Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday Book Recommendation

Since I have many thoughts and only a small portion of them are fit for public consumption, I’m thinking that my Friday blogs should be book recommendations. I have read many books, after all. I might as well share the love—both with potential readers and with writers who make their livings this way.

But where to begin?

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott’s book about writing and life is lighthearted, funny, and incredibly relatable. It addresses insecurities matter-of-factly, which made me feel less self-conscious about my own. The writing advice is very good (and honestly, applicable to most creative endeavors), but the life lessons are even better. I think the thing I liked the most was the fact that it covered a variety of serious topics without ever seeming serious. Pensive, wistful, and nostalgic at times, but never weighty or epic. Which makes the observations feel that much more universal.

Lightspeed Magazine: Women Destroy Science Fiction edited by Christie Yant

This collection of science fiction short stories by women is just… I can’t recommend it highly enough, especially if you like science fiction, of course. Despite its bulk, it’s very approachable. Few of the stories are longer than ten pages. I think what I loved about it was that the stories were legitimately great, largely about women, but never preachy or “trying to teach a lesson.” Great before-bed reading.

I’m also in the middle of a book called City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers. Looking it up just now I have learned that it is the fourth in a series; I wouldn’t have known. I will almost certainly be recommending that next Friday, once I have finished it.

I haven’t written since Wednesday, so no updates on that front. But that’s okay, faithful readers. I just need to let it gestate.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Writers’ Group meetup and writing date

Whoops! I forgot to blog on Monday. That’s okay, I can make this one longer for it.

Writers’ Group meetup was this last weekend, and for the first time in a long time I actually had something to share. Branden went on a literary-critique tear; I’ve rarely seen him so enthused about giving feedback when he reviewed Rachel’s story and Becky’s book blurb. I submitted almost 9,000 words for review, and Branden has been reading them as I’ve been writing them, so he didn’t have as much feedback for me as he did for them (which is fine). But I got lots of good feedback from the girls. Few enough problems that I’m either doing really, really well or no one can bring themselves to tell me what they really think. Or maybe they’re withholding judgement.

Just for the record, I don’t actually think anyone thinks it sucks and is keeping it from me. That was a joke. Oddly enough, sharing holds no real terror for me. I know I’m not perfect and could always do a lot better, and am prepared to hear that feedback when it comes. It’s gratifying when I get less of that than I expect, and at the same time it makes me itchy for more. (Though, I think getting more quantity and more specific “I really liked this part!” would scratch that same itch.) But getting any feedback at all is a privilege and a blessing and thank you, thank you, thank you Sarah, Becky, Rachel, and Branden for your patient and dedicated reading and reacting.

But the fact that I’m going to need a whole new group of beta readers was raised during the meetup.

My friends can help me hammer out the problems. They can help me patch the holes and fix the typos. But they can’t be surprised by the story, because they already know the twist. So, I need several people who don’t already know it, who can read it and tell me if the twists and turns are any good, if it hangs together, if it delivers on its promises. I’m looking forward to having a fresh audience, when it comes time for that.

Yesterday was this week’s writing date with Becky, during which she put the finishing touches on her blurb (it’s looking really great now!) and I got some words down. Pretty exciting. Also, pretty nerve-wracking. I am wandering into uncharted territory now, and I have no outline for this version. That aspect has been really freeing, yet scary. Still, I’m enjoying seeing where my fingers take me.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. Happy Hump Day!

Word count: 9,656 (▸)

Friday, May 20, 2016

MuckFest Rising

T-shirt front teaser
The last two days, I’ve spent the majority of my time working on the t-shirt art for this year’s Racing Snails. It’s looking really good so far, and I’m super excited.

I love working on the shirt art because it’s definitely the thing that gets me excited about the event. Organizing, coordinating, and even fundraising doesn’t seem so overwhelming, when the shirt art is on my mind. Because, let me tell you, the MuckFest has been stressful for the last couple of years.

In 2014, I went whole-hog, with periodic team emails regarding fundraising and all the other things. (Like, all the other things.) It had exactly zero impact on how much money was raised. It was actually very discouraging. And the 2015 MuckFest was nine months after the 2014 event, and I didn’t feel great about trying to raise funds again so soon. I felt even less good about trying to raise enthusiasm again, like possibly ever.

But, last year, my friends could feel that I was feeling defeated and swooped in to the rescue. They designed and made shirts, and—the crowning glory—made eyestalk-headbands for the team. As a surprise for me! When I arrived and saw what they’d done, I actually regretted not fund raising. They managed to give me a hot Snail injection.

It made me realize that, even if people didn’t feel motivated to raise funds, they were still invested in doing the event. It was important to them that it be fun, and silly, and exciting. And that kind of enthusiasm is almost as valuable as the money.

But this year, I feel that it’s important to mention that, really, the event is a fund raiser. If they don’t raise enough money, they’re going to stop putting on the event. After the second year I participated (which I think was the second year they held it?), it has been feeling a little more precarious every year. I wish our team could raise so much more money, just because it’s the most valuable way to show our appreciation for the National MS Society putting in all the effort of putting the event on, and our ability to participate.

So, this year, I’m really trying to brainstorm fundraising incentives. I think the thing that I’ve been missing in the past is that the things that incentivize are things that will be instantly gratifying. Which is probably why the MS Society’s incentives are “private tent,” “pick your own start time,” “priority showers.” So I’m trying to think along those lines.

Our team is up to ten members, and I truly hope we’re not done growing. Please sign up to run with us!! Your help and support are most welcome. And if that’s not your bag, please consider donating.

The event is on July 16, coming right up. I can’t wait.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Writer’s block morphs and changes

Yesterday, I had an excellent day of writing. Becky and I monopolized a couch in the coffee shop from eleven am to four-thirty pm. I didn’t write every single second of that time, but I did get into a groove and managed to pump out over 1,500 words. While I was writing away, I noticed something interesting.

I was chatting with Rachel in the background. I would write my story while waiting for her to respond to whatever I’d said last. I’d made writing the time-passing activity, instead of phone games, or Netflix. It was the most freeing attitude shift: instead of using chatting as a distraction from writing, they existed non-competitively and non-stressfully, side by side. And having five hours of friendly relations with my book has, for the time being at least, altered my overall feelings towards it. Instead of feeling overwhelmed with the enormity of it, or frustrated by its inscrutability, now I feel affection with it, like we’re friends who are going to get together to do something later.

In the past I’ve written blog posts that assert theories on how to overcome writer’s block. Those blogs were correct, for me, at that time. I didn’t anticipate—didn’t understand—that the rules could and would change. I don’t think that I've seen this expressed as conventional wisdom in the multitude of writing blogs I follow. Maybe it’s because it’s self-evident to most, but it was a surprise to me. It was like having the whole floor jerked out from under me when my old tricks didn’t work anymore.

Now that I understand that the Inhibitor is an adapting creature, moving to choke off the little shoots of inspiration that manage to wind their roots through the joints in its protective carapace, I feel slightly more prepared to keep it in perspective. But (and this is an advanced philosophical realization, don’t try this at home), I realize that even this feeling of being properly armed is going to leech out too. It’s a constant growing rumble. The only way to turn down the volume is to keep trying, trying, trying. And be kind to myself.

The Inhibitor is a master of disguise. It makes itself look like inspiration to do other creative projects (my personal favorite); exhaustion or sleepiness; and when all else fails, it just starts sounding alarm bells. They are sometimes articulate, "You will never get it right! You might as well not try! You will never get it right!" or "It’s no fucking fun! Why are you even doing this! Don’t you have something better to do!" Sometimes it’s inarticulate, but I can make the screaming shut up by walking away from the writing. If I get too close to it, it keeps getting louder. And sure, there are some days when the alarm never would shut up, no matter how hard I tried; but I suspect that, most of the time, if I just pushed through it, it would eventually fade away.

It is pretty frustrating and exhausting to have to keep switching up techniques for getting around the Inhibitor. It’s not like it publishes a handbook; and I suppose if it did it probably wouldn’t include ways to disable it. You just have to keep trying different things, again and again. And sometimes, you have to keep trying things that don’t work that well, if you can’t think of anything else. It’s really not surprising that it can have so much power over you.

Anyway, happy rambling is me. More work on snails art today, followed by more writing (I hope). Happy writing!

Word count: 8,747 (∫)

Monday, May 16, 2016

GenreCon 2016

I attended GenreCon this last Saturday with Becky, who was kind enough to clue me in to this event. It had special guests Kristin Nelson and Angie Hodapp of Nelson Literary Agency, who described the job of literary agents and then spent some time talking about what catches their eye, submission-wise, as agents. Then they did the favor of reading audience submissions aloud, saying what worked, what didn’t, and if they would have requested more pages based on the submission. They didn’t read mine, but in retrospect I’m fairly glad they didn’t, because reading over my first three pages I realized that they are kind of a mess. They’ve got some good ideas and imagery, but the frame of mind I was in while writing them (just fucking write, Elly, it doesn’t matter if it sucks) definitely showed a little bit. Mostly, it was an ordering issue. Everything needed to be shuffled around and reordered, to find its own place and occupy it. So even though the pages did not meet the “automatically likely to reject” criteria, they were still far from ready for analysis. But, that was a good thing to be able to see with my own eyes, and try to remedy.

Though, really, I need to keep moving forward. My first three pages can be a #SecondDraftProblem. (Yes, I’m officially calling this a first draft, for convenience’s sake.)

The keynote speech and slush-pile reading was followed by genre workshops, where writers meet with published authors of their chosen genre for specific guidance, tips, tricks, etc. Mine was mystery.

Because of the extensive research I’ve done with regards to my chosen genre, at first, it actually wasn’t super helpful. But when I corrected the author about the actual definition of “noir”, I got engaged in the presentation. In the end, we did an exercise wherein we got together in groups of five and constructed the plot of a mystery. It was way more fun than I expected it to be. All three groups had politically-motivated mysteries (without knowing or intending the similarity), which was fun. The exercise was:

  1. What is the crime?
  2. Who committed it?
  3. Who is the victim?
  4. Who is the investigator?
  5. What error did the villain make in the commission of his/her crime?
  6. How does the investigator solve the crime?

I’d never thought that building a mystery was so… simple. It’s a little disheartening, considering all the drama I’ve been going through trying to figure out the bones of my story.

Today, I’m working on my Racing Snails t-shirt design. I’m hoping to have time to write afterwards, but I don’t think that’s super likely. See you all Wednesday, faithful readers!

Word Count: 6,631 (᧧)

Friday, May 13, 2016

Progress is being made and GenreCon tomorrow!

On Wednesday, I had a writing date with Becky, and words came with me. That was pretty cool. A lot of the time on writing dates, or when I sit down to write during the day, I’ll spend a long time rereading. Or researching. Or … heh, blogging. Usually it’s writing-adjacent, but still quantifiably avoidance behavior, and almost always entirely fear-based. Not sure where I’m going from here. Not sure if I’m going to be able to pull it off. Not sure I’m doing it right, at all. Not sure if I’m going to offend, or be ignorant. But on Wednesday, after I got my computer plugged in, my chai and danish into my facehole, and my shoes off, the words just came.

It’s a good feeling, when it happens.

The unfortunate (maybe? Hopefully not) part is that I got to a transition point of the story just as we were wrapping up. That means two things: I got to a stopping place (which means that starting again isn’t as easy as I’d like it to be), and the story is about to go in a new direction. Which reboots the whole “am I doing it wrong” train of thought. Especially since it’s going to go places this story hasn’t yet gone, in any of the other 2.25 drafts. I used to write ghost / horror stories back in high school, but Cassidy has never treaded those corridors, and I’ve worn down such a groove with Cassidy that trying to bump her into that territory is proving… quite difficult. So, one tiny baby step at a time.

Tomorrow is GenreCon, a writer’s conference in Golden, Colorado. I’m really nervous. Not only have I never been to a writing conference, I’ve never been to any cons, ever. Unless the Renaissance Festival counts, cause from what I’ve heard about cons they seem kinda similar. But in my mind, at least, writing cons are different from, say, comic cons or anime cons or PAX. Maybe because it’s less fan-based? I don’t know. Anyway, if I bring the first three pages of my story, there’s a chance they’ll get read and critiqued. I think I’m going to do it, because what could it hurt? But I know it’s the equivalent of a first draft again, quality-wise, so I’m a bit embarrassed of it. I know that it’s almost certainly going to change, that this isn’t as polished and squeaky as it could be. But, as Cassidy would think, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

On Monday, I shall regale you with the epic stories of GenreCon and how I took the writing world by storm. Until then!

Word count: 6,494 (ᥞ)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

All the things!

I feel the weight of responsibility on my shoulders, and it makes me increasingly anxious.

Branden and I are hosting our weekly friend get-together this week, and I am maybe taking on too much. Maybe. Except a normal human could do it just fine before Thursday night, so obviously I will come very close to failing and have to spend Friday in bed doing nothing.

I have to make two giant loaves of bread, one less-giant loaf of bread, and roast some figs.

“What madness,” I hear you scream, and I agree.

That… will probably be fine. I’m hoping I can get my act together and tackle a couple of those tasks one at a time. The thing that’s actually stressing me out is: The Racing Snails.

MuckFest season is quickly coming. I haven’t assembled the whole team, done any fundraising, nor—and here’s the stressor—committed the shirt design to digital medium. That… really needs to get done, ASAP.

But it will probably take at least one whole day to do it. Which cuts into my writing time. I always think to myself, “Just do your writing first thing, and do the arting once you’ve hit your word goal,” and what a nice fantasy that is. But considering how I’ve yet to hit 2,500 words in a day (yesterday I managed 255), it just doesn’t seem realistic. I have to choose between them, and at some point, the Snails shirt has to be the one I choose.

It doesn’t help that by the time I’m done checking my internet (about 11am, today), I’m ready to go back to sleep for a couple of hours. Why am I always so tired, this is the worst. I could probably snap out of it if I got up and walked around a little, but the nature of being sleepy is that that’s the last thing I want to do.

Still, I suppose I shall do it. As nice as my naps were last week, I’m not willing to repeat them.

In the spirit of getting the body movin’, I’m gonna go do that now. We will talk again on Friday.

Word count: 4,768 (አ)

Monday, May 9, 2016

Scared of my feelings

As I’ve been making (slow, slow) progress through my book, I’ve realized something that isn’t very encouraging. I’m wondering if it’s normal for other writers, or if it’s indicative of my feelings for my book.

I get really excited when I’m thinking about the story, the twists and turns, and the way the pieces fit together. I enjoy thinking about it. But when it comes time to actually write it? It all drains away. It feels dry and uninteresting, and my overwhelming feeling is that the book is going to be “nothing special,” or possibly just a giant waste of time.

I don’t want to listen to that voice, for obvious reasons. I have ideas for other stories, and I haven’t yet tried to write them, so I can’t say whether or not I have more enthusiasm for writing something else. I really, really want to finish this book before moving on to another project, so I probably won’t be receptive to “just write something different for a little while” advice. Cassidy is my baby and there are so many things I want to say with this story. I just wish the stream of good feels didn’t dry up as soon as I start trying to put words on “paper.”

My apprehensions aside, I have been writing. I got Scrivener for Christmas and I’ve been trying out the “write scenes in separate files” technique that so many people talk about. Historically, I haven’t really thought in “scenes,” but more in progression of events. Trying it this way is definitely helping me understand where scenes are delineated in my writing, and that really helps me understand the flow of tension. Because if each scene needs to be a book-in-miniature, with rising- and falling-action and a climax, then I think it helps you get a feel for if the scene is doing what it is supposed to, and if it’s necessary to the story.

Tangent: just because it has the three ingredients, doesn’t mean each of these climaxes need to be dramatic and extreme. They just need to be identifiable.

Well, that’s all for now, folks.

Word count: 4,513 (ᆡ) (NaNo in May is... not. But at least it got me writing!!)

Friday, May 6, 2016

Writing: when it rains, it drizzles pathetically

In my continuing commitment to blogging more, I am blogging today! Observe. They’re gonna be short for a while, while I get back into the swing of posting.

Yesterday, though I seemed to be trying my hardest to avoid it, I actually managed to write over 1,700 words. It sorta feels like, even when I’m writing, I’m not making any progress. I am, though. Right now, it feels like the book is going to be incredibly short. I have no sense of pacing with this version. That’s okay. It truly is a new “first” draft. I’m in no hurry (obviously).

That being said, yesterday I was thinking about my book and was suddenly overcome with a realization. It’s an obvious thing, nothing I didn’t know intellectually, but it sorta came home to me emotionally: This book doesn’t exist. It’s not out there, leaking through me onto the page. It has no rights. I’m not violating it by not writing it. It will never exist if I don’t write it. It felt both liberating and terrifying. It’s a big responsibility… a bigger responsibility than caring for plants, but probably a smaller responsibility than caring for animals.

But yeah. Your book doesn’t exist if you don’t write it. No one’s going to write it after you decide you don’t want to; it’s just going to never exist. Is that okay with you? Or would you rather just write the damn thing and be done with it? I know which side I come down on.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Because I said I'd blog more

So far, NaNo in May has been 100% unsuccessful. Naps struck me both Monday and Tuesday. Today I'm antsy and feel like I can't make my brain sit still, so I've written 54 words. Of course, my total is 2,328 so at least I'm not at the very beginning, but I do have mighty catching up to do. Maybe over the weekend. And just because I haven't written doesn't mean I wasn't productive. I worked on art resources for the P&C game my friends and I are percolating, and did some chores, and handled some money matters… not wasted time for the most part, but I still feel kinda irresponsible. Plus there are a couple of things that are in my to-do list that I'm dreading and thus haven't done: phone calls, obviously.

Six months ago I scheduled a Neurology appointment for April 21st, which (unbeknownst to me at the time) was the same date as the Greeley Jazz festival that I go to every year. I had to cancel my appointment and have requested a new one via the website, twice. But I have heard nothing back, so I have to call them, ugh. Also my insurance decided to stop covering Adderall, which is straight crazy, so… another phone call. Both of these are relatively urgent, and I need to do them, so obviously I haven't.

On the upside, I'm covered in kittens (who have had nearly-immaculate litter box etiquette for a change!), which is probably the best thing ever. Today was a great day, I went for a long drive in the afternoon that unfortunately coincided with rush hour, but it was gorgeous and warm and beautiful. The weather went, in the course of 3 days, from white-out blizzard to have-to-open-the-windows warm, and I'm loving that. I want to make the most of the long days. Days are getting longer until the middle of June, and I want to make sure I squeeze out every last drop of sun! I should swim this year. Swimming is good.

Well, that's all I've got for now. Ciao word nerds!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

NaNo in May

Good News Everyone! I have decided that I’ve been Doing Cassidy Wrong. I am starting over from scratch! Again! Yay!

There were things I had always wanted to include in the story that didn’t fit. Everything seemed too cluttered and a lot of things just didn’t really stick the landing after their logical leaps.

The good news is that my new story is much more on track. (Yes, I’ve said this before.) We’ll see how it turns out, of course, but I’m, like, seriously optimistic. I’ve started writing narrative and it’s going in fits and starts, with much use of the backspace key, but so far I’m liking it.

But because I’ve been feeling blocked on Cassidy by every fault of my own, I decided that I was going to write it like NaNo again. After all, this is basically a new first draft, and it’s going to be ugly and sticky and in need of much revision. But I need to extrude it quickly so that I can stop beating myself up about it and hopefully finish it at some point. So, I’m going to try for 2,500 words per weekday in May.

Fuckered that up already, since instead of writing yesterday I took a nap and then read my entire blog over again. But oh well, I got good advice from my earlier self who knows where I am and what I’m going through. She was a smart lady.

I finished my Blender model. It was very fun and I didn’t limit myself at all. Ended up with 800k+ polys (target number in the end will be 1,500 at most), so the next goal will be to make a much simpler model. Then I’ll try rigging. But not in May, most likely.

I’m also going to try to blog 3 times per week again. Blogging is good and I like it. I also like what I’ve written, for I am a smarty.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for tonight! See you tomorrow!