Journal


To be fair, I wrote this up yesterday, but then completely forgot about posting it. >_O Naturally.

It’s been a productive-ish week, I think, though most of the work has been brain-work, so there’s not much to show for it. BUT! I did spend quite a bit of time just thinking and testing out some ideas, and managed to do a fair bit of backwards-facing world-building (not from the creation myth as I’d expected, but from much nearer at hand, building backwards, which has been…interesting, but also possibly very useful). Everything’s still in that primordial soup phase, so nothing’s set in stone, but I feel like the current I’m on is drifting in the right direction, so that’s something.

Also got back to a regular yoga practice, and oh MAN, that’s been nice. I had no idea how much it helps stretch out my side and back, and I need that more than I ever realized. So that’s something to continue this next week, too.

What I’m working on this week: More thinking. The past week’s brainstorming sessions, though weird and wispy, have produced some good nuggets of character and world-building that have given me some handholds for moving forward. There are a lot of little world-building details I still need to work out, and still hammering on about the villain’s motivations. I’m closer now, but nothing has quite clicked into place yet.

What’s motivated me this week?: Finished the mask for Bug’s costume! It actually turned out pretty well, and I’m kind of delighted with it. Now the question of whether or not he’ll wear it for Halloween… XD

Also just broke open my quill/pen and ink set and started messing around with that which has been immensely fun, even just in the short term. Not sure where it’s going yet, but I’ve got lots of techniques to practice, so that’s fun.

Media-wise, we just finished the first season of The Good Place, which was pretty fun, though I’m not 100% convinced they knew where they were going, though I didn’t dislike it. Also just watched The Boss Baby (because we’re in that phase), and was a bit disappointed. I kind of expected them to rely heavily on the Baby-Talks-Like-Alec Baldwin gag, but by the end of the film, I didn’t feel they’d done anything all that surprising or interesting with the story, and my eyes were completely dry at the emotional peaks (which since the birth of my son, is a sign somebody missed the emotional mark, because I am an easy cryer, especially for anything cute and or “zomg brothers love each other!” *sobz* I literally (literally, for the whole 2 hours) sobbed through Wall-E the first time I saw it, simply because it was so cute and so sweet and zomg the planet neeeeeeedzez us! (My husband was worried I hated the movie and that I was that disappointed, I was crying so hard.) So if you can’t get me at least tearing up by the end (I mean, my word, Trolls got me crying!<–EASY TARGET), the emotional arc hit a flat note. (Storks got me crying, too! <–I’m serious! EASY TARGET!) Pretty much anything with kids should get me to tears. (Play the opening theme of Kiki’s Delivery Service, and I’m practically sobbing. Because it’s so happy.<–EASY TARGET.)

*ahem* Also been inspired by the writing process. I think I’m finally starting to admit to myself that I am not a pantser. I want to be a pantser. I like the idea of being a pantser. But the more I tackle this edit, the more I realize that other processes of planning and extensive outlining I’ve used in the past are both more fun for me, and don’t hinder my excitement or creativity in the writing, and they do keep me from falling into structural pits later that I’m loathed to crawl out of… I’m recognizing that with a strong lazy streak, taking the time to plan ahead and take my time could very well be my salvation. I’m hoping to test a little of this theory in the coming rewrite.

What action do I need to take this week?: Un-writing related, but I’ve got to finish Bug’s costume. I’ve got a shirt to dye, a tail to sew (and maybe dye a little), and then it’s done, but I know it’s something I could so easily put off, having worked most of the weekend on the mask already…

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Turning in this Sunday Circle (á la author Peter M. Ball‘s site) a tad late this week, post-weekend travel. It’s been a good week, though we’re getting into a period of the editing process I’m not quite sure how to quantify. I did have some lovely fresh ideas bubbling up for possible solutions to some of the story problems in the novel, and feel like I’m moving in the right direction, but there’s still a lot of legwork to be done. That said, I did get my problem list organized and imported into the work notebook, so that feels good. Didn’t get much reading done, though, so that’s a bit meh, but my priorities on reading may be shifting a bit as I start work on some of the big-picture issues.

Did restart my minimal yoga practice, though, and man that helped. Stretches out all the places where perpetual slumping really gets to me, and it made me more aware of my overall posture, too, during the week. So that’s definitely getting some priority attention this week.

What I’m working on: This week, I really need to sit down and do some mythic world-building for the novel’s background. I’m hoping that by starting with the creation myth(s), I may be able to isolate the real-world facts to build on and direct them where I need them to be by the start of this particular story. I also need to spend a little time focusing on the major motivation and goals of my villain, which were squiffy at best in Draft One, but really need to be hammered down for story-logic purposes. I’m trapped between the two boulders of “weak world-building” and “weak driving villain,” and they both kind of need to come together simultaneously, which I’m a little worried about…

But by this time next week, I know I want that creation myth hammered out, and maybe have spend an hour or two brainstorming on the villain.

What’s inspiring me this week?: The yoga practice, actually. It’s been a major physical game-changer, even though it’s so short and not particularly hard. Yet somehow it makes a noticable difference in the day-to-day, and it’s made me realize how much I slouch. Like…constantly. So I’m working on that and inspired by the positive changes I feel.

Also, just started watching The Good Place, which is…interesting. I like it, I’ve gotten a few great laughs out of it, and am very curious to see how it develops.

Oh! And these masks by Wintercroft. We got the woodland creatures set to use as a cardboard base for Bug’s halloween costume (he’s going as Nick Wilde from Zootopia), and it had a rabbit mask in it too, so I now must go as “Officer Hops” whom he’s been asking me to “talk like” for the past week… She’s got…a very perky dialogue style…

What action I need to take: I really need to figure out how I’m going to direct, drive, and track this next phase of the editing process. It’s very think-heavy, but not very production heavy, and it’s not something I want to rush (but, conversely, I don’t want it to drag on and on simply because it can…) It may be a matter of picking a problem to solve and trying to get it resolved by X day, but it’s such a non-linear process, I’m not sure that’ll be so helpful…

Productive week last week! Finished the novel WiP read-through (and scene list and time map) a bit early, and took a little extra time to write down a list of everything I loved (ideas, descriptions, whatever compelled me to put down an “I love this!” post-it while reading). It needs a lot of work, but I was pleased by how many little things I liked, too. Now’s just the challenge of figuring out how to salvage as many of those things as I can while giving the novel a huge overhaul.

Reading-wise, didn’t get in as much as I was hoping, and then thoughts on the novel direction have been shifting, which has made me reevaluate the usefulness of the particular research books I have for this particular project.

What I’m working on this week: Problem list and beginning to get those issues organized so I have something concrete to work on moving forward. I’ve already caught myself trying to solve one major issue ahead of compiling my list, so I need to focus on getting the actual issues down on paper so I can see them as a whole. And then, continuing the reading of the current book, which will still probably be useful regardless of direction.

What I’m inspired by: Was still really drawn (ha!) to the Marvel-style of comic art this past week, how pencilers utilize structure lines to define face shapes and capture that slightly more realistic look. It’s an art-form I’ve always admired, but have less experience with it than I’d like. Also, have been going totally nuts for the art of Mobieus, and am seriously considering picking up Azark and Edena used despite my French being so rusty I can’t get more than a general gist of dialogue. Still: might be worth it.

Also just watched The World’s End (Simon Pegg/Nick Frost) last weekend, which led to some very interesting discussion about what plot elements are so crucial that if you skip them or do them weakly just lead to massive disappointment in the payoff, in addition to how what you set up in the beginning is the tone and feel one expects throughout the story (and why–despite the massive tonal shift at midpoint–it worked so well for us in Hot Fuzz).

What action I need to take: Not writing-wise so much as health-wise: I need to get back into a regular exercise practice. I did some beginner yoga stuff a few weeks back for the whole of the week and it made a surprising difference, so I’m really, really going to try to pick that up again and make it a habit.

Had a decently productive week this past week. I stuck to my goal of two chapters re-read a night, setting up the scene list and time map for each scene. I also estimated out how long each of my research books would take to read (based on 15 minute timing multiplied out to pages per hour and then dividing the number of pages per book). Since it was always late when I timed, I bet I may be able to read a smidge faster, but I also wasn’t actively interrupted by Bug, so it’ll probably break close to even. It’s a little depressing, seeing the number of hours required for each book, but meh. At least it’s probably realistic.

This week, I’m working on: Continuing the two-chapters a day re-read with notes and scene/time mapping. If I keep up with this pace, I should be finished by Friday, which would be great. I’m also going to try to squeeze in an hour of reading one of my research books a day, which sounds rather sad that I have to squeeze it in, but really, it’ll be quite a challenge this week.

This week, I’m inspired by: Oh, I’ve been cartooning again, which I absolutely love. Finally settled on a rough style that works for a broad range of characters either fully developed or in the process of developing, and it’s just been loads of fun.

I’ve also started Gotham Season Three, and so, so much love. Even though half the time I still have moments of eye-roll at the cliche dialogue, somehow it makes me more than willing to overlook it. Oh, Ed Nygma! I just cannot get over how fun you are. And Penguin, too. So. Much. Love. Everyone has a need they’re willing to do almost anything for (even totally minor characters who die in two episodes), and those conflicting needs just keeps the energy up. I really need to take note for the novel rewrite, because that’s definitely one huge thing missing in it.

Oh! and I’ve gotten a proper desk! This was actually a couple weeks ago, but this is the first week I’ve really been able to use it, and I LOVE IT SO MUCH! Just being able to sit down and not scrape dinner grime off my workspace before sitting down to write is just…fabulous. And having a dedicated space for writing also makes me feel like I’m giving writing the priority I need to in the day to day, so that’s been lovely, too.

What action do I need to take? Mostly it’s just getting the hour+ of reading in a day, which will be the biggest challenge this week, but as it’s also my birthday shortly, I’d also like to sit down and take stock of the last year–things that have gone well, things that could be improved upon–and think ahead to what I’d like this next year to be like.

And thus, life at Chez Slater returned to some semblance of normalcy… It’s been a crazy, non-stop month over here, which has–as you can imagine–not leant itself to being especially productive on nearly any front. But! We went camping, saw Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, visited with lots of friends and family, and overall had a massively awesome break. This past week was pseudo-vacation (Take Two), with a stint of dog and house-watching for my folks, which while a little easier to get work done, not especially so. Still, I started the novel read-through as I had intended, and am a little ahead of schedule on that. I’m hoping to have it completely wrapped by the first weekend of October, so we’ll see how that works.

But can I just say…I’m so freaking glad to be home and have some time to get back into the normal routine.

This week, I’m working on: The novel read-through. Taking copious notes on post-its, and making a detailed scene list and time map. Will hopefully tackle reading two chapters a weekday.

What’s inspiring me this week?: I started re-reading The Book of Three as one of several “nostalgic YA-ish fantasies” to help guide my edit, and have been having a blast taking notes on post-its analyzing descriptions, introduction of conflict, among other impressions. It’s been totally amazing, since I rarely read through books this way, but TBoT is one I’ve read any dozen of times, so I’m not really worried about it being “ruined” as I read. If anything, it’s made me deeply impressed by Lloyd Alexander’s economy on description and the swiftness with which he introduces characters. I mean, by the end of the FIRST PAGE, you know almost all of Taran’s primary qualities just from the incident with trying to make a sword, and it can’t be more than 300 words in. I’m in complete awe. There’s quite a bit of “As You Know, Bob,” explaining via dialogue in that first chapter, but I’ll give him credit: it gets you up and going in the world almost immediately, and even then, he doesn’t spend that much time (the whole first chapter from intro-of-Taran to Hen-Wen-escapes is barely ten pages in not tiny writing). It makes my novel look SO bloated by comparison! I think I’ll learn a lot rereading it this closely.

What action do I need to take? I really need to up my reading going into October, and I just picked up a bunch of books via Thriftbooks.com for general research to aide the novel’s world-building requirements. So I really need to sit down and make a reading list and even break it down into how much I’m going to try to read a day and how long it’ll take me to get through them, so I don’t just “hope” it happens.

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. :)

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!

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