May the muse be with you

December 17, 2012

I feel like I’ve hit my creative stride over the past few days, for the first time since Nano, really. I already mentioned that my Saturday was productive in several ways.

Sunday, I started the block revision of ‘The Storm Mirror’, marking up the first two scenes and then rewriting the next few on the Alphasmart Dana. Then it was down to Williams on the pier, meeting up with Elizabeth Twist and Gale, where I started a new story, “Time Bubble Trap”, partially based on “Project Fast Track” from last year.

Today, I got more of “Time Bubble Trap” on the bus to and from work, writing on the eeePC. We got stuck in traffic for an extra fifteen minutes because the Hamilton Harbor lift bridge was up, but the battery was charged up enough that I could write for most of the extra time! I also read some of a Temperance Brennan book on the Kindle, “Deadly Decisions.”

So I feel like I’m well over the post-Nano crash, and riding a wave of creative energy. The next few days might be a little hard to find time for writing or revisions, though. Tomorrow evening is the Hamilton Writer’s meeting at Chester’s, and that should be fun. I’m going to bring the opening pages of “The Gnomes are Missing” again – this time other people have RSVPed, so I should be able to actually read them.

And Wednesday evening, my mother and I have tickets for the Vinyl Cafe concert at Hamilton Place, which is a holiday season tradition for us that I’m looking forward to.

Hopefully I’ll be able to fit more Block Revision in tomorrow before I have to leave for work.

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How do I revise a short story

December 6, 2012

Yes, I’m still in ‘glide mode’ today, but I’m trying to get a bit more elevation above crash territory. I spent some time on the bus ride home critiquing a new critters.org story, and I’ve been thinking about the short stories I want to work with this month.

One is a ‘Not-really-rewrite’ of “Project Fast Track” – I’m not really using the same characters, the same plotline, or the same theme as that little contest tale I wrote nearly a year ago, but I’m going to go back to that vision of the future, specifically to TimeBubble Inc. I’ve got a new plot in mind and an idea for a main character and what his story’s about. Hope to talk it over with somebody before starting the first draft – maybe this weekend.

I also want to do a new revision – this going to be the fourth draft I guess, of “The Storm Mirror.” Some of what I want to do with it has been in my head ever since I left Kansas this summer, and some of it began to come clear while I was writing “The Witches of Arion” in August. (Which takes place earlier in the same universe.)

I like the idea of trying to apply some of the processes from the Holly Lisle “How to Revise your Novel” course to this short story, but I haven’t actually started with that yet. I should probably just dive in – work the worksheets, print out a copy of the third draft and start marking it up with colored pens. Onward! I can do this! (Those are the Holly Lisle taglines that she finishes every lesson with.)


National Novel Editing Month preparation

February 28, 2012

It’s only a few days until the arrival of March, and as I have for many years now, I’m going to join in the NaNoEdMo challenge – completing fifty hours of editing work within March. It’s not a very popular event, but I find that taking this time as winter turns into spring to concentrate on the tough work of revision and rewriting is one of my favorite markers on the year-long writer’s calendar.

So, as February winds to its close, I’m putting together a list of editing tasks that I can work out my fifty hours of self-imposed hard labor on. It helps to have a reasonable variety, so that if I get blocked on one project or simply sick of it, I can switch to another one.

Here’s some of what I’ve got lined up:

  • Rewriting the sample chapters of ‘The Scroll’ to send in to Kij at the CSSF – I want to have this ready to go by March 9th, before I head off to the HobbyStar Toronto March Comiccon.
  • ‘How to Revise your Novel’ coursework and exercises on “Won’t somebody think of the Children.” I’ve nearly finished the triage phase of HTRYN, and so the ‘Major Surgery’ lessons are coming up just in time for Edmo!
  • First rewrite of ‘The Storm Mirror’ – I liked a lot of things about the first draft, but it was very rambly, coming in at over 8000 words, and I think that a lot of them can be cut.
  • Third draft of ‘Father Ismay,’ which I’ve been procrastinating on all month. Maybe that was just my subconscious telling me that it was a NaNoEdMo job.
  • Doing quick cleanup on some fanfic so that it’s fit to be posted up on fanfiction.net (which isn’t a terribly high bar. 😉 )
  • Doing a critique for critters.org, and possibly other feedback for other writers. Good critiquer karma is definitely a part of Edmo!
  • Possibly rewrites of ‘Shuttle Fidelity’ or ‘Project Fast Track’.

Do you have anything particular planned for March? If you’ve got editing work to be done, I do recommend checking out the NaNoEdMo home page. The forums are a bit ghostly and spammy at the moment. I need to try to generate a little good chatter over there. Editors don’t always have time to gabble at each other online, though.


Six Sentence Sunday, Project Fast Track 5

February 11, 2012

Previous excerpts: Firstsecondthird, fourth.

Setup: Darlene is sales and customer service for TimeBubble, Inc, and was doing a demonstration for two customers – Jasmine and Michael, until Michael revealed that he wasn’t interested in an ordinary package.

“Could you tell me what you have in mind?”

“Can you invert the bubble effect with this demonstration unit?” Michael waved at the still slowly moving pendulum, and Darlene turned off the bubble to return it to normal time. “Speed it up so that time passes more quickly in there?”

 Hoping that this option had actually been field tested, she punched it in, and the pendulum started waving back and forth like crazy. “Michael – do you want to live inside a time bubble where time passes more quickly?”


Six Sentence Sunday, Project Fast Track 4

February 5, 2012

Previous excerpts: Firstsecond, third.

Setup: Darlene is sales and customer service for TimeBubble, Inc, and is doing a demonstration for two customers – Jasmine and Michael, as part of the sales pitch.

When the tiny bell rang inside the field, it sounded like a gong, but immensely far away. “Our standard slow-time bubble rooms aren’t exposed like this one – the room is sealed until bubble is collapsed, which can be at a set time, as requested by your loved ones outside, or when you hit the panic button from inside,” Darlene explained. “They’re rated safe for human use up to a dilation factor of two thousand, which means that one year, outside, is experienced subjectively as four hours, twenty-three minutes. Or, as I like to think of it, a pleasant afternoon with a good book.”

“I’m not interested in a standard room, Darlene,” Michael said. “What I have in mind will take more effort, and I’ll be happy to fund the necessary construction, but the project will need the experience of TimeBubble engineering staff – not to mention the use of your patents.”


Short story stuff

January 30, 2012

So, I think that overall, I’ve done pretty well on my January goals and projects list, but one area where I’ve been procrastinating is the short stories department. Week after week I’ve resolved to outline a new short, (or even complete a first draft!) or rewrite one of my existing stories, like ‘Project Fast Track’ or ‘Father Ismay’, and for four full weeks, I made pretty much no progress.

Working on shorts is hard, especially since I’ve raised my expectations for them, and I guess part of the problem was that it was easy to procrastinate while I hadn’t reached my JanNoWriMo goals for sample chapters of ‘The Scroll’ novel manuscript. Maybe I shouldn’t be pushing myself to work on a novel project and shorts at the same time.

But I really do want to do more with shorts this year, and before the end of June in particular, since even though I’m not planning to go back to the short story workshop, I’m sure if I go back to Lawrence, some people will ask me how my short stories are doing this year. When it comes to breaking short story ideas, I think that it’s the sort of thing that I can build momentum on if I keep working on it every day – keep a file of notions that haven’t quite jelled into story outlines, for instance, to see if maybe I can find the right angle on them tomorrow, or next week.

So I think that’s going to be one of my big targets for February. (As well as revising the ‘Scroll’ stuff, gulp – I want to have my workshop application ready for Feb 29th.) And I think I managed to make some headway on a new story outline this evening, based on a random prompt I found on a website of random generators.

“The seaside is the location, happiness is the theme. A mirror is an object that plays a part in the story.”

At first I thought that was a pretty useless prompt, and I was even tempted to try a different website. But I kept at it, looking to see if I could figure out a fantasy take on those three elements, and something’s coming together. I’ve got two characters – the first is a teenaged boy, Melvin, who lives in the seaside fishing village; his father’s a fishing boat captain, and his big brother that he loved was lost overboard in a storm.

Everybody in the village says that the storms are bad because of the old, ugly witch who lives in the grey house up on top of the cliff. But when Melvin climbs up the cliff to confront the witch, he finds a beautiful girl about his brother’s age, Sorina, who isn’t a witch, but she has a temper and a dark secret involving mirrors…

I tried using the random character generator at http://shortstoryideas.herb.me.uk/ to flesh out the teenage boy character, but I got a name that just didn’t fit – I think it was ‘Walter Jenkins’, and the full description was so ludicrous, I wish that I’d saved it. 😦 I remember that he was 80 years old and had muddy blue hair.


Six Sentence Sunday, Project Fast Track 3

January 29, 2012

Previous excerpts: First, second.

Setup: Darlene is sales and customer service for TimeBubble, Inc, and is doing a demonstration for two customers – a young woman, (Jasmine) and a middle-aged man, (Michael) as part of the sales pitch.

The little brass bell was on the very end of the pendulum, and immediately above it was a custom quartz watch face with a minute hand, second hand, and a third hand that went a full circle in exactly two seconds.

Jasmine pulled the bell towards her, and let it go. The bell rang several times as it swung, and then Darlene pushed the button to activate the field. Suddenly the pendulum was travelling through the air much more slowly, its motion just visible. On the watch face, the second hand appeared quite still, and the faster hand was doing a good impression of a second hand. Unusual ripples of violet and aquamarine reflected from the metal surfaces.


Six Sentence Sunday, Project Fast Track 2

January 22, 2012

Okay, this time I’m continuing directly on from last week’s six, as an appointment starts in the TimeBubble Inc office:

She didn’t know any more about these people than their names. But they could be uncle and niece – was he diagnosed with a terminal disease? That was the lion’s share of TimeBubble’s consumer customer base. Since Jasmine seemed to be in her late teens, he might want to make sure that he was around for Jasmine’s high school graduation day, or college, or to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day…

“Okay, I’m ready for the demonstration,” Darlene said, looking up. “Jasmine, could you give the bell a swing?”

 


Laser printer toner.

January 16, 2012

I got my laser printer a little over a year ago – there were electronics gift cards that came my way on Christmas day, and so I went to the boxing day sales and carried home a little Brother printer. It’s been a great unit, and I’ve put it to good use – printing out several copies of every short story or excerpt that I take to Hamilton Writers or the now-defunct ‘New Writing Workshop‘, and every story that I put into my Kansas binders.

Just before I left for San Francisco this November, the printer’s ‘toner warning’ light started blinking. I over-reacted a little and didn’t even turn the printer on again until I’d found a seller on Ebay who would ship me a toner drum without charging a full arm for it, and then once I’d brought the new drum home – the printer seemed to be fine with the old toner drum.

This has continued on for a few months – the toner light would start blinking intermittently, and then clear up, as if it can’t make up its mind. “Toner? Yeah, I could do with some new toner.” “Toner? Nah, I’m fine, I don’t need more toner.”

Tomorrow is the first Hamilton Writers meeting of the new year, and I had some idea of forcing the issue, of continuing to print out copies of “Project Fast Track” until the printer knuckled under and asked for toner. Turned out I didn’t really need to try very hard. The toner light came on steady after the third copy, which means that it’s not a warranty, but a ‘toner end of life’ error condition. Somewhat whimsically, I turned it off for about an hour, came back – and got another one and a half copies, (twelve pages,) before ‘toner end of life’ hit again.

That time, turning it off and waiting didn’t clear the problem, so I finally opened up the front of the printer, took out the drum assembly, bagged up the old toner drum, inserted the new one, and cleaned off the ‘primary corona wire’, whatever that is, by sliding a stiff green switch back and forth several times. The manual says that I should wipe out the insides of the printer when I change the toner, but it’s too late for me to bother tonight, so I need to remember to do that soon.

It’s a good little printer, and I’m sure it gave me thousands of pages from that first starter drum. Here’s to the next five thousand pages printed!


Six Sentence Sunday: Project Fast Track

January 15, 2012

Hi, and welcome back to Six Sentence Sunday. This week, I’m going to stop cherry-picking sixes from ‘Won’t somebody think of the children’, and start with a short story that I wrote for a contest around Christmas – Project Fast Track. Here’s the opening:

“Hello, and welcome to TimeBubble, Mister York – I’m Darlene Pritchard, Customer Service.” She gestured to the padded armchairs in front of her desk.

“It’s very nice to meet you, Darlene, and you can call me Michael. This is Jasmine,” Michael said. He and the teenaged girl sat down. “Can you show us the bubble machine first?”

“Sure.” Darlene considered her unusually well-informed customers as she prepared the bubble generator controls, and rattled off a few facts about the history of the company.


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