Cruising to the end of August (yikes!) and the past weeks’ break from writing has really resulted in a strong return of creativity. I’m psyched to get back to work on the novel draft, have been beating back other ideas that want to take over my life, and got a little more world-building on a future project done, which seems to be solving a lot of my project-starting anxiety (which plagued this current novel draft, too).

This week I’m working on: I’ve got an idea for a new book (of course!) that is trying to eat my brain alive, and the characters have been talking like mad, but I’m not going to have time or focus to write a new rough draft over the next few months, but I don’t want to lose the thread on this. So this week, I’m going to indulge in writing (as much as I can, or as far as I can get until I hit a plot hole) a summary draft of the new story to see if it’s got the steam it’ll need to come together later.

This week, I’m inspired by: I’ve been going completely mad with pen-and-ink illustrators (with watercolor) from my childhood lately. Quentin Blake, Edward Gorey, Garth Williams, Bill Peet, Gordon Browne, and especially John R. Neill’s Oz Books illustrations. I’ve been doing lots of little sketches of eyes and noses (noses, especially, and all their various suggestions of shape and size seem especially challenging to me).

Reading-wise, The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh has continued to be absolutely eye-opening. It seems like there’s this pervading myth that great artists (and writers) are somehow born knowing they’re destined for greatness, which is how they keep stubbornly pursuing their art in the face of failure after failure. But Van Gogh’s letters are so…normal. That he tried and failed at a number of careers before he finally settled on painting (and had to live off his parents and his brother’s generosity, crushed by debt and career uncertainty and obsessive ambition) somehow seems very familiar in post-2008 US youth culture. It’s resonant in a way I hadn’t anticipated, but am pleasantly surprised by.

Also just picked up Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest series (another mad favorite of my childhood) from Thrifbooks, which is becoming my book-addiction dealer… I also picked up a set of the 1999 release of The Prydain Chronicles from them, too, to replace my awful, awful mass-market paperback versions (*brain melts with childhood rage at Disney cover of The Black Cauldron*). I need to make a plan to re-read all my favorite YA-ish fantasy books in some reasonable time-frame…Maybe a goal to start in September…

What action do I need to take this week? I do need to print out the novel rough draft and see how big it’s going to be and whether or not the binder I already have is going to work for it. And see if I’ve even got enough ink in the printer to print it… And then if I can finish a book or two between now and Friday, that’d be great, too. :)

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So….I’ve been pretty remiss in keeping up with plans (or making plans, or even thinking about plans) this August. Or–let’s be honest–July. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing things! Just not always writing things… Still plowing away on my flexible Atilier program, which I am totally loving, and it’s been a great way to both 1) get out of the house regularly, and 2) focus on something visual that I can actually witness progress being made, and 3) it’s been a nice change of pace.

One of the things I’d been hoping to test this summer was whether or not taking breaks between writing days would help the creative process. Finishing the novel had left me totally creatively drained, and exposed some of the weaknesses in my process. It took pretty much all of July before I even wanted to think about writing again, and that was okay, since I’d built in the month to just let things be (houseguests, etc.). But it wasn’t always a very relaxing month, and starting the drawing program drew my creative attention in other directions, so soon it became almost mid-August and I had neither stuck to my “practice writing” schedule, nor even really considered any new work to play around with. BUT. Last week, I managed to start dabbling with some world-building for a new project. It’s rambling, mostly, almost Wikipedia-style entries on a random assortment of subjects, but I’ve really enjoyed just playing like that. I sorted through a few piles of ancient papers that had been languishing in our basement, and found a handful of stories I actually really love, and might actually want to play with revising at some point. (For context on my life: Bug is currently in the front room with his forklift truck, singing horribly off-key, “I’m A WIIIIIIIGGLE! I’m a WIIIIIIIIIGGLE!” and I’m barely able to keep the giggles in, because it’s hilarious. And distracting. But hilarious.)

And upon the request of a few friends who wanted to sample a few chapters from the novel, I actually forced myself to reread a bit of the draft and came away…not totally distressed. It needs beaucoup work, but there are bones there I do really like, and I find that the time away (with a little light, unstructured dabbling in alternate work) has definitely got the creative energy back. I’m starting to really feel the creative dogs tugging on the leads, ready to run, and I’m still strategically holding them at bay for now. I’ve got some vacation with the family coming up in September, and after that, I’ve told myself, I can start wading into the novel edit. Being forced to wait, rather than jumping in at the first itch, has been an interesting exercise. I’m not 100% sure of the lessons learned yet, but I do feel like I’m hitting on something about how I function creatively at this point in my life that may be important in the years to come.

So after all that blathering:

What am I working on this week? Continuing to sporadically world-build. I recognized that a hesitation to develop much prior to the last novel draft made things squiffy and difficult in the middle rather than being liberating, so for my next project, I want a few pillars to be able to lean on. So far, it’s been an amazingly delightful process, because I’m not using massive lists or anything else to guide me through it: I’m simply writing snippets (with footnotes, because <3 footnotes) of whatever strikes my fancy, and little bits that might be helpful to know in advance. No imminent plans to start writing the draft; I’m just letting it ripen a bit, because I’m pretty sure it’s not where it needs to be conceptually just yet. But it’s getting closer. There’s a hint of ruddiness on the skin, but it’s flesh is still astringent and tart. (#newenglandappleseason)

What’s inspiring me this week? I’ve been particularly obsessed with interior design targeted towards men (you know: distressed leather, dark wood, open beams, minimalist decoration, industrial accents, massive bookshelves–the typical “man cave” searched on Pinterest). I’ve always loved the “club-style” look, with wingback chairs and fireplaces and chess sets and scotch (and probably a whiff of tobacco), but taking time to really think about what I aesthetically like in a room or in clothing has made me pay a lot more attention to the adult gender devisions and assumptions.

Also finally KonMari’d(ish) my kitchen, and oh my word, it’s sooooooo tidy now! It’s a crazy small kitchen with about six square feet of counter space (which is almost always cluttered over), but being able to look into the kitchen and see things neatly labeled and easily accessible has been a delight. (Side note: the kitchen is usually where I write, so having it neat and tidy makes it sooooo much easier to focus on fictional things.) (ZOMG, she has a manga version of that book now?! *makes mental note*)

What action do I need to take? Not writing-wise so much (that’s an action I need to not take, AKA do not buy editing supplies until after September school starts, because there’s no point in paying that much for notebook paper when it’ll be ten cents in two weeks!), but I do need to call the vet (ancient kitty hasn’t been grooming himself too well lately on the back end, and he’s shown some signs of arthritis in the past, so I need to have his pain level checked and do something about it), and I need to get a hair cut. I’m starting to get shaggy and it’s making me crazy, and it’s just very, very much time. But that means I have to call people and talk to people. XP

For those in the US, and like us not on the happy yellow shadow line, Happy (Partial) Eclipse Day!

Hahaha! So…

How you been? Obviously, I’ve been a major posting slacker this past month, because let’s be honest, posting almost every day for four months kind of burned me out (oh yeah, and that whole writing 1k+/weekday pretty much left me with mush-brain). But I have started getting back to reading, though not at the epic pace I was going last year at this time. So without further ado (and forgive the books I was reading the last time I did one of these and am still reading (*cough*april*cough*), because, you know what, shuddup…):


Notes:

The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony – Okay, let’s get the elephant in the virtual room out of the way: I’m still not done with this one, but I LOOOOOOVE it. I finally bit the bullet and bought myself a used copy so I could make notes in the margin, because it’s that kind of book and I find I avoid picking it up if I don’t think I’ll have post-its available, because the THINKS it makes me THINK. I think I’ve recommended this book to almost everybody I know in the past four months, just saying. I need to just dedicate some time, but it’s one of those books I do not want to rush (and one of the reasons I love poly-reading: not having to rush a specific book just to read other things). But I need to put in some time on it, because it does make the inspiration flowers explode in my head.

Wired for Story – Picked this one up on an edit-book recommendation, so am gradually making my way through it. I find it quite interesting, though I’ve been warned about some of the author’s “science” and am treading with a skeptical mind. (The checklists at the end of the chapters has been highly recommended, however, so I’m reading primarily for that, with context.) Just a few chapters in, and need to set some time aside to get moving. It’s a fast read, at least.

Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know – Picked this one up early July after reading this article (which is admittedly pretty click-baity, but very interesting all the same), and figured I ought to go to the source. I mean, I recycle, I love my parents’ electric car, and we try to conserve where we can/reduce carbon footprint/etc., but I don’t think I’ve really ever looked at the hard facts regarding climate change, and I wanted to know more. Haven’t gotten far (very long story as to why this book was temporarily tucked away in a less-obvious place on my bookshelf), but am looking forward to engaging with it again.

The Everyday Parenting Toolkit – This was one my mental-health-councilor mother picked up for me to check out and see if it’s helpful. Bug and I do pretty well most days, but he can be plenty headstrong when he wants to be, so it should be an interesting read. My mother is currently going through the more intensive version of this book (the one for attachment disorder and defiant children for her day-to-day work), but I’m interested in the science behind raising a healthy (and at least occasionally cooperative) child.

Two Years, Eight Months, and Twenty-Eight Nights – This is my very first Salman Rushdie book (*shameface*), and I’m technically listening to it on audiobook, but so far I’m really loving it. It’s got a similar vibe (if more adult-ish) to Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and I’m really enjoying the alternate history-angle on djinn and the apocalypse and just all Rushdie’s very interesting fantastical ideas. It’s a cool book, though I’m stuck for the time being until I get to check it out from the audiobook library again…darn expiration dates…

The Warrior’s Apprentice – Picked this one up as my consolation for losing my loan on the Rushdie book. I just needed a bit more Vorkosigan, let’s be honest. I really, really, really needed my Arol/Cordelia fix. And it’s fun. And cute. And just…relaxing space opera silliness, which I totally love and would someday love to write myself one, but until then, I’m having a lovely time with Miles…

The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh – This one got scalped off a very smart friend’s bookshelf while housesitting for her (yes, I told her I was stealing it). I’ve been pretty immersed in the Bargue drawings process, and it’s totally brought my attention back to the working lives of artists like Van Gogh. I didn’t know much about him, besides that he cut off his ear, of course, and it’s been a truly mesmerizing introduction to him. Really fascinating. It’s been my before-bed reading this week, and I suspect I’ll get it finished by the end of August. (Hopefully…)

Aspects of the Novel – Began this one quite a while ago, but again ran into the issue of wanting to write in it, and as it was a library book…couldn’t. So I ordered a cheap hardbound copy and am making notes merrily as a delinquent school girl. I wasn’t sure I’d like this one (it’s pretty stuffy, right off the bat), but E.M. Foster’s ideas about how writing novels differs from drama (and in our context, TV and film) have been incredibly enlightening and have really made me think about fictional structure in a new way.

Watercolor for the Serious Beginner – This one came out of a temporary mania for watercolor painting, but it’s still high on my list to finish reading, because watercolor is incredibly cool, and I would like to learn some basics. It’s not high priority, and I’m currently in a knitting mania, but I suspect I’ll pass back into the watercolor mania in a few weeks and this’ll be perfect reading then.

(To learn more about the Sunday Circle, check out author Peter M. Ball’s blog!)

Trying to get back into some semblance of a schedule after two weeks of just kind of dicking around. It’s been nice, and I think after wrapping up the novel rough draft, I needed it. First week of July I started the Bargue Drawing/Atelier program I mentioned back a while ago, so that (and making time for it–usually in the evenings) has thrown a new variable into my usual schedule. I’m still trying to fix daily practice writing into my schedule (à la Writing Down the Bones), though I’ve really enjoyed it every time I manage to do so. I got a lot of reading done, which felt great. And now I’ve got houseguests for the rest of the month. So things are good but definitely a bit helter-skelter, and am trying to wrap my mind around what writing process really works for me at this particular stage of my life.

What am I working on this week?: This week, my goal is to get 15 minutes of practice writing in every day (Every. Day.), and to begin brainstorming on the next writing project start point. For this next project, I’m experimenting with a single writing day every one or two weeks, which has been extremely successful for me in the past in terms of writing better rough drafts and really having something to say. (In previous projects, those gaps between sessions have been much, much longer, but I don’t want to take years to complete each project, so I’m experimenting to find the optimal “brewing” time between sessions.) So: practice writing daily, and begin percolating on the next project.

What’s inspiring me this week?: Just finished Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor, which was brilliant and one of those deep feels/deep thinks kind of books. It’s both beautiful and painful and horrifying and amazing. It’s fantastic. Still processing on it, but it’s great.

And I’m back to kishōtenketsu again after sharing Princess Mononoke with my brother-in-law. I really need to see if I can find some more info about it beyond just this blog-post. (And I intend to recommend it as a Readercon panel for the coming year! When I went to suggest it for 2017, their recommendations were already closed for the year.) It’s really made me start wondering about what it is that truly makes a satisfying story, since so many Miyazaki films don’t follow the three-act dramatic structure at all, yet I’m never left wanting at the end.

I’ve been thinking, too, after a brief bout with Aspect of the Novel by E.M. Forster, about the way Aristotle’s philosophy on the dramatic art (and especially the three-act structure) has somewhat taken over discourse on structuring fiction. Forster makes an interesting point about how it makes sense in drama that the characters must be active, because we can only witness their emotion and mind by what they do that we can see. But in written fiction–like in Ulysses by Joyce, for example, which was weird to watch in movie form–the entire story can revolve around the mental landscape, even if the characters don’t do much out in the open. Not in any way to say great fiction can’t follow the three-act structure, but almost all dictates on what makes great fiction these days (and admittedly, leaning towards popular fiction) has got a death-grip on the three-act structure, and I haven’t seen much deviation from that in the writing books I’ve encountered. Anyone encountered any writing books that branch away from that, out of curiosity?

What am I avoiding this week?: Well, I’ve been dragging my heels on the practice writing, and have been making a lot of excuses (and have, admittedly, had a somewhat chaotic few weeks) for not just committing to it. On a whim a few days ago I downloaded Sims 4 for some nostalgia fun, so I think I’ll be holding that hostage everyday until I get my required time or pages done for the day. I may also make a prompt jar of my favorite Writing Down the BonesJohn Gardner exercises, and other key-words/exercises I like as I come across them. That way, at least, I won’t be stressing about “what to write” if I can’t think of something immediately.

This week (from 7/3-7/7) I’m trying to go screen-free. The fact that it seems like such a huge deal and every day leading up to it has opened my eyes to all the unconscious ways screens dominate my day-to-day life has made me fairly confident it will be an interesting experiment.

There are a few caveats, of course. I am allowing myself to check my email once a day at a set time, but only email, and only that once. Basically, my computer should stay shut the whole week. I’m also allowing myself any minute screen time required for making and accepting phone calls, but no texts, apps, etc., because the goal here isn’t to totally cut myself off from humanity. Just to see what shaking up my ordinary screen-life might be like.

I meant to do a proper Sunday Circle check-in, but it’s getting late. I’m hoping to start up the “practice writing” habit again (a la Writing Down the Bones), and I’m going to try to read a lot, too. But I’ll be back next weekend, and maybe will have some interesting insight into what going screen free (even for just five days) was like.

See you Saturday!

 

In Which Our Heroine Finds a Place and A Hint is Laid

Project Title: The Mistress of Frosthaven
Genre: YA – Dark Fantasy
Words Today: 3,270
Running Total: 91,689
Scrap Draft: (V1.0 = 31,142), V2.0 = 13,081

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAA~!

It’s done.

I’ll reflect on the overall process and whatnot sometime this week meybe…

I’m going to go drink some absinthe now.

(To learn more about the Sunday Circle, check out author Peter M. Ball’s blog!)

It was an oddly mixed week. On the one hand, I cranked out the work I needed to get done most days, and managed to hit (and pass) the climax point in the novel, so HOORAY! The wrap-up end is in sight! I’m pretty confident I can get it done by Wednesday, which would feel pretty damn special. On the other hand, Bug was sick, then I was sick, and that knocked me off my game, so while I hit the climax on the book, I also feel like the writing was…less than it could have been. But! I’m still pretty pleased with the progress (and at having been–at least for one night–that tough as nails writer who writes with tissues stuffed up her nose to keep the snot from dripping onto her keyboard as she works. I feel like somehow that’s a horrible bucket list thing to check off on the “proof of being a serious writer” mental checklist.)

This week, I’m working on: Finishing the book. Wednesday seems a likely day to finish, since most of the chapters have been about 3k, and I’ve pretty regularly managed 1k/day throughout the project. After that, I’m taking the rest of the week off.

This week, I’m inspired by: Finished Riverdale last night, and really enjoyed it, though there were definitely a few things I wasn’t 100% on board with (Um, the whole Chuck problem, being pretty much the only young black guy being portrayed as an unrepentant sexual predator? Yeeeeeeah…not so good. And then what was with the Arch/you-know-who storyline that seemed to be driving the entire first half of the narrative and then never came up again? We spent so much time on that, and built it up so much, yet it played no role–just a dead end. Which, admittedly, in real life there are plenty of dead end leads in crime investigations, but I found in fiction–given the emphasis placed on it so early in the story–as a viewer I expected it to all tie back in, and felt a bit cheated that it didn’t.) But I am still obsessed with the way they reenvisioned the characters, and am CRAZY about how they handled Jughead (ZOMG), and even quite impressed by how they handled Archie, given that even as a tween, I thought he was a bit skeezy to be equally chasing two girls without being willing to commit to either. In this envisioning, I really liked him, flaws and all, and he seemed much more real than the character in the comics ever did. Loved Veronica’s character, and wish we’d gotten a tiny bit more of the Pussycats, but all in all, delighted by it, and really looking forward to the next season.

On a separate note: does anyone have any good recommendations for books/blog-posts/articles on the process of revising a novel? I’ve read The Weekend Novelist Rewrites the Novel which was solid, and I’ve got Charlotte Nash’s How to Edit a Novel strapped to my hip (and will be rereading), but I’m hitting that point where I am staring at this near-completed thing I’ve called forth from the depths, and the epic amount of rewriting that it’s going to need is scaring the crap out of me. Any recommendations for additional reading would be much appreciated!

chris-traeger-dead

It is literally FUBAR.

What I’m avoiding: I was avoiding cleaning after a week of ughness, and the upkeep of the living spaces left primarily in the hands of a three year old, the toys kind of took over. But I managed to tackle that tonight, so that’s less crazymaking. Still lots of other tidying to do to cut down on the massive amounts of clutter that have crept back into the kitchen and elsewhere, and that’s probably going to be my avoidance issue for the week.