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?

Splitting my time between a pair of story drafts. One is the Martian underworld boxing story I mentioned last week, which is rolling into novelette length quite nicely, while the other is an urban fantasy heist story that’s also proving to be less short than expected. May have to look at shelving one, so I can focus on something a little more finishable this week.

What’s inspiring me this week?

I caught The Great Wall at the cinemas last week, and while it’s a narrative that’s got a whole mess of problematic elements, it’s also absolutely freakin’ gorgeous in terms of its visuals and fight choreography. So many movies are done with the orange and teal colour scheme these days, particularly action movies that rely on digital effects, that just seeing a movie soaked in colour is so visually different that you realise how much you’ve missed.

In narrative terms, it’s the big, dumb action movie I was hoping Cowboys vs. Aliens would be a few years back, and it quietly gets me thinking about the big dumb action stories I’ve got sitting in my to-do pile.

What part of my project an I avoiding?

Still the dense, heavy French literary theory works that require an incredible amount of research and thinking to get through. I’ve made some progress, but etting through he first paragraph of a Bourdeiu essay required a half-page of notes on the various philosophies and theories mentioned, just so I could make sense of it. It’s slow, mentally taxing work that I keep looking for ways to put off.

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

  1. 12/03/2017 at 9:40 AM

    I’m in… I’ve blogged my response over at https://jgmilton.com/2017/03/12/sunday-circle/

    • karinacoldrick
      12/03/2017 at 9:28 PM

      Hey James, an hour a day, as you say, should be doable. Can you schedule it in at a fixed time to beat that subconscious down?

      • 12/03/2017 at 9:36 PM

        Hi Karina. I aim, more or less reliably the last couple of months, to make it my first hour of work in the day. I’ve found if I put if off until later in the day, then suddenly everything else seems too urgent to put aside to write, but if I start with the writing, then I’m not faced with that temptation. (I say more or less reliable, because there are times when my assessment load has been so off the charts that I’ve had to steal back that hour. I just feel really awful about it–which is silly, because a thousand or so words of academic writing in a day should still count. It just, somehow, doesn’t.)

    • 12/03/2017 at 11:35 PM

      Productive study is the worst/best for generating story ideas.

      • 13/03/2017 at 7:55 AM

        It’s definitely a particular pain to be reading something for an essay and have it toss you a pure gold story idea that you can’t stop to do anything with beyond taking a bare minimum note. On the other hand, you get the pure gold story idea 🙂

        • 14/03/2017 at 9:09 AM

          This might be a silly suggestion, but would allowing yourself a minute to do a stream-of-consciousness voice memo about the idea get it out of your head a little more, or just heighten the hunger to dig into it?

          • 14/03/2017 at 5:11 PM

            Not a silly suggestion at all. I do find that the more I engage with the idea, the more I lose of what I’m in the middle of, and I suspect that stopping to grab my phone and record would upend by essay-writing train of thought.

    • 14/03/2017 at 9:10 AM

      Given how much time and energy is going to study, how long do you tend to find it takes to get the wheels spinning on that hour of writing in the morning? Wondering if there might be ways you could get more out of that time without necessarily trying to create more time you don’t have…

      • 14/03/2017 at 5:17 PM

        Yeah, this is definitely a factor. Some mornings I keruffle for ages before getting to the meat of writing and, of course, by then it’s quickly over. On a recent Writing Excuses podcast, Mary Robinette Kowal (I think) talked about her early days of writing, and doing a lot of pre-writing in her head between brief bursts of writing when she could, and that’s something I’ve been pondering. On the whole, I do my thinking with a keyboard, discovering what I think by virtue of writing it down–but that’s not to say I couldn’t pre-write in my head more than I presently do. I’ll have to try it.

    • 12/03/2017 at 11:37 PM

      All the best with the new writing habit, and getting your head around the size of the task!

    • 14/03/2017 at 9:17 AM

      Is there anything you can triage from your week as not absolutely essential, Kylie? I was exactly where you were a couple of weeks ago despite best intentions, and I found that the constant background radiation of stress just sucked the joy out of everything, and it sounds like the work you’ve got on your plate is really awesome stuff!

      Is it possible to push back the deadlines on anything (self-imposed or otherwise) so you can narrow focus and clear some things off your plate?

      Also, with regards to the blog re-design, I completely sympathise. Designing sucks. One thing that might be worth looking at to at least take the aesthetic element out of your hands is Bootstrap themes. Bootstrap is web design tool that Google (from memory) released out into the wild a while back, and there are some great free Bootstrap themes out there, including ones that are compatible with software like WordPress.

  2. 12/03/2017 at 8:26 PM

    You make it sound like it’s time constraint rather than the leap between projects, so I’ve gotta ask: do you ever have trouble shifting from one story to another? I’m always curious about that with other writers, because I’ve been told I’m odd for bouncing between stories. At the moment, I’m struggling to do it a little, but it’s pretty much just because I’ve come out of crazy stress and have just spotted the mountain of stuff needing to be dealt with.

    I’ve been hearing mixed reviews on that movie. I’m still trying to figure out if it’s gonna be a hot narrative mess that irritates me, or a dodgy movie I love.

    Yeah, the theory work sounds a little painful, hun. Good luck with it. Wishing you easy to follow Frenchmen and women from here on in, I suppose?

    • karinacoldrick
      12/03/2017 at 9:32 PM

      I heard mixed reviews too so we went and saw Hidden Figures instead, which was exactly as outstanding as expected. (And normally I’m “Matt Damon? I’m there.”)

      Kylie, can you prioritise your mountain of stress – or at least, classify it? (Sometimes just sorting into Urgent Not Important, Important Not Urgent, can be a great help.) Hope your website improvements get sorted.

    • 13/03/2017 at 12:37 AM

      Less time constraints, and a kind of separation between church and state kind of deal. If I’m writing two things that are about the same length at the same time, ccming up on the same beats in the three-act structure at about the same pace, then they’re both going to suffer a little. Doing a short story and novella at the same time is easier.

  3. karinacoldrick
    12/03/2017 at 9:55 PM

    Hi gang

    What am I working on this week?
    So, after hitting a deadline wall at high velocity and not breaking through, I reviewed tactics and went for the non-linear “Weekend Novelist” approach of Key Scenes first. This has mostly worked, in that I finally had a bunch of plotting AND character stuff meld together for the first time. Now I have to connect the dots with fill in scenes. This slightly terrifies me as it requires linking back to where I got stuck the past months.

    What’s inspiring me this week?
    After a major hiatus, we hit the cinemas in a big way lately with two very different films.

    Hidden Figures happened to follow a recent viewing on Netflix of The Theory of Everything and it struck me how there’s a nice line of Real Life narrative happening lately with non-traditional heroic leads. If I think back to Chuck Yeager’s The Right Stuff, space exploration was about brave white men risking life and limb to go beyond. This isn’t deeply thought out, but you can kind of plumb a line from there to Apollo 13 (it all goes wrong), to more recent endeavours such as Gravity (it all goes wrong with a woman) to Hidden Figures (The Right Stuff from the human computers of Mission Control), with a side order of atypical problem solving heroes such as The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything. Possibly there’s an essay in here somewhere.

    The other film was the Lego Batman Movie, fitting to my mental age these days. This had THE clearest plotting of any film I’ve seen in forever. With *spoiler alert* the twist that The Joker is pretty much the anti-love interest. The All is Lost moment is so literal it’s almost transcendent.

    What part of my project an I avoiding?
    Dropping the perfect phrases and further character exploration to just crack out a wordcount. I’ve a strong notion for a new project coming in and I want to play with the new toy, only this MUST BE DONE FIRST. Unlike Kylie, if I leave this project, I’ll leave leave it and it’s at the tipping point to be completed. I think that’s what I’m subconsciously afraid of… moving on to something uncertain and new. (Or I’m channelling my heroine too well.)

    • 12/03/2017 at 11:38 PM

      YOU CAN DO IT! There’s a huge, raggedy, weird, empty high from just finishing a project, and I wish it to you!

    • maggiedot
      12/03/2017 at 11:46 PM

      Both films sound pretty awesome–I’ll have to add them to my list! Best of luck with the final push on the novel. I second the motion: You can do it! 😀 Glad the Weekend Novelist is helping straighten sticky bits out.

    • 13/03/2017 at 8:10 AM

      Good luck getting the current project finished, Karina! What with refining your tactics and the determination, you sound like you’ve well and truly got this, but good luck regardless. The non-linear approach fascinates me: it’s something I’m incapable of doing (so far). If I try to do scene 3 before scene 2, I freeze solid. When it comes to circling back to the bit where you got stuck before–I’ve found that if I’m truly stuck it’s been my subconscious warning me I’ve taken a misstep, often chasing a plotline or character moment that I want but one that, for one reason or another, doesn’t belong. Maybe if you come back to the sticking point now, with some distance, some element along those lines will be clearer to you and you’ll power right through. Hope so!

    • 14/03/2017 at 9:22 AM

      Love that you got to see the Lego Batman Movie. Super-excited for a chance to see this at some point.

      Regarding the current project you’re cranking out wordcount on, do you have a chance to come back for a polish pass with the refinement you really want to add, or is this it for this project?

      Good luck on staying the course and sailing it home, too!

  4. 12/03/2017 at 11:34 PM

    What am I working on this week?
    I was in survival mode last week (having realised the degree to which I’ve overcommitted this time). This week I’m a bit more mentally adjusted to the amount of work. Fewer nightmares about commas, I hope.
    So I’m working on relearning the technical principles behind grammar, editing down an extremely wordy and ornamental short story draft, and starting the art for an art show/picture book manuscript/grant submission (in the hope that the triple purpose while provide enough motive).

    What’s inspiring me this week?
    Charming, witty writing about grammar. All the things I will go sketch once I have a car. An art show I’m in later in the year that is to be structured and published as a choose-your-own-adventure story.

    What part of my project am I avoiding?
    Applying Self to Seat in relation to art, and over-application when it came to planning tutorials.
    I came close to hurting my back again, and have finally switched some of my reading over to audiobooks in the hopes of increasing physical movement.

    • maggiedot
      13/03/2017 at 12:02 AM

      Oh man, I love the idea of an art show as a choose-your-own-adventure! That’s so cool! Best of luck with getting down to brass tacks and taking care of the self in the process!

    • karinacoldrick
      13/03/2017 at 3:39 AM

      A car in London is problematic, in Australia: a necessity. How you managed so long without one is anyone’s guess!

      On the grammar front, one presumes you have “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”? Still my favourite book on grammar. I must admit, I learned more about grammar learning Japanese than I did English.

      Good luck with the grant submission and thanks to you and Maggie for the vote of confidence! I am sooooo looking forwards to writing “I did it” in a future session here.

    • 14/03/2017 at 9:29 AM

      Sounds like you’ve got some fantastic things on your plate!

      Regarding grammar, I’ve got a copy of Virginia Tufte’s Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style that is utterly neglected – is this something you might be interested in?

      Is there anything you can put your finger on that’s making you hesitant to get into the art on your plate at the moment? Is it uncertainty about any of the work, or more likely fatigue after the period of over-extension?

      • 15/03/2017 at 10:11 PM

        That is of definite interest to me!

        I think it’s mostly delay. The main culprit was a deadline-less art-for-board arrangement that… lingered. I’ve done the pencils now, though, and sent them off! So the ball’s in the other court. But yes, those other things too.

        I need to learn to work faster. Not more hours, just… faster. I panic when I’m not working, but I’m extremely laid-back once I start. 80s training montage playlists make me clean faster. Maybe a metronome for other things.

  5. maggiedot
    13/03/2017 at 12:22 AM

    Good luck with the French lit theory! Sounds like chewy stuff, rich in ideas.

    My Sunday Circle is here!

    • karinacoldrick
      13/03/2017 at 3:32 AM

      Hey Maggie, I hear you on the doubtful spots. They nag and nag and suck up brain space, I find, unless sorted. Boring, useless other work (eg. pegging clothes on the line or sorting socks) seems to do a lot for me to resolve them.

      Deciding to scrap 21k is a bold move, but I love that you have an angle you’re psyched about and clear targets in mind. Good luck!

      • maggiedot
        13/03/2017 at 1:15 PM

        Thanks Karina! I totally second the drudgery work as a brilliant method for tricking the brain into thinking on more interesting subjects–in fact, I got lucky tonight and had a breakthrough on that nagging scene, sat down to punch out some quick dialogue, ended up reworking the whole scene ONE LAST TIME, and thank goodness, this I’m I’m 99.999% sure I’ve got it nailed. It’s so much more on point with what I wanted this whole time, captures the foiling of the two characters much better, and sets up a great follow-up scene. And all because of a drive home in the car. Love that break-through moment!

        And thanks! I need all the positive vibes I can get on this one! ^_^

    • 14/03/2017 at 9:34 AM

      Kudos to getting yourself to where you are right now – it sounds like a solid rhythm with real forward momentum!

      Out of curiosity, how do you evaluate how long is too long for a given scene at the moment, and that it’s time to move on?

      • maggiedot
        14/03/2017 at 10:53 AM

        Thanks! As for how long is too long to spend on a scene, I go largely by gut. If I’ve worked for more than a week (or more like, three sessions) on the same scene, I’m usually so bored with it that I start trying to figure out work-arounds, usually asking myself whether or not I can just skip the scene or gut the essentials and combine it with another scene later. If I leave any lingering doubt about a scene–it doesn’t have to be anywhere near perfect, but my gut’s got to say “yeah, good enough”–I’ll just end up going back to it eventually (and probably scrapping everything that comes after it), so in the end it’s usually worth my time to hammer out the kinks before moving on.

        Short answer: I usually start making desperate changes by the time I’ve worked over a scene long enough to be bored with it (which can vary, depending on how many different angles I can apply to jumpstart my interest in it again).

  6. 14/03/2017 at 8:55 AM

    Chiming in a little late this week again. Will explain at bottom.

    What am I working on this week?
    Long-form narrative gig is done and out there. I’m balancing commitments between providing voice acting for the feature film, and a video game gig, voice over producing commitments for 2 gigs, along with lead generation and preparation for the commercial demo.

    What’s inspiring me this week?
    I had a pretty delicious morning today where for the first time amidst recent chaos, I was able to work in a quiet vacuum on moving forward. I’m listening through The Art of Possibility audiobook at the moment, and it’s exactly what I needed to hear to stay the course.

    What part of my project am I avoiding?
    I’ve been avoiding a painful letter regarding family stuff, but planning to sort that out today. Other than that, because so much of what’s happening at the moment is triage, the longer-term strategy planning (particularly around shifting into more lucrative commercial voice over) has been suffering, because it’s much easier to shift the needle on the other work.

    Brief explanation: the exciting thing at the moment is that I’m full time on doing what I love for the next three months. The slightly nerve-wracking part is that it’s on the other side of a redundancy conversation with the day job (happily not necessarily, but the three months is a delay on that situation) AND on top of that we now have to find a new place to live and move house. Last week was also dental work, so I’m glad to be on the other side of that.

    All of which is to say: with huge thanks for understanding me stretching the nature of this forum, if anyone was willing to give some signal boost to either my voice over website or my freelance tech consulting site, both of which will be current by next Sunday, that would be a HUGE HELP for visibility and reaching outside of my networks, and very much appreciated.

    • 14/03/2017 at 8:58 AM

      Oh – forgot to mention two things that are inspiring me at the moment, too:

      Been mainlining The Bones of What You Believe by CHVRCHES as it’s so wonderfully positive and upbeat.

      Also, saw Logan during the week thanks to scheduling sorcery and commitment to self-care. I’m still processing it – definitely enjoyed it, but there’s some complexity there I’m working through.

    • maggiedot
      14/03/2017 at 10:58 AM

      Ugh! Dental work is the *worst*. Hooray for being on the other side of that! And it sounds like work is going fantastically well, if very intense. Best of luck with the challenging family stuff! 😀 I think you’ve posted them before, but I can’t find them now. Could you share some links to the website and consulting site?

  7. 14/03/2017 at 9:06 AM

    Peter: two quick recommendations around approaching the literary work – others have already provided better recommendations around how to approach it time-wise previously. Given how draining it is mentally, are you keeping your blood sugar up? Might be worth looking at a sugary snack like raisins or nuts that’ll keep you busy while you’re thinking, unless that really annoys you. Might even be worth trying short exercise breaks for something simple like 30 seconds of squats to keep the blood pumping? (I know when I’m hitting that mental defense shield where the brain doesn’t want to deal with serious complexity, I start falling asleep personally)

    I can’t remember if we talked about this during the IMDB Party, but if you really dug The Great Wall, is it worth revisiting some of the highlights of Korean cinema or wuxia? A lot of fun, straight-forward and really beautiful action films in there…

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