“A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
That day.”
Emily Dickinson

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

they live just down the ice floe from us
Wed 2015-11-25 23:59:59 (single post)
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The weather's getting a head start on tomorrow. It's been overcast all day, and now it's misting down a light sort of rain/sleet mix that's turning everything cement and asphalt into a death trap. I nearly injured myself just walking next door (well, two apartment complexes down) for the late-night cat-sitting visit. There were places where I couldn't walk at all, just "skate"--which is to say, hunker down into good derby position and just slide my sneakers forward very, very carefully.

Speaking of skating, there were plans bubbling through the league to have a Thanksgiving morning "fun skate" at our usual practice location--but with tomorrow's winter weather advisory and the ice only getting worse and the temperatures not predicted to climb above freezing tomorrow, I expect it ain't happening. Well, it might happen, but it'll most likely happen without me. Brrr.

So... a good day to catch up on NaNoWriMo, right? I have a bit of catching up to do. According to the "At this rate you will finish on..." metric, I'm 10 days behind. But according to the "Words per day to finish on time" metric, I only need to increase my daily session from the original 3,125 plan up to about 3,500 or so. This is entirely doable. I've introduced a new plot twist that should be good for at least another 5,000 words, and with any luck it will spawn further plot twists and maybe even a plot resolution.

And speaking of NaNoWriMo: Look look look! I have a title now.

In other writing news, "...Not with a Bang, But a Snicker" (the one about the snow-glue apocalypse) came home from its previous outing this weekend, and it's gone right back out tonight. #WriterDoingWriterThings

a whole thunder of stuff done rolled
Wed 2015-10-28 22:48:43 (single post)
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Behold! Two short stories went winging to their respective targets. Two of them! And all my writing for the day, except for this blog post, done before five pee-em. Folks, I am on fire.

John very kindly allowed me to read "Caroline's Wake" to him, which, given its length, meant the donation of more than half an hour plus some engaged discussion. He is a fantastic writer-support spouse. All the kudos. It was his first time experiencing this particular story, so he was able to offer a fresh perspective on whether it made sense, whether the characters were acting like real people, and whether things the right emotional weight was present. These are all things I worry about when a lot of slicing and dicing goes on between drafts. While "killing your darlings" it's possible to also kill some hard-working support structures. When vital pillars and buttresses go missing, it helps to have someone around to notice.

Speaking of killing your darlings, he also suggested I cut the final paragraph. The one about the crocus heralding a mild winter. Dammit. OK. I cut it, because the requesting editor said the exact same thing (or at the very least she suggested that it shouldn't be the final paragraph) and when two separate readers notice the same problem then maybe it's a good idea to listen to them. Dammit.

(Some darlings are very darling. Alas.)

Anyway, the story went into the email, and very soon afterward I had a reply full of excitement and glee, which was a relief. I'd secretly feared, because I am prone to Writer's Weasel Brain, that she'd be all what, this old thing? Not interested anymore. You missed your chance. But of course that was not the case. Weasel Brain is always wrong. Two reliable things about Weasel Brain: It'll always have something to say, and it'll always be wrong.

As expected, the title of the submission to Alien Artifacts got changed. When that story went to The First Line, it was called "The Rapture of the Santiago Women", as a nod to the famous Roman abduction event known as the Rape of the Sabine Women". Problem was, the allusion really only was skin deep. It was clever but not resonant. So I changed it to "Comin' For to Carry Me Home" both for the literal meaning within the plot and the play on homing device.

(And now you have the song stuck in your head, and my work here is done.)

Also, the first line got changed, as its original first line is best considered the exclusive property of The First Line. Which mean the little boy's name had to be changed, since it had been part of the first line. And then a whole bunch of other stuff got changed until, given that the story's only about 1300 words long, the revision really merited a whole new version number under my private and terribly subjective file-naming system. So Alien Artifacts gets to see Homing Device v2.0, or maybe, given the last print-out and line-edit pass, v2.2.1

Fair warning: I may just take the rest of the week off. Friday is fifth Friday, which means no Friday Fictionette is due. And tomorrow is a Halloween party on skates, which means I have to put the finishing touches on my costume. (John has been helping me with that, too. All the kudos.) So if I get very little done for the rest of the week, it's OK. I done a whole thunder of stuff between last week and now. I can take a small holiday.

a detailed look at the key-forging process as undertaken inside the cell
Tue 2015-10-27 17:01:08 (single post)
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I put in two solid hours on the story revision today, and it is almost done. Tantalizingly close. I hope to submit it tomorrow, at which point I shall crow mightly.

I'd like to write a little about the process of turning one draft into another draft. You might not be interested. You might be all, "Feh! I have my own process. I do not need yours. Feh, I say!" in which case you can skip this bit and scroll down to the next bit. But if you're interested, here's my process. Or at least, here's the process I used for this story and for this draft.

To start with, I had a critiqued copy of the previous draft to work from. The response to its submission last year was to invite me to resubmit if I could get it down to between 4,000 and 5,000 words. So I wrote back, tentatively asking if the editor had any thoughts she'd like to share to guide me in that revision; the editor responded with a line-by-line critique, crossing out text that was slowing down the story and highlighting elements that should be foregrounded.

This, by the way, is the sort of unlooked-for gift that writers dream of getting. We get excited just to get a rejection letter with personal comments, so you can imagine the ecstasy occasioned by an unasked for critique and line edit. Accompanying an invitation to resubmit, no less.

So my first step was to import this critique into my Scrivener project. I moved the August 2014 draft out of the Draft folder (where the documents to compile into a manuscript live) and into my custom Previous Drafts folder, to keep a record and to make room. Then I imported the critique, which was handily in RTF already, into a custom Critiques folder. I converted all of the editor's notes and deletions into linked notes. I also inspected the recommended deletions for any content I didn't want to lose, noted those elements, and considered how I might incorporate them into the surviving text.

Next, I began to type up a new draft from blank, using the critiqued copy and my notes as a reference. This is what took me for-frickin'-ever. This is the part of the process where I kept abandoning it for weeks and then needing to reacquaint myself with the project whenever I tried to pick it up again. I was about a third of the way through this step when I finally got my act together last week.

Thursday night I began the next stage of the revision: print it out and scribble on it (line-edit). I had the foolish idea this would take me, oh, maybe an hour. WRONG! This took the remainder of Thursday and all of Friday too. Lots of crossing things out and attempting to rephrase things. Embarrassing typos to be hunted down and destroyed.

Today I picked up that scribbled-on copy and began to implement the line-edit. I scanned through the printed document for scribbles, and I typed into the new draft whatever the scribbles said. Sounds simple, right? Generally it was. But there were a few "bugs" that were more complex; those I put aside for later, creating a linked note for each to make coming back to them easier.

When the simple fixes were done, I went back to those linked notes, which live in Scrivener's Inspector pane under the Comments and Footnotes tab, and began addressing the more complex line-edits. There were four of them. I got through two before my time was up today.

That's it. Tomorrow I hope to address the last two "bugs" on my buglist, and submit the revision that was requested more than a year ago. I continue to feel silly about taking fourteen months to get this done, but the bad-ass joy of getting it done at last rather outweighs that embarrassment.

Also, as I upload this post to my blog, I will be finished with my work day. All finished. By five o'clock in the afternoon. I honestly can't remember the last time I managed that. It will feel so very good to gear up for roller derby practice in the certain, satisfied knowledge that no work awaits me when I come home. Again, I'm embarrassed that it's taken me until now to find my workday rhythm, but I'm too pleased with having found it to notice the embarrassment overmuch.

Oh! Also, today's submission procedures involved preparing "The Rapture of the Santiago Women," whose title I might yet change, for submission to the forthcoming Alien Artifacts anthology from Zombies Need Brains LLC. I will most definitely change the first line, as it was dictated by the market I sent it to first. I've already edited the story a bit today, just cleaning up the text to make it flow more smoothly. A story's always a little rough when I write it to a themed issue's deadline; I like to make sure it's a bit more polished before it heads out to meet the next slush pile.

This is another thing that feels awesome--as the revision on "Caroline's Wake" comes to a close, I've got brain-space for revising other stories for resubmission. It's like I'd been in jail for a year, but with the means to make the key to the prison door. What the eff took me so long to do it? Damn. Well, door's open now. Free!

Cover art features original photography by the author of something that's actually, despite my efforts, not bubbly.
this fictionette went shopping for mead, and hijinks ensued
Fri 2015-10-23 23:23:32 (single post)
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Compared to my usual eleventh hour stunts, this week's Fictionette got done ridiculously early. Par for this week's course, happily. I got up early to see John off--he hit the road for New Mexicon--and then I got right to work so that I'd be able to go to a convention myself. MileHiCon's programming started at 2:00 PM, and I planned to be there.

So, yeah, I pretty much did my morning shift right away and straight through, and when I was done, "I Didn't Ask for Champagne" was up at Patreon and it had only gone twenty past noon. Go me!

But I still didn't make it to the con in time to catch the two o'clock panel. This is because, in the parking lot of Redstone Meadery, just when I'd finished purchasing gifts for a friend and was ready to make the hour-long drive to the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center, the car died. The engine simply died before I'd even put the car in reverse, and it would not start again. It was 1:00 PM.

What followed was a long call to AAA from the tasting room of Redstone Meadery, and a short wait therein, which was followed by my car being towed to its usual mechanic and myself at the wheel of a Mitsubishi Mirage rented from the nearby Hertz. When I at last began my drive out of Boulder, it was 2:30 PM. Pretty slick, I have to admit. What could have wrecked my weekend plans was reduced to mere inconvenience, and not even that much expense. Gods of travel, bless the Triple A.

(Not that much expense so far. The rental was under $35 for the whole weekend, but we'll see what the bill comes to when the Saturn gets diagnosed.)

The next hour was taken up with construction traffic on Highway 36 which began very early on the Foothills on-ramp. The hour after that, with normal traffic on I-25. But I had Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap to keep me company, so I laughed a lot instead of raging at the road.

Then I finally made it to the hotel around 4:30 PM and was in the audience by 5:00 to hear Kevin and Ursula live--Ursula Vernon is the artist guest of honor, and Kevin Sonney was not shy about contributing to her GoH hour, to everyone's enjoyment. Connie Willis took over at 6:00 to talk to us about foreshadowing and which movies do it well (or poorly), opening ceremonies were at 7:00, dinner was overpriced but delicious salmon at the hotel restaurant, and at 9:00 Carrie Vaughn interviewed Kevin Hearne in the style of her series heroine's "Midnight Hour" radio show on KNOB. There was ranting about conspiracy theorists and speculation about Bigfoot. Everything was splendid. We lived happily after ever. The end.

Oh, except I still had two more hours of workday to live up to, and a short story to line-edit. Well. I'm finishing that up now, aren't I?

The story has not yet been submitted, despite my hopes. That's OK. It wasn't for lack of working on it. Line edits are simply taking longer than expected. My bad for expecting them to be so quick! This is the stage where I do get to bring out my inner perfectionist and let her try to get every sentence in every paragraph right. Within reason, anyway. I expect I'll be all, "That's FINE, let it GO, just SUBMIT the dang thing" by about Wednesday.

Tomorrow: Breakfast off-site! And then at 9:30 AM I will have a dilemma: Do I go to the SFWA business meeting, or do I throw in my lot with a Wreckin' Roller Rebels skater who's giving the kids a sock-footed lesson in roller derby? THIS IS A HARD CHOICE no, I'm serious, it actually is. I mean it. Don't laugh!

factors in a personal productivity revolution
Thu 2015-10-22 17:24:02 (single post)
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I have here, in my hot little hands, a brand new printed-out draft of "Caroline's Wake." It's about 1500 words shorter than the version I submitted last year, and, I very much hope, a stronger story. It's not quite ready to submit at this time, but give me a couple more hours to scribble in between the double-spaced lines of the print-out, and it will be.

Today is Day 3 of Actually Getting Writing Done on a Reliable, Workerlike Basis. Seriously, this week has been fantastic. I've been getting my morning shift done in the morning, and I've been using my afternoon shift to create publishable story copy. It is amazing how awesome it feels to transform writing from a guilt-inducing monster into a life-affirming achievement.

I'm not entirely sure what made this sort of productivity and dailiness feel convincingly possible this week and not, say, last week, or last year, or eleven and a half years ago when I quit my day job. But I can point to a few things that could be said to have helped.

Dropped all expectations of content writing. I got cut from first one Examiner gig and then the other, and I decided I was ready to let them go rather than fight to get them back. Examiner only paid according to some secret metric of eyeballs-on-page, which came to about $20 every third month. I was doing it because it was an outlet for babbling about stuff that interested me, not because it paid well. Which was sily, because I already have an outlet for babbling, and that's this blog here.

But this change also occasioned me reevaluating the desirability of having a content writing gig at all. Content writing obviously cuts into my writing time and capacity. Every writing hour spent on Examiner or Textbroker is an hour I'm not thinking up and writing down stories. And while a good content writing gig can be a reliable source of funds, the fact is I'm fortunate enough to have a well-paid spouse who enthusiastically supports my career goals. I can afford to take not just my writing but my fiction full-time.

And if I put all my writing hours toward writing, revising, and submitting short stories, I'm likely to actually sell a few. It's a better use of my time all around.

Which is not to say that I won't be tempted by a decent content writing gig. I did just submit a sample of my writing to a respectable organization that's looking to build a stable of web writers and editors. If that goes somewhere, well, I'll figure out how to schedule it in at that time.

Rearranged my timesheet template. I log my writing on a spreadsheet every day. That's how I know when I've done my five hours. This week I totally revamped the daily template, and it's ridiculous how much this helped. I suppose a well-organized brain is a productive brain.

I used to have my spreadsheet separated out into categories of types of writing: fiction in this block (short story, novel, freewriting), content writing in that block (Examiner, textbroker, other), miscellaneous over thataways (Friday Fictionettes, etc.). Then, if I was feeling decisive, I'd babble out a sort of schedule for the day in a column off to the right, which I might or might not look at again all day.

This week I overhauled it such that the schedule was baked right into the timesheet. Everything I expect myself to do in a work day, it's there, and in order. All the nonsense and clutter is gone. It's just Morning Pages, the Morning Shift block, the Afternoon Shift block, the actually writing blog, done. If I want to be more precise, there's room to type a description--for instance, "Short Fiction" today is described as "finish 'Caroline's Wake' to printable draft" for the first hour and "take your pen and finalize that draft!" for the second. But for the most part, my plan is just to do the next thing until I come to the end of the things.

There's still a line for content writing in the Afternoon Shift block, but mostly it just gets crossed off.

Began enforcing scheduling constraints. Before, I would get lost somewhere between Morning Pages and freewriting, or between freewriting and fictionette, and I might never come back from my long break in order to start the afternoon shift. Having reorganized my timesheet, I can now use it to determine where I break and for how long. Basically, if I'm in the middle of a block, I keep working Pomodoro style until I'm done with that block: 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off. If I get to white space, I can take a longer break for a meal or for playtime, but I have to have a concrete idea of when I'll start the next block. When that time comes around, I absolutely must get back to work.

This is not rocket science. This is what I always should have done, and what I've always known I ought to do. Somehow, this week I'm actually doing it. Amazing. I'm going to attribute it in part to the overhauled timesheet, and in another part to something else:

Reevaluated how I spend my break time. I hate to admit it, but I can't actually fit an hour of Puzzle Pirates into a 5-minute break. I can't even fit an hour of Puzzle Pirates into an hour. It's like football that way. Or roller derby. The clock may say that an hour of game time passed, but it took a lot more than one hour of real time.

But I can log onto Puzzle Pirates, play a single round of the Distilling puzzle, and log off. That takes about five minutes. Or I can play Two Dots until the Pomodoro Timer's end-of-break whistle.

The weird thing is, these little self-contained puzzle games are starting to act like both a reward and a trigger. That is, they not only function as "Yay, you worked 25 minutes straight, you get a cookie," but also as this Pavlovian signal that it's time to get back to work. Finishing a "pom" means I get to play a puzzle. Finishing a puzzle means it's time to get back to work.

So, these are things that have helped. (Also, getting up early--I keep aiming for 8:00, but as long as I'm up by 9:00 I stand a strong chance of finishing my morning shift by noon.) But what also helped was simply knowing that it's been more than a year since the rewrite on "Caroline's Wake" was requested, and that's just ridiculous, and the ridiculous shit ends now. And so it does.

tryin to get the feelin again (and quite possibly succeeding)
Tue 2015-10-20 20:28:13 (single post)
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So the other day I was talking about how accumulating rejection letters can make it difficult to convince oneself to keep accumulating rejection letters; or, put another way, how it's hard to keep believing in the viability of a story that has accumulated a lot of rejection letters (for emotional values of "a lot"). There comes a point when the writerly weasel brain starts insisting that the reason the story keeps getting rejected is that it's no good.

Well, whatever the opposite of writerly weasel brain is--writerly angel brain? writerly sweetheart brain?--it starts to sing the moment one hears "Good news! I liked your story and sent it up to the Editorial Board for further review." Or words to that effect.

Words to that effect arrived late last week, providing me with an effective argument against weasel brain. Regardless of whether "It's For You" is ultimately accepted or rejected by the Editorial Higher-Ups, I'll be able to tell myself that someone liked it enough to put it in front of the Editorial Higher-Ups. That's enough to keep me going.

More than that--thinking about it got me excited last night for today's workday. Like, "I can't wait to write" excited. There's a logical component to it: "I can't wait to finish more stories, so I can send out more stories, so I can receive more good news about my stories! And feel good some more!"

This is a good feeling. This is a feeling I need to be able to store in a bottle, then administer to myself via medicinal measuring spoon as needed.

So there's this one story that's been waiting more than a year for me to finish revising it so I can send it back to an Editorial Higher-Up who specifically requested the revision. Never mind the stupidity of my having taken this long about it; I'm trying to focus on fixing it. I'm trying to ride this fresh new happy-excited-affirmed feeling right into the part of my day where I work on that revision. Which is why I'm writing this blog post first. Writing about that feeling makes me kinda-sorta relive that feeling. Kind of like the way writing about bad memories makes me relive the bad feelings associated with that memory? Only this time it's a good feeling.

My impressionable brain! It can be put to work for the forces of good!

(I hope!)

buyin' my lottery tickets
Tue 2015-10-13 23:22:34 (single post)

Which is not, admittedly, the best analogy for submitting fiction to paying markets. It's not purely a numbers game. But it's partially a numbers game. Given a story that's publishable, as you continue sending it out to markets that are a reasonably good fit, the probability of its achieving publication approaches 1. No guarantees it'll reach 1, but it gets closer every time.

(Actually, if you want to be precise, the asymptote graph never reaches 1, but only gets infinitely closer and closer to 1. But forget that, I'm trying to sort of reference Godwin's Law and any number of internet memes that riff on it, and no one worries in that context that "approaching 1" isn't the same as "reaching 1," so shut up.)

But by far the strongest point of similarity between fiction submissions and lotteries is, you can't win if you don't play. Thus "submissions procedures" is one of the gotta-dos in my morning shift. Thus the stories go back out in the mail.

It does me no favors that most of the acceptance letters I've received have been in response to a story's first time in the mail. No one should consider that to be the norm. It's got me badly calibrated. It primes me to think that if a story accumulates two, five, fifteen rejections, then clearly it's not ready for prime time and I shouldn't even be sending it out. Which is bullshit, as any number of rejectomancy anecdotes will attest, but that's the writerly version of weasel-brain for you. It's such a seductive utterance of the weasel-brain, too, especially when the rejection letters come back so very quickly. I start getting self-conscious about particular stories--I start thinking, "Do I seriously believe an editor will want to pay me money for the opportunity to consume one of their precious story slots with this? NO ONE wants this." And also, "Why do I keep sending this story out, instead of writing new ones? Am I trying to rest on my laurels? Before they are even grown?"

That last one's a special grade of bovine feces, because I have sent new stories out. In fact, the story I've been trying to query status on is sitting in its very first slush pile as we speak. Unfortunately, the market that slush pile belongs to uses SPF filtering on their email, and apparently something's borked in my SPF record. I've got a support ticket to my domain host about it.

Weird thing is, though, the weasel-brain only has its say before I send the story out. Once I actually send the story, weasel-brain shuts up and lets me enjoy the fresh glow of "I submitted a story! Professionally! To a paying market! Just like real writers do!" Which only goes to show you that yet again, the only way out is through.

Anyway, I bought a lottery ticket today, and I bought one Thursday too. Metaphorically speaking.

sore and slow and late, but nevertheless optimistic and full of plans
Tue 2015-08-25 23:05:48 (single post)
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It was just a regular cleaning. There was no anesthetic involved, no surgery, no deep probing beneath the gums. It was just a regular dental cleaning.

Nevertheless, dear reader, it kicked me in the teeth.

After the dental hygienist was done with me, I managed enough energy to stop for groceries on my way home and put them away when I got there. Then I visited the creek to bring home the crawfish traps I hadn't been up to bringing home yesterday. (With the exception of a very juvenile specimen, small enough to resemble a centipede with pincers, they were empty.) Then I began to contemplate the work ahead of me today, and got as far as starting the electric kettle for tea before I realized two things:

First, that my gums were sore. I mean, really sore. Like, that background noise in my body that won't stop that I'm just noticing and now that I've noticed I'm not going to be able to stop noticing? That's my mouth. Hurting. All over.

And secondly, I was so sleepy that the thought of remaining upright and doing productive things with pen and paper and/or computer keyboard was physically painful. Apparently, getting up at 7:15 a.m. combined with an hour of enduring uncomfortable and sometimes painful manipulations of the mouth results in exhaustion.

So that's why my homework's late, Teach. Basically I took a half day off for sicksies. (Also, I spent a few minutes just leaning against the walkway wall and staring at the deer that was just hanging out, chillin' on the front lawn under a shade tree. Deer here is a regular occurrence, but that doesn't mean I'm about to get over it.)

But enough whining. Here's what's up for the week:

Revision efforts have brought the current draft of "Caroline's Wake" right up to the bit where Demi gets to talking with Andy, and not quite to the bit where Bobbie Mae starts dancing on the table. My assignment is to not lose the overall sense and desired pacing of the scene, while cutting about 200 words that I had thought helped the scene achieve that sense and pacing but in fact don't. So the play-by-play of the song and dance has to go, but Demi and Andy's conversation which partially reacts to the song and dance needs to stay, and to somehow imply that things are still going on and time is passing all around that conversation, while taking up a lot less space on the page. Did I mention that revisions are hard? Revisions are hard.

Content writing needs to get a bit more balanced. I've been blogging the weekend blockade round-up for Puzzle PiratesExaminer, along with monthly limited edition things (got a post planned about the limited edition Olympian Class Sloop, which I have purchased and am happily sailing around the Lacerta Archipelago), but my posts for Boulder Writing Examiner have been few and far between. And I'm out of practice finding content for that column. So I'll be working to come up with two posts a week. If nothing else, I'll post reviews of work that's eligible for the 2016 Hugos, thus doing my bit to help encourage people to nominate for next year.

Fictionettes -- do you know, I am really, really sick of being behind on the Wattpad excerpts? And of not having even a little musical accompaniment or other sound effects for the audiofictionettes? I know I keep saying this, but I'm going to really make an effort to push through that backlog.

Submissions procedures have slowed down, mainly because I haven't received any preternaturally fast rejections in the past couple weeks. Before that, it seemed like I'd on Tuesday I'd submit a story and log the submission, then on Wednesday I'd be logging its rejection and figuring out where to send it next. Quick responses can be cool--goodness knows authors complain enough about the wait time between submission and response--but they also have a cumulative effect of making me insecure about sending that piece out again. "Everyone keeps rejecting it! Every day, a new rejection! Is this story really ready for prime time after all?" Which is silly, because plenty of stories gather twenty or fifty rejections before finally finding a home. But insecurities don't have to be rational to be emotionally effective. Now that the cycle's slowed down a bit, the insecurities surrounding it are attacking with a bit less intensity. Which is good. But I haven't properly taken advantage of that lull, which is not good. So this week I want to get a few more stories into the slush, so I can be insecure about more stuff at a time.

So those are my aspirations for the week. I hope to look back on them from Friday's scenic lookout and say, "Yes, I did good this week." At least I'll have the advantage of not starting tomorrow with a sore mouth.

mission: completion
Tue 2015-08-18 23:43:00 (single post)
  • 5,391 wds. long

Hello universe! I have a front patio again! Theoretically, anyway--the paint crew finished up the last bits of the front of the building that pertained to our unit and the two above us, so I think I get to put the plants and patio furniture out front again. I've decided to do that tomorrow; it was too chilly and rainy to do tonight. The plants mightn't like it. The wood folding table and chairs definitely wouldn't like it.

Which reminds me: it's about time I gave the furniture another oil treatment. Once a month was the suggestion at the store, and I'm trying to be very good about maintenance and product longevity.

So tomorrow morning I might actually get to start my writing outside--which is to say, outside on the patio, rather than outside at the creek. Then I might just get to leave everything out there on a permanent basis once again.

Meanwhile, the balcony out back is still waiting for the paint crew to come back through and paint the trim. And the plants that live out there are still hanging around the living room. The most successful of our tomato plants is sort of drooping all over everything; I was going to tie it up against the wall, but obviously this plan had to be delayed. John's little sunflower never made seeds, presumably for lack of pollination action. And my squash, denied the ability to range freely all over the floor, is attempting to climb the walls, the screen door, the mystery pepper plants, and, showing a certain amount of desperation, the parsley next pot over.

So much for the household status report. My writing status report is less interesting (IMHO), but since that's what the blog's about, I shall blog it anyway.

Finally made my way back to my Boulder Writing Examiner gig. Just submitted for review tonight an article about John Scalzi's visit to Fort Collins this Sunday. I'll give you a link as soon as I have one. My relationship with Examiner's new review process has been a mixed bag thus far; one article was approved pretty much immediately, but another--a rather timely one, actually, the Puzzle Pirates weekend blockade roundup--was sent back to me with a request to remove specific dates from the headline, and never did get approved in time to be of use to anyone. So clearly I still have some things to figure out. This time, at least, I've got several days before the article I'm trying to get approved becomes obsolete.

I'm also finally making my way back to the rewrite of "Caroline's Wake." Embarrassingly enough, it has almost been a year since an editor returned it to me with a very specific rewrite request, complete with a marked-up copy of the manuscript and everything. I'm not happy with myself about this. The editor told me not to worry about a deadline, but this, I must admit, is ridiculous.

Why have I let it languish for so long? Well, I could say I've been busy. I could cite moving house, my busy roller derby schedule, other writing deadlines I've imposed upon myself... but when I look back over the past year, it's obvious that I've been able to get some things done. Whenever I can't get everything done, this short story revision has been the first thing on the chopping block. I've been avoiding it. It's that simple.

But why? Why avoid following up on a fantastic response to one of my stories?

I suppose that, while I'm between the rewrite request and the new submission, I'm in a state of potential. Great potential! And the thing about states of potential is, they're no-risk until you try to act on that potential. Where it's at now, the story has been given a strong vote of confidence and no rejection yet.

Basically, it's that thing where the writer doesn't finish because "unfinished" has more possibility than "finished." Until it's finished, it can't be pronounced a failure. Until it's sent out, it can't be rejected.

Which is, logically, a ridiculous excuse. But emotionally it makes so much sense.

Still. Emotionally, it's also got me in a state of stagnation. I'm producing very little new fiction while I'm sitting here frozen on this rewrite request. Knowing that I'm in the middle of one project makes it hard to justify starting other projects. So while this doesn't get done, very little else gets done either. I need to move. The unfinished dragon needs to be finished!

So that rewrite is now my mission for this week. Wish me luck.

Cover art incorporates photo of my potato plant. This was too subtle, so I added a potato from the grocery store.
don't get caught with this fictionette
Fri 2015-08-14 23:47:25 (single post)

Ha! I pun. This Friday's Fictionette is called "The Once and Future Hot Potato." Get it? "Don't get caught..." *Grooooan.*

It's about a kids' game, of course, but also about nostalgia and memory and divergent timelines. As always you can read the excerpt by following the link... and scrolling down to the text below the huuuuuge photo. (That's the original photo I used in this week's cover art, taken with my flip-phone at its highest quality photo setting. It's kind of blurry and very, very big.) If you want to read the whole thing, you should follow the links at the bottom of the excerpt to the PDF and the MP3. (Or just click them here.) If you are not already a subscriber to Friday Fictionettes, those pages will provide you with everything you need to become one with minimal fuss.

Meanwhile, over at my main writing gig, which is the writing and attempted selling of short fiction...

So I got a rejection letter today. This is not a surprise; I've been sending out a submission almost every day (yay!), and some of those markets are very quick to eliminate whatever it is they don't want. This particular market took about a day. They're the kind of place you send everything first, because if they say Yes you get a not-insignificant per-word pay rate in a prestigious professional magazine, and if they say No you won't be waiting long to find out.

No, the surprise was the paragraph added to the usual familiar form email, the paragraph reminding me to please in future use Standard Manuscript Format.

How embarrassing. I have been sending out manuscripts in Standard Manuscript Format for over twenty years now. I do not, by this time of my career, need to review an example. I'm more likely to err on the side of old-school Standard Manuscript Format by forgetting to change my underlines to italics or my Courier New to Times New Roman where a market specifically requests it. I was mortified to see that paragraph. Good Gods, what a newbie I must have looked.

Then I opened up the file I'd sent them, and was further mortified.

It was a mess, y'all. Both headers, the first-page header and the all-subsequent-pages header, were on the first page. Which was otherwise blank. Which was followed by nine other pages that were blank except for the all-subsequent-pages header. Which was followed by a page that was almost just as blank, but with the title. The next page had my byline. Then another blank page. Then, a page with just the first paragraph of the story.

Things didn't look normal until page 15, where the second paragraph of the story appeared and was followed by the third, fourth, and fifth paragraphs, and so forth, continuing as normal until the end of both story and document. But of course, by then, the damage was done. I'm amazed they read it at all (I am reasonably certain that they did).

Of course I looked like a newbie. What a total newbie mistake--to send along a manuscript file sight unseen.

So this is your Public Service Announcement, friends and colleagues: Before you hit SUBMIT, always open up the file and make sure the Manuscript is acceptably Formatted according to Standards.

(Also maybe don't make any changes in Open Office. Make all changes in Scrivener and recompile. Open Office is apparently notorious for terrible RTF support.)