase after the first draft. I have a lot of work to do and I want to continue moving forward. As long as I do that, even if progress slows down, getting sidetracked with other writing once in a while is okay.