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?

My plans went somewhat awry over the last week, largely because I kicked off a new approach to planning novels after reading Alexandra Sokoloff’s Stealing Hollywood and started to figure out a way of fusing my love of literary analysis with some of the techniques in Accidental Creative to get around my usual problems with plotting. The result was a lot of work done, but none of it what I’d intended.

This week, with the new job kicking off in two days, I’m sticking with simple goals: move through the next page of my eleven-page planning document (mostly questions to answer) and revising a short story about flying crocodiles I’ve got kicking around on my hard drive.

What’s inspiring me this week?

Catherynne Valente’s The Bread They Eat in Dreams, which is currently proving to be a short story collection that just nails it story after story. Different voices and approaches every time, but unified by the sense of experimentation, self-awareness about the rules of story and how they shape our identities, and the utterly gorgeous language being used.

What part of my project an I avoiding?

Scheduling is my weakness at the moment. I do less than I’d like in the mornings, but pack social stuff into the evenings which means that I don’t ever get more than the morning shift as a writer. It’s not quite enough to be satisfying, but I haven’t yet hit the point where I’ve put together an actual plan for getting more done.

I also need to figure out where the money is in the flying crocodile story. It’s got an ending, but not the ending.

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

  1. 21/08/2016 at 2:27 PM

    You’re giving me too much to read in this post between Stealing Hollywood and Catherynne Valente’s collection. And hey, good luck with the new job and the flying crocodile short story collection!

    My Sunday Circle is here

    • 21/08/2016 at 3:15 PM

      Stealing Hollywood is…well, good, but not great, if that makes sense? There’s definitely useful stuff in there, but it’s one of those books where I need to annotate the reading constantly because Sokoloff will occasionally change the definition of key beats that have become part of the standard language of talking about structure.

      But the stuff that is good is really good, so I tend to forgive it that.

      And you would love the Valente collection, I think.

    • 21/08/2016 at 6:48 PM

      Is it possible to reduce the scene breakdown for the final act into McKee terms, and look at the reversals you want to have happen, and/or the key conflicts you want to put front and centre and resolve? Or do you already have a strong grasp on that?

      (apologies if that’s a daft question, I’m largely in the dark when it comes to narrative structure issues, but figure asking daft questions can’t hurt)

      Also, yay for 1940s noir! Have you seen Miller’s Crossing at all? Last time I saw it, it felt very grounded in the traditions of early noir, but with an incredible cinematography.

  2. 21/08/2016 at 4:43 PM

    What am I working on this week?
    Website updates (still being neglected, although this was a short week for creative time), King Lear monologue, Russian & IPA work. Research work for tentpole project. Now Playing work.

    What’s inspiring me this week?
    Take a seat. IT’S ALL CONNECTED.

    Seriously though, this has been a week of things kind of folding in to a converging Ur-inspiration. I’ve followed up season one of The Black Tapes, which was enjoyable but had its structural problems (and some dicey choices along the way) with season one of The Tanis podcast, which has been blowing my hair back. It’s gotten deep under the skin with its storytelling, and as near as I can tell the germ that has me so enthused is its embrace of the idea of quests, and big, impossible goals that we throw ourselves at because the act of seeking them is transformative, as much as we want to obtain them. (similar to Grant Morrison’s idea of hypersigils, which I’ve always found compelling.

    That idea of questing ties back to part of the central pull of pulp adventurer characters like Nathan Drake in Uncharted 4, which I’m playing through for Now Playing at the moment, and it definitely sits at the centre of places like Libertalia. I’ve pulled out my copy of The Seven Basic Plots to go over the section on the Quest structure in more detail.

    So I’m not sure if it’s the caffeine, or if it’s the mess of ideas, but it’s really had me amped this week thinking over the innate pull of stories like that. @tanaudel/Kathleen: if you dug the idea of Libertalia at all, I can’t recommend checking out a few episodes of Tanis enough. The horror elements are pretty light-on in the early episodes, and it never gets terribly dark.

    Similarly, I’m finding that the lessons I’m learning with Now Playing and the research/skills development I’m doing there is starting to fold back into the broader creative practice, which is awesome. I watched through the rest of this great presentation on photo composition this week and I’ve got this video on storytelling in video queued up this week (along with revisiting a CreativeLive three hour course on storytelling in podcasts)

    What am I avoiding?
    Website work continues to drag, but everything else is going well. Going to try your suggestion of batching up the work into blocks, @maggiedot: thank you for that!

    Also finding it difficult to knuckle down and build a backlog on Now Playing videos so it stops being just-in-time creation, but hoping to get those wheels off the runway this week.

    • maggiedot
      23/08/2016 at 4:31 AM

      I hope it helps! I’ve been really getting into the micro-project idea, like spending 5 minutes tidying up a cluttered spot that’s been bugging me, and then maybe spending another 5 minutes on that or another problem spot later. Also, the “just three things”–I wish I could remember where I got this tip, and though it pertains to decluttering, I feel like it could help in other areas, too: the core idea is (in cleaning terms) that every time you’re in an area you’ve been trying to clean up (say, the cluttered kitchen table, for instance), pick up just three things and put them away. Do this every time you look at/pass by the kitchen table (or where ever). Three things is pretty easy to tackle, and maybe takes at most a couple minutes, but it’s shocking how much even just that tiny effort can manifest into big progress. I wonder if there’s a way to adapt that three-things mentality into a project like updating a website? I feel like there must be, but I’m terribly braindead today, so it’s not imminently coming to mind. ^_^

  3. 21/08/2016 at 6:53 PM

    @Peter: are you able to wind back the social stuff a little to give yourself some more contingency for working, or are the social things important for self-care at the moment?

    • 23/08/2016 at 7:35 AM

      A little from column A, a little from column B. I’m still trying to sort out the balance between the two things.

  4. 22/08/2016 at 10:59 AM

    Peter: Valente is a marvel. Working on the Subterranean edition was an education. All the best for tomorrow. And is the crocodile related to conversations last year? (https://twitter.com/tanaudel/status/652036713519255553)

    Kevin: thanks for the Tanis recommendation. It sounds like all the thoughts about structure are crystallising very usefully.

    Sophie: thanks for the noir recommendations! I need to study some of the visuals for a project.

    What I’m working on
    – Illustrations for season 2 of Tremontaine.
    – A few last minute tweaks to the Regency between queries.
    – An illustrated presentation for uni.

    What’s inspiring me
    – I just went to my first RWA conference and it was everything Peter promised it would be. Robust commercial love of story and discipline is very appealing right now.
    – Write club. It’s a huge spur to my week. I managed a small one in Adelaide before the conference, but I am looking forward to being home.
    Stranger Things because of how no character is along for the ride in someone else’s story. They are all deciding and acting all the time.

    What’s stopping me
    – Travel. I’m streamlining my travel studio and getting even more opportunistic about working in planes and bars (I’m writing this on my phone in a tram). But I really just want to sit quietly for a while. Ah well, out to my sister’s farm for the rest of the week and home again Saturday.

    • 22/08/2016 at 11:00 AM

      Blame the open tags on the phone composition

    • 22/08/2016 at 11:16 AM

      Maybe 🙂

    • maggiedot
      23/08/2016 at 4:34 AM

      I loved that about Stranger Things, too! It’s like every person has their own piece of the puzzle, and they’re all driven to uncover/understand the puzzle as *they* see it, but they travel along so independently until some vital “A-Ha!” moment where individual theories about what’s happening merge into more complex, nuanced theories. So much fun!

      Have fun at the farm! 😀

  5. maggiedot
    23/08/2016 at 4:22 AM

    So, I’m running a bit late this week. No real excuses, just the usual travel and lack of free time.

    What I’m working on this week: Still settling back in to the general, unpredictable routine post-travel and family wedding. It seems crazy how long it takes me to get back into my normal place post-disruption these days. Still, I did start the short story edit like I wanted to last week, so that’s something. I’m going to try to continue that work this week. It would be fantastic to get it to a retype-able second draft, but that may be overly optimistic.

    What’s inspiring me: Stranger Things, Stranger Things, Stranger Things. Finally finished it on Friday last week, and quite enjoyed it. I do think Barb’s characterization was a bit thin, and the whole “hole in the tree” sequence was pretty heavy-handed, but overall, it was a lot of fun. I’m worried, of course, about whether or not they could continue what they started here in the first season in a second season. American Horror Story was fantastic the first season, but I haven’t been able to get back into it since.

    Also: bullet journaling. Yes, it’s a “thing” right now, and no, I probably won’t do it *exactly* like it’s described (I’m interested, though, in incorporating some of the Accidental Creative stuff (notecard translation/Weekly/Monthly Checkpoints/etc.) into it, too), but I’m playing around with it. Plus, dear lord, don’t get me on Pinterest looking up bullet journaling ideas, because DEAR LORD, there are some folks with way too much time on their hands who can make absolutely beautiful spreads and pages. Me, I’m going for simple and functional (but not entirely unpretty). Because pretty is fun, too! But only in so much as it doesn’t interfere with the getting-things-done aspect. I’m not entirely sure if this will replace my day planner, since I really need the visual calendar and have to make my own in my current notebook (pain…), but we’ll see. I love the idea of keeping everything in one place, and even the more artistic ways of tracking habits/time, because I’m definitely a scrap-paper-notes packrat right now.

    What I’m avoiding: Really, it’s the short story edit. This less uniform approach to writing, while necessary for me at this point, is fantastic for writing new things (the energy build-up is palpable for new projects), but not very effective for editing. I need a more regular schedule for the editing side of things so I continue to bring projects to submittable-completion, so for now, I’ll keep trying to commit to 20 minutes a day and just see where that gets me.

  6. maggiedot
    23/08/2016 at 4:44 AM

    @Peter: Love the title story of that collection! Valente read it at Shroud Con a handful of years ago, and it was just awe-inspiring. Now to read the whole collection!

    As for not getting as much done in the AM as you’d like, is it more a matter of the actual word-slog progress, or concentrated focus, or maybe a matter of trying to fit too much into a limited space, so that no individual project feels like it’s moving forward enough? I’ve been living by a stopwatch lately–just short bursts of 5/10/20 minutes. But in the past, when I’ve had more concentrated time, the 40/20 structure of breaking after 40 minutes of solid work with 20 minutes of deliberate distraction before returning to work was really helpful in maintaining mental energy through a longer creative period. Not sure if that’s applicable for your situation, though!

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