Goals · Novel · Reflection

March Madness (No, not that kind)

We’ve made it through Smarch, one of the roughest (for me) months of the year. Luckily we’ve had some amazing weather the past few days, and all the flowers and trees are blooming, so our little walks around the neighborhood have been lovely lately.

I’m also making really good progress on my rewrite of HONORS (new title TBC), even though I won’t quite make my deadline of. . .well, today. I’m ok with that though, because of how the story is shaping up, because I have a new deadline to aim for (dictated by another online contest!), and because of how life unfolded this month. In the last few weeks I’ve been feeling really under the weather, and by logging all my symptoms, and researching (very carefully) on Dr Google, I’m starting to wonder if I might have had covid in January, and am now getting some of the symptoms and after-effects from my immune response.

Without going into too much detail, I never had any of the typical symptoms (fever, cough, loss of taste/smell); instead I’ve had all the other weird symptoms! Which I’ve been attributing to other conditions I’ve dealt with in the past, but given the number of them, and the pattern in how they’ve shown up every week or so, for about a week, before being replaced with another one, well. . .I’m starting to wonder if it was actually covid.

All of this to say, I had some duvet days this month again, more from not feeling well physically rather than mentally (although both deserve gentleness and self-care!). So I’ve been juggling that, while trying to get into a consistent routine of revising and applying for jobs every day. I’ve also started (finally) doing yoga in the mornings again, and it’s really helping me, so I’m hoping to keep that going for as long as I can. I do videos by Yoga with Adrienne (and her dog Benji!), which are all wonderful.

But back to the writing—I am *gasp* really enjoying getting messy with this rewrite? I described it to my ever-patient partner as if I’m elbow-deep in the sandbox just bashing things around and seeing what’s the most exciting/interesting, then running with it, and it’s. . .fun?? I think I was getting so into my head and putting so much pressure on myself to FIX IT NOW and GET IT RIGHT, that I forgot the actual fun part of writing and creating. If I want to move that exciting scene up ten chapters, then by damn I can do it! Oh, now that means I have to bring this character in earlier—boom, there they are in a dramatic reveal! It’s been great to play with scenes and chapters and pacing and plot, and move things around that I already had, while weaving in brand new chapters and scenes to connect and ground everything.

I still experience moments of doubt and panic, that I’ve messed it up or gone too far in a certain direction, but hey, I figure I’m this far in, I can’t stop now! I had a big reckoning as I approached the midpoint (and I have to give praise where it is 1000% due, to Laura Weymouth’s story-beats for a 4-Act structure—it’s AMAZING!), because I knew I had to shift where it was occurring. I also knew that if I didn’t build up to it enough, it wouldn’t be as satisfying as I wanted it to be.

I also ran into my usual snafu as I realized I was over the wordcount for where my midpoint should be. Now granted, I had set myself an overly strict target wordcount, because I knew I’d inevitably go over it (overwriters unite!), but I wasn’t expecting to be on track to surpass it before I got to the midpoint! So after adjusting my target wordcount to something more realistic, but still in line with my genre guidelines, I got the midpoint to the exact middle of the total. (Now to make sure I don’t go over the wordcount again in the second half and balls everything up again. . .)

Getting into all the nitty-gritty details of the story structure and plot points has been fun as well, and really eye-opening to see how my story can fit into these plot beats that keep readers engaged. That’s all I want, as a writer, so I’m trying my best to work all of that in even as I’m basically banging out a trash draft of this new version of the story.

I also had an epiphany after seeing this thread by Rebecca Mix on twitter. She shares how she realized that drafting is her bleeding onto the page, and writing out her trauma, while revision is the process of transferring her pain into her character(s), and shifting the reaction from what she would do, to what the character would do. This helps her, in a sense, heal and let go from her own pain and trauma.

Now this probably sounds very simplistic and obvious, as in, “Ok yes obviously our characters can’t be self-inserts”, and I get that. But this process is for the writer while they’re writing and revising the book, and honestly, it can be life-changing. I’m recognizing this exact same process happening for me with HONORS, and in what it’s now becoming. When I first wrote it, I was deep in grief after losing my dad suddenly. I was also living alone in Scotland and can see now, years later, how that frame of mind shaped the story, and shaped what the main character did. And that journey through grief was always a core part of the story, and still is. But now? I can separate the MC’s grief from mine. Her emotional wound is not mine. And I can see how I was seriously hampering her ability to be ‘proactive’ because I was constraining her with the world-building, and with the rules I had set her/myself.

And now? In the year of our Dark Lord 2021? She’s angry, and is taking her fate into her own hands, and doing whatever she can to help others.

I know a lot of that anger is my own, and I know I can’t just copy and paste all of that into the main character, like I did with my grief in the early drafts. But I think I was limited by my own frame of reference at the time, and my own mental state, whereas I’m not now. I realized I can play with every stage of grief—but ESPECIALLY anger.

I’m also letting the main character try more things, and fail more, which mirrors my own journey through therapy and all the growing and learning I’ve done this year. BUT, it’s not a direct equation into the character, as I’m better able to see how she would react and not-react. I’m more confident in who she is, and in how much freedom I have with portraying her, in all of her messy and spiteful and angry glory.

TL;DR for all of this, since I am a chronic overwriter, is that I feel like I’m finally reaching a place of confidence in who the characters are, which means I can play around and have more fun with the plot and structure. I’m excited to see how it all comes together as I move into the second half of the book.

Thanks, weirdly humbling/ominous graffiti….

As I’ve started gaining momentum on my edits, and seeing how the story is transforming, I’m getting excited about querying it again. I still REALLY want to re-query two agents who gave me (quite different) R&R’s last year, and I know I’m pushing the limit of how long I should take to get back to them (crosses fingers I haven’t blown it already). I’ve also found a few new agents I want to query, buttttt I know that once I type THE END on this one, I can’t just yeet it out into the ether on a hope and a prayer. I’ll need to reread it at least once or twice, and send it to CPs to get feedback, so I’ll have to relearn some patience as I go.

BUT the new deadline I’m aiming for (loosely—I’m being more gentle with myself this year) is RevPit, which is coming up fast on April 10th. I submitted HONORS last year, and wasn’t asked for more materials, which I completely get now that I’m tearing it to shreds and seeing where all of its faults are. So this year, since I’ll have only (hopefully) just finished my rewrite by the time the RevPit window opens, I’m planning to submit my Venice book instead!

That one also needs a refresh and polish before I submit it, but I’m excited to send it out into the world now that it’s been with a few of my CPs and I’ve gotten some really positive feedback on it. I’m also excited because it’s a new genre for me, historical romance, and I’m looking forward to all the Twitter hype and games that come with the RevPit contest, as well as meeting new writers.

I’m not big on selfies, but I’m halfway to being perceived in this one

Ok full disclosure here, I’ve been procrastinating on my revisions by working on this blog post. So I’ll wrap up by saying that I hope everyone is keeping as well as they can, and finding little moments of sunshine and joy wherever possible. It’s been so hard this past year for everyone, so please take care of yourselves. I should get back to writing (weeee back into the sandbox I go!), but thanks as always for reading.

Here’s to more writing adventures!

~M

3 thoughts on “March Madness (No, not that kind)

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