Tag Archives: editing

I’m Done

12 Mar

So the story goes that J.K.Rowling, when she finished writing her seventh and last Harry Potter novel at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, wrote on the base of a bust of Hermes, “JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on 11th Jan 2007.”

I have no statues or heads of statues nearby, nor do I have sufficient clout to assume that anyone would even want me to write on their statue should there be any around, so I am choosing, instead, to write to you, my blogland friends:

I, Gretchen O’Donnell, have finished editing my children’s novel, tentatively titled, “The Children of Eel Pond Island” on this day, March 12, 2013, in BenLees Café, in Worthington, Minnesota, at 2:00 in the afternoon.

I am full of caffeine.

I am heady with joy.

I am scared to death.

I am done.


The Thing Which Scares Me the Most

4 Sep

Now that I’ve survived the trauma of Boo heading off to kindergarten, my daily focus has changed a wee bit. Now, rather than answering questions and playing Candyland, I can spend my time doing what I have wanted, all my life, to do.

I can write.

I have this amazing thing: TIME.

I can taste it. I can touch it. Like a gift-wrapped, tangible presence: TIME.

And, of course, I face the huge question of how best to spend it.

This means I can choose to drive into town, and, if I do, I can stop frequently along the 20-minute drive to take photographs, I can stop for minutes on end to capture the Blue Herons that fish along the shallow lakes and no one will fuss that they’re hungry, tired, or bored.

This also means that I can sit around in my pajamas all day and no one will ever know. Except perhaps the UPS man, but he usually comes to our house in the late afternoon so I should be safe as I’ll have to get dressed by then to uphold the ruse that I’ve been productive all day.

It means I can brew a pot of coffee and carry it out to the deck where I can read in the sunshine without being interrupted and interrupted and interrupted, forced to read the same sentence three times in as many minutes.

I means I can go grocery shopping without a helper. Or get my haircut without having to buy the bottle of shampoo that accidentally got knocked off the shelf and burst open. Or go to the gynecologist without lining up a sitter because there are some things that a five year old just doesn’t need to know about yet.

It means I can sit at my desk and write, write, write, write, write, write, write. I can edit and revise and think. I can stand on my head, if I like, trying to think of the perfect way to kill off a character, and no one will look at me funny, or demand that I explain myself or ask me sweetly to help her stand on her head, too.

No one will ask me this because no one will be around.

For seven hours a day, it will be quiet.

Completely silent.

I feel old.

I feel a little bit lonely.

I feel finicky, like a cat that can’t make up its mind what it really wants out of life.

I am overwhelmed by the largeness of the silence.

And I am amazed.

Amazed that, after almost 13 years of having children at home, they’re finally all in school.

Amazed that I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had 7 hours to myself, at home, uninterrupted, and now suddenly I have years and years of this ahead.

I feel grateful for this.

I feel empty because of this.

I feel afraid due to this.

Yes, afraid. Afraid that, now that I have time, I’ll finish up my manuscript and no one will want to buy it. Afraid that all these years I’ve looked forward to this moment, this chance to perfect this book, I’ll botch it. I’ll just be one of those people who tried to get a book published.

And failed.

Yes, I am afraid. Because this is what I have wanted all my life and what if I can’t do it?

I find things to keep me busy: church stuff, volunteering around town, washing the dishes. Things that keep me too busy to write. Too busy to face the ultimate question of whether or not I can achieve this elusive goal.

These things become excuses.

Perhaps even this blog becomes a time-filler to keep me away from what I need to do…
…but I am frightened of.

They say that fear of failure is one of the top fears of everyone in the world.

They also say that failure to try is failure in itself.

I am not afraid to die, I am not afraid to speak in public – two of the other major fears people face. But yes…I am afraid of failing in this dream.

The thing is, so much of it depends not just on me, but on others.

And maybe they won’t think I’m a genius.


But yes, I will try. I will proceed. I will finish.

Because to not to would be to have failed for certain for sure.

(Yes, I meant that sentence to be badly written. It’s reflective of my state of mind.)

Who knew that sending Boo off to kindergarten would provoke such a reaction in her mama?!

I did not cry when they drove away to school, everyone waving, Boo giggling with joy.

The tears came later. Now I’m left with a book-sized lump in my throat that is causing me cardiac distress.

I’ll let you know if it ever goes away.

An English Major’s Woe

21 Jun

It is exhausting, writing. I remember hearing my English teachers say such things and I didn’t exactly believe them. I mean, I knew it was a bit of work, getting a piece of writing exactly the way I wanted it. But I knew, too, that the basic writing of ideas came fairly easily to me. So easily that I chose to major in English…a degree which my husband, I might add, does not hesitate to scoff (albeit kindly) at. He’s an engineer…and I can’t deny the fact that he’s the one making the money in this household. Thank God for the scientifically-minded…but, I also have to ask, do we not need the writers to keep us amused?  And provoke deep thoughts?  I hope?!

Yes, writing is stressful. But it’s also something I love. I can’t NOT do it. I write random sentences all the time on random bits of paper…many of which have been scribbled on by my children…or blown on by their noses.   Most of them never see the light of day.  But writing blithely off the top of one’s head is different from editing. I’ve been living in the editing world for so long now that finally, last night, I just up and said, “I’m DONE.” I thought I was done two weeks ago. But then I began – foolishly – to read my manuscript through yet again, and discovered that there are still things to be fixed. Yes, a few blatant errors (mostly things that the “find and replace” function didn’t catch, as well as a time-frame issue that arose), but mostly the problems I found were phrases that just weren’t “perfect” or words that didn’t sound quite right.

Perfectionism is a curse and a fallacy when it comes to writing. I truly believe it’s impossible for a writer to ever be totally satisfied with their entire book. One or two phrases here and there may feel almost perfect…but then I worry that I’m somehow blind to their faults, that they’re perhaps overly sentimental or too wordy or that they contain some other horrifying writer’s sin like a run-on sentence or a split infinitive. (What is a split infinitive? I don’t know.  That’s why I switched from Journalism as a major…it was too precise…and competitive.  That’s also why I didn’t make a great English teacher.  It’s hard to teach it when you can’t explain it.  The trick is, I know things are wrong when I see them…at least usually!) And so I fear even those “perfect” phrases. They’re the ones editors tend to CHOP. In college I wrote a poem titled “Killing my Babies” about that exact thing…cutting out lines that I love but that simply need to go for whatever reason. No, I won’t copy that poem for you here…wouldn’t want to lose any readers due to my terrible collegiate scribbles! (And, by the way, I don’t think that I’d use that title again, having children of my own now. Feels a little distasteful…and overly dramatic. Yet another writer’s sin.)

Yes, writing this book has been intense. I can’t even remember exactly when I started it, but I think that it was 3 ½ years ago. Writing goes slowly when you only have an average of 2 ½ hours twice a week to dedicate to it. (Pre-school and/or napping pre-schooler hours.) The end date is fluid, too, as I am finding out. The reality is, it will never be done…until I’m forced to just simply stop perfecting it due to a publisher’s deadline…which, of course, is what I want! And so, I’m beginning that dreaded hunt to find a publisher. Last week I sent my entire book to two people I’ve known for years, but with whom I only recently reconnected via Facebook. (I love facebook, I must admit.) Mr. Brown was my 8th grade English teacher and Mrs. Brown my 4th grade teacher. (And yes, I have a terrible time calling them by their first names now…old habits die hard. Can you relate?) Together they are going to edit/make suggestions/and aid me in this process.  I asked them if they were willing for me to include this paragraph…but I didn’t tell them I was going to say this: Mrs. Brown was my favorite teacher EVER…and I went to four years of college and three years of grad school…so that makes for a lot of teachers over the years!  How fun is it for me to be working with her now, all these years later, as an adult?  I really am thrilled to have them both on my side!  They’ve written two books themselves, so they know what they’re talking about.  Yes, everything is coming together!!

And so I’m entering the phase of book-writing that I’ve feared and dreaded for years. The phase that has kept me from ever seriously attempting a book before. I’m putting on my thick skin. I’m asking my husband to dedicate some of his hard-earned engineer money to this, and I’m diving into the deep end. And I can’t even swim. But, hopefully, the fact that I’ve edited my brains out will be a life-raft.

Oh, and not to be obnoxious, but if you subscribe to this blog, perhaps my future publisher will be impressed by how many people want to read what I write! THANKS!

Yes, Epiphanies Really do Happen

31 May

So, given the title of this blog, I’ve been thinking about “epiphanies” this week.  How often do they come?  What truly constitutes one?  I like the word “epiphany”.  Just saying it makes me smile.  I think it’s the “ph”…I get a kick out of “ph” words.  Those two letters, masquerading as ff’s.  (I have no idea how that rule of spelling came about.  Not that I have very many ideas about very many spelling rules.)  I had an honest-true epiphany this week.  One of those moments where, one second you don’t know…and the next second you do.  I like the moments as well as the word.

I’ve been doing my final read-through of my manuscript.  One last proofing/editing before feeling like it’s ready to be seen by an editor.  I was sitting at Ben Lee’s Café, the wonderful coffee shop I write at during my daughter’s pre-school for two hours, twice a week.  (Oh, precious hours!)  School is out now.  (MIXED FEELINGS!)  But my friend Sarah offered to take the kids so I could do this final reading.  Things were going well.  I was reading chapters I hadn’t looked at in a long time; I was enjoying the editing, the coffee, the feeling that things were being accomplished…and then I reached the end of a chapter and one line leaped out at me.  Just one innocent line which I wrote months ago…and suddenly I had my title.  It had been waiting there for me for all this time and I didn’t know.

I’ve been unhappy with my working title…titles, I should say.  None of them were obeying their title and WORKING.  I’ve even asked my friends in
our critique group (Oh, marvelous women!) and they, too, weren’t thrilled with my options.  In fact, last month when we met, we said, “Well, maybe it will leap out at you as you read through the whole manuscript again.”  YES!  It did.  Even my aforementioned friend Sarah – who knows very little about the topic, etc., of the story, pointed in an instant to that new title when I gave her a list to choose from.  Yes!  One second I didn’t know.  The next second I did.

Ah, the beauty of epiphanies.

PS…sorry…I decided not to post the title as it’s not copywritten and I don’t want it to be swiped!  Yes, I’m possessive!  I guess you’ll have to keep on reading my blog to find out how it all plays out.  🙂

Tuesdays With Gretchen

24 May

So…mark your calendars now because this is the first installment of many which I’m hoping you’ll look forward to with at least a small degree of anticipation!  Tuesdays with Gretchen.  That’s what I want you to remember.  It’s too bad, really, that my name doesn’t begin with a “T”…or that a day of the week doesn’t begin with “G”.  I could have called it Tuesdays with Trudy.  That has a ring to it.  When I was small, my sister called me  – among a wide variety of nick names – “Trudy Myra”.  Not sure why, you’d have to ask her.  So I could, I suppose, call this Tuesdays with Trudy…but then, no one would know who the heck I was talking about so I guess Tuesdays With Gretchen it will be.

Have I said it often enough yet for you to remember?!!  TUESDAYS WITH GRETCHEN!

So…now you know how often and when I intend to post on my blog!  Yes.  That would be Tuesdays.  Why Tuesday?  I met a girl once, who met a girl, whose name was Tuesday.  I always thought it was a kinda cool name.  Not that I named any of my children “Tuesday”.  I’m married to a die-hard Mid-western guy.  “Tuesday” is way too out there for him.  I was all for “Finnley” for our third child…but yeah, that didn’t go over too well, either.  Especially since she turned out to be a girl.  So I had to use it for one of my character’s names. 

What character am I talking about?  More on that another day.  Another TUESDAY.

It’s possible that I’ll have epiphanies on days other than Tuesday.  And I may be compelled to write about those.  Either that or I’ll store them all up for a month of Tuesdays.  So don’t be surprised if there’s an occasional non-Tuesday post.  As a matter of fact, you can always read anything I post on any given day…even on a Wednesday!  All this to say, I’d love you to stop by as often as you’d like.   If I ever figure out how to post pictures properly, I might even post them on a Friday…just to keep you on your toes.

Okay, so now you know when…I suppose you’re wondering what.  Well, I think I’ve covered that in my “about”…which I believe is located on your upper right hand side and titled, “Where I’m Coming From”…look there to see what I’ll be writing about.  ‘Course, who knows what epiphanies I’ll be having, so who knows what will show up…but those are my basic parameters.  Those are where I’m being led.  Compelled, as it were. 

I really hope you’ll join me on my journey.

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