“"...till by the end you feel you have lived many lives: which is perhaps the greatest gift a novel can give."”
Ursula K. Le Guin

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

in which a tedious writing exercise becomes inconveniently interesting
Thu 2017-08-31 22:48:21 (single post)
  • 1,136 wds. long

The long blog silence is testimony to the truth of the adage "After derby is too late." Not a universal adage, admittedly, but a fairly reliable one in my little universe. So today I'm blogging before derby. Just before. Instantaneously before. I'm in fact sitting at the folding table in the Officials' Corner at our practice location, and I have until they arrive and need to actually use this table to get this blog post done. Go me!

(I think I will be able to manage posting it after derby. There is no wifi at our practice location unless I beg use of someone's smartphone uplink. And smartphones notoriously fail to get signal in our practice location.)

I found a little time earlier this week to play around with interactive fiction. In Melissa Ford's book Writing Interactive Fiction, I had just got to the Designing Agency section--it's pretty early on in the book, I'm not moving through it particularly quickly--and worked through the Beanstalk exercise. The exercise has, to my thinking, two purposes: It gives you more practice using Twine to give the reader/protagonist choices, and it focuses your attention on whether those choices are meaningful. If they aren't, the interactive fiction isn't.

The exercise was to write a sort of Jack and the Beanstalk... sequel? Alternate plot? Basically, the giant is threatening to come down the beanstalk and STEAL YOUR SISTER. Oh noes! The first scene must end with two options, and each of two ensuing scenes must end with two options, which means there will be four possible endings.

I was not enthusiastic about this.

(Oh, crap, it's 6:30 already. I have to go put my skates on. I will finish this after derby! I will!)

(And now it is 10:00 PM. I'm a little more bruised and a lot more tired than I was when I left off. Now... where did I leave off? Oh. Right.)

I was not enthusiastic about this. I had absolutely no desire to rewrite Jack and the Beanstalk, much less in four permutations. But that was my assignment, so, darn it, I was doing it.

Forty-five minutes and 1,500 words later, I had done it and it wasn't so bad. Having no love for damsel in distress storylines, I had worked every branch toward the revelation that Jack's little sister had become a soldier competent to lead an army. The reader's choices would determine where she and Jack stood as siblings. In one, they were teammates working together to defeat the giant. In another, they were enemies, traitor and betrayed, and Jack wound up exiled for his sins.

It was all very silly, but it still managed to capture my interest by the end of it. That night, on my way to sleep, I couldn't stop thinking about ways to expand the story into something actually worth reading. I could foreshadow the little sister's development into a warrior princess, for instance. I could tell how she'd practiced swordfighting and climbed every tree in sight so she could grow up as fierce and strong and brave as her adored big brother. I could note the foolishness of Jack treating the giant like a personal problem when in fact his little farm was part of a great big nation which the giant might rightfully be seen as invading. And what about the harp? Did she resent Jack for having stolen her during his earlier foray? Did she miss living up in the clouds? Was she the medium by which the giant delivered his threat?

And so on, and so forth. And what's ridiculous about it is, it's probably not going to be commercially viable no matter how well I revise and expand it. The entire premise is from an exercise in a well-known (I think?) book on the subject, which other aspiring interactive fiction authors have no doubt already worked through themselves, and there aren't that many markets for interactive fiction at this time. So I really shouldn't let myself obsess over it, at least not until I've got a bunch of other projects out of my hair. Like, say, the short-short I want to expand into an interactive piece that actually is commercially viable. Hey, brain, maybe we should obsess on that story, and not on this one, what do you say?

Darn it, Muse! You are so inconvenient!

*Sigh.*

Lastly, some quick fictionette news: The freebie for August 2017 has been released. It's "Tina, Destroyer of Worlds," and you can now read/download it as an ebook, an audiobook, or as a webpage via Patreon regardless of your patron status. Also I finally put the Fictionette Artifacts for April in the mail. I hope not to take so long with the ones for May. If I take a whole month to do each one, I'll always be three months behind, and that would be depressing.

Cover art incorporates pubilc domain photograph via Pixabay.com and clever use of opacity gradients if I do say so myself.
this fictionette is good practice and also not to blame
Fri 2017-08-11 23:53:55 (single post)
  • 1,013 wds. long

Good evening! It is Friday; here is a Fictionette. "How Grief Transforms You" (ebook, audiobook) juxtaposes a bereft parent, obnoxious gossipy neighbors, and a mysterious phenomenon causing nightly havoc in the forest. It went more or less according to schedule, so it was not the reason I didn't go to the yoga class I was contemplating. That choice is better attributed to how very attractive the idea of a night spent at home was. Introvert, remember? Yeah. So, maybe next week with the yoga.

The Friday Fictionette project is having an unexpected beneficial effect. It's giving me a lot of practice at turning concept into outline into draft. I often have to start the week by writing an outline just because the base text--a freewriting exercise from the previous month--is such a rambling, incoherent mess. This is good. Because you know where else I need to be able to turn concept into outline and then outline into draft? Novel writing.

I have all these novel notes from last year that haven't get been turned into manuscript because, frankly, I'm kind of terrified of commitment. A scrivener document full of brainstorming, worldbuilding, and vague notes toward plot is a thing full of joyous potential. But writing the manuscript means making choices, committing to certain possibilities and rejecting others. It means closing doors and hemming myself in. (It also means writing a shitty first draft, which sucks because it means that the first time I read this novel it will be a shitty first draft. It's an unavoidable step in the process but I really wish it wasn't.)

So practicing this concept to outline to draft conversion in the short form every week will theoretically help make it No Big Deal when it's time to do it in the long form for a novel. Hooray for practice!

On the other hand, I hope to produce fewer rambling, incoherent messes going forward, as I'm trying to hold my freewriting sessions to the beginning-middle-end standard that I mentioned the other day. That way I can skip the outline phase entirely, or, at the very least, have already done the outline phase by the time I sit down to turn the piece into a Friday Fictionette.

This morning's freewriting, by the way, produced the first draft of the next story in what I'm calling the Posthuman Just So Stories series. (cf.) This one involves a faithful dog and a prankster rabbit. It possibly wears on its sleeve the influence of my frequently rereading Watership Down. On revision that factor will either become less noticeable or will look more like I did it on purpose all artful-like an' stuff.

projects proliferate perversely
Thu 2017-08-10 23:08:36 (single post)

So I was scanning my list of favorite fiction markets, and it turns out Daily Science Fiction 1. only accepts pieces up to 1500 words long, disqualifying several pieces I'm looking to submit, but 2. does accept pieces as short as 100 words. Yay, drabble market! And it also turns out that they will consider flash-fiction series, which is to say, three or more short-shorts relating to a common theme. And I thought, "Perfect! I have this series of drabbles about talking animals in a post-human world. I'll send three of those!"

And I also thought, "They might need a little sprucing up before they go. But it shouldn't take long."

So. Turns out, wrong on two counts.

Count the first: I don't actually have three unpublished. I only have three, period, and SpeckLit took one of them. Not complaining about that, mind you. But it means I only have two unpublished, so I shall have to write another. Cool. Needn't be a drabble, either.

Count the second: In fact, probably best that it not be a drabble. Because the other two? Are not, currently, stories. They are not shaped like stories, not even as basic as the one in "Priesthood Has Its Privileges." They're more like... portraits. So I'm going to have to expand them.

That's what I spent this afternoon doing, when I really wanted to be diving into the whole Twine/Interactive Fiction thing.

And even then I'm not done. Because, even expanded, both of them have basically the same story: Animals muse upon the forgotten past, then the focus widens to reveal that, Lo! Humankind is extinct; humankind is the forgotten past. Look, variations on a theme require variation. More than just "This one's about pandas and that one's about a gull and a sea lion."

Why do things have to be so complicated?

*brb bemoaning the shortage of hours in the day*

story solutions, unexpected uptime, and tempation
Thu 2016-10-06 09:19:24 (single post)

Hello from the new Metropolitan Lounge at Chicago Union Station! My first time there since the renovation. It is an elegant two-story monstrosity accessible from the Great Hall or from the west side of Canal Street or from the stairs inside the main west-side Canal Street entrance. Stowing luggage is now self-service in a big closet to the right of the Great Hall check-in desk. Showers are available. There's a self-serve espresso machine and chilled sparkling water on tap. Round 12:30, they say, they bring out a cheese and veggie tray, though I will probably not be here for that since I've got a lunch date with a high school friend. (Obviously not the same high school friend I had lunch with in Covington.) The furniture is comfy and upholstered. There are AC outlets everywhere. There are also TVs everywhere, but I was able to find an upstairs corner where the ambient music is louder than the ambient news anchors, so that's OK.

So I've been thinking about my problems with "Stand By for Your Assignment" and I think I've figured them out. By which I mean, I think I have the right diagnosis and the first steps to a solution. Here it is: I'm trying to fit too much story into too few words. This is why I'm having so much trouble on a sentence-by-sentence and paragraph-by-paragraph level--I'm trying to make each syntactical unit convey too much information. Therefore, the solution is this: More scenes. A longer story.

I was working on it last night on the train. Which is to say, I was thinking about it really hard while trying to fall asleep. I'm afraid I let the unexpected wi-fi distract me. And why not? Since when has wi-fi been available on train 58/59? Or on any cross country train at all, really? Aside from the Coast Starlight, that is--and that one is no longer listed on the official wi-fi page, anyway (wait, it is still mentioned on the route schedule brochure as available in business class service). Certainly I've never seen it advertised on the City of New Orleans (though, as this forum post points out, it's offered officially on the Illini and the Saluki, which are essentially the same route but only between Chicago and Carbonale, IL). I suppose it's in a pilot phase. All I know is, as part of the usual feature orientation speech and greeting, the sleeping car attendant said, "In just a moment I'll have the wi-fi gateway set up and I'll post the network information near the water station at the top of the stairs," and my jaw dropped and continued hanging open right until he was done speaking.

It worked pretty well! There were a small handful of places where I was connected but with no internet, about the same as if I were connected to my husband's smartphone wi-fi hotspot and we hit a dead zone, but outside of that, the signal was effortlessly reliable. Only real outage was just after the power cycle in Memphis round about 11:00 PM; that SSID simply fell off the list of available networks and didn't reappear until sometime after I went to sleep. It was up and working perfectly when I got up at 7:00 AM, though, and remained so right into Chicago Union Station. So I was able to do all the wi-fi things, like update my submissions log, research manuscript submission possibilities (see? I was doing virtuous writing-related things online!), catch up on some blog community conversations, check in with my roller derby league via Facebook, all those things. Tried playing a little on splix.io and Puzzle Pirates, but I kept getting disconnected from the server. I guess even very simple live multiplayer games are beyond that little hotspot's capabilities. But for web pages and email, and even playing video off Facebook (a leaguemate had posted a few minutes from last night's Lindsey Stirling concert at Red Rocks, very nice to listen to during final hour of the trip), it was just fine.

Can't count on wifi on the train to Denver, though--not only is it, again, not officially listed among the promised amenities, but there's a lot of dead spots along that route, big ones. So that even if they do provide a hotspot, it will be of only limited use. Hence blogging now rather than later.

Anyway, more scenes. My plan is to reread the current draft of "Stand By..." and note wherever things get cluttered and awkward, or wherever I've tried to provide more flashback or exposition than comfortably fits into that point in the narrative. I'll experiment with making them full-blown scenes in their own right. (Possibly the story will be restructured to alternate between scenes set now and scenes set in Dolores's past, but I'm not wed to that idea yet.) Additional scenes will not only make things less clunky, I hope, but will also give the story room to better develop the necessary tension. Better pacing, in other words.

With several of my completed stories, I can point to a moment during the revision process where I restructured the narrative and everything came unstuck like magic. I am hoping I just reached that moment with this story. Only hindsight will be able to say.

OK. I swear this evening I will not just think about it but also TYPE about it. Even if there is wi-fi. I will be good! I will be a hard-working little writer person! I will make words appear on the screen! Promise!

Cover art incorporates photo by katsrcool/flickr via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)
this fictionette registered late for grad school
Mon 2016-08-15 22:16:04 (single post)

OK, so, I'm not sending "Late Registration" anywhere tonight. It needs more than a quick once-over in order for me to feel happy with it out there bearing my by-line. But! I did finally post the Friday Ficitonette for August 12. Revel in it! It's called "Dr. Green Ascends to the Nether World" and that is not a typo. It's about BEING A SCIENTIST even when that means breaking through barbed wire fences and climbing sheer cliffsides to FIGURE SHIT OUT.

Here's the thing I never count on when I say "I'll be able to get so much done Saturday afternoon!" Getting sick. It starts with post nasal drip and that itchy, raw spot high up at the back of the throat, and next think I know I'm in bed, sniffling and miserable, and then I'm in the bathroom pawing through the medicine supplies and saying things like "I don't care if the doctor says it'll raise my blood pressure--pseudoephedrine is necessary for me to function. What do you mean I only have five more of the 4-hour tablets left? And how did we wind up with an odd number? We better not have dropped one on the floor. This stuff is gold." Sudafed is a modern day miracle. It makes the difference between 1. flat in bed wishing for unconsciousness, and 2. upright at the desk getting things done.

But the things I get done are still only getting done slowly. And not with a heck of a lot of concentration. So after I got the Fictionette up today--which took most of the day because I couldn't wrangle enough concentration to work straight through it (and also because I took a brief walk to the drug store to get more pseudoephedrine, the 12-hour kind this time)--I kept getting distracted by stuff rather than moving on to the short story. Besides, I really doubt I'd have any better chance of getting it ready had I started at 6 PM as opposed to 10 PM.

My initial thought was, "It's an anthology that pays only token rates. I can send it something from the college file. I mean, I'll need to polish off the obvious infelicities and maybe update some references, give the main character a cell phone, that kind of thing..." Then I settled down to work on it, and I had a second thought. "I don't care how little the market pays. It's going to have my name on it! It had better be perfect." And, well, maybe perfect is the wrong word, but... I have standards. And it was going to take more than just a handful of hours to bring this old story up to those standards.

On the other hand, hearing about the anthology did get me to dig this story up and reread it. And, having read it, I've decided I really do want to rehabilitate it and get it into the submissions cycle. It's a good little story. It's got characters I'd like to reacquaint myself with. I mean, hell, back in the day I had the idea of doing a series of related stories starring these characters. It's good to be reminded of these old goals that once fell by the wayside. I can pick them back up, brush the dust off, and breathe a little life back into them.

So even though I didn't end up submitting to the anthology I had in mind, a great deal of good came out of considering submitting to it. Neat.

if it was good enough for 20-yr-old me maybe 40-yr-old me should be cautious
Fri 2016-08-12 23:39:54 (single post)
  • 5,500 wds. long

The Friday Fictionette for August 12 will be coming out later on in the weekend because Aarrgh. That isn't an OMG ALL THE THINGS "aarrgh." That's a self-disgusted "aarrgh" which acknowledges personal responsibility in terms of an ongoing trend of badness which is in my personal power to fix but somehow I still haven't fixed. Aarrgh.

So instead what I've got to blog about is being in the preliminary stages of resurrecting a college-era short story for possible submission to a paying market today, nearly 20 years later.

Among writers, a perennial topic of discussion is "What do you do with your old/'trunked' manuscripts?" Opinions seem to range from "BURN THEM ALL" to "Dig them up occasionally to see how far you've come and maybe laugh." I do not often see the viewpoint "Consider submitting them for publication today" represented, and no wonder. 20-year-old me had a great facility with words and ideas, and she wrote things that impressed her peers and sometimes editors, but she did not have the same standards as 40-year-old me. She had a tendency to show off her witty dialogue skills and her overly clever metaphors. And she was, more or less, despite the 2 in the tens digit, a teenager.

I have a lot of sympathy for teenage me, but I think it would say something unflattering about my current maturity level (such as it is) if some of my teenage memories didn't embarrass me. I mean, for example: I'm a huge fan of the rock band Rush today. I was a raging fanatic about Rush when I was in high school and college. One difference being, I have more reservations and less uncompromising enthusiasm these days about some of their lyrics. Thinking about "Cinderella Man" from the A Farewell to Kings album (1977), only because that's the song that got stuck in my head the other day:

Because he was human, because he had goodness
Because he was moral, they called him insane

Teenage me waved that lyric like a battle flag. Present-day me winces a little and thinks it sounds like something you'd read in the diary of a teenager who thought they were the first person to discover moral intergrity. (Both of me cringed a little at the unfortunate phrase "had goodness," for whatever that's worth.)

So there's an element of that sort of combination of lack of life experience and fervent intensity in my early writing. Some of it makes me flinch. Still, I'd want teenage me to be proud of present-day me, or at least not be disappointed by what she has or has not become. I stand by a heck of a lot of what teenage me wanted and needed in terms of, yes, moral integrity and justice. ("Hang on to your plans / Try as they might they cannot steal your dreams") I just think that maybe present-day me might be able to express adjacent concerns with more nuance, less willful blindness to complexities, more acknowledgment of other points of view.

In the case of "Late Registration," the writing problems are less about that, thank goodness, and more about the "Look at ME!" school of writing. So it may be possible to have something worth submitting on Monday after a relatively quick revision pass.

It was surprisingly hard to find the story. I have a record in my personal database of submitting it to two places in 1997 and '98. The first was Mind's Eye Fiction, one of the earliest venues for online short fiction. They preferred submissions to be as close to web-ready as possible, with a break indicated between the first part of the story which could be read for free and the second part which would be for paid accounts only. I must have had a master manuscript document, undoubtedly in Word Perfect for DOS 5.2 format, but all I could find on my hard drive at present was the HTML version I prepared for submission to Mind's Eye.

So that's what I imported into Scrivener and am using as a basis to type up a new version, lightly edited, that is acceptable to present-day me.

The end.

and sleep but not too much at all is really all i want
Thu 2016-06-23 23:49:21 (single post)

I think I have managed to do all the things.

The car has received needed maintenance. My back has received needed maintenance. I have completed all of this week's fictionette that couldn't be done on the drive or in the hotel, which means finishing the text, recording the audio, and rough-assembling the cover art. That just leaves the mechanical assembly of the PDF, and the publishing of the ebook and audio posts to Patreon. I have even managed a good hour on "Stand By"--I will call it a "good" hour, despite that the hour didn't quite see me finished typing in edits to the first scene.

I've packed my clothes and my bout uniform. I've washed my wheels and bearings. I've reassembled the kneepads that I washed yesterday. I made a start on the AINC reading. All the plants that need to be have been moved to the front patio so a friend can come over and water them midway through the week. Several containers, watering plants, for use of, have been filled and staged.

I've picked up healthy snacks for nibbling in the car. We'll pick up a little more on the way. I've emptied the ice maker tray into another container in the freezer so that the ice maker tray will fill up again, so we can have more ice in the ice chest when we leave. I've mapped our route so I can print out key elements--from our home to our teammate's address for carpool pick-up, from Boulder to Salt Lake, all permutations of hotel to/from friend's house to/from bout venue. (Sorry, still no smart phone for me. I navigated by homemade TripTiks. Remember when TripTiks were customized flip books you picked up from your local AAA office? Now apparently TripTik is a web application.)

What's left? Finishing and uploading my AINC reading. Finishing and uploading this blog post. Reassembling my skate wheels and bearings once everything's dry.

Oh, and sleep. Can't forget that.

stick a fork in it and call it entertainment
Tue 2016-06-21 23:02:19 (single post)

There's a point with any piece of writing when you have to just declare it done and send it out into the world. There are a number of ways to recognize when you've come to that point. For instance, author and writing instructor Jim Macdonald reminds us that your story is done "at the point where you're putting in a comma in the morning and taking it out again in the afternoon." But there are other symptoms that may present. The telling symptom in the case of "Stand By for Your Assignment" is... Well, it doesn't package well into a single sentence. Tell you what, I'll start a new paragraph and try to describe it there.

Today it occurred to me that it's been a couple weeks since I hit the story last--weeks in which I really didn't get a lot done, what with lack of sleep and too much upper back tension and also brain weasels. But for whatever reason, I didn't recall where precisely I'd left off with the edits. I had a vague memory of hitting the last page, though, so I figured I'd more or less finished the previous iteration and might begin a new one.

That's the main symptom I'm recognizing here. "Iterations." The idea that being done with revisions means starting revisions over again. It's not a key symptom in and of itself; stories can often benefit from multiple passes. But there needs to be a purpose to the new pass. I'm afraid that right now my purpose was to look for, or, if necessary, manufacture evidence that the story needs more revision.

Now, I think the story really did need more revision. When I printed out and read through, I encountered a bunch of lumpy bits, awkward passages, top-heavy paragraphs, and missed opportunities. These things do need fixing.

But after this pass, after the next few afternoons spent implementing the edits suggested by the marginalia I scrawled today, I think we're going to have to call it done and submit the sucker. It still won't be perfect, but it never is. Perfection isn't a feasible destination; it's just the direction in which you aim yourself. And hopefully each story I write will wind up farther along that vector before I decide it's as done as it's gonna be and I send it out to meet the nice editors.

On the bright side, I did get a revision session in today. After several weeks of not touching the story at all, that's huge. That's a victory, and I'm going to celebrate it. I may celebrate it by going to bed early, mind you, that may be all the celebration I'm up for tonight after a hard roller derby practice in 90-degree weather, OK, but I will celebrate.

but what about four mile creek is that wet too
Wed 2016-06-15 00:20:49 (single post)

There's this thing about writing that I keep having to learn, and relearn, and relearn, then learn again every time the precise context changes. It's like having to be told "the swimming pool is wet," and "the rain is wet," and "the water in the bathtub is also wet," because I never seem to mentally graduate to the point where I can just assume that all water is wet. It's really kind of annoying.

In any case, the lesson is this: The final draft doesn't come first.

I got a new story idea over the weekend, a really charming one, a sort of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret coming-of-age story that takes place in something like the world described by The Shadow over Innsmouth, centering on the friendship between the human protagonist and one of the (for want of a better term) Deep Ones. I got very excited about this idea--it kept me up late, watching phrases and images and scenes cobble themselves together on the insides of my eyelids.

Then I went to write some of it down for the next day's freewriting session... and it wouldn't come. Just couldn't get started. Typed a couple words. Erased them. Stared at the screen (which was infinitely less inspiring than the insides of my eyelids). Wrote and erased another word. It was like that Monty Python "Novel Writing" skit: "I am sorry to interrupt you there, Dennis, but he's crossed it out. Thomas Hardy here on the first day of his new novel has crossed out the only word he has written so far, and he is gazing off into space." It's all true!

I had to deliberately, consciously give myself permission to get it wrong before I could unfreeze and get any of it written. And by "any of it" I mean a paragraph here, a slice of dialog there, disjointed bits and pieces of what I remembered coming up with the night before. But once I started jotting down those pieces, more pieces just kept coming.

The final draft cannot come first.

Today I struggled to put in my daily half hour of work on this week's fictionette for exactly the same reason. The situation was, perhaps, exacerbated by having (theoretically) already gotten the bits-and-pieces draft done during a freewriting session a month ago; this week is when I'm supposed to take that draft and polish it into perfection. But in between the bits-and-pieces draft and final draft comes something else, something more coherent than the one but necessarily rougher than the other. A second draft, maybe? Or even a first draft, since the bits-and-pieces draft isn't so much a draft at all. More like notes toward a draft, really.

So, again, nothing happened until I let myself just start writing the story down as it occurred to me, rough and unstructured as it was. Any story element I knew needed to go in there was fair game. Type them up in no particular order, just the order in which they come to mind. And, magically, structure appeared as I went, sometimes in the form of square-bracket notes telling me to "[Move the bit about Bob's plans for the evening here]" or "[Put Lenny's bit about 'work-life balance' here.]" Then continuing on as normal, confident that I could come back and perform the prescribed edits easily, now that I actually had text on the page to edit.

The final draft cannot be expected to come first.

And then there was this blog post here. I had no idea what I was going to write. I stared at the blank page (uninspiring as ever) while thoughts chased each other around in my head like fish in a bucket, all of them too small to keep. Finally I just started typing up notes about my day. Prosaic, mundane, boring notes about a boring day. Who wants to hear about my day?

Nevertheless, one of those notes...

discovered that it's ok if the fictionette isn't getting written up in perfect final draft form today. it's ok to babble a little. helped me figure out some structure that way.

...turned into what you're reading now.

The final draft, I learned (relearned), doesn't come first, can't come first, can't be expected to come first. No, not even for a blog post. This water is wet too.

I think I will write "All water is wet" on an index card and tape it to the bathroom mirror, and I'll also tape on to the shelf above my desk. Maybe then I'll stop expecting the final draft to appear on a blank page like, I dunno, Aphrodite rising fully formed out of the sea foam, ever. It doesn't happen stop expecting it to happen stop tormenting and freezing yourself with the expectation that it happen. All water is wet. Understand?

everything is a metaphor for writing, ask any writer, they'll tell you
Tue 2016-05-24 23:59:07 (single post)

Like I said, normal life. Which means there isn't much to report. Writing got done in quantity, as did other things.

Finally got a chance to read through the comments on "Stand By..." from my new critique partner. Her critique did what a critique ought--showed me my story through the eyes of someone who isn't the author. This is critically (ha!) important, whether it's simple details that aren't as obvious to the reader as I thought, or more complex things like the last couple sentences of a paragraph that made no sense to anyone who doesn't live inside my head. (Frankly, those particular sentences didn't make much sense to the only person who does live inside my head. At least, not until I'd reread the whole paragraph several times.)

I reread the submission guidelines for a market I was thinking of submitting to before its May 31 deadline. Good thing, too. Little details like "We will not read stories longer than 1,100 words" can change your entire submission strategy! Well. What have I got that's under 1,100 words? Seems like I used to have more drabbles and flash fiction, but seems like I've also been expanding a bunch of my flash fiction into full-length short stories of late. Hm.

On the non-writing front, I played in the dirt today. My compost bin is full, full, full and its contents, despite all being far enough along in the process that they smell more or less like soil, are still decidedly mixed. I turned it out onto a tarp and began screening it, using a bit of plastic mesh scavenged from a discard pile at a nearby construction site. (I am absolutely sure it was discarded. The long snake of straw-inside-mesh-tube was no longer pegged into the ground along deliberate lines, but was bunched up in a pile at the curb. There were holes in it where the straw was spilling out. It was trash and I repurposed it.) Anyway, anything that passed through the mesh went into buckets for soil/compost mix, probably to be screened through a finer sieve and then pasteurized in the oven depending on how meticulous I'm feeling. Anything that didn't (corn cobs, bones, egg shells, wads of leaf mulch, last year's dried squash vines) went back in the bin to decompose some more. I got about halfway through the original contents of the bin, and I'm feeling very accomplished about it.

I am also feeling a little sunburned. I should remember to wear a hat the next time I wind up standing on the back porch for any amount of PM time. That sun was fierce.

There is probably a metaphor or parallel to be drawn between sifting compost and revising a short story, but I am not feeling motivated enough to investigate.

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