Wrestling the Bull

Today in Mommy-Land

*Phew!* Missed the last couple days because the hubby was home for an extended weekend, but we all had fun hanging out. The weather has been so nice, we’ve actually gotten out for walks! The Little Man’s nap schedule is still somewhat holding, though Monday was a little disrupted due to being out and about running errands out and about.

He’s started babbling even more lately, stringing lots of syllables together in almost sentences. It’s terribly cute! The monster growling isn’t as common, though, so that’s kind of sad. It’s amazing how quickly he goes through these vocalization phases. Whispering one week, clicking his tongue the next, monster growls, crescendo’ing screeches–it’s always changing. But it is fascinating to watch. He’s also just learned how to open cabinets, and has been pulling out all the non-breakable things (as the breakable things are up on the table now…)

But it’s so nice having Andy home during the week, and not just on weekends! I can cope with long-distance if we have to, but when he’s home at night, it’s like I can breathe better. :)

Today in Writer-Land

After a fairly unproductive weekend and week-start, I actually got a lot done today! During the Little Man’s first nap (short, about 40 minutes), I managed to retype the first two scenes of the current WiP, editing/smoothing as I went. Once I type in the next three scenes, then I’ll be able to send it off to one member of my crack team of beta-readers for critique. If I can get that good to go by the end of the week, that’ll be great!

During the second nap (much longer, about 2.5 hours!), I did a bunch of brainstorming and research on the Porter Short Story Challenge, and I think I’ve got it pegged. Mwahahaha! Oh boy, this is gonna be wacky, but maybe somewhat funny. Talk about writers-writing-about-writers-writing-about-writing Russian-nesting-dolls meta. Madness!

I also dove back into the summary draft of a novel that’s been playing around in my head for the past several years. I’m really liking where it’s going, though I also feel a bit like I’m wrestling a bull–the plot is sort of under control, but it could so easily break out of my grip and run amok. So we’ll see where that goes. I only know I love writing novel rough drafts this way. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to capturing that eager creative rush from my youth. Who knows what it will come to, but for now, I’m just having fun. :)

baby, editing, rejection, submissions, Writing

Hot Potato

Today in Mommy-Land

Pretty standard day here in Mommy-Land, though I’m feeling much less hoarder-ish since I got the massive pile of laundry all tidied up Sunday. The Little Man took two naps–one about an hour and a half long (not bad), and one short forty-minute nap (meh) in bed. My mother also had a few minutes, so she watched him for a half-hour before his nap, which allowed me to get a little writing work started.

Also divided up the Little Man’s toys into three bins in the hopes that cycling through them from one day to the next will hold more of his interest. He’s quite inquisitive, but he exhausts things so quickly! We’ll see if the bin rotation helps.

Today in Writer-Land

Rejected. Rejected, rejected, rejected! *cries* Actually, I’m not super upset, but you know how it goes. I was really hoping this one would happen, especially since it’d gotten pushed up the editorial chain of command. But I did get a very nice and encouraging rejection notice, which I definitely appreciate (…as I wallow in self-pity).

“It was really, really good, but no thanks!”

That said, I got it right back out again like a hot potato, so the infinite game continues! (Ouch! It burns! Submit! Submit! Submit!)

Also got 650+ words of the second scene started for this month’s rewrite. Took me quite a bit of time–rereading Sunday’s work–to get my shoulders into the story, but I suspect that’s just from yesterday’s heavy-duty brainstorming. It left me a bit fuzzy-headed. Ah well, there’s always tomorrow. :)


Dressed to… Well, Not Quite Shoes…

I’m going to try to keep this a bit more up-to-date on a day-by-day basis, if only to encourage myself to pay attention to the individual successes and triumphs of each day. Sometimes, being at home with the kiddo can make all the days blend together, and by the end of the week, I’m often left feeling like I haven’t accomplished or experienced anything. But the truth is, a lot happens and changes on a very small scale during this particularly chaotic time. So as an exercise for myself and my self-awareness, I’m going to try to pay attention to those little things and track them as much as possible, lest by Friday I forget the little wonders each day brings.

Today in Mommy-Land

I woke up today and decided that it was time: I’m going to try to get dressed like a normal person every morning. Now, this may sound at best like a really, reeeeeally silly little goal, and at worst like I’m a total slob most days, but it’s been complicated these past months by the Little Man being a horrendous spitter-upper. It’s only now, at almost eight months, that I can pretty much count on not being thrown up on 3-5 times every single day (and no, that’s not an exaggeration). There comes a point in a parent’s life where you realize that trying to wear clean clothes all the time is a waste of one very precious resource: sanity. And also water and electricity from running the washing machine two or three times a day just to keep myself clothed.

On top of this, I was in almost the best shape of my life prior to pregnancy, which means all of my old clothes aren’t even close to fitting, even having dropped a good deal of the baby weight I put on. Most of my closet consists now of tank-tops in a variety of colors and yoga pants. Considering the rapidity with which all of these got soiled for the past seven months, if I was wearing something mostly clean, I’d sleep in it, and just wear it the next day. Most clothes didn’t make it more than a couple of hours past wake-up time, and I’d end up changing quite regularly.

So today, I got up and put on jeans (maternity jeans still, since I haven’t quite gotten up the nerve to spend our limited cash on a new pair of larger pants, and/or admit that I probably just need to donate my old clothes since it’ll probably be a while ’til I can fit into them again), and an actual tee-shirt, and a sweater. I didn’t put on shoes, because 1) I’m not going anywhere, and 2) I think it’s a silly cultural rule (the “dress to shoes” thing comes from the clever, cleaning guru on the FlyLady website, if you’re wondering), myself preferring not to tread outside dirt all through the house.

It feels like quite an accomplishment, not only on my part to get dressed like a real human being, but also to realize that we’re moving–finally (*sobs with joy*)–out of the spit-up stage. The Little Man can still hork up a bit now and then, but nothing, nothing, nothing like he used to, and that’s a wonderful realization.

He’s also starting waving “goodnight”–not “goodbye” or “hello” yet, just “goodnight”–which is freakin’ adorable.

In Writer-Land

The Little Man took a rare and deeply appreciated two and a half hour nap, which let me get some serious brain-work done. I’ve selected my next story to edit and submit, and while I love it’s core, boy–it’s going to need a lot of work. Mega-rewrite work. I think it’ll be great once that’s done, but it’s going to take some blood, sweat, and tears. Over the weekend, I penciled out the plot fixes, and today I sat down and wrangled out the scene list. It took quite a bit longer than I expected–certain plot elements I’d wanted didn’t meld well with each other, and it took a lot of brain power to figure out what elements were necessary, verses just cool. But I think I’ve got it fixed up now, so hopefully tomorrow–nap permitting–I can get a chunk of new text down following that guideline.

Also heard Friday that a story of mine is on hold at one of my favorite little genre magazines, and am *so psyched* about that! Not holding my breath or anything, but *please please please please puh-leeeeeeeeeeze!* (Fingers crossed.)

In Other News

Not much other news today, other than that it’s snowing again. I think we’re supposed to get 10-14″ last I heard, and it looks like the new snowfall has already made up the melt, so we’re back to where we were after last Wednesday. We also discovered some snow fleas outside the back door, which were pretty interesting to watch! Otherwise, we’ve been watching too many episodes of Hoarders. At least it gets me motivated to clean and tidy up the place! :) That show was our go-to energizer on Sunday afternoons when we had to clean up the apartment, and boy, it can light a fire under us. I think we both recognize that there’s a tiiiiiiny bit of hoarder in us that we just have to keep in check. ^_^


Learning to Trust the Process

I had something of a revelation today. In the course of wasting time (AKA avoiding writing), I found a link on my Facebook feed to a blog post by speculative author Jamie Todd Rubin. He’s spent the past year documenting his writing stats via a very smart Google analytics tool, which allowed him to write a post detailing the idea-to-publication path of one of his short stories. You can read the entire post here

I’ve always been interested in the various ways authors approach creating fiction, and particularly how they edit a draft to the point of being ready to submit it to markets. Mr. Rubin’s post details his entire process, from first concept to final sale (though even he admits the sale part was something of a fluke in its expediency, but still!). 

The thing that really caught me and has stuck with me all day, however, is that his process is almost identical to mine in the following ways: 1) Ideas tend to take a while to develop into something I can tackle on paper, 2) In the rewriting process, I also like to retype entire manuscripts from scratch in new documents to preserve “continuity,” and 3) I also save almost every scrap of text I cut out of a document (particularly when it comes to longer works, but sometimes for short works too). 

I think this made a particular impression on me because here is a living, breathing example of someone whose process is very similar to the one I’ve scraped together over the years, and who has found some good success with it. This is not to say that my ideas are as good as his, or even that I’m anywhere near the craft-level that he is, but I’m delighted that the process itself isn’t unique to me. I often think too much about how I go about composing fiction and whether or not I’m “doing it wrong” (whatever that means) or wasting needless time. Because I’m still such a newbie at it, it’s hard to separate whether or not it’s my idea or the process that hangs me up when a story isn’t working/isn’t getting finished. Should I draft faster? Should I spend the time to retype the whole draft while I edit, or is that just spinning my procrastination wheels? And so forth, and so on. 

I’ve tried numerous other processes throughout my writing apprenticeship, but none have felt as native to me as taking my time to let ideas percolate and then redrafting by retyping every sentence for a new draft. The anxiety that comes from trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t for me as a writer can just as easily hang me up as a bad plot point. I’m hell-bent on efficiency and productivity (probably too much), and because of that, I don’t think I’ve trusted my gut enough to “Trust the Process” as I’ve read in so many books on writing. Which process? Is there a better one? How can I tell? 

Reading Mr. Rubin’s blog post has, oddly enough, relieved me of some of that burden and left me feeling a bit more confident. The process that I naturally gravitate towards does work, at least for some successful writers. I don’t have to worry that I’m accidentally stifling myself by producing fiction in this way, or that I’m “not good enough” because when I get an idea, I have to let it percolate for a while before doing something with it. The process is functional, which means I can let go of that stressor and focus on what really matters: the writing and the ideas and the craft. It’s strangely liberating. 

Now whether my noveling process is functional or not is another question entirely, but not a concern for today! :) 


Day 26 & 27 — Let the Week Begin!

Day 26 — Got the Day’s List done early, and started reading WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE by Shirley Jackson, which I am absolutely loving so far. It’s like Roald Dahl meets Edith Wharton with a pinch of Nathaniel Hawthorne. It’s great so far. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to read her longer works. Finished the retyping of the current editing project. Managed to drop exactly 800 words (weird that it’s so even), so it’s a better length, but still needs to be tighter.

Day 27 — Today was…not so great. Had a tough time sleeping last night, which in addition to some EEK OMG DEADLINE! extra-curricular commitments and a hormonal tendency today to be !@#%!#$RAWR, made for a trying day. Still managed to claw my way through my Day’s List, which is probably the only thing that kept me from being *really* grumpy, but it took a lot longer than usual, and the motivation was just. not. there. Editing-wise, I’ve determined that the Scene/Sequel method for this particular short story may not really work. It still fits the Three Act structure, so *that’s* hopeful. Even so, the editing on this one has been somewhat brutal and disheartening. I can feel something not quite working, but can’t quite put my finger on it. Tomorrow, I’m going to try reworking some of the middle portion and see if I can’t wriggle it into something more engaging, but meh. We’ll see…


Day 23 — A Two-Day Streak

And…another tentatively successful day! Managed to get my Day’s List finished by around 3pm today, and even spent extra time writing and reading. And I finally put my laundry away that’s been languishing for a week and a half! YAY! Clean living room! It’s a bit astonishing how big the room seems when there’s less junk in it. Hmm…interesting… :)

Super snowy today. I think as of nightfall, we’ve probably accumulated close to ten inches. So glad I didn’t have to go out today other than to walk the dog a bit. Most of that time was just spent trying to keep him from stuffing his face with snow (“Manna from Heaven!” he thinks, and snaps up another bite-ful which will only make him cold and have to pee later. But does he learn? NEVVAR!)

Also, it’s weird seeing my belly push outward of its own volition while the little guy kicks. It’s a liiiiiiittle like the chestburster scene in Alien, only not painful…yet… XD


EDITING PROJECT: Ghosts and legends and Bluebeard, oh my! The cold Maine coastline! Haunted grounds! Ribbons and bitter, ghostly wives! Dueling secrets! True love? Perhaps!

Current Editing Project: Nobody Here But Us Monsters (Revision Edit–2nd Pass)
Accomplished in Edits: Finally got through the first word-cutting pass, which feels great. There’s still so much work to do on this, but at least getting some of the fluff out of the way makes it feel a little like I’m making progress on seeing the issues more clearly. Even started retyping the edited draft (as I often do) into a new document, so will probably continue on that tomorrow, and then hopefully jump into the Scenes and Sequels check to see how the story’s shaped. A few tweaks might make a big difference, but we’ll see! Onwards and upwards!


Day 22 — Tentative Success

I’m *sure* this plan will work!

So today has been…strangely encouraging. When I got up this morning, I made a promise to myself that I would write out a list of all the things that I needed to do each day to feel like the day was successful, and that I would complete said list before doing anything else “fun” (as I oft do). That means no arts and crafts, no TV, no reading tons of unrelated books, no Facebook, (not even any email), or video games until the Day’s List has been done. I tried to keep it relatively small and something I felt I could accomplish by around 2:30pm or 3pm, after which, with everybody home and around, things get much less predictable, and I *like* the flexibility of being able to say “Yes!” to friends who want to hang out or to watching a movie or whatever without feeling guilty. (Guilt-management is the name of the game this year.)

The Day’s List consists of a few things I felt would make me feel productive, and would address some areas I feel have been somewhat missing in my day-to-day planning. What’s different from previous attempts to govern my time is that this list can be done in any order, and each task (save those with time requirements) can take as little or as long as they need, allowing a lot more flexibility, which I found was a weakness of the formal “this hour to this hour” scheduling I’d tried before. However, to have a guilt-free successful day, I must complete all of these. They are, in no particular order:

[   ] Get up/get the dog his breakfast and take him out/have my breakfast (This is normal day-to-day anyway, but it’s on the list since it takes up A.M. time).

[   ] 1 Hour of Writing (this is the requisite minimum for any day, timed because editing is difficult to quantify for me)

[   ] Cello Practice (which includes running through all of my exercises)

[   ] 1 Lesson of Mandarin I (trying to get back up to speed on this, as it’s a major goal of mine that seems to keep getting slipped by the wayside)

[   ] 1 Chore (vacuum, laundry, dishes, pick up, etc.–trying to get back on the tidy horse)

[   ] Water Plants (I’m notoriously bad at remembering to water plants–it’s a running joke between me and my husband–so this is on the list, but it doesn’t usually take long ^_^)

[   ] 1 Hour of Reading (this from specifically the book I’m trying to finish for the week, with a little flexibility for articles/short stories)

After those seven things are done, I’m free for the rest of the day. I can read more, I can write more, I can play video games, I can junk out on Project Runway or Big Bang Theory or Biggest Loser, and not feel remotely guilty about not getting more done. I’m going to try this for a week and see how it goes. *fingers crossed!*


EDITING PROJECT: Ghosts and legends and Bluebeard, oh my! The cold Maine coastline! Haunted grounds! Ribbons and bitter, ghostly wives! Dueling secrets! True love? Perhaps!

Current Editing Project: Nobody Here But Us Monsters (Revision Edit–2nd Pass)
Accomplished in Edits: Got through another chunk of pages this morning. Mostly focusing on cutting down words so I can see the story a bit better as a whole. Finding *lots* to cut out, so that’s a good thing, but still quite a few pages to go on that. Then, I think, I’ll tackle the Butcher “POV/Goal/Conflict/Setback” check, and see how each scene plays out in that regard. I’m cautiously optomistic, but still rather in the “poke it with a stick” frame of mind for this chunk of fiction. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow. We might get snow, so it’ll hopefully be a quiet day with lots of editing time. :)


In response to this blogpost by Jodie Llewellyn, I’m just copying over my summary of writing goals for February, which are as follows:

This February, I’m going to focus on getting in a regular day-to-day habit of organizing my time so I don’t have days where I look back at 6pm and wonder where all the time went. I’m going to focus on editing for now, because that seems to be the zone I’m in, and I’m especially going to work on not feeling *bad* about that! It’s a new phase in the cycle, and that’s perfectly all right. If I could get my current work in progress completely edited and submittable by the end of the month, and maybe fix up another one to submission-status, too, I’d feel pretty darn good about that. :)


Day 20 – You Can’t Always Get What You Want

I’m posting this a bit earlier because it’s Friday, and usually I get distracted by Friday night, and therefore forget to post. At any rate, I’ve already gotten my writing done for the day, so might as well! 

Before I get into that, though, I’d like to recommend everyone who’s an aspiring author (or heck, even a semi-pro or established author) to check out Peter M. Ball’s post linking to two of Jim Butcher’s blogs about Scenes and Sequels. I just finished reading these two posts, and honestly, they just blow my mind. I feel like the information Butcher presents is–to some degree–something I’m familiar with, but only in that fuzzy, nebulous “it just felt right” kind of way. Having read this, I feel like I’ve got some logical tools at hand to really amp-up future fiction projects. And I’d like to add, that while Butcher’s examples of Scenes are somewhat pulpy (which I actually enjoy, most of the time), the thing that struck me particularly was how accurate his breakdown was even for The Silver Spoon by John Galsworthy, which I finished a month or so ago, and that‘s a social society-strife novel with very little physical action (and yet still keeps you on the edge of your seat–for precisely the reasons Butcher mentions!)

It seems so obvious, now! :) Definitely check it out if you’re interested. Fascinating stuff!


WRITING/EDITING PROJECT: Far-future lifeforms! Pulsars! Sentient robotic trees! Seedling space-travel! Massive radiation poisoning! It’s all here, and being converted to flash fiction from 3,600 words.

Working Title: ”The Miracle of Jane”
Added Words: N/A
Total Words (to date): ~2000

Happening Today in the World of Fiction!: Death by solar flare! Despondent wards and moral questions! Vaporized minds! 

Notes: Rawr. Just…rawr… Today, I woke up with a massive fix to this story, one that pretty much solves all the weakness from the first draft and really amps it up to something that says something. Unfortunately, that meant rewriting one previously trimmed-down scene. Besides that, I also wrote the opening scene and the finale, and lo and behold: it’s 2k. To say I’m frustrated is a slight understatement. I can imagine chopping out an additional 150-200 words, but 500? That’s not happening. The story’s already down to bare-bones, and cutting 500 will effectively render it soulless. 

I’m a big proponent–usually–of letting a story be the length it wants to be (within reason). This one, it turns out, is just not a flash fiction story. I won’t force it. I’ve brought it down from 3.6k to 2k-even, and that’s a huge, huge improvement. The plot is better, the characters are more developed, the setting is richer, and the emotional conflict far more interesting, but I just…cannot…cut…out…more. Not without gutting the climax. Not without chopping down some of the few things that give this story heart. It’s just not a 1,500 word story. 

I will eventually get over the frustration of not being able to fit this one into the submission guidelines for a market I particularly wanted to try for, but at the moment, I’m feeling a bit defeated. This particular story isn’t one I haven’t sent out before. In fact, it’s been rejected quite a few times, occasionally from markets I’d really, really, really like to break into with very kind, encouraging rejections. One specified that it was very close, but didn’t *quite* do everything they thought it could have. Another said it made the final cut, but just didn’t beat out the other stories being considered. The problem is, I’ve already sent this story to my top/favorite markets, so even revised to 2k (and it’ll probably be a bit less than that once I’ve smoothed it out and polished it again) there just aren’t a whole lot of places I feel I can send it. There are some–don’t get me wrong, there are–but all those favored markets are already done with it, and I know won’t want to see it again, even rewritten. So it’s on to new markets, but where? Where?! Ugh, and then wasting a whole week on a revision for a project that can’t even go to those favored markets~! 

I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself, if you can’t tell, and I know this feeling will eventually pass. It was good that I got around to fixing this one, because I do think I solved a lot of the issues my favored markets had with it. It’s good that I edited this one, because I need the editing practice, and this experience has taught me how tight I can write when I want do. 

I can intellectually see the many pro’s of failing the initial goal on this one, but for right now, I think I’m going to wallow in it a bit and go watch a Project Runway or something. :0\ 


Day 19 – The Delights of an Empty Theater

There are very few experiences in life more enjoyable than going to a movie with a pal and finding the theater completely empty save for the two of you. Even better is when the film is rather terrible, so you can heckle it in real-time and laugh as loud as you want! It was just what I needed today; that, plus a pistachio ice cream Fribble was just–perfect.

On top of that, I actually got some writing work done before I headed out, so it wasn’t a completely wasted day! Didn’t get much reading done, but well, one can’t have *everything*. :)


WRITING/EDITING PROJECT: Far-future lifeforms! Pulsars! Sentient robotic trees! Seedling space-travel! Massive radiation poisoning! It’s all here, and being converted to flash fiction from 3,600 words.

Working Title: ”The Miracle of Jane”
Added Words: N/A
Total Words (to date): ~800

Happening Today in the World of Fiction!: Mother-daughter conflict! The color green! Data pools, videos of Earth, and surges of power!

Notes: This section was a bit more difficult to trim down, because I’m getting into the plot-driving scenes. I’m still not 100% sure about it–it feels more truncated than the other sequences do, and thought it does touch on the main points, I’m not sure it does so gracefully. I’ve got a few spare words I can use at the end of this to smooth it out, but I’m not going to lie–I’m a little bit worried about this one. We’ll see how the first and last segments go. I may need to tweak something about the structure… Fmralkdfkjfsal…