On our writing retreat, I recaptured my peace of mind and envisioned an approach for revising my work-in-progress.
I need to remove one character (Ryan) and his associated subplot. The manuscript is a bit long, and this particular subplot distracts from the story. Losing a level of complexity grates on me. But, the manuscript will benefit. So far, this revision has been easy, but I don't delude myself. Ryan's subplot is concatenated to the main plot in the later chapters. Extracting it will require less of a hatchet and more of a surgeon's scalpel.
I leave tomorrow for our retreat. I hope to revise, recharge and renew an old friendship. The temperature is supposed to cool off to the low 60s. It's been mid 70s and beautiful all week. We also might get a thunderstorm or two, but I don't think I've ever driven to Grand Rapids in good weather.
I'm looking forward to diving into my YA work-in-progress again. I haven't worked on it since I sent it to Paula in February. Maybe the time away will give me perspective. I know her comments will.
Until I sent my current work-in-progress to Paula, no one else had read the entire manuscript. Of course I'd brought chapters to critique group, but the whole story, from start to finish, was unknown to anyone except me.
For past manuscripts, I'd been part of an online critique group, and week by week, we'd slog through submissions, getting to know each other's characters, refining our own. This manuscript is far less influenced by the reactions of others. Will that be positive or negative? Time will tell.
I chose this photo because I like the little weed amid the cluster of bluebells. How many weeds will I need to yank from my work-in-progress? How many weeds will contribute to to the composition?
"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity:but dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible."
"...be prepared to fail initially. For no quest is worth pursuing that does not require you to pass many tests, take numerous risks. Jason had to tame the wild bulls, Ulysses had to resist the sirens calling him onto the rocks; Captain Nemo had to face the giant squid...The test you must pass is not whether you fall down or not but whether you can get back up after being knocked down...the hardest tests of all will look to see how determined you are to live your dream, how strong is your heart."
That quotation is an excerpt from a commencement speech by Robert D. Ballard, the leader of the expedition that found the sunken R.M.S Titanic. He spoke at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts on May 23, 1992.
Some writing exercises are designed as entertainment, an icebreaker at a social gathering of writers and illustrators. These party games are intended to be humorous and usually have an extraordinary number of criteria. I write for my allotted time and find I was able to incorporate a 15-year old male character, fear, the color turquoise, the scent of wet asphalt, five golden retriever puppies and no one-syllable nouns. But somehow, I never got to the melting polar icecaps. That doesn’t matter. The point was to have fun.
At Write Night, our intention is to work on our current projects or explore ideas for future manuscripts. The assignment is simple; the required thought process is complex. Several months ago, Tim Bogar suggested we write a scene in which a secondary character makes the protagonist laugh. I wrote the scene, but it didn’t ring true. By the time this passage evolved into my work-in-progress, the protagonist had stopped laughing. She was hurt and infuriated that a person she idolized would make fun of a real problem in her life. In resolving that conflict, I started to shape the interaction between these two characters.
A good writing exercise is just the push out the airplane. It allows a few moments of glorious freefall before the writer pulls the cord to release the parachute. And then once the parachute opens, the writer must determine what to do if there is no soft, grassy meadow for landing.
pictures from http://www.gettyimages.com/Creative/RoyaltyFree.aspx
In just under three weeks, I'm going on a writing retreat with my friend and critique partner, Paula Payton. I got to know Paula when we served as Regional Co-Advisors for the Michigan Chapter of SCBWI (2003-2005). Early in our tenure, she jokingly referred to us as The Wonder Twins, and the name stuck. The wonderful cartoon at the top of this entry was drawn by Ruth McNally Barshaw.
Paula and I used to belong to the same online novel critique group. That group dissolved, but our friendship didn't. I learned a huge amount about manuscript critiquing (and writing) through my years with that group.
About a month ago, we exchanged copies of our works-in-progress. We'll critique each other's manuscripts before we arrive. At the retreat, we will discuss the comments and work on revisions.
Progress report: I have read Paula's novel through once, and I'm about half way through making detailed comments. I still have to compose my impressions and write a summary.
The SCBWI-MI listserv is currently having a terrific discussion initiated by the brilliant Debbie Diesen. This is National Poetry Month, and April 17 is national Poem In Your Pocket Day. On Debbie's suggestion, many listerv members are sharing the poems they will carry with them. Today, Buffy Silverman posted The Lanyard by Billy Collins. Click here to read it.
My mother no longer remembers the things she did for me. Each day, when I visit her in that small over-heated room, she asks, "How can I ever repay you?"