“It's such a miracle if you get the lines halfway right.”
Robert Lowell

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

but these two hours were just kinda sitting there burning a hole in my pocket so
Mon 2017-12-04 22:33:07 (single post)

It's December now. Time to find out what all that NaNoWriMo madness was good for.

I mean, yes, I generated a metric shit-ton of words and raw ideas for a novel that I hope I will finish sometime in the near(ish) future. That's worth something! But what's even more important to me than that is the forming and strengthening of better work-a-day habits. I just spent two weeks and change coming up with between 3,000 and 4,000 words per day. I budgeted time every day to write those words. Now that I'm not scrambling to meet that 50K/November 30 deadline, will I nevertheless keep using that hour or two per day to generate word count and/or revise fiction?

The answer in previous years has been a solid "Ehhhhhhhh.... no." And I think the reason was this: I took December off. I did not immediately build upon the habits fomented in November, so, really, there was no new habit. There was only a month-long fluke.

This year, I hope the answer is "Yes!" In fact, heck with hope; I'm making the answer be "Yes." And this will involve a little more praise for 4thewords, so brace yourselves.

See, one of the things 4thewords does is, it rewards you periodically for keeping up a longer and longer writing streak, which is to say, consecutive days of writing at least 444 words daily. Why 444? Why not? 4 is an important number in 4thewords. It's in the URL. It's in the logo. No surprise it's in their metrics. It takes 44 core crystals to purchase a month's subscription time. On Day 44 of your writing streak, you get some free core crystals as a streak reward. Today was my 21st day, so I got rewarded with a wooden chest full of mystery goodies. I'm really excited about getting the Day 30 streak reward, a pair of wire-frame wings for my avatar to wear.

Anyway, in the name of keeping up my streak, I've stopped taking weekends off from doing my daily gottas. I'm freewriting every day, Saturday and Sunday included. Which would be an amazing enough improvement in and of itself, but then--

Saturday's freewriting resulted in a relatively fleshed-out story idea which intrigued me enough to want to develop it further. Maybe I could work on it during this week's afternoon shifts. I mean, I'm not using that time for NaNoWriMo anymore, so it's free for slotting in the next writing project. That's how it's supposed to work, right? So this afternoon, that's what I did--laid down the bones of the story in quasi-outline form, dropped some question marks into key places along with some preliminary answers, that sort of thing. It would be really nice to wind up with the first draft of a brand new story by the end of the week.

But isn't that how it's supposed to work? Right? The daily freewriting generates story ideas; the story ideas turn into fully fledged stories? I mean, that's precisely how each week's Friday Fictionettes come about, yes, but this process is also supposed to yield new full-length, commercially viable, submittable and publishable stories.

Hooray for things working the way they should work! Better late than never!

yeah, i did that
a well-earned THUNK with side of happy clatter
Fri 2017-12-01 00:03:55 (single post)
  • 1,278 wds. long

All right, so, I have done it. Fifty thousand words in thirty days. Actually in more like 16 days, owing to a stupid late start. Just like old times. This time around, I'm going to say it got me through about Act I of the novel, if that's how you like to think of a novel's structure. I don't know how many Acts there will be--I'm definitely suspicious of the idea that every novel or movie must conform to the glorious Three-Act Structure (and don't get me started on the Hero's Journey, we could be here all night and I have to sleep sometime)--but the place I left off at is pretty much the end of an Act. My plan is to let the novel (and my brain) rest through December, spend that month working on more short stories to throw into the slush rotation, then come back in January to examine what I've got and do some fresh brainstorming on where it goes from there.

So I have this very pretty badge to show off that says that I Am A Winner! and also a tasty 50% discount on my next purchase of Core Crystals at 4thewords (to whom I really must attribute this win--I wasn't logging 4K+ days until I had monsters to battle). And yes I'm already subscribed through the next five and half months, true, but there are also in-game things to buy, like clockwork parrots to sit on your shoulder and cuss, and really snazzy costumes, and ridiculous hair, and so on. I like the idea of getting half off all that.

In other end-of-the-month news, I have released the Fictionette Freebie for November 2017. It is "Love of Country" (ebook, audiobook, wattpad). I chose that one partially because it's the longest of the four, and partially because it's the first one I not only drafted but also completely revised in the 4thewords editor. That made it easy to "publish" it into the 4thewords reading library. So you can read the Freebie there, too,, if you have or wish to create a 4thewords account.

Then I have more happy news to share. I got an acceptance letter today! Somebody just offered to buy the right to reprint one of my early Friday Fictionettes next year! More details, like who that is and which story they bought, will follow when I get the go-ahead to share 'em. For now I will just be very happy in a showy yet mysterious way.

And now, I go to collapse in bed and sleep the sleep of the productive and satisfied writer. I believe the sound effect for that is thunk.

got no room for lazy lungs in here (drop and give me twenty)
Tue 2017-11-28 23:45:59 (single post)

Just under 4,000 words today. About 7,700 words remaining to the win. Y'all, I am going to do this. I didn't really get started until nearly halfway through the month, but I am going to do this!

I admit I still don't quite know where the story's going. I don't know a lot more about it, plot-wise, than I did while I was still brainstorming. I know a lot more about the characters, though. They've come into closer focus thanks to flashbacks, random details, and tangents in their interior monologues. Not to mention simply demanding of myself that I look closer at entities I'd been guilty of glossing over before, like the characters' homes and workplaces. Even the car Delta drives on their fateful road trip is more fully realized, along with it the state of the international automobile industry.

I feel uneasily like I haven't earned this win (assuming, as I do, that I will win). I feel like I'm just plastering purple prose and sentimental hooey all over the page. I tell myself that this is the only way I'll find out what's in my story--just get it all down, jumbled and overwrought and repetitive as it is, and worry about how to organize the information later. It's not unlike researching a paper for school. You can't worry about the structure of the finished paper if you're still just taking notes on your subject. You may not have even found the piece of data you need to really decide on your thesis yet. Keep taking notes.

So OK, yeah, I just had my characters barf their entire backstories onto the page at each other with no regard for pacing or the art of the reveal. So what? Now I know their backstories. Really, it was me they were telling. I needed to be told.

So by the end of the month I won't have a novel, but I'll have taken some 50,000 words worth of notes on who my characters are and where they might be going. I'll have slapped down a lot of raw clay on the workbench and squished my hands through it in an aimless but satisfying way. Squish, squish. It's kind of fun. Shaping and refining the clay can happen later. For now (squish), observations on its color and texture are sufficient. (Squish.)

Meanwhile, I went to roller derby practice tonight for the first time in more than a week. It was lovely to see my league mates again and skate with them, and it was really pleasant to practice hitting each other. (It was a particular shoulder hit to a backwards-facing blocker's chest. It felt oddly football.) My lungs protested, especially when we did twenty minutes of sprint intervals at the end. Hell with my lungs. They've been lazing too long. Time they were expected to do some real work around the joint.

and i will put the days of white-knuckled computing behind me
Tue 2017-11-28 01:05:16 (single post)

You may have occasionally heard me complain about my laptop.

You may have heard me say such things as, "I think my Asus is auditioning for the part of the typewriter in Stephen King's Misery, because every day another key on its keyboard seems to stop working." (To wit, the "s", the +/= key, the caps lock, the delete, the digits 3 and 7 on the number pad, and the digits 5, 6 and 0 on the top row, including their SHIFT and F components, nixing the end-paren and the hot keys governing volume and screen brightness too. It's an electrical thing. Sometimes they work, mostly they don't. Sometimes when they don't, if I keep hammering away at them anyway, the computer will simply die.)

You may have, perhaps, heard me lament the operating system's tendency to just can't and to forget how to even when I am tasking it cruelly by, say, attempting to run a web browser and Scrivener simultaneously. We are talking five, ten, fifteen-second pauses between my hitting ALT-ESC and the Start menu appearing, between clicking on the little volume icon and having the volume slider appear, between my typing one letter and then another letter into a Facebook messenger conversation.

You may even have heard me curse and seen me facepalm because I forgot to take the wireless keyboard's USB dongle out before telling the computer to hibernate. Because obviously if I leave the wireless keyboard's USB dongle in, the computer will crash rather than hibernate. Obviously. Who do I think I am, expecting the computer to successfully hibernate while anything is plugged into its USB ports? Why is anything ever plugged into the USB ports? Who does that, anyway?

This is the computer that Asus sent me to replace the computer that lost its ability to "see" its fully charged battery, such that if I unplugged the thing from the wall, it died. So the computer sent to replace the computer that started going electronically haywire is also now going electronically haywire. And both of them seemed to run out of memory for ridiculously banal tasks. And its/their warranty is entirely expired

This is a computer that might make you ask, "Why have you not replaced that computer?"

Well. As of tonight, I HAVE.

I did it. I bit the bullet and I spent a slightly uncomfortable amount of money on a computer that, by any measure, ought to be way more computer than I need. It's from the upper-middle range of Dell's "gaming laptop" line, an Inspiron 15 in the 7000 series with an i7 quad core, 16GB DDR4 2400Mz memory, 256GB solid state boot with 1TB storage, bluetooth, dual-band 2x2 wi-fi, and a ridiculously fantastic video card that I will probably never properly appreciate due to my pathetically low-tech video game tendencies.

Also, it's Dell. I have bad-mouthed Dell before, because every Dell I've ever owned has required me to avail myself of Dell's extended warranty repair service. However, my Asus experience has not been devoid of warranty repair interactions, and those interactions were much less friendly than their Dell counterparts. Asus didn't give me the option to extend the warranty past the first year. I had to pay for packaging and shipping. I had to practically pull teeth for them to give me status reports. Whereas, with the Dell I ordered tonight, I got the four-year extended warranty for the price of three, and longer extensions were available. When in the past I had to ship my laptop back, Dell sent me a prepaid laptop-shipping box with a comfy customizable foam interior. And once they didn't even make me ship them my computer, but instead sent a tech to my house. He sat down at my kitchen table and operated on my laptop right there.

I will bad-mouth Dell no more. I have tried both the Dell way and the Asus way of dealing with laptop misbehavior. I am resigned that laptop misbehavior is inevitable, and I prefer the Dell way of dealing with it.

The Cyber Monday discount wasn't nearly as deep as I'd hoped, but, gods damn it, I will have a computing environment that is not painful. It's supposed to arrive on December 12.

Until then, I continue chugging along with my external keyboard and other such coping mechanisms.

I am chugging along quite nicely. I got a bit behind on NaNoWriMo over the weekend, partly because no matter how much willpower I've got and how many over-the-counter remedies I use, being sick is going to slow me down; and partly because it was a weekend, darn it, and I was going to enjoy it. So now I'll need to do 4K per day to hit 50K on time. But I did make my 4K today, plus extra. And tomorrow I won't have a computer to shop for and a bunch of overdue tasks to accomplish. And I'm done being sick! It only gets easier from here.

I've only 11,649 words to go. It's not enough to finish the novel in, but it might be enough to help me figure out how to finish the novel.

See? See? Basketball!
friday is the new friday
Fri 2017-11-17 22:31:16 (single post)

Sound the trumpets and ring the bells! This week's Friday Fictionette is out on Friday. Shock! Surprise! We are stunned! And also I've already made a solid start on next week's fictionette because--y'all are gonna get sick of hearing me say this--4thewords is 4theWIN.

And but so anyway. "The Rutabagas Remember" is about equal opportunity basketball. Kind of. It's also about making memories that matter. It's 1042 words long. It's available to $1/month Patrons as an ebook; to $3/month Patrons it's additionally available as an audiobook. The usual drill, in other words.

My original plan for cover art was to find public domain or Creative Commons images of a rutabaga and a basketball and kinda fade one onto the other. It looked really cool in my head. It also was going to be a pain in the butt. But that was my plan.

I'd just logged my morning NaNoWriMo session. I was about to have my lunch. First, though, I went for a walk around the neighborhood to figure out what I'd write during the evening session. Meantime I intended to start right in on fictionette publishing procedures soon as I got back and had a bite to eat.

While I was out, I stumbled across two things:

  1. A community garden left to winter over, just behind the nearby church.
  2. A basketball abandoned and left to rot on the shore of one of the little private lakes nearby.

Well. I'm not one to ignore the Universe when it is so very clearly talking to me. I grabbed the basketball, I grabbed my camera, I headed back over to the garden, and lo, a photo was born. It probably could have been a better photo. But it's mine, I took it, I made a cover design out of it, I'm sticking with it.

I mean, a basketball. Just lying there being thematically relevant.

Today went as planned in other ways. I logged two NaNoWriMo sessions which together netted me 3,385 words. It wasn't the 3,500 I was hoping for, but it was in excess of the 3,334-word double-day mark, and that's the important thing. If I can pull double days from here on out, I will win the prize.

And there is a prize. There's going to be a coupon code for 4thewords in the NaNoWriMo winner package; it'll be worth 50% off a core crystal purchase and it'll pop some exclusive NaNoWriMo-themed gear in your inventory. Details about this and more in the NaNoWriMo Forum on the designated 4thewords thread.

That Nano-winner gear will be mine.

(Also I have now defeated a whole bunch more monsters and I've completed the torch quest and a bunch of Nano-related word-count quests and some quests involving a checklist of marionette varieties to defeat and and and and I finally SUBSCRIBED, ok, I bought the big bulk package, I am IN THIS EVERY DAY for YEARS TO COME)

tangled mess here i come
Thu 2017-11-16 23:00:42 (single post)

This 4thewords experiment has been wholly successful. Three days after registering, I am done with blog backfill, I'm ahead of schedule on this week's fictionette, and I'm starting to glimpse some small hope of actually reaching 50K words on the novel by the end of November.

My work habits have improved, too. I have barely touched my usual procrastination enablers all week. In fact, today, I didn't play Two Dots or Dots & Co. at all, and when I tried to get caught up on the blogs I usually spend too much time reading, it was with a feeling of reluctance. Like, I didn't want to, but I felt like I ought to. As though staying caught up on the current comment threads was some sort of obligation.

I am enjoying writing more than I am enjoying the things I tend to do when I'm avoiding writing. It's magical.

I confess, I did not get 1800 words in last night. I was tired and only got 1600. Got only another 1600 today. Not so bad, really. Running in place beats falling farther behind. Still, starting tomorrow, I hope to get on a 3500-per-day track. I've rearranged my timesheet template to indicate that I should work one novel-writing session during the morning shift and one during the afternoon.

It's not going to be that hard to come up with the words, not if I keep doing what I did today. Here's what I did today. Ready? It's so stupid. In the flashback I spent today's session writing, I got the plot totally wrong.

See, I'd already decided ages ago on the details surrounding Michael Fischer's family. His little brother died in infancy; his parents broke up over it. That's not the part I got wrong. The part I got wrong was forgetting that the whole reason Michael jumped at the opportunity to take a foreign internship and get the hell ouf of there was, his parents were getting back together and he didn't want to be within miles of the inevitable drama. OK but so except during today's writing I got distracted by a last-minute inspiration and hared right off into an alternate universe where something entirely else happened. And I didn't realize that's what I'd done until I'd logged my word count, packed up my computer, and headed off to scrimmage.

Oh crap, I realized, I'm going to have to write a lot of that scene over again. And I'll want to somehow synthesize the initial backstory with the new inspiration, figure out how much of what I came up with today is bunk and how much actually improves on the original plan. Which is hard and has me sort of running around in mental circles trying to keep track of everything.

It's NaNoWriMo. I'm not going to erase anything. I'm after word count! Keep today's work, write the scene again tomorrow, hell, write it five more times, it all counts! Only, I was also after a vaguely organized first draft rather than a tangled mess that will be a nightmare come time to edit. At this point, I think the tangled mess is the most likely outcome.

Alas, such things happen in November.

i also like anchovies don't judge
Fri 2017-11-10 00:15:56 (single post)

Congratulate me. I have logged my first 1700 words for NaNoWriMo 2017. I'm a week late getting started, but it's early days yet. And every day that I post a word count is a victory. So huzzah for victory!

I've been avoiding writing the first words. The first words are scary! Brainstorming and worldbuilding is fun and low-stakes; none of the worldbuilding babble I've typed over the past year counts. But writing actual draft, now, that's real words, that's the actual story, am I ready to write the actual story? Do I know enough? What if I get it wrong?

Which is exactly the sort of meebling that NaNoWriMo is supposed to help curtail. So.

I haven't managed the blog backfill yet, but I'm in process. I wrote the post for Tuesday, October 31 (which ends on a depressing note, I'm afraid) and got halfway through the post for Wednesday, November 1 (which is more fun, though I admit it indulges in a bit of whining). I'm... no longer sure what happened on Thursday, November 2? I think not a lot happened after all, when I think back on it. There was breakfast--Dad made me breakfast every day, I think what with Mom in the assisted living community he misses having someone to cook for--and then I think we visited Mom, and then I had a nap, and then later I visited my brother. The nap might be the problem here. I have this feeling like, more must have happened, but I guess maybe not, it was pretty much all domestic stuff and napping. OK.

Speaking of napping, and needing to nap more often than I'd like, HEY YOU KNOW WHAT I FOUND OUT?! I got my blood lab results back Tuesday, and it turns out I'm vitamin D deficient! By a lot! You know what some of the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency are? Fatigue and feelings of depression. GEE THAT SOUNDS FAMILIAR. At least it's actionable! I have added a D3 supplement to my daily routine, renewed my habit of a daily walk in the sunshine, and, to my daily banana, I have added a daily glass of fortified milk and a daily can of some sort of canned fish. (I'm cycling between salmon, tuna, sardines, and smoked oysters.) If this goes on--I mean, the adding new things to the "try to eat daily" list--I fear my meals will become as regimented as September's in The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home. I quite like canned fish, though.

(Maybe I don't have to have it every day.)

To be clear, I still need to have a chat with an Actual Medical Professional about this and also about the fact that my lipid panel results got flagged this year for the first time. But in the meantime, the fish/fortified milk/sunshine/D3 supplements thing isn't gonna hurt me. It might actually help. But it's way too soon to tell.

I didn't nap today, in any case. I got a lot done today. Got up early, put in about six hours of writing throughout the day (six! usually I barely manage three!), picked up the car from the mechanic, took myself out for a late lunch of kimchi jjigae, went to scrimmage, started my day off with a leisurely breakfast of sardines on toast with onions and peppers, and ended my day with a tasty bowl of Dal-Style Lentils and Stuff (the Stuff being eggplant, spinach, kimchi juice, and a poached egg--hey, egg yolks are also a source of vitamin D!) and also a nice long soak in the tub. I mean, that's one packed day. Packed with writing and derby and TASTY MEALS.

It was a good day, is what I'm saying.

on your mark get set no pressure go
Thu 2017-10-05 16:00:00 (single post)

It's October and I'm feeling a little inadequate.

Remember how last year, round about this time, I declared the autumn to be my Novel Writing Season? I was going to have as many short stories ready for submission as possible, and then I was going to focus exclusively for a few months on writing a Brand! New! Novel! that I would actually finish this time? And I did all this brainstorming, about this one main character from a country where people are born in animal forms and become human when they grow up, who visits another country where if you violate the terms of a contract you signed then you actually lose your name, and he meets this second main character who in fact did lose her name and is trying to work her way out of identity perjury debt, and they're on a purely professional date when she gets an unwanted phone call from her past, which involves people with really scary magic powers who she wants nothing to do with even though one of them's her mother and another's her daughter, and anyway she takes that first main character on this wild road trip to either go deal with the crisis or run away from it, I'm not sure which, and...

Yes. Well. Never got past the brainstorming stage on that novel, did I? Never even created an entry for that novel in my database to tag my blog posts with. (If you do see this blog post with a novel tag appended at the upper left, then hi! You must be from the future! How's the weather up there? Did we survive 2017? Are we no longer speeding toward several apocalypses simultaneously? Are things better out there? For everyone? Please say yes?)

I'm acutely aware of this because next week I'm heading up the mountains on my annual Thank the Gods It's the Off-Season I'm-a Go Introvert Hard Now writing retreat. That's where I was last year when I did so much brainstorming on the novel. The brainstorming was aided by multiple hot baths and glasses of red wine. Also cheese and crackers. Babbling out loud, too. A lot of babbling out loud. Anyway, I sort of never got back to it once I returned to life-as-usual in the flatlands. (Well, once I returned to Boulder. "Flatlands" is relative.)

So... I guess my new goal for my time up there is to make tangible progress on the outline and worldbuilding so that, come November, I can draft the sucker in an intelligent yet speedy way.

Which means, not-so-coincidentally, we're back to the NaNoWriMo ideal, where October is for brainstorming the novel (while getting my short fiction in order). November is for drafting the novel (at a rate of 50,000 words in 30 days). December will be for resting the novel and writing new short fiction; I guess January will be for the first revision pass. Finish things up during the March NaNoEdMo spree, then submit the damn thing to agents.

It's very much an ideal. If I fail once again to meet that schedule, I'm going to feel like a failure. Won't stop me trying again, but knowing I'll try again won't stop the feeling-like-a-failure thing. (Have you met writers? We're a neurotic bunch, lots of us.) So I'm putting a lot of emotions on the line here. But I really do think it's an achievable set of goals! And I gotta have goals, or else what am I doing anyhow? So.

It's novel writing season. Here we go.

can't TG when I isn't O
Fri 2016-12-02 00:37:58 (single post)

It's Thursday. Thursday is scrimmage day, both here with 10th Mountain and back home with Boulder County Bombers. (I hear tonight's BCB scrimmage was fantastic.) Unfortunately, a conflicting event scheduled in 10th Mtn's practice space obliged them to cancel tonight's scrimmage, so I never did get to try out the jerseys I made out of those plain white and black T-shirts I bought at Walmart the other day.

Actually, I only found time to finish one of them, and I'm still not sure it was a good idea. See, after I hacked off the sleeves and six inches of the shirt tail, I cut that material into long strips, about a quarter-inch wide, which I then crocheted into numbers which I sewed onto the back of the shirt. I'm a little concerned that the crocheted numbers are too thick and heavy to hang from such a lightweight material. They're also about a quarter inch thick, which could be a problem in terms of sticking out and catching people's fingers. I don't know. I'll try it out when I next need a numbered white jersey and see what happens.

It's possibly a good thing there wasn't scrimmage. My shoulder got tweaked a little last night, ice skating up at Beaver Creek Village. It wasn't a fall! It was one of those sharp backwards windmilling arm movements a body makes when trying to catch one's balance, even after roller derby has done its level best to train a body otherwise, and I guess I pulled something, 'cause it hurts. It feels better now than it did late last night, but it'll be even better after resting a few more days.

I went ice skating last night and paid full price because I knew with scrimmage tonight I wouldn't be able to go when it was free. Well, surprise! So once I heard scrimmage was canceled, I headed back up to BC Village again. Unfortunately, those rental skates are really unfriendly, and my feet were still annoyed at them. Most especially annoyed was my right upper ankle/lower outside shin, where the hard boot cuff had abraded a slice out of my skin last night which opened up again tonight. The boots also pinched my feet, as though the soles, rather than being sole-of-foot shaped, resembled valleys. And not wide, rolling valleys, but sharp, deep ones still being carved by a white-water creek. And the snow was piling up on the ice. I think that's why I skidded around worse tonight than last night. In any case, I managed just a few minutes of skating before giving up. Good thing it was free!

So in the end I walked across Avon and took the shuttle up from Elk Lot to BC Village... mostly just to have dinner at Blue Moose Pizza. So that was my Thursday night.

It's also December 1. December 1, in addition to just happening to be the day this year when the reindeer visit Avon Public Library (they are adorable and a good deal smaller than you might imagine), is the day after National Novel Writing Month ends. This is sometimes known as "Thank God It's Over" Day, when NaNoWriMo participants hold TGIO parties to celebrate achieving their goals and getting their lives back. But my novel, far from being over, has not even hit word 1. It's still deep in the planning stages. No, despite designating November as the start of my personal "novel-writing season," I quite definitely didn't do NaNoWriMo this year.

I feel a little guilty about this. I did it for so long, it became a tradition. But if everything I did for more than two years running became obligatory for the rest of my life, I'd have no room to try new things, or to just rest. Besides, after twelve years of done-and-won, and then a few years of "Am I doing it? I should be doing it. Except I don't seem to be doing it," I've come to the conclusion that I've learned what NaNoWriMo had to teach me, and it's OK to let it go. Maybe at a later date I'll return to it, but right now I have other things to learn.

(Like how to plan a novel. And then how to begin drafting it without blurting out all the juicy worldbuilding details in the very first scene.)

The other thing about NaNoWriMo is, it's social. It's joyfully social. It's an international communal challenge that brings all its participants together under a single banner and in pursuit of a single cause. And that is awesome, but it is, at this time, no longer for me. I seem to have reached a time in my life (and doesn't that make me sound old?) where my writing process has become intensely private. It wants a writing environment that's more or less under my control. Like, say, in a room in my house behind a closed door. I'll still write in coffee shops and libraries occasionally (and have done most days this week!), but my threshold for ambient intrusions has dropped sharply. And what with a decade of being a NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison and organizing and attending NaNoWriMo write-ins, I've kind of burned out on having to be the Mean Lady who's constantly telling everyone else (including, memorably, my co-ML that final year) that this is a write-in and some of us are trying to write and could you please take your loud, animated conversation elsewhere. I'll happily do a write-in with a group of close friends who have all agreed what we're there for, but I'm kind of done, at least for now, with public write-in events a la NaNoWriMo.

In the meantime, I continue planning out the current novel. During tonight's session I managed to start moving out of backstory and worldbuilding and into plot. There are several catalyzing events that I know of, but I don't know what they consist of. For instance, I know Delta gets a phone call during her first date with Michael, but I don't know who's calling or what they have to say. I know that the talking cat has something to tell Delta, but I don't know what.

And so forth. I made a list of that sort of thing. Questions That Must Be Answered Before The Plot Can Move. And then filled in a little more backstory and worldbuilding, which led to at least an idea about who might be on the phone.

Argh. But I'm getting closer to being able to start writing actual scenes. When I do, in the spirit of NaNoWrimo, I plan to do it at a rate of at least 1666 words per day. Every month should have fifty thousand words in it. Or more. Because this is what I do.

no no really this is part of the writing process
Tue 2016-11-29 22:40:56 (single post)

I've never planned a novel out the way I'm trying to plan this one. But then, I've never actually finished a novel at all, so it was probably time to change my approach. Oh, I've reached THE END before, I've reached 50,000 words, but I've never quite managed to clean up the babble into proper drafts and chapters, fill in the holes marked I'LL THINK OF SOMETHING LATER, or clean up the infelicities and unfortunate implications. I've never gotten more than the first three chapters of a novel ready to submit anywhere, and since the rest of that novel was still a mess, those three chapters were probably a mistake. But all the novels I've ever not finished, I wrote them according to the NaNoWriMo method: 1,667 words a day, come hell or high water, and fifty thousand by 11:59 PM on November 30th.

Which is to say, until this fall, my novel writing experience has consisted of pounding away at the keyboard whether I knew what came next or not. It's a perfectly feasible way to do it, but I can't help but think my failure to finish revising any of them is connected with this untidy method of creating them.

So this fall I determined to plan everything out before I wrote Scene 1. Instead of the Chris Baty "No Plot? No Problem!" method, I'd give Rachel Aaron's "from 2K to 10K" strategy a try: The more you know about what you're going to write, the faster you can write it, the more you'll enjoy the process, and the more developed your first draft will be right out of the gates.

Aaron's first step is to write down everything you already know about the novel. Cool. Check. Good. It's her second step that's bogging me down: Fill in the gaps. Take all the stuff you don't know, and figure it out. I'm having trouble figuring things out. Like, oh, how the novel will end. And a large chunk of the middle, too, I don't know that either. Every time I sit down, I figure out more about the characters, their surroundings, their conflicts, and their backstories, but I still don't know how things will proceed. It's like there's a barricade constructed right across the plot timeline about two weeks into the narrative, and I keep running into it--wham! Ouch.

Today, taken as a whole, went swimmingly. I worked my "morning shift" right on schedule (at the Avon Public Library, as planned), so I had plenty of time to stroll around town, shop, eat, and then go back to the room and read (library books!) and nap. Then I sat down to my novel planning session, also right on schedule. I had allotted myself two whole hours to work on that novel, and not the last two hours of the conscious day, either! It was, in theory, fantastic.

In practice, I immediately got uneasy and restless. Like I wasn't properly utilizing my work day. As though sitting there planning a novel was wasting time. Like I was cheating my timesheet, crediting myself for two hours of writing when all I'd done was sit there staring into space, talking to myself, and typing incoherently into my Scrivener project. Which, yes, is part of the writing process, I know that intellectually, but deep in my gut where the butterflies live I feel like it doesn't count as writing at all.

It's not precisely that I feel I should be typing up the draft rather than planning it--although actually typing out actual scenes would probably help mitigate the uneasiness. It's more like I'm feeling that any time spent on this novel is a waste, and that I ought to be spending my day on more worthwhile projects that actually have a hope of getting finished. Like revising one of my already sorta-finished novel drafts. Or writing new short stories and revising existing ones for publication. What if this novel never gets finished? What if I never figure it out enough to write it? What if I secretly know that it'll never get finished, and that's why I'm doing it, as an infinite means of procrastination such that I'll never finish or publish anything else again?

Reminder: These are not my logical thoughts. This is the shape of my uneasiness. Have you met me? I am a very insecure person. If you didn't know that, awesome. Maybe I've gotten better at hiding it over the years. (I hear that's like 85% of adulting right there.)

Sometimes, when I'm stuck, things will come unstuck if I just talk to myself about them. Not on the laptop; just talking to myself, out loud. Admittedly, I'm always talking to myself. It's like my thoughts aren't real until I've made them into words that my ears can hear. So that's what I did tonight. I put the laptop away, ran a hot bath, and commenced with the relaxing and talking to self. (The talking to self method works better while relaxed. Relaxing works better in a hot soak. Also, a hot soak was really necessary after this afternoon's hour and a half walk to the Walmart and back. I forgot to pack my scrimmage jerseys, OK? So I needed cheap T-shirts in black and white. $2.79 in the craft aisle along with all the fabric paint pens you can choke on.)

What I was hoping to figure out was more street-level details of the neighborhood Michael's currently living in: what his daily commute looks like, what cafes and restaurants and bars he frequents, what his apartment complex is like. I can't really write forward without knowing the terrain the characters are going to be moving through. I didn't get any of that. What I did get was a few more details about childhood in Allemondia, the kinds of fairy tales and fantasies that those facts inspire, and a tragedy in Michael's childhood that was a factor in his decision to be a doctor.

Argh. More background and backstory. Still no narrative progression. But I got out of the tub and I wrote all of it down, because I'll take whatever I can get. In the end, it's all going in there.

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