Like Lucy On The Assembly Line
- 3,339 words (if poetry, lines) long
Back to basics. Back to what the folks at AbsoluteWrite.com affectionately refer to as "my daily two hours of BIC".
BIC means "Butt In Chair." Two hours means exactly that. And daily is as simple and as scary as it sounds.
I figured I'd get back into that routine Tuesday evening on the train. Got my laptop charged up in the cafe car, and then from 7 PM until 9 PM, I sat in my coach seat and wrote. Or stared at the screen and thought, what the hell comes next? But mostly wrote.
And thought, "This is what I need to be doing every day."
I ain't gonna lie. It's a daunting thought. Daunting enough that for the rest of the week, including today, I found excuses not to BIC. Excuses like, "must sleep" and "yay! Home! Spend time with my sweetie!" and "Urrr... early..." and "Must dig up financial info for tax returns" and "Paying work first" and... and... and...
...and "What the hell am I going to do with over 3,000 words of new rough draft every day? I'll never get it all revised and publishable! Not to mention publishED."
Seriously. Those 3,339 words of "Little Beanie"? Two hours. That's all it took.
The combination of being a fast typist and a verbal thinker is its own source of writer's block. I feel a little like the leading lady in the I Love Lucy episode with all the chocolate. That conveyor belt is clicking away and producing lots and lots and lots of truffles. An Aladdin's cave full of truffles. More than I'll ever be able to package. Or eat. Ever.
Kinda scary. But no excuse for not producing all those metaphorical truffles. Especially not when I'm supposedly trying to pursue a successful career as a metaphorical chocolatier. And in the end, who doesn't like truffles, right?
(Well, I could take or leave 'em. I prefer salt-water taffy. Or those flaky little vienna wafer rolls. But still.)
Sometimes it sounds like I'm making myself a lot of work. You ever read The Neverending Story? Remember Bastian's debt to Fantastica? Every story you start, you have to finish. And if you spend two hours every day writing new material, how many stories is that?
Sometimes, though, I remember it also means I'm adding to the riches in Aladdin's cave. Two hours every day creating new material? Define prolific. Sometimes I feel rich.
So. Tomorrow morning. (Yes, on a Saturday. "Being a writer means you don't get weekends and holidays.") Tomorrow morning, 5:00 AM to 7:00 AM. Finish "Beanie"? Finish "Trilobyte"? Start something entirely different? Dunno. Whatever comes of it, my butt will be in that chair for two hours.
"Daily" has got to start somewhere.
Like an End Of Con Report, only less useful to people who aren't me
- 405 words (if poetry, lines) long
World Horror Convention 2007 is over now, bar the drinking. And there's still a good deal of drinking going on, if the population of the hotel lounge is any indication. By all accounts, it's been a good WHC.
"Captain Hook" finally got some peer review here. I hadn't planned on it, actually, but when I arrived Saturday at the Twilight Tales Open Mic critique session, intending to be part of the audience, I was immediately accosted with, "So are you gonna sign up?" with a clear subtext of do, please! And I thought, well, I do have something appropriate...
Boy, howdy, was that a good thing. I mean, right up front, it was educational, that crawling in my stomach as I realized I was reading aloud three whole pages of exposition to an audience more patient than the story deserved. But had I read it aloud alone, I probably would have just come away with "Yes, that's a heavily front-loaded story. I need to cut that." What I got from this critique session was much more concrete: which three sentence clauses of the exposition were actually needed, where to put them, and then how to collapse this scene with that character dynamic to improve the whole immensely. Eric Cherry deserves a round of kudos for being such a swell critic. He MC'd the events and acted as critique facilitator, leading off the discussion with his exceedingly insightful comments.
I was relieved to hear that the ending worked. Reactions ranged from "I didn't see that coming" to "I saw it coming and I hoped it wouldn't happen." This is a very good thing. It's always a good thing when the critiques reaffirm your own assessment of which bits succeed and which bits need work. It's also good when you can make an audience of veteran horror readers flinch.
Later that night I read for the Twilight Tales Flash Fiction Contest. I didn't place this year, but I didn't expect to. The story I read had only been written over the past couple of days, after all. Simply that I produced new fiction in time to perform it Saturday night made me feel proud of myself.
Today and Friday (once I arrived) were more relaxed. Attended a panel here and there (in addition to his other stellar qualities, Mort Castle is a brilliant panel moderator), stuck my head in at a few parties, ate out a little, saw a very small corner of Toronto with my very own eyes. Did a little knitting show-n-tell with fellow stitchers (including the designer of the dread Knithulhu!). Today, a local couple (the Knithulhu designer and her husband) led me via street car and subway to an excellent Irish pub at King and Brant Streets. I wish I could have seen more of this city, but I don't wish it enough to exchange my Amtrak tickets for a later date and check into a hostel. I'm ready to go home. I feel like I've been traveling non-stop, even though I've been in the same place since Friday night. I'm missing my husband and our cats and our home and the coffee house down the street. I guess there's a limit to how long I can drift before I get antsy.
Getting on the Maple Leaf tomorrow morning at 8:30. Should be in Denver by the same hour on Wednesday. Might check in on Tuesday morning from Chicago. If not, I'll say hi when I get home.
Quick Update: Rejection Letters, Mobile Writing Retreats
Hello! I'm in Chicago. I didn't expect to be here at 4:30 PM on Thursday the 29th--I quite expected to be on Amtrak's Maple Leaf line headed for the Canadian border--but them's the freight. I mean, the breaks.
It occurred to me that although I've been blogging up a storm at Metroblogging and Burnzpost, I haven't said much over here in a while. Um. There are reasons. I won't say what they are, because I don't want to disturb any assumptions you might have about them being good reasons. Just you go on thinking that, eh?
Anyway, my pirate story won't be in Shimmer's pirate issue. The rejection letter was complimentary. I don't know whether JJA uses form email letters like he does snail-mail ones. If so, this was the "nice writing but didn't ultimately work for me" one. Which isn't a bad thing.
So "A Wish For Captain Hook" will get in the rewrite queue, right behind all the other short stories waiting to be rewritten. I'm-a gonna be working on that whilst riding the rails. A sort of mobile writing retreat, see. No internet means no Puzzle Pirates to distract me! Yarr! Unfortunately, I can't bring myself to uninstall Spider Solitaire, and it's amazing how addictive that gets when there's other things I should be doing.
How many people bring a printer onboard an Amtrak superliner and set up a mobile office in coach? I mean, really? Can't be that many. People stared a bit.
When next I update, it'll be from the World Horror Convention in Toronto. At which I shall be arriving a day later than planned. Darn it. But for the record, Amtrak treats its "distressed passengers" very well. The hotel was quite posh.
Another non-fiction-related update*: Starting this past weekend, I'm now blogging at BurnzPost.com. This takes the place of SplendidGardening.com (now defunct); same editor, same schedule, similar contract. This month I'm posting about whatever comes to mind. Next month I might be assigned a subject. We'll see. I'm trying to keep my posts somewhat literary, in hopes of snagging that topic assignment. Libraries, writing, and publishing are subjects that have come up so far. If you're already checking in with me here at the actually writing blog, those might be subjects that interest you.
And just as a reminder, you can pretend to be a fan (you know, get in practice for when I finally publish that break-out novel) and subscribe to Everything Bloggity That Niki Does via my homemade handcrafted UberRSS! The direct feed URL is http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/allrss.php, and you can subscribe via your LiveJournal friends list here.
*Non-fiction-related updates will stop very soon, because I'm about to dive into a short story rewrite. Yes! It's long overdue, and it's gonna happen TODAY. About this, more later.
Hey! You! Submit to this anthology, buster!
So I have no real progress of my own to report, but I'm not letting that stop me from letting you (yes, you) know about a brand-new short fantasy market that wants your submission Right Now. It's over here. Check it out:
Magic & Mechanica is an anthology of high fantasy stories which chronicle the collision of magic and machines. The interaction of the mystic and the technological in a fantasy world is what we are looking for, a world alive with rational magicks and impossible machines. We are not looking for modern day or science fiction settings but those of high or heroic fantasy. Please note that time travel stories that bring even Victorian-era machines into a pre-industrial setting are not fantasy; they are science fiction stories set in a fantasy world (for without the time travel element - a purely science-driven one - there could be no story). This point cannot be stressed enough: science fiction stories will be rejected.Half a cent per word on acceptance, no royalties mentioned. Sim-sub OK. Any word length OK. Deadline Aug. 1, 2007, subject to foreshortening should they accept their table-of-contents quota earlier--so if you're like me and don't have something appropriate ready to send right now, go pow-wow with your Muse and start scribbling!
(Caveat: I'm just summarizing the guidelines. Don't rely on me to be accurate. There's a reason I've provided the link. Click it, darn ya!)
More. A couple hours later.
I sent the bastard. Yes. It is on its way.
I'm not displeased with how it turned out, actually. I look forward to a good excuse to revise it good, of course, but for the rush job I gave it I'm not entirely dissatisfied.
I like the way it ends.
I spent the bulk of the past couple hours working on the opening, to make it more likely that it will be read all the way through to the end. As anyone in this business knows, that's never guaranteed. The wishing business is more understated and the exposition is, I hope, a little better woven into the action. And there's a smidge more tension between Louise and her Dad, which I like.
Hey, just as a reminder? This story is not autobiographical. I stole a bunch of autobiographical details from it, but Louise's Dad is not my Dad, for all that they're both pediatricians in Metairie after Katrina hit. Louise isn't me, for all that we both like(d) to spend time hanging out despite parental prohibitions on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Louise's house is not my house, for all that I gave it our big bookshelf at the top of the stairs that got soaked when Katrina blew a hole in the roof. And Louise's brother is not my brother in any way shape or form, even though I stole the two-year-old pronouncement of "cars going splash into the water" from him. Similarities notwithstanding, this is fiction.
Sometimes I just feel like I need to reiterate that.
The Last-Minutest Short Story Ever!
- 5,655 words (if poetry, lines) long
So I have now completed a full, actual draft of this story. And I do in fact intend to email it to Shimmer within the next couple hours. Yes, I'm nuts. But I said I'd submit, and gosh-darn-it, I'm going to submit.
Who knows? I may surprise myself.
I have a good deal of tightening up to do. It's too long for Shimmer's 5,000 word maximum. I also need to go back and make sure everything I want in it has actually gotten out of my head and onto the page, like what's the deal with Louise and Jimbo's Mom, and what Louise's Dad is up to, and all the parallels between Louise and Wendy, and of course making sure that it doesn't look too cheesy that Jimbo's got the same first name as Captain Hook. Y'know.
So. Back to the grind. More in a couple of hours.
- 1,535 words (if poetry, lines) long
Thunk - the sound of a 15,000-word RTF attachment hitting my editor's inbox at 8:00 AM on the morning of a much-extended (for reasons mostly to do with scheduling interviews) deadline morning.
Zzzzz - the sounds emanating from the bedroom shortly thereafter and for most of the day. Week, in fact. Most of the week. When I crash, I crash hard.
Whizz - the sound of the February 28 deadline for Shimmer's "Pirate" issue approaching with great velocity, in flagrant disregard for my state of crashiness.
Vroom! - Me, shifting into high-speed productivity mode with regard to that and everything else I'd temporaily shelved during the freelance project (a prospective freelance web design assignment, a continuing novel critique, and all sorts of fictioneering in addition to the short story.
...Better late than never, right?
Bonus terminology: Damn you, wench! And I mean that in the nicest possible way... - Me, discovering exactly what my friend had done when she said, "You know what? You should totally check out PuzzlePirates.com." Do not, as you value your own real-world productivity, go and do likewise.
OK, well, but if you do, drop me and email and tell me what handle you play on which ocean. I'll invite you to be one of me hearties. Arrr!
Genghis Con 2007
I have participated, or plan to participate, in more role-playing games this weekend than I have played in the entire last five years.
Life is good.
More later, when life ceases to be quite so distractingly sparkly.
Deadlines and Thingies
Hullo. Not dead. The short story's on hold for a few days, though--dangit--so I can meet a paying deadline. So I'm going to unload a few links on you. Look sharp, here they come--
Firstly, forget the romance of the writer's lifestyle and the aesthetic beauty of having a Vocation that calls you to create High Art and lends you total creative control. That's all guff. Any depiction of the way novelists live and work that you see in the popular media is wrong. It's romanticized clap-trap. Here's the skinny:
You are a self-employed business-person. Occasionally you may be half of a partnership — I know a few husband-and-wife teams — but in general novelists are solitary creatures. You work in a service industry where output is proportional to hours spent working per person, and where it is very difficult to subcontract work out to hirelings unless you are rich, famous, and have had thirty years of seniority in which to build up a loyal customer base. So you eat or starve on the basis of your ability to put your bum in a chair and write. BIC or die, that's the first rule.
But I've seen other writers, just as excellent, back away because -- although they're clearly packed taut with talent -- they think there's some bar there, some Berlin Wall of the mind -- basically, a big sign at the end of a nowhere road that says, "Anything you try to write will be lifeless. Boring. A canteen of sand in the desert. Don't even try."
To them I say: potato chips.
Hmm. I may have linked that latter one before. It feels familiar. ...Oh, well. Enjoy.
Also, for those of y'all subscribed to my RSS feed via LiveJournal (you would do that by adding nicolejleboeuf to your Friends list) yes, yes I know that there's something fishy about the timestamps coming off my Metroblogging posts. There's a six- or seven-hour diff between the time on the post itself to the time on the post summary that shows up on LJ. At some point, probably after Monday, I'll look into that. 'Til then, pretend it's an exciting adventure in time travel. Yay!