“Writers are fortunate people.”
Susan Cooper

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Humpty Dumpty silohuette photo by ME! which is why it`s maybe hard to tell that`s what it is
Cover art incorporates and modifies “Lamia” (1905) by John William Waterhouse
someone who isn't me reads a friday fictionette and you can listen
Thu 2018-04-19 23:39:03 (single post)

It has happened at last! Y'all remember I said that a revised version of "What Dreams May Hatch," the Friday Fictionette for September 26, 2014, would be featured on the Toasted Cake podcast sometime in April 2018? WELL, GUESS WHAT. It's April 2018, and the blessed thing went live Monday.

Here it is.

Someone who isn't me is reading it! That's kinda cool. And of course Tina Connelly is one of the best someones I could ask to read it. You should all follow Toasted Cake and listen to her read flash fiction every week, because she is a joy to listen to and she picks great stuff to read.

I should probably also mention that last week's Friday Fictionette, which went out on Saturday again, was "My Best Friend's Girlfriend" (public teaser excerpt, ebook and audiobook for Patrons). It was not inspired by the Cars song by that name, but rather by The Church's "Reptile." That plus the cover art is kinda sorta a spoiler. Sorry? Anyway, I think this is the first time I've written a story in the form of a letter to a relationships advice columnist. That's kinda cool.

Let's see. How's Camp NaNoWriMo going? Not so great over here. I've had to resign myself to the impossibility of reaching my goal. My goal was 40 hours of short story production, revision and submission by the end of April. Alas, there will be no last-minute panicked scramble to catch up. It is no longer feasible at this point. But that's actually kind of OK. While I still thought I could make it, it was actually harder to get anything done, because I was all like, "I have to do two and a half hours or there's no hope! But I don't have time or energy to do two and a half hours today! So I fail. Why bother?" Letting go of the 40-hour goal has made it easier to do a few minutes here and a half hour there and still feel it's worth while. Instead of a daily failure to hit my daily two hours (the original weekday goal), it's a daily success at spending any time on the short stories at all. Because, in all honesty, most days I don't manage even a little. This April may fall short of the original goal, but it's still been a huge improvement.

I mean, look! I already revised and submitted a thing! It came home two days later with a rejection letter, but that's OK! I can send it somewhere else! Somewhere else that welcomes Patreon reprints, anyway. (I know just the place.)

So now to spend a few minutes--just a few!--on the next thing I'm revising. It's post-derby, I'm tired, it's almost midnight, I want to sleep--but I can open the darn thing up and, oh, stare at it for a few minutes. Think about the changes I want to make to its ending. Jot down some notes about that. Then maybe even unravel a little of it in my dreams tonight.

(It would be nice to dream about the stories I'm working on. Mostly these days I have weirdly roller derby themed anxiety dreams. Those are typically not fun.)

Click through for excerpt and full cover art credits.
They came in 1 lb baskets. I had 2 to start, and a milk stout.
where i'm at and where i'm going
Sat 2018-04-07 16:46:54 (single post)
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No Puzzle Pirates/Spiral Knights blogging today. Had as much as I could do getting the Friday Fictionette for April 6 out on not-quite-time, and then it was half past noon and time to go eat crawfish. More about both in the paragraphs what follow.

I swear, as late as I was all through March, a Saturday morning release for a Friday Fictionette feels practically on time. I finished up production this morning and scheduled them for release at 1:00 PM today. Well, 1:00 for the ebook, 1:01 for the audiobook, and 1:15 for the HTML teaser excerpt. It's called "Contract Negotiations" and it's about the games goddesses play when they're bored and, possibly, in a mood to provoke each other.

So, here's the thing I just discovered about that. I mean, about the Friday Fictionette production process, but really about the process of drafting in 4thewords and copying the results into Scrivener? Turns out, 4TW introduces a bunch of non-breaking space characters and other invisible, unpredictable factors into the text where bog-standard word processor functions like copy/paste and turning italics on or off is concerned. It wasn't obvious until I'd already created the ebooks and was working on the excerpt and noticing "Huh, why's it look like there's double-width spaces sprinkled throughout the text? Please tell me those aren't visible in the ebooks...." THEY WERE. I had to do some really detail-oriented manual replace-and-find-next maneuvers and then recreate all three ebooks. Which was kind of infuriating. But oh well.

About crawfish: There seem to be more crawfish boils in the Denver/Boulder area all the time. Used to be, I knew one place to go, and I went there once a year: NoNo's Cafe in Littleton. Sometimes a bar would announce a very special party, but that was random and not to be counted upon. But this year I'm seeing crawfish events popping up all over my Facebook feed, like the one today at the Dark Horse in south Boulder. Which I went to. And it was fantastic. And apparently this was their third this year HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS BEFORE NOW and they might do one more maybe. Oh, I'm still going to go to NoNo's; they do them the best and have the most generous serving for your buck, and I'm not just saying that because the owner's practically family. But Dark Horse has become a surprisingly close second.

In case you're wondering, I can't recommend French Quarter Brasserie on Pearl Street for boiled crawfish. The one time I went, they were overcooked and underspiced, like maybe they tried to skip the post-cook seasonings soak time and instead just boiled them a few minutes longer. You can't get away with doing that and charging $14 per pound. By comparison, Dark Horse was $12 per pound, and NoNo's comes to about $11 per pound when you do the math (they do all-you-can-eat 'til they're gone, like a proper Gulf South neighborhood crawfish boil, pouring them out onto newspaper-covered tables for everyone to dig in).

(Don't get me wrong, I am happy with FQB for oysters on the half shell. I'm pleased enough with what they call po-boys despite that what they call po-boys involves remoulade instead of mayonnaise and soft hoagies rather than French bread; for me, the hard crust that crackles to pieces, sprays a five-foot radius with crumbs, and cuts the roof of your mouth is not a selling point. Maybe that makes me a heretic. Whatever. I prefer soft bread. And the amount of fried crawfish they put on my so-called po-boy was delightfully generous. I'm not a po-boys purist, OK? But I have standards when it comes to crawfish, and, much as it pains me to say it, FQB did not meet them.)

So that's where I'm at today as of right now: pleasantly full of crawfish and finally done with the April 6 Friday Fictionette. As for where I'm going, that'll be a reprise of last week's pizza-cocktails-and-Spiral-Knights date with John (at Beaujo's in Longmont and Vapor Distillery in Boulder). Saturdays are good.

Cover art incorporates and modifies fireworks photo by Flickr user Alli (CC BY 2.0) - click through for fictionette excerpt with link to original photo
and by here i mean now
Mon 2018-04-02 18:12:17 (single post)
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As April begins, seeing as how I haven't really blogged regularly for about a month, it seems like we're due a little "here's where we're at" post. And by "we" I mean me. Here's where me's at.

Me's at a good place with Friday Fictionettes. I'm really, really happy I had a fifth Friday last month. The final fictionette for March ("Party Time," excerpt, ebook, audiobook--it's about doing the time warp again and again and again) came out late, oh so late, but I still did manage to get an early start on the April 6 release. I did all my meebling and morfling over "what the hell am I going to write" last week, which is how I was able to write a concrete outline for the story today rather than, say, Thursday or even Friday. Dear future self: It is best not to need several days of meebling and morfling just to draft a fictionette, please and thank you. Please arrange for an improvement in the weekly process. This may involve morning freewriting sessions which involve less babble and more actual narrative. Consider it, OK?

The end-of-month stuff is almost done. Today I released the Fictionette Freebie for March ("The Soup Witch's Funeral Dinner," HTML, ebook, audiobook, and you can read it on 4thewords, too if you've got an account there) everywhere but Wattpad; I'll catch up to Wattpad on Friday. I'll illustrate and mail out the February Artifacts tomorrow, then get right on the March Artifacts so they actually get mailed in April too. I think that's it.

April is one of the months during which Camp NaNoWriMo takes place. I've never participated before, but due to some gentle peer pressure over on 4TW (people inviting people to cabins! Untu arriving in space-faring pirate ships! New quests and monsters specifically to do with Camp NaNoWriMo!) I'm participating now. The Camp NaNoWriMo webpage explicitly encourages a certain amount of flexibility beyond what's preached in November. Forget the whole "NaNo Rebels" thing: If you're not working on a novel, or not working on a new novel, or have an alternate goal based on a different number of words or a number of something else entirely, you're not a rebel, you're just a participant.

So I'm a participant whose goals are...

  • 40 hours short story production: drafting, revising, submitting.
  • Healthier workday habits: 2 hours on short story production (a full "afternoon shift") every workday.
  • All 5 new flash (from Weekend Warrior) revised and tossed into the slush!
  • A whole bunch of resubmissions without fear or shame or self-rejection!

The "healthier workday habits" is the important thing here--it makes the rest possible. Unfortunately, today, my first workday of April, has not really comprised a stellar start. I overslept my alarm and then sort of used that as an excuse not to get to work until noon. That always makes getting a full workday in before evening activities (and I do have evening activities planned) rather tricky. aIn fact, I still haven't done my two hours today. I suppose I will do the bulk of them when I come home tonight. (It's possible. Tonight's evening activities are neither long nor derby-related. They should not entirely kill my remaining productive energy.)

I just got my first "Camp Care Package" in my Camp NaNoWriMo inbox this afternoon. These are, it would seem, teeny tiny capsule-sized pep talks. (They're also a hashtag on twitter.) Today's spoke to me in a "great minds think alike" kind of way. An excerpt:

But what happens if you tell yourself that you're only going to write a few sentences rather than skipping a day? Open up the manuscript and start writing, just for a few minutes. You will be shocked at how quickly you are pulled back in...

That's pretty much my "if you can't do a lot, do a little" strategy. It's also the way I coax myself to start a revision session that I Really Don't Want To. Instead of beating myself about the head and shoulders with the need to start the task, I gently, kindly, and patiently "trick" myself into getting started. "OK, fine," I tell myself, "that's all right. It's scary and I understand. So let's not do any revision. Let's instead just reread the manuscript so you can remind yourself what you need to do when you start revising." Inevitably, the simple act of reading will engage my editor brain, and before you know it I'm reaching for the red pen and making notes in the margins.

So... after I publish this blog post, I'll "just reread the manuscript" and remind myself what my next steps are. Then I'll come home from tonight's activity with a better idea of what to do during today's revision session... and a small part of the session probably already logged, too, because of how rereading the manuscript will have pulled me back in.

Cover art incorporates 'a t-res-fossil' by 3weg.nl (CC BY 4.0)
Cover art incorporates and modifies 'Mirepoix' by Matthew Yglesias (CC BY-SA 2.0)
avoidance and its protective coloring in the revision habitat
Tue 2018-03-20 17:30:25 (single post)

So on the 16th I released the Friday Fictionette for March 9th, then yesterday the one for March 16th. Here's a little bit about 'em.

Friday, March 9, 2018: "Tomorrow Belongs to the Dragons" (excerpt, ebook, audio). Dragon skeletons are a dime a dozen, but this one's lodged in a cliff face in Hannah's beachfront neighborhood. So it's special and familiar, all at once. That it makes her irritating friend Mary inexplicably nervous, Hannah considers a bonus.

Friday, March 16, 2018: "The Soup Witch's Funeral Dinner" (excerpt, ebook, audio). Sammy escapes an unexciting future in the family tailoring business by getting himself apprenticed to the soup witch. But the cauldron tells him things he'd really rather not hear.

All of which means I'm at lateness: zero once again, and I hope to stay there, because lateness: zero means I get to do interesting things like continue getting my Weekend Warrior flash fiction ready for commercial submission. Because--shock!--my writing career encompasses more than my Patreon experiment! You know that. I know you know that. Sometimes I need to remind myself, though. It's too easy to feel like doing my daily Fictionette work means I'm done for the day, when in fact I am not.

Except Fictionettes are, more or less, easy; revising fiction for commercial submission is hard. Flash fiction is no exception! Each of these five short-shorts I want to get out the door, they took me a weekend to think up, maybe 2 hours to write, that's it. But when it comes to doing just that "quick revision pass" I think is all each needs, it takes hours and hours and days. I'm not sure how much of that effect comes from me avoiding the difficult crap, and how much comes from the crap genuinely being hard. I suppose you can't separate the one from the other.

There's also a tendency to get bogged down for half an hour in trying to find the perfect first sentence for the next paragraph. Again, there's two factors at work here. There's panic over this being the final draft and therefore it must be perfect therefore not-perfect words cannot stand! And then there's the tendency to allow myself to get bogged down in tetchy details because it keeps me from having to face the bigger picture of the whole damn revision. Unfortunately for me and my avoidance issues, reorienting on the bigger picture is precisely what I need to do in order to drag myself out of the bog of tetchy details. When in doubt about different versions of a sentence, refer back to the purpose this sentence serves in the overall story! Argh.

Avoidance issues and difficulties notwithstanding, I hope by the end of this week to both A. get the March 23rd Friday Fictionette out on time, and B. submit one of my Weekend Warrior flash stories to a paying market. If I also get the Fictionette Artifacts for February in the mail this week, that will be a bonus. And next week is a week with a fifth Friday which means A. getting ahead of schedule, and B. taking a Friday off! Things are looking up and moving forward, is what I'm saying.

(meanwhile my new spiral knights character has all 4-star gear and is starting to venture into tier 3, huzzah, but she really really needs to upgrade her fyrotech alchemizer pretty please soonest--might have to dust off my old 5-star character and go grind for crowns and energy down to the core)

Cover art incorporates public domain images sourced from PIXNIO
this time i'm taking notes
Mon 2018-03-05 23:10:58 (single post)
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This is another Monday post announcing a Friday Fictionette that got released on Saturday, because I am a time warp.

The March 2nd release is titled "Taking Care of Bigfoot" and it involves that near-universal childhood discovery of what usually happens when you try to keep a wild animal as a pet. My brother and I learned that lesson when we brought home a small... king snake? I think? In any case, one of the many harmless varieties whose coloring mimics that of the venomous coral snake, giving rise to the rhyme that goes something like "Red touching yellow, dangerous fellow; red touching black, it's OK, Jack." (Exact words may vary by region and generation.) It was a red-touching-black snake. We kept it in a terrarium. We took it out occasionally for the thrill of watching it coil around our fingers. We caught live lizards and dragonflies and spiders for it to eat, but it didn't, and eventually the poor thing died. And our parents said, "That's what usually happens when you try to keep a wild animal as a pet."

(We had much better luck with the crawfish we saved from a weekend crawfish boil. We put it in an aquarium that at the time was full of guppies. Soon the aquarium was empty of guppies, and the crawfish was a good deal bigger. We fed it bits of hot dog after that, hoping it would grow into a lobster. It didn't, but it made a sincere and noticeable effort before going the way of all flesh--at least, the way of all fleshly beings on a diet of nothing but hot dogs.)

Not to spoil the fictionette, but I feel obliged to reassure you that no one's pet actually dies in this story.

Subscribers may download the full text of "Taking Care of Bigfoot" as an ebook or audiobook depending on their Patreon pledge tier. (Teaser excerpt linked above.)

Now I'm looking back at last week and wondering where it went. It's hard to remember. Most of the details are lost to history because my Morning Pages are illegible, for one thing, and for another, I utterly failed to make any blog posts at all. Maybe I can keep better track of this week before it decants into the weekend, when the Boulder County Bombers "All Stars" and "Bombshells" will each have their first away games of the season. (It will be in Cincinnati!) Once I get on the plane Friday afternoon, nothing much else of use is going to get done. So between now and then, I need to keep up with the daily stuff (so far so good), make time to work on flash-fiction revisions (today not so much), remember to account in my planning for time spent fulfilling other obligations (such as taking the Saturn in for its oil change and tire balance/rotation and also picking up a Boulder Food Rescue biking shift on the windiest darn day of spring thus far). Meanwhile, I'm going to try not to fall off the blog quite so dramatically again.

Hi! Lookit that, I blogged today!

I have been better at getting to bed on time. Go me. Going to bed at eleven feels luxurious. Now that I think about it, that might be where some of last week went: going to bed earlier but not getting up correspondingly earlier. Math, that spoilsport, says if you do the one but you don't do the other you get fewer hours in your day. Stupid math. Math is clearly why we can't have nice things.



this fictionette heaved a great big sigh of relief and another of disappointment
Sun 2018-02-25 00:03:26 (single post)
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All right! That's it! I'm all caught up! The appallingly late Friday Fictionette for February 16th is now up, and so is the mildly late February 23rd one. They go something like this:

"When in Rome" (teaser excerpt, full text ebook and audiobook), in which we explore the effects of photosynthesis on the U.S. tradition of Thanksgiving dinner, and also the international tradition of teenage rebellion and frustration.

"Can We Have a Little Privacy Over Here" (teaser excerpt, full text ebook and audiobook), in which the dead assert reasonable personal boundaries, which we will endeavor to respect.

I'm not entirely done with February's Fictionette work, of course. I've still got to type up, illustrate, and mail the not-yet-late January Artifacts; I should be able to take care of that in the next few days. And of course there's the late-but-low-priority Wattpad excerpts for most of February; ditto. But as far as Patreon posts for February go, I am finally up to date. I can breathe a little easier, having once more temporarily relieved myself of the weight of The Overdue. And I can look forward with excitement to working on next week's release. So that's fantastic.

Speaking of excitement, I feel like I misplaced some. Annihilation, the movie, was... just a really poor adaptation. I'm sorry, but I honestly think so. It was visually stunning but so, so incoherent. And the maddening thing about it was, most of the plot holes were so unnecessary. They could have been fixed simply by not abandoning the relevant elements from novel. While I admire the attempt to take a sprawling trilogy and turn it into one compact movie, combining elements and sometimes conflating separate characters to make things tighter for the big screen, 2-hour-ish format, it ultimately didn't work.

But what disappointed me the most--and, to be fair, surprised me the least--was the erasure of some of the things that make the trilogy the masterwork that it is. They sawed off the inconvenient things, which were powerful things, and replaced them with predictable tropes. The gloriously misanthropic biologist was replaced by a woman defined by and motivated by saving her husband and their marriage. The ineffable Area X was replaced by, more or less, a mere dragon to slay. The trilogy's relentless deconstruction of identity, its insistence that you leave your name at the border and wear your function as both camouflage and armor, is erased entirely; the characters have names, they share their backstories with each other, they form a camaraderie familiar from any number of SF horror-thrillers in the "hostile territory" subgenre. There is nothing here you haven't seen before, and that is where the movie ultimately fails its source material.

I suppose, if we want to get all meta here, the failings of the movie adaptation are rather an extension on the novels' exploration of the theme of identity, duplication, replacement and failed copies. But I can't give anyone credit for doing it on purpose. There were some subtle and not-so-subtle details in the movie that felt like a nod toward the theme of duplication, but I can't entirely trust these were meant and not mistakes. And if they were meant, they're cheats, because they're things the main character ought to have recognized and reacted to. I mean, if you make the abandoned house they camp out in have the exact same floor plan as the protagonist's house, but you don't have the protagonist appear to notice this at all, you risk your audience thinking not "oh, wow, that's creepy, how unsettling, it's a dark mirror version of that earlier scene," but rather "oh, for crying out loud, were you so cheap you had to reuse that set?"

In short: Pretty visuals, emotionally intense movie, earned its R rating plenty times over, and even sometimes manages to evoke the feeling of the way people fall apart when they explore Area X (the videos especially captured the creeping horror of the one we don't want to watch in Authority)... but in the end it was a mess of wasted opportunities. I am sad about what could have been and must console myself by rereading the books now.



belated fictionette announcements made in the dust of the wagon i'm running to catch up with
Mon 2018-02-12 23:56:09 (single post)
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Hi! Pretend it's Friday. Pretend the Friday Fictionette for February 9 just went up. (It isn't, and it didn't, and it actually went up on Saturday just before our roller derby double header got underway--thank goodness there's public wifi at the Boulder County Fairgrounds now!) This is the blog post that ought to have gone up right about then, announcing the latest release.

We good? Good. So...

The Friday Fictionette for Friday, February 9 is "Electing a Chair" (ebook and audiobook for Patrons, teaser excerpt for all) and exemplifies the GIGO principal at work in the perfect obedience of enchanted household objects.

While we're at it, the Fictionette for Friday, February 2 was "Lights Out" (ebook, audiobook, excerpt), and for the Fictionette Freebie for January 2018 I chose "The Proof is in the Post."

OK. So. The post about cooking is coming tomorrow, if I don't totally fall off the wagon again. 'Til then!

Cover art incorporates public domain images sourced from Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons
this fictionette proposes a new game that we can all play together
Sat 2018-01-27 02:13:51 (single post)
  • 933 wds. long

The wee hours of Saturday still count as Friday if I haven't gone to bed yet, right? Which was, for once, quite easy. Whenever I do several hours of work at a pub or bar, I feel like I should always be drinking or eating something to excuse my lengthy presence. And after two beers and two small plates, I was not up for more food or alcohol. So I ordered coffee. And of course they didn't have decaf. And of course I had coffee anyway. I may yet be up awhile.

And but so anyway please accept this Friday Fictionette as a token of my dedication to you. It is called "The Proof is in the Post" (excerpt available for all, full-length ebook and audiobook for pledging Patrons). It is about truth, and the risks of telling the truth, and how sometimes you don't actually know what your truth is until you hear it come out of your mouth--or until the post office imps helpfully edit your letters for brutal honesty and you see what comes out at the other end. Because that's how this version of the world works: The post office will not deliver a lie.

I had a lot of fun with the freewriting session that eventually turned into this story-like object. It was an exercise in worldbuilding. Supposing that any letter you send gets altered in the mail so as to correct inaccuracies, clear up ambiguities, and replace any lies, whether by commission or omission, with the truth. What are the implications? What does that do to communications, economy, contracts, paychecks, love letters, invitations? I had so much fun with the worldbuilding that I never actually came up with a plot. So this week I had to come up with a plot post haste. (Get it? Post haste? Because post office? See? OK. Right, so, anyway...)

I didn't expect the character to get so well fleshed out. I didn't expect to have to pause the audio recording because I suddenly got all choked up at the end because, dang it, she's me at fourteen and I feel for her very strongly. I want to reach out and hug her and assure her it's all going to be all right.

So that's the story behind the story.

Here's a story about the Friday Fictionettes project in general: I'm going to add a feature! If I remember come Monday, that is. I'm writing it down now so that I will remember. Let's see if it works:

On first through fourth Mondays, I propose to make a public post on Patreon sharing the writing prompt associated with the Fictionette that will be released that Friday. So you can play along at home. If you want, you can share your results in the comments. Then everyone can see how differently multiple stories based on the same prompt can turn out.

I mean, it looked cool when Chuck Wendig did it. Let's try it and see what happens.

Cover art incorporates public domain image created by NASA
this fictionette had to make it up as it went along (and takes its waking slow)
Fri 2018-01-19 23:59:59 (single post)

On time this week, by a hair. "The Education of Baby Rocket" (excerpt for all, ebook and audiobook for Patrons) is now available for your perusal. It's about fear, mostly, but also homesickness, and what exactly we mean by "home" in the first place.

I lost a 4thewords battle for the first time today. Let it be known: Not a single loss until Day 67! Lesson learned: I can do 800 words in half an hour easy if I'm drafting but not when I'm revising. Second lesson learned: No naps with a battle deadline less than two hours out, Mr. Rabbit. That's how Mr. Tortoise beat you, remember? Alternately, don't start a two-hour battle if you think you'll need a nap before you're done.

Speaking of lessons, sometimes I think a writing life primarily consists of learning not so much a long series of lessons over time but rather a small handful of lessons over and over again. This is probably true of life in general, come to think of it. But it's certainly true of writing.

Here's the lesson I had to relearn this week: I don't know what I'm writing until I've written it.

It's less that I forget it and have to relearn it, and more that I keep discovering situations where it's relevant. Still makes me feel stupid, though. Like, "Ohhhh! The swimming pool is wet! Because all water is wet. Dammit, I knew that."

This week, the application was, Because I don't know what I'm writing until I've written it, not knowing what to write isn't a reason not to write. Also, and very importantly, "I don't know what to write" is a perfectly cromulent first sentence to write on a brand new fresh blank page. It helps lube the word-making engine, and I can always erase it later.

It came up while I was working on the Author's Note for "The Education of Baby Rocket." Well. That's rather overstating things. It came up while I was staring at the blank new document upon which I had tasked myself with writing the Author's Note. Staring at a blank page is not conducive to getting the Friday Fictionette released on time, but that's what I was doing: Staring at a blank page and thinking, "I don't know what to write."

Fun fact: Thoughts circle around and chase their own tails, but words written down are done. No amount of thinking "I don't know what to write" was going to get me anywhere. But typing "I don't know what to write" allowed me to move on to another thought, another sentence. It sort of forced me to really observe and acknowledge what I was thinking, you know? Like Morning Pages do. "I don't know what I'm going to write for this, so I'm going to just babble until I figure it out. I'll start by telling myself the story of how the writing prompt turned into the first draft, although that's not enough for an Author's Note by itself because really there's only so many weeks in a row the Author's Note can be 'here's the prompt, and here's how I got from prompt to story idea to first draft to finished story'...."

And off I went for, oh, several paragraphs. Three or four at least. Then something went click. I knew what I was going to write because by then I had already written it. Now I just needed to tidy it up and then delete the bits of babble that wouldn't be part of it. Don't get me wrong; that babble was essential. As in the Buddhist metaphor, it was the little boat that got me across the wide river that had separated blank page from finished draft. But it had done its job. It was no longer needed. I could leave it behind me on the shore and walk away.

As the poet said, "I learn by going where I have to go." As another poet said, "We make it up as we go along." I don't really have much to add to that except to testify that it's true.

Cover art incorporates public domain image sourced from Pixabay
i'll take the 1800-word entree and a side order of sticking my tongue out at jerk-brain
Wed 2018-01-17 23:55:30 (single post)
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Two things tonight. Well, maybe three. Three things tonight.

Thing the first: I am having a hell of a time coming up with things to blog about this week. That I have three things tonight is kind of amazing. I think maybe I if I had been better sticking to my writing schedule this week, I would have more things. That is, indeed, the whole point of the actually writing blog. Anyway, that's the first thing.

Thing the second: I was late with last week's Friday Fictionette because I suck and also it was bout weekend. Time management continues to be a struggle, and that struggle is a work in progress, so when Saturday is going to look like "bout venue set-up, emergency last-minute painting of numbers on jersey, skate in two mini-bouts back-to-back, afterparty until 1:30 AM," the whole week leading up to it is probably going to look like AAAAAAUUUUUUUGGGGHHHHHH! Then throw in a friend's last-minute birthday party (I mean, I had to! I wuv my teammate! <3 <3 <3 Also, a bar that was also a classic arcade was involved, making the whole thing mandatory) and suddenly Sunday is the new Friday.

But the Friday Fictionette did go up Sunday. It's live. It's called "There's an App for That" (excerpt, ebook, audiobook) and it's about a smartphone app that takes matters into its own hands, for want of a better term, during a zombie apocalypse. The story includes a bonus game of "spot the irritating, condescending and ultimately ineffectual project manager" which you can play along at home. (I won't tell you who that character is based on, because A. that would be mean, and B. it's been long enough that I honestly don't remember his name, except that it wasn't the name the character got. The character is named after one of my better and more fondly remembered project managers, actually. It's rather unfair that his name was the first that jumped into my head.)

OK so finally, Thing the third: I found yet another thing to do with 4thewords that it probably wasn't meant for! But it is a writing thing! And using it to win battles with stupid stupid aracnu that barely give out spider legs, let alone rope made me more determined to do it all in one night rather than parcel it out over several!

Which is to say: Composing critique feedback for colleagues' stories!

There's kind of a lot of that needing to happen with, well, all the contests I'm participating in, actually, but today I'm particularly concerned with the one where everyone writes flash fiction over the weekend and then gives each other feedback during the week. The word limit is only 750 per entry, but there's enough contestants that, even once you split them into four divisions, each contestant still needs to read and critique and vote on almost 20K words. Which is a thoroughly worthwhile task, but long. It got me through nearly two aracnu who didn't give me so much as a single piece of rope, I probably should be battling Rudakai instead but they are expensive and also WHERE ARE THEY. Which isn't to say I actually turned in almost 1800 words of critique--I edited things down!--but I darn well typed 'em.

On the purely personal scale of "This is really writing and these are real words" to "OK, now you're just cheating," composing peer critique in 4TW feels less like cheating than does, babbling for 750 words or so about not knowing what I want to blog about, but, oddly, more like cheating than does composing a dream journal entry.

And that's weird. Peer critique is, objectively speaking, much closer to Professional Writing Practice than dream journaling is. But I guess dream journal entries feel more like first drafts of brand new stories, whereas peer critique feels like thinking aloud on the page, and that's where the cheating/not cheating divide is in my head.

It only goes to show I should continue striving to totally ignore the jerk-brain voice that says "You're not really writing, don't you dare give yourself credit for writing, that there doesn't count as writing." Far from having a reliable yardstick for such things, jerk-brain uses a yardstick that is actually missing a few significant inches and gets used primarily to smack knuckles. So if I say I'm not cheating, it can darn well take its yardstick for a hike somewhere else.

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