“Write what you feel and not what you think someone else feels.”
Stephen Sondheim

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

revision versus avoidance behaviors; also karaoke and a surprise DNS outage
Thu 2014-07-10 23:59:59 (single post)
  • 6,515 wds. long

Tonight I'm writing this from Hurricane's Sports Bar in Metairie, on Vets not far from Bonnabel. My brother tends bar most nights there, so hanging out at the bar means hanging out with him, which is nice. Hurricane's is on Facebook. You may like them if you're so inclined. I quite like them myself, and not just because my brother likes to cover my beers.

It took me a minute to figure out what their event schedule for the weekend was, because rather than hosting an itemized calendar or using FB's event pages interface, they simply take a photo of their calendar and make it their cover image. Once I figured that out, I saw that Thursdays were "Rock the Mic: Live Band Karaoke," and I thought, huh, that's different, and also I like karaoke. I should go. And so I did. And it was joyous. They had one of my standby tunes in their list, and they played it, and I sang it, and they sang backup, and a good time was had by all. It was unlike any karaoke experience I have ever had, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Rock the Mic is also on Facebook, and you may like them if you are so inclined. I like them.

This afternoon I took my short story revision time to the CC's coffee house on Vets at Division. (I had unearthed a decade-old gift card for use there. Alas, its balance turned out to be zero.) I am trying to be virtuous despite being "on vacation," so I am continuing to push my dogged way through the lumps in the draft-in-progress. There are, however, moments when I ask myself, am I actually doing a revision here, or am I just pushing prepositions around in a bid to avoid finishing the damn thing? This is a thing we are sometimes prone to: getting stuck in the mid-book or halfway through a story, and going back to the beginning and endlessly tweaking rather than pushing through the stuckness. I worry that I'm doing that...

...right up until my slow pass through the draft brings me a perfect opportunity to plant a little foreshadowing, based on something I just figured out about how the story needs to end. Then I stop worrying, because obviously revision is getting done here.

Up with foreshadowing! Down with worrying! I like giving myself reasons to stop worrying.

And now, a deep sigh for the frailties of internet. The internet went down at the bar, so I ran along home to upload this, but the internet was down there too, and also for my parents' desktop computer. "DNS server cannot be reached." Ain't no amount of rebooting the router going to fix it when Cox Cable appears to have DNS trouble. I really need to commit some alternate DNS addresses to memory for times like this.

(Oddly, popping in Google's DNS addresses didn't help, nor did it hurt the next morning when service had resumed. I wonder if yet something else was going on. Cox is not saying.)

In any case, this post won't get uploaded until Friday, but it will be backdated for Thursday, just to be confusing. Also I shall be restoring my HabitRPG streaks because I did all the things, I just couldn't click on all the things. Phooey.

as the unicorn said to the harpy
Wed 2014-07-09 17:58:58 (single post)
  • 6,468 wds. long

As it turns out, I was right--I got to Chicago barely 15 minutes prior to boarding time on my connecting train. There was no time for anything except the ridiculous walk down the long boarding platform, into the station, then clockwise around via the main concourse and the central ticketing/passenger services hub to finally arrive in the South Terminal and wait in line to go right back out onto the main concourse and thence to the boarding platform once more.

I was oddly jealous of the passengers connecting with Train 30 who were told, "Your train is on the tracks opposite ours. When you get off this train, just cross the platform and get right on Train 30." None of this walking-the-long-way-around-to-get-back-where-you-started business for them! And "all" it cost them was the stress of a will-we-won't-we nick-of-time arrival in Chicago. Yes, I'm joking. But only sort of.

Anyway, I did manage to get online while the California Zephyr was stopped at the station in Galesburg, Illinois. O fortuitous Galesburg and your free city wifi! I was able to run all my internet errands there: Upload yesterday's blog post, check off all my tasks on HabitRPG, disable the Dailies that I can't do whilst out of town (sorry, plants, but I cannot water you from all the way over here!), attempt to download my email and the latest posts on my roller derby league's online forum. I say "attempt" because the email did not, in fact, download. And while I could retrieve the Activity Stream on the league's VBulletin forum, I couldn't pull up any actual posts. "Response denied by WatchGuard HTTP proxy. Don't think you should be going there?" Apparently the city's wi-fi gateway disapproves of VBulletin cookies. They are too long and full of suspicious characters.

Speaking of HabitRPG, I seem to have turned on my Train 6 seatmate to its joys and wonders. Huzzah! More lives gamified! Let us go smite Shadow Dragons with such fearsome weapons as Taking Out The Trash and Returning Books To Library!

In story news, I am working my way from beginning to NEW AND IMPROVED ENDING GOES HERE slowly, smoothing out the lumps as I go. My hope is to have some idea how NEW AND IMPROVED ENDING goes by the time I get there.

Meanwhile, as part of my campaign to Be An Informed Hugo Voter, I've just finished reading Campbell Award candidate A Stranger In Olondria by Sofia Samatar. (I'm pretty sure I misspelled the title in a recent Tweet. Forgive me!) It is a gorgeous piece of work, written in a lush poetic language that transforms my very thought process as I look out the window of the train and watch towns to which I am myself a stranger roll by. I even dreamt in the book's cadences the other night after reading myself to sleep. Samatar might have my vote for that alone. But then she uses such language to create a rich world complete with competing cultures and vibrant mythologies and their own canonical works of literature. And then on top of it all, the story it tells belongs to that category most near and dear to my heart: In Praise Of Books.

It belongs to other categories, too: Coming of Age Story. Like Father, Like/Unlike Son. Feet of Clay. Unrequited Love. Changing The Course of Empire. Laying the Ghost. But for me, the most important thing is the main character's falling head over heels in love with reading, and how that love frames every other passion in the story.

Once, when I was perhaps eight, on one of the many nights when I stayed up long past my bedtime with a book I couldn't put down, I heard my mother coming up the stairs. Quickly I doused the light and hid my book under my pillow. Moments later, when Mom opened the door, I was pretending to be asleep. She was not fooled. What she said next will live in my brain forever, in shades of both pride and rue: "God help me, I have one child who won't read and another who won't stop!"

Which is why passages like the following speak so keenly to me:

The silence. End of all poetry, all romances. Earlier, frightened, you began to have some intimation of it: so many pages had been turned, the book was so heavy in one hand, so light in the other, thinning toward the end. Still, you consoled yourself. You were not quite at the end of the story, at that terrible flyleaf, blank like a shuttered window: there were still a few pages under your thumb, still to be sought and treasured. Oh, was it possible to read more slowly?óNo. The end approached, inexorable, at the same measured pace. The last page, the last of the shining words! And thereóthe end of the book. The hard cover which, when you turn it, gives you only this leather stamped with old roses and shields.

Then the silence comes, like the absence of sound at the end of the world. You look up. Itís a room in an old house. Or perhaps itís a seat in a garden, or even a square; perhaps youíve been reading outside and you suddenly see the carriages going by. Life comes back, the shadows of leaves. Someone comes to ask what you will have for dinner, or two small boys run past you, wildly shouting; or else itís merely a breeze blowing a curtain, the white unfurling into a room, brushing the papers on a desk. It is the sound of the world. But to you, the reader, it is only a silence, untenanted and desolate.

It doesn't hurt that this passage is saying something else at the same time, about other griefs, other abandonment. But even if it were "only" talking about how reaching the end of a book, even one with a happy ending, is always in some sense a tragedy, it would still give me the chills.

It put me in mind of a similar passage in Michael Ende's The Neverending Story, to which Olondria felt in many ways like a tribute:

If you have never spent whole afternoons with burning ears and rumpled hair, forgetting the world around you over a book, forgetting cold and hunger--

If you have never read secretly under the bedclothes with a flashlight, because your father or mother or some other well-meaning person has switched off the lamp on the plausible ground that it was time to sleep because you had to get up so early--

If you have never wept bitter tears because a wonderful story has come to an end and you must take your leave of the characters with whom you have shared so many adventures, whom you have loved and admired, for whom you have hoped and feared, and without whose company life seems empty and meaningless--

If such things have not been part of your own experience, you probably won't understand what Bastian did next.

What did Bastian do next? Why, he stole the copper-bound volume from the bookshop while Cornelius's back was turned, thus unknowingly committing himself to saving Fantastica. (And no, Cornelius didn't set Bastian up. That knowing nod and smile is entirely a fabrication of the movie. In the book, Cornelius actually lost all memory of ever having had the book at all.)

There's a shock at finding oneself recognized so closely by an author; this, by the way, is why Dorothea Brande warns us that the non-writer may regard us as witches. "Nothing but witchcraft, [the layperson] seems to believe, could have made another human being so wise in the ways of his kind." But after the shock of recognition comes the warm relief of having been recognized. It takes one to know one, as they say. Being understood means not being alone. "Oh, you are like me!" as the unicorn said to the harpy.

Another point in Samatar's favor is that she made me cry in plain sight in an Amtrak sightseer lounge car. Dammit. Talk about your awkward moments.

As I finish this up, the train is sitting somewhere south of Jackson, Mississippi, waiting for the freight traffic ahead to clear. We've been precisely on time up until now. Outside is a swampish waterway lined with trees I ought to be able to name. A constant drizzle polka-dots the surface of the green-brown water. White crestless wading birds with long necks and yellow beaks stand on one black leg, single-knee-deep in the water or perch warily in small trees. The only sign of human encroachment is the very railroad track that brought us here and the small square wooden sign beside it bearing some code unintelligible to layfolk.

No one is in any hurry at all. It's glorious.

I'll upload this post from my parents' house, my old house, in Metairie. But that's several hours off yet. Between now and then, I hope to make some real progress on the story. So, here's to good news on that front tomorrow.

In which we take a step back from the trees, thus to view the forest
Thu 2014-06-26 23:47:49 (single post)
  • 6,291 wds. long

Oh hey there. Blog white-outs are fun, aren't they? Apparently my code isn't quite PHP 5.4 ready, so I've scrolled things back to PHP 5.3 for now. If you can read this, it probably worked. (It's also possible that you're a visitor from far in the future, that being when I'll likely next have the time and patience to try to update my blog code. How are things? Who's president, and have we got flying cars yet?)

I got some feedback on my story today, and it got me thinking not just about this story but also about my writing tendencies in general. That's the best kind of feedback--the kind that doesn't just address the work at hand but also makes me a better writer. Or at least provides me with the opportunity to become a better writer. If I fail to avail myself of that opportunity, it isn't the critiquer's fault. He tried!

The thought goes something like this.

There's a "rule" in writing speculative fiction--and I use scare-quotes advisedly here--that you can get away with one, and only one, impossible thing. Two things and you lose the reader's suspension of disbelief. Now, this is a ridiculously simplistic "rule," but, like most "rules' of writing, it points in the direction of a truth: You have to earn and keep the reader's trust. The reader will trust you when you give them impossible things to believe if, and only if, you continue to be trustworthy when it comes to things they actually have experience with. Your characters have to behave like real people. Your portrait of a real life city needs to ring true for someone who's been there or lives there. Your portrayal of specialized areas of knowledge--guns, archery, horses, astronomy, whatever--needs to withstand at least a cursory fact-check. Basically, "this is a fantasy novel" can account for the flight of dragons that strafes Shreveport, Louisiana, but it can't account for the dragons having set aflame the county clerk & recorder's office in that town (given that Louisiana doesn't have counties), nor the crescent moon on the eastern horizon as the sun sets over the destruction (given that a crescent moon rises around dawn). And if you then have your main characters stand there looking up information about dragons on their smartphones when there are people trapped in the burning building across the street, either you've just lost your reader's patience and good will entirely, or you're one of the authors of the Left Behind novels. Neither is a situation worth celebrating.

Anyway. "You get one impossible thing." And I think there is another "rule" in the same vein, which goes like this: "You get one dramatic reveal."

Again, simplistic, but it points in a direction I apparently need to aim my mind. Because I seem to err on the side of the coy and the subtle these days, understating all the unusual or fantastical things that are going on in the story. This is possibly because my point-of-view character knows all those things quite well, and so it would be out of character for them to narrate about them too explicitly. Still, the result is undesirable. If everything is held close to the chest and revealed only subtly or at the end of the story, the reader has no certainty to stand on.

So I sort of have to decide which one of my unusual facts is the one to be revealed only at the climax of the story. The rest should be stated in a more up-front way, thus to do the work of world-building, scene-setting, and attention-grabbing.

As with the other rule, "one" is a simplistic way to put it. Sometimes "one" means "this handful of things that are all related." The main gist is, the reader has to be able to cling to something in order to make it to the end for the dramatic reveal. That is why not everything can be the dramatic reveal. Choose your dramatic reveal carefully, and put everything else in service to getting the reader there.

And now I am going to lose consciousness in 0.2 seconds, because I am that tired. Zonk

random observations on a random friday
Fri 2014-06-06 23:31:10 (single post)

Observation #1: I rely a little too heavily on external pressures for maintaining day-to-day habits. Those external pressures work great--until they aren't there. When my husband gets up to take his 8:30 a.m. meeting-over-the-phone, I get up and do my morning pages. If my husband is not feeling well and takes a day off from work, when he turns off the alarm and goes back to sleep, so, apparently, do I.

Observation #1, addendum (a): I can do my morning pages in as little as 20 minutes, if hastily made lunch plans with a friend require it.

Observation #2: It is quite possible to achieve a 5-hour writing day and still not manage to touch the short story that so painfully requires work if one gets super-perfectionist with one's content writing. "But I need to put together a slideshow! Examiner is offering a slideshow incentive! And it can't just be screenshots from the game--that's boring--I need to mark it up with borders and circles and areas of artificial brightness and side-by-side compare/contrasts, and, oooh, an imaginative collage illustrating that humorous bit at the end!"

Observation #2, addendum (a): If the homebrew RSS is bootched, the Examiner articles stop re-broadcasting to Facebook and Twitter, which rather makes the "incentive for slideshows that receive X-amount of social media visits" moot.

Observation #2, addendum (b): It's kind of cheating to count time spent troubleshooting the bootched RSS toward the day's writing hours, isn't it?

Observation #3: Playing Puzzle Pirates while reading shows for AINC can be done! But how efficient it is depends on what kind of activities the pirate indulges in. If it's a long solo pillage from Marlowe to Nunataq, and the reading is in Spanish, well, 30 minutes of reading can take something like two hours.

Observation #3, addendum (a): It's past 11:00 PM? When did that happen? Crap-buckets! And I have to be up early tomorrow--

losing hit points and slumping under pressure
Thu 2014-03-06 23:56:01 (single post)

Yesterday was day 2 of using HabitRPG to help improve my dailiness. And I was really, really enthusiastic about it. Mainly I was impressed with the way it reshapes and repurposes that classic gamer urge to "do stuff to get stuff." I have a weakness for doing in-game things to get in-game rewards, resulting in a lot of fun but very little daily productivity. HabitRPG offers those tantalizing in-game rewards in exchange for doing real-life things, resulting in increased daily productivity. This is very cool. It means I'm not just looking forward to finishing each task on my writing list for its own sake and for the sake of getting it over; I'm also looking forward to these accomplishments for the sake of earning experience points and virtual coins.

Well, today I discovered a certain downside of HabitRPG. For me, that is. It's absolutely not a general downside that every user will encounter. It's just my downside, because I am a basket case.

That downside is this: It's yet another way for me to expect perfection of myself and punish myself for failing to achieve it.

You know what that means: Pressure, and freezing up in the face of pressure.

So this morning I woke up and failed to immediately write down what I'd dreamed. No big deal. It happens. But because dream journaling is a thing I try to do every morning, I'd had the bright idea to code it into my HabitRPG task list. (More details than you really need: I made it a Daily when I set up my account, but I changed it to a Habit yesterday.) Which means that I wasn't just disappointed in myself for letting the dream memory slip away. I was also dreading having to admit my failure by clicking that little minus button next to my dream journaling Habit and losing hit points over it.

So what did I do next? I went back to sleep. Because I'd already tangibly failed, so why even try?

Stupid I know. I told you, I'm a basket case about this. But that's how I never got out of bed until 12:30 and didn't actually start writing until 4:00 PM.

The good news is, I did snap out of it in time to start writing at 4:00 PM. I snapped out of it, did a little math, and became suddenly determined to do what I hadn't managed to do since first setting up my HabitRPG account: achieve a 5-hour writing day.

Tonight was a scrimmage night. It would be very close. But it was possible. It just meant getting back to work immediately after scrimmage and keeping at it until midnight or a little bit thereafter.

Which is why this blog post comes to you from the Old Chicago in Longmont. I know me, see. I know that if I drive home from derby with all the best intentions, they will nevertheless evaporate the moment collapsing in bed looks like an option. So I decided that collapsing in bed simply wouldn't be an option.

And now it is midnight and my timesheet shows a total of five hours for today. Take that, evildoers! I have achieved a perfect day!

Next up: Driving home without falling asleep on the road. Also the more difficult challenge of falling asleep in bed despite all the coffee I just put into my system. (Arrrrgh.)

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.

In which winning at life is measured in XP and hit points. Also, muttering
Wed 2014-03-05 23:34:00 (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 last night. Worker was perplexed, as roofing as proceeded past the point where leaks should not happen. 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. 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. 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, and it even comes with in-flight movies. I am greatly in favor of sleep.

well in that case nevermind
Wed 2014-02-19 21:34:42 (single post)
  • 3,400 wds. long

So that color-coded comment woe I mentioned yesterday? Because I aspire to be a good Scrivener citizen, I report bugs. And so I find things out.

Apparently it's the Scrivener for Windows manual that is at fault, not Scrivener for Windows itself. It should not have made me promises it could not keep.

During tomorrow's annotations type-in (which will be the last, as I have five copies full of feedback from five workshop members), I'll just need to go into the Appearance options and change the default color to whatever color I want to use for Critter D. Probably blue.

Now my short story revision process involves significantly less right-clicking. Huzzah!

back in high school and it's ok
Thu 2014-02-06 23:41:28 (single post)

This week an errant internet discussion reminded me that I have Ursula K. LeGuin's Steering the Craft on my bookshelf and have not yet read it nor worked through it. This struck me as unfortunate, an oversight to be corrected straightaway.

When I got to the first exercise, I remembered why I bounced off of it previously. LeGuin takes writers through the basic building blocks of the craft; accordingly, the exercises are themselves fairly basic. Here's the very first exercise:

Being Gorgeous: Write a paragraph to a page (150-300 words) of narrative that's meant to be read aloud. Use onomatopoeia, alliteration, repetition, rhythmic effects, made-up words or names, dialect--any kind of sound-effect you like--but NOT rhyme or meter.

I think my past reaction to this sort of thing was, "Please. I'm not in high school anymore."

Which I admit sounds pretty darn arrogant of me. In my defense, I suspect a non-trivial portion of that response was my old adversary, Resistance-To-Writing, in disguise and looking for any excuse to keep me and the blank page apart.

To whatever extent arrogance and resistance played a part, and in which proportion each had a hand, this week I'm making amends. Tuesday I darn well sat down with "Being Gorgeous" and my 25-minute timer and I wrote the beginnings of a really silly ghost story. Wednesday, I fed the next exercise to my freewriting session--a paragraph of 150-350 words without any punctuation--and the results were a sort of eerie musing on the breakneck pace of the unrequited striving that is the human condition.

Now, 150-350 words isn't going to take 25 minutes to write, not even if I think hard about each sentence. So after I'd done the exercise, I considered the questions and thoughts LeGuin follows up the exercises with and babbled about them on the page. And--what do you know?--by doing this faithfully, by genuinely engaging in the exercise, by not deciding ahead of time that I was way beyond this stuff--I came to some unexpected understandings of my process and my relationship to the elements I was obliged to use.

The punctuation-free exercise brought me to these observations:

  • Take away my syntactical pauses, and my tendency will be to try to write as fast as I can! I had to dial that back a bit so I could think about what I was creating.
  • Next my tendency was to try to express my having run out of ideas by means of a stop or a pause. To break out of that, I had to think up some words that lent themselves to forward motion rather than to pausing, and to pushing the idea to its next possible permutation.
  • "Words that lend themselves to forward motion" in practice meant choosing words that complete or continue a clause begun by the previous couple words, such that rather than having a string of clauses clumsily glued together by conjunctions, I was trying for a series of overlapping clauses.
  • The piece began in first person plural ("Then we started..."), but the moment an imperative snuck in ("quick quick jump up higher and higher and reach a bit more just a bit"), I naturally slipped into second person singular ("and you know you'll never get there but you're incapable of ceasing...."). It's a good thing I seem to be able to get away with second person narratives, because it seems to be one of my default storytelling modes.

So these are the thoughts I start having when I give myself permission to just go back to high school already, what are you afraid of, scared you might learn something? Jeez.

PS. In Scrivener, these Daily Idea files got the label "Exercise," because that's what they were and that's how this works.

more scrivenings and some non-scrivenings
Wed 2014-02-05 23:27:53 (single post)

Q: So with all my praise of Scrivener FOR EVERYTHING, FOREVER AND EVER, why am I still composing blog posts in EditPlus?

A: Because I've got EditPlus set up with keyboard shortcuts and macros for HTML, that's why. Why type out a link tag with a new window attribute over and over again when I can just highlight the link text, click CTRL-A, paste in the URL, then click CTRL-1 to add target="_blank" in the appropriate spot?

That said, I would love to be able to keep all my blog posts for, say, Puzzle Pirates Examiner, inside a single Scrivener project. That would be very organized. Now, I know Scrivener lets you reassign preferred keyboard shortcuts to a huge list of commands, but does it have a built-in way to create keyboard macros? That would be keen.

Meanwhile, today I took another walk through all the files in my Daily Ideas project (which goes all the way back to 2009 but thankfully doesn't contain one file for every day since) and assigned labels to them. Most of them are vignettes written to a writing prompt, and as such are labeled "prompt". The ones that used my actual dreams as prompts got labeled "dream", because that's a valuable distinction for me. Any of the above that came out looking like surprisingly well-developed for its origins might have gotten labeled "drafting". On the other extreme, files where I mainly just talked to myself on the page about problems with my current WIP got labeled "brainstorming." There were probably more labels; I was getting punchy by the time I got back to mid-2011.

A lot of the early files turned out to be only a sentence or so. This is because when I started the project, it wasn't so much about daily timed writing as it is now. I started doing it because I wanted to remind myself that ideas aren't scarce. I'd prove it to myself by coming up with a new one every day. So many of the early files are just that: a story idea, jotted down as it occurred to me, without much development.

Many of these, along with longer pieces that struck me as something I'd like to come back to soon, I marked with the status "To Do". I created a search results collection based on that status. Now, when I'm not sure what to write today and the Prompt Pile is empty, I can take a look at the things in that collection, pull one out, and start to make it into the story it deserves to be.

So, yes, Scrivener continues to be really darn useful. But I suppose I've got to admit that it can't do everything.

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