Experimenting to Find What Works BETTER For Me

I ordered notebooks and colored pens off the internet, today. The current theory–based on bits and pieces gleaned from comments from writers who know stuff on the internet–is that what I need is a different color of ink for each day (so that I can tell at a glance how much I’ve written) and a more expensive notebook to write it in.  (Because, apparently, my notebooks are supposed to remain intact long enough to need to look back and see how much I’ve written.) (Knock-off Moleskine! Yay!)

This is a part of the writing by hand, and typing as the first round of editing thing.

And it’s a return from the “Type-everything-cause-you-need-to-know-how-to-use-a-computer” that was beaten into me when I was a kid. (See also “worst advice ever.”)

I’m hoping this will result in a more linear first draft, and possibly a cleaner one.  (as usual.)

In other excitement, I’ve been nominated Lord High Plumber for the day, and on to fixing the toilet.

Okay… Yes, I’m probably the most qualified, but still. **grumbles.**


Revising, and the Blog

I hit a chapter that needs to be re-written today. Needs? Well, let’s be honest here! I’ve changed the character’s plot line so much since I wrote it that with all of the deleting… and adding… and remembering that she’s spent the day running for her life (not making jelly sandwiches for her brother) that it’s just easier to rewrite than it is to edit. There’s nothing wrong with the chapter, in itself.

So, I made a list of all of the charges against her… all of the subtext… all of the history… and off I go.

I also took a little time to make a chart of the revision (basically squares to represent each chapter) and I think… I think I’m on schedule.

In blog-y excitement for the day, I’m working on finding a social media plug-in that will work without over burdening my poor hosting account. I’ve cut out a lot of the unnecessary stuff, lately, and I’ve seen some increase in speed. I’m still back to tweeting and Google+ ing the posts by hand, and… mostly, I don’t remember.

I’d also like to find a more professional wordpress theme at some point. Something with a little more style. Seems like all my friends are upgrading, some days. (any pointers would be appreciated. Most of what I know, right now, is that I’d like something else. You know. Not this. And that the header should be narrow enough that people don’t have to scroll down to start reading.

I may also start with a holidays-only podcast. Something to get my foot through the door, and maybe put up on this website, first.

Perfectionists Anonymous

There should be a twelve-step programme for perfectionism.

It wouldn’t be all that popular though, because a perfectionist hits rock bottom, looks around, and thinks “I can do better.”

Then, he gets the shovel.

One of my grade-school teachers (the one who was thrown out of the Marines for being too mean) tried to cure me of that, once. She kept me after school to work on a project. No, not after that school day. After the school year.  

I sat and glued crepe paper to an American flag for… well, I’m pretty sure it was as long as she intended to be there. By the time I was finished with it, I had a patriotic monstrosity weighing in at ten or fifteen pounds, and assurances from one of the older kids that he still had his.

By the end of the day,  I’d pretty much learned that the Marine Corps does not care about the quality of crepe paper flags, and that the whole process was more or less intended to waste my time. 

But the lesson about perfectionism? Well, that didn’t take.

Maybe that has to do with all the other places where I was being patted on the head for that very same perfectionism.

There’s a point at  which you just have to be done, and that’s probably my missing puzzle piece. I miss that point coming and going, and then, I wind up rearranging things.

So, how do you tell when things are “done enough?”

Jumping in Front of the Bullet (Journal)

I got started on a bullet journal, yesterday. It’s a writer-specific thing with room for word sprints that I’ve had lying around for a while. I finally decided to get started at least in part because I have a revision I really, really want to finish.

My general goal? To start sending out queries on January 1st.

Except, you know… January 1st is a national holiday (I think. Maybe it’s the 31st.) So, that’ll be more of a drop something in a mail box situation. (Or email box.)

So, here I am, happily dividing remaining chapters into remaining weeks, and coming up with as much of an answer as I’ve ever had.

The plus side of the Writing Sprints Journal is that it really works. (Well, anyway, I now have clear goals, and I already knew the writing sprints thing worked.) The downside? Well, it actually looks like a book which has the tendency to make me feel a little anxious writing in it. (No, that’s not rational. **Cringes, waiting for childhood librarian to strike her dead**) Which is pretty much why it’s been sitting on my desk for four months.

It’s a looking at a big project in small chunks thing, and you all know how much I love those.

Broken down into chunks, the big project amounts to a couple of chapters per week (which is more than I’ve been doing, but do-able.) and then writing a query letter and **vomits a little** synopsis.

Oh, yes. There’s a definite benefit to being clear about what I need to do, and knowing that I can actually do that.

Naming Names

I’m completely negligent in naming characters. I just… uhm… don’t do it until the bitter end, and even then, I’m never happy about it. I have a whole manuscript in which the character’s names are TKMC, TKvillain. Tksomebodyorother. I intended to fill in real names at the end, but the end never came on that one.

My first manuscript was a delightful mess of names chosen on statistics. Want the serial killer to remind readers of someone they know? Well, why not pick from the list of most-used names for the guy’s decade of birth? Hello, Joe Smith!

I have a fixation with names in real life. If I ever had a kid, we’d probably just call them by the last 4 digits of their social security number until they’re old enough to decide for themselves.

So, I ran into the first names I really remember in terms of culture and circumstance about the same time. The first was a friend who was named after her father and her mother. In the sense of her name was (Father’s Name)(Mother’s name) no spaces. Now, there’s a paradigm. On the one hand, you have the “My kid is going to know who her parents are” philosophy, which does not come from stable cultures and stable homes. And on the other? Well, I never knew anyone who was named after their mother, before. I knew plenty of thirds and fourths, and more juniors than you could shake a stick at, but none of them were named after a woman.

About the same time… maybe just a little later… I ran into a girl who was allowed to choose her own name.  It was a legal name change. You see… she was one of those little girls who was named after her father. The feminine version of his name. And unfortunately, he committed a few crimes, gained notoriety, and ultimately was committed to the state hospital with no expectation of ever being released. Well, you know grade school kids are gonna mention it, if a classmate is named Tedda Bundy or Charlene Manson.

Culture plays a role in this. There are very few Amish kids, for instance, who are named Stargate Warhammer.

As does social support structure. Yup. Your friends and family have opinions. And the more important your family and friends are to you, the more likely you are to listen to them. On the other end of it, we have the people who don’t care that their grandmother can’t pronounce the new baby’s name, or who simply don’t care. I’ve run into people who have completely refused to tell anyone their baby-names in advance for fear of feedback.

I happen to think social support structure is important. My family’s naming structure? (Well, for boys, anyway.) The first name is whatever you want, but the middle names are the two grandfathers. I also note the number of kids named Stargate Warhammer who wind up on missing posters or in foster care.

And age. Not many 30 year olds are naming their kids Justin Bieber Smith, and not many 15 year olds are naming their kids Elvis.

The perfect name for a human being is something you can envision on a business card, or an office door. Would you turn around and walk back out, if that surgeon were named Stargate Warhammer Smith IV? Okay. New name. And it should travel well. If it’s a name in the United States, but a graphic sex act in 23% of the non-English Speaking world, you might want to change. And yes, you should take your free babysitters‘ support structure’s opinions into account.

The perfect name for a fictional character? Well, aside from having a character who is actually, literally, named after a graphic sex act. (Do NOT name your kids after my characters, people) I think Stargate Warhammer is a pretty good choice.

Ex Post Facto Foreshadowing

I’m trying to find the perfect place to put a little, tiny sliver of foreshadowing. I know the chapter. In fact, editing that chapter was when it occurred to me that now might be a good time to hint that the two cultures in my fine book are more dependent on each other than my main character thinks they are.

I can’t quite seem to get the foreshadowing piece hammered flat in the rest of the chapter.

I printed out another copy of the chapter, and identified the place where I think my foreshadowing goes. (And by the way, have I mentioned that my printer takes high-capacity, ultra-economy sized cartridges? Yeah. There’s a reason for that.)

All I really need is a couple of lines, but smoothing out the parts around those two lines is tricky.

And one of the characters–who is about twelve–always seems to wind up sounding like a 50 year old business man.

So, what about you? Do you like foreshadowing? Will you do my homework for me? Oh, wait. No. I meant… does it come smoothly at the beginning or do you find yourself tetris-ing it in at the end?

Used Kitty Litter Delivery

I had a dream about Richard Feynman last night. I’m really not sure why, but I think it may have had to do with a line in Space Calamari Eats Jake Gyllenhall (Okay,Life“) in which they’re hiding from Calamari and discussing the Challenger disaster. Feynman, himself, never comes up, but I’m sure everyone remembers the story of how he was dragged off his deathbed (literally) to come put o-rings in ice water on national television.

As it turns out, my subconscious doesn’t know all that much about Feynman, and as a result, he wasn’t all that chatty, even after we (there was a definite we, but I can’t remember who the others were) left the highly scientific bags of mostly-fresh kitty litter outside his office door.

His wife was amazing, though. Thought I was good for the family (no, I can’t think of a single reason why. I mean, I was delivering used kitty litter.) and slipped me a credit card to go buy Microsoft software for their son. (Not the one they actually had. One of my co-workers.) Who was living on a shelf. (It was a very large shelf.)

Okay. Yeah.

That’s definitely a job-related dream.

Just marvelous. I’m delivering used kitty litter for a living.

Not that it’s a particularly damaging line of work.

But it is pretty pointless.

And there’s probably not a future in previously-owned kitty litter sales.

Dying Computers, Chainsaw Editing, and Snail Races

As I’m going through my revision, I’m noticing that certain letters are missing. Not all the time, and not always the same letters, but… I’m writing in letters. After a few pages of this, I’m starting to think about new computers (or at lest, new keyboards.) My slightly neurotic alternate theory is that it’s me, somehow, just not hitting the keys as hard as I should be. I can’t decide whether that last one’s a sign that I’m cheap as hell and don’t want to spend money on a new computer, If I could just get degenerative muscular diseases instead, or if I’m paranoid that I’m getting something I’ve encountered in other people.

Note to self: It IS you, and in the future, don’t pop the keys off your keyboard to clean, you moron.

I’m editing with a chainsaw, today. Twenty one pages come in… and four come out. Four! And there’s nothing wrong with the extra 17 pages, really. Just chunks that are duplicated in other places, or that I don’t need anymore, because I’ve revised them out of my timeline.

On the bright side, think of all the word count that frees up.

I have front row seats for #pitmad this morning, which basically means 1.) I’m not working and 2.) I have all kinds of tabs open on my computer, watching various agents from by TBQ (to be queried) list punch in those likes. Likes on Twitter do not automatically refresh, or even notify you of their existence, so I’m wearing out the reload button. Exactly why am I doing this?

Well, maybe I’m bored, and maybe I’m diligent. It does give you an idea of their specific tastes, though.

The process reminds me of the snail-races we used to have back when I was a teacher’s aide. Place the agents inside a circle, and wait. So far, none of them have actually done anything, but the kids are entertained, and teacher gets a few spare minutes to catch her breath and organize the next lesson.

Snail A has liked two pitches. Snail B has poured himself a cup of coffee. Pretty sure Snail C is in one of Billy Ostermeyer’s pockets.

In most cases, the reward for getting #pitmad likes is… Well, you get to query in exactly the same way you would, if you’d just read the guidelines, but you get to add #pitmad to the subject line.

I can’t decide whether that’s worth the effort of the snail race, or not.

This Is Not A Chatroom

Recently, one of my most favorite-est online writers’ communities added a new feature. (It’s for members, so I won’t add a direct link, but since basic membership is free, click on through, sign up, and take a look around.)

It is not a chat room.

Okay… well, it’s a chat room. Except the general idea isn’t to chat about your work. Oh, no. This is a chat room that’s not a chat room. It’s a come in, greet your fellow writers, and get to work room. Sort of a working quietly on your own in the presence of others room. Study hall for writers. The expectation is that you will study.

The rules are: NO CHATTING! You come in, state your goals, and get to work. Sometimes, there are word sprints. Sometimes there are tiny little bits of info about what you’re working on. But there is NO CHATTING.

And–believe it or not–it’s working fairly well for me.

I’ve mastered the fine art of emoji-only greetings, and showing up.

I do pretty well, when I know people are expecting me to be somewhere, and expecting me to work.

Now, admittedly, the internet is a broad and wonderful place, and it has tabs, so I won’t swear there’s no “research” going on in the background, but by and large, I’ve been moving forward through the magic of peer pressure.

Togetherness–such as it is–is working. And if I were in a real-life work space, it would work the same way. Very quiet–so you don’t bother anyone else–and moving forward, because other people are there, and it’s one of the few places where people actually care whether you write a novel or not. No one is going to tell you you should quit and become an insurance agent, for instance.

I’m still fiddling with website efficiency here. Do you feel all optimized? No? Well, I’m playing balance function with resources. I’m going to have to look around and see what I can live without, or what I can smooth out, because I’m not running all that smoothly.

Look, I Found A Chance To Win A Trip To Japan

So, I found–a little late, there are three days until the deadline, including today–a short story contest in which the prize includes a trip to Japan. Here’s the link to the story in Wired: https://www.wired.com/beyond-the-beyond/2017/06/seat-14c-jets-future/

And here’s the link to the contest, itself: http://www.seat14c.com

I’m not sure if I’m going to get something written in three days, but I’d love to see somebody I know win.

And I would like whichever brilliant friend does win to take me with them on their trip to Japan.

Besides, if I do win, I would truly enjoy knowing that I beat out each and every talented one of you. That would mean a lot to me.

So, get writing, people!