“When I am dead
I hope it is said,
'His sins were scarlet,
but his books were read.'”
Hilaire Belloc

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

story production engines firing on all four cylinders
Wed 2014-09-17 23:13:42 (single post)

I finished the exploratory draft of the new story today. It's still got no title, but that's OK. That'll come during revision. More troubling is that it clocks in at 3,380 words. That's more than double the cut-off called for in the submission guidelines. It's even more than double what the draft was at yesterday, when I figured I was about halfway through.

Such an occasion calls for introspection, or at least evaluation. Which is to say: Can this really be cut down to 1,400 words?

The part of my brain arguing for YES points out that there is, as I observed yesterday, a lot of cruft to be culled. Several things get said over and over again and also redundantly, and many things get said that need not be said at all. For instance: It is less important to remark on Rosalind's Sunday exception to her morning routine of reading the entire newspaper, back to front, than it is to mention that she no longer bothers reading the obituaries. It is less important (for the sake of the story, anyway) to voice Elaine's disapproval of the labels "homeless" or "transient," given her permanent residence under a particular tree in the park, than it is to capture the voice of her tree asking her to be its new dryad.

The theory that YES-brain espouses is this: Now that I've met all the characters in this story and gotten to know their backgrounds, I'm well equipped to trim their surrounding exposition down to those few phrases that best crystallize who they are and what's at stake for them.

NO-brain is more pessimistic, as you might expect. There's too much going on here, says NO-brain. This story needs at least 2,500 words for the reader to have any clue what's going on. Don't sell your characters short!

On the other hand, NO-brain is also bringing some optimism to the table. It points out that as easily as this story idea arose from my freewriting sessions, just as easily might another that's more apt for the submissions call. YES-brain concedes the point, but counters that, this being the case, there's no harm in making the revision attempt here. I've made such good progress while still nearly two weeks to deadline remain, that there will be time to pan for more gold in my Daily Idea .scrivx should this story remain stubbornly above the maximum word count. And then I'll have two brand new stories to shop around!

What strikes me here is how very natural it was to go from "The deadline's imminent and I've absolutely nothing to send!" to "Well, what came out of my timed writing sessions lately?" That didn't used to happen as readily. But now that I've begun the Friday Fictionettes offerings, it's happening every week at the very least. Every Friday, I'm looking at the past week's scribblings and deciding which of them I'll polish up, stick some cover art on, and upload to my creation stream during the corresponding week of the following month. It only makes sense that this mental process would fire up in response to the need for new story material in additional contexts.

This was one of my sneaky self-improvement goals with Friday Fictionettes. The headliner goals were, firstly, to get more of my stuff out where y'all could read it, and more frequently; and, secondly, to potentially earn a little spare change doing so. But behind the scenes I was also hoping to see some improvement in my larger Story Production Process. I wanted to get in some regular practice making that transition from "just a wisp of an idea that I'm noodling on" to "fully fledged and publishable story." I wanted to see that process go more smoothly and happen more often.

With the current story, I'm seeing evidence that this is happening. And I'm delighted.

rewriting my relationship with deadlines starts now
Mon 2014-09-15 23:08:39 (single post)

Until about 2 PM today I was under the impression that the deadline on submissions to An Alphabet of Embers, edited by the most excellent Rose Lemberg, was September 15. That is, today. Which misconception gave me two specific thoughts:

First, that it was a darn good thing I'd begun holding myself to a freewriting session every day, and not just every workday. I added it to my HabitRPG dailies and everything. So Saturday, grumbling but dutiful, I did it. For a writing prompt, I recalled a moment earlier in the day when a feather had floated past the window and I'd thought, "What if that was only the first?" Like, what if, just behind that feather, at any moment, there would come a huge cloud of feathers, like ten down pillows' worth, just billowing along from east to west. Why would that be? What would cause a sudden explosion of feathers, and what effect would it have on the neighborhood? So that's what I wrote about for 25 minutes.

As I drifted off to sleep Saturday night, the results of that timed session came back to me and started to sound a lot like a possible story.

Second, I thought that it was also a good thing I'd taken today off from the farm. There was a good chance I'd wake up this morning in Colorado Springs, having spent Sunday afternoon in the Pikes Peak Derby Dames' Cutthroat Derby Tournament, a four-team, three-bout mix-up. Even if we did drive home Sunday night, I anticipated being absolutely wiped and needing to recover. (And yes, indeed, I did.) Which also meant I'd have all today to write this brand-new story and send it along.

But then I checked the call for submissions and saw that the deadline was indeed September 30. And that gave me a couple of thoughts:

First: "Hooray! That means I don't have to work on it today." Monday isn't typically a writing day, see. (Although it is now a freewriting day. Which I did without grumbling.)

Second: "Looks like I'll be postponing 'Hook' until this thing is done, then. Yay! I mean... Darn."

So now I get a chance to work on this whole "relationship with deadlines" thing. Remember that bookmark? The one that says, "It got better from here"? This week I got to make good on that.


a little light comedy with your fictionette
Fri 2014-09-12 23:14:13 (single post)

Another Friday, another fictionette. Read it in its entirety or, if you're not quite ready to chuck a buck at it, read an excerpt on Wattpad or right here.

Despite the aforementioned difficulties, I think I'm getting better at this. Which is to say, getting all the fictionette things revised, posted, and settled still took longer than it should have (I seriously need to simplify the system), but it was my content writing gigs and not my freewriting or my short story revision that paid the price for it. Priorities! I might possibly have a few.

And for a story-like object that had me in fits all week, it didn't turn out all that bad.

Favorite place this week to revise stories: Over a huge steaming bowl of pho at the neighborhood restaurant. I'm told there are better pho restaurants in Boulder, but this is the one I can walk to, and I think it's yummy. The artwork on the walls is kind of creepy, though.

Least favorite place this week to revise stories: On the BV bus, heading from Boulder to Denver, and realizing that the person sitting next to me is actively and unabashedly reading my work in progress over my shoulder. That is in blatant contradiction of public transportation etiquette, y'all. Don't do that shit.

Not counting for the purpose of Amtrak departures and arrivals, I hadn't been down to LoDo in ages. The occasion for this trip was having heard that the Sklar Brothers would be performing at Comedy Works in Larimer Square this weekend, and thinking, "Why not?" So I went. And they were pretty darn funny, so I was glad I did. The opening acts weren't too bad, either. Stand-up comedy can be a bit of a minefield for me, as exemplified by Jackie Kashian's pin-pointedly accurate summary of the jokes that male comedians tell about their wives. When I'm listening to the comedy channel on the radio, and I hear a comedian start in on his wife, or how it was censorship when a venue wouldn't let him use his favorite ethnic/gender/ableist slur, or how violence against women can be perfectly justified, amiright guys, that's my cue to change the channel for a while, because they ain't going nowhere good from there.

I'm happy to report that tonight's show didn't go there. It occasionally went to places from which you could see it, and once or twice it brought out a copy of the map and pointed to key landmarks, but it didn't actually go there, you know? So I left reasonably happy.

Before I left, I randomly ran into a derby skater in the crowd. Well, I assumed she was a skater. She could have been a fan. Anyway, she had on a High City Derby Divas hoodie, so I said hello. I introduced myself by skate name and league and I asked her whether she'd be at the Pikes Peak Derby Dames mix-up on Sunday. I may have been a bit too enthusiastic. I didn't actually say "OMG YOU'RE DERBY I'M DERBY TOO IT'S A SMALL DAMN DERBY WORLD ISN'T IT DERBYYYYYY!!!!!" but mmmmaybe I came across that way? The interaction went all unexpectedly awkward. At least I had enough self-restraint to keep it short.

For a few hours before and a few hours after the show, I worked on the aforementioned Friday Fictionette stuff over at Leela's European Cafe. They're on 15th between Champa and Stout, they're open 24 hours, they have wifi and comfy seating and a nice variety of music, and they serve really tasty hot chocolate. Also beer and cocktails. Heck with coworking--I want to spend my working day at Leela's. Well, sometimes, anyway. Their late night crowd is really interesting.

In conclusion: I should go down to Denver more. There's enjoyable stuff down there.

I admit I have little skill at cover art thus far. I hope to improve.
one down, all of THE FUTURE to go
Fri 2014-09-05 23:52:00 (single post)

Hey look! The first Friday since launching Friday Fictionettes has come, and I have indeed published a Fictionette to my Patreon creation stream. Huzzah! It's called "Those Who Would Dance for the Gods." You can read an excerpt in all three of the places (Patreon, Wattpad, and right here).

Reading it in its entirety is at this time exclusively the privilege of Patrons pledging at the level of $1/month or higher. It will probably remain so for some time, as I want to reserve September's end-of-month freebie slot for the fourth Friday offering. But please do not let that stress you out. If you'd rather put off pledging until you have a better idea of whether I can actually stick to this weekly deadline thing, that is totally cool and understandable. (You read this blog. You know about my relationship with deadlines.) Also, you won't miss a thing. "...Dance for the Gods" will remain in the content stream for as long as there is a content stream. Creations do not, to my knowledge, get archived and hidden away once they get too old or something. The work required to dig them up may increase as more and more fictionettes stack on top of them, but I'm reasonably certain everything will still be down there.

So that's the shameless plug portion of today's blog post. The rest of the blog post will be given over to shameful confessions. Well, not shameful per se, but kind of embarrassing.

To wit: My goodness, it's easy to spend a lot of time tweaking this stuff.

Seriously, I spent more than three and a half hours on revising the Fictionette one last time, coming up with some Author's Notes, creating minimally presentable cover art, compiling the PDF from scrivener and then combining it with the cover art and then doing that all over again about three times to correct mistakes noticed just a titch belatedly, taking all the same material and creating the Wattpad upload, then creating the manuscript record whereby you can read the excerpt here at the blog, figuring out why the Author's Note at Wattpad suddenly wound up locked, going back and fixing one more thing pretty much everywhere, deciding I should probably be pledging support to other people's Patreon campaigns, doing that, and then thinking, "Gee, Ursula Vernon's 'thank you' page sure is snazzy and fun to read. Maybe I should take a few minutes to improve my own." Which I did.

I suppose it's only... cyclical? Yesterday I spent too much time working on a Boulder Writing Examiner post to get any progress on the Friday Fictionette offering. Today I spent too much time on Friday Fictionettes to do my freewriting or short story revision. I guess that means next time I should spend so much time on all things fiction that no content writing gets done. And so the torch is passed!

Except that Friday Fictionettes eating up freewriting time is disturbingly cannibalistic. It's eating its young, y'all. I mean, without freewriting, Friday Fictionettes do not arise.

I guess that's OK so long as freewriting can happen over the weekend, just like it did when I was participating in the Conquer the Craft in 29 Days challenge. Actually, in light of CTC29, I thinking of taking freewriting into a 7-day schedule anyway. That would help keep my writing muscles limber rather than letting them go stiff from three days of non-use. It would also give me more material to choose from when it's time to select the next Friday Fictionette.

Meanwhile, in the name of staying a month ahead of this game, I was supposed to have chosen October's first Friday Fictionette by now. Oh dear.

(Nobody panic. I got this.)

a case of the unexpecteds, but it will NOT triumph
Tue 2014-09-02 17:48:46 (single post)
  • 4,400 wds. long

This week I'm back to work on "A Wish for Captain Hook." I finished scribbling my way through the previous draft's print-out today. Once I stopped feeling deathly embarrassed over the constant unironic use of an ethnic slur throughout the draft--or, at least, once I managed to put the deathly embarrassment on a mental shelf so I wasn't constantly stubbing my mental toes on it on my way to and from other mental tasks--I figured out what overarching single thing was really wrong with it.

Shaping. It's got none. It's got architectural plot-wise structure, but its emotional shaping is uneven in places and simply off in others. Characters' reactions to each others' actions aren't what they need to be. As a result, tension isn't smoothly built toward a climax, but rather lumped here and bled out there. I'm going to need to do some big-picture thinking and eagle-eye viewing in order to figure out how to fix it. I foresee timeline sketches pinned to my office wall with multicolored Sharpie scribbles.

(Speaking of deathly embarrassment: I had the little boy Jimbo pretending to be a Neverland Indian brave on the war path, woo-woo-wooing his way up and down Houma Boulevard. Oh the irony. All die. On the bright side, I'm now thinking more concretely in terms of the regional and cultural contexts for this story, such as the United Houma Nation and also the long-standing New Orleans tradition of the Mardi Gras Indian tribes. Admittedly, what I know about either, you could fit in a brand new matchbox after lighting a toddler's birthday candles, so this isn't going to be easy.)

I drew up a very specific hour-by-hour schedule for everything today, as per my newest resolution for Getting Stuff Done. It called for two hours of work on "Hook," from 1:30 to 3:30. It also called for more work on my Friday Fictionettes project, mostly to do with setting up my Wattpad profile, during a planned lunchtime outing that was to start at 11:00 AM. (Just because I launched it yesterday doesn't mean there isn't work yet to be done.)

And then... stuff happened.

I ended up being obliged to be At Home to surprise work crews: One to disinter our utility outlets from the new wall where they had been mostly drywalled over, and one to reassemble (or, as it turned out, replace) our floorboard heater cover. Then I realized I'd neglected to make time for paying the bills and doing the household accounts, which absolutely had to be done today. Yet more time had to be made for filling out and signing the e-document format Seller's Disclosure Form. The contractor who might help us replace, update, and/or fix our unit's persistent door problems had to be called. Messages needed to be left on answering machines. And so forth.

This is why I'd resisted hour-by-hour schedules in the first place. Stuff happens.

The solution I'm trying out today is this: Deal with the unexpecteds as they arise. When they are done, pick up with the schedule at whatever hour it is and whatever task I should be doing at that hour. Whatever tasks got erased by that case of the unexpecteds, get back to them during a previously unscheduled hour or whenever all scheduled tasks are done. The theory is that this will help me avoid feeling like the unexpecteds Ruined My Whole Day. Sure, it ate up my morning chunk of schedule, but there's no reason I can't faithfully complete my afternoon tasks. Empowerment!

So, yeah. The unexpecteds did eat up my morning, gnawing thence into my afternoon. Out of the 2 hours I'd planned for short story work, I only got about 45 minutes. And I never hit the Friday Fictionette work at all. But seeing as how the rest of my tasks today got done more or less precisely in their allotted timeslots, I'll have plenty of time to return to those other tasks that got eaten up.

Plenty time! Just as soon as we deal with that e-document. Bleargh.

everything's in the details, god, the devil, everything
Wed 2014-08-27 23:50:04 (single post)

Excellent. I now have five drabbles ready to go. Tomorrow's goal is to write two or three more. Specklit allows a maximum of ten to be submitted at a time. I'll be happy just to submit another portfolio of eight.

So I've been meaning to blog about my new genius innovation in Successfully Getting Work Done. It's amazing. It's upped my game by like 150% and I have never felt so productive. Here it is. You ready? Check this out:

Daily scheduling.

I know, right? Seems kind of obvious. But until last week, I'd been actively resisting the idea of scheduling my day with any assertive specificity.

To be fair, I'd thought I was already being specific enough. I'd have the goal of five hours of writing on a work day, and I'd have my spreadsheet for keeping track of those hours divided into categories like "fiction" and "content writing" and so forth. While scribbling my way through my morning pages, I'd often worked out which specific tasks I need to work on in a given day: "For Boulder Writing Examiner, that review of Rogers's Word Work that I've been meaning to do," or, "For short fiction today I need to do a final revision on those two drabbles in progress and come up with their 'About the story' snippets."

But I hadn't been holding myself to doing these tasks at specific times during the day looming before me. I didn't trust myself to do it. I didn't trust my day to let me do it. And I didn't trust myself, if, having planned to begin my work at 10:00, I were to find my day delayed by an hour due to unexpected household administrivia muscling into my morning, not to just give up on the whole day and go back to sleep. One of my glitches is, once I get attached to "the shape of the day" as planned, I'm terribly dependent on the day going as planned. If circumstances beyond my control change those plans, I go into a low-level panic. A glitch, like I said, but I didn't want to set myself up for that kind of stressy neurotic crisis.

So instead I'd just had this vague idea of "These things need to get done, and I have all day to get them done in." Which reduced the pressure. I wasn't relying on starting at 10 quite as much. Which meant that if my working day got pushed back to 11, instead of tossing out the whole day as "Nothing's going to get done on time, there won't be enough time, why bother?" I just sort of shrugged and thought, "One hour late. No big deal. There's lots of hours left in the day."

Except that "one hour late, no big deal" can often stretch to "four hours late, no big deal," and so on, until it hits algebraic impossibility. Which is to say, the point at which I realize that 24:00 minus Y < X, where Y is the time of day and X is the amount of hours remaining in my daily five.

So I gave in and tried hammering out a schedule during my morning pages. It would be a very specific schedule, with each task assigned to a particular hour of the day. I'd plan when my lunch break would be, too. I was determined to give myself a lunch break. And I'd take into account when I'd have to stop to get ready for derby practice, if it was a derby practice day.

As a result, two important things happened in my favor:

  1. The algebra got worked out right up front rather than on the back end when it was too late.
  2. I had my lunch break to look forward to!

The effect of front-loading the time calculations was this: That "predicted shape of day" attachment of mine got proactive. Instead of "OMG things changed on me now nothing's going to go right," my mindset was more like, "If you want things to go as planned, you have to put down that sudoku--yes, even if you're not done with it yet--and get to work now." And so I did.

And the effect of having my lunch break to look forward to was this: I didn't feel crushed by the weight of the day ahead of me. Before, I'd cringe thinking about the long hours, all achingly draggy five of them, of drudgery that wouldn't end until it was time to go to my evening obligations (usually roller derby practice), and the realization that I'd never get any significant length of obligation-free time all day just sat on top of me like a lump of despair. But defining my schedule every morning allowed me to divvy up the work day into two or three chunks separated by playtime and meals (and, yes, roller derby), and that in turn made me excited about every stage of the day, the work as well as the play (as well as the skating).

It's hard to explain, harder still to justify. My brain is like a toddler who wants everything just so and is prepared to scream itself blue if someone tells it "no." But specific hour-by-hour planning of my day ahead enables me to appease that toddler in healthy ways. And as it turns out, simply knowing how long everything will take me and having a starting plan for where to slot each task makes me much more able to absorb the unexpected and juke around obstacles productively.

I can still have off days. Today was one of them. But even my off days are better than they used to be. They're near misses instead of total abject failures. I can still be proud of what I accomplish on a near-miss day. (Look! Two more drabbles ready to go! And a book review!)

It's no big shock that specificity works for me. I am the checklist queen. I am notorious for overthinking things. But it sometimes surprises me how well it works, and how many more aspects of my daily life could stand to be improved by it.

no sleep til pago pago
Fri 2014-08-15 23:57:24 (single post)
  • 7,733 wds. long

It's 11:30 PM. Do you know where your story is? "Well. Um. It's almost done. I got to the end! But... it could be so much better than it is. It certainly could stand to lose a few hundred words." Well, Niki, you had better hurry up. You only have until 5 AM Mountain Time.

Well, that's a relief. I'm going to get this story submitted, in whatever shape it's in when I finally just crash for the night. But it's also kind of disappointing. Every deadline I latch onto, I think, "This time, it'll be different. I'll finish with time to spare." But no, as the deadline gets closer and closer, it becomes clear that once again I'm going to pull it off by the skin of my teeth, if at all.

I do not have a healthy relationship with deadlines.

Some people theorize that people like me get a sort of existential thrill out of creating artificial crises. Putting off work until the last minute before a drop-dead deadline injects a bit of excitement into our lives, they say. It makes us feel important. It gives us the adrenalized oomph we need to finally get shit done.

That may be true for some people, I don't know. It's not true for me. Though the imminent deadline does jolt me into action, it's less excitement and more dread that does the trick. Dread of letting yet another deadline go by without me. Dread of adding to my collection of regrets.

Meanwhile, there's stress. I don't need more stress.

I'm not so much looking for sympathy or solutions as I am just griping. I'm also sort of leaving this post here like a bookmark to which I can point from some future time and say, "That was the last deadline I let beat me over the head with stress and angst. The next day, I began implementing important changes in my time management strategy, which lead to a much healthier relationship with writing and with deadlines."

At least, I hope I can say that. I'm going to try really hard to enable Future Me to do so.

the banality of If This Goes On
Mon 2014-08-04 23:45:52 (single post)

Each week's farm work has a lesson to impart. Today's lesson was about maintenance, the importance of, for use in taking control of one's future or at least exerting control over the shape thereof. In other words, weeding.

We spent all morning in the herb garden. The goal was to harvest a bunch of variations of thyme and also the winter savory, but first a lot of weeding was needed. And it's amazing how the weeds just take over. You think you're keeping up with them, but suddenly they bolt, and now you've got a four-foot ragweed stalk shooting up out of the center of your mother-of-thyme like it thinks it belongs there.

It has always struck me as particularly unfair that the crop you want always seems to grow slower than the weeds you don't want. Thyme is a ground cover, right? In addition to being an herb? And lemon balm is a species of mint, which is known for getting out of control. And yet, if you leave the crop bed to its own devices, you will eventually find your mint, thyme and savory drowning in bindweed and thistle and lamb's-quarter and ragweed and ouch did I mention the thistle? Yes, well, I only mention it because a pile of it is what I sat in just now.

So before we got to harvesting, we had to pull up or slice out a bunch of weeds.

Then there was harvesting itself, which is also a lesson in how important it is to deliberately maintain. Best practice with leafy herbs is to keep them from flowering just as long as you can, forcing the plant to put all its energy and growth and aromatic oils into its leaves. Once the plant starts blossoming, seed-time can't be far behind, and before you know it the leaves have diminished markedly in flavor. Also, if you don't cut them back often, herbs like thyme and savory start changing from soft green sprigs to stiff woody stems that don't make for a high-quality harvest. So there's that.

We made up for a lot of lost time today and harvested a heck of a lot of thyme. And I brought home a few flowering sprigs of savory for that corn chowder I intend to cook any day now.

My daily routine is a lot like that, too--without deliberate maintenance, the stuff I want (good habits) tends to drown under the stuff I don't want (bad habits). Working with HabitRPG has been a big help, but even when I click my way to a perfect day there are loopholes to slither out of. Like, yes, I did my Morning Pages even on a Monday, but did I do it right when I woke up, or did I snooze away my before-farm time and leave it hanging over my afternoon? Yes, I checked voice mail on the land line today, good for me, but did I do it as part of my arrival home, or did I only remember to do when I saw that the corresponding HabitRPG "Daily" task was still not checked off? When I put in my five hours writing on a work day, did it go towards meaningful progress on my career goals or was it just busywork? Did I get right to my daily writing tasks, or did I putter around, reading forums and blogs, playing jigsaw sudoku and Puzzle Pirates, until finally, late in the afternoon, I finally and grudgingly gave in to basic arithmetic, recognizing that if I didn't start now it would be chronologically impossible to clock five hours for the day?

Well. As for today, damn straight I did my Pages before I went to the farm. And when I got the call that I wouldn't be needed until 45 minutes later than usual, I did my CTC29 too.

That's what I call daily weed-pulling!

Still, I'm sure that by tomorrow they'll be making a vigorous comeback. Hopefully I'll be up to the task of knocking them back again.

wait hold on you mean i have make decisions
Fri 2014-08-01 23:36:29 (single post)

Not to leave you hanging, but there isn't a whole lot more information than there was yesterday, because I am indecisive and stuff. But here's what I've got so far--

Wait. Drat. I keep getting interrupted mid-blog by the sound of what is undoubtedly yet another instance of Bat In The Belfry. Er, mansard. Soffit? It's pattering about up there, so it's only a matter of time before it comes swooping out into the still-attic-like office. That's what happened last night, anyway, and also several weeks ago. We basically waited for it to get tired, then we waited for it to come out from its hiding place in the baseboard heater, then we trapped it against the wall in a big plastic soup bin with which we tipped it out the window.

Well, I've got the soup bin ready.

Don't worry. It won't be forever. In a little more than a week, the house is getting all its interior repairs. We will have whole ceilings again. After that, we'll be able to ignore the sounds of bats in the soffit because at least then we'll know they won't be able to get into the living spaces of the house. They'll just keep us up nights pattering around amidst the joists, that's all.

Right. Where was I? Information. I have very little of that. What I've got are thoughts.

The first thought was, "I'd like to do something like this." This being Bruce Holland Rogers's subscription service, Short-Short Stories. For $10 per year, subscribers get three short stories a month emailed to them. They're very short, most of them between 500 and 1500 words long, unpredictable in genre, sometimes oddly unclassifiable. Apparently he has about 1,000 subscribers and most of them do renew each year. That's a nice deal for everyone: 36 new stories for each subscriber every year, and, if that subscriber number holds steady, a respectable side income of $10,000 (ish) for the author.

Obviously I like money. I'd like to make more of it by writing. I joke about being a full-time writer on the spousal subsidy grant, but I'd like to rely on the spousal subsidy somewhat less than I do. But there's also a handful of intangible benefits going on here that I'm interested in. The author is writing and completing way more stories than I do in a year. This is no doubt helped along by 1) knowing he's got an audience waiting to read them, and 2) knowing that the audience has already paid for the product. That mutually beneficial relationship between expectant audience and productive writer is something I'd like to explore.

I also recently was introduced to Patreon, "bringing patronage back to the 21st century." It's a way for creators to find funding, and audiences to support creators in a more ongoing way than via one-time Kickstarter/IndieGoGo campaigns. Its interface looks perfect for doing something like what Rogers is doing, but with potential for different levels of support receiving different levels of product. Except not exactly product. Patreon's emphasis is not monetizing products, but rather on enabling a mutually beneficial relationship between audience and creator. See above.

I was bouncing some ideas about this off of John--that was the extent of my researching the project today--and he suggested that I produce a certain amount of short fiction to post for free, and that supporters via Patreon could get them ahead of schedule. Other ideas I've been noodling on include taking those same stories and recording an audio version of them, or a decent ebook that exposes more of my daily process, or...

"But who wants to see my daily process? I mean, me. Not Neil Gaiman or George R. R. Martin, but little old me. How is that worth money to anyone?"

"You'd be surprised."

I don't know exactly what I'm going to do quite yet. But I do know this: What with all my daily freewriting, I've got oodles more raw material on my hard-drive than I could turn into salable fiction at my current rate of production, and certainly more than anyone but me will ever read at my current rate of commercial publication. This idea I have that every ounce of my writing, no matter how rough and incomplete, needs to be protected jealously from "wasting" its first rights just in case I'll come back to it and develop it into a story that will see print in Asimov's or F&SF or something... well, it's based in truth but I think I take it too far. And so I do less with my writing than I could.

Instead, I could be developing some of those daily vignettes and thought-experiments into short fiction, prose-poems, odd unclassifiables, things that, while not viable in most professional slush piles due to their form or format, might still be worth putting in front of other people's eyeballs. It would be a good practice, releasing these small things on a schedule, and, hey, y'all might enjoy reading 'em.

So that's where my head is at, right at this moment.

Meanwhile, I'm one day into the Conquer the Craft in 29 Days challenge (it's apparently not too late to join!), which will require me to do my daily freewriting on an actually daily schedule. Y'know, as opposed to just Tuesdays through Fridays. Which means more raw material to throw at this subscription-style relationship-with-audience-building project I'm noodling on. Hooray!

I expect I'll spend most of August figuring out what I want to do and what kind of schedule I can keep to. As I have more thoughts, I may end up floating 'em by you. If you have thoughts, well, I don't have comments enabled on this blog (I don't in fact have any mechanism for comments programmed on this blog, if you want to be precise), but I do read Twitter at-replies and Facebook comments. And there's always good old email.

And I think I will go ahead and set up that Patreon page, just so I can explore the interface, and see what other authors are doing with it.

(That bat never did come down out of the soffit. Hopefully it went back outside via whatever hole it used to come in.)

that fine line between good days and bad
Fri 2014-07-25 23:06:59 (single post)
  • 6,939 wds. long

In terms of time spent writing, yesterday was pretty much non-existent. Today was only about an hour better. (Context: I aim for five hours a day Tuesday through Friday.)

Despite the low time clock report, today feels better. Its emotional weight rests more lightly upon the psyche. I can think of two reasons for that; there may be others.

First reason is, it was better even if it wasn't much better. Half an hour's work on the short story is better than none at all, even if that half hour was mostly me staring at the final scene, typing out a sentence, and then erasing it again. And then re-writing the sentence at the end of the fifth scene. And then staring at the screen, trying to decide whether the flashback at the end of the fifth scene really belongs there or closer to the end of the story. What I'm saying is, it didn't feel like progress at all. However, it was process, and I take it as an item of faith that the process itself is an element of progress. You gotta show up on the page, right?

The other half-hour was my daily freewriting. (Allegedly daily; it didn't happen yesterday either.) My most recent freewriting has been to prompts I came up with Tuesday, when I tasked myself with generating a list of magic realism style concepts which involve mismatched categories. The inspiration was rereading Karin Tidbeck's short story collection Jagannath, which is wonderful and strange, full of elegant nightmares and emotionally resonant weirdness galore. It opens with a story whose theme, I think, is to do with miscommunication and projection, but whose explicit text is about a man who falls in love with an airship and briefly rooms with a woman who is pursuing a love affair with a steam engine. This is what I mean by mismatched categories. Another of her stories expresses the universal angst of parents watching their children become their own unexpected selves, but does so through the textual medium of a woman creating a homunculus in a jam jar. Reading Tidbeck's fiction is like a jolt of electricity to the brain's inspiration center. It makes me want to dream up weird stuff of my own.

So I did. Some of the mismatched category prompts I came up with were: Doors in people's chests which opened upon the heart; a bicycle that hatches out of an egg; buildings as public transportation vehicles; a harp hung up on a wall. The last one isn't exactly a mismatched category situation--musical instruments do often get hung up on the wall--but in my head it was the grisly harp from a particular well-known ballad, years and years after the story takes place, when it begins to "play alone" once more for reasons TBD. After noodling around on the idea today (and trying to determine those reasons), I slapped the "To Do" label on it in Scrivener because I think I'm on to something here.

So it wasn't just that an hour of writing was better than none. It was also that a day on which I come up with a brand new story idea is better than a day on which I don't.

Second reason? It's kind of silly, but, here it is: Yesterday, I mostly poked around listlessly at the internet, thinking, "I really ought to write," until I ran out of time in which to make it happen. Today, by contrast, I very definitively thought, "I ought to get back to the writing, but, dammit, I'm going to play some Puzzle Pirates." And I did.

The moral of the story is this: If you're going to procrastinate, do it deliberately and have fun with it. Otherwise, you might as well get to work.

Hey, look! A blog post. Something else I did today but not yesterday. Third reason!

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