ellen mcbee

She's always up to something…

Watch this space…

Hi, everybody!

I’ve been writing and editing and thinking (and also getting dragged down by current events, but we won’t get into that right now). I have many irons in the fire!

One of those irons is my book on the Polish Girl Scouts, which gets closer to completion every week. I’m writing about that process and some of the research that is unlikely to make it into the book but is still interesting, and you can read it at projectdiamonds.com.

I also continue to write teen fiction though I have shelved the book I’ve been working on. I don’t know, maybe it will end up as a historical romance about the 1980s.


Anyway, I have an identity for that material and I’ve been writing about a trip I took with my mom to Scotland and Norway. I’m hoping to finish up that series so I can turn my attention to other (funny) things that happen every day. And you can see that on probablyunrelated.com.

Watch out for weekly updates to both blogs, and the occasional post here where I talk about weird things. Maybe I’ll relaunch this site? I’m not sure; I’ve had some good discussions here and in many places out in the “real world.” I might use this for a fantasy series I have in mind…

Well, I have the characters in mind.

I always thought I was a character-driven writer, but after some reflection, I’ve realized that I’m really plot-driven. I know the story before I know the people it’s going to happen to. In the case of the fantasy book, the characters came first. On the outside, they’re ordinary women, raising kids and gardens and running a home and building a marriage.

One is a witch (though I’m not sure what kind yet). One’s a former weapons expert for a shadowy government agency. One is psychic. And the new girl in the neighborhood? She’s the most powerful one of all.

See what I mean? I know it sounds a bit Charlie’s Angels-ish. I can see all four of these women and I know how they meet and who they are. I know the neighborhood. Bringing them together suggests a kind of shadow warfare. Solving crimes? They could all be Jessica Fletcher?

Or maybe they take over the local deli and make the best sandwiches ever…

Anyway, watch this space. I have never worked this way before (though seriously, I always thought I did!) and I have no idea where it’s going or what’s going to happen.


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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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