“When I write stories I am like someone who is in her own country, walking along streets that she has known since she was a child, between walls and trees that are hers.”
Natalie Goldberg

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

More or Less Simultaneously
Sat 2012-11-10 22:25:19 (single post)
  • 11,834 wds. long

So I'm doing National Novel Writing Month. And what's different this year is I'm not writing a new novel; I'm rewriting one. To be specific, the one I wrote in 2010. The story I'm sticking to is this: I have not yet succeeded at revising a novel straight through to Professionally Submittable. I've only ever gotten something novel-length all the way to THE END by participating in NaNoWriMo. Thus, NaNoWriMo is clearly the engine that will propel me to the goal.

The theory is, I spent the months revving up to November in examining the existing draft and making good notes about character development and scene structure and plot. Now all I have to do is type the new draft. In actuality, the new draft bears striking similarities to a fresh rough draft. It's OK, though, because I'm having Big Picture Thoughts to guide my choice of new scenes to write (or new versions of old scenes to rewrite). I am thinking in terms of Theme! and Symbolism! and Parallel Character Development Tracks! This does mean I'm moving through my word count a bit more slowly than I do most Novembers, though. As my word count so far shows.

Will there be excerpts? There probably will not be excerpts. As this thing gets closer to "hopefully publishable," the whole excerpts-on-the-blog thing becomes more of an issue in terms of first rights and encumberment. Which, drat. But hopefully I'll have other fun things to post, like Niki's Plot Dilemma Of The Week or Essay Topic: Why My Characters Hate Me. It'll be fun. For certain values of "fun."

Within the NaNoWriMo community, I also continue in the volunteer position of Municipal Liaison for Boulder, and Boulder is requiring a little more planning this time around because there are so darn many of us. We've exceeded several write-in venues' capacity, prompting me to come up with new plans in a haze of emergency panicked inspiration. I do not like emergencies. I do not like panic.

Too bad! Because this month I've also picked up a new work-for-hire gig which is very similar to the National Novel Writing Month thing in that its official deadline is November 30. It is unlike NaNoWriMo in that the word count requirement is twice as big. Also, like every other WFH project I've undertaken, it's not fiction. It requires research. The words must be correct, factually and stylistically, the first time around.

I am beginning to doubt the wisdom of this timing.

No, no, it's OK, I can do this.

Also in the work-for-hire category, Demand Media Studios is a viable source of income again. They've finally rendered a decision on whether I can write for their Fitness & Well-being channel, and the decision is "Approved." My reaction, given my long history of writing LIVESTRONG.com articles for them, is sort of "Well, duh," but you never know. They rejected me for the Garden channel despite my long history of writing for GardenGuides.com. So OK. In any case, I now get to chose from a huge list of titles that I can actually feasibly write for $20-$30 per article (as opposed to two or three titles which nobody can write and that's why they're still available, and by the way they only pay $15 per article).

And hey roller derby! Did you know Boulder County Bombers are in their off-season? Do you think that makes much of a difference to any of its members' time commitment to fast-skating, hard-hitting awesomeness? The correct answer, in case you're wondering, is it does not. Were you thinking that? You probably were. Congrats! You Are Smart.

tl/dr: I got a lotta stuff going on this month. If I seem in a hurry when we pass on the street, I promise I'm not avoiding you. I'm just in a hurry.

And I seem to be coming down with a cold. GREAT TIMING, IMMUNE SYSTEM. Feh.

My *Thunk* Is Dwarfed By National *Thunk*
Tue 2008-11-04 21:47:01 (single post)

Me at 6:30 (ish): *Thunk.*

The United States of America at 9:00 (ish): *THUNK!*

Congratulations, President Elect Barack Obama.

(One day, people will ask, "Where were you when they called the election for the first black President of the United States of America?" And I will say, "Watching Indecision 2008 on Comedy Central." That's right. Colbert was blathering, and Stewart made the announcement, and what's-his-bucket came out from backstage bawling and wearing no pants.")

(What? Look, it'll be on YouTube. You look it up.)

Regrets In the Home Stretch
Tue 2008-11-04 12:36:13 (single post)

It may not look like it from the word count, but I'm in the home stretch. I know where every one of those 4000-ish words left to write goes; it's mainly going to be a matter of writing down the facts already in my head and the citations for where I learned them.

In having finished this project late, I've gotten three days behind on the NaNoWriMo novel. But that's not my biggest regret. My biggest regret is having left myself no time to volunteer in this, an incredibly historic election year for the U.S.A. I didn't campaign for Obama, I didn't make GOTV calls, and I wasn't even able to work as an election judge between this and other obligations that kept me from attending the training sessions. I feel like a total bum.

I'm doing this much: I'm hosting an election results party for some friends. After everyone gets off work, they'll come over here to watch the news and tune their laptops to various liveblogging events. I'll be cooking stuff from our CSA-overloaded fridge - I'm thinking colchannon and stuffed acorn squash. And, if Nate Silver's election predictions are correct, I will finally have occasion to make Schadenfreude Pie.

(Why, yes, that was an unprompted suggestion in the Google search bar.)

All right, back to the grind. See you after the *thunk*. At which point I'm breaking out the Scotch. And yes, if you know me and you're within easy traveling distance of me, you're totally invited. But if you didn't vote, your role tonight will be piņata.

Arrgh! I Give!
Mon 2008-11-03 01:47:52 (single post)

Stupid all-nighters. I hate all-nighters. Tell you what - it's about three hours until dawn. Dawn is when I get my second wind. If I go to sleep now and wake up three hours later, I'll have fast-forwarded to my second wind, and it'll be a heftier wind what with having gotten a couple of REM cycles of sleep. Clever me!

(Grumbles something about the whole Monday morning delivery thing getting less and less morning-like. Kicks self. Zonks.)

Finishing One Project (very soon now, promise!) And Starting Another
Sun 2008-11-02 16:36:34 (single post)
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(See, there, I nearly did that "disappearing in a puff of shame" thing again.)

It's November 2nd. What's your word count? Yes indeed, it's that time of year: National Novel Writing Month! And we had a huge handful of local and not-so-local participants come over for the traditional all-nighter kick-off party. Great conversation! Great food! And, starting at midnight, great productivity! I don't think any participants who attended left having written anything less than 1200 words.

This was, of course, why I knew I'd get nothing whatsoever done on the StyleCareer.com project on Friday. After I got home from work (for the last time), I had a lot of cleaning up and prep cooking to do. Then people came over, and it was no use thinking about anything but NaNoWriMo.

It was Samhain, by the way. John and I celebrated Samhain by filling out our ballots together over dinner. Symbolic, that. Out with the old, in with the new! Our contribution to turning over a new leaf for the new year!

So I did in fact reach and slightly surpass my daily 1667 for Day 1. Then, after everyone went home and I puttered around the vast Internets for a while, I went to bed. At 5:00 AM.

Saturday I got nothing at all done towards anything at all. I slept and read and slept and read. I went to a NaNoWriMo write-in, and did nothing more than smile, hand out stickers, and try to stay awake. We call this "all-nighter recovery."

So now I'm sacrificing NaNoWriMo Day 2 in order to finish up the StyleCareer.com project. My editor granted me an extension, and I am not going to ask for another one. I'm still feeling terrible at how little I got done on Thursday. How does one go into the Denver Public Library with the intention of working, but in fact end up reading web comic archives for four hours? I kept thinking to myself, "Just another few minutes. Then I'll start." And, "I really should start. Why am I not starting?" Click. Click. Not to over-dramatize my particular indulgence in the doldrums, but it's these sorts of shameful, stupid afternoons that bring me closest to possibly understanding what it's like to live with depression.

I thought hard about finishing the project via an all-nighter Thursday, but not only would that result in a much too rushed product, but then I'd be in terrible shape for the planned all-nighter Friday. Of course, now I may be looking at an all-nighter tonight, but that's not nearly as bad. I slept a lot yesterday, and I have nowhere to be tomorrow. Nothing scheduled. Hell, I can be a nocturnal writer now, if I want. I'm a free woman!

So that's the status report. There will quite likely be another one in the wee hours.

Enough about that. It's NaNoWriMo, did I mention? This year, for the first time, I have no idea what I'm writing. Nearly none. I'm out of ready-made novel plots! How did this happen? This past year has been a terrible one for ideas--I've let myself get out the habit of producing them. Been trying to fix that lately, though. Been going on writing dates with a friend, forcing myself to stay in the notebook or word processor just a little longer than I think I can. One Monday morning a few weeks back, I started a character sketch describing a man I saw exiting the bagel shop, and the character turned into one of two guys on a road trip, on the run from a mysterious, scary, supernatural something or other that was tracking them across the country. So that's where my Day 1 words went: imagining how that story might have started. Hopefully, the Muse will be kind, and She'll keep feeding me enough of the story each day so that I'll reach the end of it by November 30.

RESEARCH: Ur Doin It Wrong
Wed 2008-10-29 13:58:38 (single post)

I am ashamed that yesterday, despite my 9K intentions, was a 3K day. The first 1K happened well-nigh immediately, and then the next 2K happened from about 8:00 and 10:00 PM.

In my defense, here's some of the things that happened in between:

  • Got some necessary paperwork signed
  • Load o' laundry washed and hung to dry
  • Handed off some NaNoWriMo stickers to the Colorado::Boulder region's unofficial Longmont-area co-ML
  • Broke the bolt securing my bike seat
  • Got said bolt replaced
  • Cooked dinner
  • Washed dishes
  • Researched industry data points relevant to my current project
  • Brought in load o' laundry

The thing that took the most time? The research. Duh.

Obviously I can't talk about this stuff in detail. But let me at least make some notes about the process.

Research in the Imperative. In other words, "Do this, do that, et voila, you're done." A how-to document. These are easy. All I have to do is learn how to do a thing, then describe how to do the thing. I can write a how-to without much trouble. The portions of these freelance projects that are how-to are fairly easy and quick (although this is clearly a relative term when we're talking documents exceeding 15K words). I've also been doing a bunch of how-to at the office as I prepare my co-workers for doing the tasks I did for the past 4 years that I've worked here. They're tedious, they involve constantly cropping screenshots in MS Word, but they don't require hours of research before writing.

And then there's research in the indicative. Research where I have to define terms or process industry statistics, and convert this into informative prose that hangs together and moves towards some sort of point. Defining terms isn't so bad, but statistics? Hoo boy. Not only is it tricky to get the Internet to cough up these data points without my spending money I don't have on professional reports, but then... well, it's just data. Percentages and stuff. It needs to be synthesized into some sort of story before I can begin writing. And, with the very rare exception pertaining to election years, I have this innate response to numeric data which approximates boredom.

So I end up spending hours searching, reading, searching more, reading more, and occasionally making a false start on the writing. Then erasing the writing. Then reading more. And while reading, feeling this helpless and desperate sort of "how the heck am I going to use this data? Can I use this? I can't use this. Ooh! I can use this paragraph--only, how? Crud I have no time to be reading this! Crud I'm sick of reading this! Cruuuuddddd!"

I think I must be doing this wrong.

Certainly it doesn't help to be ALT-Tabbing between the web page and my project every two sentences, viewing every sentence I read through the filter of "Can I use this?" The key, apparently, is to simply allot myself a few unpressured hours during which I have permission to be fascinated with what I'm reading, and the narrative will just sort of create itself in my head during this time. I am sure that given a good two weeks or more 'til deadline, I can relax enough to convince myself that I love statistical data. Yum, Bureau of Labor Statistics! Excellent, the U.S. Census! Feed me trade publications because I am hungry!

Obviously a conclusion I should have come to about two weeks ago. Oh well. However, there is this: the hardest 3K of the project is done. Also, I seem to have underestimated how much time I'd have to work on things today. Which is good, because I've done 15K in a day, but I don't like it much.

In Which I Come Clean About This Procrastination Thing
Tue 2008-10-28 08:07:50 (single post)

Today is not a sleep-until-noon Tuesday. It can't be. Not with 18,000 words to go and four days to do it in.

At times like these, one might ask oneself, "Well, how did I get here?" And one might thereafter find oneself with Talking Heads songs stuck in the brain. And no good answer. I mean, this happens every single time I have a deadline ("same as it ever was... same as it ever was..."), and it gets worse every time.

When fledgling writers consider out loud the possibility of quitting their 9 to 5 jobs to pursue the dream full time, they often receive financial advise. "Don't do it unless you have six months/a year/three years worth of income saved up," say the gurus. "Don't do it unless you're married to someone with a paycheck." (I was. I am. I'm lucky.) It's more rare that the advice they get concerns time management. At least, I didn't get that kind of advice. I had to find out for myself what happens when I have all day, every day, to write.

You know what happens? I don't write. I lie back and I think, "I have all day!" And I sleep late and putter around and play games and read blogs and nap with my nose in books and take long soaks in the tub, and suddenly I don't have all day anymore. Ditto when deadline's still a month off. "I have all month!"

Today, happily, I woke up going, "I have all day - I should be able to knock off 10,000 words easily," and I stayed awake. Fired up the computer. Decided on a work and reward cycle that might keep me going all day (2,000 words, fifteen minutes of Puzzle Pirates, another 2,000 words, etc). Started the work part of that cycle. Started going over my notes. Started writing.

So what am I doing taking time off to blog? I dunno. Confessing, maybe. Usually, when I get to this point in a procrastinated project, I disappear from view, ashamed, and I don't resurface until I can proudly tell the world "Thunk!" (Which, of course, means, "I'm done! Finally! Yay! Gonna collapse now.") And I suppose I'm interested this time in keeping a record. I mean, there's my word count. Here's my statement of intent. Let's come back at the end of the day and see how the day played out.

After today I pretty much have Thursday. Friday's my deadline. And both Friday and Wednesday will be spent at the office until 3 PM and then in full-blown NaNoWriMo prep mode (a meet-up Wednesday night and the kick-off party Friday night). So it comes domn to two more-than-full-time days. Can't afford to do the usual Tuesday "I've got all day!" thing.

So that's where I'm at. I would say, "hopefully I will be at a better place tonight," except "hopefully" is the wrong word entirely. "With luck" is also wrong, for the same reason. As usual, the solution to not having written is to write. Neither hope nor luck enter the equation. So we'll say this:

Workfully, I'll be halfway out of the hole in another twelve hours or so.

It Came From The Archives
Wed 2008-09-24 21:07:14 (single post)

There are, admittedly, worse ways a writer can put off finishing and submitting a work in progress than by creating new works in progress. I mean, it's not like I totally wasted the day. Still, it is another day that I haven't resubmitted "Surfeit" anywhere. Ah, well.

But! New fiction!

It came out of a homework prompt from my writing group: Find something unfinished in your writing archives, something that you started long ago that never went anywhere, and rework it into a finished piece. (Or something that could feasibly become a finished piece.) I'm already doing that with the demonic sweater story. But that story's not finished, and I wanted to share with the class something that was. So I started going through my daily writing scraps from 2001 and lit upon three brief vignettes that caught my eye:

The conversation wound down to a full stop, words replaced with dinner-time noises in an otherwise-silence awkward and shamed. There was nothing left to say. Fifteen mouths, fifteen sets of silverware strove to fill the space with sounds, but the sounds were still a quality of silence.
She began to keep track of when they came and went. "I knew I could look up the schedules easily, in the books, on the Internet, but somehow keeping track myself (keeping track of the tracks) made the trains more mine.

"One day, I left the house at midnight, walked to the tracks, and leapt for the next open car.

"I nearly didn't make it. I would have died under the wheels had someone not grabbed my hand and pulled me into the car. A superhuman effort. I felt so stupid -- who did I think I was, Xena? Lara Croft? I'm just a dumb woman who didn't even go to college and couldn't even have babies properly. I crochet afghans in front of the TV all day, then I make dinner at 5 to be ready for my husband when he comes home at 6. On Sundays I make us both breakfast. Why did I think I could vault onto a speeding train?

"We talked a long time, that man and I. I'm not even sure he really exists, to tell you the truth. Not here. He says he's a tourist."

What came out of ransacking my archives was a short-short about a terribly OCD housewife who finds her perfectly controlled life unfulfilling, who longs for unexpected and unfamiliar experiences that she can't control. Who sits through a dinner date in which nothing said means anything. And who may or may not hop a boxcar at the end of the story.

But she's not the same woman as actually gets on the train in the 2001 scrap. That scrap has more stories hiding in it. It was suggested, among my writing group, that there is a series of interrelated stories about train travel and train-hopping implied by this old piece of nothing much. "I'm not even sure he exists... He says he's a tourist" is a phrase that won't get out of my head now.

And there was a third, unrelated (for now) piece of story sitting in that old file:

Below, the lights of the city going down like candles into water. Ffft. One by twos by hundreds sinking into a pond of darkness. Two meals later, all hell would certainly break loose.
I'm more intrigued there by the imagery of candles overtaken by flood than I am by the nod toward the old adage about civilization being only about two meals away from anarchy. I can see the image now, visible from the window on a train as the train takes a character out of her doomed old world and into a new one.

Oh, and, hey - new freelance deadline warning! Don't worry, this one's not 'til October 31 and I've already got a jump on it, as you can see. 500 words down, 19,500 words and a whole lot more research to go...

Declaration of THUNK
Sat 2008-03-15 21:13:07 (single post)

You know what that means. Only, minus the "much-extended" part and plus 10,000 words. I was a good girl this month.

If anyone needs me, I'll be on the Viridian Ocean terrorizing the natives. (Yarrr.)

Tomorrow, John and I are going to go to the gym and try to test positive for lead belay. (Tuesday morning we were deferred--the proctor wanted to see us improve at cutting each other slack. Er, giving each other slack. Y'know.) After that, I intend, as promised, to do some rewriting stuffs. Only I've got chores too. Grr. WHY DO THINGS NEVER STOP???

Declaration of Wimpiness
Sat 2008-03-15 01:30:02 (single post)

OK, not 6:00 AM, maybe closer to noon, because I am officially declaring my intent to have a couple hours' nap-time. Thththbbbp.

That's me: still last minute-ish. Only, the last minute is an overnight and no longer a month long. This is an improvement.

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