Curious about the origins of the Sunday Circle? Check out Peter M. Ball’s website for more, and feel free to chime in there or here! :)

What I’m working on this week: Catching up again this week. Last week, I really struggled with trying to reinstate the Minimum Writing Time Per Day plan (even though it was only 20 minutes), and wound up drained and frustrated. Didn’t manage to get back on pace and re-energized until I once again went back to ignoring the Write Everyday principle. That used to work so well for me, but for whatever reason, currently it’s an energy and creativity sinkhole. After embracing the irregular schedule again, I did get the slash-edit done on “Circles,” and even liked it enough to submit it. It’s not bad short, but really talking about the heart of the story and the themes I like today, I realized what it was that bothered me about cutting out so much of the beginning.

So this week, I’m going back to the original version and trying a fairly intense trimming, but keeping the cut scenes intact. I’m hoping this will lighten the burden of the setup, while still keeping the character relationships and strengthened theme that made me love the story in the first place.

What’s inspiring me this week: Still going gangbusters on Authority by Jeff VanderMeer, and encountered an interesting proof-of-point while plunging into the last forty pages of Chiller by Sterling Blake. The first 80% of Chiller is a very classic thriller story, with a good serving of medical thriller thrown in. It’s realistic (mostly) and concrete and set very comfortably in ’90s California. And then, just after PP2, it jumps into the future, but it’s a kitchy, pulpy “books are now projected from cylinders onto synthetic paper” and “funky new genetically engineered plants” sci-fi that feels way more like the SF of the ’60s and ’70s with these magical best-of futures (and apparently in only 38 years…). It’s like slapping the last third of Why Call Them Back From Heaven? to the end of a modern-ish thriller. It’s…well, it’s weird, to say the least, and really discordant. I was mostly surprised by how vehemently I hated that transition, and in part it’s because there was no hint anywhere in the leading text that such a genre jump was going to happen, even though it’s been dealing (in a very realistic-ish way) with cryonics. But the sudden loss of everyday realism felt like such a huge betrayal. I’d wanted to see how the story–which was getting pretty bleak by the PP2 marker–would be resolved in a realistic/medical thriller context, and instead, it kind of jumps-ship into the highly fanciful, pseudo-idealized future within such a tight timeframe that none of the world-building resonates with any of the proceeding realism (I mean, 38 years to completely irradiate the need for doctors and hospitals? I mean, the Moon Landing is one thing, and I understand the way tech can flood into a culture, but somehow the author completely failed to make that transition believable within the timeframe he presents.) Unfulfilled promises–I kind of get on a gut-level why that’s so important, and what happens when you fail to deliver what you’ve set up.

And in complete contrast, the original Star Trek is on Netflix now, and I’m in love with it in all its cheesy, idealized future awesomeness. (I *like* fanciful futures, just not tacked at the end of my realistic(-ish) thrillers!)

What I’m avoiding: Not avoiding so much as reminding–I really need to let go of the Write Everyday adage for the time being. I’ve hammered it into my head for so many years, the klaxons are wailing that “You’re Doing It Wrong,” even though–as I’ve witnessed before–I often get almost as much if not more work done during the week (and often better, more thoughtful work) when I give myself time to percolate the ideas until I can’t resist putting them down. Maybe in the future I’ll have enough time back to do what I used to and take a chunk of quiet, uninterrupted time before a writing session to brainstorm and work up some excitement for the narrative task of the day, but until I can get enough headspace to do that, I’m going to have to change my practices and trust myself a little.

Late to the game again this week, but figured it was good to check in anyway. Last week was good-ish, if not stellar. I did get my September story submitted, so hooray for that! But the new words were gummy, and the review of the edit was…uncertain. All in all, it rounds out to about 70%.

This week, I’m working on: I’m going to tackle the trial edit of “Circles” to see if I can stand it six pages shorter. The info provided in the first pages can absolutely be incorporated (and—sigh—fairly easily) in the later sections, and it’s not the first time I’ve been able to wack out a huge amount of text from a short piece, but I’m not settled on the pacing. It feels a bit overloaded so short, but I may just need to see it with the edits. If there’s time beyond that, I’ll plug away at the rewrite of the mundane magic mirror story.

This week, I’m inspired by: Authority by Jeff VanderMeer. Just downloaded the audiobook, and I’m already in love with it. His ability to slowly ramp up tension and make even the most innocuous detail seem somehow slightly askant and eerie is just fantastic. And I snuck a peek at the first few pages of The Girls by Emma Cline and I think I’m really going to enjoy it.

Oh! And just saw Suicide Squad, which on a lot of levels I enjoyed, but I only saw it this afternoon, so I’m still processing. But I’m still 100% a Harley Quinn fan (though I also love her and Mr. J’s breakup story, too). ^_^

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What I’m avoiding this week: I’m just going to try powering through the slash edit and see if I can make it work for me. I’m not psyched about it, but I want to be psyched about it, so I’m going to work on that, too. :)

As it’s already midway through September (where did the month go?!), I thought it was time to do a quick reading check-in. This month has been better, reading-wise, than last month, and I’m hoping to keep the momentum up rounding the bend into October. Crossed a few books off the list this past couple weeks, and picked up a few more because…you know…that’s what I do. (I even checked out a couple from the library, despite already having one out and another on hold… I need to work on my impulse control.)

Current reading list includes:

Status Update

The Beck Diet Solution – pg. 204 of 284 – I’m cruising through this one currently, and enjoying it’s thought-hacking both in terms of general/minor food intake and how the Response Cards for common sabotaging thoughts could be utilized in other arenas, such as: 1) But I just don’t want to write!, 2) I already bought two things I wasn’t intending to, so what’s a few more things?, 3) They probably think I’m a complete loser. It’s interesting to think about carrying around physical index cards that you can whip out when you have a well-worn and unhelpful thought pop into mind. I’m pretty confident I’ll be done with this by the end of the month.

The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2014 – pg. 222 of 569 – I haven’t been devoting a lot of focused time to this one, but I’m really jonesing for more short fiction, so I may jump into it again soon, once Chiller is done (that one is a LIBRARY-NoRenew, so it has to take priority). But I’ve enjoyed quite a few of the stories I’ve read so far, and I can only imagine reading a bunch will help me isolate what I need to improve in my own work.

Selected Stories by O.Henry – Yeah, still just one story into this, but I’ve kind of put it on hold until TYBDF&H is done. Learned my mistake about scratching the same itch with too many books at once! At least it’s been coming to mind lately, which means I’m probably getting ready to peek into it again.

Style – pg. 62 of 240 – !@(#&$( @!#($% @!# V$@!($% $@!(%& (*)((*(!@#$!@#$! (*deep breath*) I am going to read this one again, I am going to read this one again, I am going to read this one again. I’ve finished the most recent How To Write book, and I’ve promised myself I will not allow any others until this one is done. It’s practical and straight-forward, and I know I can learn a lot from it regarding sentence and argumentative structure but GEEZ…

Osama – 52% – Eh, didn’t make much progress on this one yet. I keep wanting to, but when opportunities to dip into it come up, I find myself gravitating to other things. I think I’m just hitting a wall on the whole P.I.-angst thing, but the language is lovely, and I have this sneaking suspicion that the underlying ideas is surreally-AWESOME, but it’s all still very vague, shrouded in more vague, hinted at by things between the dust in the air. I’m just hoping the puzzle pieces will start connecting a weeeeeee bit faster than they are right now. There’s a lot of pondering, wanting a drink, getting beaten up and left but recovering, getting a drink, smoking a cigarette, pondering, wondering, huh–I’ve seen that before, haven’t I? But where?, getting another drink, going to bed, pondering. It’s not precisely boring–the language and thoughts are interesting, the disorientation is interesting, the subject matter is interesting–it’s just…well, at the moment, it’s just a bit easy to set down.

The Soul of an Octopus – Chapter 2 – Still haven’t figured out whether to check this out in hard copy, or find a way to purchase the audiobook. I’d thought I wouldn’t ever have time for audiobooks, since my evening routine of cleaning has been streamlined, but I picked up Authority by Jeff VanderMeer recently on audiobook, and damn, I love listening to books. And I really like the author’s voice for this book, so I’d really prefer to keep listening to it if I can… I’ll figure something out…

Albedo One #45 – 2 out of 7 stories – I’ve been gradually making my way through this one, as it’s a market I’ve come pretty close to a couple of times, but keep missing the mark. Figured it was time to review the kinds of things published, and am enjoying it. Though it’s definitely made me consider the complexities of male writers investigating female issues (like giving birth, etc.), and how that can either work or not work. I do think it’s perfectly possible for men to write female issues well (my word, “Stories of Your Life” by Ted Chiang being one of them, OMG I cried reading that one…), but it’s also very easy for them to do it horribly wrong, simply by relying on assumptions common in culture. It’s interesting, and it’s given me a lot to think about in terms of diverse/non-US/cisgendered/non-straight narratives, and how (and whether) one outside of those realms should approach them. Lots of food for thought, and some great interviews in here which have added some books to my ever-growing to-read list.

Authority – Chapter 1 – Oh, VanderMeer, I couldn’t stay away. I saw this one available on my preferred audiobook library app and just. YES. And so far, I am in love with this book. It’s following so well on the mood and tone Annihilation set, that it’s pretty much a home run so far. That, of course, can always change, but damn, I’m enjoying it so far.

Chiller – pg. 166 of 485 – Plowing through this one in the hopes of finishing it before it’s due back at the library, since I can’t renew it again. This is one I’m reading for background on freezing people, immortality, and the future! It’s actually a lot of fun, though it does that soulless-voice thing most thrillers seem to do, where the author sounds like every other author who’s written a thriller. That said, I do enjoy the genre, and this one’s been fun so far. George, especially, is a fascinating character, and the author’s handling of detail is superb. I could learn a lot. I’m pretty sure it wipes out a novel idea I had a while back, but better to know now and revise the concept. Interesting stuff, though. Helps me to think through some of the concepts in my own work-in-progress.

On the Docket:
(These are books I haven’t started yet, but which I will probably start in the next few weeks, once Chiller’s done.)

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – I had barely, barely started this one a few months ago, and really liked it, but had too many library books out and not enough renewals to go around, so it got short-changed. This time, however, I’m going to try to tackle it.

The Girls – I’ve been hearing about this one on various internet places, and saw it on the New Fiction shelf, so thought I’d go for it. I haven’t read anything like it in a while, so a change of subject might be good for me.

So there it is, the complete list! I’m probably overcompensating due to the lackluster numbers of July/August, but I feel like I’m making progress, at least. :)

Details about The Sunday Circle can be found here. A bit late to the game this week, so I’ll keep it brief! (Haha! Ah… *wipes tear* No way you bought that…)

This week I’m working on: So, last week had some ups and downs–ups, in the form of a bump to the editor’s desk for Shimmer, and downs, getting back a “no.” But they did give me some helpful feedback, so I’m going to do my best to incorporate those changes, and see if I can make headway elsewhere. On the plus side, the feedback confirmed that I have possibly corrected a structural problem that has been plaguing my work for a while, so it’s nice to see progress. I’m realizing, too, how much development in writing is just like development in any art: when you correct the big, glaring issue (perspective, composition, etc.), the weaknesses that were obscured by that one failure become the new glaring issues (flat shading, color choice, brushwork, etc.). And there will probably always be something, though I hope those glaring issues will gradually become less glaring (at least to the reader, if not to me!).

So with that in mind, my goal this week is to finish the read through of “Any Day But Today…” And getting it submitted. After that, I’ll review the possible edit for “Circles,” and then–if there’s time–tuck into the complete rewrite of “Mirror, Mirror” and hopefully make some headway on that.

What’s inspiring me? Toy Story and Gilmore Girls, the first for its surprisingly masterful weaving of two man-vs-self conflicts without ever feeling cluttered, and the second for the shift in writing and how important context and echoing are for making an event feel important. The DVD we rented of Toy Story also included a special feature that showed the first version of the “Buzz out the window” scene, which was so bad, Disney considered sacking the whole project. The problem they were running into was how to make Woody flawed enough to try to get rid of Buzz, without making you hate him so much you can’t root for him. It was kind of eye-opening. I think sometimes it’s easy to forget that any finished product wasn’t conceived as a perfect whole, but underwent a considerable development process.

Gilmore Girls, likewise, I feel like is starting to struggle as I dig into the 5th season. I’m still invested in Lorelei’s current relationship, but mostly because it’s had such a long buildup (almost too long, thus creating a ridiculous amount of expectations which I think the writers are struggling t fulfill), but otherwise, the character’s major goals (Lorelei = opening an inn; Rory = Getting into Harvard are accomplished by the end of the fourth season. This leaves this weird void in central motivation, which is kind of/sort of morphing into Lorelei = finding a happily-ever-after, and Rory = ? In some ways, Rory’s still pursuing her goal of becoming an overseas correspondent, but it’s not really central, since her relationships have gotten a lot more screen time (so there’s kind of a “who will Rory end up with” storyline, but there’s so little build-up on anything, and no reason to care about most of the options, and half the time she’s acting out of character (though that could have been remedied by focusing more on the “overseas journalist” angle and the fact that Rory is an extremely prudent and careful person, and not the type to run into dangerous conflict or even take a new angle on politics<–CONFLICT!). But instead, the writers seem to be jumping on the most obvious relationship clashes without much development as to why Rory’s acting the way she is, or what the extended repercussions are for those choices–ANYWAY, it’s been very interesting trying to decipher why the first few seasons sang along so well and really hit the “I just need to watch the next episode RIGHT NOW” button, and the later seasons just…aren’t. Dramatic things are still happening, but they’re just events strung together, somewhat unrelated to character (or relying on the most basic character elements which have already been explored nearly to death).

What I’m avoiding: Not avoiding much, beyond reviewing “Circles” and seeing if I really can get away with cutting out the first two whole scenes. UGH. It’s not even so much that I think it’s impossible, so much as I think it might actually be a “thing” I have to start doing, where I deliberately cut out the first 1-3 scenes of every story I write and see if I can live without them, because slow beginnings is definitely becoming my new glaring issue. But at least the endings are working better, so that’s something! And just trying to keep the revelation that slow beginnings are an issue for me out of my head while drafting new stories–that’s actually a useful avoidance, but I may need to avoid it more… :)

Just thought I’d pop in for a little mid-week checkup. I read a blog post a little while ago about being more productive with writing, and while I didn’t connect with all the advice, the first tip about visualizing how you want to feel at the end of a work day caught my eye. So I tried it. And I like it! I don’t always remember to do it every day, but it helps me to quantify exactly what I hope to accomplish, and in some way, allows me to feel the way I wanted when I do achieve that goal (instead of immediately switching into the “Yeah, but I didn’t get to X, X, or X…”), which is nice!

Have a story on hold at a magazine I would love, love, love to appear in, so I’m super excited about that, while simultaneously reminding myself that I’ve had stories held there before, and nothing has come of it. But I’m trying to remember that if it gets passed on, they’ll still probably provide a little feedback as to why they didn’t pick it, and that will be great and useful, too. #positivethinking #noexpectations #dontjinxit

My super fantastic beta reader K. got the edits for “Any Day But Today…” back super fast, and yesterday I implemented almost every comment. I was anticipating a bit more foot-dragging, but once I got going, it was impossible to stop. (Man, have I mentioned how much I love that Bug goes to bed so well? Or that most evenings I’ve got the dishes taken care of so I can jump straight to writing? It’s great!) So sometime this week, I need to do a read-aloud pass on a hard copy to smooth the prose and catch inconsistencies. I’ll probably let it rest tonight, maybe start the “Mirror, Mirror” rewrite, and then pick it up tomorrow for the maybe-almost-final pass. I think it’s a fun story–a somewhat coarse, ridiculous, silly story with hair-plucking bots, telekinesis, lady business, and parking tickets. But I really do enjoy writing snarky, and this one’s snarky as hell.

We’ll see how it goes! Best of luck to everybody and your to-do lists! Here’s hoping September is a productive month. ^_^

The original post for this week’s productivity check-in can be found here!

What am I working on this week?: Had a smashingly productive week this past week (thanks in large part to getting together with a writer friend Friday night and writing for a couple hours). That, and small goals of a retyped page at a time and a deadline to get the short story to a beta reader helped me to rally the troops and get the second draft of “Any Day But Today…” finished. This coming week, I’m going to start the rewrite (basically from scratch) of another story which I’l either try to get out this month, or–depending on how fast I can get it in working shape–possibly have it count for next month’s submission, if it needs extended work. Asking for the completed rough draft by the end of the week is probably a stretch, since if the beta read comes back I’ll be switching gears to wrap that up for submission by the 15th. But I’ll start the rewrite on “Mirror, Mirror” (working title) and see what I can do with it.

What’s inspiring me this week?: Still really enjoying The Art and Craft of Novel Writing by Oakley Hall, recommended by a classmate from the course I took back in February. I’ve picked up a few gems of advice that I’ve really loved, and am enjoying trying to implement them.

I’m also entering a new music-acquiring phase. I’ve worn out my old playlists and I’m hankering for something more substantial than Pandora, so I’ve become completely obsessed with the recent-ish (2013) and upcoming Empire of the Sun albums. I got into them a number of years ago with Walking on a Dream, and it really struck a cord with me, but I hadn’t been following their career too closely. But I heard a few songs from their 2013 album (namely, “I’ll Be Around”), and really liked it. And the samples from their upcoming album sound fun, too. And I love their sci-fi/fantasy-ish aesthetic cover art so freaking much. They may not be for everybody, but that song just gets under my skin and resonates for some reason. It’s a nice contrast to break up my recent fixation on Dead Letter Circus’ Aesthesis album (and particularly “Show Me”).

What am I avoiding this week?: Not avoiding so much as just uncertain how to proceed. I did a little review of my work process and the goal-mountain I’m working towards, and realized (or at least, recognized with a nod of agreement) that I really need to follow my longer novel(ish) length works to their full completion, rather than bounce around on rough drafts like I do with short fiction (which just leads to a lot of cruddy, unedited manuscripts I hesitate to pick up again). So I’m going to try picking a longer project I’ve already gotten to rough draft and try following through on it. I’m doing some contextual research for a far-flung future cryogenics/hoarders episode novel(la) already, so I’ll probably pick that one, but we’ll see. :)

 

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Anybody who’s been in this game long enough is used to rejection. Constant, merciless rejection. You do get used to it, and I know quite  few writers who claim rejections don’t even sting them a little anymore, simply because–why? It’s just another of many. Thicken that skin!

But while I’ve gotten significantly more comfortable with rejection, I still feel that slight gut-drop whenever a “no” comes to my inbox. Especially a form no. UGH. Form no’s. I’ve had a couple tastes of personalized no’s and let me tell you: they’re sweeter. Just, so, so much tastier. I’ve gotten hooked on them, but there’s never any guarantee of catching one.

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Phew! Dodged *that* submission!

Got a rejection yesterday, which hit me harder than I expected. I knew the market was a long shot. I knew this one probably wouldn’t fit there. I don’t know what it was, really. Maybe it’s just because it’s the first submission I’ve sent out in a while, or because I still feel really confident the story’s a good one. I can only liken it to a fencing duel in which you’re all fired up and ready to kick the other guy’s butt, and in the very first movement, he nicks your cheek, just to show you he can. It’s not a bad injury, not even a deep cut, but somehow it shakes your confidence ever so slightly. That microscopic ding in the paint of the new car. The slightly bent cover on the brand new book you just unpackaged. A gnat’s bite, really, but somehow you feel it more than you should.

At least at this point, I’m perfectly aware that I can’t let it get to me too much. Back when I was a really, really young newbie, rejections used to hit me like a sucker punch to the kidneys. I’d be crushed, and feel like I needed to do something big to take the sting away. Once upon a time, I’d buy myself a chocolate bar, but these days, I get so many rejections, so often, when I’m submitting, that I just can’t spend that kind of cash.

My new routine is fairly simple. I can have one spoonful of Fluff or I can sulk, but I can’t do both. And then I move on, get the story out again, and work on the next thing, because seriously, that’s all there ever is. And someday, I hope to toughen up enough to become one of those authors who don’t flinch at rejection.

(Though acceptances are nice, too… XD)

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Quiet, dignity, and grace…

RIP: Gene Wilder. You will be missed. <3