“You’ve come a long way, Baby” Blogfest (AKA, a glimpse at a before and after)

The big day is here! That’s right, The Writer’s Hole, “You’ve come a long way, Baby” Blogfest is TODAY!

Hop on over to Christine’s blog to check out the other participants’ entries…should be a lot of fun AND eye-opening to see other writers’ progress over time.

You know, it’s hard to see changes when we track them on a daily basis, but when confronted with the before and after, well, the differences are striking.

Without further ado, here’s my before (opening excerpt from my first novel, an adult urban fantasy):

Peter’s words circled around in her mind with such speed and intensity that it left her confused.

She kept coming back to the same questions. Why is he persisting in this? And why now?

She shook her head. They’d had a perfectly romantic evening—an elegant dinner complete with dancing. And then he’d ruined it by asking her to move in with him.

Shocked by the suddenness of his request, her stomach flopped and her heart raced. Breathless, she’d sputtered a hasty reply—“Doesn’t it seem a little soon? I mean things are going so well the way they are.”

He’d replied, “Yeah, things are going great. Which is why I think it’s time you move in with me, Brienne.”

Her mind still reeled from his deep kiss.

He really wants this.

Looking at her reflection, she peered into her green eyes. How many times am I going to replay the conversation? For crying out loud, just give it a rest already, will you!

She pursed her lips.  Moving in together is just not an option.

Almost ready for work, she grabbed her bag, still trying to reason it out. She loved Peter—at least she thought she did—so, why couldn’t that be enough? She’d tried to tell him that as tactfully as possible, but it felt awkward and she was left unsatisfied.

Well, how the hell do you think he feels? She asked herself.

Fumbling with her ID badge before finally heading out the door, she paused in her rumination and looked at the one by one inch picture. A bright-eyed, idealistic clinician who’d just completed residency smiled back at her. Noticing she’d already aged since that photo was taken five years ago, she turned her attention to her name and the title beneath. Brienne Kirby, MD.

I’ve accomplished so much. So why am I getting stuck on this? Her stomach turned again and she clenched her fists to interrupt the swelling anxiety that threatened to consume her.

Grabbing her keys, she scratched her Persian cat, Milly, under her chin and said, “Bye honey, have a good day.”

The cat jutted out her chin, splaying her whiskers in the process, to more thoroughly enjoy the sensation. Her big blue eyes closed with pleasure and a steady purr made Brienne reluctant to leave.

“Maybe we can talk about Peter when I get home, huh?” She patted the cat’s head.

Milly, disappointed that Brienne had stopped scratching, abruptly turned and walked away, her upright, fluffy white tail bobbing with each step.

“Some help you are.” Brienne frowned. She knew better than to get sympathy from a cat.

Yeah, so, there it is, LOL! Needs some work, eh? Gotta say it’s not as bad as I thought it would be (haven’t seen this one in over 18 months!). If I were to rewrite/revise this tale, though, I’d cut this before you could blink. Heh.

…And here’s my after (opening scene from a middle grade adventure, still a WIP):

The Renaissance Faire wrecks my birthday every year. A month before the actors and merchants arrive to transform the park into a 16th century towne—yes, with an “e”—Mom stops taking her lithium. Within forty-eight hours she’s higher than a prom queen accepting her crown. As the best dress-maker east of the Appalachian Trail, she thinks it’s her duty to stay awake for days, surviving on double espressos and cigarettes, to make the royal court’s costumes. She says mania makes her more productive, but all it does is turn her into a raging beast that puts Sauron, the Basilisk, and the Krakken to shame.

“Why wait until the last minute when you have the whole year?” I hover near the doorway and yell over blaring heavy metal music. Originally the living room, Mom’s studio has the best natural lighting of the whole house. A large bay window, stretching from floor to ceiling, is the envy of every do-it-yourself crafter on the block. I dream about curling up on the seat cushion with a book and a cup of hot chocolate, but Mom doesn’t let anybody in there. No. Matter. What. Mary and I played dress up and paraded in front of the full-length mirrors lining the opposite wall when we were six. Mom spanked us so hard we couldn’t sit for hours. She wasn’t taking lithium then, either.

Well, this piece certainly has more voice. The paragraphs are a bit on the longish side, but this is still a WIP, so it may get edited further. I dig it, though. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel much more connected and invested in the MC in this piece than I did in the “before” example.

So there ya go. I’ve still got a lot of work to do, but I’m going to enjoy the fact that I’ve come so far in the past 2+ years.

Tell me, friends, what differences have you noticed in your writing over time?

Mental Health Monday–Self-Evaluation

Part of mental health treatment includes identifying goals and monitoring progress. Having objective measures helps. Why? Well, it’s hard to see how far you’ve come when you’re neck deep in the mire of day to day life. It’s also hard to see improvements when your eye is focused solely on whittling away at the negatives. I dare say it gets demoralizing and exhausting after a while.

So what’s the solution? Stepping back to look at the big picture. Assess how far you’ve come. Compare where you’re at now to where you were “before.”

Writers need to do this too. (I’ve recently been reminded of this, hence the post.) I stew and stew over how much work I have left in front of me to improve my writing. It makes me tired…and whiney (sorry, crit partners, you are the poor saps super supportive peeps who get to listen to me grumble).

What better way to celebrate progress than through a blogfest? Yup, that’s right, a blogfest. Check out Christine H’s blog, The Writer’s Hole, for deets on an upcoming blogfest/contest comparing “before” and “after” writing skills. Read her tale of working on a WIP for FOUR years and how she managed to stick with it.

On Saturday, February 5th, I’m ponying up and sharing some “old” writings (pre-“training”) and sharing lines from a more recent WIP to show the difference.

Who’s with me? Go on then, sign up! *nudge nudge*

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Don’t forget to check out Lovely Lydia’s post on Medical Monday.

Be sure to pop on over to Sarah’s blog for her super awesome psychology post!