Month: May 2013

The other goal

In talking about my writing goals, I omitted to mention my health goals, mostly because they’re not directly related to my writing.

I have been working to change my habits, mainly. I try to avoid snacking – breakfast, then lunch, then dinner, but minimise the grazing unless I am actually hungry. It’s difficult to manage at the job because there is so much food there, but I’ve been doing fairly well. Drinking more water has helped a lot.

I have been getting back to more frequent running. I really need to run four times a week to improve my fitness level, and I managed that this week (four days in a row, in fact, which I don’t do often at all). Indeed, I’ve been doing more hills and this week I broke nine minute miles for the first time in a long time.

But I think the simplest thing is that I have been walking up the stairs to get to the job in the morning rather than taking the lift. Four flights of stairs, enough to get me out of breath, but that’s been helping my whole day. I’ve only been doing that for a couple of weeks and I can feel it helping me already.

Anyway, here are the goals I set and what I’ve been doing for them.

  1. to track what I eat, with the intent being to keep daily intake below a certain threshold – as I say, I have been cutting the snacks and also trying to wait to have seconds or afters. I will get back to tracking in due course.
  2. to track what I weigh – I started a regular Monday morning weigh in about a month ago. I am not down much, but I am down.
  3. to continue exercising even when I am labouring in the word mines – can’t comment on this really, since I haven’t had an intense word-mining session in a while. See how things go once I start on the Song rewrite in earnest.

Sometimes, though, just being conscious of these things is helpful.

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The Writer’s Notebook II

I’m a sucker for orange.

Orange is my favourite colour, and so whenever I see a book cover that features orange on it I am always going to give it a second glance.

When I was at Wordstock last year, I picked up a freebie from the Tin House booth: an essay extract from The Writer’s Notebook II, with a bold stripe of orange across the cover. While waiting for one of the panels to start, I opened it up and started to read.

After the panel, I went back to the TIn House booth and bought the book.

The Writer’s Notebook II is a collection of craft essays. They are arranged roughly by sequence of story telling, so the beginnings essay appears first and the endings one is at the end, and there are pieces on the use of poetic language, on suspense, on non-linear storytelling, and even on the use of fantastic elements in your writing.

Not all of the essays connected with me, but many of them did, leaving behind inspiration to be more precise in my writing, to be more effective – just generally more, in fact.

The only real sourness I found was the occasional literary jab at genre fiction – oddly, there was a hint of that even in the piece which extolled the virtues of fantastic elements. It’s very curious. I would say that I don’t understand, but that would be disingenuous – I have my own biases against literature when labelled as such. But it’s all writing, and good writing is just good regardless of the target market.

Still, it’s an insightful collection. I will be referring to this again

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Tools of scribbling

I’ve talked before about my capture and tracking system for lists and project details, but that post only concerned itself with electronic process. This post is about things for hand-written notes.

Notebooks

I almost always carry a pen, and I very often carry a notebook. The one I have with me most often at the moment is a small leather-bound notebook from PaperThinks which I bought at a local gift shop when it was going out of business. The pages are 3″x5″ plain paper (that is, not lined or gridded) and the cover (of course) is orange. I use it for writing notes in situations where an electronic device is too bulky or inappropriate, or if I want to make a drawing. To be honest, I should probably use a larger format page than this for comfort, but this size is very good for portability.

One thing I do with notebooks like this is that when when I consume a note, I cross it out – usually just a single line through the page, but I will sometimes break down the erasure to particular concepts if that’s how the consumption works best. Crossing stuff out means that its management has been moved into the more searchable electronic realm and I can ignore it on the page.

Drawings

I do not make any claim to be an artist. My drafting skills are strictly utilitarian rather than capable of conveying any kind of emotional content, but there are times when I need to draw something to work through it or record a concept diagrammatically since that is just quicker than writing out (say) a list.

I’ll draw on the pages of my notebook or on 3″x5″ index cards, but I also have stacks scrap paper on my desk and blank-leaved journals on the shelves in my office at home.

What I draw are maps, relationship diagrams, plans, and sometimes even pictures of scenes.

Scribblings

Something new I saw recently was the Noteboard, a folding whiteboard which comes in a pouch with a pen. It looks pretty useful – portable and flexible. The little video on the page shows a lot of things which I would still probably prefer to use paper for, but having a reusable scrap surface could be very useful for noodling around with things.

Writing

I don’t write drafts longhand. I do sometimes write character notes in the aforementioned journals, and if I do am using one of two kinds of pen:

  • a Uni Jetstream – my youngest sister introduced me to these pens, and I love them. The ink flows freely and evenly, and I can write with one of these for a long time.
  • a fountain pen – I have a Cross and a Waterman, both of which write beautifully smoothly when they are clean. That’s the rub, of course. Since I mostly write with my Jetstreams now, the fountain pens aren’t often in use enough to stay usable.

What tools do you use for taking notes when you are electronically embarrassed?

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I’m in the mood for writing

“I’m in the mood for dancin’, romancin’

Ooh I’m given’ it all tonight”

– The Nolans

I’ve written before that words need to be mined whether you feel like it or not, but there are times when one does feel more like writing than other times.

For me, this is partly a brain thing. My ADD and other chemical brain factors mean that there are times when I am too ground down to be very creative, or if I have had a cold I can still work but not always very imaginatively. The up slope is much more fun.

As an example, I had a cold recently and it just did me in. I couldn’t write, I couldn’t think. I was doing garden projects and stupid online stuff just to occupy the time.

But when I came back from the cold I found that the ideas were flowing. I had an idea for an interesting board game mechanic based on concentric circles. That led into the idea of dice of different sizes (shades of the Savage Worlds system, there) and whether they could be used for the strategy game in Bluehammer. My writing on tools led me to mentally revisit DataFrame again, and I started wondering about implementing that as a combined wiki and graphing tool: one pane is a wiki editor, the other is a graph rep of that wiki. That sounds quite doable, in my copious free time.

… and so on. Lots of good stuff, which at least shows that the engine is turning over.

It’s a very exciting time.

Second Chances

I should also add that I first started writing this post in the wake of our trip away to California over spring break. I returned refreshed and reinvigorated, but the ebullient mood lasted barely a day of being back at work, insufficient sleep, and various other stresses before my creative flow dried up again. It is often said that our brains are better at doing different things at different times of day, an observation which I don’t disagree with but which I have never fully applied to my own situation. The same is true, at least for me, of emotional cycles over longer periods.

It is important to keep creating at all times, but it is also important to be aware of what creative work you can do depending on the spot in the cycle at the time.

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2013 Goals Post: Beltane Edition

The lesson from the last six weeks is that I should have been writing – this has not been a productive period.

1. Finish Bluehammer

Last action: fix the outline.

I haven’t done any direct work on this, but I have read a craft book which has given me more to think about and the characters and setting are certainly in mind.

  1. typo/consistency edit
  2. improve outline – ongoing.
  3. make the text match the outline
  4. hone the text
  5. make submission materials

Next action: fix the outline.

2. Execute the Song plan

Last action: polish the outline.

This is basically all I have been working on over the last six weeks*.

I do have a better story with stronger plot and characters, but it is still a mess of unconnected scenes rather than a narrative.

I did make some interesting decisions about the story, though, such as switching to a first person POV, and defining characteristics of the antagonist, but most of this has been head work rather than keyboard work.

Right at the minute, I am fleshing out my outline using a spreadsheet to fill in details about scenes so that I analyse the outline further. So, I need to finish that then crack on with the rewrite. I am going to give this another two weeks.

  1. To outline what I have
  2. To expand the outline of the first half into a complete story
  3. To work on that outline until the story is good.
  4. To plug in text I can use from Song 2011 – this is no longer a meaningful goal since I need to rewrite everything.
  5. To write the new stuff needed to complete the outline – or, as it should be cast now: To rewrite to match the outline.
  6. Make submission materials – synopsis, pitch, hook, and all of that.

Next action: populate the outline.

Next action: rewrite.

With the outline be done in two weeks or less, I will want to get on with doing the necessary rewrite. I expect that next draft to take about two months.

3. Submit one novel.

Last action: finish a novel

Still working on Song as the most likely submittable thing this year, but if anything I am further from submission than nearer to it. We will see what the summer brings.

Last action: to find some markets

No work on this.

4. Start looking for an agent.

Last action: research agents who represent science fiction.

No work on this.

5. Establish a daily writing practice.

Last action: write every day.

This blog has been my most consistent fingers-on-keyboard writing, and I am glad I have had it for that reason alone, although there have been times where I have been blogging instead of writing fiction which is less satisfactory. Much of my time has gone on other things such as garden projects and even the last throes of tax season – and the idea that I would get any writing done on spring break was fanciful.

I have been working on my stories even if I have not been adding words, but I need to be adding words.

But I’m really looking forward to getting down to the rewrite on Song.

The next six weeks are going to be critical in keeping going, because after that it is summer and there is a constant pressure to spend time on family and household activities instead of writing – which is, y’know, what makes life worth living, but it doesn’t get the book written.

Last action: participate in April Camp NaNoWriMo.

That didn’t go so well.

Overall

I think the best that can be said is that I have been breathing in. This blog is still going, but other than that I have been struggling to stay focussed on the work. This is going to change.

Next update will be a little after the summer solstice (21-Jun-2013). The solstice itself is my writing weekend, a generous birthday/father’s day gift from my family so I will update again after that.

[*] and what is another term for “six weeks” in this context? The Wiccan/pagan festivals I am using as my update markers are also known as sabbats, but is there another term for the time period between sabbats? Intersabbat? Sabbatical? Sabbatini?

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