“adventure is just
one mistake away.”
e horne and j comeau

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

the hula hoe does not come with an UNDO function
Mon 2014-06-16 22:22:56 (single post)
  • 6,434 wds. long

Today I got to wield the hula hoe for my first time this season. Yay?

*pant* *pant* *wheeze*

The hula hoe invariably goes with hot, sunny weather. It comes out when the weeds pop up and the ground is dry and flaky. For me, it also usually means an aching back and blistered fingers, because I still haven't gotten this right. I must be getting better at it, though, because each year the back aches less and there are fewer blisters.

And fewer unfortunate casualties on the field.

To reiterate: The business end of a hula hoe is a sharp loop of steel that slices just beneath the soil through the roots of weeds both seen and unseen. It lets you deal with weeds faster than if you were picking them by hand. It won't help you with the weeds that are using the wanted crop as a sort of human shield, so to speak, but you can get very close to the line of the crop without missing a beat. If you're clever, that is. And strong. And skilled at maneuvering the tool through the dirt.

There are so many failure modes with this thing. You can be careless at recognizing which plant is the plant you want to keep, and scythe right through friend and foe alike. It's an easy mistake to make if the crop is very young and hard to spot, like just-sprouted onions, shallots, or other alliums. It's also easy if the plant you're trying to keep (burdock) looks, at least from one's standing-up vantage point, remarkably like the weeds you're trying to knock back (lamb's quarter). Then you can be clumsy with the hoe itself and let it slip into the crop line while giving it a particularly vigorous tug--this happens more often than not because I've given it a particularly vigorous tug, possibly because I'm fighting with the tool instead of working with it or because I'm trying to go too deep and I'm meeting too much soil resistance. Or maybe it's because I've just hit a rock.

Or it could be because I'm getting tired and hot and thirsty, and suddenly a five-foot pole with a piece of steel on the end feels terribly heavy, and both my back and my thighs are killing me so there's really no ideal posture left for the job anymore.

Yes, yes. Whine, whine, whine. Actually, today was not so bad. It was murderously hot and sunny, but I was wearing my Full Armor of Sun Protection while hydrating faithfully. And I wasn't at it for more than an hour at a time--an hour before lunch and an hour after. Behold! In the remainder of my day there was knitting, and bicycling, and going out with new friends, and no napping at all! Pretty good considering I didn't sleep well last night and then got up at 6:30. So despite my whining, the physical labor did not in fact kill me for the afternoon.

But even with as many seasons under my belt as I've got, I still get very insecure. I mean, at any moment the hoe could slip and I could kill a significant sample of the crop population! And I know I severed at least one burdock seedling today. Realistically, one is a fairly acceptable margin of error, but it's always sobering when it happens.

Look out, here comes your writing metaphor for the week.

Similarly, despite long experience with writing and revising, I still get scared I'm going to kill the story I'm rewriting. I'll go into the editing process certain that the thing I think needs to go was in fact the story's saving grace, or that in the process of tightening things up I'll remove everything that made the prose live on the page. Even now, I find I don't wholly trust my ear for Story. I don't entirely credit myself with the ability to tell the manuscript's good from bad. If improving a piece requires the fiction-writing equivalent of a sense of pitch, on some level, I'm sure I'm actually tone deaf.

This is very timely, because revising a draft is what I'm going to be doing this week. And I know that even a very clumsy, ham-handed draft has the potential to be killed on the page.

I have to keep reminding myself, "You've been doing this for years. You've sold stories for publication! Give yourself credit for learning a thing or two. If nothing else, give the editors who bought your stories credit for knowing good stuff when they read it." Or even, "Well, regardless, you have to try, because the thing isn't publishable in its current form."

When I start feeling insecure about my ability to wield the hula hoe without causing collateral damage, I don't just put down the tool and run away. What do I do? I guess I slow down. I slow way down. I make shorter strokes and shallower ones, so that I'm more in control of where the sharp end of the tool goes. Sometimes, if I'm not sure I've spotted the crop among the weeds, I do put the tool down--but only for the time it takes me to kneel in the dirt and pull out some bindweed by hand.

There's a parallel for that in writing. Go slower. Take a closer look at particular aspects of the story. Make a bunch of smaller changes rather than one big sweeping one. If my confidence in my "sense of pitch" is low, I can remind myself that I am capable of recognizing a tune sung on key--I can go re-read a favorite book, noting as I do those elements that make it work so well. (Or go re-read a fun but flawed book, noting the blunders and missed opportunities.) When it's someone else's writing that I'm reading, I never lose faith in my ability to tell writing I like from writing I don't like. I can use the act of analyzing others' writing as a sort of jump-start.

At least my editing mistakes are more reversible than my farming ones. There is no CTRL-Z for a severed seedling.

got it written. next: get it right
Fri 2014-06-13 20:43:44 (single post)
  • 6,434 wds. long

My goal was to finish this draft of "Caroline's Wake" by the end of the working week, i.e. Friday evening. I'm pleased to say I have achieved my goal. It involved less stress than anticipated, too. I got to the end of the scene that was driving me nuts yesterday; the final scene fell into place today easily and naturally, as a denouement should. Ta-da!

To be painstakingly honest, I did not meet my entire goal, which was the have the draft done and ready for critique. As I worked on it yesterday and today, as I babbled to myself about it in today's edition of the Morning Pages, I discovered some small slight issues I'd like to clean up before letting other people's eyes take a gander. The "hot and heavy" part of the seduction scene needs some cleaning up, as the same energy that made it effective and effortless to write has undoubtedly also weighted it a little on the self-indulgent side. (Please feel free to insert whatever innuendo you want there. Far be it from me to spoil your fun and tell you to get your mind out of the gutter. You're obviously having a lot of fun down there.) And given that the story plays around the edges of some taboo/squick boundaries, it's important that the reader realize, or at least suspect, that the main characters are Goddesses. I need to make the hints about that a lot less subtle. Oh, it sounds unsubtle here on the blog where I'm all THIS IS A PERSEPHONE AND DEMETER STORY, GET IT, GET IT? But things are more ambiguous on the page. Which means that certain things a reader would kind of let fly because Oh, We're In Mythology Headspace, It's OK might instead make the reader go What? No. Just NO.

So there's still a lot of "get it right" work to do next week. But that's OK, because the "get it written" part is solidly done. And that's a huge relief.

Meanwhile--hooray weekend! And it's a weekend with no roller derby practice, because the league observes Father's Day as a holiday. Much as I love derby, it's nice to get a Sunday off and relax. But it will not be an entirely non-skating weekend, because I'll be rolling around during the G'Knight Ride festivities. Wanna come eat good food, drink a beer, jam to some great local music, and watch a roller derby mini-bout? It'll be in Roosevelt Park, in Longmont, 900 Longs Peak Avenue. The demo bout will be at 4 PM, Saturday the 14th, on the Roosevelt Pavillion. See you there!

inchworms get where they're going eventually
Thu 2014-06-05 23:03:06 (single post)
  • 4,325 wds. long

One of the earliest pieces of advice a new writer often gets is, "Finish it first. Then edit." There's a good reason for that. It's a corrective for the writer who can't seem to finish anything. If you keep revising Chapter 1 and never get to Chapter 3, or if you've never actually reached THE END on anything longer than a 500-word flash story, then that advice is probably what you need to hear. Alternately: "Don't worry about getting it right, just get it written."

I have benefited from that advice. When I was just starting out with short stories, and then later when I was getting over my twenty-year delusion that "I just don't have novel-length ideas," it was exactly the right advice for me.

Today it was absolutely worthless.

Well. Not exactly. But today I finally admitted it wasn't the right strategy for where I'm at in "Caroline's Wake." I've been trying to use that strategy to get to the end of the current draft, but it's only getting me to the next potential answer to the question "Why is it crappy and can I make it stop?" This is not a bad place to get to! But I can't keep going forward from there. Instead, I have to stop and apply the newly discovered answer to the place where it goes. Then I have to micro-revise everything forward from the place where it went to the place where I left off. And then I can go forward, at least until I stumble upon the next anti-crappiness antidote I need to apply to some other bit I thought I was done with.

That probably didn't make sense. Trying again.

Here is how I would much rather create the current draft: "Thing [A] happens, which leads to thing [B], then embarrassingly terrible dialog [C] that no one will ever read if I can help it, and then other thing [D] happening, also more awful words spoken by two-dimensional characters [X] and [Y], and then the big thing happens." If I could do it that way, why then I would reach THE END. Also drafting and revision would be easily separable tasks, discrete items on a checklist I can check off. I like checking items off checklists.

But here instead is what's happening: "Thing [A] happens, which leads to thing [B], then embarrassingly terrible dia-- Hey! This dialog wouldn't be nearly as embarrassingly terrible if it could take into account that thing [A] happened in a slightly different way from how I've got it. Awesome! OK. So. Thing [A] happens in a slightly different way, which leads to thing [B] happening in a somewhat improved way, and the there's some less embarrassingly terrible dialog [C] that might someday be worth putting in front of an audience, and then other thing [D] happens but wait a moment, if I can also incorporate improvement [xyz] into thing [B]..."

That probably didn't make sense either, but I'm going to leave it there. In any case, I know what I mean. And what I mean is, it's a slow damn way to work--too bad right now it seems to be the only way to work.

Two inches forward, one inch back.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

On the plus side, what with all that lathering and rinsing, I can at least look forward to a clean draft. Get it? Ha-ha? Ha.

This bit right here? This is the hardest bit.
the purpose of tuesday
Tue 2014-05-20 21:59:00 (single post)
  • 3,071 wds. long

Tonight there was progress towards our goal to Paint All The Unpainted Bits. We completed what conceivably was and will be the most difficult part of the project, ever: The Nexus.

That's what I'm going to call it. It's that squarish piece of the house, three of whose walls are doors into bedrooms or the bathroom, and whose fourth side is partially enclosed by the short end of the living room closet. Where that wall ends is the opening into the living room. In most homes, the passageway that functions as a place to keep all the bedroom doors would be called a "hallway." In this home, it's just not big enough. So I'm going to call it The Nexus.

Because it is a Nexus and not a hallway, there is not a lot of room between the various doors. Masking off the doorjambs was a titchy business. Painting in between the doorjambs was even titchier, especially when we got down to the floor. This is what made it the most difficult, nastiest, least enjoyable part of the house painting project.

I recommend always starting with the worst part of any particular task. I painting the tiny, detail-oriented, brain-melting bits that required the little hand brush first. That way I could finish on the high note of "Yayyyyy! Free of corners! No more fiddly bits! Paint roller! Wheeeeee!" Always try to finish on a high note. If nothing else, it makes it easier to bring oneself to start the next similar project.

As for writing... well. I started with such good intentions! And then somehow my half-hour email break turned into hours of taking care of every piece of household administration and maintenance imaginable.

Around 2:00 I finally broke away for lunch, over which I managed about 40 minutes working on "Caroline's Wake." Those 40 minutes were spent converting the first scene from past tense to present tense, then whittling away at the first two scenes with a meticulousness that, even in the midst of doing it, I recognized as avoidance behavior. Editing existing draft in order to avoid writing more first draft. I suppose I rationalized it as "I'll continue working on this after lunch." But I did not. Other things snapped up my attention and monopolized my sense of obligation.

Moral of the story? There are several:

  1. Get up earlier so that there's time in a day to absorb set-backs like these.
  2. Set a timer when email-and-housework break begins. Go back to writing when the timer goes off. If tasks remain, rejoice! Take a second email-and-housework break later. Time it, too.
  3. Sometimes the purpose of Tuesday is simply to teach lessons by which Wednesday may profit.

Also, that 40-minute revision was by no means wasted time. It was a damn fine revision. I expect when I finally start drafting the third scene (tomorrow! For reals!), it will be all the better for having a more solid first and second scene to emerge from.

women be unreliable narrators yo
Tue 2014-04-15 23:42:11 (single post)
  • 3,400 wds. long

So here's a thing that's been frustrating me about the story I'm revising. Well, it's not precisely a thing about the story, but more of a thing in society which got thrown into extra-special hyper-embossed relief when I sent this story through several rounds of critique among several groups of writers over several years.

Content notes: Feminism, sexism, consent issues, rape culture.

I will try to keep this brief and not get too ranty. It's a rant-worthy topic, but I just don't want to spend too much time or energy on it tonight.

Also, I want to stress that I'm not pointing the finger of accusation at any particular person who has critiqued this story. You are all wonderful--yes, you, even you, especially you--and none of you are to blame for the culture we are steeping in.

So. Here's the thing.

The main character in "The Impact of Snowflakes" is Ashley (who, as I admitted recently, only got a name during the current revision). The other two characters are her best friend since grade school, Josh, and her other best friend since high school, Katie. Through the course of the story, Katie is alone with Josh and is attempting to seduce him; she's reporting her progress conspiratorially via phone calls to Ashley. Ashley is uncomfortable both with Katie's single-minded, almost predatory pursuit and with Katie's having pigeon-holed Ashley into the role of confidante to said pursuit.

Very, very early in the story, Ashley states that she's relieved that Josh isn't responding to Katie's overtures. She also states that this is not because she wants Josh for herself, not that way.

On every version of this story, during every critique session (it's been critiqued to death, y'all), almost every critic scribbled in the margin, "Suuuuuuure she doesn't." Or words to that effect.

Because I guess there's no possible reason a woman might not want to see a male best friend partnered up with a female mutual friend other than sexual jealousy? She can't possibly just be worried that the other woman isn't going to be healthy for him, or feel protective when she sees the other woman's advances making the man seriously uncomfortable? No? And if a woman states "I'm not sexually interested," it can't possibly be because she's not sexually interested?

Now, I'm not a perfect writer. My rough drafts make all sorts of missteps. So do my final drafts. It is possible that I've misweighted the emotional impact and pacing of the story such that Ashley's irritation with Katie's constant reports on her aggressive seduction campaign comes across as jealousy.

But it's not the comments on the cumulative effect of these interactions that worries me. Those I can respond to. Those I can adjust for. What worries me is that the very first time that Ashley says "I'm not interested in him that way," the reader doesn't believe her. It doesn't matter how I reword it or how I tweak the tone. The very fact that she says it at all, even once, is taken as evidence that she very much is interested in him that way but doesn't want to admit it.

Basically, this is what society trains us to think. If a woman says she's not interested, well, why ever would she bother saying it unless she's denying what she feels? If, in the face of our scoffing, smug disbelief, the woman insists that no, she truly is not interested, then we think the lady doth protest too much. Chillingly, we are taught to see a woman's "no" as evidence of her meaning "yes." The stronger and more emotional the "no," the more confident we are in the unspoken "yes."

If "no" means "yes," and if "hell no" means "oh yes, please, baby, do me now", what words are left for women to say "no" with and be believed?

Why, hello there, rape culture! Please to be getting the fuck out of my story!

I think the assumption on the part of the reader is that Ashley is an unreliable narrator. And in many ways she is. There are things she doesn't know, and there are details threaded throughout her life and clustered over the timeline of the story which she fails to compile into an accurate big picture. The unreliable first person point-of-view narrator is a pretty standard tool in the writerly toolbox. You can do a lot with the gap between what the narrator knows and what the reader concludes.

But the problem is, I don't want that assumption extending right up through the narrator's declaration of her inner state. Not in this story, anyway. On page two, she says "I'm not sexually interested in him." Having barely got to know her, still the reader assumes she's lying. Or repressing. Or in denial. And I honestly think it's not just the words on the page that prompt the assumption.

Because that's how any number of toxic romantic comedies in mainstream media work: She says she isn't interested, but obviously they're going to end up together, because she's the leading lady and he's the leading man and this is a romantic comedy.

Because that's how any number of romance novels work: She hates him, he pisses her off, he gallops roughshod over her boundaries, he silences her with a nonconsensual kiss, she seriously hates him, but she can't stop thinking about him, and then they fall into bed together and they have fantastic sex.

Because that's what we're taught as children: If a boy and a girl can't stand each other and fight whenever they're forced to be together on the playground or in a school project, common wisdom says they're madly in love.

Because when a college student living in a boarding house is made miserable daily by her next-room-over neighbor, a third party thinks it reasonable to tell her, "You should just have sex with him and get it out of your system."

"Mommy, Donald pulls my hair and pinches me! It hurts and I hate it!" "Oh, Sally, that just means he likes you. And it sounds like you like him, too. You should invite him over."

It's not just that my character is assumed to be an unreliable narrator. It's that real women are assumed to be unreliable narrators.

I don't know how to push back against this. As a writer with a certain amount of humility, I know that if my story fails to communicate what I want it to communicate, it's generally my fault. It's my problem to fix. But I don't know how to fix this. I don't know how to have Ashley say "I'm not interested in him" and have the reader believe her.

But I'm trying. I'm using flashbacks to try to clarify Ashley's perception of Josh. I'm fine-tuning the cumulative tone so that hopefully Ashley comes across more like "Katie, stop being a jerk" and less like "Katie, get your hands off my man." Like I said, I may have contributed some to that perception. I wrote the thing, after all. And I'm steeping in this culture too.

And I'm trying to combat those cultural assumptions by letting Katie preempt the reader with them. So Ashley will say, not in narration to the reader, but out loud to Katie over the phone: "Look, you'll get no competition from me. I'm not into him that way." And then Katie can say, "Suuuuure you're not." And hopefully Katie will come across sufficiently as an asshole that the reader's sympathies and belief will align with Ashley.

Honestly, that's the best I can come up with: Put that toxic tenet of rape culture in the mouth of an unsympathetic character in order to dissuade the reader of that tenet.

And then the only problem will be convincing the reader that Ashley really does consider Katie a good friend despite how obnoxious Katie is.

*throws hands up in air, tosses manuscript pages, cries*

No, no, it's OK. I can do this. I hope.

...Did I say I wasn't going to get ranty? Well. It was a rant-worthy topic.

the meticulous and paranoid author submits a story for publication
Thu 2014-03-27 21:21:07 (single post)

Just because I got to the end of my story revision last night didn't mean it was ready to submit.

I mean, there's spell-checking. Which apparently can't be done in the current beta version of Scrivener for Windows. (I am very brave, to beta-test Scrivener with my precious, precious stories. Or very foolish. It's so hard to tell.) So we'll compile to RTF and spell-check that way, making sure to make any corrections in the Scrivener project and not in the RTF.

Then there's reading the story out loud to myself, stopping every few sentences to cringe at the awkwardness and try to figure out how to tidy it up, tighten it down, and make it sound like something a reasonably competent author came up with. And then thinking better of the somewhat related bit three pages ago. And then realizing that the three-pages-ago bit, having been changed, requires a small change six pages ahead.

At some point, the thought occurs to me that three thousand and some-odd words shouldn't take this long to read aloud. We'll brush that thought under the rug because it is not helping.

Then there's another Scrivener-to-RTF compile, another spell-check for the sake of all the bits that got typed anew, and finally a half-hesitant nod of approval from myself to me.

Off to the submissions guidelines web page! Create new email message! Fill in subject header exactly as specified! Fill in correct email address and check it three times! Attach manuscript!

Read the rest of the submissions guidelines. Note, with a sense of "Shouldn't I have noticed this before?" that submissions are read blind, and, as such, attached RTF or DOC manuscripts should have absolutely no identifying information inside.

Open up RTF manuscript. Remove name and contact info from upper-left corner of first page. Remove byline from beneath the title. Remove last name from the header that appears on every page after the first.

Save manuscript.

Attach manuscript to email, replacing previous attachment.

Send email. High-five self. (Tricky, but worth it.) Log submission in personal records and over at The Submissions Grinder. Check off related HabitRPG to-do item and very nearly reach Level 11 thereby.

Realize that, since [MARKET REDACTED] uses a blind submissions process, perhaps I should not be blogging so chattily about how "Anything For a Laugh," which is the story about the [IDENTIFYING CONTENT REDACTED] and whose title I have changed to [NEW TITLE REDACTED], just got sent there today.

But it did just get sent there today. I am pleased.

Now. Back to "Snowflakes" for a few minutes today, with the greatest hopes for getting all the way through it tomorrow and tidying it up over the weekend. It, too, must be submitted by March 31. Working on it tonight is how I'm going to finish my 5 hours. I am going to reach my 5 hours, darn it, even though I have to be up until 1:00 AM to do it.

*hangs head*

Look, I had ever so many good intentions for starting early today. But I didn't get much sleep last night. And no, it wasn't because I was up late playing addictive games. It was because all my roller derby playing bits were sore, with a stealth soreness that doesn't make itself usefully known until I've been tossing and turning and almost drifting away and then waking up again to wonder, "Why am I not sleeping?" and then realizing "Oh, it's because of what feels like a deep tissue bruise on my right arm that yelps when I lie on my right side, and the aching muscle of the inner left thigh that's yelping every time I roll over. And also, I have a headache." At which point I drag myself out of bed and take two ibuprofin, knowing that they won't actually start doing me any good until it's wake-up time. And then it's wake-up time, and I'm only just starting to enjoy sweet, sweet unconsciousness, so I say, "Eff it, I'm not going to stop now that I'm getting good at it." And I turn off my alarm clock.

And that's how oversleeping happened this morning. Also, my imaginary dog ate my homework.

But I did get that story submitted though. Hooray!

Is it funny enough to be in here? Only one way to find out.
not quite ready for carnegie hall
Mon 2014-03-24 21:14:13 (single post)

I'm switching gears for a moment. At the rate I'm poking at "Snowflakes," it won't be done by March 31 of next year. And it would be unfortunate if I missed a chance to submit the snow-glue-from-space story to UFO3 because of that. So I got to work on that rewrite today.

Here's the thing: I'm not entirely certain that it's funny. It has its funny moments, but I don't think you'd quite shelve this sucker under "Humor." Humor is hard to do. I'm not sure I've got the knack.

At best, what I've got here is a "science-fiction-flavored horror story with moments of comic relief." I've got "grimly slapstick pair of bad guys." I have an Arthur Dentish character reacting Arthur Dentishly to inexplicable things that seem determined to happen to him despite his not having really given them his approval.

But what I don't got is "funny science fiction."

Maybe by the end of the revision (end of day tomorrow?) it will have recategorized itself. Whether it'll be funny enough for UFO3, only Alex Shvartsman will be able to say for sure. One way or another, though, it'll be a story. And I will submit it.

Then maybe I'll be able to come back to "Snowflakes" with a bit more fuel in the jet-pack.

agency is for other people's characters
Wed 2014-03-19 23:42:56 (single post)
  • 3,400 wds. long

I'm a lot better at spotting mistakes in others' fiction than in my own. That's why I participate in critique workshops. It means that while I'm pointing out the motes in my colleagues' eyes, I'm putting the ginormous vision-occluding planks of my own right where they can see 'em and tell me about 'em.

None of this should be a surprise. And yet.

I remember once telling a fellow workshop member that his story didn't ultimately work for me because his protagonist's emotionally satisfying ending came at the cost of the supporting character's agency. "I don't buy that she just accepts what he did to her and falls into his arms like that. I'd expect her to be angry. The romantic moment you're aiming for doesn't strike me as earned."

That critique session predated the first draft of "The Impact of Snowflakes."

You would think--well, I would think--that, having spotted in another author's manuscript this de-agentifying of a supporting female character to provide a touching denouement for a male protagonist--that having discussed it not only in terms of his story but also that of the larger unfortunate media trends it slots neatly into--well. I'd have expected myself to be alert to this sort of thing when writing stories of my own.

But what happens in my story? The female protagonists slowly learns the true situation (which is not a good one), comes to realize it was either caused by or at least known about far in advance by the male supporting character, and reacts to this realization by saying, and I quote, "The last man alive in my world is coming to meet me... I think I'd like to meet him halfway."

A close friend and one of my story's recent workshop critics gently pointed out that the ending was, well, kind of more gendered than what she'd come to expect of me. And also she wanted to know if the last woman alive in this world had a name?

I had not even given the protagonist a name, y'all. All the *facepalm.*

OK, so, now it goes like this. Her name is Ashley. She's been isolated much of her life because the male supporting character has been subtly and with the best of intentions manipulating her since her early years. By the end of the story she knows this, and she's kind of pissed off.

(She is also, seriously, I promise you, not into him that way. But that's the jumping-off point for a whole separate rant which I will save for later. Later!)

but setting up the dominoes is haaaaaaard
Fri 2014-03-07 22:56:28 (single post)
  • 3,400 wds. long

I've been avoiding my short story rewrite of late. That is because short story rewrites tend to terrify me. They loom like giants, towering with the hugeness of the work to be done. But at the same time, they are nebulous, ill-defined. You can't stick a sword in 'em anymore than you can in a cloud. You can't see through 'em, either. Basically, it's a huge mass of blinding, suffocating fog.

My emotional reaction tends to go something like this: "Oh, Gods, there is so much work to do to make this story into a real and functioning story, and I don't have a clue what that work is going to look like, how do I even start?"

As always, the only way out is through. Through the fog, through the cloud, out to the other side. It's rough going, but if you keep putting one foot in front of the other you get somewhere. It might not be the final somewhere, but it will at least be a somewhere from which you can aim yourself at the next somewhere.

I know this stuff. But it's very easy to forget that I know it when I'm facing an impenetrable fog giant.

Yesterday, happily, I was forced to rediscover it.

You know how writers talk about setting a timer for a period during which you can either stare at the page or type on it, one or the other? And eventually you do the latter because the former is boring? That's kind of the position I put myself in last night. I sat myself down in that restaurant booth, and I told myself, "You don't leave here until you've completed your day's writing. Yes, that means revising 'Snowflakes'." And I opened the project file, and I read and reread and re-reread the first scene and all the notes accompanying it, and eventually that got boring, so I started typing just to give myself something else to read.

By the end of the night, the fog had begun to coalesce into a recognizable shape. Instead of just sitting there wibbling, I was asking myself, "How do I get this scene to convey all this information (which I've listed in this handy linked note over here) without making things awkward and clunky?"

I didn't have answers yet, but at least I finally had an answerable question.

My job today was to try to answer that question. I think I might even have done so. But again, it required me to stop simply dreading it and just effin' do it.

If I can only convince myself to sit down and stick my eyeballs on the story that needs revising, revising becomes... well, not easy, definitely not easy. It becomes, I suppose, inevitable. Kind of like if you just push the little train to the top of that first hill, it becomes inevitable that it'll travel through the rest of the roller coaster ride. Like that, only not all at once. Bit by bit, each day. But it's the same principle. You only have to make the decision to knock over the first domino. The rest happens more or less on its own. At least, it does if you've set the dominoes up correctly. If you haven't, at least now you can see what needs fixing.

So that's where I'm at: kind of between dominoes three and four, wondering what it will take to get dominoes five, six, seven & etc. to follow. Hopefully my backbrain will be able to munch away at things over the weekend so that they'll flow more smoothly on Monday.

experience points and muttering about ash trees
Wed 2014-03-05 23:34:07 (single post)
  • 3,400 wds. long

OMG it is late and I am tired and there was derby and now there has been beer. And now I'm supposed to blog about my day? Arrrgh. OK. Let's see.

  1. Roofing continues! Woke up early to show a worker the one tiny leak I suffered during last night rain shower. Worker was perplexed, as roofing has proceeded past the point where leaks should not happen. (They saw the weather forcast and they got it to that point on purpose.) Got a phone call from same worker later assuring me that it should definitely not happen again. (Apparently chimneys are tricky things to roof around.)
  2. There is so much work to do with "Impact of Snowflakes" and I can't put it off any more with mechanical process things like "Oh, I'm still just compiling my workshop critiques into a single document." There is so much more story that needs to be put into this story. Arrrgh. Spent some time adding to the critiqued draft bright red comments in which I muttered to myself about very important things, like, whose idea is this trip to Vail anyway, and where exactly are Katie and Josh when they call the narrator, and how much did Josh's Dad know about how things were going to turn out anyway?
  3. By the way, the narrator has a name now. It's Ashley. This is meant to be a terribly witty allusion to the World Tree, which is an Ash. Why the hell should the World Tree be an ash, anyway? You want a tree that's already among the biggest land organisms on the planet, you want an aspen. Aspen groves are like freakin' fungi covering humongous square footage below ground. The only land organism bigger than an aspen grove, in fact, is a fungus. Or something like that. Close enough. But no, Snorri Sturluson apparently decided Yggdrasil was an ash, so an ash tree is what we get.
  4. Also by the way, those striking purple trees in autumn, here in Boulder? Ash trees, apparently. Autumn Purple Ash trees, to be painfully literal about it. (This is not what Yggdrasil looks like in my mind, but then they are only one of several kinds of ash tree in the world.)
  5. Day two of using HabitRPG (thanks to Jim C. Hines for turning me on to it). Still didn't complete all my dailies, mainly because "if you can't do a lot, do a little" isn't enough to achieve my ambitious daily goal of actually achieving five hours of writing. (Today's going to come up to only about 3. Not going into detail on that.) But I did everything else on my list, so I get all sorts of gold and XP and only lose maybe one or two hit points overnight.
  6. One of my HabitRPG to-do items was "Take care of travel fare to New Orleans for high school reunion." This I have done. It earned me 37 XP, some amount of gold or other, and, most importantly, peace of mind. Now I just have to get through the March 29th Season Opener roller derby bout with all my limbs intact so I can enjoy the trip.
  7. Tickets here, if you're interested.

Those are the high points of my day. But the best bit is happening in just a few minutes: I'm going to go to sleep. Yay, sleep! It knits up the ravelled sleeve of care, it is balm for droopy minds and bruised bodies, and it even comes (perchance) with in-flight movies. I am greatly in favor of sleep.

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