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’m heading away on holidays in six days time, so this week is all about getting some blog posts drafted and finishing off the current chapter of the novel draft before I spend ten days away from the keyboard.

What’s inspiring me this week?

The Netflix original series, Love, which is one of those series that takes advantage of the binge-watching habits that come with online streaming services.  The shift in the way series are paced and structured is really interesting.

Also, inexplicably, finding myself addicted to the first season of Hart of Dixie.

What part of my project an I avoiding?

Started messing with my routines last week and lost a little focus, which meant I haven’t sat down to write as much as I’d like. I’m looking at putting some focus on the routine this week, making sure I sit down to write regularly even if I don’t get much done.

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

  1. 21/02/2016 at 10:50 AM

    What am I working on this week? Queerish PNR! I’m on Chapter Ten now, still not managing to write on days I haven’t specifically set aside for that, but I’ve still got quite a lot of words written this week, including a key scene that I was worried about, and that turned out a lot better than I expected. Meanwhile I’ve been doing battle with my doctors and the government, which is a bit draining.

    What’s inspiring me this week? I’m on an X Files binge, which is lots of fun. Proper comfort television. And I’m reading a very nice book (The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison, kinda high fantasy plus steampunk, it’s delightful) which is always pleasing.

    What part of my project am i avoiding? The writing on not-writing days! Kevin, I want to thank you for your comments last week – I’m looking at my document every day, sometimes multiple times, but struggling with actually breaking through my inertia and writing words, even when I have a reasonably good idea what comes next. IT’S WEIRD. Any tips for breaking blank-page-itis gratefully received!

    • maggiedot
      21/02/2016 at 1:44 PM

      Hmm, for blank-page-itis, what I’ve done in the past is open up an entirely new document and start writing the next scene there. (Odd as a solution to blank-page to go for MORE blank-page, but somehow it manages to disconnect the new stuff from the weight of the main document, and I can always cut and paste later if I like it (and if not, it’s not muddying up my manuscript, either!).

      I’ve heard so many good things about The Goblin Emperor! Now it’ll have to go on my to-read list. 😀

    • 21/02/2016 at 4:22 PM

      For blank-page-itis, I’ve heard good things about copy typing the last page of your own or someone else’s writing, but usually I just set a timer for 10 minutes and tell myself I have to type the whole time even if it’s nonsense, and that usually gets me back into it.

    • 21/02/2016 at 10:41 PM

      I’m glad the advice helped! A week of even just opening that document every day is taking the suggestion to heart, so go you!

      • 22/02/2016 at 7:38 AM

        I should probably clarify that “looking at the thing every day” doesn’t actually represent a change in my behaviour. 😀 I certainly feel better about that than I did, though! (The book is never out of my head for long, which is a good thing.)

    • 22/02/2016 at 9:47 AM

      If you’ve got the “looking at” part down on non-writing days, try scaling the writing expectations right down to nothing: giving yourself permission to walk away after writing a single word, for example, or making the requirement open the manuscript and sit for thirty seconds with a pen in hand. Writing is one of those things that suffers from massive expectation escalation, where we procrastinate when time/energy levels are low but still feel like we should be doing more.

      Alternatively, if it’s a real fluctuating energy level thing, trail something like the word count bingo approach which allows for zero days, low wordcount days, and high wordcount days across the course of a month.

  2. maggiedot
    21/02/2016 at 1:57 PM

    What am I working on this week?:I’m back! I managed to survive (and enjoy the hell out of) the LitReactor class, made some great new contacts, and found out I’ve made my first pro-level sale (a dark spec-fic story about a giant mechanical fish and a vengeful town, to my old alma mater Apex Magazine)! Needless to say, I’m psyched. This week will be all about getting back into routine and picking up the novel rewrite again.

    What’s inspiring me this week?Project Runway: All Stars. There’s something about watching creative people make beautiful things from fabric in ridiculously short periods of time that has me wondering about creating under pressure, what amount of pressure is helpful to cutting through the mental crap to get to the deeper, better stuff, and the ways designers either help or hurt themselves under those conditions. It seems to me that the ones who do best are the designers who really have a defined aesthetic already–they kind of already know themselves and why they make clothes at all–and I feel like there’s some translating truth in that to writing as well. I remember reading slush years ago and thinking that one of the biggest differences between the stories I pushed up verses the stories I rejected myself was an undefinable feeling of confidence. Even moderately large flaws could be let go if the writer seemed to know what s/he was doing. It made quite the impression on me.

    What part of my project am I avoiding?Getting back into the novel edits. Over the past four weeks, I’ve realized that my initial plan for the rewrite was majorly flawed, and so I have to go back to the drawing board a bit, which is frustrating. I think I can still use some of the mental work I did for the revised outline in the new revised outline, but I still feel like I’m in a horrible one-step forward/nine-steps-back kind of place. Revising a work this long (and right now, it’s just a long novella!) seems so completely overwhelming, it seems like every forward step is a misstep, which is a bit discouraging. But I’ll try to dig in this week, and maybe it’ll start coming together. Here’s hoping!

    I’m curious, though, Peter: you’ve mentioned you made a huge list of things to check for as you edit longer works. What kinds of things do you list as tasks? Do you organize your draft-passes in any particular way, or do you just go one item at a time? Thanks!

    • 21/02/2016 at 4:25 PM

      Re Project Runway, have you seen Dior and I? It has that creative-people-working-to-deadline fascination, as well as the ordinary(ish) people behind haute couture, and is also a rather lovely examination of people-management and team work.

      • maggiedot
        22/02/2016 at 3:29 AM

        Just last week, actually! Wonderful documentary, and really interesting insight into the lives of creatives (and all the people who they work with–talk about a joint effort!), like you said. And those walls of flowers! (That must have smelled so delicious…) I love fashion-related stuff like that. I also really enjoyed The September Issue, profiling the intimidating but very interesting Anna Wintour. Fascinating stuff. 😀

    • 21/02/2016 at 4:34 PM

      What am I working on this week? Editing the regency (huzzah, it’s moving again), in-depth novella planning, chasing people on contract details on three different art projects I need to start very soon.

      What’s inspiring me this week? Charlotte’s book on editing (which comes out on 29 Feb) which talked me back down to a feasible, logical, nuts-and-bolts approach to editing. Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, the charm of which I have proven unable to resist – it has a curious mix of pragmatic common-sense and magical thinking which is proving to be extremely useful. FINALLY constructing the scanner-storage-solution, moving desks around the house and measuring for shelves – off to Ikea again tomorrow! A creative-working-evening with illustrators, video editors, writers and architects (and wine and cheese) organised by a friend this week.

      What part of my project am I avoiding? Difficult emails. Keeping up with reading. I’ve been setting the alarm for half-hour intervals and making myself lie down and READ this weekend, to get back in the habit of finishing books (a habit which research has broken).

      • 21/02/2016 at 10:50 PM

        Yeah, I’ve been having trouble making time for reading over the part of the week that I can control, due to the amount of urgent stuff that needs to get out the door. Have you found making a set time for reading helps at all?

    • 21/02/2016 at 10:48 PM

      RAUCOUS FUCKING APPLAUSE for the sale. That’s fantastic news!

      I hear what you’re saying about confidence, too. If a story moves at a fast enough pace that I don’t spot the holes the first time around, I don’t begrudge the author/director/person responsible, because it moved fast enough to entertain me and feel coherent. There’s a great TV Trope about this called “Fridge Logic” (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FridgeLogic) which is happily a world away from comic books and their dark history of fridging women.

      (also, not to steal Peter’s thunder, but he did post today on Facebook about a book called “Revising Fiction” by David Madden)

      • maggiedot
        22/02/2016 at 3:35 AM

        Thanks! 😀 I’m quite excited. And I’ll definitely check out the “Fridge Logic” post on TVTropes (I love that site–though am glad it’s unrelated to the fridging women! I hadn’t even realized what a trope that was (other than the gut reaction every time a girlfriend comes on page or on screen to think “bet she’d dead in the next scene”) until I saw Anita Sarkeesian’s videos via FeministFrequency, then it all clicked! ^_^). AND I’ll check out the post, too! Thanks for the tip!

    • 22/02/2016 at 10:14 AM

      My redrafting approach is very much a work in progress, since I’m used to constant revision as I go along. But it’s currently a multi-step process where I a series of sweeps looking at particular issues.

      The first sweep is basically spent highlighting actions throughout the manuscript, which lets me pick up on habitual actions and overused sections, check which scenes actually have something going on and which are just info dumps, and basically gives me a chance to revisit the manuscript with new eyes.

      From that read-through, I get a general idea of the wholesale structural changes that need to be made. A novella-length work will generally involve a page of hand-written notes, which will involve things like “needs a local contact to make Rockhampton scene less coincidental” and “third straight scene with zombie swarm/argument while smoking/people standing around nodding at each other – need alternate set-up.”

      Between those two processes, I generally get an idea of the big structural problems.

      The second sweep is spent transforming the handwritten notes into detailed summaries and redraft notes in the manuscript draft. This starts with notes outlining what’s going on in the scene, what information it’s essential the reader take away, and what conflicts are driving the action.

      The step after that is tackling the big structural problems – scenes that are hitting the wrong note because they’re relying on narrative fiat, or because my first-draft brain is basically seizing upon a familiar trope. Large-scale problems with cause and effect. This will generally involve rewriting a bunch of scenes, or dragging scenes backwards and forwards into the book.

      Occasionally it will involve merging two scenes into one, or splitting scenes up. It’s where I will write a bunch of alternate scenes that look at taking things in different directions.

      After those big issues are solved, I’ll go through and tackle the general rewrite notes. Then start doing the really specific stuff – sweeping through each scene looking at metaphors, for example, or focusing exclusively on the dialogue. Doing another action sweep to check the scene blocking.

      I’ve got a copy of David Madden’s “Revising Fiction,” which has 185 questions to ask about your manuscript during the revision phase, and it seems like it has the potential to be an illuminating exercise to go through.

      And that’s roughly where I’m at in terms of the process with associated checklists. I expect it will change a lot more before I’m done.

      • maggiedot
        23/02/2016 at 1:46 PM

        Thanks so much, Peter! I’m so new to the long-form editing process, I always feel like I must be doing it wrong, but some good direction from folks with more experience is very helpful! (And thank goodness in my book culling from my last move, I kept my as-yet-not-fully-read copy of Madden’s book! I’ll definitely have to go through it in detail.) Thanks again!

  3. Karina
    21/02/2016 at 9:38 PM

    What am I working on?
    This week I have not one, but two, online “to do with writing” courses. Having refined my three chapters of my new project, I also should really start on the synopsis for that. I’ve thought of another, more commercial story concept, however, and I’m tempted to get some planning underway for that instead.

    What’s inspiring me this week?
    Well it’s a significant birthday midweek and I it seems I must always work through an existential crisis prior to any annual clockover. Once the day is done I’m usually fine. Beforehand though = flummery of prevarication and general flubbery uselessness. Not so much inspired this week gone as “distracted”.

    What part of my project am I avoiding?
    Writing. There, I said it. I need to get into the thick of a new project – anything, really – because I am a better human being then. But I still have this schoolmissish need to have someone grant me permission.

    • 21/02/2016 at 10:53 PM

      I hereby grant you permission to get down to the thick of writing whatever’s bouncing around your head this week, Karina. 😉

      Congratulations/commiserations on the significant birthday, too. Given how rare a milestone it is to hit One That Matters, maybe give yourself a little time off from making for the first half of the week and focus on consuming things that you’re curious about at the moment?

      Kudos on the three chapters down, too!

  4. 21/02/2016 at 11:00 PM

    Be interesting to hear how you go with routines once the week is done, Pete. Particularly given that you’re about to have a big upheaval traveling interstate for a spell.

    With how Love takes advantage of Netflix’s format, do you think it would suffer if it were being watched on a more traditionally spaced/non-user-controllable schedule?

    • Karina
      22/02/2016 at 3:58 AM

      Ah Kevin, you’re gorgeous! And thanks. But the permission is kinda one I need to grant myself. Self-licence to create and all.
      ; >

      • 24/02/2016 at 11:50 AM

        I figured that was the case, but couldn’t resist being a little cheeky. I hope that internal shift is going well this week for you!

    • 22/02/2016 at 10:28 AM

      It would suffer, but more in a “it would be harder for it to find its audience” kind of way. It’s a slow-moving story that would be impossible to sell to commercial TV, because it’s pacing and content is so outside the box. It’s basically a Judd Aptow-style relationship comedy using the thirteen-hour-movie approach that Daredevil and Jessica Jones us, and it wouldn’t survive in an environment where it needed eyeballs fast to draw in advertisers.

  5. 21/02/2016 at 11:22 PM

    What am I working on this week? Officially, I’ve had an influx of paid gigs from commercial clients, which is always fantastic, and that’s kept me busy. Unofficially, mindset’s been the big thing this week. I’ve felt strangely unanchored, even though it’s been a productive week overall. Teetering between imposter syndrome and elation at kicking goals. I’ve been asking myself some Big Ethical Questions about how I want to conduct myself on social media, and picking away at bad habits like Facebook being the default place to waste time rather than my RSS feed reader.

    There’s been good progress on the tentpole projects though, and over the week to come I’m sitting down and doing a chunk of research for one of them, along with recording a block of voice acting for a video game gig, which is feeling pretty good.

    What’s inspiring me this week? Tom Waits. A dear friend and collaborator put together a playlist of selected songs, and his art is just amazing. The through-line that’s unmistakably Tom, woven through such a diverse body of work. And while Tom’s been plugging away at what he does for most of his life, the fact that he still has an artistically rich career at a later stage of his life lends hope to those of us who found their calling later than others.

    Besides Tom Waits, I’ve also found a great YouTube channel which has interesting short and informative videos on different topics – The School of Life (https://www.youtube.com/user/schooloflifechannel) There’s a paid way to consume more of their content, but there’s also a whole lot that’s available for free. It’s exactly the kind of thing I’d thought about putting together a couple of years back (having only the ability to narrate, and lacking an animator and a great scriptwriter and research team) because it’s gently informing people about topics where discussion is either taboo, or laden with deliberate misinformation. And I naively hope that it’s exactly that sort of thing that might do something to save us, one person at a time.

    What part of my project am I avoiding? I’m still struggling to get back to putting study time in the daily routine reliably. Morning pages are there, and I’ve reintroduced some important vocal exercises, but I’m struggling with putting aside study time even though I know it’s just a matter of dedicating another half an hour a day and sucking it up.

    Post-moving-house, I’ve also had the problem in the recording signal chain pop back up, and I’m dreading having to pull it out.

    • maggiedot
      22/02/2016 at 3:43 AM

      Cool link! I’ll definitely have to check that out. And I hear you on fitting in that extra half hour for practice. I’ve been telling myself for months to get back to studying up on my current “language in process,” but finding that half hour is somehow a Herculean task. Is it possible to squeak in maybe even just half of the study time first thing in the morning before anything else? Maybe just breaking the cycle with a small portion will drive the need to complete it later in the day? If I find anything that works on my end, I’ll let you know!

  6. 23/02/2016 at 10:28 AM

    This weather is wreaking havoc on anything I have on any to-do list (writing or otherwise). Anyway, in the spirit of changing patterns this year, here goes…

    What am I working on this week?

    wip

    What is inspiring me?

    I am excited, (something I rarely feel about anything word related at present) to be starting attending a Write Club this week. Thursday is the day we are going to start the trial. I am excited for the fact of face-face and never ever had this before.

    Plus, along with the mention up higher by Peter of the word bingo. I’ve created so many variations of this idea and have failed big time for years using it (primarily health) that it’s now defeating the purpose and making me failed before I start. So, I tried a different approach and created a “page” count variation. Still not working (I suspect due to said repeated failures of attaining any level of achievement). Then, my Write Club friend amended my amendment to this idea to a time bingo count. I’ve amended hers down to very small increments (5 minutes is my lowest and 40 minutes is my highest). This is also now inspiring not feeling defeatist.

    What am I avoiding?

    Confirmation of my university subject load. The battle between knowing what I am health wise ready for and a case of the “shoulds”.

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