It was a fluke. The Detroit Red Wings were one game away from winning the first Stanley Cup since 1955, the year I was born. Al held season tickets and he was ready to sell them. He’d make A LOT of money. He said there was only a 50/50 chance the Wings would win yet again and so early in the playoffs. But I talked him into going. “You’ll be so mad at yourself if they win.” I even offered to tag along, though I’m not a sports fan.
I have two sons and then there’s Al. They are all sports fans, so it’s not like I’d never been to a game before. I’d been to plenty, Red Wings, Pistons, Lions and Tigers…including one where my son almost caught a fly ball. It grazed Tim’s fingers then fell between my legs. Before I could retrieve it for Tim, a guy dove between my legs and grabbed the ball. He stepped into the aisle and held up the ball. People cheered him! He was kind enough to buy me a hot chocolate to make up for the one he spilled all over me in his fervor to grab that ball.
Years later, back to the Red Wings game, the game where they did indeed win the Stanley Cup. Al and I took our seats. The noise level was higher than I’d ever experienced at the dozens of games I’d suffered through over the years. Even I was a little bit excited. But then everyone stood up and slapped five as the Wings hit the puck and took the lead. Nobody sat down after that. Including Big Guy on the other side of me who was taking up half of my space.
I’d been sitting, so I guess he figured what the hell. Then, not liking his butt in my face, I got up, jostling Big Guy, who shot me a nasty look. “Sorry,” I said “You’re in my space.” I tried to stand tall (I’m 5’2″) on my little square of cement. His body turned toward me in disbelief. His look said I was speaking a foreign language, possibly from another planet. Meanwhile Al didn’t notice anything. Another goal had been scored and he was busy slapping somebody high five.
Big Guy on the other side defiantly kept one foot in my space. I decided not to mention it to Al. It was a big night for Detroit. I don’t understand the pull of sports, but I do know that many many people love everything about every sport, my husband included. Yes the Wings won the Stanley Cup and it was fun driving slow down Woodward all the way home with the crowds out dancing and chanting in the streets. I forgot all about rude Big Guy from the game.
But recently, when the videos and photos of Joe Biden’s nose and lips getting very much in women’s spaces emerged, I was reminded of Big Guy. I think Biden is creepy and that he was using white male privilege to do what he wanted. Just like Big Guy. Hardly any of my friends agree with me about Biden. Democrats across our nation mostly don’t either. Their reasons are flimsy, IMO. Sure he’s from a different era. But men have mastered their smart phones. Surely, allowing women their personal space is not beyond them.
I ‘m in love! Last week, that first crazy happy week, saw me dropping work on my novel over and over in favor of my new passion. This past weekend, I finally felt my Pinterest love pay off. I was able to take what I’d learned on the platform into real life. It was not the kind of real life reward I’d intended, but it felt good anyway. And something I already knew about myself (I am not great at selling books on my social media platforms) was reinforced.
While I worked on creating many new boards and pinning all kinds of things to them, I also either made old boards private, deleted them, or fixed them up. I’m still new to many of the available functions on Pinterest. I have a lot to learn, but I was able to do much with help from my Word Press coach, Barb. Among other things, Barb helped make my Pinterest page a verified business account. She’s a great teacher and fixer. (Find Barb at Bakerview Consulting.)
Many of my new boards relate to writing, I even put up a board that hosts links to this blog. I’ve wanted to do that since I stopped using Facebook, so it was particularly sweet. Then I did my passion project, the one that paid off in my personal, not professional, life. It’s called PURSES because my closet space needed reorganization and in particular I needed to store my purses in a visually nicer way. I like to be surrounded by practical harmony. My closet was not that. In particular my twenty purses needed to get off the floor and the haphazard pile on a shelf where I usually keep the purse currently in use.
It’s spring and I think I’m like many people who feel, at the start of this season, the urge to organize, clean and straighten. Usually closets are most in need, because it’s so easy to shove things in and shut the door so you do not have to see them. A few hours pinning organization ideas onto my PURSE board and I was fully motivated. I finished the actual project two hours later. I had not been able to part with even one purse, but I purged some sweaters and put other items back where they belonged. And I found a perfect and pretty way to store my purses.
The one thing I had not accomplished in my week of pinning and creating boards was giving each of my books it’s own board. With a buy link. I think I managed to do it with my most current release, but it’s not perfect and the other books still don’t have a proper board with a link. I am not good at selling or even giving away my books on social platforms. I already knew that and Pinterest only reinforced my disinclination to sell socially. On the plus side, I have some fun new boards, including the vision board I’m using to inspire me as I write my current novel-in-progress. Maybe the revision will go as smoothly and swiftly as the closet cleaning.
When I’m not working on my WIP, I have been playing on Pinterest. A few years ago, a PR person from the big city told me Pinterest is becoming a great sales channel for writers. I had a Pinterest account because now when you ask a friend for a recipe they say “It’s on my Pinterest!” Mostly that’s what I did there. Then just for the heck of it, I started doing a board for the book I was writing. Then I thought, oh, might as well put up a board with my book covers on it. That was simply vanity. No thought of selling books. Nary a link. My Pinterest account languished.
Then I quit Facebook. Facebook had been good for driving traffic to my blog. I began to think more about my other social media. Where else, besides Twitter, could I link to my blog? An author friend had recently started a Pinterest account specifically to use as a sales tool. I looked at her Pinterest and it was much prettier and more organized than mine. Maybe there was something to be said for Pinterest beyond recipes and home decor. And my old friend vanity kicked in. I didn’t like having such a messy Pinterst account. I immediately tried to clean things up.
Then I realized Pinterest was a bit trickier than I’d remembered. At least to make my page pretty, I might need some help. My favorite author of social media books does not have a book on Pinterest. I asked her why and she said because it changes too much. By the time you write the book and publish it, Pinterest is different. She suggested watching You Tube tutorials and reading blog posts from people who do Pinterest for Authors well. That sounds like a book title right? Pinterest for Authors. It should be a book! I did find one but it was two years old and I wondered if Pinterest had changed since then.
I’m still working on it. I’m going to probably spend hours today trying to make a board for blog posts and pin this one. That’s fine. It’s fun. Pinterest seems manageable. It seems not quite as hectic as other social media. It is just placidly there, waiting. And everyone does their pinning quietly in the background. If you know of any Pinterest for Authors experts or are one yourself, please send me links. What I’d really like is a book written this year called Pinterest for Authors. I will buy that book! I’m going to check Amazon. Maybe somebody published one last night.
I write a first draft with no revision. Just flat out write it. I finished my current WIP “Jane” in November 2018. Then it was Christmas. Then I went to Florida for six weeks. During this time I kept pulling chapters to feed to my critique group, even though they were first draft. I would not recommend that. By the time I settled back into my writing routine, months had gone by and I had a big mess of a manuscript with many many suggestions for improvement on the first five chapters from my writing group.
After writing an unfiltered and thus awful first draft, I like to let it sit for a bit and simmer. I left it a little too long this time and showed it too soon and the result was a mess. But I knew my next step. I like to read the entire book in a day (or two) making brief revision notes as I go. Before I could do the read-through, I had to organize those first five chapters and get things coherent. So I did a little more than the usual. I went over the five chapters, incorporating suggestions I liked. I outlined every scene, and made a summary for my critique partners, because we only meet once a month, plus the six week break was in there and people forget.
It took a few days just to get that first chunk in order, but I’m happy I did it instead of just reverting to the uncritiqued original. I also liked outlining the scenes. I felt organized enough to go ahead and read the rest of the book. It took two days, not one, but the thing is to have my whole book in my head. The entire plot needs to be clear to me so I can figure out what went wrong, how to fix it, and where in the manuscript those fixes need to be inserted.
I didn’t outline the rest of the manuscript when I did the read-through. I did make brief notes to myself about the changes I wanted to make. I knew I had a crap bad guy so I was able to come up with a semi-solution for that and I even figured out the final twist at the end. Mystery novels often have a sting in the tail that is the final surprising twist. I got that in the read through, surprising even myself, because I usually struggle with that. Jane the book and Jane the character both need more work, the crime story itself needs some work, but that’s fine because now I will go back and outline the entire book and find those places where I need to up the stakes, delete the nonsense (an entire character this time) and fill out Jane. At this point, I also revise the character list of names and places.
The other problem I’ve been thinking about is that the book is in first person point of view (Jane’s). But two random chapters are in other voices. I contemplated changing the whole thing to third person and adding other points of view, but then decided to keep it in first person and try to figure out how to do those other pov chapters later. Not sure I’ve ever told an entire book from one first person point of view. But it feels right this time. So much of revising is just hearing the click in your head that signals “yes, this.”
After I outline everything, I look at the structure and make sure my turning points, my big moments, are in the most effective places. Jenny Crusie taught me about turning points. (And so much more). She has an entire blog about writing and revising a novel. It’s extremely helpful. I always go looking for Jenny when I am in revision mode because she always has the exact answer I need, even when I didn’t know I needed it.
All that done, I read the book again. I add the scenes I didn’t write but that need to be in the story. I add dimension to characters who lack it (Jane needs a bit of help and my bad guy needs a lot). Then I read the book again to make sure everything tracks. At this point, I do a timeline. It starts when the book starts and ends when the book ends. I buy a calendar with big blank squares as they are dirt cheap right now. After I do all that, I read the book again to make sure the added scenes flow, that Jane is as heroically flawed as I can make her and that my bad guy is terrifying. I’ll have to add things and take stuff out. When I’m happy, I’ll do one more read through. (Ha.)
I polish sloppy sentences and look for inconsistencies. An example of an inconsistency is Jane has two grown children. She’s also a granny. (I was scared to write a granny as a main character in a crime novel but then I decided to do it because I wish more crime novels had aging female characters who have actual families. Also I like writing what scares me. “Too scary” is like a clue to the writer that you are on the right track.) So inconsistencies. My example: Jane’s kids and their families live on different coasts. Every time I mention a family member of one or the other I have to make sure they’re in the right city. This is one reason why annotated character lists are helpful.
After all that I am pretty sick of my book. I love it but I need to let it sit and rest for a week or so. Then I read it again and hope I don’t have to use my pen. Most of the time I do find more things to fix. When I start taking out commas that I put in on the previous edit, I know I’m done. Then I mail it to my editor and she and I go through a few more edits together. I hope I am lucky enough to have the same editor I’ve had for the last several books, because I have gotten good at anticipating what she’ll have problems with, and she’s always right.
If there’s a way to not be messy in revision, I have not found it. The most difficult thing is to dive in when it’s just chaos in a stack of paper. It feels good when I tame all that down to pretty folders for research, old drafts, current pages, critique group, to-be-revised and my favorite, finished chapters. I have a free download of my writing manual on the landing page here. I used it for my students when I taught creative writing. There’s a chapter on revision. I should probably read that myself.
My husband loves that I turn 64 today because he can say he’s married to an older woman…for two months. He works it. Paul McCartney sang “Will you still need me, will you still feed me?” when he was 16 years old…for his father’s 64th birthday. When Macca was 64 he had lost love of his life, Linda, to cancer and was in the process of a second divorce. His kids fooled around with the lyrics a bit and sang it as a surprise for him at his party.
The significance of 64 is that it’s old. I’m old. Not officially according to google. That happens at age 65. I like to get a head start on things. Old is not bad. It’s really very good. We made it this far! We get freedoms we’ve never had and can choose a new life direction if so inclined. I stopped believing the negative stereotypes of “old” a few years ago when I let my hair go gray and the worry about my weight and attractiveness simply fell away. No big deal. Especially in Florida. Where I get to live now in winter and soon maybe all the time. When I’m not traveling the world with my younger husband.
In preparation for this birthday, I’ve been reading “Women Rowing North” by Mary Pipher. She asks us older folk to think about what sustains and enriches us going forward. And then do that. Pipher says old age is a time of “vibrant living” and it’s true. All the cares of busy adulthood really do fall away if you’ve planned it right. Or in my case because my husband planned it right. I got to retire early from teaching and write books. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do and I did it! I read novels instead of student essays these days. As many as I want, whenever I feel like it. I have a library full of books I’ve saved through the years so that when I was old I could reread them. The time is now. I’m happiest with a book in my hand.
Like Pipher, I plan to navigate life’s currents and flourish as I age. It’s true that older women are devalued in our society, but that doesn’t bother me. I know my worth. I’ve done my work, raised my children, written my books, made connections that have lasted most of my life. I’m content with how my life has turned out. Friendships sustain me and my spouse is a safe harbor. My grandchildren are a special delight. Words can’t do those little lives justice. We are traveling to see Ben in April and Owen and Julia in May. Because we can. Other people’s schedules no longer hold us down. We make our own schedules now.
Even if you’ve never been inclined to get to know your body before, with old age the skin and what’s in it won’t be ignored. It likes to be walked like a dog and stretched and flexed like a cat. It needs attention and wants to be fully inhabited. For me, yoga works. Old bodies are not happy being used and abused. If you put something into your body at age 64 that it does not want, it will tell you. You have to honor that. I’m working on it.
Every life is a work in progress, and at 64 I’m taking a step back from the canvas to appreciate the beauty of this birthday gift. Thanks for being here with me today!