The Sunday Circle: Monday Circle Strikes Back!

(To learn more about the Sunday Circle, check out author Peter M. Ball’s blog!)

Trying to get back into some semblance of a schedule after two weeks of just kind of dicking around. It’s been nice, and I think after wrapping up the novel rough draft, I needed it. First week of July I started the Bargue Drawing/Atelier program I mentioned back a while ago, so that (and making time for it–usually in the evenings) has thrown a new variable into my usual schedule. I’m still trying to fix daily practice writing into my schedule (à la Writing Down the Bones), though I’ve really enjoyed it every time I manage to do so. I got a lot of reading done, which felt great. And now I’ve got houseguests for the rest of the month. So things are good but definitely a bit helter-skelter, and am trying to wrap my mind around what writing process really works for me at this particular stage of my life.

What am I working on this week?: This week, my goal is to get 15 minutes of practice writing in every day (Every. Day.), and to begin brainstorming on the next writing project start point. For this next project, I’m experimenting with a single writing day every one or two weeks, which has been extremely successful for me in the past in terms of writing better rough drafts and really having something to say. (In previous projects, those gaps between sessions have been much, much longer, but I don’t want to take years to complete each project, so I’m experimenting to find the optimal “brewing” time between sessions.) So: practice writing daily, and begin percolating on the next project.

What’s inspiring me this week?: Just finished Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor, which was brilliant and one of those deep feels/deep thinks kind of books. It’s both beautiful and painful and horrifying and amazing. It’s fantastic. Still processing on it, but it’s great.

And I’m back to kishōtenketsu again after sharing Princess Mononoke with my brother-in-law. I really need to see if I can find some more info about it beyond just this blog-post. (And I intend to recommend it as a Readercon panel for the coming year! When I went to suggest it for 2017, their recommendations were already closed for the year.) It’s really made me start wondering about what it is that truly makes a satisfying story, since so many Miyazaki films don’t follow the three-act dramatic structure at all, yet I’m never left wanting at the end.

I’ve been thinking, too, after a brief bout with Aspect of the Novel by E.M. Forster, about the way Aristotle’s philosophy on the dramatic art (and especially the three-act structure) has somewhat taken over discourse on structuring fiction. Forster makes an interesting point about how it makes sense in drama that the characters must be active, because we can only witness their emotion and mind by what they do that we can see. But in written fiction–like in Ulysses by Joyce, for example, which was weird to watch in movie form–the entire story can revolve around the mental landscape, even if the characters don’t do much out in the open. Not in any way to say great fiction can’t follow the three-act structure, but almost all dictates on what makes great fiction these days (and admittedly, leaning towards popular fiction) has got a death-grip on the three-act structure, and I haven’t seen much deviation from that in the writing books I’ve encountered. Anyone encountered any writing books that branch away from that, out of curiosity?

What am I avoiding this week?: Well, I’ve been dragging my heels on the practice writing, and have been making a lot of excuses (and have, admittedly, had a somewhat chaotic few weeks) for not just committing to it. On a whim a few days ago I downloaded Sims 4 for some nostalgia fun, so I think I’ll be holding that hostage everyday until I get my required time or pages done for the day. I may also make a prompt jar of my favorite Writing Down the BonesJohn Gardner exercises, and other key-words/exercises I like as I come across them. That way, at least, I won’t be stressing about “what to write” if I can’t think of something immediately.

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