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).


What am I working on this week?

I am, slowly, starting to inch my way back into a regular routine again after the weirdness of the last few weeks. Unfortunately, this hasn’t come with anything beginning to approach the level of focus I’m used to, so my attention is now split between Float and a half-dozen short-story projects on any given day.

And so, part of my job for the coming week is to sit down and figure out why I’m reluctant to move forward on the novella and punch into the second act.

What’s inspiring me this week?

I’ve been making a concerted effort to put less film and TV in this section, but despite reading five or six books this week, the most inspiring thing I’ve seen has been the first seasons of the Mr Robot TV series. It’s a show that wears its influences a little too heavily – though it goes out of its way to acknowledge them – but the acting is top-notch and its one of the few shows that seems to be figuring out how to represent hacking on screen without devolving into metaphor.

What part of my project an I avoiding?

My biggest flaw for the last week has been actually sitting down and opening the file for Float. My suspicion, having just done so, is that I am stuck on the two scenes that end the first act, since they’re both stock hardboiled/noir scenes that haven’t yet evolved into something interesting and I haven’t had the capacity to figure out what needs to be done.

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

  1. maggiedot
    19/06/2016 at 1:21 PM

    I thought Mr. Robot looked interesting–I may have to check it out sometime. And just for the record, you have mentioned some very cool sounding books recently in your inspiration section, so it’s not all TV and movies (though those recommendations are also much welcome!).

    What I’m working on this week: Traveling to the Finger Lakes in NY for a week come Wednesday, so I’m not anticipating much in the productivity department. If I can do 20 minutes of editing on the short story work-in-progress on Sun/Mon/Tues, I’ll consider it a good week. During the trip, I’ll just try to keep notecards handy and indulge my reading-tooth.

    What’s inspiring me this week:I’ve been mainlining Gilmore Girls lately, and though my head feels like a fog with all the social activities and *someone* deciding naps are lame again, I’m fascinated by how easily the writers of the show amp up stakes and social conflict at the drop of a hat, yet make it seem relatively plausible. When I’ve got more functioning braincells, I’ll have to dissect how it is they do that. Also just started Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson, and has already provided some much needed laughs and surprisingly (and delightfully) eerie moments. I’m 95% certain now that I need to read everything she’s ever written.

    What I’m avoiding this week: UGH, packing, actually. Creatively, I’m avoiding the novel outline like crazy, because I can feel that oh-so-clear klaxon sounding in my gut that I the motivation for the protagonist is off, which means going back to at least most of the drawing board and figuring out where I went wrong and what it is I really want to pursue thematically in this story, and UGH, I just don’t want to. But I’m going to try to keep it at least front-of-mind while on vacation. Maybe a little change of scenery will jog some clarity into how to harmonize some discordant scenes…

    • 19/06/2016 at 4:59 PM

      Do you have any packing support? Best packing experiences have been (a) with my very particular sister giving directions and (b) after several Dirty Shirleys at the hotel bar in San Francisco.

      Also re reviewing protagonist motivation: In my house at the moment are several people who are vocally in support of writing fan-fiction of your own work in order to work these things out. The beauty is that it feels both disposable and like procrastination.

      • 19/06/2016 at 5:00 PM

        That fan fiction comment is also relevant to Peter.

      • 19/06/2016 at 5:27 PM

        That’s a brilliant idea! Sort of a low-res version of your work that boils it down to the core essence…

      • maggiedot
        19/06/2016 at 11:58 PM

        Alas, just me! But those do sound like the best and most fun ways to get through packing. Hmm…Maybe I can modify the first for solo-play by making a really detailed list in advance so I don’t constantly have to keep things in mind… ^_^ Thanks for the tip! (I’ll have to try the Dirty Shirleys style another time!)

        I am totally intrigued by the idea of writing fan-fiction of your own work. How do they typically approach that? Do they look for tangential characters or different time periods in the character’s life? It sounds like a really interesting way to dig deeper.

        • 20/06/2016 at 9:03 PM

          I just play with ‘what-ifs’. What if I swap all the genders. What if I make the main character the villain. What if X happens. There was something cool in that episode of Endeavour – what if I replayed that dynamic with these two characters. Then write a couple paragraphs. It’s not very structured:)

          • karinacoldrick
            20/06/2016 at 9:06 PM

            I love this idea – and was wondering myself how it worked. Sounds like a great way of breaking out of any loss of traction.

          • maggiedot
            20/06/2016 at 11:03 PM

            Fun! I think this could really help break the pre-cemented thought patterns. Thanks for the tip!

    • 19/06/2016 at 5:26 PM

      Another possible recommendation for quick tonal shifts is Korean cinema (probably Asian cinema in general, in fact) Particularly genre cinema (action/horror/fantasy stuff) I don’t know if the shifts would feel as seamless, but there’s a definite tendency to include a far wider range of emotions, and pivot on a dime. This clip does a better job than the dodgy US/Aus trailer:

      Love that feeling of deep-diving into an author you find, and realising they’re consistently brilliant. It’s fantastic, isn’t it?

      • maggiedot
        20/06/2016 at 12:10 AM

        That clip *is* fascinating. I’ve watched quite a bit of Chinese cinema, and honestly, I’m not sure I’ve ever consciously noticed that–though I’ve always adored those moments. Interesting thoughts there. I’ll have to see how I can apply those in the future!

        It is fantastic! It all started with We Have Always Lived in the Castle which was the first of her novel-length work I’d ever read. School teaches “The Lottery” ad-nauseum, but I had no idea she wrote largely dark spec-fic until I heard Brian Keene talking about her at a small New Hampshire convention. Picked that one up immediately and fell head over heels. Now I recommend her to anybody who’ll listen! ^_^

  2. 19/06/2016 at 4:15 PM

    Love. love. love Mr Robot! Also, I totally get struggling to move forward on a project. It can get pretty frustrating. Good luck!

    My Sunday CIrcle is here

    • 19/06/2016 at 5:31 PM

      Following on thematically from Creep, if you haven’t seen Nightcrawler I’d highly recommend it. Jake Gyllenhaal is nothing short of hypnotic.

      Regarding the chapter openings you’re struggling with – this might be a daft suggestion, but there’s a technique in voice over I’ve been revisiting recently from training material – the idea is that the opening line of a script is rarely a complete beginning, a’la “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. What if you tried shifting those opening scenes back about five minutes, writing from there and then seeing if there’s a moment that feels ‘hot’ to start the chapter on? Does that make sense at all?

      (if it works, you can thank Pat Fraley)

      • 21/06/2016 at 9:30 AM

        I have seen Nightcrawler! It’s a really interesting film – Jake Gyllenhaal is terrific in it. It’s one of those funny ones for me where I really appreciated it, but I’m not entirely sure if I liked it.

        That voice over technique sounds really interesting, and definitely worth a shot! Thanks for the suggestion. 🙂

  3. 19/06/2016 at 4:53 PM

    What I’m working on: Aaaaauggggh, four days left until I fly.
    – The big illustration project. All the line work is done and pencils erased. Next I have to shade the internal illustrations (ink) and colour the cover (computer).
    – Sample illustrations for another potential project.
    – Reading a manuscript for *another* potential project.
    – Cutting out blank playing cards for my art workshop.
    – … I know there are other things.
    – Editing my confirmation documents when my advisor has read them.

    What’s inspiring me:
    – Blind panic
    The Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
    – Catherine McGregor’s comment at the Inspire Preview about ‘being strong and of good heart’ and working for a better world & arts landscape even if it isn’t for this generation.
    – A house full of weather-stranded people writing/reading/baking (and still letting me get work done).
    – Extensive and incredibly useful comments from Angela on my Large Amorphous Manuscript.

    What I’m avoiding:
    – Checking my tax return.
    – Packing.

    • 19/06/2016 at 5:34 PM

      Sooooooo, do you have any packing support? 😉

      Also, have a safe flight!

      • 20/06/2016 at 9:04 PM

        No packing support this time, alas. Although I do have maraschino cherries…

    • maggiedot
      20/06/2016 at 12:19 AM

      Arg, packing strikes again! And taxes. Taxes just…bleh. The only thing that comes to mind about taxes is the ever worn advice to do the thing you really don’t want to do first thing in the day before anything else. That way, it’s out of the way and you can rejuvenate with other more enjoyable work. But I commiserate on the taxes!

      The Hunt for the Wilderpeople looks really interesting. I’ll have to check it out sometime! Enjoy your trip and safe travels! Did I see somewhere that you’re also stopping by Readercon on the way back? If so, maybe I’ll get a chance to see you there, at least in passing! 🙂

      • 20/06/2016 at 9:06 PM

        Yes! Readercon is on the way there. LA-NYC-MA-Readercon-England-Iceland-Oslo-Home. And yes! Let us see each other!

        • maggiedot
          20/06/2016 at 11:04 PM

          Huzzah! That’ll be fun! 😀

  4. 19/06/2016 at 5:05 PM

    What I’m working on this week:

    * Continuing research on sales/development leads for animated series project
    * Helping move audio drama project forward/creating more content to inspire team
    * Moving forward on creating commercial demo
    * Website fixes/updates, and other back-end drudgery like updating the performance resume

    What’s inspiring me this week?
    This episode of Snap Judgement really blew my hair back –

    I want to talk about particular stories in there, but on the other hand, I don’t want to spoil anything. If you listen, let me know what you think.

    Other than that, two things that sound a little narcissistic:

    * Giving a passion project space to breath in my schedule. I’m slowly building up a backlog of content over here: – I’m giving this a month to see where it goes, but I’m finding I’m really learning from a project with no external constraints other than myself!
    * Also, the structure of a regular morning routine has helped me really start digging back through the great advice I’ve gotten over the last few years and actually apply it.

    What I’m avoiding this week:
    Two things: the fact that I need to put together a concrete business/development plan for myself sometime soon, and also going back through the overwhelming barrage of information in Omnifocus.

    • maggiedot
      20/06/2016 at 12:25 AM

      Awesome about the passion project inspiration! It looks like it’s a lot of fun to work on, and it’s great to just play and experiment with a non-work related project. ^_^

      I’ve got a long car-ride coming up, so maybe I’ll be able to listen to the Snap Judgement then. Sounds fascinating! As for the barrage of info on Omnifocus, perhaps small bites/pre-set (and short) time limits several times a day to make progress? Although I haven’t implemented it terribly well yet, Peter’s idea about three separate sessions of 300 words has been an eye-opener for how to break up a large chunk of work into manageable bite-sizes throughout the day. Maybe a small goal like that would help topple the giant?

      • karinacoldrick
        20/06/2016 at 9:08 PM

        This notion of 300 words x3 might solve my school holiday timing problems… Thanks!
        Also, will take you up on beta reader offer. Cheers!

        • maggiedot
          20/06/2016 at 11:05 PM

          Definitely do! ^_^ The brief chunks seem like a great way to squeeze a lot of work into a little bit time, with the added bonus of probably always being fairly fresh when coming to it again!

      • 21/06/2016 at 8:48 AM

        Chunking it down is a great idea! Thank you so much! (particularly for dealing with the mental overwhelm – it’s challenging because it’s a task to do something, that’s about a bunch of tasks to do something, so the GottaGottas start piling up)

  5. 19/06/2016 at 5:12 PM

    To Mr Ball:

    I haven’t had the pleasure of watching Mr Robot yet, but from what I’ve heard, it sounds really interesting – definitely keen to check it out. I know video games are a dicey proposition for you, but there’s a locally made game called Hacknet that did similarly interesting things with representing hacking:

    Also, be kind to yourself this week. With everything that’s happened recently, I imagine it’s got to be very easy for your feelings about your creative work to get conflated with everything else going on. Glad that the clouds are clearing for you though!

    • 20/06/2016 at 9:12 AM

      Yeah, I have to avoid computer games at the moment. I’ve done a pretty good job of avoiding the temptation to either eat my emotions or chase the rapid-achievement dopamine hits that computer games provide while trying to process everything, but I will slide downward the moment I give in to either.

  6. karinacoldrick
    19/06/2016 at 7:47 PM

    Hey gang

    As usual, I feel out of my depth with your inspirations and had to Google Mr Robot. How accurate is it in its portrayals hacking? (Because it’s usually very amusing to hang out with programmers while watching something like CSI do it very badly.) Other than that, sounds like busy times for everybody and I’m reminded of Stephen Covey’s sound advice to categorise tasks and, most especially, to differentiate between “Important and Urgent”, “Important and not Urgent”, and “Urgent but NOT important”.

    This side of the planet, things are moving at a slower pace – although school holidays start at the end of this month and my “get stuff done” time flies out the window.

    What I’m working on this week:
    Words, words, words. Somehow I’ve clocked over 40k on the Fun Flimsy, 2/3 of the way done. I’m ploughing on, remaining scenes largely all shaped, (which is a new place to be for me) BUT the lingering dilemma of structure remains – see next point.

    What I’m avoiding this week:
    Right. So, when mapping out plot points for this story, I had a clear idea of what would shock the hero out of his comfort zone and make him reassess the heroine with the result of him realising he’s in love with her. Then I tried to write that and it went to pot. So I flipped two scenes over and it all flowed. BUT, I still think that the way I planned it, is the more logical progression. I’m writing to the end to have a full draft to reassess this – hopefully with CP input – but the change is nagging me and I’m jotting notes everywhere about all the reweaving I’d have to do to switch the scenes back. It’s driving me slightly mad – to the point I’m even wondering if I should write out two complete forms of the novel with the scenes switched and do controlled testing on beta readers.

    What’s inspiring me this week?
    No books, as usual. (I will swap a lot of writing for reading in the holidays, although I did score Unseen Academicals in the library and any unread Pratchett’s hold a particular lure.) If I have uninterrupted free time, I write. If it’s to be interrupted, I try to stay in touch with friends and family through social media.

    Two things to share though.

    1.) If you catch this week’s Graham Norton. WATCH IT. Ghostbuster comic ladies start slow but really prove they are the natural heirs for their parts once they get into talking credentials and experience. The music act though. Tilted by Christine and the Queens. The dancing is French mime meats Michael Jackson meats Hip Hop. The song is equally hypnotic in French (here in the Official Clip) and English (which I bought the next day and have on repeat it’s so good).

    2.) Yesterday we found DWJ’s Hexwood. Ok, so wrong country, but totally those woods. It’s next to a churchyard and small cathedral which we’ve taken visitors to umpteen times but never noticed before. It’s through a hidden gate and must be part of the grounds to either the bishop’s palace or the nunnery & monastery (not a monkery, why?) associated with the cathedral. And there’s a sacred tree. Dedicated to St Brendan and yet it’s the most stunningly pagan site: long tradition here of leaving items behind as part of a prayer for help. This tree is covered in rosary beads, statues of the saint, Ventolin inhalers, children’s toys, you name it. And still being used – because we saw a family with a young boy on crutches approach the tree while we were there. I picked many elderflowers in the woods, the kids played at being fairies, and the canopy was so thick we didn’t get rained on. Magic.

    • 19/06/2016 at 8:34 PM

      Its supposed to be pretty good with its portrayal of coding, but I have not confirmed that with actual programmers.

    • maggiedot
      20/06/2016 at 12:35 AM

      Don’t feel too out of depth on the Mr. Robot reference! I had actually just seen the cover image in passing on Amazon Prime, so it was top-of-mind this week. 🙂 I have to look stuff up all the time on here, so you’re not alone! ^_^ (I’m going to have to keep the Stephen Covey advice in mind, too–I bet it’ll come in really useful this week for me!)

      Bravo on the Fun Flimsy progress! 2/3rds done is a huge accomplishment in and of itself. (And if you need a beta reader at any point, definitely reach out to me!) Definitely understand the frustration of the scene dynamic, though. Some outside perspectives on how it flows and whether it feels cohesive might jog some insight. Maybe just do two drafts up to that point, if it doesn’t require a huge amount of extra work?

      Very cool about the forest, too! How magical! I love the idea of leaving things when applying for aid. What a wonderful tradition!

    • 20/06/2016 at 9:08 PM

      Hexwood! Next time I will visit you!

      • karinacoldrick
        20/06/2016 at 9:10 PM

        The kids are mad keen to get back there – and I’ll bring my camera to prove it. Seriously, at one point I didn’t think we’d find the way out.
        Also, the Land of Spare Oom always available for guests. Which part of England you visiting and when? (I’m popping over the water in July to Windsor.)

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