“Thus, in a real sense, I am constantly writing autobiography, but I have to turn it into fiction in order to give it credibility.”
Katherine Paterson

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

in which the author has temporary favorites among her progeny
Fri 2016-03-25 00:21:36 (single post)

Today's topic is The Short Story Development Queue Workflow, also known as "I said I'd work on the new story, but there was this other story screaming for attention..."

This is also about the unintended consequences of holding myself to a daily half-hour Submissions Procedures session.

It's very simple. During Tuesday's session, I decided which market I wanted to submit a story to next. That's usually the only real question. The question of which story is typically very easy to determine. I look at which stories have been submitted before and are A) still not published, and B) not currently in somebody's slush pile. I pick the one of these that is C) the best fit for the market, and I submit it.

The problem is when the story that satisfies all three requirements also D) needs a lot of work before it gets submitted anywhere new. This is what I figured out during Wednesday's session.

So, "Stand By for Your Assignment" last went out to visit with the editors of the late, lamented Crossed Genres Magazine for their themed issue, "Anticipation." Themed issues come with submission deadlines; submission deadlines inevitably correlate with me finishing things in a big goddamn hurry and, as a result, probably sending them a smidge before they're really ready for prime time.

Which is to say, despite having seen the inside of a slush pile before, this story needs a lot of work before it may be allowed to see the inside of another one.

And I'm not talking about a line-level edit. No. Although that's one of the things it needs. No, what it also needs is cohesiveness of theme. It's got two elements in it that could work really well together: the female protagonist is bearing up under the double-barreled assault of familial expectations and corporate microagressions, and she is undergoing increasingly frequent experiences of a disturbing nature that may be hallucinations or may be genuine invasions of her world by the weird. But the story as it stands doesn't actually tie them together. They're just both in there, the latter as plot and the former as background. And in narrative, as in science, correlation does not equal causation. Narrative can go a long way on correlation alone, but in this story, I think, not far enough. So I need to rearrange some things to make them work together deliberately rather than by accident. And then there are the line-by-line infelicities that need to be cleared up...

And that's why, during today's Submissions Proceedures and Fiction Development sessions, I didn't do my assigned homework (the one about Ellen and the man who was a tree). It's because I did other homework (beginning to revise "Stand By..."). I hope I get credit for the other homework, at least.

In other news! That vaguely parental-like guilt that a writer might feel, where all the attention you spend on one of your "babies" is attention you're not spending on the other "baby" and oh my Gods I am a bad "mother" because I am failing to love all my "babies" equally...? Yeah, that's a thing.

Cover art incorporates original photography by the author, who can't seem to help collecting cheap masks.
this fictionette is very, very nervous but STRONG LIKE OX
Sat 2016-03-19 00:51:36 (single post)

OK, real quick 'cause it's late and all: It's Friday--well, it was Friday about 51 minutes ago--and we got Fictionette. "This Will Be My Origin Story" is about someone who thought she knew her own strength, but didn't really, and now it's all gone to hell. You know how it is.

It was another night up late reading again (my self-control is indirectly proportionate to my proximity to a book) and sleeping until noon. So I got started quite late. And yet somehow I managed to get all of the things done, writing and otherwise. By otherwise, by the way, I mainly mean my motor vehicle registration renewal and change of address. This required two phone calls so far. It will also require a trip to the emissions testing tomorrow morning and a visit to the license tag renewal site in the middle of next week.

I put in another hour on the new short story. Or, rather, I eked out another hour. Turns out I didn't have all that much more ready to scoop out of my head and dump on the page. So I wound up talking to myself about the story in the Document Notes fields of my virtual index cards. A lot. Unfortunately, this doesn't count toward the story's word count. Well, maybe fortunately. It was a lot of babble. Also, I did some research and found out that first off, dryads are literally the spirits of oak trees, and secondly, there doesn't seem to be a handy word for the spirits of maple and cottonwood trees. Then there's the bit about dryads don't so much turn into trees as they simply live inside them. I may need a different mythological creature word entirely for what I'm trying to do.

The reason I deliberately let myself sleep so late is roller derby. Of course. Scrimmage last night was particularly rough--fun, satisfying, exciting, but rough--and further more Saturday is bout day. Our A and B travel teams are going to play Rocky Mountain Rollergirls' Fight Club and Contenders, respectively. That's "Fight Club" as in "Currently ranked #16 in the world," by the way. And also? I've been substituted in for someone on our A team. Baby's first bout with the BCB All Stars is also going to be baby's first sanctioned bout is going to be against Fight Club. Egad. Cue all of the imposter syndrome. And also the nerves.

So I think maybe we can forgive me for indulging in all the sleep? You know. Just in preparation for stuff?

Um. If you're in town and free tomorrow night, it would be awesome to see you in the stands. ALL THE HEARTS AND FLOWERS Y'ALL.

approaching the rough draft in scattershot fashion
Fri 2016-03-18 01:48:35 (single post)

Today's been an unusually glorious and productive day. I'm hoping to do something about the "unusually" part, going forward--days like this ought to be routine, drat it all!--but I've been in deplorable sleeping habits the last few days (or weeks). Up reading until sometime past two (and I'm not going to try to say how far past two, because around two is when I just stop looking at the clock), then, as effect follows cause, unable to get out of bed until dang near noon.

I did mention I was binging on T. Kingfisher ebooks, right? This would explain the "up until sometime past two" part of the equation. Nine Goblins was a lot of fun. Bryrony and Roses was amazing. Now I'm waiting on a paperback of The Seventh Bride to come in the mail.

Anyway. Today, despite being up until stupid-o-clock reading last night, I got up on time. That made everything else possible, including a substantial session on the new short story.

Yes! The new short story. It still doesn't have a title, but I've changed the working title (more like a working not-a-title) to reflect the main character's name. She has one now. It's Ellen. Well, in full, it's Barbara Ellen, and if you are at all of a folksongish bent you'll see what I did there. Maybe.

Good grief, was February 18 really the last time I touched it? (My database doesn't lie, but sometimes I forget to give it the whole truth.) Well, the draft is about 1500 words longer than it was. A neat trick, considering I really didn't know where to go after the first scene, or even how to finish the first scene.

I had--I continue to have--certain things I want in the story, plot elements and character backgrounds and so forth, but no clue just yet how to get from one to the next narratively. So, instead of spending another hour obsessively revising the first 500-word chunk, I switched over to what I'm thinking of as the Scattershot Strategy.

For each story element I knew that I wanted to include, I created a new Scrivener text file, and I just started writing in it without any thought for how the results would fit into the overall story. Just get everything that's in my head down on the page, regardless of whether it all works together yet. It wound up feeling a lot like plotting with index cards, only instead of physical index cards I've got virtual ones that I can drag and drop into any order. One of them has the very last two sentences of the story, and nothing else. One of them tells the tale of Ellen's mother's disappearance. Another is the scene where Ellen and the man who was a tree show up at Ellen's sister's house--that will probably be the third scene in the story. (The second scene still hasn't come clear.) Yet another "index card" has a few disjointed lines representing the climax of the story's central dilemma.

Point is, once I stopped worrying about how I'd get from here to there and gave myself permission to just teleport, more or less, it got fun. Like my freewriting sessions are fun. Like writing rough draft is supposed to be fun. I'm in the sandbox, playing with words and characters and ideas! Nothing has to be perfect! This, this right here, this is something I absolutely love about writing.

I sometimes lose track of the things I love about writing. Today I got reminded.

Hooray! More tomorrow.

driving through the fog of an unscheduled day
Fri 2016-02-19 23:15:33 (single post)

You know what's the worst? Totally unscheduled days. No, really--you get up right on time, you do your first writing task, then you think, "I have all day to do the rest of my writing," and then you go bike all over town, take yourself out for lunch, run errands, take a long nap because you just biked all over town in the gloriously warm sun--and then suddenly it's late in the evening and there is not enough time in the world to get everything done.

Well, OK, maybe you don't. Maybe you're smart. I seem to not be very smart when it comes to managing totally unscheduled days. Hence, Saturday is the Friday, etc. etc., many apologies, check back tomorrow.

Meanwhile! New fiction. The new short story is proceeding slowly in a sort of NaNoWriMo-esque way. Not as regards word-count, though. As regards discovery. I only really know what happens in one scene, which makes the whole endeavor sort of scary--but, so what? Write that one scene. It is amazing what little details pop up when writing that one scene, and what guiding stars those details can be. For instance, when the main character noticed that the weird tree had oak bark but "five-fingered leaves that reminded me of my father's maple farm"--OK, that's a clumsy sentence that could use some revision, but shut up, that's not the point. The point is, now I know her Dad runs, or used to run, a maple syrup operation. Which in turn gives me a clue about where she might have grown up, what kind of activities she might have enjoyed as a child, and also the nature of her relationship with trees. The latter is more significant than you might think; the first scene depicts a tree transforming into a man right in front of her eyes.

We're back to E. L. Doctorow analogy of writing being "like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." Some versions of the quote add the extra hazard of fog. Imagine a blizzard, too, if you like. The point of the analogy remains the same: The little chunk of road (story) that you see now enables you to drive into (write) the next chunk of road (story).

Anyway. Fictionette tomorrow. For serious. pMost of tomorrow afternoon is entirely unscheduled, after all...

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