IWSG: There’s always more goals to reach for

September 4, 2013

Hey there, welcome to the August 2013 meeting of the Insecure Writers Support Group! I’m still struggling with my insecurities about knowing when my stories are ready to submit, but rather than ramble on about that, I thought I’d share another source of insecurity; monthly to-do lists.

I’ve been coming up with to-do lists of creative goals for several years now, a habit I picked up over at Stringing Words. Almost always, because I’ve got an optimistic and competitive bent, I come up with a long list of around a dozen projects, and most of the time I leave several of them unfinished to roll over to the next month.

I’ve talked with Elizabeth about this, and she always tells me that’s a great spot to be in. “Aim high, shoot for the middle” is her usual catchphrase, and I try to take that advice to heart. But sometimes it’s hard for me not to look at my end of month progress reports and feel like a failure, or get this insane determination to push harder next time, even when I don’t have the energy to keep up that pace.

For August, I had ten goals listed. Five of them, I definitely accomplished, including one where I definitely went above and beyond the target. One more I feel very confident in marking as a win, even though there might be a technicality that a nay-sayer could argue. (That goal was to stay caught up on the Ad Astra slushpile, and two new stories came in just before midnight on August 31st.)

For one more item on the list, I pulled a late substitution, and instead of revising “Gotta Have that Look” to submit to critters, I did some superficial edits to “Love is a Masterpiece” and sent that in instead, because I wasn’t feeling confident on where I wanted to go with GHTL. Two more goals I made progress on, but definitely didn’t finish; fanvidding and my “How to Think Sideways” lessons. And the last one, submitting a manuscript to a paying market, I can’t even give myself a partial.

So I was looking at that list and giving myself something like a seven out of ten. Elizabeth and Rinelle both cheered me on when they did their own end-of-month updates, pointing out that I’d accomplished a lot, and I know I have. But it’s hard to feel that way somehow.


In which my Kindle goes back to the USA for magazines

August 5, 2013

Not physically. Let’s see… I was at Williams by the Pier in Hamilton with Elizabeth Twist, catching up and doing our Evensies (even Sundays,) write-in thing, and happened to mention my frustration with Amazon.ca and magazines. Elizabeth’s immediate reaction was that I should send out angry customer support emails until they got my Kindle account switched back to amazon.com, as the best part of having the Kindle, in her experience, was for the magazines.

I don’t tend to default to ‘angry’ with my customer support emails, but I sent out a plea for help to Amazon.com right there in the cafe, and also read her the email I’d sent to Amazon.ca last week and their completely unhelpful brush-off form letter.

Somewhat to my surprise, an Amazon customer support person by the name of Naveen replied within four hours, including very helpful instructions on how to navigate the Amazon.ca website to migrate my account back to Amazon.com – thank you very much Naveen! I have brand new issues of Analog and F&SF on my Kindle, and I’ll be starting a subscription to Asimov’s as soon as they get a new issue out. (The issue that’s currently up on Amazon.com is the same one that Sheila was handing out for free back at Odyssey, so I thought I could read that in print and wait a month.)

Thank you very much for pushing me to try again Elizabeth!


How to Draw your SSM

May 10, 2013

No, not that SSM. After a few false starts, I’m finally making progress on my new Holly Lisle ‘How to Think Sideways’ lessons. I asked my family for this course for Christmas, and my sister’s side came through, paying for my first eight lessons! Thanks, sis.

I remember I took a stab at lesson one back in February sometime, downloading the worksheets before going off to Williams for a write-in with Elizabeth and Nixy, and I got through at least one exercise that day, the shadow room, which is a lot of fun. I think I did my first visual clustering exercise back in February, or maybe squeezed it into May when I was sick and tired of editing. But my attempts to get some Thinking Sideways done during April were completely squeezed out by Camp Nano. (Getting to 50k in a month is never as easy as I think it’ll be.)

But I’ve been going a little gangbusters on HTTS since May started, finishing lesson 1 in a few days, (where you’re introduced to four fearsome villains of the mind: Safe, Perfect, Victim, and Feel–doing battle with each in an introductory exercise.) On Sunday afternoon,  I touched based with Elizabeth about her own experiences with the first few lessons in the course, and read through lesson 2. The next day, I started the lesson 2 homework: a giant six-page cluster of free association that Holly calls a Sweet Spot Map, or SSM for short.

DSCF8067 (Small)

My first SSM is almost complete now. There’s a starting ‘node’ on each of the pages: Things I love, things I fear, things that make me shiver, and so on. From these six starting places, you just let your brain free-wheel and draw your own things to connect, creating a big cluster of things, names, and concepts that make sense in your own inscrutable brain. It’s a lot of fun.

I’m not quite sure what I do with this map now. That’s in lesson 3. 🙂

 


A Friday roundup.

March 1, 2013

I’ve got nothing big to blog about today, so I’m just going to quickly share a few things that have been going on in my life and writing lately:

  • Finally got the car back today! When I took it in for collision repair on Tuesday morning, I was hoping I’d be able to pick it up Wednesday evening, but what with the somewhat wet weather they didn’t get the paint dry until this morning. It’s so pretty though! And it was interesting to go through a few days without having access to the car–I’ve been relying on it more and more lately, especially being able to use it when I have appointments or the weather is bad. Instead, I had to struggle with public transit through one day with messy weather, and one day with a dental filling in the afternoon, sigh.
  • I got my last summer workshop application sent in: Synopsis and sample pages of “The Gnomes are Missing” emailed to Kij Johnson for the CSSF Novel writer’s program. I’m looking forward to hearing back from all my workshop opportunities, and big thanks to Rinelle and Elizabeth Twist for critiquing my synopsis several times and making it much better!
  • The final revision pass of “Won’t somebody think of the children?” is finally done; one day late, compared to my target, but there was a lot to do, especially taming my crazy punctuation. I have a tendency to use a ‘space hyphen space’ combination in my writing for a brief pause, and in fact I used it twice by this point in the post, but went back and changed them. Because that is a combination that is wrong according to every style authority I can find, I’m putting myself on a zero tolerance program for it in my revisions; I can use proper M-dashes, I can use colons or semicolons or commas or periods or ellipses, but no hyphens as pauses. So I started off NaNoEdMo this evening by fixing a few hundred hyphens-as-pauses from ‘Children.’ I’ll be sending off the completed draft to two critters.org critiquers in the morning.
  • I’m really pleased with my progress in my ‘February month of drawing.’ I still have a few sketches to share with you, more negative space stuff, (a basketball pose and a chair from life,) but I haven’t taken the workbook in to work to scan them yet, so hopefully that’ll be Monday evening.
  • Didn’t do so well with ‘How to Think Sideways’ – I got started on lesson 1, but didn’t have time to finish it, and it might be a while before I get back to it, what with NaNoEdMo and Camp Nanowrimo and what-have you.
  • I may be loaning the Kindle to my mom, because she’s been wondering about getting an E-reader of her own. It’ll be odd not having it around for a week or so, but I’m happy to help. 🙂
  • And it’s only a week until the Trek TNG reunion Comicon in Toronto! I’m not hugely excited for this one, because money’s tight and I’m a bit tired of the high prices, but I’ll be heading in for Saturday, checking out a few Q&As, and looking for Buffy season 9 graphic novels.

So – what’s up with you lately? How’ve ya been?


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.


Nanowrimo Spotlight #8: Elizabeth Twist

October 29, 2012

Well, it’s my great pleasure this evening to spotlight a good friend of mine, and a fellow Hamilton Wrimo, Elizabeth Twist. Take it away, Twisty Liz!

What’s the most unusual part of your writing process?
I do all my first drafts with a fountain pen, which isn’t unique but is a less popular choice than drafting on a computer. Hiking out in nature is also an essential part of my process. I do all my best plotting while mobile and surrounded by trees.

Where are your backup files?
I have a massive second hard drive in my computer. Once a month, I make a complete copy of my documents files on it. Whenever I change a story, I email a copy to myself and file it under a “story drafts” label in my email archive. That capacious gmail account really comes in handy. Originals, i.e., first drafts, I keep in a binder, or in a pile on my desk until I’m ready to work with them.

What advice would you give to all your fellow Wrimos?
Do as much planning as you need to get yourself really stoked for November. Once November comes, write like hell, and give yourself permission to enjoy it! Really do immerse yourself in the writing experience, and really do let other stuff go. Every writer deserves to have that experience, of putting writing before all other priorities. It’s not a state that you can stay in forever: those dishes will need attending to eventually. It is something you can afford to do for a month. November is an excellent time because you’ll have tons of support through the website, through the forums, and your local region if yours is active.

Sneaky Ninja Question! Who’s the best character you’ve ever written and why?
Tricky. I’m going to define “best” by “most enjoyable to work on.” I’ve written characters that I’ve been really proud of in terms of nuance and subtle layering of traits and all that stuff, but that’s, like, hard work, you know? My favourite character, who was just a blast, was a guy called Johnny Brittle, a creepy punkish fellow who was granted immortality by a goddess in some obscure wheat field in Mesopotamia. I’ve seriously considered going back to the broken manuscript he appeared in solely because he was fun.

Elizabeth Twist writes speculative fiction and lives in Hamilton Ontario. She blogs at elizabethtwist.blogspot.ca


It’s shredder-licious!

October 19, 2012

I bought a home shredder a few weeks ago, at the closing sale of the local Zellers store. I’d been talking about getting rid of old papers with Elizabeth Twist on a Sunday afternoon at Williams coffee shop, and she recommended getting one.

It’s definitely kinda fun. I took a little while getting it set up and figuring out how to work it, but the first batch of shredded paper filings went out in the recycling blue box this afternoon, and I shredded some years-old Visa statements this evening – only ones that were mostly empty, because I kinda wanted to keep ahold of anything that had plenty of details of what I was spending money on, years ago. It’s cool to see it sitting there, ready and waiting to cut anything that I want to get rid of into lots and lots of tiny pieces.

Mental note – need to find someplace that sells shredder oil pretty soon, so that it doesn’t start jamming up on me. 🙂


My Nano ML’s journey has begun, kind of

September 13, 2012

I went to meet some writer friends and fellow Wrimo-ers at a new coffee shop this evening, scouting it out as a possible Nanowrimo venue. One of the friends is a many-times Hamilton ML, and I’m joining her as Nanowrimo Co-ML for the first time ever. We decided that the place, the Mulberry cafe, would be a pretty good place for a Kick-off party, because we can reserve their gallery room, but maybe not so good for a write-in as the only tables with outlets are also closest to the loud music.

I’m very excited about being a Nanowrimo ML for the first time, but also a bit nervous about the responsibility, and of having to keep up with my friend. I’ve been ML for Script Frenzy before, but that was always fairly small and low-key. I’m going to need to up my game for November. It should be a fun challenge.

I also got two short scenes finished for Block Revision, and Elizabeth Twist got a page and a bit scribbled in with her pen. (My Co-ML brought a netbook, but wasn’t able to get any writing done, blaming the music.)

So it was a great evening.


A little more about my Block Revision process

July 23, 2012

Block Revision is still doing pretty well; I got up to scene 24 at Williams yesterday with Elizabeth Twist, then went back to add on to scene 20 this morning. Sometimes the going seems slow, but that’s probably just because I had the crazy notion that this was something I could plow through in a week just because Holly Lisle put it in one lesson. 😉 It’ll take as long as it takes, and I’m getting lots of great work done.

When I’m not at Williams cafe, though, I’ve been noticing that my way of approaching Block Revision has become very formal and ritualized, and that probably helps me get into the right mindset for it. It starts with the setup – making sure that the big tall lamp in the living room is plugged in. I hook my iphone up to a traveldock speaker, set the timer for 45 minutes or however long I think I have to edit in this session, and start playing the ‘Monastery’ playlist, which is almost all instrumental tunes. If I feel any need, I’ll make sure I have sugar-free koolaid in something with a screw-on lid, and some peanuts in a bowl.

Then I go to the Focus Outline cards that I had printed up from my notes, find my place, and get down to work. After comparing the sentence on the card with the pages indicated, I figure out if I can start by marking up a passage in my printed first draft, or if I need to start with fresh stuff on the Alphasmart Dana. Quite often I start and finish the scene on the Dana, without using anything from the page, just marking ‘Block Scene 22’ or whatever somewhere in the margins in blue pen, updating the page number, and doodling a little red box with an X through it, to indicate that the entire page is to be cut as-is.

I haven’t done anything with cutting and taping so far, or really used the post-it notes, and I only occasionally refer to my consistency laundry list or my worksheet printouts. Maybe I should be leaning on these more, but I’ve got a system that works and that keeps me paying attention to enough things at once already. If I’m making a mistake at this point, I probably won’t figure it out until I’m done the course.


Don’t just kill your babies – let other babies eat the best bits.

June 26, 2012

Workshop update – today’s session went great. (So did yesterday’s, which I didn’t mention in yesterday’s post, since that was mostly written in the morning.) I got lots of great feedback and suggestions for ‘The Storm Mirror,’ including that old favorite that I seem to still be having trouble with – torture your characters more. 😉 I’m excited about the revision.

We’ve been talking quite a bit so far about ‘killing your babies’, which wasn’t advice that I got that I noticed – if a favorite element isn’t working for the story, you have to take it out; and maybe try to use it later. That reminds me of this favorite exchange on Stringing Words between myself and Elizabeth Twist:

Elizabeth: …Ultimately, this is helping me to let go of my older projects by allowing the new project to digest the juiciest bits.

Me: [That] prompted a very weird mental image in my head – something like you as a mother in a graveyard, saying goodbye to your ‘babies’ but smiling because a bizarre, chimera-like creature (your new book) is picking at the dead bodies. Fun. Grin

Elizabeth: Thanks, Chris–that’s an accurate image of my mental state right now. Except I’m wearing a tiara and cheering on my chimera. Whee!

So, that’s my little piece of writing advice to everybody who reads me today – feed your chimera!


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