3rd (and Final) Draft is (Almost) Complete (For Now)

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I’ve reached yet another milestone in the saga that is writing my first novel. I have finally slogged through a third draft. I say slogged because this draft was by far the hardest.

When I completed the second draft, I had five beta readers look it over. Each one then answered a five-page questionnaire (I found a really great one here and tweaked it a little bit for myself). Have I said how much I love my beta readers? It was a tall order but I have really good friends and the thoughtful feedback they provided was invaluable. Thank you Adam, Lita, Kristina, Kristofer and Jeff. You guys rock.

After reading through everyone’s responses, I then sifted through them again to find out what issues came up more than once, those clearly needed to be addressed. For the remainder of the feedback that wasn’t as crucial I spent some time sitting with the ideas and decided which ones I thought I should incorporate. I then made a list of all those things.

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After that, I sat down with the second draft and basically made a beat sheet – a list of everything that happens in each chapter. It was about 40 pages long. But that was INVALUABLE to me, and I’m really glad I had the idea to do. With that beat sheet and my list of notes, I went through with a red pen and marked all the places where I needed to make changes. In some cases, chapters just had a few things, details that needed to be polished or some dialogue that needed tweaking. Other chapters got a big red X through the whole thing because the entire chapter needed to be rewritten.

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Once that was completed, I took the beat sheet with the notes on it and started back at the beginning of the novel and slowly, SLOWLY, worked my way through to incorporate all the notes. It took me one month to write the first draft. It took me three months to write the second draft. Good lord, it took me about six months, on and off, to complete the third draft. It was hard. It made my brain hurt. It was time to agonize over lines and dialogue and to make them as sharp as possible. Most of the sentences were rewritten. Entire chapters were rewritten, condensed or expanded. I took out about 8,000 words but added in 15,000 new ones.

On Saturday, I finished. I printed the fucker out. Here it is. 58,000 words of a young adult novel.

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This week, I will read through the whole thing again, hopefully in one or two sittings. I’ll make notes as I go, and polish when I’m done. I’ve got someone willing to read it, so it’s time to send it off. That day will be very, very soon. Perhaps as early as next week.

I realize that if anything comes of this, I will more than likely be rewriting the whole thing yet again. And possibly several more times after that. I have come to the realization that I think most writers finally come to, which is that when writing a novel, you will probably rewrite the entire thing from beginning to end. By the time this thing is ready for publishing, I’m not sure any of the original sentences will appear in the manuscript. This is painstaking work, but I keep seeing ways to make it better, and I want to serve the story and these characters that I’ve invested in. They’ve taken on a life of their own, and I want to get their story out there.

Here we go!

The Simple Joy of Learning New Things

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When was the last time you learned something new on purpose?

Now, I don’t mean like learning how to do pivot tables on Excel or how to perfectly hard-boil an egg so it doesn’t get that weird green ring around the yolk. I mean, when was the last time you learned how to do something new just for the hell of it? Not for work or because you were asked to make deviled eggs for your Aunt Melba’s 66th birthday party.

When did you last learn to do something because it sounded like fun and because you just wanted to?

It’s an easy thing to do when you’re young, because you are in the habit of learning new things. But once you get past a certain age (I’m looking at you, 40), there seems to be less of an emphasis on doing new things for fun. I mean, oh my god, there’s already so much to do that we don’t have time to do, who has time to do something entirely new just for shits and giggles?

But, really, shouldn’t we be learning new things? Life can be a straight-up drag sometimes (OK, a lot of the time) so I think it’s more important than ever to purposely do new fun things as we get older. It keeps your brain young, it connects you to your inner child and it can make you smile, dammit! They’re good for you!

The best part of learning fun new things at a certain age is that you’re probably not going to get graded on it. No career is hinging on it. Your livelihood isn’t on the line. It’s for fun! So it’s okay to fuck up! In fact, fucking up can be kind of fun in and of itself!

Here I am demonstrating a fun new thing that I’m learning how to do – play the ukulele! I’m singing “Drops of Jupiter” and fucking up while I’m doing it. But you know what? It’s fun! I’m doing it just for me (and OK, for my cats, too) and it makes me smile and it helps me relax and it makes me feel good that I can do something I’ve never done before.

You don’t have to learn French or how to fly a plane (well, you can if you want to). It doesn’t have to be hard. The only requirement is that it sounds like fun.

So what new fun thing are you going to learn how to do?

 

A Ceremony to Welcome 2016

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Like most folks around the New Year, I get a little introspective. I’m one who enjoys rituals and ceremonies and the symbolic significance they can hold. There’s power in ceremony, in the deliberate focus that it requires. If nothing else, it gets your thoughts in order.

I also believe in the power of thought. A lesson that keeps coming at me is “What you think about, you create.” Wallow in thinking that you don’t have enough, and you never will. Reframing it into gratitude for what you have and visualizing what you want to make space for seems to be an important ingredient of success.

This New Year is about letting go of what doesn’t serve me and inviting – in a specific way – what I want in my life. So I figured I’d create a little ceremony around that idea, give it some space to rattle around in my head and my heart for a bit, to help it resonate a little louder. Beckon it into being.

Hubs is endlessly supportive of these whims of mine, so he was on board for the little outing I devised for us to welcome 2016.

We headed about an hour north of Los Angeles to the seaside village of Carpinteria. I’ve never been before, but passed it on the highway at least a dozen times over the years, on the road to flashier destinations. I wanted to go somewhere we’d never been, to symbolize new horizons, new adventures for the New Year.

Carpinteria did not disappoint. I’m surprised more people don’t take day trips up here (or maybe they do and I just don’t know it). There’s a swatch of coastline that the locals have rallied to protect, known as the Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve. From January to May, a portion of the beach is closed so that harbor seals have a place to birth and raise their pups. A knowledgeable volunteer was positioned at the overlook and gave us some background on the seals. Several other folks were out having a look, enjoying what was a warm January afternoon.

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harbor seals basking in the sunlight on the beach in Carpinteria

After watching the seals sunbathe for a few minutes, we hiked down to the portion of the beach that was still open. It’s a bit rough-and-tumble down here, the beach is rocky, so it was blissfully quiet, save for a few people walking their dogs and jogging on the beach (which seemed treacherous to me, but to each his own).

Hubs and I scrounged a few smooth rocks from the beach – there were more than enough, of course – and we each took a Sharpie and wrote on the rocks what we want to let go of and what we want to invite in. (Okay, I feel a tiny bit guilty about defacing the rocks, but I also think it will be fun for someone to later find a rock that says “love” or “$$$$$” – I know I would).

Goodbye, anxiety!
Goodbye, anxiety!

I had already been thinking about what I wanted to write, and it felt good to turn into the coastal wind, waves washing up around my Wellies, and hurl those rocks into the ocean. I was afraid my arm would hurt the next day. Hubs – ever simple in his ways – tossed two rocks into the ocean. I threw in about a dozen in all.

See you later, doubt!
See you later, doubt!

Like most people, I’ve pinned a lot of hopes for 2016. I feel that urge to hit the reset button on January 1st. I’d very much like to ditch some of my negative ways of thinking and being, and a adopt a healthier, more positive outlook. I’ve come a long way already, but there is always, always farther to go. But that’s part of the fun, is it not? To keep practicing gratitude an acknowledgement of what we have, how far we’ve come, but to keep reaching for more, to be better.

Hubs and I each collected (and saved) a heart-shaped rock.
Hubs and I each found a heart-shaped rock.
My Wellies loved being tickled by the waves.
My Wellies loved being tickled by the waves.

How do you welcome in the New Year?

 

 

 

The Never-Ending Hope for More

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It’s New Year’s Day, 2016.

I feel this obligation to write something beautiful and profound this morning, because that’s what we’re supposed to do today, right? We’re supposed to have a sudden clarity of purpose and concoct the perfect list of how to “get it right” this year? A guide for our collective do-over?

I don’t feel that way this morning. It feels like most other mornings.

On this day I feel the same hopes for more. Isn’t that often what it boils down to – wanting more, hoping for more? I haven’t had any breakthroughs in the last 24 hours, I didn’t dream of a perfect future last night after bidding 2015 adieu. I fell asleep as I normally do, got up as I normally do. I’m still hoping to figure out how to do better in this new year. How to get more right, to feel happier more often. I don’t have the answers, but I think it’s good to name what you want, what you’re hoping to find, in order to call it into your life.

I hope to find that clarity of purpose this year. I hope to exorcise some demons. I hope to lessen anxiety’s grip on my heart and mind, even just a little bit.

I hope to feel good about myself in my pants. I hope to eat less sugar and to take more walks.

I hope to be gentle with myself.

I hope to make more time for friends and to break out of my self-imposed isolation more.

I hope to have more courage to face down whatever discomfort, unpleasantness or calamity may visit me this year.

I hope to laugh more, to sing more, to dance more, to look at the night sky in dark places more.

I hope to show my husband in both word and deed how much I love him and am grateful for him more often.

I hope to call my parents more, and to figure out how to Skype with them more so I can see their beautiful faces.

I hope to cuddle more with my husband, because he likes it so much (the cats get plenty of cuddles – any more and I might need an intervention).

I hope to pay more attention, to follow my own deadlines more, to eat healthy food more and to avoid the foods that make me hate my pants more.

I hope to work with a sense of ease more often, to express my gratitude more and to move with a light heart more.

I hope to be more authentic – whatever that means – and to let my inner compass guide me more, even if it feels like the wrong direction.

I hope to write more and to find more ways to make more money doing what I love.

I hope for more peace among my neighbors – both those close at hand and those across the globe. Aren’t we all now neighbors in this modern age?

I hope my loved ones find more inner peace, more moments of grace and laughter and joy, more connection and more meaning.

I hope to learn more, to read more, to listen to good music more.

I hope to watch the birds flit around the yard more, to share more meals and meet more interesting people.

And even with all these hopes for more, I hope to feel more gratitude for what I already have and for who I already am. I hope to find more balance between hoping for more and being grateful for what is.

What do you hope for more of in the New Year?

tennyson