“I can fix a bad page. I can't fix a blank one.”
Nora Roberts

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

stomach churning heart palpitating ARGH but otherwise just great
Thu 2018-02-08 00:21:14 (single post)

Hi. Wow. So, I haven't blogged under the auspices of the Actually Writing Blog for like two weeks now, maybe more. I won't bother making excuses. For the most part I don't really have a good explanation. Or rather, I do, but, as explanations go, they are well-trod subjects that would be boring to rehash. Failure to adequately absorb the impact of roller derby practice on the rest of the week, I guess, plus a large helping of avoidance. Recursive avoidance. That's where you avoid doing the thing that's no big deal, because the thing you're really avoiding comes right after. Then you start avoiding the thing before the no-big-deal thing. And so it goes, like a row of dominoes, until you don't want to get out of bed at all because starting your day will start the one-thing-after-another chain of things inevitably leading up to the thing you're dreading. The thing I'm dreading, of course, because that's who we're talking about here. Anyway, it took me several days of dread and exhaustion to finally just say, fuck the chain of things, let's just skip to the dreaded thing and rip the gods-damned band-aid off.

Also there were multiple dreaded things. Most of them are now done, and aside from the "anxiety! is this what a panic attack feels like? How interesting" aftermath, I'm feeling a lot better now.

So! Actually writing. Since the start of the year, I've written five new flash-length stories! I made the deadline for each week of the 2018 Codex "Weekend Warrior" contest, and I'm looking forward to submitting every single of them for publication in the near future. A couple are almost perfect just as they are, and need only a little tweaking before being publication-ready. (Just my opinion, of course; the editors I submit them to will have the final say.) The rest could use some real revision and probably expansion--not everything needs to be 750 words or shorter--and will probably get submitted a little later in the spring.

I did not make the deadline for the "4x4 contest" on 4thewords. I came very close, but in the last 24 hours of the contest I proceeded as though I had 48 hours remaining, which is because when the good folks behind 4thewords say "January 31 deadline" they don't mean through the 31st, as I would have expected, but rather until. But hell with it. The point of revising the novel isn't to enter its first 4,000 words into a contest. It's to have a fully revised and finished novel which may be entered in the contest that really matters, which is to say, publication. So I plan to come back to it in, I dunno, March I guess? March is the traditional month of NaNoEdMo, so that seems appropriate. Also that gives me the rest of February to decide what to do with my five fresh new flash tales.

So... that's the latest in writing. Tomorrow there will probably be stuff about cooking. (I've been cooking.)

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 sourced from Pixabay.
this fictionette still counts as a win i don't care
Fri 2018-01-05 23:56:28 (single post)

The first Friday Fictionette of 2018 is out on time! It is not out early, and the Wattpad excerpt will have to wait, but the bits that matter are not out late. So there.

The title is "The Ones Who Don't Walk Away Fast Enough" (public excerpt, Patron-only ebook, audiobook). It's ... a thought experiment about a thought experiment, I guess. THOUGHT EXPERIMENT INCEPTION. Which is kind of obnoxiously hypocritical of me because, typically, thought experiments make me grumpy. Why should I inflict one on you? Sure, I got suddenly interested in questions arising from Le Guin's worldbuilding but that's no excuse. THOUGHT EXPERIMENT BAD. HULK SMASH.

Except, writing this fictionette required me to carefully re-read "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" for, I hope, obvious reasons, and, in rereading it, I got less grumpy about it. It's not really a thought experiment at all, is it? It's more of an examination of the limits of thought experiments. But then I've already mouthed off about that in the Author's Note section and spent a stupid amount of time rewriting it for accuracy and brevity, so I'm not going into it further here, thank you very much.

Mind you, I futzed up the cover art. I kept forgetting the title was "The Ones Who..." not "Those Who..." and IT MATTERS, DAMMIT so I will be fixing the cover art tomorrow. This is the level of attention to detail you get for your dollar! Expect no less! Take no substitutes!

(Why tomorrow? Because you don't get that level of attention to detail from me when I'm up past my bedtime.)

So I haven't given up on eventually getting ahead of the Friday Fictionettes schedule. I just haven't gotten there yet. I think the multithreading thing, drafting next week's offering on the same days as revising the one for this week, slowed both processes down. And so the January 5th release came out at just before January 6 O'Clock after all. The various interruptions to my schedule today (and the sudden exhausted nap that became necessary 'round mid-afternoon) had something to do with that, too. But had I not let that misguided attempt at DO ALL THE THINGS bog me down this week, I might have been better able to absorb the interruptions (and the unexpected nap attack). Ah, well, better luck next week.

Except the first Weekend Warrior prompts dropped tonight. Which means I'll be writing a brand new short-short (750 words max) this weekend. So maybe this weekend will only include doing a little and not a lot toward the goal of getting ahead of the fictionette schedule. But, on the bright side, I've got six fresh writing prompts to choose between for this weekend's freewriting. I feel rich! Now if only I can find time on Saturday and Sunday to do that freewriting. (Not to mention the subsequent revising and polishing and uploading.)

just another day on the job
Wed 2018-01-03 23:41:10 (single post)
  • 1,200 wds. long
  • 100 wds. long

Lesson for today: Submitting fiction is no big deal.

With the new year I am renewing a long-term goal of mine, or ideal, that every workday will include a session of what I call submission procedures. This means tending to the business side of being a freelance author of commercial fiction, which is submitting stories to paying markets.

I successfully did this on January 1 by logging a rejection letter for a story I had submitted, then sending that story on again to another market. I successfully did this on January 2 by identifying a market I wanted to submit to, deciding on a story I wanted to submit to it, and determining to rewrite the story so that I could submit it there. (I began that rewrite today. It's currently a drabble; the rewrite will be about 1,000 words.)

I was sort of stumped as to what to do today.

I mean, I can always pull up my list of what's currently out on submission and double-check that there's been no response yet, but that's sort of busywork. I can't do that every day and call it fulfilling the spirit of my resolution. But what did I have that was ready to submit? Nothing, I thought. Everything's either out or I don't know where else to send it and maybe it should be revised or even trunked because clearly it sucks and no one wants it.

This is not a productive state of mind.

Around this point, my mouse happened to hover over the browser tab with the Codex Weekend Warrior 2018 contest discussion in it. (Codex: an online community of pro and semi-pro writers. Weekend Warrior: a high-pressure contest wherein writing prompts appear on Friday and fresh new flash fiction is due on Sunday. You can see a list of previous winners, as well as contest entries that went on to be published, here.) I'm going to be participating in that contest, and I'm kind of nervous that I just might forget to write my first contest entry this weekend, so I've been keeping that tab open.

Now, a common concern of participants is, where am I going to try to publish all these new stories I'll have written for the contest? So several people helpfully listed markets that publish flash fiction.

Reading through those lists, I felt a light-bulb go on in my brain. It's not that I don't have anything ready to submit anywhere. I have a good handful of unpublished drabbles and short-shorts. But somehow I've mentally disqualified them all as "no one wants drabbles" or "this one isn't ready to go out again" or even "this one I've earmarked for rewriting into an interactive fiction piece, so until I do that rewrite I can't send it anywhere."

I've also got this weirdly elevated idea of the very process of submitting fiction. Like, if you're going to send it, you'd better be sure it's perfect and that it's a precise fit for that market and the stars are aligned just right. I'm not sure I consciously realized I had that idea until just now, but, turns out, I do.

Hell with all that, I thought, and sent two pieces out to two different flash-publishing markets in quick succession. One's a drabble about a unicorn that no one's seen except SpeckLit, who didn't publish it (and who have closed since then anyway). The other's the dimension-hopping flash piece that I want to rewrite as interactive fiction but that's no reason for it to sit on its hands all bored and stuff waiting for me to get around to it.

So I have successfully included Submission Procedures on day 3 of 2018. And it was No Big Deal.

not with a bang but i defy you to say i'm whimpering
Sat 2017-12-30 01:27:56 (single post)

Speaking of holidays, what with being in the middle of an ongoing parade of them, turns out thanks to the Friday Fictionettes project I've made up my own personal recurring holiday: Fifth Fridays. I only do a release every first through fourth Friday, so the fifth Friday is a day off. It only today occurred to me to really treat it like a day off--not just from Friday Fictionettes, but from writing. Like, total holiday. Guilt-free. I don't really have a system of holidays in place for myself; Winter Solstice excepted, and that only through necessity, I tend to hold myself to a full workday Monday through Friday regardless of the calendar. So why not explicitly give myself permission take fifth Fridays off?

And boy howdy did I treat it like a day off. I stayed in bed an inordinately long time rereading Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation (inspired by seeing the trailer for the movie release in March; I'm excited about it, even though I have no illusions as to its likelihood to match the book for pure brooding weirdness), getting up only when necessary to run my Boulder Food Rescue grocery delivery shift. Then, after that and a bit of dinner, I did get a couple writing tasks done, but not a heck of a lot. Converting this morning's dream into a coherent narrative. Typing up the second Fictionette Artifact owing from October. Reminding myself I am not to feel guilty over getting nothing else done. Holiday!

Despite my work-from-home flexible schedule, I don't really get to sleep in very often. At least, I shouldn't. I can't get a good workday in if I'm not up by at least eight, and my weekends have their own morning obligations. So today was a bit of a treat.

It was, or would have been, my last workday of 2017. The occasion inspires a bit of introspection. And introspection sort of hurts. I mean, I sucked at producing new fiction in December. I flat out failed. I never completed the new story nor got to work editing anything in the revision queue. On the other hand, I stayed on track with daily tasks; other than today and the two days I took off for Winter Solstice, I haven't missed a day of freewriting. I'm nearly a full week ahead on Friday Fictionettes. So that's nothing to sneeze at.

January is going to be busy. I am going to be participating in two, count 'em, two contests, for both of which the chance of winning is much less important than the motivation to Do A Writing Thing. To wit:

Codex Weekend Warrior 2018: I belong to the Codex online writing community, and one of the benefits of that is several contests every year to help motivate you to write, revise, and submit fiction. (If you like the sound of that, maybe you should join Codex. Check it out.) Weekend Warrior is a flash fiction contest that happens every January. Prompts go up on Fridays, you submit a flash fiction based on one of those prompts by Sunday, and during the week you read and rate each others' stories. The winner is the writer who, by the end of the contest, has the highest score based on these ratings--but, again, everyone who participates is a winner because they've got up to five new flash stories they can then polish up and try to sell. For example, my story "Other Theories of Relativity" was originally a Weekend Warrior contestant.

4thewords "4 for 4" contest: The announcement begins, "Since you wrote so many words during the month of November, we want to help you edit those words, spend some time with them, and polish them for future use." Members are encouraged to polish up the first four chapters or first 4,000 words (whichever is shorter) of their novels and publish them to the READ section (you must be logged in to access the READ section of 4thewords). Other participants will read these offerings, comment on them, and rate them. (There will be a "best comment" award, to encourage sincerity and brilliance in that activity as well.) Prizes include cash, in-game currency, and special in-game wardrobe items--but, again, the real prize, as far as I'm concerned, is getting a jump-start on editing my novel.

So that's what'll be keeping me busy for a good chunk of January 2018.

As far as New Year's Resolutions go: Write more! Finish more stories! Submit more things! Start shopping a novel around! Except, other than that last one, these are all admirable but really ill-defined goals. I need to think about how to make them more specific so that they're challenging yet reasonably achievable. I'll get back to you on that come January 1, how about it?

Cover art incorporates public domain vector images from Pixabay and Public Domain Pictures.net
this fictionette is entering a world of longer days and shorter nights
Fri 2017-12-22 23:43:20 (single post)

As hoped for and expected, the Friday Fictionette for December 22, 2017 did not suffer for the two days I took off from writing for Yuletide preparations, observance, and clean-up. It is out and ready for your perusal, should that sound like a good time to you. It's called, "The Croquet Lawn, and What They Found There." Here's your usual bouquet of links: ebook ($1/month patrons), audiobook ($3/month patrons), and teaser excerpt (available to all). It is about portals and why you might not want to go through them. Also entomophobia, nicknames for golden retrievers, and needing to buy a new Christmas tree.

It's the Christmas edition of Friday Fictionettes. Well, sort of. I mean, there's a Christmas tree in it. Only there isn't, but that's the whole point, really. Nothing that should have been in that closet is there, and a whole lot of something that oughtn't to be is. Portal fantasy, y'all.

All the above-mentioned Yuletide preparations went to plan. All the food got cooked, sampled, and declared delicious. I now have a lot of leftover pie, which takes care of the majority of my meals for the next three days. Egg nog got drunk on rum. People got drunk on rum. People came over! Some people stayed until very late at night! It was swell.

I even managed to convince my Pandora station to behave and play me songs like "The Holly King" and "Dark Mother." (Also a bunch of random Celtic tunes, a selection of Arthuriana set to harp and guitar, and a whole lot of Loreena McKennitt. Which near misses beat the heck out of random Pete Seeger. "I hear you like folk music so I brought you some folk music." That's nice, Pandora. Good try.) But I didn't end up listening to it much once I stopped cooking, because by then I was either socializing or playing Rock Band.

I played a lot of Rock Band. Rock Band got me through those final few hours after the last guests left (around... 3:30 AM? Maybe?) and John went to sleep (ditto) and staying awake became a real struggle. On the downside, my left wrist is extra sore from curving awkwardly around the controller to get to the overdrive trigger. (Also from mildly spraining it doing dishes the next day.) On the plus side, I've gotten a lot better at sight-reading for pro keys.

Then the sun came up and I went down. I woke briefly as John was leaving for work. He gave me the news that scrimmage had been canceled due to icy roads and stupidly cold temperatures. So it turned out I had only two things to do with my Thursday: 1. Clean up after the party. 2. Continue improving my Rock Band 3 scores. I did those things. In quantity.

And then today happened and I got back to work. For the results of which, I refer you to the first two paragraphs of this blog post.

In addition to my regular Friday writing tasks, I had my very first solo Boulder Food Rescue (BFR) groceries delivery. I've just started volunteering with them. My roller derby league turned me on to them; they were on the list of community organizations which members were encouraged to go pitch in with toward the end of the year. I joined them as a last-minute volunteer sous chef for their "lunch bunch" event back at the beginning of December, and subsequently decided I'd like to work with them more. So I went to the orientation last week, shadowed one of their veteran volunteers Monday morning, and had my first solo shift this afternoon.

It went OK! I arrived at the donor grocery, loaded up the BFR bike trailer with some 150 pounds of donated produce, and rode that sucker the couple miles up to the recipient community. The delivery was a success. I did not bump the trailer into any cars, curbs, or people. The bike did not fall over in what was left of the ice and snow. No food fell off the trailer. One volunteer fell over once trying to get off the bike, having forgotten that the bike's crossbar was too high for her usual dismount maneuver, but she picked herself up again and carried on.

BFR are pretty well known around here, and their trailers are distinctive. Several people recognized the trailer while I was sorting the food, loading it up, or riding it to its destination, and they thanked me. I didn't know what to say. I thanked them back and wished them a good evening. It was awkward and sweet and it kind of made me glow.

I like the gig so far. I'm going to do it again next week.

but none of the ducks will go the f&!$ to sleep
Wed 2017-12-20 01:10:52 (single post)

All right, I think I've got enough ducks in a row to keep from losing my mind tomorrow. Losing my mind on the afternoon of Solstice Eve is a part of the tradition I could really, really do without. To avoid losing my mind as best I can, I have...

gotten most of the groceries although I still need to run out tomorrow for evergreen branches and holly, and batteries for the wii, and also make my CSA pick-up at the Diaz Farm

cleaned most of the house at least the bits guests will see, well, at least those areas that I hadn't already cleaned within the last two months or so

meticulously planned my cooking down to the hour so that I won't be juggling "OMG why won't the broth for the pie roux cook down already" with "please tell me I didn't put salt instead of sugar in the egg nog" (true story) and "SUNSET IN 15 MINUTES GET THE FIRE READY"

...You know how it is. Meanwhile, I'm still trying to coax a good playlist out of Pandora, one that's both seasonal and unmistakably Pagan--and I don't mean Pagan lyrics filked onto Christmas carols. No, not even the carols that were arguably Pagan in the first place. I don't want the music playing in this house during this very definitely Pagan event to bear any resemblance at all to what I've been hearing in every retail establishment since early November. If I can't shut off Cultural Hegemony Radio for the duration of the longest night in my own home, when and where the heck can I?

Unfortunately, Pandora isn't really the best tool for what I'm trying to do. It's very good at Generic Pagan-Friendly Playlist--I mean, just throw together Gaia Consort and Avalon Rising and Womansong Chorus and the like--but it's not so good for subject matter refinements. I'm getting a bit too much Beltane and not enough Yule. It'll do in a pinch, but I might get a little more hands-on if I've any time to play with it tomorrow.

Writing-wise, I am not expecting much out of myself tomorrow or on Thursday. I'm going to do enough to keep up my 4thewords streak, maybe post a couple brief check-ins on this blog here, but anything beyond that can go hang. I will be on holiday vacation. Sort of vacation. In any case, my priorities will be elsewhere.

It's just as well I finished drafting this week's Friday Fictionette today. That's right. Drafting done on a Tuesday. Woot, bam and other triumphant sound effects. Even if I get nothing done again until Friday, the release will be on time.

And then I get next week off because it is a fifth Friday. Whoo-hoo! A chance to get ahead of schedule--for real this time! I mean it! This time I've got 4thewords on my side. Like I said the other day, I often find myself at the end of writing task with some 400 words left to go on my current battle. Finding another 400 words at short notice is easy when I've got story seeds for future Friday Fictionettes lined up a month or more in advance. Also--oh, hey, I remember now--there's this new story I'm supposed to be working on and might actually get back to once the holiday madness is behind me.

People ask me "Got any plans for Christmas?" and I'm all like, "Nothing much, just recovering from the holiday I actually celebrate." And between the party and the all-nighter, recovery will be necessary. I mean, just for comparison, when I was a kid, my parents told me to go to sleep so Santa could arrive. They told me to go to sleep early. But now I'm all grown up and I celebrate Winter Solstice such that my goal is not to go to sleep. Christmas was easy, y'all. All-nighters are hard.

With that in mind, why the hell am I still awake? It's not like morning's going to come any later to make up for it. I'm out. See you on Solstice Eve.

the rest of the story about the other story sale; also the whole story about this solstice
Fri 2017-12-15 00:33:19 (single post)
  • 2,850 wds. long

Regular readers of this blog will remember me making happy yet vague noises recently about having sold two stories for reprint. I was finally able to share more information about one of them Tuesday night, the publisher having given me permission that day to do so. Well, the publisher buying the other one got back to me today; therefore, this announcement:

"First Breath," originally published in Ellen Datlow's Blood and Other Cravings anthology, will be podcast in 2018 by the audio horror fiction magazine Tales to Terrify. Tales to Terrify is part of the District of Wonders Podcast Network, including also Far-Fetched Fables and the Hugo Award winning StarShipSofa. If you take a listen to any of those podcasts, I think you'll agree that the prospect of hearing my story produced by one of them next year is very exciting.

I don't know exactly when in 2018; the podcast schedule is not yet set. Once I know, I'll pass the happy knowledge on.

In local news, we're planning to hold our semi-traditional Winter Solstice Yule Log Vigil and All-Night Open House between the hours of sunset on Wednesday, December 20 (when we set the yule log on fire) and sunrise on Thursday, December 21 (when I and anyone else still around and awake will briefly cheer for the victory of the Sun after the passing of the longest night before finally falling asleep). If you are reading this and you'll be around, come on over for as long or as little as you'd like. No need to RSVP. Ping me for the address if you don't already know it.

In terms of clock time, Google tells me that sunset on the 20th will be at 4:39 PM, and that sunrise on Solstice morning will be at 7:20 AM. When I make the Facebook event page tomorrow, that's how I'll fill in the blanks for start and end times.

Considering what I've got for a yule log this year, I suspect it won't last the whole night through. But we've got plenty of other firewood to burn, so it's cool. Don't worry, Sun! We won't let the fire go out! We're here to help you get home!

I will cook some collection of yummy seasonally festive things. Potluck offerings of food and drink happily accepted but not required. The board game collection will be available. Fibercrafts will likely happen; feel free to bring yours and spin/knit/crochet along. If folks want to have a story-telling/read-aloud thing happen, that would be seasonally appropriate too. I will warm up the Rock Band set and place it at everyone's disposal. I'll have a Solstice music playlist for back-up tunes. There might even be roller derby footage watching. I mean, consider the likely majority demographic.

What there won't be is a lot of writing. I mean, not from me. Not regular workday writing. I expect I'll do enough to keep up my 4thewords streak, but for the most part Wednesday and Thursday will be holidays for me. Besides, there's no way I'm going to get a full work day in and also prepare for the party and/or sleep off the all-nighter. (Which isn't to say that, should a bunch of writers come over who were inspired to hold an impromptu write-in, I'd say no. I would definitely not say no to that.)

In some previous years, I've held out an open offer to drive carpool to Drumming Up the Sun at Red Rocks. I am emphatically not offering that this time around. I'm trying to ease my way back into this after taking a couple years off. It wouldn't do to bite off more than I could chew. But if you want to take in the most spectacular sunrise you're likely to see all year in company of a couple hundred Denver-area Pagans, that's going to be happening Thursday morning. You'll want to get to Red Rocks at least a half-hour before sunrise if you're doing that.

And that's the news, and I am outta here.

forward brave dust warriors - for the words!
Wed 2017-11-15 00:31:19 (single post)

Sometimes, you have to ask yourself: Is there room for more gamification in your workday? And the answer is YES. There is always more room for gamification in my workday.

I just joined 4thewords.

Like Habitica, 4thewords is a self-improvement role-playing game. But instead of being checklist-based like Habitica, it's word-count based. It's very simple: You pick a monster and you fight it. You fight it by completing X amount of words in Y minutes. For instance, right now at this very minute I am fighting a Wignow. Wignows are fuzzy and fangy and pop-eyed and cute. They come in many varieties. You beat the plain ones by writing 250 words in 20 minutes. When you hit the target word-count, you get your reward. Then, if you are so moved, you do it again.

Actually, there's a lot more to 4thewords than that. It's a complete RPG with quests, markets, the crafting of simple objects into more complex ones, maps of different regions with their own particular challenges and monsters and quests, and limited-time events as the calendar inevitably proceeds forward through its allotment of days.

We are, as you might imagine, in the middle of one such limited-time event, that being NaNoWriMo. There's a brand new region to explore and quests that will go away when December comes, so you can imagine I'm all fired up to beat all the monsters and solve all the quests.

Which means I'm writing all the words.

I'm looking forward to writing all the words. I am looking forward to them the way I usually look forward to taking an earned break to play Two Dots or Puzzle Pirates or solve another jigsaw sudoku. 4thewords has made writing itself into the alluring and addictive time-sink I can't wait to get back to, just like it always should have been.

This is new.

I've used every bit of today's writing to battle monsters and win stuff. Well, everything but the Morning Pages. Everything else. Freewriting (629 words), this week's fictionette draft (1000 words), today's NaNoWriMo progress (1844 words), today's blog post and all the blog backlog (which I finally completed, though I still need to upload it and backdate it). I wrote about 4500 words today--or more like 5000 if you consider this bit since crossing midnight "today."

And I want to write more because there are so many quests to complete!

I'm completely astounded by how effective this game is at getting me to do what I'm already supposed to want to do but have spent so many cumulative hours of my life avoiding. I never thought I could be this motivated by basically an online word-counting application.

If all this burble and glee has got you intrigued, then you should probably visit 4thewords and sign up. Caveat: It is not free. It is, at its most expensive, $4/month. You pay for subscriptions with in-game items called "core crystals," and you can buy crystals in bulk at a discount, lowering the monthly price to something like $2 and change. But the first month is free, and you get full functionality during that month so you can better evaluate whether it's worth your while.

Spoiler: I am totally going to subscribe.

Anyway, if you do sign up, feel free to use my referral code: XABFN67843 to get 20 core crystals free right from the get-go when you make your first actual payment (and, full disclosure, to earn me 44 of 'em at that time, too, but no pressure). And you can send me a friend request! I'm "vortexae" just like on Habitica (and on far too many BBS systems going back to the mid-90s).

I guess I'm done for the night. Until tomorrow, when I plan to defeat a large number of monsters in Luciola Forest and at Uurwall's Marionette Carnival!

but these words are also words
Tue 2017-08-15 01:23:31 (single post)

This is a blog post about self-accountability, self-appreciation, and word count. What words count? All words count. Because I wrote them, and I can count them.

Someone in one of my Habitica guilds created us a new guild Challenge--a set of Habits, Dailies, and To-Dos for us to add to our personal dashboards and compete with one another in completing. Or, more likely (knowing us), compete with ourselves and root each other on. These were, of course, writing challenges--hence my bothering telling you so. The hope was that as a result we'd also see more activity in Guild Chat, which had been mostly hitherto abandoned for Party Chat. This was unfortunate, because not everyone in our Guild is in the Party. Some of them are in other Parties, and you can't be in more than one Party at one time. So our friend created this Guild challenge.

The Challenge included some Habits which were daily word-count milestones: 100 words, 250, 750, and 1500. I wanted to participate, but up until then I hadn't really tracked word count per day--not outside of NaNoWriMo, anyway. I was only tracking hours per day spent on each day's writing tasks.

So I started tracking word count. I added a new column to my timesheet and started noting the amount of words written as well as the amount of time spent on each task.

Purely editing tasks weren't compatible with this, but it's amazing how few of my tasks are purely editing. I started noting how many words I'd added to that week's fictionette. I started noting how many words happened during freewriting. I even started jotting down the word-count of the daily blog post.

And I felt a little uneasy about this. Should I really "count" the words written in freewriting or blogging? Shouldn't I only count words written in new story drafts? Seriously, wasn't I just gaming the system?

Well, no. Not so much. What I was actually doing was giving myself an extra incentive to do my daily writings tasks. Furthermore, I was giving myself an excuse to celebrate having accomplished those tasks. And I needed that excuse, because the very fact of my questioning whether they "counted" revealed a nasty habit of self-sabotage.

I had convinced myself that some writing "didn't count." I'd convinced myself that I didn't deserve to feel proud of myself for accomplishing certain tasks. I could feel guilty for failing to accomplish them, but I wasn't allowed to celebrate succeeding. They didn't "count" as accomplishments.

Basically, it was the same ugly attitude I remember in my grandmother. I was very young and, in the way of the very young, acutely aware of parental injustice real and imagined. In this case, I maintain even now, it was real. I had noticed that she was swift to punish me for breaking her labyrinthine rules of etiquette and politeness, while my behaving well earned me merely neutral treatment. Basically, the best I could hope to earn with my very best behavior was not being punished. This seemed unfair. My very best behavior wasn't easy! I just wanted to know she appreciated the effort. But she said "Why should I reward you for doing what you ought to be doing already?"

(To be fair, this is the same argument we feminists use against men who demand gratitude and and a steady girlfriend as a reward for not having raped anyone. To be even more fair, these men are adults and theoretically no longer in the stage of childhood where they still need to be taught what good behavior is, or where they feel rewarded by any attention at all and so it behooves parents to reward good behavior with positive attention. Also, we aren't their parents.)

So, yeah. I'd come to define certain writing tasks as "what I ought to be doing already," so when I did them, I didn't think it much to brag on. Doing them wasn't enough to save me from the self-loathing of "Call yourself a writer? When did you last work on a salable story, huh? What have you done for your career lately?" ... it was only enough to reduce the self-loathing to "Well, at least you did something. You're not totally hopeless, I guess."

Which is no way to live.

At one point a while back, I had a big difficult email to write--lots of effort, difficult topic, project I had no enthusiasm for---and I resented the way it was going to crowd out my real writing hours. I decided that since it was writing, of a sort, I might as well count it toward my daily timesheet. If I had to do it, I might as well consider its hours as counting toward my 5-hour goal rather than bemoan its putting that goal out of reach.

Today I also had a difficult email to write. And I had a similar epiphany: Maybe I could break through the resistance by reclassifying it as one of this afternoon's writing tasks. I would put it on my timesheet, log the hours spent writing it, and also log the word count. Then I'd actually get something out of the ordeal besides the frustration of having lost the time I could have spent working on, say, my new story for Podcastle's Halloween-themed submission window.

So that's how an extra 3 hours 15 minutes and 1600 words got added to today's tally of writing done and words written. They weren't easy words or hours, so I'm damn well going to count them. (Also I spent about 20 minutes and 400-some words brainstorming on the Halloween submission, so win-win.)

I'm not going to get silly. I'm not going to start counting my hours spent and words written on reading blogs and writing comments thereon. But I'm not going to discount writing accomplishments anymore simply because they aren't the right shape. All the words count because I wrote them. I wrote them because they were worth writing. If they were worth writing, they damn well count. OK? OK.

This blog post is 1,051 words long and took 45 minutes to write. And that was worth writing, too.

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