The Surprising power of Time Slices

January 30, 2013

Just a few short thoughts to share for today. One – about the closing of Six Sentence Sunday. First off, I have to once again give big props to all the admins over at http://www.sixsunday.com for all the work they’ve put into running such a huge ongoing blog hop for so long. I can appreciate that the job only got more stressful once they announced that it was going to be closing, and that they’re sick and tired of hearing pitches about people who want to carry on the torch and want something from them.

But – man, they closed up the shop quickly! I’d been looking forward to reading more entries from last Sunday, and sixsunday.com is locked up tight. Everything’s been taken down, the linky lists, the cover art ads, the FAQ and rules list – just one post saying that they don’t endorse any copycats – and commenting disabled on the post. It’s a little sad for me to see it end that way – would it have hurt anybody to leave the Jan 27th link list available for a full week? Sigh.

Moving on – as you may know, I’ve been doing cleaning timeslices for a long time, off and on. One of my 2013 goals was to keep up an average of 2 hours cleaning and tidying in my apartment for the whole year, and I had a good streak going from December too. So after I was done with work yesterday, I looked around the living room, decided that I should probably tackle the CD containers near the back shelves in my living room, as that was one of the few loci of mess remaining on the living room floor that doesn’t really belong there. Once the floor is actually clear, I can start working on sweeping and even washing the floor! (I’ve already been through this in the other rooms of the apartment – the living room is the last holdout.)

Then I did a bit of math on the numbers from the iPhone project tracker I’ve been using for my January cleaning timeslices and changed my mind. I was up to 9 hours and an odd minute, which was enough to declare that I was keeping up on my goal for the month – I could skate through the rest of the month and dive back into the living room stuff when February started. So I sat down at the Toshiba laptop and worked on some photo conversion stuff for the old Dell Axim handheld that I’d been wanting to get done.

After an hour of that, I figured that I’d done enough for that and needed to get another timeslice marked off on my calendar. So what do I do? Completely forgetting that I’d decided to give myself three days off cleaning, I log back into the hours tracker and spend ten minutes clearing mess off the living room floor! 😀

That’s the power of timeslices right there – when doing something that you’ve always thought of as an unpleasant chore becomes enough of a habit that you find yourself doing it even after you gave yourself a day off from it, or three. 🙂

Are you doing any timeslices lately? What’s the most unappealing project you’ve gotten through a little bit at a time?

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More about the Monastery playlist

January 29, 2013

I’ve mentioned the ‘Monastery playlist’ a few times on this blog before, but since Nanopals has a post up today talking about the writing process and mentioning music, I thought I’d go into a bit more detail about the music of the monastery, how I found it, and what part it plays in my writing.

First off, generally I love writing to music. Finding a great song to write to is a gift, but if I like a song, generally it’s seldom ‘bad’ music to write to, especially during Nano or when I’m otherwise pantsing my way recklessly through a first draft. Editing is a bit different, it needs a bit more concentration, and for a while that was something that wasn’t quite falling into place with my writing process; editing in silence was too quiet, (unless I was reading my own work aloud as part of the editing process,) but most music was too distracting.

When I was going through the Holly Lisle ‘How to Revise Your Novel’ course last March, I got to the Monastery exercise where you leave a lot of the everyday world behind, and your last draft of your novel and your notes, and just sort of meditate your way to the perfect revision outline for the book. 😉 It’s a really great process, and one of the things Holly prescribed to leave behind was listening to music… with lyrics. She also seemed to be biased against a variety of instrumental music, and suggested leaving Classical Gas on an endless loop if you wanted any music in the monastery, but I couldn’t face any one tune that much, so I started putting together a list of all the instrumental music that I love. That was the moment my Monastery playlist was born.

The playlist was a great comfort to be on that first trip through the Monastery, both while I was actually working on my outline and as I walked the streets of my neighborhood trying to figure out what I wanted my book to be. I brought it back when I started Block Revision on “Won’t Somebody Think of the Children”, and gradually I’ve started to rely on it more and more whenever I have revision or editing to do. This particular collection of music just seems to be a really good fit with that task.

Some of the highlights of the playlist:

  • Mozart Concertos with the English Chamber Orchestra
  • The Firefly soundtrack and Serenity score
  • The Simpsons movie soundtrack
  • Any piano solo by John Sheard
  • Natalie McMaster on the fiddle
  • Selections from the ‘Pickin’ on’ Bluegrass series
  • “The Most Relaxing Classical Music in the Universe.” (I think the Serenians of Zeta Cygnus deserved to make the cut, but anyway… 😀 )
  • Bach Cello Suites by Yo-Yo Ma
  • A few orchestral versions of Madonna and REM songs

And on and on – there’s quite a bit of Leahy, some Rankin family, and a bunch of random instrumental tracks that just happened to turn up on albums that were otherwise conventional pop vocals.

I’ve become such a fan of my Monastery playlist that I even have versions of it on a couple of different devices to make sure that I can get at it when I need to. It started out on the iPhone, and is still there. Was on the desktop tower for a while, to sync with the iPhone, but the tower is with us no more. Sometime in the fall, I started copying the monastery music to an SD card that I could play in my Palm TX PDA, and then in December I loaded it onto my 1 gigabyte Sandisk Sansa player. (Well, as much of it as could fit. The entire playlist is around 1.2 gigs now.) And I’ve got it on the red netbook now too, in iTunes so that I can sync changes to the iPhone still.

Do you have any particular music that you like for a project or a specific stage of your writing?


It’s just me, I’m still here…

January 28, 2013

Okay, luckily, I didn’t run out of time or post something else before I remembered the Re-introduce myself blogfest.

So, let’s see… I’m not going to worry about finding something to tell you that you don’t know if you’ve been following the blog closely. That could drive me crazy.

  • I love to write science fiction and fantasy.
  • I’m a big fan of National Novel Writing Month, and in 2012 I stepped up as a Hamilton ML (local group leader for NaNoWriMo) for the first time.
  • I’m applying to four great summer workshops in the US for 2013.
  • I’ve almost finished the Holly Lisle ‘How to Revise your Novel’ course
  • I collect all kinds of electronic gadgets and gizmos.
  • I’ve written fanfic, made fanart and fanvids in the past, but haven’t made much time for any of that fandom stuff lately.
  • I love to go to science-fiction conventions.
  • I geek out about really obscure math stuff.

And my name is Chris Kelworth. It’s so nice to meet you again!


Six Sentence Sunday: The Gnomes are Missing, 10

January 27, 2013

It’s the last Six Sentence Sunday ever from sixsunday.com . I’d like to thank everybody who’s ever given me feedback, and the admins at sixsunday.com for helping me meet so many fellow writers and bloggers.

Last time, Kinwer accidentally mentioned Gibbs, his missing gnome friend, in front of his sister’s fiancee.

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“I told you that you shouldn’t be spending time with those folk, Kinwer,” Father said. “You’ve got enough to keep you busy…”

“I don’t have any other friends!” Kinwer exclaimed. “Not since you pulled me out of school. As long as I get the work done, what’s it to you if I talk to a gnome? He’s the only one who understands me at all – and he didn’t come out of the mound this morning and I’m worried that something horrible happened to him.”

Thank you for your feedback, and I hope to see you all around the blogosphere sometime!

 


Staking a claim on my literary name

January 26, 2013

Well, I mentioned yesterday that I have a brand-new twitter handle, and that’s just a part of what I’ve been doing to finally ‘stake my claim’ to the name Chris Kelworth around the internet. Generally, I’ve been following the checklist laid down by Lani and Alastair on the rather staticky podcast episode Storywonk Sunday: Cuddling Afterwards. In addition to the twitter username change to @ChrisKelworth, I have:

The idea is to establish yourself in all these places where potential readers might be looking for you, before somebody else comes along and takes the same names – or if you find that one of them is already taken, you want to find that out as soon as possible so that you can make alternate plans – whether that’s changing your pen name or signing up with a variant and beginning to promote that address.

If you’re an author or a writer, have you done any of these things to claim your name? Tell me all about it in the comments.


Need some #Nanopals for the rest of the year?

January 25, 2013

One of the coolest thing to come out of the ‘Now What?’ tweetchat last week was something that a few people started talking about just as the scheduled chat was breaking up and the OLL peeps were leaving – a way for writers to stay in touch for mutual support and critique exchange.

A few different names were tossed around, and ‘Nanopals’ stuck. 🙂 There’s been a nice bit of chatter ever since then on the #Nanopals twitter hashtag, and Wrimo TinyPterosaur has stepped up as an organizer, founding the Nanopals blog, laying claim to the @Nanopals twitter handle, starting a forum thread for Accountability buddies over at Nanowrimo.org… and probably other stuff that I don’t know about yet, because I’m not stalking a tiny pterosaur or anything. That would be weird…

But I love the idea of Nanopals, and I’m going to keep hanging out in the hashtag TweetChat whenever I can, cheering fellow writers on, and looking for any cool ways to get involved in this community. Because we all do need some writing pals when the excitement of Nanowrimo has faded out into the ‘Now what?’ stage.

Speaking of twitter handles, I’ve got a little news. My twitter handle has been updated from @ChrisKen0 to @ChrisKelworth . More about that coming soon!

 


Out of my five-page depth…

January 24, 2013

Well, after putting it off, for a while, I finally checked out this link that Elizabeth Twist left me over at Stringing Words for my five-page synopsis on “The Gnomes are Missing.” And there’s really great stuff, so much really great stuff, (warning, it’s a link to the ‘5-page synopsis’ category on Anne Mini’s blog, and it looks like she’s posted about synopses of all lengths a LOT!)

So I’m kinduv at that point where I know most of what I thought about writing a five-page synopsis before today is wrong, and I’ve got some notion of what I should actually be doing, but not enough to feel actually comfortable giving it the old college try. Sigh.

Probably I just need to sleep on it and get back to this at the Power Center tomorrow – hopefully Elizabeth will be coming too and I can pick her brain about what she got from reading the Anne Mini stuff. (Unless she’s decided the weather is good enough to go frolicking with her dog instead. 😉 )

One thing that might be good is that I think I was actually on the right track when I went ‘off-script’ Tuesday evening and just talked to the Hamilton Writer’s Circle about what excited me about the Missing Gnomes story, instead of reading the plot outline point by point. If I can get the heart of that impromptu speech down into Roughdraft, and then expand some of the scene that excite me the most even more, then I think I’ll be well on my way.

I’m not sure if this is necessary, but I do think it’s worth doing. I’m sure Kij Johnson knows how to write a kick-ass 5-page synopsis. She may not expect everybody applying to her workshop to know that yet, but I suspect those who do will earn a point in her books. Now that I know more about the target I’m aiming for, I’m one step closer.


Editing and Workshop submissions progress

January 23, 2013

Hi again, friends and followers! It’s been a pretty cold week here in Ontario, but that’s given be some time to stay inside where it’s warm and get cracking on my workshop applications stuff, including the editing. (Yay?) 😉

First off, the Missing Gnomes. I still need to sort some stuff out here, especially with my five-page synopsis, but I pitched the rough outline to the Hamilton Writer’s circle at Chester’s yesterday night, and people really seemed to love the premise, the characters, and a few people started really debating a few of the plot points – including whether my villain can actually reform and seek absolution at the end. (“Pixie crossbow to the back of the head, I’m tellin’ ya! Only way to be sure.” :D) So that was great, really helped me stay excited about that project.

What I’ve been working on tonight, though, has been the “Time Bubble Blues” story. I got something like two dozen great critiques for this story a week ago, and even though people really liked it, there was a lot to come to grips with. After taking a little while to catch my creative breath, I dove into the revision with a variant of an approach that’s worked pretty well with me for short stories before.

  • Start by re-reading all of the critiques in order, and making notes of everything that you’d like to change – not necessarily something that a critter told you to change, it could be something that you were reminded of by something they said. Leave off anything that you like the way it is.
  • Some of the items will be very concrete and easy, some extremely vague and nebulous, but that’s okay.
  • Once the critiques have all been read and the list is complete, find something that you feel confident to fix right away. Fix it, and cross it off or mark an X next to it. Then look for the next thing.
  • As you X off more of the list, the quick wins will become sparse, and maybe vanish entirely. Tackle bigger items when you feel ready for them.
  • If you need to do online research or involved planning to take care of an item on the list, do it, but don’t let yourself get distracted. If you make some changes for a nebulous item but think it’s not finished yet, mark a diagonal slash / in front of that item – that’s half of your X mark.

So, I’ve been going at my list that way for a few days, and this evening I just felt moved to blaze a slightly new trail, so I started at the beginning of the story. There was one item on my list to ‘Speed up the start, give less exposition about how the bubble operates’ so I cut as much as I could out of the first scene, before disaster strikes. Then I just kinda kept going through the storyline, adjusting everything I could think of or remember from the list, re-ordering some scenes, expanding some content and adding a few hundred words. I think I really got some great stuff done.

I guess the next thing I’ll need to do for my next editing session is go through my list and see how many more X marks I can add.

 


My Favourite Martian Blog Hop – Isabel Evans

January 21, 2013

Hey, everybody! I’m glad I found out about the My Favourite Martian Blog Hop in time to join. The rules say that you don’t have to limit yourself to martians, just your favorite alien from books, movies, television or other stories.




I was tempted to just name all the teenage aliens from the show ‘Roswell’, like Trisha did, but the rules said to pick one alien, so I thought about that a little. Considered picking Tess Harding, played by Emilie de Ravin, but I’m still so upset about her last few episodes on the show that I couldn’t agree with Kyle, who did call her his ‘Favorite Martian’ once.

Isabel’s plot arcs isabelon the show weren’t always perfect either, but in general she was a good character who brought some awesome moments to the series. She was a determined young woman, and her bossiness showed in snippets of the ‘ordinary life’ that she clung to like charity drives and perfect Christmas plans for her family, as well as the secret debates with her brother and friends about what was the right thing to do about the next alien menace coming into their lives.

In some ways I think Isabel might have been the most openly vulnerable of the alien foursome on that show. She loved Max and Michael more than anything, like they were both brothers to her, even if she was only adopted with Max. It’d be hard to say whether Isabel or Liz were hit harder when they realized that Max had been taken prisoner by the FBI alien hunters. In the episode ‘Independence Day’, when Michael drunk foster father started getting abusive, Isabel tries to bring him into her own family, inviting him for dinner and family game night. She never mentions it out loud, but I thought Isabel hoped that Michael might get adopted by her parents too. That doesn’t happen, but it’s Isabel who comes up with the idea of getting Michael emancipated, and she was probably the one to talk her lawyer father into helping, though we don’t see that conversation.

isabel3Isabel’s also vulnerable through her love for her parents, who she has to keep so many secrets from for years. In the episode ‘Toy house’, their mother starts to suspect Max’s abilities when he saves her from an oil fire in the kitchen, and Isabel quarrels with Max, wanting to tell her everything, and she’s a little heart-broken even after Max finds a way to ‘fix’ the situation and put Mom’s doubts to rest. More than anything, she wanted to find a way to be honest with her mother, to actually show that side of herself. It isn’t until the last few episodes that Mom and Dad Evans find out about Isabel’s abilities, (by putting a spycam in her bedroom,) and though that starts another huge blow-out argument, in the end Isabel is relieved that the truth was finally told.

Moving on a little bit, one of the coolest things about Isabel was her unique power – the dream walk. In the original ‘Roswell High’ paperbacks the alien’s powers weren’t so distinctive, so they could all heal as well as Max does and all enter other people’s dreams, but the writers for the show introduced the notion that some of the alien abilities are more like natural talents. Isabel usually curls up in bed, touches a photo of the person she wants to orient on, and sort of slips into a trance or a sleep state of her own. She can see what that person is dreaming about, and either spy without generally being noticed, or interact with the dreamer.

Read the rest of this entry »


Six Sentence Sunday: The Gnomes are Missing, 9

January 20, 2013

Happy Six Sentence Sunday, everybody! Next week will be the last SSS under the current dynasty. I’ve been posting sixes on Sunday for more than a year now, and it’ll be like the ending of an era.

Last time, Kinwer accidentally mentioned Gibbs, his missing gnome friend, in front of his family and his sister’s fiancee. Just to warn you, I’ve been revising this part recently, so I might have repeated or tweaked something.

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Father turned and glared at Kinwer, and mother muttered something to him under her breath. Father didn’t like Kinwer talking to the gnomes about anybody, even family – and Zaffaran was ‘almost family.’ Zaffaran seemed to be a little upset too, but he forced a wide and friendly smile on his face. “Yes, what’s wrong with your gnome friend?”

“Umm, it doesn’t matter.”

“Are you sure?” Zaffaran said, and looked around at the rest of the family.

Thank you so much for reading. Even though it’s months yet to Easter, I’ll be handing out chocolate eggs to anybody who leaves feedback this week. 🙂


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