ellen mcbee

She's always up to something…

Say “Yes” To Defending Your Neighbor

A thoughtful post from a local pastor who I admire greatly.


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Tape flags, and more rewrites

I’m starting to think this book is NEVER going to be finished.

Maybe I’ll be one of those people with a really exquisitely edited book, with gorgeous prose and poetic comparisons, and I’ll never think it’s perfect.

Except I don’t think I’m really working on perfect. Also, I love to read other people’s gorgeous, poetic prose, but that’s not what I do. I think this is more of a “Oh my God, I have to fix that!” reaction. This is happening about every third chapter. I’ve realized that I start nearly every chapter with exposition, explaining, sometimes description, or skipping through time. I have to skip through time because the story is September to May. But it’s the same lesson I had to learn about the first chapter; trust the reader to figure out what’s going on.

I have to say my rewrites are improving the story vastly. I want to have this book finished in six months and I’m starting to wonder if that’s going to happen; whenever I identify a big chunk that needs to be rewritten like this it usually takes me a couple of days to stop pouting and do it.

The section I’m working on right now is a two or maybe three chapter chunk (last half of Act II B) in which the narrative line falls apart and I just realized that two of my sub-plots fell right out of it! It’s a choppy section and I didn’t even see it until this readthrough. I’ve been doing most of the rewrites by hand (I’m still working with the book in a three-ring binder) but there’s so much to tackle I’m going to type it out. It’s kind of discouraging, but at the same time I know it’s going to make the story work better.

Oh–I’m still using the bullet journal. Admittedly, sometimes I mark off things I haven’t finished but have worked on today. I think it would be too discouraging to migrate the entire list every single day. And I bought some new Washi tape (shades of blue and green). And I started a new list: “Songs I Hate By Bands I Usually Like.” The first song: “Wait for Me” by Theory of a Deadman. Really? Basically, she’s home waiting and he’s glad she’s doing it, putting her own dreams and needs on hold so he can have what he needs? There’s too much of this going around, is all I can say. I listened to the words while it was playing and at the end I actually said, “Screw you, Tyler.”

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The Dog Ate My Washi Tape

I couldn’t resist; this phrase went through my head today because, yes, the dog ate my washi tape.

I’m really not one for bandwagons, but I think I’ve just jumped on one: bullet journals. This is a type of planner invented by Ryder Carroll, a designer from New York. The idea is that it’s a planner but you can also take notes in it.

I don’t want to re-publish the entire description; those who are interested can read all about it at http://bulletjournal.com/get-started/ , which seems to be the designer’s own page about it. In any case, I had been edging toward doing something like this but kept getting stuck in the idea of subdividing the book. For instance, last summer I tried a plan with a five-subject notebook with one section for gym, one for the pool, one for VBS. The problem was there wasn’t a calendar that kept track of all five things on one page. In a bullet journal, you can write about anything on any page of your notebook.

The main thing I was doing that was working was an index. I’ve taken to indexing my research notebooks, but it just hadn’t occurred to me to index my planner.

The notebook I’m using cost $5 on clearance at Staples. It’s a C.R. Gibson 3-in-1 notebook, with one section of writing paper, one section of graph paper, and one section of blank paper. And I’m using tape flags (which I adore) to help me see today’s lists. And I did subdivide a little; Section A has the daily notes, Section B (the grid) has the housekeeping checklists and the editing checklist, and Section C (the blank pages) doesn’t include anything yet. But it’s fun to draw.

And, I outlined some of my lists with the Washi tape. And I used my fun South Korean markers, but I’m not color coding. I just thought they were pretty.

So far, so good. I did everything on my list that I HAD to do today, and some of the things I just ought to do. And today was busy enough that when I got through making the list I nearly gave up in despair. And I added a symbol; a heart shape means that it has something to do with writing.

I can’t decide if this is making me feel accomplished, or if it’s going to contribute to feeling overwhelmed. I guess when things migrate over multiple days I will find out. Maybe putting things to do for fun on the list will work? “Lie on the deck and take a nap” or “Silently judge next door neighbor”?

Now if only smallest child would stop leaving the hose running.

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How to Edit a Whole, Entire Book

Mom life continues to win, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. School is going to be out next week, and the concerts and parties and more activities and recitals and everything else is going to be done. Well, I’ll still be uniforming the band (nearly finished) and getting the pool open (next weekend), but the constant running around should end. I hope.

I’m deep in the edits on What You Stand For; I have printed it out and have taken to carrying it around with me. I’m also using tape flags to track the different subplots and to mark the scenes. This is turning out to be so helpful that I thought I would share the method here.

  1. Mark all the scenes with numbered Post-it notes on top of the pages. When I did this, I discovered that I have about 100 scenes and that some of them are only a paragraph long, so I have identified chapters that need to be rewritten.
  2. List sub-plots. This has changed so many times in this book that I really did have to think about it. What I came up with was the Kyle story, the Sara story, the wedding/family, JP and Brooks, and anything involving the case against the sorority. I also have a couple of running jokes I want to make sure I’m including often enough (but not too often).
  3. Mark first sub-plot (in this case, the Kyle story line) with blue tape flags on the sides of the page. Use a marker to underline mentions of this character or plotline. When I did this I learned that Kyle’s story completely drops out for three chapters after the middle.
  4. Mark second sub-plot. In this case, I used the Sara and addiction plotline and light green flags and marker. I’m in the middle of this one right now and have learned that this is the main subplot, but it also illustrates the main story line and the conflict between caring for people and smothering them. This one is pretty well-developed but when I get toward the end I will be looking at it as an independent story. It does come to an end at the beginning of Act III, although it continues to reverberate; what I will be looking for is this sub-plot’s three act structure.
  5. Keep going on marking the sub-plots. Continue to look for cohesion, weaving into main plot, and whether characters cross into different plots.

Having done this on paper now, I’m ready to try it with Scrivener next time. I kind of like doing it this way though. I’m finding satisfaction in seeing it on paper, and I’m just grabbing a pen and knocking out rewrites as needed. It’s also helping me to keep track of my progress instead of starting every session at the beginning, which I find myself bogged down in sometimes. I’m also learning what I would want to tell Scrivener to do for me in Book 2.

Also, I get to use markers.

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