Sticking With the Plan

When I finished editing the second draft of Trollbooth a month ago, I realized I had a few different projects I needed to work on this year.  Some of them have firm deadlines; others are more open-ended, but all are important to me.  I want them finished, and I want to share them.  I can’t do that when I’m bouncing from story to story, letting only my muse guide me along.  Ideas get smothered by newer ideas.  Life distracts.  And let’s face it, writers are always telling themselves stories, even when they don’t write them down.  That’s why I call my “hopper” of ideas The Imaginary Playground.  It really is like grade-school recess in my mind, with bunches of ideas all doing different things as they clamor for my creative attention.

So I decided what I needed was a plan, and not just the kind where, daily, I say, “Okay, tomorrow I’m going to work on insert title here.  I needed something I can look at, because I’m much more accountable if said accounting takes place outside my mind.  To that end, I created a document called The Manifest.

Just like a list of cargo on a ship or truck, The Manifest is a listing of all the projects I’m currently working on, plus all the projects I want to work on for the rest of this year and beyond.  There are 15 items on it; 8 of them have project start and project end dates on them.  The other 7 are organized with labels like “Fall 2015,” or “maybe 2015?” or even simply “2016.”

Seeing my creative work in such a stark and un-artistic list is strange, but I tell you what, it’s helping.  I’m much more aware of how much I can get done in a given amount of writing sessions.  I’m always motivated because to waste that time is to invalidate a big portion of how I live my life.  And on top of that, The Manifest isn’t held, updated, or audited by anybody else, so it can be a little loose.  If I need a few more days for a project, that can be done.  If I find I need a month or more, I can schedule it into The Manifest so I’ll actually get back to it with a vengeance.  That kind of thing is important to me, and now I feel like I have less worry on my mind.

Tomorrow I will return to Trollbooth.  I’ve pencilled in 2 months for the typing up of 2nd draft changes and the 3rd draft (hopefully faster) edit.  It seems like a reasonable amount, but I’ll see as I go along.  My goal is to be done before my vacation in May.  Today I need to find a good stopping place for the story I’ve been working on (a new novel called Werebear!) and then make myself enough notes so I can figure out what the hell I was talking about, when I get back to the story later this year.  I think that’s both fair and do-able, to myself, my priorities, and the demands of my life.


Trollbooth Blog #9


Designed by Margie Markevicius @
Designed by Margie Markevicius

If you haven’t been following my Trollbooth blog, you can catch up here.

Time for the 3rd draft!

After spending a week or so clearing my plate so I can focus on one big task for a while, I’ve returned to the revision of Trollbooth.  The goal here is to take the typed manuscript and fill it out from rough narrative to full telling.  You can see how my writing process works here.

Since I’ve intentionally stayed away from this project for a stretch of time, I felt the best way to begin was with a read-through of my 2nd draft.  It’s like a survey; what exactly do I have out there?  What in general is missing?  I’m keeping notes as a go using an app called Evernote, which I love because it’s cloud-based and works on any device.  I make notes on my phone, and within seconds they’re updated on my Mac and my tablet.

So far, I’ve read about 50 of 175 pages.  My major concern is for the opening chapters.  It’s clear I was still finding my way when I originally wrote them.  There are contradictions and narrative breaks where the story doesn’t flow, and even a few passages I want to take out entirely.  That’s just how it works for me.  The beginning is important for the usual reasons, but I’m also feeling pressure to make it as engaging as possible.  Trollbooth is, after all, the start of a series.  If it sucks at the onset, nobody’s going to read as second, let alone finish the first.

The good news is that it’s not as bad as I’d imagined.  Most of the elements I want are present and fairly well-developed, but out of sequence.  Reading the manuscript has helped me see how to fix it, and I’ve got a notion of how the one from-scratch addition I’ll need to make is supposed to go.

I expect the reread to be done by this weekend.  I don’t know yet if I’ll tackle the new beginning first, or if I’ll get down to line-editing the manuscript and leave the major work for last.  It’s likely I’ll do both at the same time, drive myself  a little crazy, and love every minute of it.  The one thing I know for sure at this stage is the book isn’t as shabby as I feared.  I’m entertained to read it; now all I have to do is make it so the reader’s experience mirrors mine.  It’s a tall order, but it’s do-able

Trollbooth Blog #8


Designed by Margie Markevicius @
Designed by Margie Markevicius

If you haven’t been following my Trollbooth blog, you can catch up here.

As you may have seen on social media, the second draft of Trollbooth is finished.  A marathon session of work over the long weekend got me to the final sentence; there were times I felt the way I did writing my second novel back when I was 19 – like I was in an ever-expanding zone where my fingers flew over the keys.  It was good to find that place, even if real life requires me to have a baby monitor on the desk, too.

The novel checks in at 175 typed, double-spaced pages, which translates to a  respectable 43,750 words (approximately).  That was about what I estimated looking over the handwritten first draft a couple months ago.  However, I think this one’s going to get bigger.  This isn’t the usual way I work, but I’m not exactly big on “following the rules” when it comes to art.  This time, rather than make a sculpture out of a big chunky block, it appears I’m going to have to add some more material here and there, then chip away as I go.

The reason for this is inconsistency in my writing routine.  Factors good and bad contributed to me getting up late (which, as a morning writer, cuts into my creative time) or not writing for stretches of days during the Trollbooth first draft process.  Whenever that happens, I fight with myself.  I feel like I should be further along in the writing, or that I have to get to a certain scene/event/whatever as soon as possible because it’s been rattling around in my head for days.  It makes me rush through the creation process, and it’s noticeable when I’m working on the second draft.  It sticks out like hot pink spray paint against a black background filled with nice, neat, white printed sentences.

In my third draft, I’m going to have to scrap away that graffiti without destroying the words underneath.  I’ll need to add detail and some exposition as I round out a narrative that’s already big on action…but perhaps isn’t as alive as it should be.  There aren’t enough lights on to chase back the shadows, and in this case, the shadows hide the creeping death called shoddy work.  I’ve got to banish that demon.  This book means too much to me to let it stand.

Before that happens, I’ll need to step away from the Enchanted Forest State Forest for a couple weeks.  Another project for my writers’ group anthology requires my attention.  I plan on keeping record of my process throughout that project, the way I have with Trollbooth.  Doing so has helped me understand my work, my process, and hopefully how to eliminate some of my weaknesses, and that’s never bad.

It’s also been nice to have a greater connection with you, dear reader.  Because of comments, and also because as an artist, I believe engagement with audience is a part of the overall creative process, I’m much more aware of those whom I can, should, and will entertain.  I have fun writing these stories, and so it stands to reason that what I write should be fun for you, too.  Thanks for taking some time here on the Imaginary Playground.  As Halestorm says, “Here’s to us.”