Story Summary Feedback

Today I spoke with one of The Book Doctors, Arielle Eckstut, about my 2008 NaNoWriMo story that I am working on turning into a book. Because NaNo encourages you to write without editing, a second read earlier this year reinforced what I knew I had to do: gut the first half of my story and rewrite it completely.

To help me get an idea of what I wanted the story to actually be, I spent time writing a basic summary of the story from beginning to end. That way, when I sat down to write, I could break down my writing in chunks and keep the overall story arc in mind.

The protagonist is a librarian who is the star of her very own “girl figuring her shit out” story, as Arielle put it. The work profession choice was apparently a ‘brilliant’ one as librarians are some of the people who read and recommend books. I had not thought about that, but it made sense after I heard her say it. Hurray for accidental brilliance!

Arielle recommended I start by scan/reading about 50-100 books in the genre that I want to write in so that I can get an understanding of how these stories play out. I have not really read in the genre too much, so this will be a good crash course.

To round out the feedback time I had, Arielle asked me to send her 10 pages of double-spaced writing that I currently have so she get a feel for the voice and she will provide me with additional written feedback on my story. I sent her a scene where the protagonist, Ellie, discovers her ex spying on her at a cafe they used to frequent.

I worried that this storyline would be untenable, but it’s got promise. I think it will be fun to write it, even though I’m starting from scratch. I can still keep a portion of my old story, approximately 35% percent, but it might be rewritten or adjusted slightly.

I am fine with that. I am getting excited about embarking on a story rewrite, my first.


Butterfly Wings: My 2008 NaNoWriMo Story Revisited

For those of you who do not know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which occurs every November. The goal is to write a 50,000 word story in 30 days. No editing, just from the creative part of your brain, without editing or backspacing or anything (Not that I was actually able to not do any of that). It is easier than it sounds.

When you spend time writing a story, you find it hard to forget about it. Even if you try via a life dedicated to procrastination, some things just will not leave your mind. Writing a story is one of those things.

I started off writing about some feelings and ended up writing a romance novel about a Boston librarian who is trying to get her dating life in order after a nasty divorce, but her parents and ex-husband have other plans. Hilarity ensues. I’m not sure how good that premise is, but that’s what I wrote. It started pouring out of my brain, and I just ran with it.

Writing a story makes you want to do something with it instead of simply looking at file sized 317kb dated November 30, 2008 and remembering that you wrote something. You don’t want it to sit there like an animal that has been left on the side of the road to die. You want to rescue it, apply first aid, and get to the doctor’s office right away.

For starters, I printed out my first draft last night. This is what 3/4″ of single-sided, double-spaced, left-justified story typed in Times New Roman 12pt. looks like printed out in all its raw glory:


First, I will reread the story from beginning to end without lifting a critical pen. More than four years is quite a long time to let a story sit in your computer basement. I will remake my acquaintance with Butterfly Wings (the working title), before I start marring her beautiful white dress with my editor’s blue ink.

After I get to know her better, I will go through my draft again and draw an outline so I can get an idea of the flow and understand where gaps and boring prose may be lurking before I turn on the editing side of my brain and have at it.

As I am beginning a technical writing business, editing my story will help give me more structure to actually being the writer I want to be. Even if all I do is self-publish and sell 20 copies of this story to my friends, I will have accomplished something concrete with my words, which is another way of saying I will get an acknowledgement for the words I speak. This is all I have ever wanted.

Once soon after I wrote Butterfly Wings, I tried to follow the ideas at the end of NO PLOT? NO PROBLEM! by Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo. Except for school work, I have never been able to look back at what I have written in stories or poems and analyze them without considerable anxiety. When I sat down to do the steps in Baty’s book, I only went so far and then I had to abandon my editing. The fear overwhelmed me, and I ran away, per usual.

As I have said before, 2014 is about embracing what I have learned through meditation and therapy: breathing when fear arises, waiting until it passes, and then moving forward anyway. The old amygdala is trying to save me from pain, but it also has been saving me from joy. Time to learn to deal with one so I can experience the other, too. A life driven by fear-avoidance is a poor one. I know that only far too well.