Thursday, September 13, 2012


There is great strength in reviewing our recent pasts. Since hindsight is 20/20, we have a clear vision of where we are and where we have been. Here are a few ways I have been using reflection on the past to improve the present.

I have had a hard time identifying the weakest scenes in a manuscript. This week I put all the scenes on 3x5 cards, color coded the highlight points of my story, and laid them all out in order. Then it was easy! I could see what my chapter outlines weren’t showing me: plot holes, incongruities, and weak scenes. I think I could not see those things in an outline because the scenes psychologically feel so fixed on paper to me. Index cards are things I think my brain knows I can toss, add to, or rework freely. Now I’m working on cutting out those scenes and replacing them with stronger story moments. It has made revision not such the slog it has been so far on this book.

The biggest crusher of my soul in the day is my tendency to overwhelm myself. Sometimes I go to bed so discouraged I haven’t crossed off all I wanted to accomplish. But if I consistently spend 5 minutes each day recording 3 good things about the day, I am much happier. Sometimes those things are things I have accomplished or am grateful for, others are cute things my kids did or said. The latter may not be an achievement, but indirectly it helps me reaffirm I must be doing something right for them to be such wonderful people. Some days this list comes easy. Some days it’s like pulling out an ingrown hair. But if I look, I always find the bright spots! An additional benefit to this habit is I have a ready-made journal for my children to someday help them remember the beauties of their childhood. (And a way for them to get to know the inner me a little better.)

Every January and September I set major goals for myself. Sometimes they get accomplished, sometimes other priorities win out as the year goes on. I get discouraged. Almost every December and August. Until I review my year and write down all I DID accomplish. Often it might not be what I set out to do but it is often what I SHOULD have done.

Life moves forward and sometimes we run to stand still, so the more joy and enlightenment we can squeeze out of the jog, the better. For a Type A personality like me, pondering on the past helps me live with a lighter heart in the present.

Q4U: Do you review your recent pasts? (Or re-map your manuscripts, for you writers out there?) If so, do you think it helps you?


  1. Interesting post. I don't review recent pasts, but have remapped my MS. I like your idea of using note cards to map. It's a great tool for a visual learner. If and when I ever finish the third draft of my book, I'll give your method a try during editing. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. I did a review the first time this past January - I came across a post that asked us to sum up our past year in 3 separate words. It was an interesting exercise. I think my three words were depression, eye-openers, and... hmm, I forget. But anyway, I plan to do it again this year. But YAY so glad to see you are posting again off to check your other posts....

  3. Lovely Jackee!! Of course you must count the cute things your gorgeous kids did as a definite positive plus! I think I do review my achievements more on a daily basis to improve my tomorrow. I think I know when a story is no good as it is when it does the rounds of rejections and yet I still believe in it - so it's great to take in whatever constructive criticism thrown at said story and then try again later.

    Love the Plato quote!! Take care

  4. I don't outline my stories first, so it's always interesting when I make an outline afterwards and try to see the issues. I'm trying Scrivener with my latest ms and it's helping me with this tremendously! I love the virtual index cards! :)

  5. I often find myself reviewing the past. As for manuscripts, that's harder--I struggle with figuring out where the weak spots are, too. The index card idea sounds like a good one.

  6. I like the idea of doing index cards after I've written a book, so I can check the entire book in small snapshots.

    I like your "3" rule. Days are too short while lists are too long. Do the best you can.

  7. Great post, Jackee! I can really relate to feeling discouraged at the end of each day. I love the idea of writing down the good things!

  8. Sometimes we can be so overwhelmed by all the things ahead of us that we tend to forget all the things we've already done. It's definitely a good idea to remind ourselves of what we've achieved to get to this point.

    Loved this post, Jackee.


  9. In January I started tracking my writing progress in a different way. I write (in a calendar) each day what I do related to writing. It really gives me a sense of what I am doing. Writing is more than completing a manuscript. There is research, studying, letter writing, agent and publishing house research...and reading... I joined a FB group that we give a daily progress report on. On the days we don't write (or in my case do writing work) we have to give a dollar to a particular charity.

  10. I've definitely used "reviewing the past" to help me keep things in perspective in my personal life, and I love your notecard approach for writing!

  11. I love that you're going to have that journal to give your kids - that is so cool! I don't review the past nearly as much as I should. I like your index card idea - reminds me a bit of the shrunken manuscript technique I just learned about in my Darcy Pattison retreat.

  12. My wife insists that I am not very good at neither goal setting, nor goal accomplishing. Sigh.