Tag Archives: busy

The Verdict | Creativity Workshop Goals, Week 5

6 Jun

Merrilee Faber, when this trilogy in my head gets written, revised, bought, and published, I’m going to mail a big thank-you to Australia for your brilliance in running this workshop.

That’s right.  Trilogy.  Sort of a far cry from short-story.  Not a word of it is written yet, except for page upon page of ideas, but OH MY.  It’s epic.  It’s adventurous.  It’s currently all in my head.  I want it out.

But, I digress.¹

Oh, boy, the Creativity Workshop this week.  Perhaps I should begin with how last Sunday suddenly morphed into Saturday night, and six full days mysteriously slipped through a black hole?  To be fair, time passed at warp-speed because I was furiously devoted to novel edits, but the result — as far as #CreateWS is concerned — is the same.

Notebook.  Blank.  Ideas, existing only in my head, curled up to sleep beside my good intentions.

How lame, I thought.  Lame, lame, lame.  Must fix. Not at all content to tell you guys, “Hey, guess what?  I didn’t do one single thing toward the workshop this week, and I’m okay with it because of (insert some valid excuse here),” I set to work on it.  Last night.  At 10pm.

Yeah, so that didn’t work too well.  Sweet husband and I got invited to a concert, and though we did not go, the invitation itself distracted me.  Plus, I made us some tea, and found myself distracted by the boiling, the steeping, the drinking.  We somehow ended up tackling four loads of laundry instead, and my notebook remained blank.  (Wait.  Lie.  Not totally blankI managed to transcribe the entire three lines of my nursery rhyme inspiration, “Sailing, Sailing,” before giving up.)

This morning, I woke up with the sun, while my husband and the two cats slept.  I brewed a fresh French press, ate some toast, and tried again.

Um, this time?  MAGIC.  Magic, magic, magic.  Epic magic.  In my head, on the page, frantic scribbles in my little green notebook.  Ideas.  Characters.  Twists, lies, hope, jealousy, love, loss, bitterness.  Adventure.  A quest.  Mystery.

Pretty soon, I became fairly certain this would not a short story make.  It would a LONG story make.  Like, maybe three long stories.  Complications, twists, motivations snaked their way out of my pen and onto the page, building upon each other to weave a surprisingly coherent, intriguing, tight idea for a plot.

Moral of this week’s story?  It is SO worth it to at least try to do something on these workshop stories, even if it’s at the last minute.  To give it time, real time, along with real thought.

Worth.  It.

I desperately want to vomit my ideas onto the screen, but that sort of thing tends to jinx me until the story is at least somewhat underway.  Sorry to be all, YAY FOR IDEAS and then, NO I WON’T REVEAL ANYTHING.  I plan to pursue this project, so stick around and I’m bound to tell you more at some point in the future.  If you really want to know, email me, and I’ll probably be too excited to hold back, once pressed.

So, the plan.  I’m pressing on with the workshop.  The next set is all about stories inspired by song lyrics about birds, and I’m excited.  I have a surprise in store for you guys, so check back early in the week.

As for my trilogy idea, I’m trying to figure out when is best to do something on it.  On one hand, I’m thigh-deep in revisions for my WIP.  I’m determined to finish that one, and finish it well.  So, that remains priority.  Also, the workshop has given me great new inspiration, many new tools, and I have committed to it, so I’m going to keep that as a priority.

I’m thinking I’ll try to write for fifteen or thirty minutes a day on the trilogy idea, something short and consistent to both a) get my writing juices flowing, and b) maintain a connection to these ideas I’ve had.  Once the workshop is over, I’ll focus more energy on the new project.  Once I’m done with edits and in the querying phase for my current WIP, I’ll focus even more energy on it.

As if I needed more stuff to do.  The good thing, though, is that I’m SO EXCITED about all of it.  No, I didn’t write a short story this week, but I have my next novel project lined up.  What I need now is patience, and the ability to focus my enthusiasm.  No deserting the current projects, no sacrificing the almost-finished for the not-even-started.

This post is long enough.

¹I have ALWAYS wanted to say I digress, but I think this is actually the first time I ever have.  Just FYI.

The Verdict | Creativity Workshop Goals, Week 3

24 May

As you might imagine, on the morning after the Lost series finale, my head feels like popcorn popping in a microwave.  (I won’t spoil anything, promise.)  Ben Linus.  Smoke Monster.  Time.  Death.  Life.  Jack, Kate, Sawyer.  Locke.  Flocke.  Lemon-raspberry tart, jungle plates, apple crisp.  Guacamole, cabernet.  Vacuum.  Dishes.  Seating arrangement for nine in a tiny apartment living room.

Now that all the planning is over, the processing of what just happened? has begun.  Thus, I’ve already succumbed to the distractions of message boards, EW.com, and a let’s-discuss-this! phone call with my mom.  Finally, I tore myself away for productivity’s sake.  For now.

You might have guessed it already, but I, um, didn’t quite meet my Creativity Workshop goals this week.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I blasted off with a full tank of fuel back on Tuesday, when I posted about the flamin’ ladybug story — trouble was, much as I REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted (and still want) to spend time on it, it was an altogether strange week.  Admittedly, the most I did on my story this week was to plan it and get way excited about it.

Though party-planning and general I’m-so-excited-yet-sorta-sad-that-I-get-to-find-out-how-Lost-ends bubbly feelings dominated the weekend, that’s not the only reason I was unproductive.  A few of the weekdays were just plain difficult, in terms of some personal stuff going on, and my willpower lacked its usual oomph.  On the days where the oomph was alive and kicking, I made some great progress on my novel edits and at the gym.  I was thisclose to completing a section of the novel, so when it came time to work, I gravitated toward that.

The good thing?

I’m not discouraged.  Still excited, actually, and encouraged that I made progress with the novel and the gym.  It’s really tempting to write the ladybug story this week instead of doing the third story in the set, but: no.  That would put a bad habit into motion, I think.  As excited as I am about it, I shall shelf it for now, knowing I have a great idea to come back to in the future.  Instead, it’s time to press on.

It’s especially tempting to write the ladybugs when I look ahead to this week’s project: Little Bo Peep and severed tails.  What in sideways world am I going to do with that?

No.  Clue.

(Yet.)

Okay, dudes.  I’m feeling that good old oomph right now, so I should strike while it’s hot.  The first goal of the rest of this week: get writing stuff done before I allow myself any more Lost message-board perusal.  Then, I’ll tackle the rest of the week.

PS: That picture of Benjamin Linus and his #8 bunny is a limited edition screenprint made by Todd Slater.  I want this.

Patience + Discipline = REALLY HARD.

13 May

So, as I’ve been writing this week, the same struggle has been popping up over and over and over again: it’s REALLY HARD to balance discipline with patience.

Seriously.

I can be Czar of Productivity, or I can be Girl Who Puts Thought Into What She Does.  It’s not easy to be both.

On one hand, we have the Czar¹of Productivity version of me.  Give me a calendar, and I will whip up the most ambitious color-coded schedule, complete with alarm alerts that sound like submarines.  I’ll even follow it, and be excited about following it.

On the other hand, we have Girl Who Puts Thought Into What She Does.  Though this girl loves discipline in theory, she also loves freedom.  Freedom to write what she feels like writing, when she feels like writing it.  Freedom to write for another hour past that stupid submarine alert (which then begins to remind her of the Jin and Sun Tragedy).

What I’m learning this week is that the Czar has the tendency to be a bit more dominant.  This leads to a feeling of go, go, go, Go, GO! in me, an unsettled get-everything-done-NOW! feeling.  This feeling lies to me, telling me that I must produce, and produce a lot.  That words are the fruit of each hour, and the less I have, the worse I’ve done.

That.  Is.  Not.  True.

Just because I’m devoting more hours to writing, and devoting more hours to different projects, it does not mean the writing itself will automatically go faster.  That, at the end of the day, just because I’m in ‘productive mode,’ I’ll end up with pages upon pages to show for it.

To remedy this, here’s what I’m doing.

First, I’ve realized that hour-long blocks of time make me feel too rushed.  The time flies too quickly, and I try to cram too many hour-long blocks of different tasks into the same morning/afternoon.  This produces that unsettled bubbly feeling in me, and it makes me write fast instead of write well.  Therefore, I’m doing things in 1.5- to 2-hour blocks, instead, and I’m putting them in different times of the day instead of back-to-back.  Making, and sticking to, a schedule does not mean that schedule has to be tight, tight, tight.  Kind of like a financial budget, it needs to allow for real life tendencies, not just the ideal.

Second, I’m learning patience.  Patience to allow myself the freedom to think, and to think deeply, about the words I put on the page.  Patience to sit in the chair and think, or write, hopefully both, during the whole time I’ve scheduled for the project at hand.  I’m reminding myself to slow down, to insert myself into whatever scene I’m writing, and not worry about quantity as long as what I’ve written feels like quality.

These fixes are already working well.  I finished revising a particularly stubborn scene this morning, one who’s been quite the diva.  That felt good.

Ironically, I’m on a time crunch right now — I’m about to go pick up my sister-in-law at the airport.  A few more things before I go, though: in case you’re wondering why I put a picture of my potted plants, it’s not just because they’re pretty.  I thought they were a good representation of discipline and patience, and planned to write more about that.  (Basically, just that you have to have discipline to water them, but you can’t force them to grow.  Helpful writing analogy, in my opinion.)

Also, to all you sweet new friends I’ve met through Merrilee’s workshop, I’ve given you a horrible impression of my ability to respond to comments in a reasonable time!  This week has been abnormally crazy, and I’m dying to write back to all of your comments.  Thank you for leaving them, and I plan to get better at responding in the future.

You people rock.  It’s off to the airport, and out of this freezing place they call a coffee shop.  I’m guessing they keep it below zero to encourage patrons to purchase more steaming mugs of awesomeness?  (It works on me.)

¹Czaress?

Intricacies

28 Apr

It’s been a while since my last Project: Edit update.¹  I’m almost hesitant to write one, given my tendency to jinx myself whenever I’ve had a string of productive days, but whatever.  Update you I shall.

Things have been productive.

It took a while to get started on the actual editing of my second draft, but the ball is rolling on that.  I’m taking it scene by scene, doing my best to be all there when I write.  Somewhere, a long time ago, I wrote that the first and second drafts felt super rewarding, but for different reasons.  Already, the same holds true for my third draft.

For the first draft, I didn’t know where I was going, didn’t know what kind of characters I’d meet along the way.  What resulted was surprisingly coherent, but far from polished.  I added subplots, strengthened characters, bada-bing bada-boom,² the second draft was born.  With both of those drafts, I wrote to get the story down, not to make it pretty.

This time feels different.  It feels slow, calculated, intricate.  Not overworked — just worked.  It’s fun to focus on each scene, fun to make each one special, fun to know the whole story and strengthen its parts.  As satisfying as it was to know I could produce quantity, it’s a hundred times more satisfying to see the quantity morph into (what I hope is) quality.

It’s late, and it’s been a full day.  Time for a little Curb Your Enthusiasm (our most recent DVD fix) after a midnight conversation with my sweet husband and my little editing assistant.³

Project: Edit Update | The note card system is alive and thriving.  I’m still working my way through section one (of nine), but progress is progress.  Diligence is key, and that’s been going well.

¹If you have no idea what I’m talking about, click on “Challenges” at the top of the sidebar.

²And by bada-bing bada-boom, I mean, of course, that it happened overnight.  And by overnight, I actually mean that it took a while.  A long while.

³Also known as Mr. Remy Fang Richard Alpert the Cat, pictured above, hard at work.  He sits in my lap whenever I write, which is adorable until he decides my wrists are made for biting.  Always nice.

The Specifics: Learning to Beta

5 Apr

Armed with a (new) totebag full of supplies — highlighters, my stack of notecards, pens galore, post-its, flip-flops (so my awesome new boots don’t die if these dark clouds make good on their threats), and two file folders full of paper — I’m ready to work.

Not that I haven’t been ready to work this past week and a half — quite the opposite, actually.  Last week was quite a productive one.  So productive, in fact, that I looked up this morning and noticed I was verging on an unprecedented two week gap between posts.

Perhaps you assume that I’m working on turning my second draft from clunky to glorious.  Or, perhaps you assume that by “productive,” I mean making major progress in getting a friend caught up on LOST by hosting a marathon last Wednesday.  Or, if you’re really really really optimistic, you assume that I’m SO BUSY because I’m spending at least an hour at the gym every day.

In these assumptions, you’d be partly right.  (An hour at the gym each day is too generous.  And the LOST marathon?  We limited ourselves to three episodes.)  Actually, a big portion of last week, in addition to all of those things, was devoted to learning something new.

For the first time, I’m learning how to beta read for someone.  (Feel free to out yourself, special someone!)

“What’s the big deal?  Don’t you just read the thing and tell them what you think about it?” Well, yes and no.  In essence, you read the thing and tell the writer what you think.  Really, though, I’m learning to READ the thing and TELL the writer what I think and WHY.  (In case you missed it, I emphasized a few words there…)

Being a beta reader has been excellent practice in both communication and in reading with an observant eye.  Does this work?  Why does it work?  Why not?  Do I like this part?  Why do I like it?  What is going on underneath the surface of the printed words?  Do I have any guesses at what’s coming next?  Too many guesses, or just the right amount?  Am I confused during any parts?  At what point did I become confused?

You get the picture.  All of these examples can be summed up like this: I’m learning to be specific.  To say, “I liked this scene because ______ and _______ and ______, and it really works well with the overall theme you’re trying to communicate (which is _____, if I’m right?) because of ______.” versus “That scene seemed to go well with her character and I liked reading it.”  What does that even mean, you know?  Being specific, as you go, lets the writer see exactly where she has accomplished her goals, and where she wasn’t as clear as she’d hoped to be.

Beta reading has also taught me how much to insert myself into my comments.  It’s a little bit tricky to balance subjectivity with objectivity.  My approach has evolved into I’m going to go ahead and communicate my opinions, but not as FACT with capital letters.  The truth is, I am a reader, and I have an opinion.  Those truths alone make my perspective valid, so if I’m getting something from what she wrote, that means it is possible for someone to perceive it in that particular way.  However, the trick is to communicate that perspective with the understanding that I am only one person.  My comments and thoughts, while valid, may only represent 1% of all readers, so I should present them in a way that’s honest and sincere, yet objective.

Therein lies freedom.  Freedom for the beta reader to honestly communicate what she thinks works and what doesn’t; freedom for the writer to take those thoughts and do what she thinks is best for the WIP and for all readers.

Not only is this helpful for the writer, it’s (obviously) a good learning lesson for you as the reader.  It’s a good way to take a break from your own work while still working out your mind — I’m super excited about diving back into my own novel today, now that I’ve had so much practice reading someone else’s work objectively and looking for specifics.

Those of you who have experience in this — whether from the perspective of the writer or the beta reader — do you have any advice or comments to add?

Now!  To dive into work…

Where Did The Time Go?

11 Mar

I have SO MUCH to tell you guys.

It’s been one crazy week, let me tell you.  This is the…uh…second time I’ve stopped to sit down today and rest.  Things have been a little crazy, what with my attempts to prepare for a trip, rearrange-slash-organize-slash-completely clean my whole apartment (laundry included), and yes, get some work done on the novel.

[I interrupt this blog post with outrage: Ryan Seacrest, did I just overhear you say America voted out Katelyn Epperly?  One of my favorites, THE Katelyn Epperly?  Okay.  Just making sure.  Crap.]

I’ve been planning to write a good long post about my editing progress this week — after that whole Smoke Monster incident, after all, you might have worried that I’ve been sulking in despair, ignoring the world and my writing.  I’m pleased to report that there’s been very little sulking, and loads of progress.  Monday morning, I sat down to work, and something just completely clicked.  I’m not stuck anymore, and am poised to get a lot of work done when I return from my trip.

Unfortunately, it’s been one of those days that’s left me in a state of dazedness, and all I can really think about right now is a huge plate of pasta, white wine, and a night full of Survivor and NBC comedies.  The unfortunate part of that sentence (since we all know pasta, white wine, and TV is a recipe for awesomeness) is that my long blog post about the editing itself will have to wait.  There’s still quite a bit of work I have left to do before embarking on a loooooooooong drive to Minneapolis tomorrow with my church group — this, most likely, means my next post won’t be until I get back to Texas a week from Sunday.  Just thought I’d let y’all know, you know, so you don’t worry when I’m MIA all week.

Oh: those of you who love LOST as much as I do, you should know that I won’t be able to watch it until after I get back, so this is my preemptive strike against accidental spoilers!  (Why, yes, I am planning to bring my laptop justincase there’s an Internet connection and I get a chance to watch it at, like, five a.m. one morning when I’m not busy hanging out with 20 freshmen.)

Happy week to you all!  I’ll be back soon.

PS: Another Outrage Alert!  Two of my other favorites — Lilly Scott and Alex Lambert — got voted off tonight, too.  This is not because my taste = horrible.  It’s because America’s does.

My Good Intentions? Totally Smoke-Monstered.

5 Mar

So.

You could say my life has been like Season Six of LOST lately, that I am stuck in a strange sideways world where things are mostly good but a little off, a little unusual.

You could also say my life has been like this week’s episode of LOST, where [MAJOR SPOILER ALERT AHEAD] [NO, SERIOUSLY, LIKE IF YOU EVER WANT TO WATCH LOST AND HAVEN’T, YOU TOTALLY DON’T WANT ME TO SPOIL THIS FOR YOU] [RACHEL, IF YOU’RE STILL READING, YOU’RE IN TROUBLE BECAUSE THESE SHOUTY ALERTS ARE MAINLY FOR YOUR BENEFIT] the Smoke Monster wreaks havoc on the Temple-dwellers, carrying them kicking and screaming to their own demise.

Okay, so it’s not totally like that.  Kind of, though.  I do feel like I’ve been swept up into a Bizarro World, and that my time has been Smoke-Monstered (and in this analogy, all of my good intentions = the doomed Temple-dwellers).  Usually, I’m the super-organized Queen of Self-Discipline, which makes it all the more annoying that I can’t put my finger on exactly where the time went.  Also usually, whenever I can’t put my finger on exactly where the time went, it’s safe to say I was perusing blogs or reading helpful articles about writing, but alas, I’m far behind on all of that stuff, too.

Fortunately, today is gorgeous and I have a large chunk of hours awaiting me.  I’ve planted myself (along with a too-thick stack o’ stuff) at Starbucks, and I’m going to WORK.  

And, oh, how much more productive I’d be if only I could get that episode-closing creepy-chilling rendition of  “Catch A Falling Star” out of my head.

Revision Update, Phase Two | Time has been ambushed by the Smoke Monster, and my good intentions are trapped in a pit à la Crazed Claire.  No progress has been made (gasp!) since last update, but luckily?  No progress also means no backward progress.  Time for a step forward.

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