Tournaments, Cross Dressing Princes, and Mini Operas: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

Ali:  No breaks in this week’s chain, I am pleased to report.  Also, I made cookies and went on a seven mile hike over the weekend.  As of yesterday, I’m only two miles away from hitting my work out goal for the week (a seven mile hike helps a lot).  Work in progress for this week = a fairy tale about a cross-dressing prince.

Jenny: Breaks all over the chain! Two words for you: Baseball Tournament. Actually, make that three words for you: Surprise Baseball Tournament. Wait. Make that ten words: Badly Scheduled and Badly Given Notice of Weekend Baseball Tournament.

It was a hot, rough weekend my friends. I should also mention that this weekend was the first practice for Owen’s second  baseball league. Yeesh.

Anyway, as far as writing goes…

1. Finished rewriting a chapter of La Llorona and marked up the next phase of the novel. Soon I’ll be at the point where I can write fresh words from scratch — meaning I’ll probably go a little faster.

2. Also, I have nine days to really finish a short play that I’m working on for a local theatre festival. I’m not quite there yet, and it’s the baseball tournament that I largely blame for this.

3. At some point soon we should be hearing the results of ENO’s mini opera contest…but my formatting was so bad that I’m not holding my breath. If you’d like to see how jacked up it got in translation from Blogger to ENO’s website: here ya go. (And if you’re so inclined, feel free to hit ‘like’ and show me a little pity.)

What’ve you guys been up to? Lots pages? Lotsa brainstorming?

Let the Chain Be Unbroken: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

Ali: Today’s our first joint accountability post.  I’ve been doing well with my calendar chain strategy.  One week of X after X on my calendar and no gaps.  When I started, I was nervous.  I’ve been on a long slacker stint and I was going to have to get back into a groove that I’d been out of for a while.  Luckily, the beauty of the chain is that it’s not a question of quantity, but consistency. 

Each day, if I write (or revise, or transcribe) I give myself an X.  Some days, I think about skipping.  One skipped day isn’t the end of the world, after all.  Then, I remind myself that I just need to do a little.  I tell myself, “Don’t worry about it, just do a paragraph and you’re good.”   One paragraph?  That’s easy enough.  So, I sit down to write one paragraph.  It never ends up being a paragraph, though.  I write my paragraph, then I figure that wasn’t so bad, I’ll write another one. 

Yesterday, I sat down to write one paragraph and ended up with almost three pages instead.  Okay, so they’re three pages in a small notebook, but three pages is better than a paragraph, and a whole lot better than nothing.  I’m liking this chain approach.   It’s deceptively simple.  Even better, it’s helped me finish a first draft of Chapter 2 and start Chapter 3.  I think that’s pretty cool.

Jenny: I’m with Ali. Totally digging the calendar chain. However, having been at this for only one week – gasp! – there is already a gap in my chain:



Behold! The Gap of Doom!

I know, I know. I’m so ashamed. But let’s not focus on the single negative, gigantic circle that resembles a zero.

Let’s look instead at the stuff that was accomplished. For example, I now get to say that I’ve written an opera. You can read it here if you wanna.  (A mini-one, but it’s still a libberetto!)  The low-down on this particular project is simple: Neil Gaiman, Will Self, and A.L. Kennedy are the judges for the script portion of the English National Opera Mini-Opera competition – they get the links to the blogs that have posted scripts, they read them, judge them, and pick the top ten to move onto the soundtrack portion of the party. (Announcements will be made by June 4 for the book portion.)

When the top ten soundtracks are picked, the finalists then move onto the film portion and winners are picked from there.

I saw this via Neil Gaiman’s twitter feed and thought, “I never thought to write an opera. Wouldn’t it be cool to write an opera?” So I did. And let me tell you…it was tough. I feel like a better person for it, sure, but it was still pretty wracking, even before blogger refused to accept any of my formatting. Grrr. That gap there on the 18th is actually where I was banging my head against the wall for trying this.

Okay, so it wasn’t that bad. I also managed to get through Chapter Four on rewrites for La Llorona.

AND GREAT NEWS! The littlest kidlet just got into preschool! So I just have one more summer to make it through and then there will be MORE WRITING TIME. Fear me!

So all, in all, I guess that circle looks less like a head-banging zero and more like a hug surrounded by kisses:

Behold! A hug on a bad day.

Gotta love it.

(P.S. Ali – see? Pictures.)

Chain Chain Chain

I’ve been a slacker with writing lately.  First, the novel group went on hiatus, which removed my constant impending deadline.  Then, I was looking for a new job, which sucked up oodles of time.  Then, I was moving for the new job and doing all the work that goes along with a move.  Then… I was distracted – I was in a new place, meeting new people, lots of stuff to do.

A couple of days ago, I read this article from Lifehacker.  It talks about some advice the author got from Jerry Seinfeld on how to be productive.  The advice is very simple:

Step 1: Get a big calendar.
Step 2: Draw an X on each day you write.  (After a few days, you’ll have a chain of Xes)
Step 3: Don’t break the chain.

Starting today, I’m going to work on a chain.  Today’s Accountability Tuesday, so that’s fitting.  Also, today I’m going to a Write Brain thingie with Deb and Jenny, so that’s fitting, too.  It’s a good way to get started, and then all I have to think about is getting an X each day.  Easy.  Right?

Sloooowww Progress: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

All right, all right, all right, all right.

I do this each week to be held accountable in the hope that when I write a post every Tuesday I can impress all y’all with my impressiveness.

Alas, this is Week Two of Not Much Done At All. I can still blame baseball because it’s still going on…but that’d be a poor excuse. I wish I could self-analyze my lack of progress, but mostly I think I’m against self-analysis at the moment. Perhaps I’m just drained at the moment? Every now and then that happens.

Plus I’m suffering from the Bright Shiny New Idea moment. Only in my case, when it rains, it pours. In the past week I have come up with some really kick-ass premises for some new novels. And a play. And a mini-play. The ideas bombarding me this week are enough to keep me busy for the next five years. Easy.

Yet I can’t seem to get stuff down.

I’m in daydream land right now, not action land.

Help me out here: what do you do to convince yourself to Get To Work?

Revising the Plan: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

Happy Tuesday, writerly folk! Tuesdays are accountability day here at Place for the Stolen…so time to see what we accomplished writing-wise this past week:

1. Okay, so I know last week I said to hold me accountable for the End-of-April rough draft plan. I’m here to say that perhaps that was a smidge hasty. I’ve been re-evaluating the speed at which I can compose gracefully (read: without pulling my hair out) and have come to the conclusion that slower and steadier wins the race. I’m now aiming for the end of July as the rough draft due date for The Line.

And this past week I’ve added another 2400 words to the novel. Huzzah!

2. Part of the revising my plan is also that I’m starting another draft of an earlier book – my La Llorona book for those who care what I’m working on. It occured to me that The Line won’t be ready for submission this year no matter how much I bust my ass – and I want a submittable-to-agents draft of a novel this year. That way I can at least build experience in the querying gig. Plus, I like this book and, after seeing Woman in Black, feel that a good, old fashioned ghost story is the way to go. (For those that have read some of it – you realize this means some definite retooling.)  

I whipped out my handy-dandy calendar and figured out a way to gracefully (read again: without pulling my hair out) do a new draft by the end of August.

So far I’ve marked up the first three chapters, cut another chapter, and have typed in a new two pages. Huzzah!

*Interesting note: I work better in the morning on the flat-out new stuff. Revisions are more a late afternoon/early evening thing. At least it keeps the days interesting, huh?*

That’s it for me, kids. How about you guys? Revising? Working on something new? 

Getting After It: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

Welcome to Tuesday, dear writers. That means it’s time to tell tales about what we’ve accomplished this past week.

As for me:
1. Filled a notebook! Yahoo! You know the only thing better than filling a notebook?

Starting a fresh one! Which I have also done this week. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I will have to do a lot of typing-in because I’ve made the decision to plunge ahead and fill as many notebooks as possible. This means an exceptionally long type-in session of novel writing. And I’m not the quickest on the keyboard…so I’m hoping to take my time and let the type-in assume the role of Second Drafting.

Well, it sounds good to me.

2. Finished a short story. Sent it off to a couple readers to read. So I’ve added to my submittable short story pile. (And I’m pretty sure you guys have heard how short that stack was getting, right? Well, if you haven’t hear…it was getting short.)

3. (Which doesn’t seem writing related but totally is): Called around to find out about enrolling the youngest in preschool. Preschool time for youngest child = writing time for me. Sure, she won’t be able to go until August, but I anticipate a large increase in productivity around that point.

And that was my week. What’d you guys get done?

Filling Notebooks: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

Tuesday sneaks up on me sometimes. Time to be accountable! Here is what I have done this past week:

1. Glorious news! I have almost filled a 120 page notebook with new novel words! The rough kind of words, but words nonetheless! Next week I should be able to say: filled a notebook. Such almost-satisfaction. I can see the end. I’ll be done with the notebook in just a couple days. Things are trucking along…and I think I can see the last hill I have to climb before I’m finished with the whole rough draft of The Line.

*the crowd cheers*

(Admittedly, it’s just seeing the last hill…still gotta climb it and hope to heaven that there isn’t some kind of mountain range behind it. I’m sure that happened to the covered wagon trains when they saw the Sierra Nevadas: “We’ve crossed plains! We’ve crossed a huge mountain range! We’ve crossed an unbearably hot desert! Look, it’s a hill! One more thing! Oh. Wait a sec.” That had to be a rough day.)

2. Started second drafts of two short stories. So, yay for progress.

Soon I’ll be able to add to my list of stories I’m submitting. My submittable short story list has been woefully short for a while. When you’re focusing on novel-length work, the time to create new short stories (and actually revise and polish them) is tight. But I’ve recently felt the need to say that something was finished. That I’m making some kind of progress.

Because working on a big ol’ novel sometimes feels like you’re spinning your wheels…even when you’re not.

3. Got some new short story ideas, and one idea for a play. My buddy John has recently been super-active in our local theatre community. Going to these play recently, I have been inspired. I had a one-act play produced when I was in college but haven’t embraced the challenge of a full-length. Sometimes you’ve gotta mix it up. (Just ask Neil Gaiman, right?)

And how have you guys been? Got a lot done?

An Announcement and Mapping: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

Hello my fellows, my comrades, my peeps! I hope this Tuesday finds you happily typing away on your keyboards.

These past couple weeks have calmed enough for me to post what I’ve actually done.

But first! An announcement!:

Considering the amount of reading and extrapolating I have to do for this blog, and considering the amount of work that I have to do on my works-in-progress I decided to recruit a partner on this blog project of mine. My good friend Ali will be popping in and taking on some mentor posts of her own. Ali has more degrees than me, an attitude that has earned her the nickname ‘demon,’ and is a fantabulous writer. She’s got the pulse of contemporary fantasy authors down pat and has a Masters in English Lit. So she’s pretty well rounded. Keep an eye peeled for her upcoming posts!

I’m hoping this addition will keep the posting consistent and less scatter-shot.

And now…here’s what I’ve been up to the last couple weeks:

1. Drawing/sketching settings. I went out and bought a sketch book (this is laughable since I have no artistic skill whatsoever). Then I proceeded to go through and list the settings that I needed to know backwards and forwards – since my group pointed out they couldn’t tell where anything was…and yeah, I had people turning left when they should’ve gone right. My bad. This should fix it.

Part of my setting sketches went toward a new project which I’m also working on with Ali. It occurred to me that a setting sketch would be doubly important when you’re working with another writer. Not all rooms look the same to all people apparently. So we needed a base and I drew a rough one, sent it to Ali, and she had the grace not to laugh where I could hear.

Illustration 1: (Don’t laugh)

2. Outlining. There’s a great debate about outlining. But I have fallen on the side of outlining once I realized that an ‘outline’ did not mean this

Main Topic
A. Supporting Topic 1
    1. support of supporting topic 1
    2. further support of supporting topic 1
B. Supporting Topic 2
     1. support of supporting topic 2
     2. further support of supporting topic 2
C. Supporting Topic 3
     1. support of supporting topic 3
     2. further support of supporting topic 3

Etc.

My outlining looks more like this (again, don’t laugh…and if you read too close you may or may not get spoilers…heaven knows what’ll stay).

Illustration 2:

I know, this doesn’t look like writing, does it? But I assure you, my word count will increase exponentially after doing this work. And I’m hoping it will also keep me from rewriting TOTALLY and COMPLETELY for goofy reasons like having the character in the wrong spot at the wrong time.
So…what’ve you guys been up to? Have you started this new year with a bang?

Cleaning the Closet: A Tuesday Post of Accountability and My One New Year’s Resolution

It’s Tuesday and time to share what we’ve all been up to!

I know I missed last week, but the blog page was starting to look like nothing but accountability posts and that gets boring after a while.

and I didn’t do anything worth reporting…

However, on Sunday night I got a hankering to organize the writing room. Honestly it wasn’t that messed up, it’s probably the cleanest room in the house at any given time, but I felt the room was being utilized well enough. Ya know that feeling?

All was going fine….

And then I hit the Closet.

The Closet houses Stuff Jenny Sends To Die. There are three novels, multiple short stories, two poetry books, a play, and whatever else I might have written that needs to disappear. But I felt a certain level of guilt at allowing these things that I’d worked so hard on to just rot away in the dark – with no kind of organization. The pages were just stacked and scrambled.

So I found two plastic tubbies – the kind that hold files – and set about organizing.

I had a few moments of “Huh, that’s not too bad.” And other moments that were less hopeful. But overall I was stunned at the amount of pages, the quantity of work, the endlessness of it. It’s about ten years worth of work and it was all staring me in the face.

Apparently I wrote my ‘first’ novel – a fantasy book that would have D&D fans either grinning in recognition or groaning in frustration – seven or eight times. But I never made it past Chapter Three in any given draft. Still…that’s a lot of pages. And there are quite a few ‘novels’ that were started after that one: two serial killer novels, a novel about a writer (because we all do that at some point, right?), another fantasy novel, and something that I’m not quite sure where I was going.

Then there’re the poetry books. The second one is the good one – and it’s also about serial killers but it still needs work and I’m not willing to put in the time at the moment. But the first is so full of teen/young adult angst that if the pages had pores there’d be zits and broken-heart shards clogging every one.

Also in the closet are my under-the-bed novels. These are actually not too bad. The first one is impressive because not only did I pass Chapter Three…I continued for another thousand pages or so. That notebook is BIG. It takes up 1/4 of the file tubby. The second and third novels are good, for what they are. But these books are Trying Too Hard. So, under the bed/in the closet tubby they go.

This is just the stuff in the closet. This doesn’t count the work currently piled in my computer, in my desk drawers, the stacks on my desk, and the work lining my bookshelves. It doesn’t count the blog. It doesn’t count school papers. Just the closet.

Looking at all of this, you’d think I’d be pretty proud. Among the scattered pieces were things I’d written for school, critiques, and notes-to-self.

Honestly, for a little while all I felt was disappointed.

“Look at all that work!” my head screamed at me. “Look at all that you’ve done! Why haven’t you accomplished more!!??” And so on.

There were some frustrated tears, I won’t lie.

Tucked away in the stacks were rejection letters. These letters are ten years old – which is when I started taking writing seriously. Without really thinking or knowing what I was doing, I’d sent my early short stories out to every magazine that I’d heard of. My early writing ‘career’ was what I considered successful. I won a small contest. I had the very first flash fiction piece I’d ever sent out picked up by the first publication I ever sent it to. I finished a thousand page novel. I was badass. But the rejection letters told me that this was HARD. This would be DIFFICULT. Being young and rather fragile, I stopped sending things out as regularly. I didn’t give up, but I was more hesitant.

Sunday, I re-read those rejections.

Every single one of them was a personalized rejection letter. There were little notes – ‘this one not for us, but send more.’ There were mini-critiques telling me to focus on characterization or a plot point. And the piece-de-resistance? A full length letter from Weird Tales telling me that they were overstocked, so they were being super-selective, and my story fell short on A, B, and C plot points. An editor – from a well respected magazine – took the time to write a full-on letter to me. He mentioned my hometown. He asked me about Colorado.

And all my twenty-something self saw was the rejection. I actually thought it was a form rejection at the time.

The good news is that I didn’t quit. I went to school. Learned more stuff. Applied more techniques. I got better.

But I haven’t regained that “I own this!” attitude that I had at first. Looking through all of my work, reading those rejection letters, it occurred to me that there is no reason I can’t get that attitude back.

The pages I have written are my skin – toughened by practice and experience. The letters are the evidence that what I have to say is effective. There’s no reason to step back.

I will finish my work, I will submit my work. I will work more. I will finish more. I will submit more. And this time I won’t hesitate. That’s my resolution.

I’m going to work. And I won’t stop. 

  

Reading, Writing; Writing, Reading: Tuesday Post of Accountability

The writing
There was far less actual writing this past week, and definitely more thinking about writing. Here’s what I thought:

“I’m almost done with Part I! I’m almost done with Part I!”

Here’s what I did:

False started the last Part I chapter about four times. First, I started it at the wrong time with the wrong character. Then I started it with just the wrong character. Then I started at the wrong time with the right character. Then I got the right character in the right place at the right time and got five pages in before realizing –

I needed to change the trajectory of the chapter!

…Which was actually pretty exciting because now there’s gonna be a lot more action instead of navel-gazing. However, it did make me re-think how I was going to handle the opening chapters of Part II. In a good way because now the characters have something I was trying to force on them before: motivation. I think this adjustment will feel more natural. (And, since I’m sort of cheating and doing Part II as my NaNo, it also gives me a lot to chew on for 50,000 words.)

All this thinking, however, led to small amounts of physical words-on-paper. Ah well. I just need to finish one chapter this month anyway.

The reading
As I was telling my friend Ali just last night: I’ve read about far too many bodily extremities this past week.

First up: Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. Awesome story.

Annnd also filled with genetically modified humans whose genitalia turn, um, blue when they’re ready to get-it-on. Which was fun, but probably just a little too much information after I’d been exposed to

Second up: Rebellion of the Beasts; or, the Ass is Dead, Long Live the Ass by Leigh Hunt.  Written in 1825, you’d think it’d be safe from any kind of extremity mention. Not so. In this pre-Animal Farm send up of monarchy, the animals of the world have rebelled and put a donkey on the throne. Fine.

But, in his description of ridiculous, frivolous royal-court manners…Hunt has a lengthy description of the fine art that is ass-kissing. Literally. Apparently it is a great honor to lick the donkey king’s tail. And, apparently, the closer you’re allowed to lick near the ‘root’, the higher-up in society you are.

Gross.

So, there you have my week of writing (very little) and my week of reading (too much of a good thing).

What were you guys up to? Hopefully it was a much more wholesome week all around for you.