3453 words long
Define "survival." Define "me."
actually the only kind of dating i've ever done
Manuscript submissions can be thought of as something like internet dating. Manuscripts go out and meet editors. Both hope that something will click. Most often nothing does. Maybe the editor says "Not for us at this time," or maybe the author looks at the contract and says, "That's way too rights-grabby for me." And then there will be no second date. But sometimes that first date results in a match made in heaven.
Sometimes the author is like those guys Teresa Nielsen Hayden recalls less than fondly in her epic blog post Slushkiller.
An eon or two ago, when I was a girl and occasionally went on dates, I observed that there was a species of young man who’d be perfectly pleasant right up to the point where I declined to go to bed with him. Then he’d turn nasty and angry—all bridges burnt, not even minimally polite. It was clear that the sole thing that mattered was whether I’d put out.
Please, for the love of little fuzzy kittens, don't be that kind of author. It is much better to be the author who considers the whole thing as, at worst, an opportunity for a pleasant night out. I won't lie; this is made easier when the rejection letter says nice things about the manuscript. I'm only human. I respond well to encouragement. But even an impersonal, businesslike form rejection can be an encouraging thing. It means I succeeded at doing the business part of writing. I sent the thing out, and even though it came home again, I like to think it left a good impression. I like to hope I'm making friends and even fans among the editors and/or slush readers, that maybe they look forward to reading my stuff regardless of whether they can buy it. And maybe the next thing I send them will be more their type.
You can't build that kind of relationship if you're the sort of lout who throws unprofessional tantrums when someone tells you no.
I'm aware at this point that my metaphor has shifted a bit. At first it was the manuscript that was going out on dates, then it was the author, then the author was the dating service which sent the manuscript out on dates in hopes of finding The One. Only it's not ever just "The One," because there's reprint rights. The One For Now? As in, serial monogamy? Because, even though each market will want a period of exclusivity, when that period is over you are (that is, the manuscript is) free to play the field. But then the dating pool will be limited to those markets who don't mind not being The First. Annnnnd I'm going to stop right there before we wind up comparing "No reprints, original work only" to toxic attitudes toward women with sexual histories, which comparison is unfair, no good, and wrong no matter which party you're talking about.
Metaphors are, by nature, limited. Life is like a box of chocolates and ogres are like onions, but not in every way.
What I'm actually trying to say here with this tortured metaphor is, one of my manuscripts has been asked out on a second date. Yes! My little story got bumped up the editing chain! That means it's not actually worthless and unpublishable! At least, not at first glance. Not so's the first reader could tell. So I'll be over here on pins and needles until the Editor-in-Chief makes the final call.
Meanwhile, I have great hopes that this will be the week I finally get caught up on all things Friday Fictionettes. The offering for October 5th is this close to being ready for release. Wouldn't it be nice if I could release it tomorrow? Only I've got a dentist appointment, a handyworker coming over to give us an estimate on a couple small projects, and either roller derby practice or a roller derby work party. So the name of the game is low expectations. I mean, we see how well I did with unreasonable expectations, yeah? Not Well At All. So all I will promise is that I'll get some work done on the thing tomorrow, at some point, and we'll see where it goes from there.
this must be friday i never was any good at fridays
This may not be news, considering how many times I've said "The Friday Fictionette for this week will be late again" (and yes, I am saying it again) but I kind of suck at Fridays.
I'm still not sure whether I suck at Fridays in an avoidable way or not.
Here's generally what happens: I wake up on a Friday morning with all of my work to do. I have time to do a very small sliver of it before heading out to bike my Boulder Food Rescue shift. This involves about an hour at the donor grocery store sorting through the produce they have for me, culling the compost and packaging the good stuff for travel. Then, because it's summer and the nearby school I usually deliver the produce to is not in session, there's a round trip bike ride of about 7.2 miles. The half of the journey with 200+ pounds of food on the trailer is mostly downhill, thank goodness, but I have to go up those hills on my return journey, which is nothing to sneeze at even unladen.
After returning BFR's bike and trailer to the rack where they live, I typically walk across the parking lot for a buffet lunch during which I will inhale about three times my weight in various curries and tandoori chicken and naan. Then, if I'm feeling particularly virtuous, I return to the donor grocery store as a customer. Then I drive home, cursing the traffic on 28th Street and, because of the deadly combination of hard exercise and too much food, trying desperately not to fall asleep at the wheel.
Once I get home, I fall down flat in bed and don't move for hours.
Eventually I get up again, still feeling sort of sick and feverish, and make a half-hearted, low-energy stab at the day's work. A very small fraction of what's waiting for me gets done. I go back to bed, this time for keeps, feeling ashamed and dispirited.
Today was pretty much like that. I had some misguided idea that shifting the whole BFR-lunch-groceries-collapse routine earlier in the day would lead to my getting out of bed and back to work sooner. Alas, no. It just meant I napped longer. I don't know what my problem is--is my endurance so minimal? (My roller derby performance would suggest that not, but then I also tend to collapse after roller derby, too. It's just less noticeable since, most of the time, that collapse coincides with bedtime.) Am I just not protecting myself enough from the sun? Must I stop rewarding myself for all my hard work with hearty, nutritious, tasty food in vast quantities? Should I just resign myself to my limitations and either A. switch to a BFR shift that isn't on Friday, or B. stop pretending I actually have Friday available as a work day? I just don't know.
But on the plus side, the fraction of the work I got done included submitting my short story to its intended market. So yay!
(Annoyingly, this involved cleaning up garbage characters from the final manuscript which 4thewords seems to insert wherever italics or certain paragraph breaks show up, and which Scrivener for Windows is ill-equipped to find and replace. I had to compile to RTF and perform some find and replace routines in Libre Office before I could convert the whole thing to plain text. Otherwise there'd be a bunch of random question marks scattered through the submission, which would certainly not help its chances at winning the editor over. There has got to be a better way. I refuse to believe that including 4TW in my workflow must inevitably result in processing the manuscript through no less than four editors and a handful of by-hand tweaks before the dang thing's ready to submit anywhere.)
So, yeah. Same old same old. Saturday is the new Friday, and I'm really good at whining. Seems like I ought to offer y'all some cheese to go with that whine, but all I bought during today's grocery run were sliced muenster and cheddar, and I am saving them for our sandwiches so you can't have any so there.
newsflash: simple isn't, easy ain't
- 3,511 wds. long
OMG there is a PLOT HOLE in my story. This is not a typo; this is an honest-to-goodness LOGIC ERROR. Which was present when the story went out on submission the first time. SHAME.
So... the protagonist is only home because of taking a semester off from college. Also their little brother is in school. Also it is quite hot out BECAUSE IT IS JULY. All right, there are circumstances under which this would not be a plot hole, fine, cool, but I'm not going to try to build one of them into the story because DISTRACTION.
Nobody panic. I can fix this.
But why the crud do I have such trouble with SEASONS and CALENDARS? This is not the first time I've made a goof along those lines. Also why does every single "simple" editing pass turn out to be all complex and stuff? Why can't it ever be easy?
*grumps off back to the keyboard, muttering*
things return to normal, for fairly decent values of normal
- Feeding The Beast
- Friday Fictionettes
- Mapping Territories
- Selling My Soul
- Spit and Polish
- Support Structures
- 3,541 wds. long
Yesterday I got to everything but the blogging, so today I'm starting with the blogging. This my occasional strategy for making sure I do all of the writing things--start with whatever didn't happen yesterday, to make sure it happens today. I am very clever that way. *pats self on head*
Among the things I did do yesterday was a solid editing pass on "Survival, After." It came back from Shimmer with rejection in hand; I'm getting it ready for its next outing. Mainly I just need it to be about 350 words shorter, so I'm going over the manuscript with a Scalpel of -10% (two-handed weapon, imbued with curse: Perfectionist). But yesterday's pass also uncovered a lot of typos, cut-and-paste artifacts, and gerunds that ought to have been changed to simple present tense when the sentence got restructured. And vice versa. All of which were there on the story's last outing. So Much Embarrassment. This is the sort of thing that happens when it's a rush job to squeak it in under deadline. Go forth and do not likewise.
Anyway, I hope to finish this edit today so I can resubmit the story.
I'm back in Boulder now, back to the normal weekly schedule of writing and roller derby. There's still a touch of travel journaling for me to wrap up. Here it goes:
Thursday, July 19, 2018: I get out of town. My timing sucks.
Travel anxiety got me out of bed early, which meant plenty of time for a shower, laundry, packing, and last-minute printouts. I'd gotten as far as the shower and was starting on the laundry when Dad got up from the computer and shared the bad news: One of his oldest friends--the one whose garden had produced the tomatoes we had in yesterday's sauce piquante and also the cucumbers and squash we used in the kimchi, had just died that morning. He'd been less than two weeks out from receiving an artificial heart, but his all-natural original just wasn't able to wait that long despite all the day-to-day medical support he was receiving. Dad had volunteered to email mutual friends, seeing as how his friend's widow was obviously not in a space where she could handle that right now. I'm not sure really how able Dad was to handle it, but he muddled through.
So that was deeply sad. And it seemed like adding insult to injury that it happened the same morning I was leaving town, so that I was abandoning Dad right when he'd suffered an unexpected additional blow. But we made space in that morning's itinerary for extra hugs and a few stories about Dad's friend.
I headed out about two hours in advance of my train, leaving myself time to top up the rental car's fuel tank, return the rental car, and walk from the Hertz office to the train station. I could have had them shuttle me over, but if I had, I couldn't have stopped at Cochon Butcher for a sandwich and beer to go. Now, the smart plan would have been to ask Hertz to hold my luggage, walked down to Cochon for to-go, walk back to Hertz, then let them shuttle me down. Because after Cochon there were about six very long blocks to walk, and six blocks of New Orleans in July is a lot. Because I was not as smart as I could be, I arrived at the train station a lot sweatier and dehydrated than I might have. But my beer was refreshing and the sandwich was worth waiting for.
There was wifi on the City of New Orleans. I made a good-faith effort to get the Friday Fictionette done while I was still able to upload it; nevertheless, it would not go up until Saturday evening. It was "Mardel's Salamander" (ebook, audiobook), an irreverent romp through a fantasy future in which computer programming is magic and magic has consequences. I also got my Saturday morning AINC reading done later that night. Audacity's noise reduction filter worked astonishingly well; you could hardly tell from the finished MP3s that I was on a train. Given how well I could hear my next-door neighbor's phone call, though, I was probably not my next-door neighbor's favorite neighbor. I tried to keep my volume down, but you never know.
I could not possibly have been my next-door neighbor's least favorite neighbor. That prize had to go to the room across the aisle from me in which two pre-teen boys were roundly enjoying their mobile sleepover. They boarded the train at, I think, Jackson, Mississippi, and the shrieking, squealing, shouting, and roughhousing began almost immediately. Their parental units were just down the hall and sometimes poked heads in to adjudicate some point of sibling rivalry (not sure they actually were brothers, but you see what I mean), but never, so far as I could tell, to tell them KEEP YOUR VOICES DOWN AND STOP USING THE HALLWAY AND SLEEPER DOOR AS YOUR PERSONAL PLAYGROUND. Thankfully they fell asleep early and didn't rise until late. And I actually slept pretty well that night.
Friday, July 20, 2018: A little work, a little play, and once again we're on our way.
We got into Chicago Union Station more or less on time. I made my way to the sleeper lounge and staked out a spot at the workstation counter downstairs. Here I could sit at an actual desk with my computer and work or play comfortably. Also I did not have to listen to the ubiquitous televisions because here they were silent; if you wanted to listen, you connected your smart phone to a particular "Hearing Hotspot" wifi network and downloaded an app. That was useful intel. The official Amtrak Wifi network wouldn't let me connect to game servers, but the Hearing Hotspot did. So after I uploaded that day's blog post I got to play Spiral Knights until it was time to board my train.
The rest of the ride was much like the previous leg of the journey, only minus the disruptive pre-teen boy sleepover element. And no wifi, of course. I continued work on the fictionette, cleaned out my email spam folder, solved jigsaw sudoku, and read ebooks. I also even got a small amount of physical conditioning to make up for spending the whole day on my butt and Saturday's crossfit (which I would because tired). See, there are these vertical bars in the bathrooms for you to hold onto when the ride gets bumpy, and it's possible to use them for a sort of assisted squat/pull-up exercise, and then do a set of ten each time one is obliged to visit the facilities.
So things were productive and peaceful. And on Saturday morning I woke up in Colorado.
Food talley for the remainder of the trip:
- 2018-07-19, 12:00 - Pork belly sandwich with mint and cucumber on white bread (Cochon Butcher)
- A bunch of Amtrak meals that were adequate or even tasty but not particularly worth reporting
after a small interruption we continue with our tale
Had a late night last night and didn't have the oomph left over to continue the travel journal. Late night tonight, too, but enough is enough. Skip two days, you wind up skipping three, then a whole week, then nothing gets blogged at all. So! Picking up where I left off the other night...
Friday, July 13, 2018: The train arrives in New Orleans
Well, not until 3:30 PM. Slept well, felt a lot better, got a significant amount of work done on the short story before the train arrived. Spotted wildlife from the train: wild turkeys just outside a town in Mississippi (can't recall exactly where) and a ton of egrets at Port Manchac. (Sometimes you get pelicans. Sometimes you get cormorants. Today it was mostly egrets.) Had a perfectly terrible excuse for a muffuletta for lunch. I'd forgive the substitution of the hoagie roll--I allow a lot in an out-of-town muffuletta, just so long as they get the innards right--but the microwave did horrible things to that hoagie roll, and the result was just sad.
No, wait, I misremember, the awful not-muffuletta was last night over dinner, because we were with that nice couple who got off the train in Memphis. But then I have no memory of what I had for breakfast or lunch on the train Friday. Clearly these were not memorable meals.
Had a phone conversation with Dad during which he tried very hard to get me to accept his offer of ferrying me around downtown once I got in. I don't think Dad's ever gotten comfortable with the idea of me being downtown by myself, not even after all these years. He also wanted to know why I thought I needed a rental car when he has no plans and is happy to drive me around. Which was very sweet of him and all, but, I don't know, y'all, I did not expect to still be defending bids for independence to my father at my age.
So the train arrived. I'd planned on having my luggage held at the station while I skated up to the Sugar Mill for my ROTB packet, then retrieving it and taking the streetcar to my lodgings for the night. When I found out how much that would cost me, I rearranged my plans. I would instead take the streetcar to my lodgings immediately, then skate all the way back to the Sugar Mill, then skate all the way back to the airBnB. Fine. I like skating. Let's do this.
The streetcar system is more confusing than it ought to be. The line I boarded was the 49, but you couldn't tell it from the car. The car said 03. It also said Uptown/Loyola, which, correct me if I'm wrong, has absolutely nothing to do with where it actually went, which was St. Claude and Elysian Fields. I dunno. I think I have a decent handle on navigating New Orleans, but I've never taken the streetcar with intent before. (Taking it mainly for the experience of WHEE I'M ON THE STREETCAR doesn't count.) There may be some subtleties I'm missing.
It's OK, you don't have to @ me about it. I'll figure it out as and when needed.
So that worked. Got to the house. Let myself in. Sat down in the blissful air conditioning (four blocks of New Orleans in July is a lot). Eventually got into my leggings and cut-offs. Packed my bookbag to be more lightweight for skate travel, leaving in only the things I imagined I'd want that evening.
Went out on the porch to put on my skates AND WAS IMMEDIATELY SURROUNDED BY KITTENS.
They were black and tabby and muted calico and tortie and gray. There were at least seven of them. They were half-grown and half-feral. Their favorite game seemed to be Who Can Get The Closest To The Human Without Getting Pet. They arranged themselves around the chair I was in, some where I could see them and some not. When I finally tore my eyes away and toe-stepped down the stoop to start my evening's journey, they scattered, then rearranged themselves proprietorially on the porch where I had been.
It was a long trip. It took me about half an hour, maybe forty minutes. Followed a pedicab most of the way down Decatur and North Peters. "You make a nice safe lane," I told the bicyclist. He suggested I hold onto the back and let him tow me; I declined, citing a need to see potentially hazardous bits of street before I rolled over them. It was a kind offer, though.
Stopped on the way at the terribly convenient Hertz on Convention Center Boulevard to reserve a rental for Sunday AM pick-up (and, incidentally, put to bed any future arguments about whether I needed a rental car; it was already rented, too bad).
After I'd done my required pre-ROTB business at the Sugar Mill, I headed the couple blocks down Andrew Higgins Boulevard toward Tchoupitoulas and Cochon Butcher. And there I not only worked some more on my short story, but I also had the muffuletta to make up for Amtrak's utter disgrace of an alleged muffuletta.
Got back to the airBnB eventually and met the neighbor lady who feeds the kittens. Sat on the porch and talked awhile. Finally went inside, geared down, changed into regular street clothes, walked to the nearby grocery for skater fuel--protein/energy bars, coconut water, fruit, that sort of thing. Came back. Started laundry. FINISHED THE SHORT STORY AND SUBMITTED IT. Promptly keeled over. The end.
Friday, July 14, 2018: Rollerbull o'clock
Woke up at 5:30 with plans to leave the house at 6:00 so as to be at the Sugar Mill for 6:30. That is frickin' early. What's more depressing is how hot out it already was when I started skating back toward the Sugar Mill. When a block later I encountered another rollerbull waiting for an Uber, I gratefully accepted her invitation to share the ride.
6:30 was indeed early--too early, really, to be there, despite that this was what the welcome packet told us to do. Not much to do, and no one to talk to if you don't know anyone and are sort of awkward at getting to know people. Was saved by some skaters from Big Easy Rollergirls who recognized me and also a crew from Steel City who'd been chatting with me on Twitter the afternoon before. So now I had some people to "bull around" with, and it was fantastic.
Dad was out there waiting to get a sweaty hug from his derby daughter and watch the fun and take pictures. (He was already beside himself with amusement/shock that several of the bulls were going topless except for pasties. I imagine he will wind up telling this detail to his hunting buddies, bar pals, and other friends and family about three billion times over the remainder of the year.)
So we received the blessing of San Fermín and were released to chase down the runners and swat their butts with our toy bats. Yay. I mean, honestly, I'm there for the skating, not so much for the butt-swatting. I am not thrilled by 1. dudes who say things along the lines of "ooh, yeah baby, hit me harder" (ew) 2. mostly dudes but some women too who holler after you that you "hit like a girl" or "got nothing" or other stupid challenges to my imagined machismo (this is not where my machismo lives, sorry, thanks for playing, try me again when I'm parallel parking or considering spicy food) 3. runners of all genders who insist that their friend "needs a beating" (bull does not take request, bull hits request-er instead). Or, in the case of the dude accosting me after the run while I was trying to talk to my Dad, dudes who come and put their hands/arms around my shoulders or on my back or other places without my consent and I have to extricate myself firmly but, alas, without breaking their gropey-ass appendages because violence is frowned upon by event organizers.
Basically I'm in it for the excuse to skate multiple laps around the course and then skate-dance to whatever the band is playing at the afterparty.
Eventually I peeled off, texted my goodbyes to the Steel City gals, and made my way into the Quarter. Greeted runners doing the same with "Great run this morning! Did y'all have fun too?" Stood for a selfie request with a couple tourists who said they'd had a blast.
Discovered that it's harder than I'd imagined to find a bar open before 11:00 AM on a Saturday. Found my way to Johnny White's for a beer and a photo uploading session. A party of runners descended on the place while I was thus occupied and took over the jukebox. When I finally got up to leave, I said hi and great run and all that, and one of them said, "We had a running bet whether you were deaf and maybe blind, that you were able to just keep working on your computer with us there." OK, I guess.
Now it was past 11:00 and all sorts of lunch options opened up. Too many options. I was too tired for decisions. So I fell back on my usual, which is the French Market Restaurant--you know, that place on Decatur Street with the green-and-white awnings and the constant tantalizing smell of boiled seafood wafting out the door. What I really wanted was boiled blue crab--I'd been assured they were in season--but they didn't have them. So I had a pasta dish instead. It was amazing. It involved spaghetti in a generous crawfish cream sauce topped by a central tower consisting of two slabs of fried eggplant and one damn fine crab cake. So that was fantastic.
I just want to point out that I have never yet been told anywhere in the New Orleans area, "You can't come in here with those skates on." Every single place I've been, restaurant or bar or hotel or Hertz rental office, they've been all, "Roll on in! Just be careful, OK?" The French Market Restaurant is no exception, but its restrooms are up a flight of stairs. Not a problem. Derby teaches the proper use of toe stops. So I'm toe-stopping my way up the stairs, and someone on her way down is all, "You are so talented," and I'm all, "Not talent, just good training." I mean, it beats the exchange several years ago on a post-ROTB bar crawl when the whole way up the stairs at Saints & Sinners someone kept repeating "Girl, you are gonna fall and break your leg." Like, why? Why would you say that? Having said it, why would you say it again?
Made it to the house. Tired. Full stomach. Clothes can't come off fast enough. Brief shower. Crawled into bed. Out like a light and stayed that way for about five hours.
Ventured out on the street again after dark--in shoes this time, thank you--looking for dinner and maybe if I was lucky a little wifi. The problem with Frenchmen Street is, mostly what you'll find are rockin' clubs with awesome shows and a one or two drink minimum and huge crowds. Would have been great if that was what I was in the mood for. If I'm in the mood, it's a treat just walking down the street and hearing the music coming out every door. But I just didn't have the energy for it.
Found my way instead into a courtyard and up some stairs and onto a rooftop patio with a pop-up called Rogue Cafe. They made me some tasty nachos. Thus for food. Then I remembered Envie at Barracks and Decatur, and settled in for coffee and an omelet and a bit of internet errand-running. This included making myself a Blue Bikes account. I'd noticed the rental hub on Frenchman Street at Washington Square and liked the idea of biking rather than skating to the Hertz office the next morning.
Stayed up a little late to get my Sunday morning AINC reading done--I'd already missed the Saturday shows, so I didn't want to miss Sunday too. Set my alarm for 6:15 and went to bed.
Food Tally for Friday and Saturday
It occurs to me I should be keeping track of what-got-et-when. I mean, we're now in the ACTUALLY IN NEW ORLEANS part of the travel journal. Food is going to be important. Thus:
- 2018-07-13, 18:30 - muffuletta (Cochon Butcher)
- 2018-07-14, 11:15 - eggplant & crab pasta (French Market Restaurant)
- 2018-07-14, 19:15 - Nachos Sophia(?) (Rogue Cafe)
- 2018-07-14, 20:30 - ham & cheddar omelet (Envie 1241 Decatur)
The pasta takes the prize in that list with the muffuletta coming in a close second.
thud and minor blunders
I have done it. I have submitted "Survival, After" to Shimmer for my very last submission to their very final issue.
Operation NO REGRETS has been successful.
I'm still not sure that the pacing is right. I spent so much time this week (meaning, mostly, today) trying to get the new material for the first half written that I can't help but feel the second half is slight by comparison. Like, maybe the first half should only be the first third, and there should be more scenes about the protagonist's journey after the protagonist resigns themselves to having to make that journey. I don't know. I can't be sure until I've let enough time go by that neither half feels fresher than the other.
And, well, I didn't have that kind of time left. I barely had another hour left before the deadline--always assuming that "midnight, July 14" means exactly and technically that, 00:00 2018-07-14, and not 23:59 2018-07-14 as I'd halfway hoped. Always better to assume the earlier deadline than the later one. ZERO REGRETS IS THE ONLY ACCEPTABLE OUTCOME. So. It's in, just under, presumably, the wire.
Tomorrow morning I wake up at 5:15, at which point I get dressed, affix my horns to my helmet, prepare my bookbag for the morning, and get geared up in time to skate out the door at 6:00, thus to be at the Sugar Mill for 6:30, thus to be staged for Bull Release o'Clock which is 8:00 AM. That's an early dang morning. It follows a long and effortful Friday in which not only did I write and revise and line-edit and submit a brand new story but I also skated between a round-trip between the Sugar Mill and the far end of the Marigny. And now it's midnight.
So... the volunteer reading due on AINC's servers on Saturday at 11:00 AM isn't getting done. I'm sorry. My bad.
And (you guessed it) the Friday Fictionette for July 13th will not go up until later on this weekend. More apologies.
But I submitted that damn story, I did. And whatever happens with that submission, I got a brand new story ready for submission. My story stable is that much deeper and I am feeling like a successful writer tonight.
With that happy thought, I now go *thud.*
but questions only lead to more questions and also a higher wordcount
Hi. I'm in a hotel in Loveland right now. I'm doing the derby thing this weekend. It is a tournament called Mayhem; details here. (Sorry, it's a Facebook event page, I don't think they have a regular web page about it.) We play at 2:15 PM tomorrow against the team from Colorado Springs. Our schedule for the rest of the weekend depends on whether we win or lose that first game. The latest bracket and schedule is... hard to find, actually, but it's in a Google Drive pdf that's viewable by anyone who has the link, so, here's the link.
So as you might expect, this complicates my Friday. My whole week has been complicated. But I have been good! I have been prioritizing the ongoing revision of "Survival, After" rather than doing just "the easy stuff" and sticking a fork in the rest of the day. So I actually have progress to report.
Progress has been... rather daunting.
As I've said before, I'm already daunted, disappointed, alarmed, something like that, by the story's refusal to remain a flash fiction story, and by its insistence on needing more than just a quick polish before sending it off to potential publishers. But I had become somewhat resigned to it. I gave in. I began indicating section breaks and expanding the resulting sections into full-blown individual scenes. I watched the word count rise and I shrugged and said, "So be it." I even got excited that I might have a brand new full-length story by the end of this process!
Then I took a look at the world-building and things really started blowing up.
Heh. That's almost literal, given how the story starts. As of last week, the draft began, "Within an hour of the bombs falling..." The original prompt had to do with immigrants and refugees, so my character was a refugee fleeing a war zone. Thus, bombs. Only bombs and war means territories and nations and policies and I just can't. Whatever it takes to arrange fictional wartime politics, I just don't got. I'm sorry. So, no. No one is dropping bombs on the protagonist's city.
So what does that mean? It means unexplained uncanny phenomena, of course! Again. I mean, it's basically "The Day the Sidewalks Melted" except survivable (and not flash fiction). Because that's what I do. Apparently I write stories about the real world turning quite suddenly into a science-fantasy world, and how everyday people cope with that. It's OK. If I'm a one-trick pony, there are worse tricks to have.
And so but anyway the point is, the story's beginning just keeps getting longer. Look, if you say "bombs," the reader can kind of imagine what that's like. Things go boom. Stuff gets smashed. People get smashed too. The fallout effects may be fantastical, but the initial concussive impact is can pretty much go without saying. Right? Well, delete the bombs and nothing goes without saying. How does the surreal effect happen? What does it look and sound and smell like? What do we know, what don't we know, and what can we hope to find out? QUESTIONS.
I also decided the protagonist can't just be a bystander when the cars at the traffic light go feral. The protagonist is in one of those cars. Which means the protagonist has no idea how widespread this is until they run home to reassure their family: hey, the thing you are no doubt staring horrified at on the morning news? I survived that. So I have to actually write the scene where the protagonist discovers what happened to their family's house. And I have to decide what happened to their family's house, because since it's not bombs I can't just refer to "the rubble that was my parents' garage" and leave it at that. And, damn, did I actually originally have the protagonist just fleeing the area without finding out for sure whether their family is OK? That's cold, y'all. That's super cold. The protagonist has to dig through the rubble. They have to go back to their brother's school and try to find him. They can't just leave without making sure.
So now I'm writing even more new material. For a story that started out 750 words long.
I'm in this weird back-and-forth between feeling really awesome about watching this story take shape, and getting all white-knuckled anxious WHEN WILL THIS BE DONE PLEASE?! Like, I would like to write other things in my life. Other short stories. Maybe even a novel! Could I not spend the entire rest of my career on this one used-to-be-flash story? Because right now it feels like this is my life now.
Anyway. Today I did not prioritize short story revision because tomorrow is Friday, and, having prioritized the short story revision all week, I had not made even a little bit of progress on this week's Friday Fictionette offering until today. And that sucker needs a lot of revision between today, because the hot mess I have babbled out isn't presentable. Also it is too long. It is almost 3000 words of not even a little bit presentable. So... I am hoping to be on time with it tomorrow, but tomorrow is Bout Day 1 of 3. Adjust your expectations accordingly and I shall try to do the same.
collecting data and assembling furniture
So... let's not talk about yesterday. Well, OK, let's; it's a very short story. The story is this: Brand-new epiphanic schedule reversals can only do so much when you're so bone-weary from the previous evening's off-skates workout that you can't get out of bed. (Seriously. How do my teammates do all those things and still go to work the next morning like functional adults?) It's fine--I did a little of most everything on the list. But it was an uncomfortably late start.
Today was much better. It was pretty much perfect. Well, except for that part where I totally forgot I had a 4:45 appointment in Longmont. I was hip deep in polishing tomorrow's Friday Fictionette offering when the 4:15 reminder went off. This is why I make myself reminders. Other than that, things were awesome. I have logged another great day's worth of evidence supporting the new schedule theory, and it isn't even 6:00 yet. (I've begun this blog post from the bar of the Outback Steakhouse next door to the building that houses Cafe of Life, where my 4:45 appointment was. I expect I'll be finishing it later tonight, after scrimmage, though.)
This morning I was bubbling with ideas for today's short story revision session. I wound up taking those ideas on a short walk around the block, talking myself through them out loud and getting weird looks from neighbors. Then I sat down and spat out notes about those thoughts all over the story draft. (This would be another example of learning from self-observation: having learned that I work best by alternating periods of writing with periods of thinking about writing, I'm now deliberately scheduling time for the walking-around-thinking phase of the cycle. I'm counting it on my timesheet, too. YOU CAN'T STOP ME.)
During the contest I wrote it for, "Survival, After" got some feedback along the lines that maybe we need to see what life was like before. This is a fantasy story, so we can't just assume mundane here-and-now reality before the apocalyptic event. Also, in order to make the story an actual story and not just a verbose outline of a story, I need to give the protagonist a real, tangible life that got interrupted by the apocalyptic goings-on. They need to have memories that mean something to them and add emotional and thematic content to the story. Those are two problems in search of the same solution, which I began implementing today.
It's a little like architecture, or maybe like assembling prefab furniture according to blueprints I'm writing as I go along. Insert tab A into slot B. Assemble boards and nail them together just so. Open bag labeled COMPACT FLASHBACKS and affix contents to the story where indicated.
strike that. reverse it.
- 1,722 wds. long
- 1,097 wds. long
I HAD AN EPIPHANY YESTERDAY. About the extreme difficulty of getting to the short story revision part of the day. About my entire work-flow. ABOUT HOW TO FIX IT.
First up in the equation is time.
I write more efficiently and productively in the mornings. That's just a given. The long day is still ahead of me, I'm awake, I've just had my first mug of tea and done all the morning-wake-up things, maybe I've had a little walk around the block, I'm ready.
I do not do so well in the afternoons. I have a hard time circling back around to the writing after a couple hours not writing--whether it's making lunch or going out and getting it, doing household chores or running errands, or even just having a well-deserved play break. Two o'clock comes round and everything about me says "noooooo." Sometimes I wind up just crashing from sudden fatigue. The afternoon shift quite often doesn't happen.
And then there's tasks.
It's easy to get my "daily gottas" under way. They are rote, they are mechanical, they have the inertia of habit behind them. The stakes where they are concerned is low. Fictionettes are not guaranteed to be sparkling undying literature, and freewriting is no-holds-barred crappy-as-you-want-it idea generation. It is play.
It's so much harder to jump into the revision process. The stakes are off the charts. Making things perfect becomes my job, and it is a scary job.
There you have it. We have two times of day, one that lends itself more effortlessly, more energetically, to the writing than does the other. We also have two types of writing tasks, one that is much easier, brings lower stress, and feels more fun than does the other.
Here's where I *facepalm* forever:
I have been pairing up the unfriendly time of day with the more difficult writing task. WHY. WHY AM I STUPID. Why would I do that to myself? Why would I take a hard thing and make it harder? That is not a nice thing to do to myself! That is not what we call reasonable expectations! Seriously, this is basic self-observation, writing efficiency, Rachel-Aaron-2K-to-10K stuff: Gather data, find out how you work best, and then work that way! Do not attempt to work in a less-than-best way! That way lies less-than-best work. Sheesh.
So! In the name of getting out of my own way already, today I tried reversing the workflow.
For my morning shift: Submission Procedures and Short Story Revision.
- I submitted "Soup Witch" to a new market. A big one! Big enough that I've never submitted to them before, but always thought, "No, this isn't good enough for them." But, hey, DON'T SELF-REJECT, we have people to do that for you, they're called editors. (I kid. Except I don't.) Anyway, they happily take second publication rights, they don't seem to care where the first rights were used up, and they specifically publish for a younger audience. IT'S PERFECT.
- I reread the Cast of Wonders submission guidelines for Banned Books Week and this time my eyes snagged on the bolded words new stories only. They in fact they don't want reprints for this particular call. Whoops. (In my defense, I don't think I'd looked at the guidelines on Submittable before, but only at the very brief guidelines at the CoW website. So. I guess I will not be emergency-editing "Making Friends" for them after all.
- Upon not finding anything in my searchable manuscript list that's unpublished, less than 3,000 words, and in any way to do with libraries, I resigned myself to returning to the rewrite of "Survival, After." Which is fine. Honestly, I feel like I was using EMERGENCY DEADLINE REVISION DISTRACTION as a way of avoiding it, because it's hard. All revisions are hard.
- So I worked on the bit in "Survival, After" about the singing beef jerky. (It gets its own scene in this longer version.)
For my afternoon shift: Freewriting and Fictionette Prep
- Freewriting. Yay! For a writing prompt, I turned to InspiroBot, who gave me this creepy beauty. Be strong! Don't die!
- Fictionette. Drafting is coming right along. It's too long, but that's OK; Tuesday is early days. I've already condensed two characters' functions into a single character, always a welcome development when writing flash fiction.
And for my lunch break, I...
- Did some household financial chores.
- Played about an hour of Spiral Knights!
- Then spent an extra couple hours avoiding getting back to work.
So the rearranged schedule is not a panacea. But! It helped. I did not at last look at the disapproving clock and decide there was no point trying to fit a meaningful session of (difficult, impossible, nebulous, ill-defined) short story revision into the hour and a half remaining before I had to get ready for derby. Instead, I thought, OK, 25 minutes for freewriting and another, oh, 45 minutes for fictionettes. Golden! And off I went. I damn near made myself late for derby because I was not going to put down the fictionette draft until I'd soundly defeated the possessed Villager and taken their stash of Dust and Wood (4TW brings all the motivation), but I did it.
One day does not constitute a sufficient body of evidence, but it'll do for proof of concept. Let's see how well it works tomorrow.
a tent door closes, a submissions window opens
- 1,097 wds. long
- 1,722 wds. long
The April 2018 edition of Camp NaNoWriMo is over. Toward my goal of 40 revision hours, I got about 10.75. Toward my story submission goal of getting all five Weekend Warrior contest entries revised and submitted, I got a whopping zero. I started one revision but still have not finished it. Still, I did revise and submit something else along the way! So. Not ideal, but toward my meta-goal of "have a healthier daily workflow that regularly moves my commercial publication goals along" goes, it's a dang good start.
I've had to put "Survival, After" on hold again, though. Cast of Wonders has reopened for submissions! But not for general submissions, so I can't simply resubmit "The Soup Witch's Funeral Dinner" there (my one completed revision and submission in April) as the folks at Podcastle suggested doing. I ought to have submitted it during their most recent general submission period. I could have done! Podcastle sent me the rejection letter with that suggestion the day before the April 15 deadline, and then by the morning of deadline day I had received the rejection letter from Cast of Wonders for the story I'd had on slush with them at the time. So I could have submitted it without it being a simultaneous or multiple submission! I had about half a day's window to get it in. But I didn't get moving until late that night, however, at which time I discovered that they reckon end-of-day according to Eastern Time Zone hours.
Cast of Wonders's next general submission window is probably going to be August 15. That's kind of a long way off, so I'll be looking for some place I can resub "Soup Witch" in the meantime. It would have to accept Patreon reprints of about a thousand words in length that either read a little young or a little like a fairy tale. There must be somewhere, right? Quick! To the Submission Grinder!
Meanwhile, here's what the current Cast of Wonders submissions window is about (in case you want to play along at home). They're preparing for Banned Books Week by inviting submissions appropriate to the theme of libraries. So I've dug through the Friday Fictionette archives for a potential reprint more likely to fit the bill: "Making Friends," in which a lonely orphan child, having learned the pros and cons of friendship from reading through her guardian's carefully curated library, tries to put those lessons to work.
It is not going to be simple. On reread, I'm struck by what a mess it is. The beginning rambles. The ending abruptly cuts things off just before the two main characters can meaningfully interact. It is not made clear what the protagonist's situation actually is. Also the role of the Duchess's library could be heightened just a bit, just to give the story a clearer connection to the theme, but only once I've cleaned up the major malfunctions.
The good news is, with a maximum word count of 3,000, I've got all sorts of room in which to let the story unfold. The bad news is, once again, I'm going to need to generate new draft. It'll probably take me right up until the May 15 deadline to finish.
Well, if it does, at least this time I know not to leave it until ten o'clock at night.