The Sunday Circle: What Are You Working On This Week?

Sunday Circle Banner

The Sunday Circle is the weekly check-in where I ask the creative-types who follow this blog to weigh in about their goals, inspirations, and challenges for the coming week. The logic behind it can be found here. Want to be involved? It’s easy – just answer three questions in the comments or on your own blog (with a link in the comments here, so that everyone can find them).

After that, throw some thoughts around about other people’s projects, ask questions if you’re so inclined. Be supportive above all.

Then show up again next Sunday when the circle updates next, letting us know how you did on your weekly project and what you’ve got coming down the pipe in the coming week (if you’d like to part of the circle, without subscribing to the rest of the blog, you can sign-up for reminders via email here).

MY CHECK-IN

What am I working on this week?

My check-in will be a little short this week, on account of a horrible cold that is making staring at a screen less fun than usual. But once I’m up and about again, this week will be about the thesis prospectus and a small pile of post-its full of instructions after talking to my supervisor on Friday.

What’s inspiring me this week?

The penultimate episode of Riverdale hit Netflix on Friday and I officially give up trying to predict what’s going on in that show. Their ability to ratchet up tension in slightly unexpected ways is fantastic, even as the show itself revels in the fact that it’s cheese. Easily the most interesting TV show I’ve seen in years.

What part of my project an I avoiding?

Going by my habit of going “I’ll cancel the next thing on my schedule, but maybe I’ll make the one a few hours later,” admitting that I’m sick and probably not going to get a lot done 🙂

What I’m Reading: Dear Sweet Filthy World, Caitlin Kiernan

My copy of Caitlin Kiernan’s latest short story collection arrived in the mail last week. It’s a beautiful book full of beautiful, terrible stories in the old-school definition of terrible, meaning they are causing or likely to cause terror. The kind of stories that make Kant’s description of the sublime comprehensible, which is more than Kant manages to do when he writes on the subject.

There are very few writers who are on my yes-I-will-by-everything-you-release list. Even fewer on the list where I will buy everything in fancy, beautifully produced hardcovers and special editions. Basically, there is one name on that list, and it’s largely because Caitlin Kiernan is the best short-story writer working today, doing things with language and story that most writers can barely dream of doing.

 

The Sunday Circle: What Are You Working On This Week?

Sunday Circle Banner

The Sunday Circle is the weekly check-in where I ask the creative-types who follow this blog to weigh in about their goals, inspirations, and challenges for the coming week. The logic behind it can be found here. Want to be involved? It’s easy – just answer three questions in the comments or on your own blog (with a link in the comments here, so that everyone can find them).

After that, throw some thoughts around about other people’s projects, ask questions if you’re so inclined. Be supportive above all.

Then show up again next Sunday when the circle updates next, letting us know how you did on your weekly project and what you’ve got coming down the pipe in the coming week (if you’d like to part of the circle, without subscribing to the rest of the blog, you can sign-up for reminders via email here).

MY CHECK-IN

What am I working on this week?

Setting aside creative work entirely this week and focusing on getting the rough draft of my Thesis Prospectus written. It’s not a big document – just 4,000 words – but that’s a deceptively short amount given what I’m trying to pack into it (and my lack of familiarity with the format/voice required after nearly a decade away from academia).

What’s inspiring me this week?

As you can probably guess from Friday’s post, I’ve been enjoying James Ellroy’s Black Dahlia this week, and in particular the first four chapters. The write-up of the boxing match is incredible and I’ll probably spend the next few weeks pulling it apart so I can better understand the blocking and techniques that went into making it so good.

What part of my project an I avoiding?

Not my project, inherently, but my sleep schedule has gone to hell over the last few days, which is probably a sign of how much I really, really dislike the idea of doing the prospectus write-up. Much as I love the research side of the thesis, and banging on about literary theory in general, I still really dislike the writing-up and assessment side of things.

The Black Dahlia

The first major sequence in James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia revolves around a boxing match between the protagonist, beat-cop Bucky Bleichert and his soon-to-be-partner Lee Blanchard. The fight takes place at the end of the fourth chapter, and it’s loaded with stakes: personal stakes, for Bleichert and his father; professional stakes, given his advancement in the police department is dependent on this fight; social stakes, since the bout is a ploy to garner public support for a bill that will earn the police department money; and, ultimately, big emotional stakes, because everything is in balanced against each other. A win on the personal side of things means tanking his professional advancement. He can have one, at the cost of the other.

So the entire fight is one big choice for Bleichert, where he figures out the kind of man he’s going to be for the rest of the book. It feels more intense than the climax of most novels, and you’re only 10% of the way through the book. It artisinal, in the old-school sense, where you can see the quality of the workmanship as a layperson, but you’re in awe of it if you know the details of what you’re looking at. You can see the labour that’s gone into the book.

It does this so well I basically read it, had a lie down, and contemplated giving up writing because…damn.

 

 

The Sunday Circle: What Are You Working On This Week?

Sunday Circle Banner

The Sunday Circle is the weekly check-in where I ask the creative-types who follow this blog to weigh in about their goals, inspirations, and challenges for the coming week. The logic behind it can be found here. Want to be involved? It’s easy – just answer three questions in the comments or on your own blog (with a link in the comments here, so that everyone can find them).

After that, throw some thoughts around about other people’s projects, ask questions if you’re so inclined. Be supportive above all.

Then show up again next Sunday when the circle updates next, letting us know how you did on your weekly project and what you’ve got coming down the pipe in the coming week (if you’d like to part of the circle, without subscribing to the rest of the blog, you can sign-up for reminders via email here).

MY CHECK-IN

What am I working on this week?

I’m rebuilding the novella plan at the moment, after realizing that it’s somewhat counter-intuitive to have a stranger-comes-to-town story where the stranger leaves town in the second act.

What’s inspiring me this week?

I picked up Joan Didion’s South and West because it was basically raw notebook material rather than finished work. It’s basically daily notes as Didion travels through the American south, for a book that never never ended up getting written, followed by some short notes for a book about California. I’m a huge fan of Didion’s essays in general, and the clarity of the notes is pretty incredible.

What part of my project an I avoiding?

The combination of Easter and university holidays have largely resulted in me becoming fairly antisocial and feral. The coming week is going to be fairly heavy on social events, and I am totally not prepared for the shift in gears and the impact that’ll probably have on getting writing/research done.

Crazier, Faster, Better

I started April full of confidence. I had a plan for a novella. Nothing important, just a goofy 40,000 words about dinosaurs and apocalypse and super-intelligent battle-orangutans that’s mostly being written to amuse a friend of mine. I knew could hit two thousand words a day, so I figured I’d get through a rough draft in the space of thirty days.

Now we’re nineteen days in and I’ve burned the entire draft to the ground so I can start over and build something better in the wreckage.

Not that I’m getting rid of the any of the goofy elements – there will still be dinosaurs and apocalypse and orangutans – but I wasn’t happy with the draft I was writing and desperately needed to change it. The voice didn’t fit. The plot was wrong. My 40,000 word novella draft was up around 30,000 words, and I was only just getting out of the first act. The middle act belonged to a completely different story (and, now, can go become that story without being hampered by the first act that didn’t fit).

I can usually tell when I’ve done something wrong with story structure because my entire life grinds to a halt. I get restless and anxious and eventually depressed. When I loose track of the plot, I literally lose the plot. That’s harder to navigate than it used to be, full of second-guessing. Am I junking this story because it’s not a good fit, or because my first response to a low is period do everything crazier, faster, better.

I do not plan stories well. I cannot figure out what I’m really writing until I’m down in there, among the words, figuring out where shit goes wrong.