Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bird by Bird

Some days I worry I'll never finish anything. It seems like I keep revising and revising and revising and the things I revised somehow keep getting unrevised. Like I'm Sisyphus pushing my manuscript up a hill somewhere in the Well of Lost Plots.*

 I feel like this today because it was the 19th of December when I started the Novelette I'm currently working on. When I started revising it was 24,240 words long and now--after three months of sweat--I've managed to wittle it down to a svelte 16,978 words. Now that I'm writing this up, three months doesn't really sound that long but it has felt like an eternity. Okay, maybe not quite and eternity, but at least a couple of  lifetimes.

And THEN I start thinking, So, if this short little bit of nothing** is taking me so long, how long is my NOVEL going to take? We're all going to be little wrinkled old ladies with no teeth by the time it's fit for even my most trusted friend to read.

But I looked at my To-Do list*** today, and it appears that the revisions I'm doing aren't, after all, disappearing mysteriously as soon as I close my Word doc. In fact, I'm closer to being done with revisions than I thought.

book cover anne lamottI'm reminded of a story from Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. She talks about one of her siblings who once left a large biology project on birds to the night before. He was working himself into a lather and wondering how he was ever going to get it done, when her father advised him, "Just do it bird by bird." Just a little bit at a time. Just as much as you can see through a one-inch picture frame. Eventually, all those little bits will add up and you'll be finished.

So, I'm going to focus on just doing a little bit every day and not on freaking out because things aren't getting done as fast as I thought they would. After all, all the work I'm putting into this novelette is an excellent exercise for when I really dive into revisions for my novel.

This is also how I plan to get through the rest of the week. I can see Spring Break shining on the horizon like the most glorious sunrise and it's making nearly every minute spent on school work into acute torture.#

Don't forget our Giveaway!##


* If you don't know where this is, you seriously need to go read some Jasper Fforde.

** It's 50 pages. Compare that to my novel which is 350.

*** Yes, believe it or not, I have one. I think even die-hard Pantsers like myself should probably stop whining about constraint, suck it up and write one when they get to the revision part of this process.^

^ If you're wondering about the foot notes, Robin McKinley^^ uses them on her blog and I aspire to be as cool as she is someday.+

^^ who is an enchantress of the first water.

+ It's kind of freeing. I can just ramble on++ forever. I think it might even induce rambling. I almost feel compelled make more foot notes.=

++ with as many asides as I want

 = I think I'll spare you further ramblings.

# Do I really want to learn about Trobriand Islanders or the French Subjunctive on this hideous, windy, icy, snowy day? Not really. I think I would rather stick a fork in my eye.^

^Maybe that's a touch strong. What I would really rather be doing is eating my weight in cake and reading Mariana.+

+ Oops. That was another footnote, wasn't it?

## As usual, if you participated in Save-a-Word Saturday you are eligible for extra entries.


  1. OHHHHHH, YES. Acute torture right here, right now. If you don't want that fork, I'll take it. Maybe. *whimpers*

    And oooh, am I the "most trusted friend" in question? :D :D :D Either way, I still can't wait to read some more of your stuff! But ahem, yes. Bird by bird. Eye on the target. You can do this, and you will do it long, long, long before either of us lose our teeth or stick forks in our eyes. :) Also, this week will end. I hope.

  2. I love "Bird by Bird"! Super good writing advice. Best of luck with your Novelette, Tyler-Rose, and a big thanks to Susan for commenting on my blog :)

  3. Revising can make it feel like 3 months never end, but you can do it! It will be worth it in the end. :) Good luck!

  4. Brilliant attitude towards achieving your goals - completing small parts eventually gets you to the whole and makes the whole task seem less daunting. I should heed that advice with my own projects :)


  5. I can so relate to this post, Tyler-Rose. I'm working away at finishing a first draft of my WIP and it feels neverending, like there's always a handful of things more to get into it. I've read BIRD BY BIRD, and I really need to remind myself to focus on one thing at a time. I've started using a day timer to narrow down those one or two tasks that I want to get done in my writing on any given day. I find that it helps. Good luck finishing up the novelette!

    P.S. Have you read THE WINTER SEA or EVERY SECRET THING by Susanna Kearsley? I especially loved the former. I have MARIANA but still need to get to it. :)

    1. Oh yes, Tyler-Rose loves Susanna Kearsley. So much, in fact, that I can't talk to her while she's reading those... Which probably means they should be very high on my mountain of summer reading. :)

    2. I really loved THE WINTER SEA, but I have yet to read EVERY SECRET THING. I'm trying to savor them so I don't run out too quickly. I finished THE SHADOWY HORSES about a month ago and just bought MARIANA to read on the plane flight home.

    3. I have THE SHADOWY HORSES too. :) You'll have to let me know how MARIANA is.

  6. Best footnotes ever.
    ...Or at least in the last couple lifetimes. X)

    1. Once again...meet my awkward other email that has a Belle avatar...

    2. A headless Belle avatar. -_-

    3. No head and no last name either.