inasmuch as it concerns Spit and Polish:
Contortions performed upon that endless search for perfection.
a seven-finger and afternoon nap kind of day
It's cold out there. It's a 7-finger day. By that, I mean that it's so cold that by the time I got where was driving to, seven of my fingertips had turned pale and numb thanks to something called Raynaud's Disease or, colloquially, "being allergic to the cold." Calling it a "disease" makes it sound worse than it is; it's mostly just annoying. Main problem tonight was, with so many fingertips affected, I couldn't start typing comfortably until I'd clutched my Irish coffee long enough to warm up again.
The drive tonight was from roller derby practice to Boulder's legendary late-night burger establishment, the Dark Horse. They serve delicious food, quite decent drinks, and--this was new to me--they now have wi-fi. So I thought I'd get the blogging done while it was still technically Wednesday.
Today didn't go quite as well as yesterday. For one thing, without something like that dentist appointment to get me out of bed early, I wasn't up and moving until about 9:30 AM. I rationalized that this was fine, I was a tired athlete who'd stayed up until 1:00 AM the night before and really needed her sleep. And it still would have been fine if--and this is the second thing--I had managed to get my afternoon shift done, rather than collapsing into an afternoon nap. I guess I needed it; my eyes started burning and squinting, and it began to be actively painful to remain upright.
I am not dismissing the possibility that this was a physical manifestation of avoidance. My next task was short story revision, and I have pathological avoidance issues around short story revision. But it's very likely that last night's roller derby practice was a factor, too. Tonight's as well. Both travel teams' coaches are serious about conditioning, which means lots of cardio and strength training and metabolic workouts and off-skates exercises and endurance til you puke. (Metaphorically. My body doesn't tend to do the puke reaction to extreme exertion. Instead it just decides to stop bothering with other functions, like swallowing and breathing.) And, lest you think being married to the All Stars coach is somehow an advantage--it's not. It just means he tries to get me to do conditioning workouts at home, too.
It's going to take me a few weeks to adjust to this level of activity, is what I'm saying. And there are things I'm going to have to change about the rest of my life--I can't both stay up until 1:00 AM and get up at 7:45 AM every day, for instance. At least I've got a solid scheduling plan for getting the daily writing done, even if some days I don't quite implement it.
Anyway, the result is I'm trying to get my "afternoon shift" done now, between 10 PM and 1 AM after practice. And because I know I have a tendency to just say "eff it, I'm going to bed" after roller derby practice, I took myself out where bed wouldn't be a temptation. Hence the trip to the Dark Horse. Besides, it was a convenient way to make sure I got some protein down me. Kind of important after the kind of workout I've had.
I don't know I'll get my full five hours in today, but I will get SOME work on the short story in after I post this. If all I do is reread it (for the first time in two weeks) and decide what the next concrete task is, that'll let me close down the day with a sense of accomplishment.
vroomtime is go
OK! So. First off, I've finally posted the Friday Fictionette for January 1. It's called "The Wine Cellar That Wished" and it's sort of kind of an Edgar Allan Poe fanfic don't judge me. It's also sort of humor and sort of kind of horror. Hey, I believe in truth in advertising.
Secondly: Today really was a proper Tuesday. Yesterday was a Monday during which nothing much got done and the dirty dishes were really compelling, but today I got to work. Woke up in time to do Morning Pages before the dentist appointment (which went well, thank you). Got home in time to have breakfast and start my morning shift at 10:00 AM. Took care of some necessary household administration tasks during my lunch break. Started my afternoon shift around 2:00 PM. Left for roller derby practice around 5:15 PM with the satisfaction of knowing I had logged five hours and had left no writing task undone other than this blog post right here, which I am writing now.
Basically, I got my butt into gear and I worked like a writer who writes for a living. Then I survived my first A team practice of the 2016 season. Writing and roller derby. That's pretty much how my days go. How they're supposed to go, anyway.
I'm looking forward to tomorrow going about the same. Only instead of the dentist I've got volunteer reading, instead of A team practice I have B team practice, and instead of spending the majority of my work day on fictionette catch-up I'll spend the majority of my afternoon shift revising "Down Wind." It's almost ready to submit, y'all! And still ten days until the submission deadline!
So this week is off to a fantastic start, is all I really have to say.
(I'd say "this year," but I don't want to jinx it.)
do the one thing, then do the next thing
Today's revision session was all about making the story's first protagonist and her wife real, living, breathing characters, with interests and dreams and day jobs and food preferences and families. Not all of the above can appear in a story that's only some 1,500 to 2,000 words long, but even just a few sentences alluding to their full, richly detailed lives can make the difference between that and vague character-shaped variables in a story-shaped equation.
One of the biggest frustrations of story revision is the general free-floating sense that the story as it stands is crap and I don't know how to even begin to make it better. I don't always know that's what I'm feeling, is the weird thing. It is such an unpleasant feeling that I push it away, unwilling to admit or even to become aware that this is what I'm feeling. So it gets translated into an even more general sense--a sense that is yet one more step removed--of vague unhappiness and malaise and avoidance.
Once I figured out that was where my head was at, I gritted my teeth and forced myself to focus in. What made the story crap? What were its problems? List them. Be specific. Then pick one and make solving that problem the focus for today's revision session. Thus, today's goal of turning Malika and Cheryl into fully realized characters.
What makes this hard to do is the sense that time is slipping away from me. I only alloted two hours to work on the story today, and I only managed some 45 minutes instead. I got through my morning shift by noon or not much later than, but all my lunchtime tasks just streeeeeeetched ooouuuuuut until it seemed to take forever to get back to work. So my frustration changed from "there's so much wrong with the story and I don't know where to begin" to "there's so much wrong with the story and I'll never have time to fix it all."
But then it's not like this story is on a deadline right now. Well, it sort of is, in that the place I want to send it is only open to submissions until January 15. But I couldn't send this piece to them even if it was ready tomorrow because I already sent them something else last week. I can't send this one in until that one gets rejected. And, who knows, that one might not even get rejected, wouldn't that be nice?
So. No deadline. So no stress. That's what I keep telling myself. No stress. Just take your time and solve the one problem that's in front of you right now. Really, for the most part, that's all anyone can do ever. Do the one thing, then do the next thing. It's expecting ourselves to do all the things at once that causes all that unnecessarily stress.
I know this. Doesn't stop me stressing though.
hard work is hard you guys
- 1,764 wds. long
Finally got around to revisions on "Down Wind" today, with the result that I'm confused and annoyed and in despair. Well, OK, it's not that bad, but--this is not simple fix territory. This is hard, frustrating, mind-boggling work territory. And the darn thing's only 1400 words long! Well, 1750 now. Good thing? Bad thing? Unknown at this time.
The story is very short and cycles between three different characters' points of view. Right there we have potential problems. I received feedback that the scene segues were a little confusing; the reader didn't easily clue in that we'd moved from one scene to another. This is probably because I'd tried to be "clever." I was trying to do this sort of pivot maneuver on a word or concept that two adjacent scenes had in common, like referring to the prospect of a character "leaving" somewhere or someone in both the last sentence of one scene and the first sentence of the next. But while I was busy doing this, I was failing, to some extent, to make clear that we had in fact moved on to another character.
Solution 1: White-space scene breaks! ...which, no, because some of these scenes are more like "scenelettes," barely two paragraphs long. Separating them by white space would be just awkward and annoying.
Solution 2: Some sort of "meanwhile, back at the ranch" lead-in to each scene! ...which, maybe, but runs the risk of sounding hokey if done badly. And even if done well, that lead-in would represent a significant percentage of the scene it's part of.
Solution 3: Eff it, that reader who gave me that feedback was just silly and wrong! ...which, well, NO. I'm often tempted to respond that way to negative feedback, and it's really not a good habit to get into. That way lies golden word syndrome and no one wanting to critique my stuff because of all the unhelpful push-back. Not going there, if I can help it! Besides, even if the reader is dead wrong, there's often useful revision pointers to be unearthed in trying to figure out how they got so wrong.
Solution 4: Still looking for one. Probably some combination of all of the above, though, even Solution 3 in careful moderation, in proportions to be determined on a case by case basis.
Also, on the reread I am spotting theme and character depth and other very ambitious things that I want to salt onto the stew, like the idea that the pigeon singularity really is all about keeping things and people together by infinitesimally slowing the expansion of the universe, and can I show that in each scene, and also these people have lives and background and history and can't I show that in each scene by just adding maybe one more sentence per, only it has to be the right sentence that also plays into the keep-people-together theme, and can I maybe do something meta with this, like right in the very structure of the story?
Y'all, revision is hard. I do not understand people who enjoy the revision stage. I really wish I did. What I actually enjoy are those couple seconds right as the revision ends. That's the bit where I sit back, all pleased with myself, and say, "Yes, I have made it perfect. Or very nearly so, anyway. Damn I'm good at this." The long hours of brain-wringing work involved getting to those couple seconds, those are not nearly as enjoyable except in the sort of abstract "hard work that I know will be worth it" way.
Breakthroughs tomorrow? I sure as hell hope so.
mothballing the mourning wardrobe
Today was indeed more productive than yesterday. "Caroline's Wake" got a small amount of fine-tuning (turned out to need less than I anticipated); then it got sent out into the world to meet a new bunch of editor-type people. It feels good, having sent it out again. It's what a writer's supposed to do. And it occasions new hope.
The common advice is, "Never let a manuscript sleep over." That is to say, the moment a rejection comes in, take that story and send it somewhere else immediately. Have a list of places you want to send it, and just send it to the next place on your list. This is very smart from a business perspective: your story, once completed, is a product, and you need to keep trying to sell that product. But it's also smart from an emotional standpoint. It helps the writer end the mourning period and start afresh.
Of course there's a mourning period. Rejections occasion grief. They signal the death of a hope. No, not the Death of Hope, nothing that grand or melodramatic--but the demise of a very particular hoped-for outcome. There was a possibility that the story would be published by a specific market; the rejection signals that the possibility is no more.
So, OK, a writer can grieve. But a writer can also move on. Submitting the story to the next place is how to do that. Also working on the next story.
The next story is "Down Wind," which needs more of an overhaul than "Caroline" did. It needs section breaks and more of a textual differentiation between the three characters' points of view. It probably needs more than that, but I won't know until I pull it out and read it over. Which is next on my agenda!
went out and spent some money, lookit
- Feeding The Beast
- Friday Fictionettes
- NaNo Oh-No
- Selling My Soul
- Spit and Polish
- The Beast That Rolls
Rejoice! I have finally replaced my camera. I have also gone grocery shopping and returned home with, among other things, fruitcake fixings. Now I have combined BOTH bits of good news into ONE splendid photo, which you can see here.
Fruitcake! Will contain almonds, currants, green (golden) raisins, candied ginger, strawberries, and dates. I will decide on the booze tomorrow when I actually process everything and start it soaking. It will probably be scotch or bourbon, considering what's currently in the cabinet.
Camera! Currently contains date stamp. This will be adjusted shortly.
The camera is a Nikon Coolpix S3700. It was on sale at Target, and further marked down as a repackaged item. Now, I didn't go into Target thinking about cameras. I was shopping for strings of holiday lights to donate to my roller derby league's holiday parade float (Because we're going to skate in a local holiday parade, of course). But the holiday section was right next door to the electronics section, which reminded me that I'd been meaning to replace my previous camera, it being ten years old and furthermore having recently ceased to function.
So this new camera boasts 20.1 Megapixels, which is a revolution in comparison with my previous. Its view screen is breathtakingly sharp--again, comparing it with my old camera. It's zoom function seems darn near lossless. It has a function list longer than my arm, and--ooh!--an auto-extending lens. Look, I'm over the moon just because this camera doesn't need a rubberband to hold its battery case closed, OK? My standards are somewhat generous here.
Mainly I'm just pleased that my options for Friday Fictionette covers are no longer restricted to A. find Creative Commons (commercial use OK) or public domain images online, or B. take a really crappy photo with my flip phone.
So there's your happy technology content. As for writing content, well, soon as I'm done with this-here, I shall be logging the most recent adventures of "...Not With a Bang, But a Snicker" in the Submission Grinder and in my personal log as well. I got a response to its latest submission just this weekend, but I haven't even opened the email yet because I've been drowning in NaNoWriMo writing and NaNoWriMo catch-up. If it's a rejection, I'll be figuring out where to send that sucker yet. If it's not a rejection, expect some crowing. Next I'll be spending a little revision time with "Down Wind" to get it ready to to go and meet some very nice people itself. I think that's enough for a well-rounded late night, don't you?
a whole thunder of stuff done rolled
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
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!
this fictionette went shopping for mead, and hijinks ensued
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!
pleased to make your reacquaintance but just this once
- 5,061 wds. long
Two solid hours on the short story revision yesterday! Even better, two solid hours today! (Well, one hour so far. Two hours by the time I'm done. On that, more later.) The reason today's session was even better than yesterday's was, it came on the day after yesterday's session. Which meant no lengthy reacquaintance period, 'cause I'd got that over with yesterday and didn't need to do it again today.
The "reacquaintance period" happens after a long absence from a story. It involves rereading it in detail in order to, yes, reacquaint myself with it. In the case of a revision paused part of the way through, it also involves some line-level, word-level tweaking of the prose in maddeningly fine-grain detail. I keep telling myself, "This is not the time. This sort of thing can wait until you've finished the new draft and have printed it out. Please do not do this right now!" But I can't seem to stop myself. It's as though it's not enough to reread what I have so far, but I also have to get all hands-on with it, too, before I can work with it again.
If this were sculpting, I'd be smoothing my hands over the piece's contours, maybe adding or adjusting texture. Getting back in touch, see?
So that was an hour of yesterday's two hours: Getting back in touch. Rereading the beginning and changing a word or two. Revising sentence 1 of paragraph 10 in several minutely variant ways before finally changing it back to what it was before. Remembering how unsatisfied I was with a particular segue, and, despite knowing that now is not the time to get it perfect, wading in and trying to fix it for good and all. Then finally giving up in frustration and moving on.
This is why it is a bad idea for me to stop working on a project for weeks at a time. When I come back, I have to go through the reacquaintance period again.
Today has been much better. Since it was fresh in my mind from yesterday, I was able to jump right back in and continued transferring chunks of story from the previous draft to the new draft. I smoothed out transitions where verbiage was cut, reimagined characters' perspetives and motivations, and improved flow as best I could as I went. But the important thing is, I went. I progressed. The mental bookmark denoting the place I'd let off in creating the new draft has moved significantly forward this week.
I am reasonably optimistic that, if I continue at this rate of two hours every workday, I'll have submitted this requested revision before Halloween.
Which means maybe I can participate in NaNoWriMo this year! With a couple years' worth of daily freewriting to delve into for plot and character and worldbuilding ideas. Wow. I might write just about anything.
But to bring things back to the present: I still have to put in another hour on the revision tonight. The two-hours-a-day goal is absolutely accomplishable, but I seem to want to split it up into two hour-long sessions. Today it was because I hit saturation point on a narrative tangle, and rather than keep banging my head fruitlessly against that wall, it seemed better to pop the problem on the backburner and let my unconscious play with it for a few hours. Also the restaurant I was at started filling up with small children playing with toy cars around that time. (Also also I spent most of my time at that restaurant procrastinating, so that I'd only left myself one hour to work before I had to be somewhere. But that's just happenstance.)
Anyway, time to put this post up and get back to the grind. For the second day in a row! Hot damn!