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

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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’ve just hit the period where everything else gets sidelined in favour of the thesis, which means I’m expanding out my plan and filling in the gaps. This week I’m transforming my original lit review draft, which lacked a lot of focus, into the first half of a review that will actually fit the topic I’m pitching. On the plus side, I’m starting this week ahead of my word-count benchmarks for the first time, so I’m hopefully that I’ll have the chapter drafted by my Dec 30 deadline (even with all the holiday chaos about to hit). 

What’s inspiring me this week?

This has been one of those weeks where I’m spoiled for choice in this entry – I’ve read so much good stuff that’s got me eager to start work on new projects, and I’m kinda torn between three possible entries. Kij Johnston’s The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe was easily the best thing I’ve read this week – it’s a brilliant Tor.com novella that takes Lovecraft’s Dreamlands and starts inserting the kinds of characters who are routinely marginalised in Lovecrafts work. It’s simultaneously a homage and a critique, a complex book that’s just an outright pleasure to read.

The most inspiring books this week have been Caitlin Kiernan’s The Aubergine Alphabet and Jonathan Hadken’s All The Wasted Heat, two very different vignette collections that have got me thinking about the potential of the form and how it could be used. Hadken’s collection is a series of prose-poems about Brisbane, recommended to me by my friend Chris Lynch, that sets out to capture a mood and a place. Kiernan’s collection is framed as a weird alphabet primer, far less unified in terms of its topics but similarly effective at evoking a mood.

While there’s definite the potential for interesting work in both veins, the subtitle on Kiernan’s book (“A Primer“) increasingly got me thinking about the potential for using vignette sequences to world-build other projects, capturing a vast cross-section of a setting and building up the mood. It’s not a unique idea – two other vignette-driven works I can think of, off the top of my head, are Hemmingway’s Movable Feast about Paris and Brett Easton Ellis’ second novel, which is all about Los Angeles – but it’s a method of world-building that’s appeals to me as a pantser.

What action do I need to take?

I need to do some quality research on the use of ellipsis as a narrative device, as one of the arguments that I’m making about the poetics of series narratives is the way they leave the reader suspended in the gap between story points. Each instalment effectively ends in an ellipsis, which puts pressure on both reader and writer to search for the contextual clues that will make the omissions comprehensible.

  17 comments for “The Sunday Circle: What Are You Working On This Week?

  1. 10/12/2017 at 2:25 PM

    Peter: good luck on the thesis writing this week! In terms of keeping ahead of the seasonal chaos, does the background radiation of this time of year heighten your or S.’s anxiety? If so, hope you’re safe and happy and secured away from hassles as much as possible – for self care as much as for the thesis progress!

  2. 10/12/2017 at 3:26 PM

    What am I working on this week?
    Ding dong the tax is dead, and work on the film project is down to the final stages now, which is exciting. This week is working on narrative skills, marketing activities, and bumping lead generation and audition numbers as much as possible.

    What’s inspiring me this week?
    Continuing to read through The Silmarillion again and loving it. Realising that I need to keep more of a balance between fiction and non-fiction in regular reading. I’ve also been listening to A. B. Original’s Reclaim Australia, which I’ve been meaning to pick up since the first season of Cleverman. I’ve been loving it – it’s hard-hitting, angry and political, which has always been the most solid rap to me.

    Other than that, Where have all the cowboys gone by Paula Cole has been sticking in my head, which is surprising, given it’s far more saccharine than say, Neko Case. But it’s making my brain want to tinker with rustbelt America and broken dreams, although it feels like a narrative choice in poor taste while we’re watching the US go to fire sale.

    What action do I really need to take?
    I really need to get cold lead and audition numbers up to take advantage of less work on the front doorstep this week. Closely behind that, study on improving writing skills.

    • 10/12/2017 at 9:13 PM

      Yay for getting the tax done! And I’m with you on A. B. Original’s music. I love their work and Briggsy is such an all round talent.
      I admire you for doing the cold calling. Do you use a script when you call someone? Are you anxious before making the calls or is it just part of your day-to-day work that doesn’t bother you?

      • 10/12/2017 at 10:22 PM

        Most of my cold calling is actually via email – games studios, so there’s not someone always manning a phone.

        For commercial work though, I do follow a fairly simple two step process:

        1) Call to ask who is in charge of their casting process, get a name, hang up.
        2) Call back a couple of days (or a week) later and ask to talk to that person by name. The script around the ask then is very minimal – basically just asking them to listen to my demo and give constructive feedback.

    • 11/12/2017 at 11:19 AM

      Huzzah for getting tax done!

  3. 10/12/2017 at 9:16 PM

    The ellipsis as a narrative device sounds like a really interesting field of research Pete. I’d be interested to read what you come up with.
    Here’s my Sunday Circle.

    • 10/12/2017 at 9:24 PM

      Try draft2digiral as a pronoun alternative. It’ll ask the same questions Amazon does about tax, but they’ll distribute to all the major ebook platforms if you’d rather not deal on it them directly.

    • 10/12/2017 at 10:33 PM

      Terra Nullius sounds like a very interesting read – added that to the list!

      Apologies if I’ve asked this before, but do you find it difficult switching between analysis and writing with the rewriting process?

      • 11/12/2017 at 7:51 AM

        Not all Kevin, for me it’s all part of the same process. Maybe it’s something I developed when I was doing my post-grad study. Doing creative-practice led research encourages that way of looking at things.

    • 11/12/2017 at 11:46 AM

      Thanks for the Terra Nullius review – I keep hearing such good things about it from the most disparate sources.
      I’ll be interested to know what you think of this rewrite process once you get to the end.

  4. 11/12/2017 at 11:18 AM

    Peter – Oh, Dream-Quest is such a delight! I’m so keen to read more of Kij’s work, she has such a gift for NOT doing a scorched-earth revision of a theme.

  5. 11/12/2017 at 11:40 AM

    What am I working on this week?
    – The thesis. If I can get my outline up to 1/4 of the final word count and make a plan for top-up research, that will be a win for the week. Frankly, getting myself onto campus is a win at the moment. And one of my supervisors is taking me to a conference which is barely related to what I’m writing but HUGELY related to other areas of interest… which seems to be a pattern with my supervisors. Which is not at all a complaint.
    – Getting pencils done/updated on a handful of projects. Not having a computer threw out my plans badly, although I got a lot of reading done. Now I’m working across two computers, gradually setting up the new one.
    – Dealing with the fallout of the Patreon… thing.
    – Putting together an art workshop! The first I gave was for professional illustrators and was about narrative recombination/enhancement. This one is a drawing workshop for kids and I’m slightly terrified but also excited. I want them to take away two things: an art project; and the idea that there’s no such thing as a bad drawing, there’s only such a thing as not enough drawing. But I’ll work out a snappier way of saying that.

    What’s inspiring me this week?
    – The Aarne-Thompson classification systems. I am having so many ideas, and it’s really inconvenient timing.
    – Trying to find my personal ideal point on that Stranger Things/The Dark/Glitch/Mist/Returned continuum. It involves everything being a bit heightened and overly melodramatic, but I need to investigate further. They usually fall down (for me) when they’re angsty instead of indulgently over-the-top.
    The Gift by Lewis Hyde, but this is some sort of reverse inspiration, because it is driving me up the wall – which is weird, because a lot of people I know like it, and I personally find Big Magic and The Art of Asking very useful and practical. Perhaps because they are surprisingly open-eyed about what they’re doing (“a delusion, but a useful one”), and I just want Hyde to… show his working? And also engage with reality? But at least it’s making me want to read Whitman, which I don’t usually.
    – Poetry Magazine, which I think comes out every week at the rate it’s collecting in my car. I like. short. poems and I cannot lie…
    – Birds. I’m collecting books and models for the workshop and they’re just odd and cool.

    What action do I need to take?
    – Find someone to lock me in a room each day with only one project, and not let me out again until it’s done.
    – Show up on campus.
    – Addressing energy levels or hiring someone/rigging up a device to drag me feet-first out the door at six in the morning.

    • 11/12/2017 at 8:40 PM

      The kids’ art workshop sounds like great fun. I love seeing kids engage with art workshops at GOMA, they’re always so into it. I’m sure you’ll have a ball with yours. But you do sound like you’ve got a lot on your plate at the moment. And it is a bit drastic but my son was fasting 3 times a week (eating less than 500 calories a day) and he said the day after fasting he always woke up with heap more energy. Bit hard to manage at Christmas time though…

      • 14/12/2017 at 9:00 PM

        And I’ve just started exercising more, so I’m inclined to eat *everything*.

  6. 11/12/2017 at 11:26 PM

    What am I working on this week?

    Mailchimp. If I do somehow manage to attract people with my content, I would like to stand at least a small chance of getting them onto a new releases newsletter.

    Also waiting for the cover artist to send me the final invoice. Then I get cover art. Then all sorts of things happen.

    What’s inspiring me this week?

    Pinterest. Holy crap can I lose a lot of time there. I’d forgotten how inspiring I find concept art.

    Lorde’s cover of Everybody Wants to Rule the World.

    I want to be inspired by The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe as well but I’m making myself finish Ready Player One before I start reading anything else. The end is only 29% away…

    What action do I really need to take?

    Mailchimp makes my home address available to the internet. I need to properly look into getting a PO box. Bet they aren’t cheap.

    • 16/12/2017 at 8:44 AM

      I’m interested to know how you go with your newsletter Sean. I’ve thought about setting one up, then considered the time it would take away from actual writing and decided against it for now. But I’m always keen to know how others go about the process and how they find it.

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