4600 words long
after two weeks this is the blog post you get
Hello the blog! It's been a while. Er. Sorry? But I'm back, at least for now.
There were a lot of factors that, multiplied together, produced a couple of pretty pathetic weeks around here. The big one was roller derby. Are you suprised? Nobody is surprised. Well, I'm a little surprised. I mean, yes, two back-to-back tournament weekends, sure, but what about the weekdays in between them? Where the hell did they go?
I've also been caught up in the tedious and terribly familiar down-the-drain roundabout that happens when I get behind on my work. You know this song, right? The first verse is where you know you're late and you hate yourself for being late and if you had any worth as a person and a writer you wouldn't be late. In the second verse, all the bad feelings built up in the first verse form a Humongous Wall of Avoidance between you and catching up on all the late stuff, and by the end of that verse you're later still. During the bridge you lament all the other writing tasks you're not getting to because you have to give the late stuff priority. The third verse is just the second verse over again, louder, and it repeats until fade-out (studio version) or until the audience gets sick of it and goes home without requesting an encore (live version).
I am not going to say anything as decisive as "But I'm all done with that now!" Whenever I do that, then the next day I tend to crumple under the weight of expectation. But I will say, without making any predictions that might emotionally or mentally jeopardize my tomorrow, that I had a damn good today.
Friday Fictionettes: To make Mt. Overdue easier to climb, I decreed that release dates in June 2017 would be the 2nd through 5th Fridays (there is a fifth Friday). Then I proceeded to miss the June 9/2nd Friday deadline. It's all good, though; I've posted it this morning. Then I went on to knock a typewritten page off the top of the overdue Fictionette Artifact stack and also to log the first session towards this Friday's release. So everything is either A) caught up, or B) hopeful.
Short Stories: "Caroline's Wake" came home yesterday with a form rejection. I processed that today in the usual type-a manner then sent the story out to the next market on my wish list that was open to submissions.
Daily Freewriting: I did it. So there.
Household crap: Paid bills. Dealt with dishes both clean and dirty. Cleaned up the produce drawer in the fridge according to good sanitation and food rotation protocols. Ate a big ol' pot of lentils with mixed greens because they are full of magnesium and protein and iron and stuff and also I have a lot of them--CSA is back in session! And I rode my bike to pick up this week's share because the weather was beautiful and exercise is good.
Roller derby: Travel team practice. In consideration of their hard work at the tournament this past weekend, most of the All Stars (A-team) took the night off. So tonight was primarily the Bombshells (B-team) preparing for our June 24th bout. I got something like two and a half solid hours working closely with the other blockers in my "pod" and we all practiced both playing offense on an opposing wall and resisting offense played on our wall.
I've also started coming in an hour early for extra individual skills work. It started out with just Papa Whiskey fine-tuning my plow-stops and blocking form last week, then another skater joined us this week, and a third skater expressed interest in joining us next week. I've taken to calling it "pre-practice study group."
So. That comes to four hours on Tuesdays. But I feel awesome. I'm on skates, I'm part of a team, I'm rostered for the upcoming bout, and I have a home on a pod within that roster. Skating is life. Life is good.
Not gonna lie, I was disappointed not to get rostered with the All Stars for these two tournaments. But, surprisingly, the not-getting-rostered blues wasn't the big deal. I mean, yeah, I had to process my disappointment, sure, take some time to myself to grieve the version of tomorrow I wasn't gonna get. But then I had to put that aside and prepare for the tomorrow I was getting, the one where I got to assist the coaching staff and cheer on my team and participate in all the team stuff surrounding the games.
No, I'll tell you what the big deal was. THE big deal was not skating at the tournaments and not skating at weekend practice, either, because I was at the tournaments I wasn't skating in. It's not just that roller derby skaters need to skate, and not putting on skates for a week at a time hearts their hearts. It's that, on the one hand, you're not "good enough" to be on the main roster, but on the other hand, you're also not getting a chance to improve, because you had to miss practice to be an alternate in the tournament you're not on the main roster for! Arrrrgh.
Now, us two alternates, we did end up getting rostered once. It was for the Saturday morning game at Mayday Mayhem, which two of the regular skaters got called away from because of work. A couple blockers had to jam, so a couple more blockers were needed to take their place in their lines. I think I wound up playing in two, maybe three jams. I don't know. Not the point. Point was, I got to be a skating member of the team for one game. I participated in the team's on-skates warm-up, which made up a little for not having a Sunday practice that weekend. I got to put on skates! For the first time that whole weekend! It felt so damn good.
So that's why a four-hour Tuesday practice is awesome, and why I'm contemplating attending the optional Wednesday practice too. Because skating is life, and skating better makes life better.
And also there won't be practice on Father's Day, so I'm making up for lost time in both directions.
Anyway, that's where I'm at.
Oh, good grief, is it nearly 1 AM already? *sigh* Why only 24 hours in a day? Why haven't they patched that bug yet?
oh hey i get it now ha ha ha *sob*
Or, Why Nicolejleboeuf.com Went Dark Over the Weekend.
Chapter 1: We Are Careful
The domain was paid through March 18. I got multiple reminders of this. And I did not ignore them! But I had faith in the auto-renewal system. Which is to say: Check the "auto-renew" box, ensure that a valid credit card is on file, and voila, the renewal fee would be paid at the time of expiration and my domain would continue active without interruption.
I double-checked these things. The "auto-renew" box was checked. The credit card on file was the household Mastercard, whose expiry date was still more than a year distant.
So far, so good.
Chapter 2: We Register For Worldcon
You remember my unbridled enthusiasm when the Hugo voter packet became available? Of course you do. But to become a Hugo voter I had to first become a World Con Supporting Member.
On the evening of March 17, I set out to do just that.
For reasons unknown to me, my credit card was declined. To make sure I hadn't typo'd my credit card number or anything, I attempted the payment again. A second time my credit card was declined. I tried a third time, just to make sure it wasn't an email address mismatch. Nope, even using the email address associated with that credit card's billing information, it was declined.
It is probably relevant that Worldcon is in Helsinki this year.
So. What happens when your credit card company detects three failed international purchase attempts? Why, your credit card company, who cares very much about you (but possibly cares more about their own liability in the case of identity theft), cries "Possible fraud!" And, quicker than you can say No, no, I meant to do that, your account gets frozen until such time as you can reassure the credit card company that no, no, you meant to do that.
Did I hurry to reassure them so? Of course not. I just tried a different card instead, and when that payment went through on the first go, "All's well that ends well," I said, and ran off to download all those delicious Hugo finalists.
The credit card in question was the household Mastercard. But you probably guessed that by now.
Chapter 3: Time Waits For No One
Thursday the 18th was the last day my domain was paid through.
Friday the 19th, the auto-renew attempt occurred.
Which, thanks to the misadventures detailed in Chapter 2 of this volume, failed.
And that, skaters and gentlefen, is why NicoleJLeBoeuf.com was unavailable Saturday morning.
Chapter 4: IP Help Desks Wait Forever
And it was unavailable until today because apparently reinstating expired but paid-up web domains (I paid the moment I discovered the error, Saturday morning) isn't a priority with my IP's billing department. Also, when they finally got back to me, they called me by someone else's name and referred to someone else's domain, because that is the kind of personalized customer service you can expect with my IP.
Still, the domain is back, as you can see for yourself, what with you reading this blog post housed thereon. So. All's well that ends well.
The moral of the story is...
Don't wait on the auto-renew. When the first "domain expiring soon!" email comes in, just pay the damned thing.
Alternately: Don't wait until the day before your domain's expiration date to buy your Worldcon registration. At least, not if Worldcon is in a different country than the one you reside in.
Or maybe just don't use the same credit card for both purposes, if you can manage it.
In any case... Hey, here's the Friday Fictionette I released Saturday! It's called "This Time We Play for All the Marbles" (full text in ebook, audiobook formats which Patrons may download). Thanks to the previous one being so very late, I had only a couple days to create this one from scratch to final. And even still I might have managed an on-time release if I hadn't realized too late that I'd brought a novel-length idea to a flash-fiction party. So I had to take another night to mull over how much of the huge amounts of backstory I could fit in, and how much I needed to fit in, and how to sneak in the bits I couldn't quite justify leaving out. I think the final release has turned out acceptable and comprehendible, but you'll have to be the judge of that.
This week is going much better. Having released last week's fictionette only one day late rather than five, I have the luxury of a whole work-week to figure out this week's offering. I was also able today to make inroads on the overdue Fictionette Artifacts (halfway done with February!), and had time to revise "Caroline's Wake" and send it out to the next market on its wishlist. Yes! Finally! I'm working on non-fictionette projects again! Bang the drums and sound the horns, chill the champaign and polish the crystal goblets!
Why, yes I am unreasonably cheerful about this. Y'all, I got to come home from Sunday's roller derby practice and hurl myself across the bed and allow sweet unconsciousness to claim me for hours, and there were no guilt-voices to nag away at me. (Well, there were, but only as a matter of habit. They were entirely unjustified.) And today I have done all the things I could hope to do with a Tuesday, writing and roller derby and household finances and email correspondence and groceries and a home-cooked meal besides.
And my author's domain is active again. Which means I could submit a short story to a prospective market and know that the submission system's automatic "We have received your submission" missive wouldn't bounce, but would land successfully in my inbox for me to file in the appropriate subfolder in Thunderbird. And I could then log the submission in my personal database, also housed here at NicoleJLeBoeuf.com.
In every way I could hope for, I am back in business.
Of course I'm pleased!
kicking off the new year with a fizzle
A thousand apologies, but all things fictionette will be late again. Nothing bad happened; I just got to work on things too late, and now it's nearly midnight. Expect fulfillment this weekend or, at the latest, Monday.
Probably I should have just excused myself from both this one and last one, seeing as how they're both on holidays. And of course I've been on vacation. I only just got back late last night. (It was a very nice homecoming. John brought me home from the airport and then immediately began pressing me to stuff my face with his homemade bread, and homemade chocolate chip cookies, and homemade spaghetti sauce. Best homecoming ever.) One of these days I really must stop overestimating the amount of work I can get done while on vacation, or at a roller derby tournament, or at a convention. One of these days.
Vacation is over, though, and it's back to everyday things, chief among them writing and roller derby. ("What have you been up to lately?" "Oh, writing. Roller derby. Video games. And more writing. And more roller derby." This is my life.)
On the skating front, three of us were at the practice space in below-freezing weather just because we love being on wheels. John, in his derby persona of Head Coach Papa Whiskey, gave us some agility drills to try and helped us improve our hockey stops. Then we're all having a party tomorrow night to celebrate the end of one season and the beginning of another. Then we have our last off-season Sunday morning practice. Team practices begin this week, and I'll be going to all the All Stars and Bombshells practices that I can manage, because the results of the latest travel team try-outs is that I'm an A/B crossover again. Woot!
On the writing front, my immediate goal is getting "Down Wind" ready for submission. The response to my submission of "Caroline's Wake" to that market was, indeed, a rejection, but such a complimentary one! Such lovely things they had to say! I sent it along to somewhere else, a prestigious market that's always been a long shot--but if any story of mine was worth a long-shot chance, this one's it. Anyway, that means I'm free to send something new to the market that rejected it. But I've only got until January 15, so I'll have to get to work right away.
(I did not work on any short fiction other than fictionettes in New Orleans. Vacation!)
I am also having thoughts of rereading, and reworking, Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, because it's been a few years since I've done that. I think it might be time to do it again. But about that, more later.
Oh, hey--happy new year!
mothballing the mourning wardrobe
Today was indeed more productive than yesterday. "Caroline's Wake" got a small amount of fine-tuning (turned out to need less than I anticipated); then it got sent out into the world to meet a new bunch of editor-type people. It feels good, having sent it out again. It's what a writer's supposed to do. And it occasions new hope.
The common advice is, "Never let a manuscript sleep over." That is to say, the moment a rejection comes in, take that story and send it somewhere else immediately. Have a list of places you want to send it, and just send it to the next place on your list. This is very smart from a business perspective: your story, once completed, is a product, and you need to keep trying to sell that product. But it's also smart from an emotional standpoint. It helps the writer end the mourning period and start afresh.
Of course there's a mourning period. Rejections occasion grief. They signal the death of a hope. No, not the Death of Hope, nothing that grand or melodramatic--but the demise of a very particular hoped-for outcome. There was a possibility that the story would be published by a specific market; the rejection signals that the possibility is no more.
So, OK, a writer can grieve. But a writer can also move on. Submitting the story to the next place is how to do that. Also working on the next story.
The next story is "Down Wind," which needs more of an overhaul than "Caroline" did. It needs section breaks and more of a textual differentiation between the three characters' points of view. It probably needs more than that, but I won't know until I pull it out and read it over. Which is next on my agenda!
wine, disappointment, ambition, persistence, more wine
Got off to a slow start today. Might have been because it was so cold out--Boulder finally got some snow, and snow makes me want to hibernate. Could also have something to do with the righteously exhausting roller derby practice I had last night. In any case, I slept late, I dawdled a bit, I moved very slowly.
But here's where I'm at now: Two thirds the way through today's NaNoWriMo chunk-o-text, three-and-a-half hours of my workday five done, two half-glasses of red wine toward silly, and one new rejection letter to file away.
Alas, after triumphing over my year of resistance with a gorgeous completed revision, I ultimately received a rejection letter for "Caroline's Wake" from the editor who'd invited me to submit that rewrite. If you also do this freelance fiction writing thing, you won't be too shocked, I hope. This is a thing that happens. A revision request isn't necessarily a promise to buy the results. In fact, it's almost never a promise to buy. It's disappointing, of course, but the story's much better for the revision. It'll have a better chance next time I send it out than it would have had previously.
I won't send it out immediately. The rejection letter included some feedback that gave me pause. I'll see if I can't do some small tweaks in response to that feedback to prevent the problem cited from being a problem for the next slush reader who sees it.
No, the rejection letter did not drive me to drink. Please do not think that. It's just, wine is tasty, and I have some wine here, and I have nowhere to be tonight. Wine pairs nicely with popcorn. Popcorn seasoned with Cajun Land and curry powder. With red wine. My NaNoWriMo characters are also drinking red wine. I have to keep them company.
Where was I? Ah. Yes. So...
I'm also giving some serious thought to converting another story of mine to a form of interactive fiction. There's a brand new web-zine out there, Sub-Q, the interactive magazine for interactive fiction, and they're hungry for submissions. I think "Keeping Time" would be perfect for them, but it needs some work to at least prepare an interactivity proposal. I should probably play a little with Twine just to get a feel for what the kids these days are doing. But I'm thinking something like travelogue-style pop-ups for items and people whom the main character interacts with, a constant sense of the passage of time despite time being weird when you continue on a one-way trip through different worlds, maybe some choice as to which worlds the character visits but with a certain inevitability about the ultimate outcome...
I don't know. I'm still brainstorming.
But not tonight. Tonight I still need to log about 900 more words on the NaNoWriMo novel. And it's nearly midnight, so, really, I need to get back to it.
I do wish the room wasn't spinning so. Stupid wine. Tasty, tasty, stupid wine.
a whole thunder of stuff done rolled
Behold! Two short stories went winging to their respective targets. Two of them! And all my writing for the day, except for this blog post, done before five pee-em. Folks, I am on fire.
John very kindly allowed me to read "Caroline's Wake" to him, which, given its length, meant the donation of more than half an hour plus some engaged discussion. He is a fantastic writer-support spouse. All the kudos. It was his first time experiencing this particular story, so he was able to offer a fresh perspective on whether it made sense, whether the characters were acting like real people, and whether things the right emotional weight was present. These are all things I worry about when a lot of slicing and dicing goes on between drafts. While "killing your darlings" it's possible to also kill some hard-working support structures. When vital pillars and buttresses go missing, it helps to have someone around to notice.
Speaking of killing your darlings, he also suggested I cut the final paragraph. The one about the crocus heralding a mild winter. Dammit. OK. I cut it, because the requesting editor said the exact same thing (or at the very least she suggested that it shouldn't be the final paragraph) and when two separate readers notice the same problem then maybe it's a good idea to listen to them. Dammit.
(Some darlings are very darling. Alas.)
Anyway, the story went into the email, and very soon afterward I had a reply full of excitement and glee, which was a relief. I'd secretly feared, because I am prone to Writer's Weasel Brain, that she'd be all what, this old thing? Not interested anymore. You missed your chance. But of course that was not the case. Weasel Brain is always wrong. Two reliable things about Weasel Brain: It'll always have something to say, and it'll always be wrong.
As expected, the title of the submission to Alien Artifacts got changed. When that story went to The First Line, it was called "The Rapture of the Santiago Women", as a nod to the famous Roman abduction event known as the Rape of the Sabine Women". Problem was, the allusion really only was skin deep. It was clever but not resonant. So I changed it to "Comin' For to Carry Me Home" both for the literal meaning within the plot and the play on homing device.
(And now you have the song stuck in your head, and my work here is done.)
Also, the first line got changed, as its original first line is best considered the exclusive property of The First Line. Which mean the little boy's name had to be changed, since it had been part of the first line. And then a whole bunch of other stuff got changed until, given that the story's only about 1300 words long, the revision really merited a whole new version number under my private and terribly subjective file-naming system. So Alien Artifacts gets to see Homing Device v2.0, or maybe, given the last print-out and line-edit pass, v2.2.1
Fair warning: I may just take the rest of the week off. Friday is fifth Friday, which means no Friday Fictionette is due. And tomorrow is a Halloween party on skates, which means I have to put the finishing touches on my costume. (John has been helping me with that, too. All the kudos.) So if I get very little done for the rest of the week, it's OK. I done a whole thunder of stuff between last week and now. I can take a small holiday.
a detailed look at the key-forging process as undertaken inside the cell
I put in two solid hours on the story revision today, and it is almost done. Tantalizingly close. I hope to submit it tomorrow, at which point I shall crow mightly.
I'd like to write a little about the process of turning one draft into another draft. You might not be interested. You might be all, "Feh! I have my own process. I do not need yours. Feh, I say!" in which case you can skip this bit and scroll down to the next bit. But if you're interested, here's my process. Or at least, here's the process I used for this story and for this draft.
To start with, I had a critiqued copy of the previous draft to work from. The response to its submission last year was to invite me to resubmit if I could get it down to between 4,000 and 5,000 words. So I wrote back, tentatively asking if the editor had any thoughts she'd like to share to guide me in that revision; the editor responded with a line-by-line critique, crossing out text that was slowing down the story and highlighting elements that should be foregrounded.
This, by the way, is the sort of unlooked-for gift that writers dream of getting. We get excited just to get a rejection letter with personal comments, so you can imagine the ecstasy occasioned by an unasked for critique and line edit. Accompanying an invitation to resubmit, no less.
So my first step was to import this critique into my Scrivener project. I moved the August 2014 draft out of the Draft folder (where the documents to compile into a manuscript live) and into my custom Previous Drafts folder, to keep a record and to make room. Then I imported the critique, which was handily in RTF already, into a custom Critiques folder. I converted all of the editor's notes and deletions into linked notes. I also inspected the recommended deletions for any content I didn't want to lose, noted those elements, and considered how I might incorporate them into the surviving text.
Next, I began to type up a new draft from blank, using the critiqued copy and my notes as a reference. This is what took me for-frickin'-ever. This is the part of the process where I kept abandoning it for weeks and then needing to reacquaint myself with the project whenever I tried to pick it up again. I was about a third of the way through this step when I finally got my act together last week.
Thursday night I began the next stage of the revision: print it out and scribble on it (line-edit). I had the foolish idea this would take me, oh, maybe an hour. WRONG! This took the remainder of Thursday and all of Friday too. Lots of crossing things out and attempting to rephrase things. Embarrassing typos to be hunted down and destroyed.
Today I picked up that scribbled-on copy and began to implement the line-edit. I scanned through the printed document for scribbles, and I typed into the new draft whatever the scribbles said. Sounds simple, right? Generally it was. But there were a few "bugs" that were more complex; those I put aside for later, creating a linked note for each to make coming back to them easier.
When the simple fixes were done, I went back to those linked notes, which live in Scrivener's Inspector pane under the Comments and Footnotes tab, and began addressing the more complex line-edits. There were four of them. I got through two before my time was up today.
That's it. Tomorrow I hope to address the last two "bugs" on my buglist, and submit the revision that was requested more than a year ago. I continue to feel silly about taking fourteen months to get this done, but the bad-ass joy of getting it done at last rather outweighs that embarrassment.
Also, as I upload this post to my blog, I will be finished with my work day. All finished. By five o'clock in the afternoon. I honestly can't remember the last time I managed that. It will feel so very good to gear up for roller derby practice in the certain, satisfied knowledge that no work awaits me when I come home. Again, I'm embarrassed that it's taken me until now to find my workday rhythm, but I'm too pleased with having found it to notice the embarrassment overmuch.
Oh! Also, today's submission procedures involved preparing "The Rapture of the Santiago Women," whose title I might yet change, for submission to the forthcoming Alien Artifacts anthology from Zombies Need Brains LLC. I will most definitely change the first line, as it was dictated by the market I sent it to first. I've already edited the story a bit today, just cleaning up the text to make it flow more smoothly. A story's always a little rough when I write it to a themed issue's deadline; I like to make sure it's a bit more polished before it heads out to meet the next slush pile.
This is another thing that feels awesome--as the revision on "Caroline's Wake" comes to a close, I've got brain-space for revising other stories for resubmission. It's like I'd been in jail for a year, but with the means to make the key to the prison door. What the eff took me so long to do it? Damn. Well, door's open now. Free!
this fictionette went shopping for mead, and hijinks ensued
Compared to my usual eleventh hour stunts, this week's Fictionette got done ridiculously early. Par for this week's course, happily. I got up early to see John off--he hit the road for New Mexicon--and then I got right to work so that I'd be able to go to a convention myself. MileHiCon's programming started at 2:00 PM, and I planned to be there.
So, yeah, I pretty much did my morning shift right away and straight through, and when I was done, "I Didn't Ask for Champagne" was up at Patreon and it had only gone twenty past noon. Go me!
But I still didn't make it to the con in time to catch the two o'clock panel. This is because, in the parking lot of Redstone Meadery, just when I'd finished purchasing gifts for a friend and was ready to make the hour-long drive to the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center, the car died. The engine simply died before I'd even put the car in reverse, and it would not start again. It was 1:00 PM.
What followed was a long call to AAA from the tasting room of Redstone Meadery, and a short wait therein, which was followed by my car being towed to its usual mechanic and myself at the wheel of a Mitsubishi Mirage rented from the nearby Hertz. When I at last began my drive out of Boulder, it was 2:30 PM. Pretty slick, I have to admit. What could have wrecked my weekend plans was reduced to mere inconvenience, and not even that much expense. Gods of travel, bless the Triple A.
(Not that much expense so far. The rental was under $35 for the whole weekend, but we'll see what the bill comes to when the Saturn gets diagnosed.)
The next hour was taken up with construction traffic on Highway 36 which began very early on the Foothills on-ramp. The hour after that, with normal traffic on I-25. But I had Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap to keep me company, so I laughed a lot instead of raging at the road.
Then I finally made it to the hotel around 4:30 PM and was in the audience by 5:00 to hear Kevin and Ursula live--Ursula Vernon is the artist guest of honor, and Kevin Sonney was not shy about contributing to her GoH hour, to everyone's enjoyment. Connie Willis took over at 6:00 to talk to us about foreshadowing and which movies do it well (or poorly), opening ceremonies were at 7:00, dinner was overpriced but delicious salmon at the hotel restaurant, and at 9:00 Carrie Vaughn interviewed Kevin Hearne in the style of her series heroine's "Midnight Hour" radio show on KNOB. There was ranting about conspiracy theorists and speculation about Bigfoot. Everything was splendid. We lived happily after ever. The end.
Oh, except I still had two more hours of workday to live up to, and a short story to line-edit. Well. I'm finishing that up now, aren't I?
The story has not yet been submitted, despite my hopes. That's OK. It wasn't for lack of working on it. Line edits are simply taking longer than expected. My bad for expecting them to be so quick! This is the stage where I do get to bring out my inner perfectionist and let her try to get every sentence in every paragraph right. Within reason, anyway. I expect I'll be all, "That's FINE, let it GO, just SUBMIT the dang thing" by about Wednesday.
Tomorrow: Breakfast off-site! And then at 9:30 AM I will have a dilemma: Do I go to the SFWA business meeting, or do I throw in my lot with a Wreckin' Roller Rebels skater who's giving the kids a sock-footed lesson in roller derby? THIS IS A HARD CHOICE no, I'm serious, it actually is. I mean it. Don't laugh!
factors in a personal productivity revolution
I have here, in my hot little hands, a brand new printed-out draft of "Caroline's Wake." It's about 1500 words shorter than the version I submitted last year, and, I very much hope, a stronger story. It's not quite ready to submit at this time, but give me a couple more hours to scribble in between the double-spaced lines of the print-out, and it will be.
Today is Day 3 of Actually Getting Writing Done on a Reliable, Workerlike Basis. Seriously, this week has been fantastic. I've been getting my morning shift done in the morning, and I've been using my afternoon shift to create publishable story copy. It is amazing how awesome it feels to transform writing from a guilt-inducing monster into a life-affirming achievement.
I'm not entirely sure what made this sort of productivity and dailiness feel convincingly possible this week and not, say, last week, or last year, or eleven and a half years ago when I quit my day job. But I can point to a few things that could be said to have helped.
Dropped all expectations of content writing. I got cut from first one Examiner gig and then the other, and I decided I was ready to let them go rather than fight to get them back. Examiner only paid according to some secret metric of eyeballs-on-page, which came to about $20 every third month. I was doing it because it was an outlet for babbling about stuff that interested me, not because it paid well. Which was sily, because I already have an outlet for babbling, and that's this blog here.
But this change also occasioned me reevaluating the desirability of having a content writing gig at all. Content writing obviously cuts into my writing time and capacity. Every writing hour spent on Examiner or Textbroker is an hour I'm not thinking up and writing down stories. And while a good content writing gig can be a reliable source of funds, the fact is I'm fortunate enough to have a well-paid spouse who enthusiastically supports my career goals. I can afford to take not just my writing but my fiction full-time.
And if I put all my writing hours toward writing, revising, and submitting short stories, I'm likely to actually sell a few. It's a better use of my time all around.
Which is not to say that I won't be tempted by a decent content writing gig. I did just submit a sample of my writing to a respectable organization that's looking to build a stable of web writers and editors. If that goes somewhere, well, I'll figure out how to schedule it in at that time.
Rearranged my timesheet template. I log my writing on a spreadsheet every day. That's how I know when I've done my five hours. This week I totally revamped the daily template, and it's ridiculous how much this helped. I suppose a well-organized brain is a productive brain.
I used to have my spreadsheet separated out into categories of types of writing: fiction in this block (short story, novel, freewriting), content writing in that block (Examiner, textbroker, other), miscellaneous over thataways (Friday Fictionettes, etc.). Then, if I was feeling decisive, I'd babble out a sort of schedule for the day in a column off to the right, which I might or might not look at again all day.
This week I overhauled it such that the schedule was baked right into the timesheet. Everything I expect myself to do in a work day, it's there, and in order. All the nonsense and clutter is gone. It's just Morning Pages, the Morning Shift block, the Afternoon Shift block, the actually writing blog, done. If I want to be more precise, there's room to type a description--for instance, "Short Fiction" today is described as "finish 'Caroline's Wake' to printable draft" for the first hour and "take your pen and finalize that draft!" for the second. But for the most part, my plan is just to do the next thing until I come to the end of the things.
There's still a line for content writing in the Afternoon Shift block, but mostly it just gets crossed off.
Began enforcing scheduling constraints. Before, I would get lost somewhere between Morning Pages and freewriting, or between freewriting and fictionette, and I might never come back from my long break in order to start the afternoon shift. Having reorganized my timesheet, I can now use it to determine where I break and for how long. Basically, if I'm in the middle of a block, I keep working Pomodoro style until I'm done with that block: 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off. If I get to white space, I can take a longer break for a meal or for playtime, but I have to have a concrete idea of when I'll start the next block. When that time comes around, I absolutely must get back to work.
This is not rocket science. This is what I always should have done, and what I've always known I ought to do. Somehow, this week I'm actually doing it. Amazing. I'm going to attribute it in part to the overhauled timesheet, and in another part to something else:
Reevaluated how I spend my break time. I hate to admit it, but I can't actually fit an hour of Puzzle Pirates into a 5-minute break. I can't even fit an hour of Puzzle Pirates into an hour. It's like football that way. Or roller derby. The clock may say that an hour of game time passed, but it took a lot more than one hour of real time.
The weird thing is, these little self-contained puzzle games are starting to act like both a reward and a trigger. That is, they not only function as "Yay, you worked 25 minutes straight, you get a cookie," but also as this Pavlovian signal that it's time to get back to work. Finishing a "pom" means I get to play a puzzle. Finishing a puzzle means it's time to get back to work.
So, these are things that have helped. (Also, getting up early--I keep aiming for 8:00, but as long as I'm up by 9:00 I stand a strong chance of finishing my morning shift by noon.) But what also helped was simply knowing that it's been more than a year since the rewrite on "Caroline's Wake" was requested, and that's just ridiculous, and the ridiculous shit ends now. And so it does.
pleased to make your reacquaintance but just this once
- 5,061 wds. long
Two solid hours on the short story revision yesterday! Even better, two solid hours today! (Well, one hour so far. Two hours by the time I'm done. On that, more later.) The reason today's session was even better than yesterday's was, it came on the day after yesterday's session. Which meant no lengthy reacquaintance period, 'cause I'd got that over with yesterday and didn't need to do it again today.
The "reacquaintance period" happens after a long absence from a story. It involves rereading it in detail in order to, yes, reacquaint myself with it. In the case of a revision paused part of the way through, it also involves some line-level, word-level tweaking of the prose in maddeningly fine-grain detail. I keep telling myself, "This is not the time. This sort of thing can wait until you've finished the new draft and have printed it out. Please do not do this right now!" But I can't seem to stop myself. It's as though it's not enough to reread what I have so far, but I also have to get all hands-on with it, too, before I can work with it again.
If this were sculpting, I'd be smoothing my hands over the piece's contours, maybe adding or adjusting texture. Getting back in touch, see?
So that was an hour of yesterday's two hours: Getting back in touch. Rereading the beginning and changing a word or two. Revising sentence 1 of paragraph 10 in several minutely variant ways before finally changing it back to what it was before. Remembering how unsatisfied I was with a particular segue, and, despite knowing that now is not the time to get it perfect, wading in and trying to fix it for good and all. Then finally giving up in frustration and moving on.
This is why it is a bad idea for me to stop working on a project for weeks at a time. When I come back, I have to go through the reacquaintance period again.
Today has been much better. Since it was fresh in my mind from yesterday, I was able to jump right back in and continued transferring chunks of story from the previous draft to the new draft. I smoothed out transitions where verbiage was cut, reimagined characters' perspetives and motivations, and improved flow as best I could as I went. But the important thing is, I went. I progressed. The mental bookmark denoting the place I'd let off in creating the new draft has moved significantly forward this week.
I am reasonably optimistic that, if I continue at this rate of two hours every workday, I'll have submitted this requested revision before Halloween.
Which means maybe I can participate in NaNoWriMo this year! With a couple years' worth of daily freewriting to delve into for plot and character and worldbuilding ideas. Wow. I might write just about anything.
But to bring things back to the present: I still have to put in another hour on the revision tonight. The two-hours-a-day goal is absolutely accomplishable, but I seem to want to split it up into two hour-long sessions. Today it was because I hit saturation point on a narrative tangle, and rather than keep banging my head fruitlessly against that wall, it seemed better to pop the problem on the backburner and let my unconscious play with it for a few hours. Also the restaurant I was at started filling up with small children playing with toy cars around that time. (Also also I spent most of my time at that restaurant procrastinating, so that I'd only left myself one hour to work before I had to be somewhere. But that's just happenstance.)
Anyway, time to put this post up and get back to the grind. For the second day in a row! Hot damn!