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.

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.

Post-Nano interview approaching.

December 5, 2012

Well, I’m still in gliding mode, working on archiving the old Stringing Words, trying to figure out how to apply Holly Lisle’s revision program to a short story, and learning the ropes of the new wordpress.com dashboard upgrades. But there’s something new that I wanted to let you know about.

Rhianna was one of the wrimos that I did a spotlight interview with in late October,  and she’s asked me to return the favor now with a post-Nano interview for her blog. She’s sent me the questions and it looks like a fun interview, but it won’t be scheduled until January.

Still – I wanted my friends and followers to be the first to know!

The new Stringing Words

November 27, 2012

A new version of the Stringing Words forum launched today, and I’m both excited about it and a little sad to see the old edition go away soon. The exciting part is the people – especially the fact that my good friend and Co-ML Gale has gotten involved in the community again, and that I’m getting to know my fellow admin Rinelle.

The disappointing part is that it seems like a technical step backward with fewer neat ‘toys’ to play with on the site. None of them are terribly important – the shoutbar of messages that were always visible down the left side of every page, the custom smileys, the nice home page layout that showed the twenty threads that had been updated most recently, whether they were in the same section of the forum or widely scattered.

The new edition is on the freeforums.net domain, (which is part of the proboards.com family,) and the decisions to move there were mostly on account of money – the old version was on a paid hosted solution registered to  one of the founding admins. She’s been very busy with publishing success lately and hasn’t had much time to keep up with the community, and asked that we make a move so that she doesn’t need to worry about bringing the forum down if she misses a payment. I did volunteer once to take over responsibility for the payments with the old hosting company, but she seemed to think that would be a pain, and I didn’t pursue it any further.

So, that’s where it is. I guess I should focus on moving forward and all the great people who’ve made the move over to the new site, rather than the bells and whistles we’re leaving behind, huh? 😉

What I’ve been reading lately, August 2012 edition…

August 3, 2012

It’s been a while since I’ve told you much about my reading, so here are some of the highlights from the last month and a half:

“Guards, Guards” by Terry Pratchett. I’ve been enjoying the Discworld books, and this was one that was specially recommended by Alastair on the Storywonk podcasts. I’m not sure if I found it as tight and well-done as “Mort”, but it was definitely a great outing on the Discworld, and I’m looking forward to reading the further adventures of the Ankh-Morpork Nightwatch. The footnotes were some of the best parts, and I enjoyed trying to figure out what would end up happening with the Quantum Dragon plotline.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. After ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’ or so, the Harry Potter books definitely get darker and darker as the series goes on, and there’s definitely an enjoyable side to that trip. Now, I came into ‘Prince’ already spoiled as to one particular detail, so was reading through it wondering just how and when a particular ‘beloved’ character would meet his end. (He actually isn’t one of my favorites from the Potter cast.) But I was taken by surprise with several details – the mystery of who the Prince actually was, though the answer was staring me in the face the whole time. Also the romantic subplot for Harry, which was very well-done and seemed natural for the characters involved.

From the very beginning, the Potter books have set up a paradoxical triangle of trust – Harry never trusted Severus Snape, but he trusted Dumbledore and knew that Dumbledore trusted Snape. This set up the obvious question of whether one or both of Harry or Dumbledore was right in their attitude towards Snape. The end of ‘Half-Blood Prince’ appears to provide a final answer to that question, but I wonder. Few things in Harry’s world are that simple, and I have most of a book left. (At this point, I’m 66 pages into ‘Deathly Hallows.’)

I’ve got quite a few books on the go at the moment, including Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles”, which is the August book for the Stringing Words Book of the Month Club. So far, that’s interesting but curiously retro, and I’m wondering what else can possibly go wrong on planet Mars. I’m also in the middle of:

  • Summer Knight, by Jim Butcher
  • A Little Night Magic, by Lucy March
  • All Together Dead, by Charlaine Harris
  • Pet Peeve, by Piers Anthony


Book of the Month discussion group is up and walking…

July 13, 2012

…and we want you to come walk, read, and talk with us! (Maybe not all at the same time.)

I’m probably part of the reason it’s only walking instead of ‘up and running’ right now, but I finally weighed in on the book suggestions thread started on Stringing Words, and it looks to me as if Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” is gathering some support to be the first book read and discussed. But that might change!

If you’re interested in reading and chatting about books with fellow authors, please come on over and give us a try!

(Previous posts on the idea are here and here.)

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!

Book of the Month group update

June 15, 2012

Hi all, friends and followers. I just wanted to let you know that I’ve started the wheels turning on the ‘Book of the Month discussion group’ idea and hosting it on Stringing Words. So, if you’re interested in reading and talking about reading, come by the discussion thread, have a read, and maybe sign up to talk about it. We don’t bite or anything.

It’ll probably take a while to get the ball rolling, but you’ve got to start somewhere, don’t you?

Writer’s book of the month online discussion group

June 8, 2012

I have a dream.

I dream of a comfortable spot on some friendly website where passionate writers gather.

I dreamed that they all shared a bunch of favorite book recommendations and titles that they’d heard good ‘buzz’ about, and agreed on a list of books that everybody was interested in.

I dreamed that most of these writers read the same book in a particular month, and a few of them begged off with excuses about how slammed they were with other things going on, and they’d read the book for the next month, PROMISE! 😉

I dreamed that all the writers who read the book, whether it was the first time that they’d read it or if they were revisiting an old favorite, chatted for weeks and weeks about what they loved in it, what they hated, what worked, what didn’t work and why, and how they’d fix it if they could. The discussion went off-topic at times, and even strayed into more general debates about what was really good writing, what a well told book should do for the reader, and all kinds of great stuff like that.

And then I woke up without seeing the internet address of this wonderful place. 😀

I’m not sure if it exists yet, or maybe if it’s my mystical destiny to help create it. But I want to belong to this club one way or another, and I want your help. First off, do you know of a group like this that’s still active and accepting new members? If not, do you want to become a founding member? Can you suggest an existing community of writers that would be willing to provide our club a home?

I already tweeted about this notion yesterday, and I posted a teaser over on the Storywonk forums, (because it was a storywonk podcast that inspired the dream,) and got one nibble in both places. If readers wouldn’t mind signing up, I’m certain that I can make a place for the club on Stringing Words.

So – what do you say?

Reading 52 books in 2012 – January-ish milestone.

January 28, 2012

The challenge to read 52 books in a calendar year is another something that I came across on Stringing Words, where Eileen and Roma have been starting threads for tracking our yearly readings for the past few years.

I didn’t join in the 52-books fun until July the fourth of last year – at which point I had only 12 books that I could remember reading in 2011 to date, so I was going in with a huge lead to make up. But I had fun reading and keeping track of what I was reading, and by the thirty-first of December, I had thirty-four books listed, which means, I guess, that I read twenty-two books during the second half (or so) of the year, and wasn’t really on pace to get to 52 even if I hadn’t started behind. But that was just the warm-up lap, not really for serious.

This year, I’m bound and determined to get to 52, and I plan to not let myself slip behind. So far, my count stands at six books:

  1. Darwin’s Radio, by Greg Bear.
  2. Door to Alternity: The Unseen Trilogy, by Nancy Holder and Jeff Mariotte.
  3. More than Human, by Theodore Sturgeon.
  4. The Time Machine, by H. G. Wells.
  5. Long Way Home: The Unseen Trilogy, by Nancy Holder and Jeff Mariotte.
  6. Vampire Diaries: The Struggle, by LJ Smith.

The books from the ‘Unseen trilogy’ are all e-books that I bought a long time ago, and was reading on particular portable devices that were properly authorized to access their DRM – Door to Alternity was in an old Adobe DRM format, (before the new ‘Digital Editions’ standard,) and would read happily only on my palm tungsten, and ‘Long Way Home’ was Microsoft Reader DRM and was authorized for my HP pocket PC. I could probably have read either of them on a PC as well, but it’s been nice reading while riding the bus to work or back home every day.

And the other four titles, I read in audible format, from audible.com  I’m still working on ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ in paperback, but it seems like I only pick that up once or twice every week or so.

If you’d like to join in the challenge, you can come over to Stringing Words and sign up to the forums there, and/or check out a blog dedicated to the challenge: Read 52 books in 52 weeks.

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