The Trunk Novel, Meditation #49
It's just as well that this rambling work of prose isn't intended for publication any time soon. If I were to try to submit it any time this year, it would come back within the week bearing a big red stamp saying, "HEROES RIP-OFF."
Which would be fair, I guess, considering that even though I've been working on this novel, on and off paper, for two decades now, the bit that screams "HEROES RIP-OFF" only came to me about two nights ago.
So, you know, just in case I lost all my inhibitions along with my sanity and took it into my head to try to publish this purplish sort of kind of real people fan fic thing, I'd have one last little element capable of dissuading me. Just in case.
I Made A Fiction For You
Oh look! Another last-minute contest entry. It worked so well last time, I figured it would be a shame if I didn't try it again.
The contest: Write a bit of Yohoho Puzzle Pirates fan fiction. Specifically, give the Antediluvian Conch an origin story. As far as I can tell, the Antediluvian Conch is a whisk token. If you have it, you can transport yourself to Atlantis. Whee! I love game expansions! (complete contest rules)
You can read my entry here. It is much less purple than my previous last-minute fiction contest entry. But it's just as last-minute. Deadline's in about 14 minutes, I think.
Anyway, thought y'all might like to know that my sprained fiction tendon appears to be healing up nicely. (Also, I think I began a new novel the other day. It's cyberpunk. Ish. But that's another story.)
Ow ow ow ow ow
Aaauuugh! I think I strained my fiction! In the the writing place! Ow! Ow! With the hurting and the ouchies!
[Please excuse the noise. Our Author has suffered from atrophy of the storytelling muscles and is consequently undergoing physiwritteral therapy. Some discomfort is to be expected during the adjustment period. Thank you. -The Mgmt.]
Ow ow ow ow stoppit ow YEEEERGH!
[Actually this is all quite normal. -Ibid.]
Live From Procrastination Station
I have Good News. The article about the hand-knit bikini experiment? It really really will be published. At any rate, I was recently asked to turn in a slight (very slight) revision to it along with a bio and a nice headshot of me. And money arrived in my PayPal account. So it all looks like getting published. Hurrah!
However, the publisher has started sending me emails with strangely spam-like rhetoric. "Nicole Do you know the TRUTH about knitting?" "The insider secrets that you should know before you even THINK of starting a knitting piece!" Fear! Feeear the knitting! Without our help the knitting will surely defeat you! It's like the headlines from a cover of Reader's Digest. Should I be worried?
Meanwhile, I'm under a deadline that is two days gone, and two more deadlines have sprung up looking scary in the distance, and I haven't touched any fiction in almost a month. This makes me cranky.
However! There is extracurricular good news. I am this close to being able to legally act as Pilot in Command again--it's likely that after tomorrow's lesson the instructor will sign off on my flight review (he did! Yay! I can has endorsement!)--and John and I have been taking beginner rock-climbing classes at the neighborhood gym. Both of these do wonders for one's sense of competence. Yesterday I walked into the gym in a tank top and ill-fitting shorts, horribly self-conscious about being short and pudgy and hairy and a total n00b. (Shut up. I know.) Then I started climbing, and then I got to the top of the route, and then all I could think was "Ha! Who cares how I look? I don't care how I look. Ain't nobody gonna talk to me about how I look. I look bad ass." Bad ass for a n00b, sure, the route was only labeled 5.8, but still. A highly recommended experience.
No, really. Getting back to work now. Laters.
See, this is the problem...
- 459 words (if poetry, lines) long
So I showed the story to one more person. She liked it, too, but mentioned two things that could be changed. So I thought, "OK, quick revision and send it off!"
Which I did today (having been felled to uselessness by the heat yesterday).
Only, aside from those two things, I kept running into *klunk* and *ick* and *oh give me a break.* So I did a lot of revising on the sentence by sentence level. And I read it to myself and thought, "Hot damn. That's great!"
Then I gave to my husband for a final read through.
He wasn't happy with the changes. That's an understatement; what he actually said was, "It died."
So we went back and forth as to what killed it and how to revive it. The big things I agreed with: too much detail nails down the ineffable and makes it sound like a police report. The little things, though... "Doesn't this sentence just sound better?" "Well, no." "Why not?!" "Not sure. It just doesn't work."
So I have not submitted this story anywhere yet. I've sent copies out for second opinions. And I'm going to sleep on it.
Thing about my husband is, he may not be able to articulate exactly why something doesn't work, but he can definitely tell me when something doesn't work. If a piece sings, or fails to sing, he hears that. So I trust his diagnosis. I just can't get over how the old draft clunks here and there and apparently sings for everyone but me.
And that's the problem. Sometimes feedback leaves me feeling like there's absolutely nothing I can do. Like I can't trust my own judgment. Like I suck at revising, so why try? Which is not to blame anyone giving me feedback, of course. Absolutely not. Anyone who's willing to give me feedback, I treasure that. If only I could figure out how to use that feedback rather than get paralyzed by it.
Like I said: Sleep. Tomorrow for working miracles. Miracles are over for tonight.
Today, I Am A Writer. (Tomorrow, We Will See.)
- 418 words (if poetry, lines) long
Rewriting has felt impossible lately. I've got a rough draft queue a mile long and I can't seem to get myself to finish anything. I've been whining about this to everyone who knows me. Today, I'm gonna crow a bit instead.
Here's the theory I've been working from: The Revision Block comes from fear--from being intimidated by the task of Making Something Publishable Out Of This Piece of Crap Rough Draft. (Hush. To the intimidated writer, every non-final draft is a piece of crap.) To get over the Revision Block, I've got to find something I can manage to revise, finish, and submit. So, back away from the thing with all the avoidance juju and try revising something that feels less important, less intimidating. Something with stakes that aren't so high.
So I've been meaning to work on "A Handshake Deal," as it's the newest rough draft with a beginning, middle, and end. But guess what? "Been meaning to" is a huge source of avoidance juju! Just like every email that's sitting in my Inbox marked unread since, oh, last June (sorry y'all), any manuscript mentally marked "to be revised" will acquire the ability to intimidate.
So today I decided to retreat a bit further and write a brand-new story from a brand-new idea, an idea so brand-new that I wouldn't have a clue what it was until I started typing. Then I'd revise it, immediately, before it could accumulate the first hint of avoidance juju.
I used to do something similar every morning in college. The exercise I set myself was to write something which filled exactly one page in WordPerfect and had a beginning, middle, and an end. Then I'd revise it just enough to meet the arbitrary length requirement. Most of these vignettes came to about 700 words long. They took about a half-hour to finish (for these standards of "finish"). At the end of the year I'd print them all out and bind them into a chapbook. I'm really proud of those chapbooks.
And I'm rather proud of today's work, too: A 400-word spec-fic piece about how an apocalyptic occurrence impacts a tiny circle of humanity. The idea sprang out of that most banal of complaints, "It's hot." (Have you seen the forecast for Boulder? The NOAA used the lava-colored sky icon for this coming Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. That never bodes well.)
Both beta readers who've thus far read the story say they like it a lot. Of course, they're A) my husband, and B) one of my best friends, so it's possible there may be some bias going on. But they're both people who A) write occasionally themselves, and B) I can trust to be truthful. So that's enough positive feedback to make my poor little easily-intimidated ego sit up with pride. Tomorrow I'll read the story aloud to some writer friends I haven't seen in awhile. (They don't know this yet.) After that, I'll give it a final revision. I'll probably change the title ("The Day The Sidewalks Melted" has a hint of "gotta" in it, but I fear it's a cheap "gotta" as it adds nothing new; it merely pre-echoes the first sentence of the story). Then I'll email it to a paying market Sunday morning.
On Monday, the process starts over.
Lather, rinse, repeat enough--reassure myself with enough proof that I can finish things, and do so reliably--and I might actually be able to sit down with one of the stories in the revision queue. Cross your fingers for me.
Meanwhile: Let it be known to all and sundry that John and I will be attending Denvention3, aka WorldCon 2008. It'll be in Denver. What better opportunity for me to (*gulp*) attend a scarily huge convention for the first time?
Also, am flying again. Yay! Give me a few weeks and I'll be a legal pilot in command once more.
And that's the news.
Keepin' The Faith an' all that
Haven't quite hit the story rewrites yet. Will soon. Am meanwhile throwing stuff at the page that may or may not turn into anything worth a title. Some of it goes like this.
Observe her, there, beside the fountain downstairs in the library. Don't worry about seeming rude. She'll never notice your eyes upon her. She's not really here, you see. Not while those pages are turning.This is the sort of thing that happens when you say, "I shall write at 10 PM come hell or high water!" and in fact you do (well, 10:20 anyway, I was a bit late what with the blockade on Cochineal Island lingering a tad past schedule) but you have no idea what to write and you're still not ready to face the projects that have been intimidating you lately out of writing at all.
She sits like a child, butt on the floor and legs straight out in front of her. Her right hand idly rests upon the fountain's edge, where the pool sinks below feet level, and her fingers are getting wet. It's OK, though. She's left-handed. She's not getting the pages wet. Sometimes her right hand seeks the hand of the bronze ballerina who kneels upon a bronze paving stone in the pool. Sometimes the fingers of her right hand dip deeper to pick up a penny, twist it through the liquid light, pass it from finger to finger like a carnival juggler. Sometimes she scratches her scalp and leaves chlorinated drops in her hair.
She is aware of none of this. She's not here, I tell you. She's not even in her body. The words her eyes pick up merely pass through on their way to her consciousness, which wanders around some far-off Matrix with a radio antenna in her ear. The left hand turns pages by remote control.
Unaware of our eyes, or the water, or the children running past her in a great roiling boister, she is yet keeping an ear open for some few things. Those things that cue that it is time to close the book. "The library will be closing in five minutes," is one of them. "Sadie, we're ready to go home." That's another. When these signals filter through her body's answering machine to the soul that is picking up messages far elsewhere, the left hand does a fearsome thing. It closes the book and makes the otherworld disappear.
Then Sadie rubs her wet hand dry upon her jeans, recoils her hair at the nape of her neck, and stands up on legs full of knee-popping and stiff-stretching. Wincing at the protestation of joints makes the faint lines reappear beside eyes and mouth. She no longer seems childlike. She no longer appears young. But she is not in great practice being aware of her body, so she does not count this a tragedy. She simply hobbles for a few steps until her legs limber up again and continues normally to the checkout counter. The book goes in her purse and the woman goes back to her friends (if they called her to leave) or simply to her car (if the library's closing time was the only impetus).
Once she arrives home, she will make the world disappear again. This world. The otherworld will be there, waiting for her, like a video tape left on pause.
This is Sadie's life. She spends only what time is necessary here with us, at work or eating or taking care of the children. Or socializing with friends over coffee, reassuring them that she remains among the living in both mind and body. But when she's able, when she can get away with it, she opens a book and disappears.
Our story begins, like many stories begin, on a day that begins like any other. Like any good story, that day soon diverges from routine, for what else are stories about if not the point of no return? For Sadie, the point came when she opened a book like any other book--or was it? Was it the book that differed, or something in her mind? Did something that noticed her comings and goings finally act upon it? Because, sometime later, she reached the point at which she realized she had passed the point of no return. And that was when she closed the book.
And the otherworld failed to let her go.
Well, that's what happens with me, anyway.
Like I said. If you can't get started on the one project, for the Gods' sake, write something else.
In other news, my first bloody mary experiment in Boulder has been semi-successful. Here in the land of No Effing Zing-Zang Anywhere, I went to Whole Foods and picked up a bottle of a local product called "Premium Gourmet Bloody Mary Mix." Also some V8 to cut it with, in case it packed the horseradish in a stomach-lining-corroding proprotions. Also a selection of pickled products in bottles and off the olive bar for use in garnish: marinated mini-onions, olives stuffed with garlic, hot pickled green beans (another local product, which the local grocery clerk (being local and not from New Orleans where a bloody mary doubles as your pre-dinner salad) thought was a very odd garnish for a bloody mary), capers, and those awesome little bumpy garlicky pickles.
But you know what we're missing? You know what I couldn't find at Whole Foods, neither on the baking aisle nor among the bulk spices?
You know what's not crusting the edges of my glass in this lovely picture here?
This is why we're only talking semi-successful here. Maybe tomorrow I'll call... shudder... Safeway.
Some mornings are obviously not meant to be productive.
I unwisely saved the tidying up of my article for today during work. This isn't as unethical as it sounds; some days I'm mainly just covering the phones and making myself available for random desk clerk and computer sub-guru tasks. Given where I left off Wednesday, I thought today would be one of those days. Today was not one of those days. Today was non-stop.
Which means that I actually managed to let the June 15 deadline on the bikini top article slip by me. Granted, I had no idea "June 15" meant "June 15 at 2:00 PM MDT," but I should have just finished the dang thing and emailed it last night. My own fault, this. I emailed it in anyway to give the editor the option of slipping it in under the wire or holding onto it for next month.
The moral of this story, folks, is this: When you set your alarm clock for 6:00 AM, mean it. Sometimes those two hours before you have to be in the office are all the day you get to call your own.
So that's my wake-up call for the week. Also, I've been working my way through Becoming A Writer again (read all about it at BurnzPost!), which means "wake to write" is a debt of honor. Another debt of honor is "schedule your writing." Yesterday I was very good about both these things. I overslept, but I spent my first half hour awake typing away on the Compaq Contura Aero. Over the course of that half hour--mainly a spate of journaling--I decided that I'd schedule further writing for 2:30 PM.
Now, recently I've pledged my housewifely services unto my husband, which is to say, he said "I wish this house were cleaner," and I said, "Me too. You know what? I'm home three days a week, thanks to your excellence and generosity. How about I get back on a cleaning schedule?" It's not a hard cleaning schedule. It's two rooms a week until I run out of rooms, starting over again each first week of the month. There are six rooms. This is no hardship.
However, I'm not exactly fond of cleaning.
What "I will write at 2:30" did was give me a light at the end of the long dark tunnel of cleaning the bathroom. (And if you don't believe that's a long dark tunnel, you haven't seen the mildew and soap scum all over the bathtub.) At 2:30 PM, I would be done. I would have put the cleaning supplies away and scarpered off to Korea House for a writing date with kim chee chi gae.
It's true that us writers do things like totally sanitize the kitchen rather than write. But by making a date with myself, and not allowing myself to write until the time arrived, I managed to reverse my mental perspective on the two tasks. I was--yes!--looking forward to writing.
Bottle that up and sell it, ma'am, and that's the end to writer's block as we know it! Or at least as I know it.
So, more of the same tomorrow, only on a different project. Maybe a short story re-write. *Gasp!* Just maybe.
Sometimes You Don't Get a Pattern
- 701 words (if poetry, lines) long
Sometimes what you get is a blog post.
Which is to say, the answer to "how do you get a bikini top knit pattern down to 600 words" is the same as the answer to "how do you write a pattern for something as custom-fit as a bikini top?" The answer is, you don't. You turn back to your favorite sock knitting book and you write a mathematical method.
Gee I'm clever. I knit the dang thing with Gibson-Roberts' "C"s and "L"s in mind, and it takes me until two days before deadline to realize that's the way I'll have to approach writing about it.
But once I figured that out (which epiphany occurred over a scrumptious fish dinner at Pappadeaux, the relation of which to Highway 36 is a blog post all on its own), it got much easier. I realized what I was really writing was a blog post about how I overcame the challenges inherent in knitting functional swim wear. And I can do blog posts. Only, I usually get to break them up into two blog posts if they get too long. This one I can't, not really. If there's going to be a second article, it'll have to be accepted separately by the editor, and it's going to have to be about knitting the bikini bottom.
...which I haven't knit yet.
Well, we all know what I'm going to be doing in July!
O Hai! This R Blog Post
- 521 words (if poetry, lines) long
Why yes, I've been lolcatting around lately. How can you tell? It's gotten really bad around here, to the point that, at Water World Saturday, stuff like "Can we has go faster, plz?" and "We can has acceleration!" started coming out of my mouth whenever John 'n me 'n Taylor got stuck and came loose again in one of the tube slide rides. "We're in ur tube slide, causin bottlenecks" was another favorite. As was the observation that we must have somehow gotten onto the internet because this ride was obviously a series of tubes.
John tells me I owe him a dollar for the bad joke jar for that last one, and I don't even work at the office where the bad joke jar resides. Funny, that.
That aside, my current-most writing project, aside from keeping up with the blogzes, is to somehow usefully describe the knitting of my bikini top in 600 words or less. This may or may not work. We Shall See.
I've also finished re-reading Dorothea Brande's 1934 classic, Becoming A Writer, which is oodles more useful than I remembered. Somehow all I recalled from last read-through was the "wake to write" and "schedule writing dates with yourself" advice, and I'd forgotten all about the story incubation meditation techniques. And it's been fun speculating on whether Ms. Brande would have adored laptops or despised them, based on what she says about the importance of typing and having a travel typewriter but doing nothing other than writing at the typewriter. I think she would have recommended using the laptop only for writing and acquiring a desktop computer for things like email and video games.
But that's enough of that for now. I don't want to steal the thunder from a series of blog posts on the subject of that book which I'm planning on uploading to Burnzpost.
Of late, most of my writing has been unpublishable journal entries and, like I said, keeping up with the blogging gigs. But this is in keeping with my temporary solution for the single project form of the Block. If a have a particular project I have to work on, one short story rewrite or freelance deadline that gets top priority over everything else, and inability to get started on that project causes a total writing bottleneck--then write something else. Every day. Reliably. It's the daily act of writing and not the daily product that's important in breaking through the Block.
Of course, that in and of itself won't get deadlines met. But I find that the journaling can help me ease into the high-priority project, especially if my journal entry segues into a bout of talking to myself about that project. And if something that happened the day before keeps me from concentrating on the serious work, journaling about the event or fictionalizing it into a new story draft can sometimes satisfy whatever annoying part of my brain insists on chewing on it.
In the interest of not increasing this post's category count, I'll put off talking about the ongoing behind-the-scenes website redesign (still in progress) or my new flying lessons schedule (i r gonna b legal pilot agin lolz) for another post. And maybe I'll rethink the current category list, 'cause I don't have one for flying or for The Block or... right. Later.
More later, then.