“Here's the kind of writer I want to be: a better writer today than I was yesterday.
John Vorhaus

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

and andy williams can take the kids jingle belling ELSEWHERE thank you VERY much
Mon 2017-12-25 23:13:34 (single post)

When you celebrate a minority religion's holiday rather than the big mainstream federally approved one, you get problems. Some of them are petty and some of them are huge, but most of them are part of a larger issue about social justice, erasure, inclusion, assimilation, un/equal representation and respect, that sort of thing. You have this huge compelling social machine operating through every imaginable vector to push Christmas, Christmas, Christmas until everyone, Christian or non-, is warped around that one day.

My problem stems from that problem, but it is mostly a petty problem. On the scale of stubbed toe to social injustice, there's barely any hopping around and cussing at the furniture at all. Still, I'm going to whine about it. What else is a blog for, right?

Here's the problem.

Today, for me, was just a regular work day. Wake up, do the morning things, do the writing things, do the household things. But it was very, very hard to resist the siren voices of commerce and nostalgia singing "It's Christmas! It's a holiday! You don't have to work today! Sleep late, eat all the things, visit with family, open presents!"

Look, stupid voices, I already took my holiday off. I took off the two days surrounding the Winter Solstice. I ate all the things Wednesday night and I slept late Thursday. I already called family--well, I called Dad, and it was more about celebrating the Saints' total domination of the Falcons in Sunday's football game than it was about Christmas (please to Google "Lattimore" and "buttception" for maximum lols) but it counts. And wrapped presents is not a big expectation in my current social circle right now, thank the Gods. Point is, I did the holiday things. I did them during the holiday I actually celebrate. Today is not that day. Today I am working.

"But it's Christmas! No work today! Go play!"

I'm not listening to you. La la la la la...

OK, I slept in. I did do that. BUT THEN I WORKED. I did my writing, darn it. I may have done it late, but I did it. So there.

(I may also be grumpy because our water heater, which has been showing signs of being on its last legs for some weeks now, picked Christmas Eve to kick the actual bucket. Thankfully, at this address we have forced air heating rather than hot water radiators, and our furnace is working just fine. A dead water heater doesn't mean we're are actually freezing indoors. But it is very cold out there and I had to go walking out in it a lot today and I want a hot bath and I can't have one except I guess unless I boil a hell of a lot of water on the stove all at once which I may just do if the water heater isn't fixed or replaced by post-derby time tomorrow--if we even have practice, given the temperatures forecast for tomorrow. Also certain key portions of sidewalk which I rely on to get from my house to my neighbors for whom I am cat-sitting have been neglected by their respective snow removal teams. Look, it's freezing out, it snowed, it's winter, I am a southerner by birth and upbringing, I am going to be grumpy. Deal with it.)

but none of the ducks will go the f&!$ to sleep
Wed 2017-12-20 01:10:52 (single post)

All right, I think I've got enough ducks in a row to keep from losing my mind tomorrow. Losing my mind on the afternoon of Solstice Eve is a part of the tradition I could really, really do without. To avoid losing my mind as best I can, I have...

gotten most of the groceries although I still need to run out tomorrow for evergreen branches and holly, and batteries for the wii, and also make my CSA pick-up at the Diaz Farm

cleaned most of the house at least the bits guests will see, well, at least those areas that I hadn't already cleaned within the last two months or so

meticulously planned my cooking down to the hour so that I won't be juggling "OMG why won't the broth for the pie roux cook down already" with "please tell me I didn't put salt instead of sugar in the egg nog" (true story) and "SUNSET IN 15 MINUTES GET THE FIRE READY"

...You know how it is. Meanwhile, I'm still trying to coax a good playlist out of Pandora, one that's both seasonal and unmistakably Pagan--and I don't mean Pagan lyrics filked onto Christmas carols. No, not even the carols that were arguably Pagan in the first place. I don't want the music playing in this house during this very definitely Pagan event to bear any resemblance at all to what I've been hearing in every retail establishment since early November. If I can't shut off Cultural Hegemony Radio for the duration of the longest night in my own home, when and where the heck can I?

Unfortunately, Pandora isn't really the best tool for what I'm trying to do. It's very good at Generic Pagan-Friendly Playlist--I mean, just throw together Gaia Consort and Avalon Rising and Womansong Chorus and the like--but it's not so good for subject matter refinements. I'm getting a bit too much Beltane and not enough Yule. It'll do in a pinch, but I might get a little more hands-on if I've any time to play with it tomorrow.

Writing-wise, I am not expecting much out of myself tomorrow or on Thursday. I'm going to do enough to keep up my 4thewords streak, maybe post a couple brief check-ins on this blog here, but anything beyond that can go hang. I will be on holiday vacation. Sort of vacation. In any case, my priorities will be elsewhere.

It's just as well I finished drafting this week's Friday Fictionette today. That's right. Drafting done on a Tuesday. Woot, bam and other triumphant sound effects. Even if I get nothing done again until Friday, the release will be on time.

And then I get next week off because it is a fifth Friday. Whoo-hoo! A chance to get ahead of schedule--for real this time! I mean it! This time I've got 4thewords on my side. Like I said the other day, I often find myself at the end of writing task with some 400 words left to go on my current battle. Finding another 400 words at short notice is easy when I've got story seeds for future Friday Fictionettes lined up a month or more in advance. Also--oh, hey, I remember now--there's this new story I'm supposed to be working on and might actually get back to once the holiday madness is behind me.

People ask me "Got any plans for Christmas?" and I'm all like, "Nothing much, just recovering from the holiday I actually celebrate." And between the party and the all-nighter, recovery will be necessary. I mean, just for comparison, when I was a kid, my parents told me to go to sleep so Santa could arrive. They told me to go to sleep early. But now I'm all grown up and I celebrate Winter Solstice such that my goal is not to go to sleep. Christmas was easy, y'all. All-nighters are hard.

With that in mind, why the hell am I still awake? It's not like morning's going to come any later to make up for it. I'm out. See you on Solstice Eve.

Cover art incorporates public domain image sourced from pxhere.com
this fictionette forgot that writing doesn't prompt itself
Fri 2017-12-15 23:34:41 (single post)
  • 1,022 wds. long

The Friday Fictionette release for December 15 is up and available for your perusal. It's called "The Youth Fairy." Here's the ebook and audiobook links for $1/month and $3/month patrons, respectively; here's a little teaser for the rest of everybody.

This one began as a response to a Magic Realism Bot tweet, "An opera singer makes a fortune trading in adolescence." Only I skipped right past the literal idea of adolescence and went instead after the more general fantasy trope of someone who sells youth. How do they manage that? Well, they must be some kind of supernatural being, a fairy or suchlike. Where do they get it from? Well... probably from people who don't want it: young people who are in a hurry to grow up. "Youth is wasted on the young," the fictionette begins, and it goes from there.

Writing from prompts is something I always assumed everyone who was a writer did, because it's an exercise that all my writing teachers going back to elementary school would assign me. Not everyone did it, I knew that, but everyone knew how to do it. Right? Only that's putting it too strongly, know how to do. That phrase implies a skill that you have to learn and practice, like knitting or calligraphy or touch-typing. Writing from a prompt, that's just something you do. Right?

Well, I've had roller derby trainers who thought that things like keeping your eye on the jammer or staying near your teammates wasn't so much a skill you learned as just something you did if you weren't totally stupid. And they couldn't understand why, in my very first few months after passing my skills and safety assessments and being allowed to play the actual game, I didn't just do it. And they got impatient with me, and I felt stupid.

But as it turns out, pack awareness is an actual skill. Teaching it is tricky; it's not like a skating skill where you can demonstrate the individual motions that make up the maneuver. But it's still a skill that one has to learn and practice and develop. Kind of like, oh, defensive driving. In both cases, you've got a list of things to be aware of and stay aware of, simultaneously, at any given moment, and you've got to be able to process that data and make split-second decisions because of it. Teaching it might involve things like, oh, periodically redirecting the student's attention by asking them questions during the activity ("What color is the car in your rearview mirror?" "Where did the opposing jammer position themselves before the whistle?"). And, safety permitting, the trainer needs to give the student a bit of mental space in which to work out how best to wrap their personal brain around the challenge. I mean, it's their brain and all. They know best how to operate it.

So different individual brains will process the skill differently. And some brains will glom onto the skill more readily than other brains will. But it's still a skill, not an instinct that you just magically have waiting within you that you can tap when the time comes, just by virtue of having a brain. It's a skill. You have to spend time learning how to do it before you can be expected to do it.

Same with writing skills. There are skills I've been practicing so long that I've forgotten that they are skills, but they are. Writing from prompts is a skill that can be taught and learned and practiced and developed. And clearly there is an audience who want to learn, or else there wouldn't be so many articles online purporting to teach it. Heck, here's a wikiHow about it.

For me, in my own personal practice, there are three basic steps to working with a prompt.

Choose a prompt. Depending on the prompt, I might choose one or several. A common "spread" might be a couple random words (watchout4snakes is a good source) and one image (e.g. tarot card, InspiroBot poster). Or one Magic Realism Bot tweet, which tends to be just complex enough to stand alone.

Give the brain space to respond. The first minute or two isn't for conscious, directed thought, and it's certainly not for passing judgment. It's for watching the brain bubble. Whatever passes through my brain goes directly onto the page. It's somewhere between free association and automatic writing.

Ask and answer follow-up questions. Questions will arise, either in response to the initial brain bubbles or in direct response to the prompt itself. "An opera singer..." Why an opera singer? Which part do they sing? Buying and selling youth... OK, how do you even do that? What price do you set on youth? Who sells it to you in the first place? What's the effect of selling youth to someone--does their driver's license actually show a more recent birth year, or is it just a physical appearance thing?

These questions are, more or less, new prompts; the brain bubbles up answers in response. And those answers spawn new questions. Questions! Questions are, arguably, the atom-unit of story. Why did they do that? How will the other character respond? And then what happened?

There's actually a fourth step: Then write a scene. This step is sort of like "And then a miracle occurs." At some point, the prompts and the bubbles and the questions coalesce into story. The trick is recognizing that moment and then getting out of my own way and letting it happen. Sometimes it happens very early, the first sentence writing itself in direct response to the prompt. Writing down that sentence and continuing on to the next one is a kind of leap of faith. But the moment I'm starting to get even a little narration, it's time to stop babbling, bubbling, and free associating and just start writing.

What's the worst that can happen? I can get stuck. No big deal. Getting stuck generally happens because I ran into some questions I didn't have answers to. So I stop a minute and ask those questions and throw some answers at the wall and see what sticks.

The important thing in a timed freewriting session is not to interpret getting stuck as a reason to stop writing. I have to write until the timer goes off. When the timer goes off, I stop. Or maybe I keep going. Maybe I can see the whole rest of the scene and I want to get it down. So I do. And then I stop, reluctantly, and mark the session as "To-Do." Those are the sessions that turn into flash fiction, fictionettes, and full-length short stories.

And there you have it: How a writing prompt becomes a story inside my personal brain. Your brain may vary. Void where prohibited. Please do try this at home.

Also, that early-wee-hour freewriting session got me my 30-day streak wings. It's my wire anniversary!
a reminder that gamification exists to serve the writer, not vice versa
Thu 2017-12-14 00:31:49 (single post)

So I've been praising 4thewords to the heavens, but I haven't mentioned, possibly because I hadn't been acutely aware of them until recently, its detrimental effects. Welllll, "detrimental effects" is putting it a little strongly. It's more that the RPG quest-and-battle style of gamification, in addition to infusing my writing tasks with extra motivation and enthusiasm, also adds complications.

For instance, I've already mentioned the challenge of choosing one's battles. I don't want to "waste" words by not being in a battle. But I don't want to end a writing task with an inconvenient amount of battle left to go. My work day turns into a sort of jigsaw puzzle, where I try to fit tasks and battles together just so. It's not a bad problem to have; generally, if I've got a bit of battle left over, I'll find there's another writing task, one I had originally planned to work on the next day, that I can instead jump on immediately. This leads to more projects making more progress more quickly.

So it's not really a problem at all, is it? It's 4thewords acting exactly as advertised. It's great.

4thewords has also improved my workday pace to no end. Instead of taking long, leisurely breaks between writing tasks, procrastinating when I ought to get back to work, and suddenly finding I've run out of day to do things in, I've begun moving more briskly from one item on my list to the next, mainly because I still have a bunch more words to go before the current monster is defeated. And I've only got 40 minutes left write them in! All right, fine, I'll take that 5-minute stretch break, I know it's good for me. But that's all! I've got to get back to beating up that Nitana! I will defeat it! It will not defeat me! I WILL TAKE ITS FEATHERS AND MAKE THEM INTO A HAT!

Besides, it's an RGP-style video game after the nature of its species. It comes with that classic temptation to keep playing just a little longer, complete just one more quest, defeat just one more monster before shutting things down. Only, in the case of 4thewords, "just one more monster" doesn't keep the player from getting back to work; it requires the player to get back to work.

So this is all wonderful. In addition to encouraging greater discipline, or at least a really convincing cargo-cult imitation of it, it's made me more often successful at getting through my task list by five or six in the afternoon. It's an amazing feeling to get to the end of a three-hour roller derby practice and remember that all my work is done. No obligations are waiting for my tired brain to tackle them. I don't have to do anything but rest, play video games, take a long bath, maybe even go to bed early. Bliss!

Except.

Except 4thewords has to complicate matters by making certain monsters only come out at night. If I am very good and do all my writing between 8 AM and 5 PM, there are monsters I will never see, whose unique battle rewards I will not get to collect. And that's tragic!

So yesterday I deliberately left myself some work to do after derby. (Mainly my blog post. Which was just as well, given the news that altered its subject matter.) And, yes, that meant I got to fight the nocturnal Mawt, the defeat of which rewards the player with Fur and Claws, which are needed to complete certain quests and craft certain objects.

And then my blog post was done and I still had like 800 words to go and it was midnight.

And that's how I got today's freewriting out of the way before 1 AM. Hooray for silver linings, I guess?

Silver lining or not, it remains that, in this particular case, 4thewords is actively working against my personal writing goals. It has put certain in-game accomplishments out of reach of my preferred writing schedule. Oh, there are workarounds, like temporarily changing my computer's time zone or clock. And I haven't ruled out experimenting with late-night sessions as my schedule (and energy level) permits. But it's still a little jarring to encounter a situation where I do have to adapt either my writing routines or my use of the gamification app to make both sets of goals coincide.

And now I have about 50 more words to write to finish off this adorable but inconveniently timed Rudakai. Blast. Guess I'll pull up the new short story and hammer away on it for a minute or two.

Click through for excerpt and full cover art credits.
but this fictionette would like to sleep in once in a while
Fri 2017-12-08 23:47:09 (single post)
  • 1,238 wds. long

Happy Friday! The latest Friday Fictionette is out; it's "Come Home to Roost" (teaser excerpt for everyone, ebook and audiobook links for Patrons). It's about the possible consequences of committing origami while drunk. It is also tangentially about the potential superpowers of bartenders.

Stay tuned for next week's fictionette, which will feature an alternate origin story for the tooth fairy. (Yes, I've already started drafting that sucker. Some 300 words of outline-ish note-splatter all over the page. Gotta start somewhere.)

In other Friday Fictionette news, you may recall that when I released the Fictionette Freebie for November, I tried posting it to a new venue. In addition to Patreon, Wattpad, and my blog, I published "Love of Country" to the 4thewords READ area. (If you have a 4thewords account, you can see it here.) Well, I'm astonished and please to report that the experiment was a success. It got read, it got rated, and a 4thewords denizen came over to Patreon and subscribed. That rather made my whole weekend.

I am aware, by the way, that Patreon has decided to punch every Patron in the face all of a sudden. (The only reason I'm aware is the outcry from the artists whom I follow and/or support; I didn't get any sort of notification from Patreon about it at all.) I'm not happy about it. I'm not sure immediately what to do about it. I'm considering options. Meanwhile, I do want to reassure my Patrons that I will not take offense if you need to cancel your pledges.

Today was a Friday with nowhere to be but at my desk doing the writing thing, so I let myself sleep in. It is weirdly hard to get up the morning after scrimmage, what's up with that. (That was sarcasm. I know what's up with that. I can probably name you the skaters what caused the specific bruises. It was a good scrimmage.) I figured I could afford to treat myself to a little extra rest, then just offset my usual workday schedule by a couple hours.

But no. Apparently when I start late, I continue slow. Just draaaaaaagging my feet through everything. There is no cure for that but willpower and focus, I guess.

That, or never sleep in ever again. But that would be sad.

Anyway, the new computer arrives tomorrow, according to FedEx. Not a moment too soon, is all I can say. I can almost hear the Asus grinding when I open up a tab session on Firefox. It's like the Asus knows it's about to be replaced and would like to reassure me that I didn't jump the gun or overreact--it really does need to be replaced. See? It can hardly handle having three Firefox windows and Chrome open at the same time! And then you want to open a spreadsheet in Libre Office? Without closing your web browsers down first? EVERYTHING IS HARD. Go, save yourself, forget about me--

Tomorrow evening. I'm hoping. And I'm nervous. I have this cynical suspicion that the problem is actually me. Like, I have only to use a computer for a week, be it ever so PENTIUM i7 QUAD CORE, and everything will grind to a halt again. The rot will set in. I am a corrupting influence on laptops; not even an honest-to-goodness gaming system can withstand my destructive power. It may have something to do with the way I use (or abuse) Firefox with Session Manager. It may have to do with my insistence on running Bluestacks rather than getting a smartphone. It may have to do with my aura.

Well. I just keep telling myself, even if that's true, even if I really do have the anti-Midas touch when it comes to laptop computers, the new one will at least have a keyboard that works. That alone will be worth replacing the Asus for. Although possibly not for the price I paid.

With any luck I'll have good news on that front to report on Monday.

writing tomorrow's words today (because that Einang isn't going to defeat itself)
Wed 2017-12-06 21:52:29 (single post)

So there was this neat thing that happened at the end of yesterday's writing task list, and it's another 4thewords thing, and I know, I know it's starting to sound like I'm turning this blog into one big continuous 4thewords advertisement, but I am going to take that risk and tell you about it. Because it's kind of cool.

Here's what happened.

I was working on the new story when I hit the word count total needed to win my current-at-the-time battle. And since I knew I was going to work on the story a little longer and then write my blog post, thus generating plenty more words, I started another battle. I think it was an 800-word monster, maybe 500, something like that anyway.

Because I've always got to have a battle going on, right? If I'm going to be writing, I might as well also be advancing my current quests. But it can be tricky to pick the right monster to battle. It needs to be about the right size for the writing at hand. And "the right size" can be terms of either word count or time limit.

Like, right now, since I don't know how much more writing I'm going to do after my blog post, I'm chosen a 24-hour battle. That way, if I don't write enough to defeat the monster tonight, no big deal, I'll finish it off with tomorrow's freewriting session.

Or, this morning, I picked a 300-word monster to battle when I wrote down my dream. (Yes, I count dream journaling toward my daily word count. It's narrative. It's description. It's story idea generation. It's writing.) Because of the short time limit on that particular monster, I really did need to generate all 300 words by writing down that dream. But 300 words (or rather 260--I have a pretty decent attack bonus) seemed like a reasonable estimate. As it turned out, it was an overestimate, but only at first. I eked out the rest of the words by challenging myself, with some success, to recall more dream details to write down.

But yesterday afternoon, I goofed. I still had some 250 words left on the battle when I finished the blog post. The battle timer had only two and a half hours left, and I had to leave in about half an hour for a three-hour roller derby practice. Where the heck was I going to get 250 more words in the next half hour?

From this week's fictionette, as it turned out. I'd already logged a session working on it that morning, but the alarming prospect of having to forfeit a battle (and break my flawless record of nothing but victories!) spurred me to reopen the project and work on it some more.

And that's how I wound up finishing the first draft of this week's fictionette yesterday rather than, say, in a panic on Friday morning.

And that's yet another reason why 4thewords is awesome. It pushes me to finish projects early.

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!

curious fictions would like your eyeballs and wouldn't say no to your spare change
Mon 2017-11-20 15:36:57 (single post)
  • 6,000 wds. long

This blog post is brought to you by the twin forces of ibuprofen and pseudoephedrine, the patron saints of my staying productive while sick. Otherwise I'd be flat in bed, shivering and sniffly and sore. Hooray for modern medical science!

Incidentally, my roller derby habit has the side-effect of complicating self-diagnosis. I mean, are the muscles of my neck and upper back painfully tight because I've come down with a cold or flu, or simply because I had a contact-heavy practice last night?

(The answer, as the kids like to say these days, is, Por qué no los dos?)

Anyway. That is not what I came here to tell you. I came here to tell you about Curious Fictions.

Curious Fictions is a new undertaking by author and web designer Tanya Breshears to bring fanstastic short fiction to a wider audience while giving authors a handy option for extending the commercial life of their already-published stories. Readers can browse stories easily from their computers or mobile devices, and, having created a login and entered their credit card information into their account, can pay for what they read by means of the Stripe system. There are no ads, and the bulk of readers' payments go directly to the authors.

If you want to try it out by reading something of mine that you otherwise might not get to, my story "Lambing Season," first published in Nameless Digest, is in the Curious Fictions library. It is in the fantastic company of (just to name a few examples off the top of the weekly rotating Featured Story carousel) Gary Gibson's "Scienceville," Kate Heartfield's "The Semaphore Society," and Benjamin C. Kinney's "The First Confirmed Case of Non-Corporeal Recursion: Patient Anita R."

And that's what I came to tell you about.

In other news, I'm afraid my weekend was underproductive as regards my hopes for clocking double days on this year's NaNoWriMo attempt. But that I did some work on it both Saturday and Sunday and didn't stint Saturday's freewriting and fictionette work isn't to be sneezed at. I have not historically been much good at getting work done on Saturdays, and I typically don't expect any writing from my Sundays at all. Well. 4thewords tells me I wrote about 5,000 words over the weekend, and by my calculations almost 3,000 of that was novel draft. Some of it was very misguided novel draft--I tore yet another big ragged hole in the plot, as it turns out--but sometimes you just have to write the misguided words to realize how misguided they are.

Today I get to correct my course. And since I'm not going anywhere tonight (I hate being sick, I was supposed to go meet our league's newest members over a round of off-skates conditioning and then help lead Phase 2, but instead I got sick so I have to stay home and I hate it), I have plenty of time to WRITE ALL THE WORDS so long as I can keep myself more or less upright.

Hooray for modern medical science indeed.

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.

work smarter not more panickeder
Wed 2017-11-15 20:49:43 (single post)

Today is my second day using 4thewords to improve my daily writing routine, and already I've figured out how to use it better.

So, like I said, you pick a monster to battle and then you battle it. But on what criteria do you pick it? If you're me, you want to pick it based on the next quest you hope to solve. But you feel like you have to pick the monster whose target word count matches the estimated size of the next writing task. So you look at something like a Wiwaz (a variant of malign animated marionette) and you think, "I want to defeat that critter, it would complete my Dungeon Marionettes quest. But my current task is only good for about 600 new words, tops. Besides, with a 1,667-word target, the Wiwaz is obviously geared toward one's daily NaNoWriMo session. I should save it for when I work on my novel and just queue up a Persea for now."

But hopefully you're not me. I mean, I'm me, and there's not room enough in here for both of us. And you don't want to be short-sighted like that. You don't want to just look at the monster's target word count--you want to look a the time allotted to reach it.

A Wiwaz has a target of 1667 words and a time-limit of 24 hours. Because one Wiwaz equals one day's worth of NaNoWriMo writing.

Immediately I realized that, my process changed. Instead of carefully choosing a monster based on how closely it approximated the size of my current task, then typing like hell once the battle started... I initiated battle with the monster I really wanted to defeat, then calmly went about my day. I got done with the fictionette draft and its author's note, saw that I still had 22 hours left to defeat the Wiwaz, and decided I had time for a leisurely dinner break.

This calls for some discernment, of course. Not every monster has as roomy a deadline by which to hit its target word count. But the basic strategy stands: Consider potential monster battles from the standpoint of not a headlong sprint but a reasonable workday shift. Like, yes, I'm probably going to write 1500 words over the next two hours, given the tasks I've scheduled for that time. Then the battle becomes a vector of accountability: I'd better stay focused and keep my breaks short, because now I have to get both those tasks done over those next two hours.

The moral of the story is, gamification was made for us, and not us for gamification!

(Meanwhile, 4thewords tells me I've written 3,355 words today over 156 minutes--and I haven't even gotten to the novel yet. And I will. Believe it. When I'm done with the Wiwaz I want to go after the Dark Magician right away. That's about 1800 words. I'd love to bash out an 1800-word chunk of novel tonight.)

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