magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I'm not going to get to this right now, and probably won't get to this today, so this is just a note so I remember:

It would be pretty neat to have a calender generator on my fun pages. I.E., it takes a random list (like the Bingo generator), but instead of telling it the dimensions of a bingo card, you tell it a month and year, and it'll generate a calendar of prompts for you.

Advanced options would include turning off certain days (so, setting Sundays to have no prompts, for example), or turning certain days to certain prompts (so, setting Fridays to "wild card" days, or something). Probably not granular "I want the 15th to be this topic, and the 18th to be this topic, and take off the 12th", because at that point you're... not doing random generation any more.

It'd also be really nice to tie the random sets generator into it, like I did with the bingo generator: you can load response sets into it, and get cards like this one. So, you could set up something to generate random sets of a person, in a place, with a problem, and assign each of those to a day. Etc.

:|a
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
One of the metrics I track in my little home-brewed submissions tracker is what draft a story is on when I submit it. It's been occasionally useful – noting when I do revision requests, for example – but recently, I've noticed that almost everything I've been submitting (and selling) is on its first draft. Which I think bears some investigation, because it ends up saying a lot more about how I conceptualize "drafts" than it does about my first-pass writing.

For one thing, "first draft" with me does not mean "unrevised". )
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
[personal profile] sholio and I are testing out an accountability buddies setup, where we meet to talk writing shop, discuss goals, and analyze how well we're meeting them. (We're still in the first week, so neither of us have any idea how well it will work. But one of the best pieces of advice I got last year was "Failures are just experiments that yield negative results," so even if we find that this format doesn't work well, that's useful information! And I'm hopeful that it will work, and be awesome for both of us.)

The theme I want to engage with this year is of productivity, and constant storytelling: I want to be creating and putting out a lot more work than I do currently. Getting back to my Clarion West levels of a short story per week would be amazing, and the fact that I'm making my living off freelance stuff which doesn't eat as much time as a full-time job tips it into the realm of possibility. (If I could transition to making my money off writing, that would be incredible. I am looking into ways to start on that path, specifically through Patreon, but my ability to write and produce complete works on a consistent schedule is something of a prerequisite for that, so that's where I'm starting.)

The two goals I had for this week, to support my theme of producing lots of fiction, were:

1) To take a look at how I choose stories to work on, and

2) To take a look at how I go about moving stories through to completion.

This is about how I work, which informs how I choose stuff to work on. )

This is about how I choose stuff to work on. )
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Holy crap, I think I've got a short story done in draft. (Well, "short"; it's roughly 6600 words long. One of these days I'll figure out* how to write at commonly-acceptable lengths like 3000-4500 words.) I think I started this one sometime in mid-November. Not a bad start to the year, even if I probably won't have it out the door today!

* This is probably a lie.

Over the past few days of trying to tie everything together, I've been thinking about a couple of things.

Neepery on characters being afforded plausible choices. )

Neepery on plots that dig deep and plots that go far. )

And on we go. I've been writing for as long as I can remember, publishing for... yikes, 2005 was nine years ago already, wasn't it? –and editing professionally for over a year, and I've been to one of the most prestigious writing workshops in the speculative fiction field, and I still often feel like I have no idea how fiction works or how to write something that functions. Then again, I hear that this never really goes away, so I'd best get comfortable with continually working to figure things out and put neat labels on the tools in my toolbox.

[ETA] Welp, I read over it, and I'm still not entirely happy with the arc – but I'm not sure what I can do to fix it without writing a different story. So I sent it out! Because if nothing else, starting the year on a submission has some nice symbolic heft, and it is sometimes the case that other people like my fiction more than I do after a long writing/tweaking process. &o.o&

There are just about 50 minutes left in January 1. I'm doing pretty well!
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)

I have tofu marinating in a mix of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, honey, fresh rosemary, crushed garlic, black pepper, and powdered lapsang souchong. We are going to make it into fresh rolls tonight. (With green tea soba noodles because I have no rice noodles.) It is going to be delicious.

(Speaking of fresh rolls, I recently learned about how the skins for them are traditionally made, and the process is, as Joe Pastry puts it, "so ingeniously odd".)


My random thought upon waking this morning was that it would be really cool to make some kind of virtual coffeeshop. I think this was partially inspired by Coffitivity, and also by a bunch of articles on how the people you interact with most frequently palpably impact your performance, and thinking about how to form communities and foster community interaction when people in those communities might not be able to easily meet in person. But the idea that's rolling around in the back of my head is something like this:

  • On its most basic level, it'd be a chat site. Something along the lines of IRC, but it would take place in a kind of basic, bare-bones virtual "space", even if the only way the virtual space came about was through terminology. Frex: people could join "tables", which would be the individual chat rooms. They could also create their own tables and invite their friends. There'd be general tables for topics like politics, writing (or, more specifically, politics by region, writing by genre), and you could create public or private tables. Public tables could have short descriptions of the people "sitting" there: "I'm a writer working on the script for my first webcomic." "I'm a programmer working on a mobile app." "I'm here to meet new people; I'm a 34-year-old queer man in the Tampa area, into HAM radio and industrial music." People could join open tables based on who they might find interesting to chat with. Tables could set with upper limits on the amount of "seating" available, or let in as many people as they wanted.
  • People would be able to put things "on the table" for everyone at that table to have access to: documents, links, etc.
  • It'd be cool to integrate some kind of background audio like Coffitivity. It'd also be cool to integrate graphic design which supported the general coffeeshop theme; background images, maybe even something like LJ's gifts system where for some minimal amount of money you could buy people pictures of drinks. (I'd have to investigate how little money would be effective - not a lot to spend, but still enough that whatever processing fees wouldn't completely eliminate whatever micropayment the coffeeshop got. Like, it'd be cool to offer a $.05 virtual drink because most people would not balk at buying that, but after Paypal or a credit card processor or whatever took its cut, would there be a micropayment left?)
  • It'd also be cool to integrate optional voice or video chats.
  • You could have a little curated store where you could order tea and coffee and such – I'm thinking something like an affiliate relationship with an established tea seller, so you'd literally be ordering, like, the Adagio or David's Teas or whatever products, but (if you found the right company) they's give a percentage back to the teashop to cover hosting costs. And then regular users who ordered from the virtual counter could make the tea/coffee at home, and chat to each other about what they ordered.
  • There could be paid levels of membership which would give you things like archived chats, lockers where you could store files, dedicated tables, etc?
  • It'd be cool to make this a space which could facilitate virtual classes. Virtual lectures. Virtual open mic nights! Virtual readings! Virtual streaming of live music from "local" artists! Opt-in, of course; other people in the coffeeshop might get a notification or a sidebar listing public events and they could choose to listen to them, but the advantage of a virtual coffeeshop is that if you walk in on open mic night, you can choose not to make the audio exist for you.
  • It'd be kinda cool to have graphics for your status: a "hard at work and concentrating" icon, a "social; come interact with me" icon, a "taking a break from working" icon, a "deep in a conversation, please don't bother me" icon. Ideally, really easy to switch from a dropdown, and it'd show both in the table chat and on the description of the table. (So if two people at a public table both set their icons to "deep in conversation", people might think twice about joining them?) Ideally, also, there'd be multiple sets of icons that you could choose from. This one is an elderly black man! This one is a young Latina with a lot of piercings! This one is a robot! Here are generic smilies!

Now, a lot of this exceeds my current development skills, and I have no idea whether I'll find the idea as cool by the time I've acquired the relevant skills. But I wanted to get the high-level ideas down just in case it did remain an awesome idea, and also in case any other programmers showed up and were like "I also want to make something like this! Let's set up a GitHub and start hacking!" 'cause, hey, I may look back at this at some point and go "Ooooh." Or I may decide to dive into this as soon as my current teaching-myself-java fun times are done.

ONE NEVER KNOWS.

magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
It's always an interesting feeling when you've been completely paralyzed by the sight of the blank (or unfinished, or finished but requiring revision) Word document for days, weeks, or months, only to discover when a deadline looms that yes, if it comes down to it, you still can pound out 2500 words in a single Sunday. When 100 words have been giving every indication of being a Sisyphean task, you have to wonder where the switch got flipped.

I have a feeling it's in the "deadline" part.

When I was taking classes at the University of Iowa, one of my major complaints was that their fiction writing courses were non-graduated. There was no beginning, intermediate, advanced path to take – everyone, including the people just looking for three easy credits and with no passion for writing, got tossed into the same courses, and with the added complication that a lot of them thought "science fiction and fantasy" meant "you can't say anything about it because it's all just made up and doesn't have to make sense" meant that, with the exception of classes run by a couple excellent people, I didn't often get a lot out of the critiquing parts of the workshops. But they were still invaluable to me.

Why?

Because sometimes, all you need is the magical combination of time to write, the expectation that you'll write, and a commitment to persons outside of yourself that you'll produce something, even if it isn't a lofty piece of literature which will stand the test of ages.

Which is why Clarion West is such an amazing place, to be honest. Well, one of the reasons. I can't ignore the chance to learn from six amazing teachers with six different strengths and styles, or the amazing families you can form there, but what makes it a truly mind-altering experience is the fact that for six weeks, your entire life can be writing. You can saturate yourself with your fiction. Set aside work, cares, feeding the cats (or the kids), making yourself dinner, all the niggling cares of the so-called real world. All that's expected of you is fiction. The world is built around your fiction. And for your fiction, you are welcomed, supported, honored.

There's a reason so many of us join the Write-a-thon every year, hoping to grab back some vestige of what the workshop experience is like.

Anyway, now that I've tricked my brain into admitting that it hasn't burnt out forever and ever and that it can still string words together into a somewhat coherent narrative and that all the rest is just whining, I'm going to see where I get by the end of this week. This Friday, I have the first meeting of my new job; immediately thereafter, I'm going to be helping to launch a company. It'll be an exciting and busy time, and pretty much the opposite of the workshop in terms of the precedence my immediate world accords my writing.

But, you know, it's okay. As ever, we'll see how it goes.

...

There aren't any really good Write-a-thon-quotable passages from the 2500 words of yesterday, so I'll give you a snatch of one of the next projects I'm going to be working on: the post-apocalyptic pseudo-moleman-infested extremely unromantic love story Rust City.

"Do people do that?"

"Look to sex for comfort?" Ferro asked. "It's a thing people do, yeah."


[Semi-boilerplate text: As always, I hope you'll check out and support the Clarion West Write-a-thon (and me in particular, if you feel so inclined). Your donation will help a workshop that makes it all but impossible for authors not to produce. And producing is half the battle.]

Stalling

Oct. 4th, 2011 06:57 pm
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Around the end of August, I finished the first draft of the first novel I've ever felt confident enough about to start shopping out. (The last original novel I finished before that was... in sixth grade. I probably still have the completed draft on my flash drive or harddrive somewhere, but it very much reads like something a sixth-grader wrote. And we won't get into fanworks.)

Throughout September, I let it sit and didn't even open the file, and I threw all my effort into writing the sequel while a bunch of incredibly wonderful beta readers went through my story and gave me feedback covering a wide range of topics – conventions expected by the target audience, questions left unanswered, plot snarls, places where the prose or plot was unclear, places where they were hooked or lost, strengths and weaknesses.

Now, I've compiled all those responses into a document – a sort of menu of things to fix – and I've been ticking off each issue, one by one. Except that now I'm stalling.

It's strange. I remember this sort of hand-wringing and avoidance (because a part of this is that I know once I'm done with revisions, I'll have to send out the novel to agents, and whatever I've done or failed to do will have to stand on its own merits, and that's scary, yo) – I remember it from when I started submitting short stories. Now, approaching my 80th short story submission (I just got a response – a rejection – on my 78th submission of all time), I'm used to that process, and while there's still a flutter of anticipation every time I send a short story out or get a response back, for the most part, it's routine.

But shopping out a novel is a completely different beast.

Sort of. From what I've researched of the process, there are a lot of similarities, and even some of the differences (synopses, partials) just seem like short-form submissions' big sibling. There's a bit more weight to the process, which is understandable given the heft of the work you're submitting.

But there are palpable differences. For one thing, generally a relationship with an agent is a long-term one; a relationship with an editor can evolve to the point where they'll drop you a line once in a while and ask if you've got anything new, but the expectation is that every story is a new deal. For another, an agent takes a lot of the responsibility off your back, and that means trusting them with something precious to you, if you value your writing at all. They take stewardship of your work in a very real way. Even before you internalize the prevailing wisdom that a bad first book can torpedo you as a novelist, there's a lot at stake.

The writing style I use means a lot of revision and rework during the process of writing. After that, I did a first-pass revision. Then I got crits on it and I'm doing a second revision now. Once those edits are in place, I'm going to do a final readthrough to make sure I haven't introduced new problems or errors. When I send this out it's going to be polished, and even after that, I'm fairly sure my (eventual, hopeful) agent and/or editor will come back with yet more crits. Everything is going to be done to give my book the best chance it can have. I'm just dragging my feet because even the steps to move forward are scary.

Still. This is about how I felt when I started submitting short stories too, and that turned out all right. I'll just keep telling myself that, then taking a deep breath, and addressing the next challenge on the list.

Ordeals

Oct. 3rd, 2011 02:35 pm
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
If I were to be any sort of spiritual teacher, the one I'd find most honoring would be a master on the ordeal path.

Though my definition of an ordeal is broader than the one at the article linked. A quick sketch of my definition would be: an ordeal is something that frightens or challenges you in a real, meaningful way, which you go through anyway.

This comes up in a variety of ways in my conversations: as a fiction kink, as a sacred qualia. One of the character archetypes that stays with me the most is someone who drags another person through something which the other person wouldn't have attempted or possibly made it through on their own, and that person is the better for traversing it. It resonates with me.

And there are other things that stay with me, too – like how one of the people I love told me, before I was off to do something that terrified me, I promise you, you can survive this.

But before I could even consider setting myself up as an ordeal master or an ordeal guide, I looked at myself and realized that I had better know the experience inside and out. And to do that, I've been putting myself through ordeals – and they're often little, quotidian things, unimpressive things, but they're still things that frighten me. It can be as simple as dealing with my dislike of phones and confrontation to call a place to dispute a charge or cancel an account, or as common as setting up a dental appointment and dealing with the discomfort and pain, or as nonthreatening but god, I don't want to do this right now as cleaning a room in the house. (Even writing this is an ordeal, in a way – not so much the writing but the posting and leaving for people to see.) I have boatloads of small anxieties, ranging from talking to strangers to driving on my own, and one by one, I'm working through them. And I'll keep working through them until I've mastered them and am no longer afraid or averse.

There have been a couple of times recently when I've made myself proud, too. Frex: I went to Seattle to visit my brother, in early September, and one day he had to work and I was left pretty much on my own. I can't describe how much I wanted to just stay in the house and do nothing, not have to interact with an unfamiliar city or with being on my own, but I made myself get out. I walked through unfamiliar neighborhoods to a bank to get cash for the day, and then walked to the water taxi and took it downtown. I had lunch on my own. I went on a harbor tour of Elliot Bay. And when that was over and I'd gone back to the West Seattle water taxi terminal, I took off my shoes and dipped my bare feet in the waters washing in from the Pacific.

Or there was the time this weekend when I drove myself out of the city and up to the Macbride Nature Recreation Area, and participated in a wilderness survival camping experience. I shouldered a heavy pack and kept pace with the group, all of whom were, I suspect, more in shape than I was. I helped start a fire without matches, and made my own shelter out of debris and a tarp. I slept in the cold and woke up sore and tired and helped tear down the camp and bring water up from the reservoir and douse the fire, and I shouldered my pack and kept pace out of there.

And to a lot of people, those would be little things. Not even a challenge. But years of being sick and dealing with low blood pressure and syncope have taught me not to trust my body, and a lifetime of mis-interpreting people, relationships and society (because human interactions are so often just alien to me) have taught me not to trust my ability to deal with others, and so many other things have taught me not to trust so many other aspects of myself that challenging one thing and defeating that one thing is a victory I hold close. Any scrap of confidence I can knap from the world is a trophy.

And there are some fears I've mastered – submitting short stories to market was one. (I still remember how terrified I was the first time.) There are fears I'm working on but slowly overcoming, like driving and talking to fiction editors. And there are fears that still kick my ass, like dealing with dysphoria and gender and society, or striking up conversations with people I don't know well, or managing savings and feeling capable of getting back on my feet in the event that I should lose my job.

But I'm going to face them. With work, I'm going to conquer them. Because I value strength and resilience, and I intend like hell to follow this path where it leads me.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I'm asexual, though panphysical, and largely aromantic. I mistrust external significations made on relationships. I'm polyamorous, though I love slowly; I reserve judgment, I reserve trust, I'm not great at communicating my emotions to anyone, and I tend to dissect them interminably before going out and saying I have them. I dislike courting, I dislike the romantic ideals of love as a conqueror of all things or a supreme ideal to which all other ideals should or must be subjugated. I'm not interested in laying an exclusive claim on anyone, or letting anyone lay an exclusive claim on me. I don't believe that, having realized you love one person, the natural result should be that you cease to love all others. I don't think formalizing a relationship in the eyes of other people changes the truth of the relationship between the people in it. I don't think a relationship needs to be defined, formalized, or recognized, in order to be valid or profound.

I'm also, as of the 26th of December, engaged.

I'll understand if you have some questions.

In the light of all that, what's /left/ for marriage to signify? )

[ETA] Also there's the matter where I love L very much, but, uh, that was supposed to go without saying?

[ETA 2: Son Of ETA] Cepheid variables, I am bad at this.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I blogged a little bit, earlier, about getting myself even-keeled through meditation, and I was actually kinda surprised at the response I got back from it. Given my own newfound fascination with the topic, I suppose I shouldn't have been, but I think I'm getting used to my interests either diverging sharply from those of my peer group or just being niche interests in the first place. So assuming there's interest in more of this, and proceeding on the assumptions that

1) Solutions are pretty meaningless without problems, and

2) Writing things down helps me order and deal with things,

I might as well write this up.

First,

A brief overview

Here's a snapshot of my life at the moment: I'm working 40 hours a week in my full-time job, an additional four hours (plus a few hours baking and possibly an hour in transit, setup, teardown, transit) at the Farmer's Market (Saturday mornings), and trying to rekindle an active life in the UU Church on Sundays. Combined, this is my major time commitment over the week, as well as meaning that there isn't a single day during the week when I can sleep in, unless I consider 9:00 on Sundays to be sleeping in. I'm working the Clarion West Write-a-thon, which, in my case, has me writing one complete short story or novel chapter, or revising one short story, every week. I'm in a two-bedroom house which is now housing three people, two cats, a dog, and some gerbils. I'm trying to untangle several years' worth of tangled-up finances, which keep getting compounded by red tape (Iowa Student Loan, I'm looking at you) and odd errors (such as the person at Paul's who accidentally charged me the last four digits of my debit card rather than the cost of goods, and then had to have it refunded through my bank). I'm preparing for a move, and a possible side gig as a freelancer.

Those are all big, overarching things, which aren't the same as specific issues, which is significant. But they're situational stressors, which are also significant. More on that later.

Wallowing and solving

I haven't talked much about the crap what goes on in my life, because I'm making a concerted effort to be productive about it, and I recognized a trap that I used to get caught in. Basically, there's a trick I noticed some time ago: if someone has a problem, and they talk a lot about that problem, but they reject all approaches toward solving that problem, odds are they're not invested in having that problem solved. Which is understandable. Attempting to solve a problem takes effort, and there's no guarantee that it'll work, and effort and failure are both daunting things. Someone may earnestly want a problem to be solved, but be unwilling to take any action to solve it. They'll find problems with all the proposed solutions, dismiss ideas with "I can't" or some variation without seeming to consider how they could, or put in token effort and then, when that fails, dismiss the entire thing as a wash. So I catch myself having mental conversations like this:

Me (whiny): I wish I had more money. I have all this debt to pay off.

Me (sensible): Well, let's look at ways of handling this. You could prioritize your spending and increase your payments.

Me (whiny): I've done that, but it'll still take a long time to pay.

Me (sensible): Then let's look at how you could make more money. Could you get a raise, or find extra work?

Me (whiny): I don't have time for another job, and I haven't been here for long enough to negotiate a raise, especially since I think we're under a pay freeze.

Me (sensible): Have you looked into the specifics of the pay freeze or salary increases? And if you don't have time for another job, how about freelancing? Or looking to prioritize your time a bit more?

Me (whiny): I can't prioritize my time any more! There are only so many hours in the day!

Me (sensible): And how many of those hours do you spend doing not much? How many hours do you spend doing things like surfing the internet or playing video games? Are you accepting those as a higher priority than making more money and solving this problem?

Me (whiny): I have to do those things to recharge my batteries. I don't have the emotional energy to start freelancing.

Me (sensible): Have you looked into ways of increasing your mood and building up emotional energy in better ways? There's great research on the mood-lifting effects of regular exercise, and often you don't feel that great when you're surfing the web or playing video games; you might be using those as a crutch rather than a genuine way to feel better and solve your problems.

Me (whiny, in summary): Look, solving this problem is hard and I don't want to try to! I just want to complain!

...and that gets me nowhere. So when I catch myself with this thought process:

1) I have this problem! I hate having this problem! => 2) I'm going to write a blog post about my problem!

I try to short-circuit it and turn it into this:

1) I have this problem! I hate having this problem! => 2) I'm going to sit down and find a way to solve this problem.

And when I do that, the funny thing is that I'll occasionally find a way to solve the problem, and then I'll solve it, and once I solve it, I don't really need to blog about it any more. As a result, I suppose the entire process has been pretty opaque to people who aren't me.

But there are things I haven't solved yet...

Which I've been shutting up about because I'm still in the "Don't complain, SOLVE" stage. It's interesting – writing things down, breaking things apart and examining the issues, is actually a really big part of how I problem-solve. It's just that when I do it publicly, I always have to be wary of taking sympathy and validation instead of solutions. Because the problem is, a lot of the time when someone complains and people come by and say "Oh, that's horrible! That is such a big problem!", they go away with this empty, palliative feeling. There, see? I have sympathy. People know what a terrible thing I'm enduring, and they agree that it's a serious thing, and they think I'm totally cool for enduring it. And they walk away with a temporary high and the same exact problem.

But I figure there's a middle ground to be had. So! If you folk will promise to keep me on track, I'll try to open up this process for you. And maybe we can all learn a few things from each other.

Deal?

Case study coming very soon.

*Subject line referencing The Willpower Engine, a blog dissecting specific mechanisms of motivation, willpower, behavior, emotional repair, habit-forming, etc. I've found it a fantastic resource.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I did something amazing today.

I didn't get as much sleep as I needed, woke up tired and hungry and cranky and finding it hard to concentrate, missed one bus and almost missed the one after it, got in, sat down to work, rammed my head against this apparently-unsolvable problem which I'd been wrestling with since Friday, and then immediately got set off by three or four unrelated things filtering down to my from the internet. All this before about 9:30, so, yeah, I was ready to have a really awful day where nothing went right and I couldn't focus on anything and I was stuck in a horrible mood all day. None of that is the amazing part.

The amazing part is that I gave myself 15 minutes – a 15-minute song, actually – to close my eyes, meditate and regroup at my desk, and remind myself that I didn't have to take responsibility for the things that were making me seethe, that I had inroads on how to solve the problem in front of me, and that I had tools like a pad of paper and a pencil to help me organize thoughts and work through them. And after those fifteen minutes I opened my eyes and I got to work, I engaged myself with my immediate universe, and I made progress.

And I felt better.

This is significant because, while I've been working on meditation and mindfulness for a while, this is one of the first times I've been able to use it to pull myself out of that bad a mood. And it worked.

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