musings in mayhem

writer, mom, tutor, superwoman

Archive for the category “middle readers”


I made some headway during a writing session at the library this morning. I’m in a section that just needs some tightening, mainly. But mostly, I am happy to be in a part of it that I am really pleased with already. Now if I can just commit to type-type-typing away.

I did a little bit more research on Galileo again, too. Just a refresher that helped a lot, because I had made up a comet that he spotted in 1603. That wouldn’t have happened. The telescope wasn’t invented until 1608, and he made improvements to the first in 1609. So 1603 became 1609 in my manuscript.

I am all about accuracy, even when I am making it up.  It’s the little things that you pay attention to that really make a work of fiction believable.

back to writing

Okay, I sidelined greatly with the room switching, but today I had writing group.

My friend and I carpooled up to Williamsburg and saw all kinds of lovely blooming things along the way. I saw some gorgeous redbuds. I was too transfixed by their purple purple blooms along dark bark before they disappeared sans camera to my eye. Some magnolias are just stunning now, too. Forsythia is turning from yellow bursts to green. But here’s another cherry tree speeding by:

And then I thoroughly edited a single chapter, Chapter Eleven of somewhere above thirty. Don’t worry, they’re short. It is a middle reader book. It was a difficult edit. I was previously very attached to what I had, but looking at it today, I saw what I needed to do: tighten, cut effluvia, add main character’s internal thoughts during scene to make it matter, and such. I believe, for now, that it was a very successful edit.

writing surprise

Grandma took Toots out with her this morning, which means I should be able to write in the house. But first I need to clean off my desk so I can spread out the critiqued pages. And I have to keep myself from being tempted to do other cleaning or gardening futzing.

Yesterday at writing group, I did what I hadn’t been doing as I rewrote this draft – a pretty thorough read through of what I have so far, and I took care of minor corrections I missed along the way.  I made it to the nurse scene. The scene I had stopped at three days before. The one I had trouble rewriting because it will change things down the line in the manuscript and I don’t know quite how to rewite those yet.  I mean I do, but you know, I don’t.  I know what needs to happen, but haven’t actually put it in the document yet.  I just have my list of things to change.

So today I will rewrite the nurse scene in which the main character’s mom previously rescued him from further embarrassment by picking him up. Now he’s going to have to go back to class in the embarrassing borrowed sweatpants and shirt. As if things weren’t bad enough for the kid there already.

I had a bad habit of protecting my main character in prior drafts, finding outs for him rather than writing the tough scene that would progress the plot forward.

But this rewrite is going to change a couple of other threads I’ll need to deal with another day. Hence the avoidance yesterday. Okay, my breakfast is almost finished, so, time to get to it!  Thanks for ‘listening to my thinking aloud’.

list it tues: critique notes

Wednesday night last week, I arrived at my writing retreat, fully prepared to accept a great deal of criticism on my manuscript from five other writers over our first dinner together. 
One of the writers very thoughtfully had given us each little owls of wisdom to see us through, wrapped in tissue paper.  When the critique got going and I became inspired by so many ideas, I started jotting them down on the tissue paper from my wise owl gift, as it was the nearest paper on hand. Funny enough, I actually worked from this for quite a bit of the retreat.
You can really see how much my handwriting resembles a comical old man’s writing.
Then I realized it might help me better if I organized the list of things to do better.
So this is my list to share this Tuesday, though I think I actually made it on Friday at some point. If you look closely, you can see a second list of new chapter headings poking from behind this one. Now that exposes a true fool for lists!
Please go to artsyville to see more creative takes of list lovers around the world! Their links will be in the comments after Aimee’s list today.
Addendum: Aimee has decided that List it Tuesday has served its purpose well, and it’s time to move on.  I think that’s a great idea here, too.  I had fun while it lasted!

of critiques and rewrites

Next week, mid-week, I leave for my writing retreat. Four days in a house on the Outer Banks, six children’s book authors, plenty of chocolate and lap tops. And a whole lot of productive quiet, with breaks for meals and a hot tub and wine at the end of each evening. We work very hard over long hours on these retreats.  We deserve a little wine and hot tub under a wintry sky in the evenings.

I recently gave them, as well as my original first readers and a few others who have been supporters through my writing this manuscript the second draft.

One of my original readers has said he glanced at it and can see it’s already obviously tighter than it was.

A less literary but very supportive reader (she hadn’t read the prior draft, but has listened to my process of trying to write in mayhem for a long time now) has so far emailed me:

i started your book last night. i’m on chap 5. i really like it so far. the school scenes are so hard, you can feel his discomfort and anxiety. the bullys are repulsive. i hope the dog doesn’t die. tell me he will be ok?

Oh good, that’s a good start.

But then I got a lovely birthday call from an old friend and an original reader back in Boston, who told me exactly what I knew and didn’t want to hear about the opening’s rewrite, and I feel like I’ve been shot in the head.  Or may do it myself. (hyperbole folks – I am not suicidal)

I have to rewrite it again. I knew I did. It was one of the areas I specifically gave notes that I was not happy with how it turned out in draft two, please help. After a bit more talking and my lamenting to him, he told me it might be fixed with some pertinent dialogue in a particular place in the new opening scene.  Okay, I can handle that.  It’s specific, it’s doable.  I won’t have to die trying in Draft Three next week. 

I can’t wait to see what my writing group has to say.  It’s probably going to start much the same as what my old friend said. So maybe I can wait…nah, I need to hear it and get busy on the rewrite. Help!

At least I got my histrionic response out on him, and will be able to accept their criticism more like an adult and a professional.  Good thing he’s like a brother to me and can take it when I freak out.  He knows I am just frustrated by having to go back in and do it yet again.

So thanks, my brother in pens. if you see this, you know who you are.

Wish me luck, friends.  I will be gone much of next week.  Please tune in after for a report on results.

i diiiid it! oh yea, i diiiiid it!

I now have a completed Second Draft.  Of course this means it is actually about draft number 5,432.

But, I locked myself away today, and it’s done.

I love Chapter 24’s dialogue the best.  It subtly brings the themes and stray plot threads together.  And it’s funny.

And guess what?

The ending still makes me cry.

I think I’m in love with it all over again. 

Now to print it and hand it to off to my writing group on Tuesday, and hope they can cruise through it in time for the writing retreat in another week or so. I know, asking for critique in that timeframe is a lot, but it’s only 118 pages of middle reader material. Double spaced.

Strangely, I feel like I’ve just given birth, again.

Happy New Year, indeed.

and back to writing….

Yesterday, my writing group met.  I had not opened my manuscript since the session I went to about month ago.  I kind of feared where I was in it and was pleasantly surprised that I was at page 93 in my purple line edits. I won’t use a red pen – looks too much like violent spilt blood.

The significance of being at page 93, is that I was much farther along than I thought I was, and being a middle reader novel, I was darn close to the end. So guess what?

Yesterday, I finished my purple line edits.

Now to go into the document to make the changes official from the purple scribbles. Toward the end, my purple pen ran out of ink, so the end edits are in black, which is what I had in my purse. 

Anyway, I feel good about the book, still.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read it since I started it back at the dawn of time.  At this point, the changes I was having trouble believing in, make better sense to me. The bottom line is I still cried while reading the end. My main character’s growth is evident. 

And I love him.  He has been growing up alongside my boys, as if he is one of them himself.  Mr. Cynic was a year or so younger than him when I started, and is now in entering the halfway point of high school.  Captain Comic was in preschool when I first wrote the twelve year old into existence, and now he turns the age of my character in a bit over a week from now.

So, from here on out, I want to try to see if I can pick my way through the manuscript document, inserting the scribbles by day,  instead of waiting for my writing group to meet in silence and commitment to writing.  I am hoping that transferring the changes won’t take as much concentration as the purple lining did.  I hope I can do it while my menagerie runs around the house.

Draft Two, (er 5,010) complete. Phew – kind of.

i moved the goal posts

I made a plan for the week where I had the house to myself.  I stuck to the plan to a degree, but I moved the goal posts.  Please bear with the mixed metaphors.  I’m sure more will come.

I finally got my printer to work and printed the manuscript.  I was going to read through the first half easily then deal with the big edits for the second half this week.

But when I saw it on paper, I needed to, once again, work more on the first half.  I’ve been working on that half since February 2003.  I think it’s about time I moved to the second half, don’t you?

Anyway, one thing I came across: for a couple of name changes, I used an edit function in my word processing program to auto fix. This maneuver screwed up any other word in which the sequence of letters of a that very short name appeared.  It inserted the new name, also a short name, but not the sequence of letters in the middle of other very common words. 

I can barely get through reading the first half without wanting to hunt down Bill Gates and torture him.  My facial expression, when I hit upon one is like unto Bill the Cat.  Do you remember Bill the Cat?  Here’s a refresher, and a starter for those not in the know.

Berkley Breathed gets all credit for creation and imagery of this character from his strip, Bloom County.

Second, where I made changes, I need to smooth transitions of blocks of text better.

Third, my a/c broke.  Honey called the repair folks to come on out the afternoon of the same day I had a meeting of a different sort in the morning, so any chance of working on the manuscript was null and void for that day.

And Fourthly, with the place to ourselves, I successfully shifted Toots to napping and sleeping at night on her own in her crib without much difficulty at all.  And we got a good start on actively potty training. 

Toots and I also had a lot of fun just hanging out, we girls, mom and daughter, goofing around the house and such.

I think that was awfully important, too.  don’t you?

And Fifthly, is it fifth?  I’ve lost track.  I trimmed the boxwoods and repotted the driveway markers with new little japanese hollies, so a couple of rather short drivers – are you lookin’ at me?! – can see to get out of the driveway without hitting the brick borders of the culvert bridge.

oh writing, let me count the ways…

…you can frustrate me:

1. my new printer won’t communicate with my computer, so I can’t print out the edits I did at writing group to read and redline a bit more by pages in hand. 

2. you come to me in fits and starts while occupying half my concentration all the time.

…you make me do cartwheels, figuratively speaking, of course:

1.  I love a new idea, it makes my heart race and my arms want to write or type in that very moment to the exclusion of all else.  I get that tingly feeling like a teen falling in love.

2. I love rewriting, reworking, getting it right.

3.  (Please let there be a 3 so the positive side can win today.)  That netherworld feeling of one foot here, in the house with the kids and the laundry, and one foot there, in my imagination with my character and his family and friends and dog.  This week has been hovering around 100 degrees outside  and in my manuscript, it’s Thanksgiving in New England – bare trees, the beginnings of snow, nose reddening winds.

Ah, thank you writing, for the cool, cool breeze!


Remember this list?

I spent the previous two days at writing camp with my writing group.  Two whole days dedicated to writing.  Yesterday I had a different meeting in the morning, but then I headed straight to  my writing camp’s day two, and thought I was going to have trouble, but amazingly got right to it!  I seriously surprised myself by what I accomplished in the last 48 hours! 

The List now looks like this:

DONE~ continue to edit Joe out/Mike into Thanksgiving and Observatory scenes

DONE~write observatory scene using A. H.’s notes

Fixed~pay attention to name changes for T. B. and T. N.

working on ~characterize supporting characters more through action and physical description

working on~make ‘thought bubbles’ action scenes or move them to more fitting scene

working on~ edit down cooking relevance

mostly finished, maybe a bit more at the end~more on comets

I also edited it a bit more in making sentences and paragraphs more succinct in the first 50 or so pages. 

I need to edit the observatory scene now, but at least it’s on paper – er, computer screen.  I think my next stage is to print and edit again by hand.  I read very differently on paper than on screen, and can see needed changes so much better.

I obviously need to be in a different environment than my office with my home distractions to be able to concentrate on my manuscript edits. 

The other five women I sat in quiet with for the past two days expressed the same thing.  Here’s the funny part:  I thought it was because of my kids, etc, but only half of us have children at home, and of varying ages.  I am the only one with a toddler or a special needs child, of course, I have one of each.  Two are grandmothers who live with their retired spouses, who are both very good at busying themselves.  And one is home while her husband still goes to the office. 

We’re all at a stage of editing a large work we’re committed to. All of our projects are middle reader or young adult novels.   Yesterday we planned that the rest of our usual twice a month meetings for the summer will be devoted to writing, no critique.

This way, when autumn comes around, we will all have work to critique.  How’s that for commitment?  I couldn’t do this without them. I am so grateful to my writing group and to the time we commit to working together.

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