Sunday, March 3

It's coming up spring


          It’s coming up spring. If I close my eyes, I can remember my mom moving purposefully through the house with a bandana tied Aunt-Jemima-style over her hair. She carried a bucket of hot water and the broom with a towel over its bristles. She started with the ceiling and worked her way down, and by evening of the second day, the house gleamed with wax and polish and smelled wonderfully lemony. Though Mom didn't have a nice house or—I believe—great happiness in her life, this thing gave her joy. Gave her contentment that was often lacking.
          I’m pretty much a straight-through writer. I start the day by reading what I wrote yesterday. I fix the most glaring of the errors from the day before and plod ahead. (I used to plunge ahead, but that turned into a plod a few years back—I’m really afraid the next step will be walking in place.) Sometimes I read the whole chapter I’m working on, but I don’t do a full-scale read of the work in progress until it’s done.
          Except for when I do.
          Sometimes knowing the manuscript needs some cleaning up stops that forward motion altogether. Inserting a new plot point can slow you simply because you know beyond all doubt you need to go back and foreshadow, maybe beef up the conflict, add a character in Chapter Two rather than waiting till the middle of the book. Occasionally, you need to make sure you've kept the hero’s eye color the same all the way through because you’re almost sure you said blue once and they’re not blue at all.
          That’s when you have to take some time and read the whole thing. Do some dusting. Some cleaning. Some trash-tossing. At first, it might feel like a waste of time, but then you get involved in the story again, you remember why you love it, you realize that scene really is funny. You get to…yes, drat it, you did say he had blue eyes—what were you thinking?
          And even if writing the book has been hard and not always happy, for a while you might plunge ahead instead of plod. You might feel the joy that’s been elusive. You might find the contentment as a writer you've always coveted, at least for a time, because your ceiling-to-basement polish of your manuscript will remind you that yes, your work is good enough, yes, your voice is distinctive enough, and yes, you can finish the book without losing your mind.
          It’s spring cleaning. Nothing like it.

18 comments:

  1. Loved your post Liz! Your writing habits sounds just like mine. Makes me feel good to know I'm not alone and that sometimes I can just read what I wrote the day before and sometimes I go all out and read from start to finish (which drives me crazy when I do that because I feel like I'm wasting time) lol Even though I'm really just getting back into the flow and tweaking :)

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  2. I love this, Liz. I'm feeling that way, a little bit, right now. Because I love the new WIP but I also know there are a couple points where it needs a little spring cleaning...guess it's time to start cleaning, eh?

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  3. @Christine - I know, that "wasting time" thing always worries me, even when I know it's really not!

    @Kristi - Thanks! Sometimes getting those points cleared up can improve the flow so much--that's when you know it's worth it.

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  4. Liz, this post is so timely for me. I wrote the first draft of a novella over the summer months and have been procrastinating getting back to it. I did start on it just after the holidays, but got waylaid again. Finally I decided I needed to get this done, so I could submit it and go onto plotting out my next project. And as I finish up the final edit, I'm rediscovering what I loved about this story and characters.

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  5. Oh, Susan, isn't that a fun thing? I'm glad for you. Thanks for coming by!

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  6. Boy, do I get this one! More tomorrow!

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  7. I'm spring cleaning right now on Novel 2--hoping to have it ready to go by summer. These are major revisions, so many things have changed to the story that once I could practically recite word-for-word. It's better, I know it is, but trashing parts of it hurts my heart. Great post, Liz! Thanks!

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  8. Spring Cleaning that means I have to stop looking at the seed catalog and calling up the seed companies to order. I did dig out something I might pitch later this week.

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  9. I can totally relate. I always marvel at the writers I know who can churn out a draft of a 80-100k book in a month. I can't stop thinking about what a nghtmare editing would be after just slinging words on a page. Maybe those writers really love untangling massive knots! Personally, I like to keep my ms as close to polished as I can as I go.

    Like you mention in this post, I work best making a constant effort to go back and layer in foreshadowing, more setting, character motivation and so forth. Otherwise, I honestly don't feel comfortable writing out the character's journey, since so much of what's going to happen and how depends on their actions, reactions and motivations from the very beginning.

    Thanks for the post! Here's to spring cleaning those wips!

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  10. Spring cleaning the new WIP myself. For the first time in a while, I'm actually enjoying it.

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  11. I do housework, but not all at once like my mother used to do. I take a different task each day and work it into my writing schedule. My mother hates that!

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  12. If my house got as much spring-cleaning as my book, I'd be able to eat of the floor. Unfortunately, not so much :) Why do you think I go to Barnes and Noble to write so much. Sure, the coffee's good, but the chairs are not. But at B&N I don't have to ignore the dust bunnies congregating under the couch and in the corners :)

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  13. Awesome post, Liz. Spring cleaning my manuscript now, and you're right. Nothing sweeter than shining it until it sparkles and smells like pinesol. It takes time, but oh so worth it. Thanks for sharing!

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  14. @D'Ann--can't wait to see yours.

    @Nan--I know it's hard, but it's going to be worthwhile--I just know it is!

    @Morgan--lol. I love seed catalogs!

    @Jessi, that's the word--comfortable! I don't feel as though I know them well enough if I don't go back and fill in while I'm in the process.

    @Hi, Shawn. Glad it's being fun!

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  15. @Ilona, I admire your discipline!

    Hi, Margie. I love writing in coffee shops, but I never thought about why! :-)

    @Ella--thank you!

    @Dora--thanks for coming by. I do love that particular sparkle.

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  16. I used to have an 'all or nothing' attitude about cleaning, but now I see the importance of breaking it up into pieces to keep my sanity in place :) I feel the same way about editing.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Melinda

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  17. Hi, Melinda - I usually edit in big bunches, because it's something I LIKE doing. Cleaning, on the other hand...

    Thanks for coming by!

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