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Month: March 2010



Whew! After a whirlwind of Weird and Largely Unpleasant, things are finally getting normal again, in that ‘life is mostly awesome’ normal kind of way that I had grown accustomed to. I’m still financially screwed, but hey, I’ve been there before and I know the territory. Not a big deal. eBay and I will get cozy for a while. The rest is sorting itself out, and I think that by the end of April a lot of life’s little ambiguities will be eliminated one way or another.

The most notable immediate change is the writing. I completely changed my process recently. I used to barrel through a draft and hope for the best, knowing it would suck and would need a ton of revision. I found over time that when I do that I can’t see the forest for the trees, and editing takes months.

Disclaimer: I am not advising that anyone try what I’m doing right now. Writing at top speed to get a draft down works very well for many people, maybe most people. It just wasn’t working for me anymore.

So what I did this time was write something that isn’t quite an outline. I took one writing session to write a couple of pages of the things I see in my head, grouped in roughly the structure that I think I want the story to have. It looked a lot like a poem on the page when it was done, but it had the images, it had the beats, it had the structure and hinted at the pace.

Then I started writing based on that, filling in the prose around it. I’m only writing about a page a night, and I’m laboring over sentences and word choices in what is essentially a first draft. But the thing is, I’m not hating what I have so far. That’s pretty exciting. It will still need a lot of work, but I think it’s a better first draft than most of mine historically have been. It will be easier to edit, too, I think, because it isn’t nearly as over-written as my past efforts have been.

There was a time when one page a night would have been unacceptable to me, but right now it is progress and I need that sense of progress to keep the Fail at bay. Besides, it worked for Cory Doctorow, I don’t see why it can’t work for me. I am hoping that even at this slow pace I will produce a submission-ready story once a month. (They still need to go through revision and critique, of course.)

This story is another challenging one, and I’m writing without a net, but I like it that way. Reading slush has really made me want to stretch beyond what I was doing. I know what bores me as a slush reader now (and for what it’s worth, I am not a casual couple-of-stories-on-the-weekend slush reader. More on that in a moment.) I am at war with mediocrity in my writing right now, and it’s a war I intend to win.

Speaking of slush, I finally started tracking what I was reading. The system I’m working in doesn’t really allow me to get stats on how much I’ve read and recommended, so I started a spreadsheet of my own. I wanted to do this both for the satisfaction I get in seeing the numbers (Useful Yant is Useful!) but also because I wanted to remember the ones I recommend. I can tell you that in the past 10 days I’ve read 79 stories and recommended 13.

Naturally I thought to do this three weeks before submissions close for the season. Ah well. I’ll have it at the ready when it reopens in June.

I suspect that there are some topics I could pull out of the slushing experience that would be of interest to some of my friends out there. I’ll talk to the boss and see if it’d be cool if I blogged more about that.

Anyway, we have normality. My friends are back from their respective cons, I’m writing, I’m staying caught up on the other stuff, I’m doing a bunch of responsible grown-up stuff to keep things running smoothly, and it’s all okay.


#lifefail and work as therapy

#lifefail and work as therapy

Funny how fast things can change.

Some swift changes in my financial and personal life this week have sent me into a bit of a tailspin of self-doubt. Compounding this is the fact that I don’t have any fiction on the market at the moment–I’m not counting that one for McSweeney’s, I think I should consider that one lost at this point. That’s just a little too much failure in too many areas at once for me. Taken as an aggregate it makes me want to bench myself for a while. It is very tempting to just hide and despair. Years ago that’s exactly what I would have done.

That’s not how we’re doing things today. I am combating this by staying connected, being of service, and when I can, on getting this new short story done. I put an hour into it last night, and I think it’s working well so far.

The answer always seems to be the same: take care of the basics (food, exercise, sleep, environment), focus on the work, and wait it out. Because life will inevitably change just that fast again.

I have returned

I have returned

I missed the last two days of the creativity challenge, as I was on the previously mentioned road trip.

Blog posts are just better with pictures, and since I didn’t actually take any of San Francisco, you can look at the cover for Spellwright instead.

spellwright Friday was focused on getting up to the Bay Area, catching up with Michelle, and getting to a reading by author Blake Charlton, which I enjoyed tremendously. I was very pleased to make Blake’s acquaintance in person, having known him for a short while online.

Blake is an incredibly engaging speaker, and possibly the smartest guy I’ve ever met (no lie). His novel Spellwright promises to be as thoughtful and entertaining as the author himself.

Saturday I saw parts of San Francisco, appreciated some art, and enjoyed Michelle’s company. Much wine and sushi was consumed. Today we slept in and were just anxious to get home. It was a fine and worthy trip.

I wish the timing had been different, though, because I was really a little bit off my axis for most of the weekend. I think this is because last week was such a wildly unusual one–a very dark and unhappy one, in fact, due to very late hours on the day job and insomnia, but it was punctuated by a couple of sun-bright flares of Awesome. I felt like I wasn’t really capable of giving those flares the attention that they deserved, coming as they did in the midst of the rest.

After that I didn’t have a chance to feel normal again–to process the good, put the day job behind me and counter it with these other things that are so important to me, to just get grounded before we left for the weekend. This left me feeling very off-center, full of self-doubt, worry, and unanswered questions for most of the trip. Just bad timing, really.

So I got home and immediately did what I know to do: focus on the work. It helps. Every time. I brought my best to it and earned my keep tonight. The self-doubt and questions remain, but they’re a lot quieter when there’s a manuscript in front of me and a list to check off, and the knowledge that someone else’s tomorrow is a little easier because of what I did today.

Tomorrow, it’s back to the day job, back to the Creativity Challenge, and I hope back to normal, because I’d really like to check out those flares again.


It’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses: Day 3 of Creativity Challenge

It’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses: Day 3 of Creativity Challenge

This is Day 3 of the Mind on Fire Group Creativity Challenge, created and hosted by my dear friend John Remy. Every day he is introducing a new randomized creativity prompt by pulling a card from a Tarot deck. The scope of what you do with it is limitless.

Today’s card is Two of Pentacles.

In the spirit of the card–finding balance, having fun, and adapting quickly–I’m going to go on a road trip, commencing in about two hours. We’ll call it ‘performance art.’

Don’t know how available I’ll be to complete this project this weekend, but I’ll try. Have a great weekend, everyone.

Stretching, & other people’s Awesome

Stretching, & other people’s Awesome

So sometimes it’s good to stretch.

Things have normalized since the beginning of the month. Right now I’m neck-deep in reading, which is fantastic. (Note: if you haven’t heard, Lightspeed will be closed to submissions for a little while starting April 15, so if you haven’t submitted yet, get it in!) Podterning proceeds apace. I also am pretty pleased with the way the new story is coming along. I wish I could spend more time with it, but the time I do spend is quality time.

But it’s time to stretch a little. John at Mind on Fire is doing a week-long collaborative art project, where he’s introducing the randomizer of a daily Tarot card to inspire…whatever. At first I said “I don’t have time” and then he gently reminded me that the scope could be anything from a tweet or a doodle to something more elaborate. Out of excuses! Okay, I’ll do it. Stop on by John’s blog and join us. The tone of my own blog will change a little bit for the next week as I post whatever it is that I come up with to make from John’s prompts.

Fond acquaintance Jeremiah Tolbert (writer, blogger, photographer, web designer, and all-around Jack of Arts) has launched a new project called Make Awesome Sauce, a collaborative home for all things Awesome. I think he’s about to open up membership to the public. Be sure to read the Manifesto. I absolutely love that he made being nice a requirement. You can follow the project on Twitter @makeawsauce.

Hm, what else?

Oh, I didn’t get into Clarion, but my friend Adam Israel did! Completely stoked for him.

Lastly, another stretch: I have a Weekend Away planned with my friend Michelle, who I have barely talked to since we both started working from home. We’re going to San Francisco, which I’ve only done once 13 years ago and I don’t remember much about it. I keep panicking about the things that won’t get done while I’m away for three whole days (oh yes, I AM taking the netbook, why do you ask?) But then I remind myself that a writer needs to get out and actually see and experience the world from time to time. When I justify it that way, the panic subsides. A little.

Have I always been this neurotic?