Thursday, May 17, 2012

Friday Feedback: Rough Writing and Whacking Back the Muse

Hey, peeps, it's Friday Feedback time once again!

In case you haven't heard *coughs* I finally got a book deal for my next YA, currently titled Frankie Sky, and I'm "supposed" to be working on my revisions for my new (shiny, fabulous) editor.

Any of you who have been here before, have seen snippets of the book that sold on Friday Feedback.

Trust me, I love the manuscript.

And I lurve my new editor.

And I'm totally excited about the revisions.

In fact, I've started them and they're going pretty well.

And, yet.

This week, my damned muse came a-knocking (tugging, pulling, screaming, bugging, noodging).  

And, sprinkled her musey-magic fairy dust all over my fingers, my brain,

and my laptop screen.

"Work on that other thing," she whispered.

You know, the one with the boy, and the angel girl and 9/11.

The one you keep changing and playing with because you have absolutely no IDEA what its really about.

You know, the one you have barely started.

The one that may be going NOwhere.

That one! Work on that one!

I tried to ignore her. I picked up a machete and tried to whack her back.

The thing about my muse is she can be tricky,

and particularly fickle.

She's led me up plenty a dead-end, overgrown, fruitless path.

And, I have more pressing, sure things, I should be doing.

And yet. And yet.

And yet.

So, I put down the machete and caved in.

I wrote 15 or more pages yesterday and already she's calling to me today. I'm pretty obsessed. I don't know if the story will amount to anything, but it's weird and quirky and a sad and magical, and there are bits of writing that enthrall me:

     Uncle Matt pushes his plate away with his dead fish hand, and mumbles again. "Ace of Spades on the subway tracks.” The angel girl’s eyes shoot up to him. Dad and I both see it. I look over at Dad, but he shakes his head and shifts his gaze away. Just a coincidence. We both know nothing Uncle Matt says means much of anything anymore.

It's rough. Really, really rough. But there's something. . .

She nods. “I think so.” She gets up and walks to the window. She looks heartbreakingly pretty in my pajamas. “It’s weird, Kyle,” she says. “I remember little things, parts, bit of stuff like movie clips. Like I’m watching them, through gauze bandage.” 
“Which parts?” I swallow.
“I don’t know. Not much really. Some guy talking to me on the street. Walking down the steps to the train.”
“Where are your parents?”
“I don’t know.”
“Your name?”
             She shakes her head.
             "Do you know why you did it?” My ears burn red. I’m embarrassed for asking, for prying where I have no business.
“No,” she says. “And, I’m not sure I want to know, either.”
Maybe I just need to get to the hard part (the part where I hit a wall because I have no effing idea where the story is going or what I am actually writing about) so that I can put it away. But, in the meantime, I'm driven, delirious, typing frantically as the hours whoosh by.

So, I told my muse: "Rough, fast, and furious, you hear me? Get it down and get back to what you need to be doing. NO editing. NO MAKING IT PRETTY!!!"

My muse is hard-pressed to listen.

It's why I've never Nanowrimo'ed well. I can't tell if my art is working unless it's, well, arty, unless the words are reading the perfectly right way to me.

Still, I'm trying my best. To keep moving. To start and end chapters.

To ignore HUGE plot holes and logistical problems.

To ignore the fact that I have no freaking idea about some of the things I am writing about (say, cops' lives for instance).

To not worry where things are versus where they should be.

To just get all the thoughts and images and concepts that are calling to me committed to paper, so I can whack back my muse and move on with things.

Dumb muse.

She seems awfully unphased by my machete.

Got some rough writing you want to share with us? It's Friday Feedback. You know the rules.

- gae

p.s. I'll be at Teen Book Festival in Rochester this weekend, so if you post and I don't respond, I will... gimme a few extra days. In the meantime, maybe a few of my loyal readers/commenters will chime in. I know you're there. I see you. :)


  1. I love all of your writing insight! I got to talk with Jay Asher for a few minutes before he presented at IRA and he was telling me how he's working on a whole bunch of things right now - how he can't just do one thing at a time. It makes sense. I feel like it's hard to just commit to one thing and only work on that one piece of writing. I can see how you could get stalled and trying something different could just be a good break to be able to get back to what you were doing first of all.

    My brain isn't configured for Nanowrimo either - sometimes it can be, but when I sit at a computer, I feel like it has to come out right and I have to edit and reread right away. I learned to write that way so it's hard to just draft and not give myself time to fix it up. I have to get past that and realize I can't make it all come together right away, I just have to write it. I also am feeling like I might have to print it at some point so I can keep track of where things are, where things go, and what I'm missing.

    I've been kind of stuck in the long-bookishness of my book that I'm writing so I decided to jump into another idea and just write the beginning of something else rolling around in my head in your spirit of roughness! (I love playing this game, by the way.)


    “It’s all crap.
    Trishie falls head over her designer high tops with Chris. Chris says he loves her, too, but then he sleeps with Ash and, of course, Trishie’s the last to know because she’s been hanging out with Tim because Chris sent Tim to keep her from realizing he’s avoiding her. And now she’s actually starting to like Tim because they hang out and talk and he’s actually a semi-decent guy.
    So now Trishie likes Tim but, wait, she’s in love with Chris, right? Until Ash sits her down over their skinny, lite, skim, latte espresso whatevers to tell her she slept with Chris but it’s okay because it was only one time and even though he said her loved Trishie, he’s Ash’s for-real soulmate, and didn’t Trishie see it coming anyway? Of course she didn’t. She’s devastated for, what? Two days? Until she runs into – I mean, literally, runs into – Tim when she’s late to her mani-pedi at the mall. Was she running because she’s late? No. She was digging through her mega-purse while on the phone and wasn’t looking where she was going but that must be total fate and she and Tim were destined to be together all along. After she got her gels filled, that is.”
    Lee quits her pacing, puts her hands on her hips, and looks down at Amalia.
    “It’s all crap.”
    “Complete crap.” Amalia hugs her notebook to her chest and flicks the edges of the pages with her finger, willing the tears that well up in her eyes to stay there. Lee finally sits down beside her. Amalia can smell the bite of her cinnamon gum. She turns her head and squints into the afternoon orange-golden sun and thinks of Parker.
    Then, looking down at her shoes, she tells Lee, “But you also think the John-Hughes-style, love-at-first-sight, I’ll-do-anything-for-you, love-you-forever-and-ever, love is crap too. Maybe real love is somewhere in between.”
    “Or maybe it’s all just crap.”


    Thanks for your feedback! :) Happy weekend!

    1. Okay, Jen, since this is rough, all I'm going to say is I LOVE IT!!!!!!! Um, LOVE. It's definitely girly... I love girly. And I love it. Especially this line: "Amalia can smell the bite of her cinnamon gum," put pretty much every word of it. :) Keep going. Isn't rough-riding fun!?! :)

  2. I don't think yours is rough, I think when we don't know where the muse is taking us, we just feel...lost. It will come to you. And yeah, those damn muses. I've rewriting, writing, yet I still have ideas coming to me nonstop. and I feel like I don't have time for any of it. sigh. Stupid muse.

    Here ya go. Wasn't going to share, because I feel like everything is rough, but here's part of my total rewrite of my book An Unbalanced Line (formerly, Cheesy)

    With one last hug, my best friend was on her way and I was ready to head out. Then it was time to say goodbye to Suki. Suki who’d been here for months taking care of me and my mom. Suki who took care of all the funeral arrangements, and paperwork. Suki who was like my second mother.
    “Is your cell phone charged?”
    “Yes Suki.” I rolled my eyes.
    “Do you have enough money for gas and food?”
    She paced the floor, finger up to her chin. Her thinking stance. After a moment of deliberation she said. “Don’t pick up hitch hikers.”
    I gave her my best are-you-serious look. Her narrowed cogitating eyes softened. “I know, I’m being ridiculous, but I hate the idea of you driving all that way. Check in every few hours.”
    “I will. I gotta go. I don’t want to be rolling into Abilene at midnight.”
    “Okay, okay.” She walked me outside and gave me quick hug. I slid in the driver’s seat, and put my hands on the steering wheel, and stared aimlessly out the windshield thinking about all the WhatIfs I might face along the way. WhatIf I got into an accident on my way to Abilene, or worse, brutally murdered? WhatIf my dad was as big an ass as I remember? WhatIf I get to my new school and everyone sucks?
    Suki startled me by grabbing my shoulder and saying, “Are you okay?” She looked at me with melancholy and compassion.
    I shook the WhatIfs away. “Yeah, I’m fine.” I smiled at her, trying to reassure, which by the way her eyes change immediately from kindness to skepticism, one eyebrow sweeping up in an arc, and her lips pursed and shooting over to one side of her face like my neighbor Fat Charlie after his stroke, I could tell I epically failed.
    I kept the stupid smile on my face as I closed my door and rolled down the window. Suki leaned in, put her hand on my arm and said, “Be careful.”
    “I will.”
    “I love you Chels,” she said, waterworks beginning to flow.
    “I know, Suki. I love you too. Thank you for…” I choked down a knot in my throat big as a baseball and opened my eyes real wide, like that would have stopped the tears from falling. I was so damn tired of crying.
    “I know,” Suki said patting my arm before backing away.

    1. Hey, MEEgan,

      I've decided to spell your name like that because every time I mention you to someone (which is often) they say, "her name is MEEgan?!? I thought it was Meh-gan, I had no idea!"

      So glad you are still working on Cheesy a/k/a Line. I've liked everything I've read of it. Go on! :)

  3. Gae - I never gave you feedback to your story! I remember part of this story from before and I love how they are still walking on eggshells. I love how he really thinks she's pretty but at the same time things are so new and she's still such a stranger. I love the idea of people thrown together because of circumstance and now they have to see where things take them. I so want to know what she did...

    Megan - I'm glad you shared. I love sharing my writing and I have found that it can only get better by sharing. I'm a huge fan of hearing what others have to say...sometimes I would rather write it all down and then have someone do the hard work of fixing it all up. :) I love Suki, I'm sad Chels has to leave Suki, and to go back to her no-fun dad no less. I feel better now about experiencing new things but when I was a kid/teen, I would get really nervous about new experiences until I got there. I definitely want to know if Chels makes it to Abilene and what awaits her there.

  4. Okay, maybe this is a better place to put it...I am adding it twice...sorry! This is John from "johnlit360" from Twitter...

    The dingbat rides his bike up and down the tilted street wearing an old leather aviator hat. Up and down…up and down.
    He lives up the street from us with his dingbat parents. Well, that’s what my dad calls them. The old man always wears a greasy baseball cap with a constant scowl hiding behind large glasses. The old lady has short gray hair and also has a constant scowl. Man, they must be miserable all the time. They sure do make the street miserable.
    They sit on old school chairs in a screened in side porch and stare down the street at us.
    Their kid is tall with a buzzed haircut. He mumbles all the time, even when he’s riding his bike. He also has a scowl with a blank look in his eyes. It’s the mumble, the blank scare, and the bad words his says that scares me.

    Mom is on the phone, so I tell her that I am going to ride my bike down to my grandma’s house. Last night I went and saw E.T at the movie theatre uptown at the Orpheum. After the credits started rolling across the screen, I sat in awe. I wish I could ride my bike like Elliott in E.T., riding fast down the street and then lifting off into the air and riding above people, cars, and trees. That would be awesome, except for the landing. If only I could do that down at our cemetery games.

    1. John, YAY! Welcome to your first #FF! You get a BRAVERY gold star!

      And, guess what? I really love the imagery you are creating here. This first line:

      "The dingbat rides his bike up and down the tilted street wearing an old leather aviator hat. Up and down…up and down."

      really creates a strong mood/feeling for me. We get this kid's sense of observation, of curiosity, and even a sense of longing -- we sense an adventure involving this dingbat is on the horizon. For me, I even get a sense of time -- the innocence of 30 years ago (geez, how can it be that it is 30 years?!? and how can it be that the 80's felt innocent, and yet, there you have it...). Just love it. I'm anxious to see/read the hook... to know what this kid's adventure is going to be, so you'd better come back here! Keep going!

  5. You are all so brave. Bravo:)

  6. I love your words. Even when they are rough. I love everything you write. Everything.

  7. Like jumping in a cold pool, Colby! You just close your eyes and go. :)

    Thank you, Christa. Means a lot coming from you.

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  10. As promised, another rough (rough!) snippet from my weirdo WIP:

    He’s still on soft foods, because of the broken jaw, so I make the angel girl and me English muffins and him his usual bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar and cream. Maybe I’m crap with the laundry and housework, but at least I try to help with Uncle Matt. While the oatmeal’s in the microwave, I peer into the living room, at the angel girl.
    The futon is closed and fully made up with its pillows back in place. My pajamas are folded on top. The girl's in her clean street clothes, but barefoot, and stands at the window looking out over Brooklyn and the East River. I remember her combat boots are in my room. I should get those, then see if she wants some breakfast.
    “Uncle Matt,” I say, quietly, sitting in the chair right next to him. I put my hand on his and, it takes a second, but he moves his eyes up to mine, to look at me. “You remember there’s a girl here?”
    He nods, makes his weird, half-stroked-out smile and drool-says, “Yeh, Kya, I remva evagin,” which means, “Yeah, Kyle, I remember everything,” which is seriously, disturbingly ironic.

    1. I love the barefoot touch. Even though she has combat boots in the other room, the bare feet makes her seem real (and let me say that I didn't read other parts of this story, so I'm only reacting to this little bit).

      I also love the closing line. It sounds exactly like how I'd imagine kids this age to talk.

    2. I love this kid. He's funny to me, I think because he does seem so real. He knows he sucks at some stuff but he's trying to do something in this super awkward situation he is in. It's like he's walking on eggshells everywhere he goes...and kind of like he's just in shock at how weird everything is. I can totally visualize this so I think it's good!

  11. I feel like I've found a kindred spirit or two here. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who struggles with the need to have rough look pretty. I was just talking about this very think with some teacher/writer friends on facebook. I'm feeling brave, so I'm gonna dive right in with a small bit from my YA WIP:

    The breeze is gentle before it speeds up, nudging me gently as I write. The cottonwood tree I’m sitting under sways and bends. It seems determined not to lose its balance. I feel a kinship with the tree. I, too, feel my balance slipping away, and I can’t seem to right myself. The cottonwood’s seeds try desperately to cling to their host, but must let go as a strong breeze breaks the seeds’ hold. As the wind catches the seeds of the tree, one floats over to me, landing on my nose before making its final landing into the water a few feet away.

    In spite of the kinship I feel with this tree, it is making my eyes itch and my right eye water. My throat feels like there is some little beast in there tickling my throat in hopes of getting out. I feel it trying to crawl out, but like my words, it remains trapped. As I ponder how much I hate allergy season, I am further distracted by a little black ant. Exploring its world, it climbs along my arm tickling me slightly before I flick it away. Amazingly, even with the force of my finger’s flick against the ant’s tiny body, it seems no worse for the wear. Ants are incredibly sturdy creatures. Am I as sturdy and resilient?

    And just so you know, I resisted the urge to revise after I pasted this excerpt in. It almost KILLED me!

  12. Yay, Micki!!! *sticks gold sticker on Micki's forehead for bravery*

    So, here's what I love. I love the gentle feeling of this bit in juxtaposition to the fidgety-ness - how I often feel about nature. Wanting to love it until the tiny red ants, say, chase me away from the feeling. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the observation of the sturdiness of the ant she flicks. haven't we all done that and then stared in disbelief. As for revising once you post, I rarely resist the urge. In fact, as you'll now see on my private fb page where I tend to post lots of bits of my writing, there's something about that moment before a public post of a small bit that suddenly gives me a huge amount of clarity. I use my fb page as a tool in this way quite often. Amazing, what I DONT see on my screen until I highlight it that way for all the world to see.

    Anyway, thrilled your here. Welcome to the Friday Feedback Club.

    xo Gae

  13. (Okay, taking the plunge... I have to state, for the record, that it's been over a decade since I tried my hand at writing fiction)

    Every life is filled with moments.

    Mostly, these moments are ordinary. Fill the dishwasher. Discover that you drank the last of the milk before noticing that the recipe that needs to go in the oven right now requires a third of a cup. Scrambling to find someone to bring to the holiday party for work so that no one gives you those pitying, “she’s always alone”, looks yet again. Empty the dishwasher. Grab a bowl of dry cereal to eat in front of the television, rather than venture out to the Indian take out place.

    Some moments start out as just part of the daily grind, but change your life forever. I remember the exact moment with crystal clarity. The moment it all began – again.

    Slamming the door behind me as I entered the dark hall of my townhouse, I juggled an armload of mail and a backpack filled with files from the lab I needed to review tonight.

    “Hi, honey, I’m home!” I shouted into the dimly lit kitchen, and chuckled. My only response came in the form of the glint from a pair of eyes on top of a bookshelf and a miffed little, “mrrrow”. Slipping my backpack off my shoulder and tossing my keys into the bowl by the door, I used my elbow to flip on the lights.

  14. Yay, Maria! Welcome here and welcome back! I love this opening partly because I really like the first line -- simple and true -- and how lovely and quiet and emotional it is, and partly because I think, in the end, it may be more symbolic for you than actually needed for your ultimate story your telling. Do you remember the moment you waded back in and wrote again. . . ? ;)

    You do a great job of getting us to feel this character walking in to her apt alone, overwhelmed, etc.

    Having said that, and KNOWING this is rough - so I'm loathe to bother with anything that smacks of edity -- the only thing I note of a maybe helpful nature is to watch the passive "ing" phrases you use in your last two paragraphs. For me, unless youre judicious with them, the active verbs feel more immediate and pack more of a punch. "Slipping my backpack off my shoulder and tossing my keys into the bowl by the door..." For me the more active verbs often feel crisper and more immediate, even in past tense, and would bring us right there with her. :)

    Carry on! I'm interested in knowing what's changed her life forever and what's in the files from the lab. ;)

  15. Thanks, Gae! I hear you on the 'ing' verbs, and I looked over my next few paragraphs to be sure I didn't continue with that. I didn't, but I'll play around with that paragraph to see if I can express the same ideas without that.

    The first paragraphs came out that way almost without my active intervention, so I'm hoping they fit with the rest of the tale. If not, I guess I can always jettison them! I only have about 800 words written total, and I have the basic ideas of the story down... but my brain seems to be taking a break. My fiction muscles seem weaker than they did when I was writing more (or I was younger then?)

    Thanks for doing this :)

  16. They'll get strong fast. You definitely can set a scene. And NEVER worry about the beginning until you get to the middle and end. Advice I try to take, often unsuccessfully. But I try. Because so often, by the time I get to the end, I realize that wasn't my beginning at all! BUT, sometimes I still keep the words and just move them. :) I'm excited for you to plow forward and come back with your progress!

    1. I like how life feels so mundane in your story - just going through the movements - until something starts again...which made me hope for something that would explain what was happening again in the second little part - but you didn't get there yet and now I'm anxious to know what happens next!

    2. Thanks, Jen :)

      I do have more written - I'm about 800 words in - and I've been posting it as part of my weekly Slice. I really wanted to get another chunk done this weekend, but it'll depend on how much support my 10 year old needs on his science fair writing this weekend.

  17. Love all the action, feedback, camaraderie, etc. on the blog this week. Everybody KEEP WRITING!! We'll do it again next week. :)

  18. Hey! I guess I'll be brave and post this piece of writing for your feedback:) I'm not exactly sure what it is yet but it's just a rough draft. Here it goes!
    It's 9:00. The time of night when she crawls into bed, under the covers, clutching her pillow. The time of night that she secretly dreads...The time when she settles down, lets go of everything held in and pounding at her head like a migrain; swirling like an angry tsunami at the lining of her stomach. As she exhales the blocked up emotions of the day, the stifled screaming and thrashing of angry thoughts, she fears the first breath in...alone...left with her own reeling head.
    The first inhale comes with the starp pain of reaccuring and utter loneliness. It consumes her like an empty black cloud, seeming to smash her against unyielding pavement-like depression, tossing her with unfair blows like raindrops. She becomes angry with herself for being so vulnerable; unprotected against her own emotions. She herself to smile; fool her own scheming hurt behind a shade of snickering darkness, whose sick grin overpowers her own weak attempt of hope. As she approaches 10:00, swirling questions creep into the corners of her mind that she refuses to clean during the day, but force visits when she lies terrified at silent hours of dread.
    "If this is heartbreak"
    The thoughts whisper, only audible to her,
    "Why does it hurt my whole body?"
    Her fetal figure shakes with sobs as pictures link arms with the voices that welcome her ragged breaths. She tries to scream, but more rasping questions shove her voice out of their path into oblivion.
    "We're not finished yet"
    During the daytime, sunlight puts a glare on these dusty spots of hurt, but the visits each night for a year have been nothing if but punctual.
    "He doesn't want you. You lost. It's been a year."
    A year of doubt. A year of fake smiles and forced laughter.
    The voices cry in pleasure. "Don't worry, hun. You still have us."
    Her body is cold and still, but she feels as if she's writhing under her untouched skin, from which all affection has run in utter fear. As hard as she tries to block out the haunting croons with the clamorous peels of vibrations emitting from her headphones, the voices shout louder still.
    His voice.
    And then one feeble sob disturbs the wracket and clammer of what felt like an unwakeable nightmare, and the strong arms of loneliness surround her. She let's the earbuds drop loosely from her throbbing ears, and they hold each other; the black room only inhabited by an exhausted, whimpering figure, and the soft buzz of the tiny speakers forgotten beside her.
    It is 12:00.

  19. Wow, Heather, welcome! And with a powerful bit of writing. Lots to love here- some great descriptive writing and I like how you build it so that we hear noise, and angst and drama and then the words sort of slow and get less dense near the end (after the lovely, evocative "haunting croons with the clamorous peels of vibrations emitting from her headphones...") and we're left with that whimper and the time.

    This piece makes me curious as to what's going on -- a good thing (tell me! tell me!). What happened at 10:00? What will happen at 12:00, now?

    The only thing that stands out to me as food for thought is to pick and choose your "like" similies so that one or two great ones stand out but we don't get lost in too many, our mind trying to calculate the comparisons...

    Yay, great writing, Heather. Especially since I know it was pretty free-flowing. Keep going!

    - gae