Writing Work Day #2

After a rather odd February, March has arrived, which means consecutive Writing Work Days will be had! For a refresher, here was the progress report from last official writing work day, and here’s the last progress report (Con Nooga doesn’t count since I wasn’t actively working on something).

So, a reminder, where am I in my official plan?

3) Use notes and questions to determine what changes need to be made to the current draft of Codename: Telepathic Soulmates. Ultimate goal: reduce word count from 132,000 to around 115,000 words, if possible. Consider:

  • Does it need a total rewrite?
  • Does it need a partial rewrite?
  • A very surgical rewrite?
  • Or just a super-hard final polish?

Deadline: tentatively, Sunday, April 5th. Deadline dependent on what kind of rewrite/polish the draft really needs.

I’d decided that in order to do this, and while waiting on feedback from my two readers, that I would go ahead and sit down and read Karen Wiesner’s First Draft in 30 Days book as a means to narrow my focus on Codename: Telepathic Soulmates, because before I start cranking out revisions, I want to make sure I know what I actually want for the novel. That way, if/when I get conflicting advice from my readers (which has happened long before now), I know what direction to lean towards.

So after some errands this morning, I settled down and did a few things differently:

1) I moved myself into my husband’s office. I thought it would be good to work in a place where I’m not used to messing around on the internet, or where I watch television, or read, or get sleepy. So that was was useful.

2) I usually listen to the Writing Excuses podcast during the week in my car, and this week was no different. However, this week some of the advice (episode 10.9: Where is My Story Coming From?) I wanted to hear again and take notes, so I think in the future, I’ll hold off listening to the podcast and start off my writing work days by listening to it. I know I’ve missed out on REALLY internalizing good advice because I’m not in a position to take notes when I listen, so this should be a positive change.

3) The BIG thing I wanted to do today was start character sketches. Now, mind you, I’ve already written this novel. The idea for character sketches is to make sure I understand at least my main three POV characters and make sure their character arcs through the book MAKE SENSE. Wiesner’s book starts with an introduction and then proceeds to glorify outlines. I’m not sold on that part yet, because I’m more of the Writing Excuses way of thinking, which is that outlining is a spectrum, and most writers do SOME form of outlining, but not necessarily the full-blown, rigid method we all think of when we hear the word “outlining.” But after all of that, the book settled down and talked about character sketches and things to fill in. Fortunately, I’d been informed that Scrivener’s 2.0 version offered these near-exact templates, so I started filling stuff in for my three POV characters. I’ll admit: some of this involved looking up pictures of models for my characters, and I have no shame in admitting it’s fun to look at the pretty.

But how useful was the act itself? Useful…. but not in a tangible way, not yet. In the past few weeks since my first official writing work day, my brain has settled down and I feel mostly confident that I need to do a very deliberate, very surgical rewrite. I need to make sure each scene is performing on all cylinders and doing the best it can for the overall story and themes. As a result of this, my brain’s been storming all over the place and I’ve been taking notes on things I can feather in, and I used those notes to help with the character sketches today. But sketching is different than actually breaking everything down chapter-by-chapter and making sure everything is operating at peak efficiency, you know?

So what does this mean for next week? I want to fill in what I can for the other secondary and tertiary characters in the novel to make sure I’m not missing something useful or obvious, so I think this character-sketching thing may take at least one more, if not two more weeks. Then it’s on to setting and plot, where I intend to break the book down chapter my chapter and really map it out and make sure it’s working the way I want. By then, I suspect I’ll have all of my feedback from my two readers and will have had ample time to pick their brains.

From there? Surgical rewriting, yo!

I will say, I didn’t get started as early as I wanted today due to early morning errands. That being said, I started around 11:00-11:30, and I found the day moved surprisingly slowly. Not in a “I’m bored!” way, but in a way that just surprised me. I suspect my sense of time will change depending on what I’m doing in the process, and when I get to a phase where I’m actually writing, I suspect if I’m in the groove, I’ll lose all sense of time and will need an alarm to remind me to eat. I’d tell the cat to remind me, but I don’t think he’s very dependable in such matters, unless he’s the one wanting to eat.

Today’s musical accompaniment was the following:

1) Chasing Ice Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by J. Ralph because the music is so very lovely, haunting, a Philip Glass-esque to my ears. Also, the setting is very close to my heart.
2) [Soul] or [System] by Skytown Riot: I picked up this EP at Con Nooga, and I saw them perform a few years ago when they opened for Filter. I’m officially in love with this band.
3) This Is War by Thirty Seconds to Mars because of course.

There’s No Heat In This Winter Sun

It’s been a week of winter. Freezing rain, sleet, ice, and snow. I’m fortunate I don’t live in New England, where snow tunnels are the norm. And there’s a certain beauty when the sun comes out and shines through the ice-coated limbs of trees like diamonds. For the first time, I think I really understand why Christmas trees are decorated the way they are. The tinsel, the lights: all of it to re-create the natural, diamond sheen of nature when ice coats the world and the sun shines through. It’s beautiful.

But with that beauty comes a dangerous edge. People have been without power for days on end, and travel conditions, based on where you live, are pretty treacherous. We’re lucky: we’ve lost power only briefly, and we’re close enough to the main roads that driving conditions aren’t really an issue. Though it’s scary to be driving and realize your windshield is icing over and you need your defrost on the highest setting, in hopes that’ll be enough to get you home. My grandmother, while having power, can’t leave the house even if she wanted, because the hill at the end of the driveway is nothing but ice.

I remember worse. Down in my neck of the woods, you’ll often hear about the “Blizzard of ’93,” which hit in March. But this is the longest bout of winter weather I remember in a long time. And it’s been so very, very cold.

Next week is my next week of four 10-hour days, but next Friday is Con Nooga, not a Writing Work Day. I keep eyeing the weather suspiciously, and right now, it looks to be fine, but I don’t trust it, nor do I trust the weathermen who report it.

So I’m crossing my fingers that it won’t be an issue. For me, or for anyone else who’s traveling for it, like my friend in Virginia.

###

Today’s headline comes from Tom McRae’s “Please,” from the album The Alphabet of Hurricanes. I know, I’ve already pulled from this album, but I’m kind of in love with it, and I love his lyrics. You can hear the song, which I’ve had on repeat all week, here.

A Day Like Today

Thus ends my first week of working four days, ten hours each. Friday is my official Writing Work Day, with a break to get my allergy shot.

How has the new schedule gone? I’ve seen some highs and lows. The week started rather badly, to be quite honest. The doctors think she had a mini-stroke and they discharged her Tuesday evening. I spoke to her Wednesday but wasn’t able to get in touch today, so right now I’m assuming no news is good news. We’re all glad she’s home, but I can’t fight the fact that given her age, she’s probably never going to be at 100% again. The important thing is to keep her as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

But after that, I realized pretty quickly: I like the longer day. Coming in early means I can turn on some music and get some necessary administrative shit done first thing in the morning without any distraction, and staying late means that I can finish whatever projects I’ve got going on without feeling super-rushed or stressed. Yesterday on my way home, I was contemplating how much I liked it, while my brain was heckling me with doubts.

Sure, it says, THIS week was good. But what about two weeks in a row? Three? How’s your body gonna like that?

Only time will tell there.

Okay, fine, my brain says. But what happens if you wake up with a MIGRAINE. Missing any time means either taking a bigger chunk of sick time OR having to divy up your hours and come in on Friday ANYWAY.

Shut up, brain.

So it did. Sort of. Until I woke up at 4:30 am with a migraine. Little bastard. It was an old school migraine, the kind that makes me worship the great porcelain god. How’d I handle it? Vomit once, decide I’ve had enough of this shit, and get ready to go to work. Hot water works wonders, and I took my prescription. Made it to work on time, sans headache, nursed an emergency Coke all day, and got in my ten hours. The day was full and crazy-busy too, but as of now, I’m not kicking myself over the extra time spent there during the day.

Then again, it’s only the first week. And tomorrow’s my first Writing Work Day, though given my current plan, there will be less writing and more reading, analyzing, and thinking about how to whip Codename: Telepathic Soulmates into shape.

In truth, the real test of this four 10-hour day experiment will be in March, because next week has a federal holiday, so I’ll be putting in eight hours a day due to the paid holiday, and then the week after, I’ll be doing four 10s, but instead of writing on Friday, I’ll be hooking up with a dear friend of mine and trekking to Con Nooga for all kinds of crazy shenanigans. But by time March rolls around? I should have a clearer direction for what I’m doing for revision, and that, my friends, is where we’re really see how this experiment works.

In the meantime, today’s blog post comes from Tom McRae’s “A Day Like Today,” from the album Just Like Blood. You can listen to it here.

Told My Troubles To The River

It was a hard day.

My first official and intentional 10 hour day.

My cold is on the way out.

A short story was rejected.

I woke up to the news my grandmother was sent to the ER with chest pains.

It was a hard day.

It could’ve been worse. I learned better today that emotional toll can zap you faster than anything physical. That waiting and not knowing is utterly draining no matter how much you have to keep you occupied.

It was a hard day, but my mother had it worse, and I’m glad she was there to keep us posted, to keep my grandmother company through all the infernal and seemingly infinite waiting.

My grandmother, last I heard, is fine. No diagnosis and from what I understand, her CAT scan and MRI came back clean. Next up will be the results of the Lexiscan, and maybe, just maybe we’ll learn why my grandmother had such a bad weekend that they called an ambulance to take her to the ER.

So it’s time to rest up, start over again tomorrow, and pay a visit after work.

And hope and pray that today’s hard day doesn’t turn into a harder week. Or a harder month. Or a harder year.

###

Today’s blog post title comes from “Told My Troubles to the River” from Tom McRae’s The Alphabet of Hurricanes. What a fantastic album title. You can hear the song “Told My Troubles to the River” here.

###

Edit: And then I heard this: Melanie Tem passed away. Damn it. I feel like I need a good cry now. Steve and Melanie were our Writers in Residence during Week 5 of Odyssey 2005. A lovely couple, wonderful writers, and Melanie was just amazing. I am so terribly sorry to hear this.

How Sick We Are

So I’ve been fighting a cold since Tuesday, hence the radio silence. Last week was a busy week with late nights, and it wasn’t even my first week of four 10s. That starts this week.

Hopefully, the cold is on the way out. And I promised progress reports (which I hope to do on Fridays in the future) when I talked about my official plan, so here’s how week one went.

The goal:

Read Codename: LB Prequel. Take notes on world-building, write down questions to get answered in Codename: Telepathic Soulmates. Deadline: Sunday, February 8th.

Consider it done. For a while, the cold was fighting me, but I got caught up.

This week’s goal:

Read Codename: Telepathic Soulmates. Take notes on world-building, write down any questions that aren’t answered, figure out what, if any, questions should be addressed in a sequel. Deadline: Sunday, February 15th

I’m actually well on my way of finishing this. Maybe that’s a good thing that I’ve got a head start (I’m on page 317 of 518), because I’ll start the 10 hours days tomorrow, and I’ll likely be pretty zonked by time I get home. So I’m glad that I’ll have Friday free to really focus on the reading.

I don’t have any commentary yet, other than places I’d previously thought I wanted to change for REASONS, I’m second-guessing now. Once I finish reading and start studying the notes, and get off the cold meds, I may have a clearer direction, but for now, I’m still pondering.

So that’s it for a writing update. Today’s blog post title is brought to you from Evanescence’s “Sick” from their self-titled album. You can here the song here.

So I Run and Hide and Tear Myself Up

I came across two blog posts yesterday that I’ve been chewing on: the first by author Malinda Lo, “On Self Rejection and Writing From a Marginalized Perspective” and the second, which references the first, by Kate Elliot, “The Courage to Say Yes.” Both posts talk about self-rejection, which stood out to me like a flashing neon sign.

I’ve been self-rejecting for so long it feels like my entire life. One of the reasons it’s taken so damn long to really get up the gumption to start agent-shopping is, ultimately, self-rejection. I’m not saying I’m cured of it by any means, but over the course of the last year I’ve had to face a lot of demons down. Through therapy, I’ve learned how to pick my battles, how to fight, how to stand up for myself. I don’t always win, but the state my mind is in now versus where it was last year is completely different. Not devoid of self-rejection, but not consumed by it either. Self-rejection is no longer smothering my motivation.

I’m sharing these articles so that I have something to come back to when I need the reminder that self-rejection is something I need to fight. I’m sharing these posts for my friends who are also writers, but who might also need the reminder that self-rejection is something that needs to be fought. I’m writing it for anyone and everyone who wants to break free to find a way to be happy, for those whose self-rejection is one the biggest hurdles to overcome.

Today’s headline brought to you by Thirty Seconds to Mars from their debut album, 30 Seconds to Mars. The song, “Capricorn (A Brand New Name)” can be heard here.

Do It On Your Own

Short post tonight, because it was a long day tacked on to a longer night. The Super Bowl party was a hit, though half our guests barely caught five minutes of the game. Good food and good company, I suppose?

Today was my last day of physical therapy. I’ve gotten stronger since I started last year, but let’s be honest: I’m not very good about keeping up my exercises at home. I’ve got a long way to go, but at this point, there’s no need to keep making appointments with my PT guy, so I’m officially discharged. It’s just time to buckle down and figure out a way to get my exercises in and do them consistently. That, coupled with my time on the elliptical, is how I’ll get stronger.

And don’t get me wrong: it’s not like I’m still jonesing to take up running like I was last year. Rather, it’s the realization that everything I do between my day job and my hobbies involve me sitting on my ass. I need to get stronger so that there’s less pressure on my joints, which means I’ll be dealing with less pain as I get older. And that’s nothing to sneeze at.

That said, I wish there were more hours in the day, or that I was the type of person who really looked forward to exercise of any kind, or barring even that, I wish I was the type of person who was motivated by the benefits of exercise, even if I didn’t like the exercise itself.

I’m not, so it’s a matter of buckling down and doing it.

Today’s headline brought to you from “Invincible” by Muse, from the album Black Holes and Revelations. It’s one of my favorite albums by them, and part of the playlist for my Codename: Telepathic Soulmates project. That’s right…I’m getting in the mood! You can listen to “Invincible” here.

Sound Beyond Time

It’s an unusual evening for me. I’m sitting in bed with the laptop, perusing the internets, looking up high school friends and freaking out when I find old-school pictures of myself and my friends on Facebook. All the while listening to classical piano music. Husband beside me with his own laptop. At one point, just to compete with the classical music-ness, he played a song from the heavy metal band, Devildriver.

Why the classical mood? I saw an article on The Mary Sue about this futuristic piano, and the site includes an online CD, so I’ve been enjoying the sound while marveling at the spacepod-ness of the piano. There’s quite a few Debussy selections, and I remember my music theory professor playing these my freshman year of college during a recital.

I guess this evening is meant for nostalgia. There’s a lot my brain is processing as it’s making plans and working out ways to make those plans happen. I’ve got favors to do for friends and a weekend to survive, but for now, nostalgia.

And Debussy.

One of These Days….

I fantasize that one day, someone will pay me to read for a living. I have all these reading projects I want to embark on in addition to all the other stuff I want to read, and there’s simply not enough time in the day.

But if there were enough time in the day, and ESPECIALLY if someone were paying me to read for a living so that I could embark on these projects, this is what I’d like to do.

1) Re-read the Harry Potter series. I re-watched the movies over Christmas, and it was a lot of fun re-watching with the series’ end informing the scenes. I can only imagine how much fun it will be to do the same with the books.

2) Read Charles de Lint’s Newford series using his recommended reading order. I’ve been wanting to do this for ages, and I’ve got quite a few of the titles. I just need to start!

3) Read the Norton Book of Science Fiction edited by Ursula K. Le Guin. It’s a BEAST, and I know I won’t like every story, but I think it’ll be well worth the effort.

4) Blame this one on the Writing Excuses podcast and Cherie Priest: I suddenly have a desire to give H.P. Lovecraft another go. I tried reading At The Mountains of Madness but the writing style did me in. However, listening to Writing Excuses episode 10.3, “Lovecraftian Horror” and learning what Lovecraft did and how he did it and how it was effective really has me wanting to track down a “Lovecraft for Beginners” reading list and make my way through it. Problematic the writer definitely is, but his lessons on horror might be quite fascinating.

5) This is an easy one, one I might actually start putting in my rotation: return to my original passion of reading women who write SF. Not just fantasy, but SF in particular. Because women writing SF need more love, and there’s tons of titles I still need to explore.

6) I’m sure there are other reading projects that have taken root in my subconscious, but they’re not rising to the surface at the moment. But even if I could do these, I’d have more than enough to keep me busy, and that doesn’t include the very necessary need to climb Mount TBR and whip it into submission!

###

Today’s headline comes from “These Days” by Foo Fighters, from the album Wasted Light. You can hear the song here, and you can blame both Jaime Lee Moyer for using a lyric from this song for her blog post (which is far more interesting than this one, you should read it) and my husband for watching HBO’s first season of Sonic Highways and getting the Foo stuck in my head.

My Story Is Not Done

I’ve been talking for a month now about a BIG! NEW! THING! I’m working out for my day job. Today, we finalized the BIG! NEW! THING! so I’m going to talk about it here, why I’m doing it, and what I hope to get out of it.

What I’m Doing

I’m changing my day job schedule. Currently, I work five days a week, eight hours per day. Starting mid-February, I’m going to work four days a week, ten hours a day. In short, I’m going to give myself a three-day weekend every week. Holidays, vacation days, and sick days allowing, and/or my boss or I decide this just ain’t gonna work.

Why I’m Doing It

My boss floated the idea to me last fall. My first reaction was, “That’s SO not going to work.” I was so convinced that it wasn’t going to work for REASONS that I actually made up a list of pros and cons, and that list ended up being three pages. But for nearly every con, I came up with a solution that turned it into a pro. But I don’t make big decisions quickly or lightly, so I put it on the back burner. There, it simmered and stewed, and I found myself wanting to do it more and more.

Why? Because while I won’t be going to my day job on Fridays, I’m going to go to work. I’m making Fridays my Writing Work Day.

What I Hope To Get Out Of It

I’ve mentioned it before, but I realized this year that I’m not challenging myself writing-wise. I’ve already proven I can churn out a discovery draft of a novel in a year’s time. So what’s the point of doing that over and over and collecting a bunch of novels that badly need revision? I’ve also mentioned before that 2015 is a big year for me: it’s the ten-year anniversary of my attending the Odyssey Writing Workshop. It’s the ten-year anniversary of my deciding to take my writing seriously. It led to my getting my MA in Seton Hill’s Writing Popular Fiction Program (which now offers an MFA). But I burned out a wee bit after graduation for reasons I won’t get into here, and it’s only been in the past few years that I’ve climbed my out.

It’s time to start taking my fiction to the next level. I want to take my thesis novel from SHU, known here as Codename: Telepathic Soulmates, and start shopping for agents. That requires a lot of work that isn’t churning out new words every day. It requires hard revision, polishing, and research and queries. I want to learn how to manage multiple projects at the same time but in different stages. Why? Because if I ever get published, I’d like to have some good working habits established before I’m thrown in the deep end.

But this is an experiment. Taking a three-day weekend may not always lead to Writing Work Days, but I’m hoping in the bigger picture I’ll start to figure out how to incorporate some of these habits daily and feel productive even if I’m not adding to my daily word count.

We’re trying this through the end of March, and then evaluating the system to see how and if it’s working for my day job. Because if it doesn’t work there, then it doesn’t work and I’m cool with that. Day job comes first, because that’s what’s paying the bills. In the meantime though, maybe I’ll learn something. Maybe I’ll get a new focus and a new motivation.

Maybe this is the year something could happen.

Today’s headline brought to you by Seanan McGuire’s album, Wicked Girls. I can’t find “My Story is Not Done” online, but you can read the lyrics here.