“and if i should die
god forbid that i
pass away with ideas left in limbo
in creative purgatory”
Brian Vander Ark

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

the needle on the compass in my head points toward sheer terror
Tue 2014-08-19 23:36:30 (single post)
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"It's For You" came home for the weekend with its tail between its legs, asking to crash on the couch. I did what I could for it: Gave it a shoulder to cry on, ordered us pizza, poured us some local microbrew stout, queued up some cheesy '80s movies to watch together. Then today I gave it a rousing pep talk and sent it back out into the world. "Keep trying," I told it. "Keep trying 'til Hell won't have you. And then keep trying some more." It took a deep breath, narrowed its eyes, and said, "OK." Off it marched, with purpose and new determination. One of these days it'll come home with a big smile, waving a contract in its hand. Until then, I'm good for giving it repeated pep talks and career advice. Also a kick in the rear end, because I kind of want my metaphorical couch to myself.

Meanwhile, "Caroline's Wake" is still out on only its second slush trip ever. It sent me a very encouraging post card!

As for what short story I'll work on next, I've decided it'll be "A Wish for Captain Hook"--the one wherein the island of Neverland locates itself in the middle of Lake Pontchartrain. I originally wrote it for the pirate-themed issue of Shimmer that John Joseph Adams guest-edited, whose submission window was in early 2007. Since failing to win its way onto that TOC, it's been workshopped once... then tucked away into a corner and forgot about. I suppose it's time to pull it out, brush off the dust, and revise it for a serious round of submissions.

Just thinking about it gives me a case of the hives and heebie-jeebies. Nervous. "I don't have to work on 'Hook' next," I told myself. "What about 'The Interfaith Intercessional Fellowship,' that one? The one with the potato salad and the prayer circle?" And that's when I decided that, no, it really had to be "Hook" next. Because "Hook" scares me enough to make me want to slither away, and I should always move toward the thing that scares me.

It took a little more thinking to figure out why it scared me.

Part of the fear comes from knowing that the end needs to be entirely rewritten. The note it currently ends on says very clearly, as though these words were actually typed on the page, "The author did not know how to end this story and hopes you'll understand. Please accept this weaksauce Lady Or Tiger punchline instead, with our compliments." And, well, the last two stories I finished and sent out the door have demonstrated that I have a painful time getting the endings right.

But the bulk of the fear comes from insecurity about my legitimacy, my right to write this story. "Hook" isn't just a story about a little boy who wants to run away to Neverland. "Hook" is a Hurricane Katrina story, the only one I've written so far. And I wasn't even in the state during Katrina and its aftermath. Also my family came through fairly well. There were losses, certainly. Dad's pediatrics office on Robert E. Lee Blvd. was totaled, and his practice had to relocate to the Children's Hospital building in Metairie. The roof did leak for a short while, and some non-critical household belongings were destroyed. While the family was gone, persons unknown scavenged their generator, some fuel, and all of Dad's frozen and slowly thawing venison--which items may well have made the difference for the thieves between surviving and not. Who knows? But the house wasn't flooded. It still stood. Mom and Dad kept it and live in it to this day. The family stayed together. Dad's job survived. As these things go, the LeBoeuf family did pretty OK.

So I'm not entirely sure I get to write a Katrina story, you know? Coming from someone who mostly watched the crisis from afar, it might come across as, I dunno, exploitative, like I'm using other people's tragedy to give my characters some unearned poignancy.

...which is almost word-for-word my exact explanation for why Season 2 of Heroes made me so angry. You know what I mean, right? The part where the little girl says, "Half the people in this county still live in FEMA trailers," thus proving that no one involved in making the show ever bothered to watch real live news footage of the Katrina aftermath nor even opened a map of the affected area. Because if they had, they would know that there are no counties in Louisiana. So, having complained vociferously about how that show exploited the disaster for emotional impact while failing to give the first little damn about the real life people affected, now I'm afraid of coming across the same way. This is like projection, only in reverse.

But my job is to move toward the scary thing. Write it anyway. And to realize that, yes, I too lived through Katrina, I too was affected, and the way I was affected by it can inform the story. And it already has. There are elements in there that are absolutely drawn from my experience, second-hand though much of it is. Like, the way the back-to-school timing of the storm and flood diminished the school-aged population of the greater New Orleans area well into 2006--families who evacuated in August sent their kids to the schools whose districts they wound up in come September, and many of them stayed to finish out the scholastic year. (This affected my immediate family by way of Dad's dramatically decreased patient roster.) Like the way some families, like my parents' next-door neighbors, just never came back at all.

The short story is much smaller in focus than that, but it's deeply colored by the shadows of those huge background movements. One of my jobs during the rewrite will be to make those shadows more apparent, more stark and compelling. And maybe something about the larger movements of the time will help inform the rewriting of the ending, too.

So that's the answer to that question. What will I work on next? "A Wish for Captain Hook." That's what. And may Gods and Muses have mercy on me, Their humble pen.

(runs away temporarily to hide)

the cure for the imperfection blues
Mon 2014-03-17 23:54:58 (single post)
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A little while ago, I found that my use of Habit RPG was exacerbating the imperfection blues. Improvising upon them, you might say. Writing new verses. Singing them incessantly. Giving me, in fact, an earworm.

The imperfection blues is that self-defeating feeling that if you can't be perfect then why even try at all? If you were to give them lyrics and sing them over a three-chord progression, they might go something like this:

I got so much stuff to do today. But I can't get past thing one.
Oh lord, I got stuff to do today. And I can't get past thing one.
I done failed at thing number one, so I know I ain't gonna get nothing done.

But today, oddly enough, Habit RPG cured those blues. Temporary cure? Permanent? I don't know and I don't care. It got me through the day.

The cure for the imperfection blues might be lyricized like this:

So sometimes you can't do it all
And that can make you sad.
But I bet you can still do this!
So it ain't all that bad.

This bit of hopeful doggerel, like so many other song lyrics and most Emily Dickinson poems, employs common meter and thus may be sung to the tune of "Amazing Grace." Sorry about that.

The real-world application of this was to realize I could still do my morning pages even though it was nine o'clock at night. I could still earn the right to check the little checkbox and get rewards for my little 8-bit avatar. And then I could go ahead and submit the phantom phone story to WOMEN DESTROY FANTASY! and check off that box (and get rewarded for it). And then I could check off the "1 hour of writing" sub-item under the "5 hours of writing" daily item and thus minimize the overnight hit point loss.

By rewarding me in-game for doing individual tasks, Habit RPG encourages me to appreciate my accomplishments, however small, and not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. And even though there are days when I can't seem to summon any emotional buy-in for that appreciation, the game mechanic serves as a sort of "fake it 'til you make it" device.

It's really kind of genius, this game.

And now I'm going to check off the "post to 'actually writing blog'" item. Maybe I'll get a random drop! I hope it's cotton candy. My pet wolf cub is hungry!

march's overflowing plate of doom
Fri 2014-03-14 23:45:28 (single post)
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OK, so I mentioned in a previous post that "My plate is already full to overflowing for the month of March." Tomorrow is when that plate's contents start slopping over onto the carpet, making a huge mess under the dining room table, and generally becoming impossible to ignore.

Tomorrow is March 15, which is when the two-week (ish) submissions periods for Women Destroy Fantasy! and Women Destroy Horror! begin. Those periods end on March 31. I've got my submission for Fantasy! ready to go: the phantom phone story currently titled "It's For You" was declined by the last place I sent it to, so it's available and ready to hit the slush. But my hopeful for Horror!, the snow apocalypse in June story currently titled "The Impact of Snowflakes," is in the process of revision and is really digging its heels in about it.

Also this past week has been depressingly unproductive. Put it this way: I've lost an embarrassing amount of hit points over on Habit RPG. Today's especially gonna hurt; I spent most of the day running around trying to figure out how to make the best of bad skates while my good skates are unusable thanks to broken plates and the new plates don't arrive until Monday. Also cleaning bearings. Very old-school bearings, with solid cases and no way to expose the interior. Very filthy old-school bearings. Oh, roller derby, you eat up so much of my life, with your constant demands for time, attention, energy, and functional equipment.

And that's before we talk about yet another submissions period I want to get in on. I should very much like to send my funny snow-glue apocalypse story, currently titled "Anything For A Laugh," to Unidentified Funny Objects #3 before their March 31 deadline. And I haven't even begun the revision process on that sucker. I have a rough intuitive sense that it will be less harrowing than that required by "The Impact of Snowflakes," but I'm not optimistic about the accuracy of this non-observation.

(A friend who critiqued both "Snowflakes" and "Laugh," noticing the similarity in theme, asked me, "What's up with you and snow?" Without missing a beat, I answered, "I don't like it." Which is roughly true. But I had entirely failed to notice that I was building a sort of track record with snow apocalypses.)

Next week is a whole new week. This is what I keep telling myself. And it's true! The sun'll come up tomorrow, and all that. Nevertheless, the fact remains that there aren't a lot of whole new weeks left March.

So now you know what I'll be working on next week. And why the whole "doom" thing above. Although it must be said, everything's better with doom. Or chainsaws. It depends on your aesthetic.

prevent manuscript loiterment in two easy steps
Mon 2014-02-24 23:39:12 (single post)
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In my head, I had this rant about Ray Bradbury all lined up to play Part 2 to Friday's Part 1. But I am very tired right now and not at all up for it. I'm just back on the bus from spending all afternoon and evening in Longmont, for the following reasons:

  • 2:30 - 3:30 PM: Running some errands along Main Street (10%)
  • 3:30 - 4:00 PM: Getting most of the post-bus biking over with before the winds "may gust up to 28 mph" (5%)
  • 6:00 - 9:15 PM: Taking a roller derby optimized CPR/First Aid certification class (85%)

The time between 4:00 and 6:00 PM was spent at Red Frog Coffee, which is relatively in the neighborhood of the Bomb Shelter, thus requiring less wind-o-clock biking. There I not only enjoyed a chicken salad sandwich and a mug of tea, but I also A. discovered that Interfictions, alas, did not consider "It's For You" the perfect fit I'd hoped; and subsequently B. sent "It's For You" out to the next market listed in its personalized Slush Piles To Visit guidebook.

Two things made it really, really easy to keep this particular rejected manuscript from sleeping over. One is that the next professional market on my list has an online, web-based submission form for my use. It isn't the only market to do so, either. This development of our modern age is spoiling me rotten. I mean, forget envelopes and postage--half the time I don't even have to write an email!

The other thing, the thing of the two things that is the really key thing, is having a list in the first place. Huzzah for good planning!

I feel compelled to admit, however, that this story's list of slush piles to visit was exactly two markets long. Happily, since the market I just now sent it to estimates a 40-day response, I should have a little time to think of a third. If, that is, I can shake that nasty, baseless superstition that doing so is jinxing my chances...

Right. So. Anyway, that rant about Ray Bradbury? Here's the preview version: When finishing a book that makes me angry, it is very important to have some sort of palate cleanser available so as not to go to sleep angry or in fact fail, through anger, to go to sleep at all. Note to self: A collection of short stories that, despite their varied, sometimes futuristic, and often interplanetary settings nevertheless all feature 1950s style gender relations is not the palate cleanser you are looking for.

And that is all. Good night.

Yes, there really is a gap of five years between the completion of the draft and its latest critque. I'm getting better--!
assembly lines in no particular hurry
Tue 2014-02-18 23:32:39 (single post)
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With recent deadlines behind me and unstructured fiction time ahead, I'm working on "The Impact of Snowflakes." This is another story that has been through the critique mill several times; most recently it received the attentions of my current neighborhood group.

I'm developing a process for this. It's a gradual process, an unhurried process, a process involving itty-bitty bites at a time, a process above all involving very little pressure upon myself. Revision is not a task I approach gleefully. Any strategy I can use to Not Scare Myself Off is a good strategy.

Anyway, it's how "It's For You" got revised and ready to submit, so I'm doing it again. It goes like this:

First, the scribbled-upon hard copies get three-hole-punched and popped into a three-ring-binder. Yesterday I made this process More Fun by acquiring color tab dividers (to separate story from story) along with sticky tabs in fun quilt-print patterns (to separate copy from copy).

Next, the story finds a home in a new Scrivener project using the short story template. An RTF copy of the story gets pulled in under the "Critiques" folder.

Then, I annotate this critiqued draft by entering each critic's feedback as linked comments. Linked comments can be created in any color; I assign one color to each critic. If the critic left me any general comments, I'll type that into a new file that lives folder-wise inside the critiqued draft.

(Here is where I complain a little about Scrivener for Windows. The manual claims that Scrivener remembers which color you used last in a linked comment, such that it will automatically create the next linked comment in that color. LIES. Every single one comes up in default yellow. So it's Highlight text, hit Shift-F4, hope like heck I didn't hit CTRL-F4 instead, type in the comment, right-click on the comment, select "Purple"... and repeat.)

Lastly, I begin typing in the new draft. I use a horizontal split-screen layout so I can reference the critiqued copy and its comments below the split while I type in the new draft above. The new draft, of course, goes in the "Draft" folder, either as one file or many depending on whether I work the scenes out of order.

Right now, I'm in the annotation stage. I'm giving myself permission to go through a single critiqued copy per day. This means that the work goes very slowly. But it also means a certain amount of composting--that background-level "thinking about things" process--happens too. Each person's feedback gets a day and a night of subconscious chewing-over. Hopefully that means that by the time I begin working on the new draft, possible solutions to the problems raised in the workshop are beginning to bubble into consciousness.

And oh boy are there problems in this story. The main thing I'm wibbling about is the isolation of the main character. I mean, yes, you get somewhat isolated when you live alone and the Snowpocalypse is shutting down the world little by little, but there's phones and internet and TV and stuff, and emergency personnel with their vehicles with their flashing lights and sirens. This is not an intimate two-person story like "It's For You." This is a worldwide crisis story. Which means I have to populate the world in which it occurs.

*wibble*

When wibbling, it's so very helpful to focus in on small, bite-sized tasks. Nibble-sized tasks. Tomorrow, I don't have to worry about populating the whole world. All I have to do is annotate the critiqued draft with the feedback scribbled on the next copy in my binder. I cannot begin to tell you what a relief that is.

In other news, Lightspeed has already declined "Other Theories of Relativity" for their Women Destroy Science Fiction issue. Which means that story is free to go knock on another editor's door. And because it's always easier to knock on a stranger's door if you've got a buddy, I sent along "The Day the Sidewalks Melted," who's seeking a first reprint home, to keep it company.

The two stories are oddly similar. I'm trying to consider this a plus. It's not "oh, dear, not one but two stories about broken relationships and loss and disaster written in a sort of Second Person of Direct Address point of view, hasn't this author any other tricks?" No. It's "My, what a lovely diptych of microfiction this is." Yes. That's exactly what it is.

mother may i
Mon 2014-02-17 23:38:04 (single post)
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If last week moved slowly, still it finished up where it needed to be. "Other Theories of Relativity" and "It's For You," both much transformed from the previous drafts, both went out into the wide world. And then, just for grins, so did "First Breath" in hopes of seeing it in reprint.

This is my second time sending it out as a reprint. The first time, I had the unmitigated chutzpah to suggest it might be appropriate for the VanderMeer's feminist spec fic anthology.

About which, I hasten to add, there is nothing wrong. An author needs unmitigated chutzpah to believe her writing worth others' reading at all. And this was a story that at least one editor had judged worthy to pay pro money for and press between hardback covers in a table of contents alongside some pretty awesome authors, so its quality wasn't in question.

However, I had some moments of crawling insecurity about it. One the one hand, the VanderMeers' anthology was to survey feminist speculative fiction from the 1970s onward; did I really think this little story could stand up in that kind of company?

Obviously, the proper answer to that question was, "Don't deny the editors a chance to decide for themselves. Send it in."

But on the other hand, there was the much more devastating insecurity having to do with not having published nor even finished another story since then. Did I think that having made this one sale, I was done? Was I just going to try to milk those 2,900 words or so for all I could get out of them and call it a career?

Well, no, of course not. But all those demons of the family Imposter Syndrome were jeering at me about it. Or shaking their heads sadly. Or just asking, in a tone of grave concern, whether I thought I had the right to try to reprint this story when I hadn't sold any new ones since.

So I sent it anyway. And it was not chosen for the anthology. And that was fine and good and about how these things generally go. (What was chosen? I do not know. A brief search has not turned up news on the anthology. I presume it's still in production.)

Flash forward to yesterday, when I sent it out again. Whole different story.

For one thing, far less pressure: The market I submitted it to is quite respected, but it's just another market. It isn't trying to be a piece of literary history. So that made things easier.

What made it even easier was knowing that it was one of seven pieces I had out in the slush. Seven! Two reprint submissions, one unpublished story on its eighth trip out, and four stories that were Brand Spanking New, Never Before Submitted, Never Before Seen By Editorial Eye, Setting Foot In Slush For the First Time! Seven. And by the end of the week I'll have sent two more reprint submissions out.

That's more stuff simultaneously in slush than I've had since, oh, 2006 or so. I think that's a dandy measure of the success of my new day-to-day work routine.

Now, it can't be overstated that my little fearing monsters' concerns that maybe I hadn't yet earned the right to try to reprint "First Breath" yet were--there's no way to say this gently--total bullshit. Well-intentioned bullshit, true, but bullshit none the less. You earn the right to reprint a story by having the rights of a previously published story of yours revert to you. Simple as that. There's no additional mechanism required and no further permission that you need.

But having what feels like a shit-ton of other writing out on editors' desks really helps.

Yes, this has been an "I feel like a writer!" blog post. Yes, I'm still doing those from time to time. Kinda pathetic, I know. Hey, we get our affirmation where we can, right? And the best kind of affirmation is the kind we can make on our own. Behold: I am a self-affirmation-making machine, my friends. A veritable one-woman factory cranking out the stuff.

Which will no doubt comfort me later on in the week when I'm trying to individually position grains of salt and pepper on the soup of the next short story in the revision queue.

getting ready, taking aim
Thu 2014-01-23 23:55:10 (single post)
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I've put "It's For You" aside for the moment and have turned to another story in the infinite queue of Stories Requiring Rewrites. It's not that I'm trying to avoid ever actually finishing something (although I know it does look that way). It's that I suddenly realized that I only have about three more weeks to attempt to destroy science fiction, and "It's For You" is not science fiction.

So I thought to myself, "Didn't I recently write a short-short that juxtaposes space travel and relativity with the slow erosion on relationships by time and divergent life trajectories?" OK, no, that's not quite true. The thought was more like, "Hey, what about that flash piece that had to use three of a given list of words, 'redshift' and 'twin' being two of them?"

Which led to me pulling up the my 2012 Weekend Warrior submissions and worksheets. Weekend Warrior is an annual flash fiction contest they hold over in the Codex forums (link goes to public front page; forums are member-only). For the first five weekends in the year, give or take a holiday delay, there's a handful of prompts posted on Friday and a deadline on Sunday by which you submit a 750-word (maximum) story based on one of those prompts. Stories are posted anonymously, everyone comments on each other's stories anonymously and rates them on a scale of 1 to 10, and based on these ratings winners are declared at the end of the five weeks.

The story I'm thinking of was what I submitted during week 1. Fellow Codexians may or may not remember it under the title "Other Theories of Relativity." I copied it and all the comments it received to a new Scrivener project--and immediately despaired because it's a piece of aimless, nebulous, meandering woo. It's poetic, and some commenters declared it beautiful, but it's a piece that doesn't quite know what it wants to be. My job will be to tease that out and make something stronger out of that original attempt. (And also not make it look derivative of the movie Gravity, damn it, which it predates by more than a year but that alone will not be sufficient to save me.)

Meanwhile, my yWriter project containing that story also contains my contest submissions for weeks 2 through 5, and also the noodling I did on the prompts I ultimately did not use. ("It's For You" actually sprang from an unused Week 1 prompt, come to think of it.) If I'm diligent enough about the short story portion of my daily work routine, this little treasure trove could keep me feeding slush piles for the rest of the year. Or at least through Midsummer.

micromanaging the soup
Thu 2014-01-16 22:40:56 (single post)
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"Right Door" is on its way to a new slush pile, one that's reprint friendly. Which makes two submissions this week, hurrah! The other was "Blackbird."

Neither of these are strangers to the field. And while it feels good to keep 'em out in the slush ("'til Hell won't have it," as Jim D. Macdonald is wont to say), I miss the thrill of sending a story out for the very first time.

I am inching closer to being able to do just that with "It's For You," but when I say "inching" I do mean it.

Inch. Ing.

You know, I love the freedom of National Novel Writing Month. I love my daily 25 minutes of freewriting, too. I love writing rough draft. I get to transmit thought to page at the rate of 90wpm without worrying about perfection or even competence. It needn't be good so long as it's story.

Revision is a whole 'nother matter. I look at the previous version, I begin to type the new version, and immediately my brain freezes up under a blinking red banner that says THIS HAD BETTER BE RIGHT.

And it doesn't help that, after compiling the recent batch of critiques, I realize that this piece wants a lot more than discrete fixes to discrete bits. I wouldn't say it needs an overhaul, but the fixes it does need are sort of all-encompassing. The flavor needs adjusting. The ingredients need to be better integrate. It's like making soup, OK, but I can't just twist the grinder over the pot and then stir. I have to place each grain of ground pepper individually.

Argh.

And that is all.

magic realism and me
Wed 2014-01-15 23:03:36 (single post)
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One of the random quotes that cycles at the top of this blog is from Jo Walton. It's about the dragons in her genius novel Tooth and Claw. I've been thinking about it today.

The snippet of the quote here is far too pared down to do justice to the original, though. Let me give you the full context.

It's a bit of conversation that went on in the comments following Patrick Nielsen Hayden's post from August of 2005, "Story for beginners." In it, he muses over a review of Kelly Link's fiction, in which the reviewer, who seems benignly confused about it, wonders whether the zombies are "supposed to be a metaphor", and a blazing-hot response to that review in which the blogger protests that they damn well aren't, at least not exclusively; no, they are real damn zombies and they will eat you.

That's not perhaps the best summary, but it'll tide you over if, say, you lose internet connection and need to restart your router while waiting for the above link to load. (You did click it, right? No? WELL DO SO FORTHWITH.)

As is generally the case over at Making Light, conversation ensured. Says one commenter,

I got into a rather heated argument a few months back with someone who was insisting that Tooth and Claw was good because "it isn't really about dragons." I said that it was too really about dragons, and that it would have been a much worse novel if it had not been really about dragons. "But I mean, really about dragons," said the other person. And I said yes, really about dragons. It didn't matter how many kinds of typographical emphasis she attempted to vocalize: Tooth and Claw is about dragons.

It also does other things, but if every little thing in it was a metaphor for man's inhumanity to radishes or some damn thing, it would suck.

Which is wisdom. Them what has ears, let them hear dat.

As is also often the case at Making Light, the author of Tooth and Claw was there to testify,

If they weren't solidly real dragons with parsons who have the right to eat the eyes of the dead it wouldn't have been worth doing.

This is coming to mind now because two very similar exchanges happened to me today.

  1. In a conversation online in a private forum (thus I will paraphrase, not link-and-quote) concerning the gap, difference, and overlap between science fiction and fantasy, one person mentioned preferring science fiction to fantasy because of an instinctive, involuntary need for rational explanations, or at least attempts thereto. But they fare better with magic realism than with straight-up fantasy, because their lit-crit background tells them they don't have to believe in the magic stuff; it's all just a metaphor.
  2. In compiling the critiques of "It's For You," I was reminded how many readers of the most recent two drafts reported not being 100% sure whether the narrator wasn't dreaming the whole fantastical thing, maybe the next-door neighbor who disappears into the painting like Mary Poppins into Burt's sidewalk art was never real to begin with... but that's OK, because they're enjoying the story as either magic realism or surrealism, where this sort of ambiguity is acceptable.

I should just like to take a moment and say a few words on behalf of fantasy everywhere, and also my inner child, and also my inner witch. And as I do so, please bear in mind that I mean no ill-will nor begrudgement to anyone referenced above; nevertheless, I'm a-gonna get shouty.

*deep breath*

THE VERY OLD MAN REALLY HAD REAL GREEN WINGS, OK, AND THE DOOR IN THE HOME DEPOT ACTUALLY GOES TO ANOTHER WORLD, RIGHT, AND ARISTA REALLY ACTUALLY TRULY DISAPPEARS INTO A PAINTING.

pant pant pant wheeze stomp stomp

*ahem*

Also, ten-year-old me wants you to know that there really, truly, actually is a heart beating under the floorboards. BECAUSE POE SAID SO.

And the dragons are solidly real dragons. And the zombies are really going to eat you.

This is how I relate to fantastic fiction of all stripes. I love both science fiction and fantasy, and I am as willing to take the author's word when they say "The narrator turned into a salamander" as when they say "This starship goes faster than the speed of light thanks to wormholes and genetically-designed pilots." It is not in me, no more now than it was when I first read "The Tell-Tale Heart," to doubt the veracity of the narrator's report.

I mean, if that's what the author wants me to think, I may get there eventually, if the author drops enough hints. But I don't go there first. The place I go first is, "I'm trusting you to take me for a ride. The wilder, the better."

This is also how I relate to my own fiction. I can't dictate your experience of it, now. If you prefer to think that Beth in "It's For You" never actually wakes up throughout the course of the story, or that the narrator of "Right Door, Wrong Time" is lying to the little kid about whether he can open a portal to another world, that is your innate right and I can't take that away from you. You may well read fantasy and think to yourself, "Well, that can't happen, so it must be that the narrator is mad, hallucinating, dreaming, or lying. Or maybe the whole thing's a metaphor."

But that is not my logic. My logic is WHEEEEE FANTASY WEIRD SHIT LET'S DO THIS!

Mainly I'm not very much interested in writing stories about sadly delusional people who think they can fly and are destined for a tragically hard landing. I live in that world already. (Or so I'm told. I'm not convinced, but it's politic to play along.) If I write about a person jumping out the window because she thinks she can fly, she's damn well going to soar.

I write fantastic fiction because I want this wide weird world we live in to be even weirder. On the page, I have the power to make it so.

So, my readers, my friends, my family, my loves, I promise you this and I tell you true:

When I write the weird shit, I want you to believe in it.

this is what a successful day looks like
Tue 2014-01-14 21:37:55 (single post)
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As far as implementing my Diabolically Cunning New Workday Plan goes, today has been a success. (We will not speak of yesterday.) Today I did all the things, and then some. Not in any particular order, nor with any particular speed or urgency, but I did them. So there.

What helped a lot was, I set up a to-do list template in a new Open Office spreadsheet. For each writing task, I logged start time, end time, and duration. Then, at the bottom, just because productivity tracking is fun, I added up each task's duration to determine how many hours I'd spent writing or performing writing-related tasks. Today's total was about 6 hours, which made me feel very accomplished.

Oh, by the way, speaking of productivity tracking, check out how science fiction author Jamie Todd Rubin does it. And here is how he works. Neat, huh? Now I no longer feel alone in usefully overthinking things. Although I'm beginning to feel defensive about my video game time.

I separated it out into sections:

  1. Woke Up At: If I log this, I'll probably stop sleeping in, just out of sheer embarrassment. So far, so good: today it was 8:30 AM. The category should more usefully be Morning Pages with time stats logged just like for the other tasks. The start time is functionally the same as the Woke Up At time, or ought to be. Morning pages takes me about half an hour immediately upon waking up, but can go to an hour and a half if I put them off until later. Just-woke-up-brain spends less time going "What now? What do I write now?" Just-woke-up-brain just freakin' writes.
  2. Fiction: The four tasks here are Freewriting, Short Fiction, Novel, and Submission Procedures. I spent about an hour and a half on annotating the recently critiqued draft of "It's For You" in a new Scrivener project, and about a half hour on everything else. That means it did in fact take a full half hour to submit "Blackbird" to a new market, and another full half hour to take Iron Wheels through Step One of the Snowflake Method. (Step One: "Write a single sentence synopsis of your novel." To be fair, Randy Ingermanson suggests a full hour for this.) Spending only 3 hours on fiction is admittedly on the brief side, but that won't stop me patting myself on the back. (pat pat pat)
  3. Content Writing: Boulder Writing Examiner, Puzzle Pirates Examiner, Demand Media Studios. Didn't do any of 'em today. Not too worried about it. I'll see about easing content writing back into my life after I'm reliably getting fiction done every day.
  4. Other: Here's where I logged the time spent reading and critiquing those manuscripts slated for tonight's writing group, and the time spent attending said writing group. I feel a lot better about the brevity of today's "Fiction" category knowing that most days I'll have at least two and a half more hours to spend there.
  5. Blogging: That would be this. Hi!

So here's Tuesday's Breathtakingly Obvious Epiphany: Going to writing group counts as writing. Right? It is not a biweekly obligation that gets in the way of writing. It is part of the writing. It is a thing that writers in fact do.

I'm very fortunate to be in a group again, and to have friends who pushed beyond "Wouldn't it be great if we got together and formed a writing group?" until it actually happened. There's six of us, all of us in Boulder or Gunbarrel. We write on a wide spectrum from speculative fiction to mainstream/literary, serious and satire, prose and poetry both. Everyone has really insightful things to say, and our critiquing styles seem to mesh well.

I'm embarrassed to admit that they critiqued "It's For You" back in September, and I'm only now working on the revision. I'm even more embarrassed to admit that the 4-month delay is an improvement. The draft my current group critiqued was revised from the first draft based on feedback from the Denver-Area Codex Writing Retreat in July 2012.

Fie on embarrassment. Improvements! Improvements are good! Today has been a success. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

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