The good thing about trying to hit a deadline and being behind: you start to figure out ways to fix stories and ideas that are broken, potentially unsaleable and not on deadline.
Yesterday I took an hour away from the books to write up a plan of what I could do to transform all my second-person-present-tense-vaguely-cyberpunk vignettes into a solid-ish mosiac novella. I just spent the last half-hour writing notes about the way to expand and fix the problems on the zombie novella I wrote as part of the AHWA mentorship in 2007. It’s all distraction to draw me away from the work that really needs doing, but at least the notes will be waiting for me once I get the thesis draft down.
The difference between a good days work and a bad days work can depend entirely on how close you are to meeting a deadline.
Or, in other words, 1500 words of thesis draftage today. A month ago this would have been cause for celebration; today it is met with the soul-crushing knowledge that I haven’t yet done enough to earn myself a few hours sleep 🙂
I hate it when things creep up on me, but I like having a full to-do list that I can work through. On today’s list:
Get a big chunk of wordage done on the thesis draft – last week saw things start lagging behind again, and I really shouldn’t let that become a habit.
Clean the flat for tomorrow’s rental inspection
Go through the copyedit of my Interfictions 2 story and get that sent out.
Finish writing up a crit of Angela’s story.
Pick up a book they’re holding for me at Pulp Fiction (includes a bonus lunch with the Sleech)
Cook at home for the first time in, what, two and a half weeks?
Do a revision of a recently-rejected story that I think needs a little more polish before it goes out again.
In short, I’ll be keeping busy. I’ve moved the laptop into the lounge so I can set up a second work-area and flit between computers as I work – I’m not much for writerly superstitions and such, but I am noticing that the thesis is always a little easier to write while camping out with couch with the laptop. I suspect it’s because the living room has more space to spread books out and build a visual representation of my research…
Now that the TOC has been made public over on Delia Sherman’s LJ we’ve been told we can go crazy with the blog announcements: I sold my story, Black Dog: A Biography, to Interfictions 2.
The complete Table of Contents looks something like this:
Jeffrey Ford, “The War Between Heaven and Hell Wallpaper”
M. Rickert, “Beautiful Feast”
Will Ludwigsen, “Remembrance is Something Like a House”
Cecil Castelucci, “The Long and the Short of Long-Term Memory”
Alaya Johnson, “The Score”
Ray Vukcevich, “The Two of Me”
Carlos Hernandez, “The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria”
Lavie Tidhar, “Shoes”
B. F. Slattery, “Interviews After the Revolution”
Elizabeth Ziemska, “Count Poniatowski and the Beautiful Chicken”
Peter M. Ball, “Black Dog: A Biography”
Camilla Bruce, “Berry Moon”
Amelia Beamer, “Morton Goes to the Hospital”
William Alexander, “After Verona”
Alan DeNiro, “(*_*) ~~~ (-_-): The Warp and the Woof”
Nin Andrews, “The Marriage”
Theodora Goss, “Child-Empress of Mars”
Lionel Davoust, “L’Ile Close” (“The Enclosed Island” or “No-Exit Island” or something else we haven’t thought of yet)
Stephanie Shaw, “Afterbirth”
David J. Schwartz, “The 121”
<Insert a long sequence of joyful stammering and nervous hyperventilating here>
To kick it off, some members of WA fandom are putting to together a fanzine, Hope, to raise funds for the Bushfire victims in Victoria. A bunch of talented folks have already volunteered work, so much so that there will now be more than one issue. Worth keeping an eye on, all up.
With all the doom and gloom surrounding small press publishing, there is at least a glimmer of hope that the recently deceased Realms of Fantasy may come back courtesy of a buy-out of the magazine/brand. Until then, a farewell by the RoF Sushmaster that includes a list of the accepted stories we won’t get a chance to see (With commiserations to my friend Ben Francisco, who unfortunately has a very fine story caught on that list).
Speaking of Laura Goodin (We weren’t, you say? Ah well, we should be), here’s some fun stuff snurched from her blog this week: Shakespeare doing the facebook 25 things meme & steampunk cake!
The Australian Horror Writers Mentorship program is open for applications. As mentorship programs go, this is one of those insane-good-value deals if you’re an aspiring writer looking to make the next step.
I think my office may be under some kind of curse. I say this because I’ve just lost my second office chair in the space of a few months to breakage and this one was brand new (unlike the previous chair, which was a mega-comfy seventies steel-and-vinyl job that I’m pretty sure my parents liberated from a staffroom two decades ago). I’m less than impressed with this, especially since I can’t find my receipt to go return the chair to officeworks and get a repalcement. Not that I was a fan of the new chair – I dislike office chairs at the best of times and really mourn the loss of the old-school desk-chair I had – but I kinda need something to sit on here. On the plus side, it’ll force me to work on the laptop (away from the internets) for the majority of the day since I’m officially out of chairs to sit on while at the desk.
So Chris Lynch has posted a more-or-less up-to-date bibliography of things achieved by our Clarion South class since the 2007 workshop. He’s put this together, along with some thoughts, because the two of us are scheduled to go have a chat with the current crop of Clarion South participants about what it’s like to finish the workshop and go back to the real world. I have to admit that my first response to Chris’s bibliography was a panicked that can’t be right, but it is. The only thing he’s missed is the 100 word story I had in Brimstone Press’s Black Box e-anthology, although I start to feel a little better when I factor in the three forthcoming stories that don’t appear on Chris’s summary. Even taking into account the kind of low-key achievements that occurred around the publications, it seems like so little for two years of work once it’s listed like that, and its started me thinking about the difference between 2007 and 2008.
2007 was a year that’s been very good to me. It kicked off with Clarion, followed up with nearly twelve months of work-ethic and productivity, then ended strong with the Gauntlet run of crazy rewriting and submission with Jason Fisher (and others, but Jasoni remains my coach on the Gauntlet front) that saw both of us pick up our game and focus on what needed doing. At Clarion we spent a lot of time talking about the possibility of Clarion Burnout with various tutors, and I spent a lot of time making sure that I wasn’t going to let the real-life difficulties get in the way of capitalizing on the opportunities Clarion brought about.
2008 actually looks like a good year for writing on paper, but I suspect that a lot of that comes down to the carry-on effect of 2007. To borrow a metaphor, think of it like diving off a springboard at the beginning of swim – 2007 was a good dive, so I didn’t actually have to paddle that hard in 2008 to get to the other side. There were some good flurries of movement in there (Horn drafted and submitted, PhD creative project finished, stories sold in 2007 hitting publication) but overall I just kind of dog-paddled around and didn’t achieve much. 2007 was were all the work happened, but by 2008 the work-ethic was shot and I allowed myself to prioritize other things over writing. If 2007 was a year where I fought against the possibility of Clarion Burnout, I’d suggest that 2008 is the year that it snuck up behind me and stole my wallet.
Thus far, 2009 is feeling like the year I’ve given up on work-ethic altogether. That worries me. I’ve been fumbling towards the realisation for a few weeks now, but I think it’s finally sunk in that the little voice in the back of my skull that says “you suck, do more” has stopped being self-doubt or a goad to action and started being an actual instruction. Time to fix that, I think.
Today I write 2,500 words. I don’t sleep until that’s done. Lets have at it.
The problem with writing a thesis is that it’s just no fun to talk about. The novella, on the other hand, creates the kinds of problems that I find interesting . And thus there is nattering on about it on the blog.
The nifty thing about getting back to this story is that I’ve had the first scene in my head for a long while now – Miriam Aster holding a gun to a cat’s head, threatening it for information on the sly while the owner is off in the kitchen making some tea. The details around that image have shifted a bit since I first came up with it – originally she’d gone there looking for the cat, forcing her to bluff her way past the owner, but now seeing the cat is a by-product of showing up to talk to someone else. On the whole it’s lots of fun – both because Aster is the kind of character who takes threatening a feline in her stride and because the cat is becoming increasingly creepy and unpleasant as I go along – but it’s also trading an aweful lot on backstory that’s hard to drop in on the fly. And, since I’m fond of over-complicating things, this backstory is completely divorced from the “book 2 with the same characters and setting” kind of backstory I was struggling with yesterday.
At present the plan is to continue forward and see how much I can get away with – explaining Aster and the Cat is actually pretty easy to do without disrupting the flow, but now that the third character has entered the scene it’s getting harder to hint at backstory without disrupting the rhythm of the scene. The easy solution is to start the scene a little earlier than it does, providing context for everything that follows, but I suspect this will make me sad because I kinda like the immediacy of Aster with a gun pointed at a Russian Blue’s forehead.
Not that there’s any real point to sharing this, it’s just my brain bubbling over because it’s been permitted to work on a story again.
So today I resumed work on the novella draft that was once laboured with the working title The Girl Who Loathed Cats* but now has the working title Claw** and is probably better known as the follow-up to Horn which pits our protagonist against a talking cat and evil foetii***.
This novella is, officially, the weirdest thing to work on as far as process goes – I’ve never really written a story that follows-up on a character or world I’ve already written, and it seems to involve a lot of time sitting around and wandering what makes a re-appearance and what doesn’t (There’s also a lot of time spent trying to reconcile how the world works, since Horn is all fairies & unicorns while a large chunk of this plot is driven by a magic cat and a deranged fan-boy/scientist). The nice part is that the process is going to be pretty leisurely – I’ve made a self-imposed deadline of March 31st to get this draft done, which means that I’ve currently got to write less than 500 words a day to get it finished. Of course, given that 500 words a day are about all I’m good for with all the other stuff going on at the moment, there’s still a great deal of potential for things to go awry 🙂
*because apparently novellas are where I unleash the lamest of titles under the pretense of a homage to Raymond Chandler.
** because, well, it’s less slightly lame and fits a little better with Horn. And it’s a better option than the second choice at this point – Foetus.
*** this was done after thesis work, during the part of the day spent lazing about and cursing the heat.