26 August 2007

Slack! (Why Not?)

I'm considering a "radical" idea. I've got a couple of stories to work on finishing, so when the next crit group session comes, I'm not going to read. *Gasp!* That's right, kids. I'm going to continue with "Masked," and send it out to those folks who've agreed to read it. I might bring the rough draft of "The one with the warlock JuCo" (Yeah that's a new one. I might put up a counter, but I'm not feeling it.) if too few people plan to read.

On the other hand, my original goal for that piece was to make it a flash piece...

23 August 2007

"While the music played, you worked by candlelight"

All that Steely Dan I've been listening to has finally bled into my writing. I pushed it out of my head, onto the AlphaSmart (which will be 100% mine once I hand the money over, rather than a function of 9/10ths of the law), and then to 6S, where it will appear next week.


Lit Shuffle: "The Black Sheep" by Italo Calvino

20 August 2007

New Old Toy

I forget if I've talked about wanting one of those PDA/fold-out keyboard combos, something to use as an ultraportable word processor to write on the fly a la Warren Ellis, et. al. Others have opted for something like this here device, the AlphaSmart 3000.

It's a sturdy one-piece word processor. That's it. No wireless or Bluetooth capability, not even Tetris--at least, not the lower-end model and certainly not on the discontinued models. And, having been loaned one for the past two days with an option to buy, it's taken me exactly that long to fall in love with it. It's an older, dinosaur model and not as small as a PDA, but it gives me exactly what I need!

It's solid and light (less than two pounds). The battery life is ridiculously long. It dumps content onto my computer, into whatever program I can type into (Word, Notepad, whatever), and even works as a keyboard emulator, to boot. I typed out most of this entry (aside from some minor edits) in a coffee shop a few hours ago, and I'm right now watching it dump right into a Blogger entry box.

The implications for my writing productivity blow my mind. Plus, all the potential ways I could "lifehack" this thing--hell, it's a listmaker and calculator, what more could a GTD geek ask for?

Of course, once I own this puppy, I have no excuse whatsoever for writing something--a "plug-in," some flash fiction, the occasional brainstorm, some edits--every single day. Not that I'll be using this every time, just for the times when I feel I just have to type as opposed to handwrite stuff for whatever reason.

Gone will be the days when I go, "Eh, I need to type this out; I'll just wait until I get home." Gone will be the days I lug around my laptop almost every damn day only to get a little bit done because I've dicked around on teh Intarwebs. Nope, no more excuses that don't have to do directly with my willpower or lack thereof.

Tough Love

As you can see from the progress bar (until I nuke it, that is), I'm 99% done with the first draft of "The one with the mask," which is now officially titled "Masked" (until I change it). No, I'm really not just one word shy of finishing. Rather, I've written all the scenes that I know are part of the story and it's just a matter of putting them together.

Unfortunately, I couldn't do it in time for the last group session, as I promised. They didn't seem to mind. They seemed more upset at the idea that I wasn't going to bring the story back. I mean, it'd been six weeks already. Luckily, they were almost unanimously willing to individually look at a finished version once I got it together, which should be in a few days (I hope).

Here's what they had to say...

The Good
  • The portion I shared got the adrenaline running, it seemed.
  • I snuck in a revised, condensed version of some of the stuff I shared last time. No one seemed to have a problem with it. In fact, one person noted that I effectively implemented the fixes that were suggested in the last session. Hey, reduce, reuse, and recycle, right?
The Bad
  • I knew there'd be problems with the flashbacks sooner or later. I tried to stick with the rule about how to frame them grammatically in a story, but I floundered in places.
  • I had a couple of longish sentences.
  • There were a couple of minor plot points and details that could stand to be cut out.
The Ugly
How ugly could it have been when apparently it's now the rule (as a joke!!) that I'm to read last so no one has to follow me? Okay, that was shameless of me to repeat that, but that's what they said. No, for me the ugly part is that I just couldn't get it all done. But, I've acquired a tool lately that will go a long way to removing some of the barriers to getting shit done that aren't directly related to my will power.

Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me

...that I'd left that dorky-looking Twitter application stuck at the top of my sidebar? Don't worry, it's gone now.

My apologies.

12 August 2007

Bad Attitude

Wow, I'm just not feeling it on any level right now. And, I've already written the first draft of a story today, a flash piece for the online flash crit group I'm in, in about an hour. I remember when that would've been a coup. Today, (a) I'm half-berating myself because that's just not the project I'm supposed to be working on right now and (b) now I've got one more thing to edit.

I know that's the absolute wrong way to look at things right now, but there it is.

10 August 2007

Where's My Inner Taskmaster?

Yes, I added about another thousand words to "The one with the mask." But, the story's still not done, I don't think (which obviously means the MS isn't finished). Alas, some of the pressure is off as the group is cancelled this week. But, this is opportunity--now, there's absolutely no fucking excuse for not having a finished quality product ASAP.

Guess I'm Really Not Alone

I'm in a café in a library at the Big Red School on the Hill, playing hookey from work. Hell, I got stories to finish.

There's a joke in I-town, mostly among writers who know each other, that everyone here is a writer. "Everyone"--townies, professors, undergrads, grad students--is working on some novel or screenplay or somethingorother.

I'm observing a conversation between two people, an English professor and a library media specialist, and an old physics professor who kind of horned in on their conversation.

Two of the three confessed to being writers.

07 August 2007

So That's How It's Done

Elizabeth Bear writes in Storytellers Unplugged: Passion and the single blogger
And that's what makes [certain blogs] readable--compulsive, even. Because they're committed. They're there laying it on the line. This is what I do, and this is how I do it.

And that? Is interesting. And it's interesting in ways that apply to fiction writing, too. Because characterization counts. I mean, let's be honest here: Shakespeare couldn't plot his way out of a wet paper bag. And he knew it, too, which is why he lifted stories from everywhere and anywhere, with the peculiar light-fingered pickpocket's touch of his. But the man could write characters--people--better than just about anybody.

A good weblog is about character.

05 August 2007

New Subs

I'm going to have a go at tracking my fiction submissions on here. I've appropriately decided to label this, and all future posts of this sort, masochism.

I've sent two flash pieces here. I was at a talk in the spring sponsored by the Saltonstall Foundation, and the editor of this journal was one of the presenters. I'd been thinking about submitting to them ever since, even after seeing this potential vision of my future in the last two panels of this page from Raketenwerfer's America's Top Novelist, part 2.

The Eagle Has Landed!

The Wife has returned from her trip to Korea, the details of which can be found on her project's website! I'm sure there'll be more stuff once she fights off the jet lag.

03 August 2007

If Laughter's the Best Medicine

...then the person down the counter from me seems to have overdosed on it.

This dude is giggling uncontrollably for no reason that I can discern. I don't see a Bluetooth on him, he's not reading anything, and I don't see anything out the window we're both facing worth ROTFL about.

And, now he's just stopped like there was nothing.

Stars Must've Aligned

...if I'm reading this not two weeks after discovering this person's name via the Great American Prose Poems anthology, which is yet another book added to my goodreads list before I've finished the 100 other things on it.

Charles Simic Receives Poet Laureate Post, Plus $100,000 Award
By Jeffrey Burke
Aug. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Charles Simic, a Pulitzer Prize- winning writer, will receive two major honors today. He will be named the 15th poet laureate of the U.S. by the Librarian of Congress, succeeding Donald Hall, and he will receive a $100,000 award from the American Academy of Poets.

02 August 2007

Rolfing My Inner Child

So you went and you found you a guru
In an effort to find you a new you
And maybe even managed to raise your conscious level.
While you're striving to find the right road,
There's one thing you should know,
"What's hip today might become passé"

Tower of Power, "What Is Hip"
Note to self: Work that quote into a rewrite of this essay, written such a long time ago I'm almost embarassed by the prose.

01 August 2007


I know what you're thinking. All that screed about writing, and here he is blogging. Deal ;). I just wanted to take a second and brag.

I'm also part of an online flash fiction critique group, which I've been neglecting as I freak myself out trying to pound "The one with the mask" out of me. There's a minimum monthly participation level that I crammed into the last day of July with one story and three critiques.

The story was based on a Carver-like piece of Vogon poetry I wrote awhile back, probably the closest to a decent poem I've ever written or am ever likely to write. No, I don't consider that cheating at all, why do you ask? There was lots of editing that needed done. Anyway, I submitted it to surprisingly few criticisms, aside from people's individual tastes on sentence structure.

The point again that this is the umpteenth time I've experienced the joys of just sitting the fuck down and getting shit on paper, sort of the literary equivalent of a bulemic purge, in order to beat a deadline. You'd think I'd learn that lesson, but I doubt I will anytime soon. Already, I feel myself "not feeling like it," as far as the bits I have to do to carry "The one with the mask" those few precious steps toward completion.

Tough Love

Haven't done the writing group update yet, seeing as I'm supposed to be plugging away at "The one with the mask" (which may actually end up being titled "Masked"). I gave them my 1,000 words, and I got the following back...

The Good
  • I wrote a scene where the protagonist referred to a past hospitalization (the implication being that it was a psych hospitalization), which was seen as a "realistic depiction." In the interest of full disclosure, I've worked in the field, so I know how these things go.
  • People appreciate the humor. Again, it's shocking. I know I write funny bits in my stories, mostly in the form of character thoughts or dialogue. They're the ones being funny, not the story itself. But the group seems to really enjoy that aspect when it's there. I suspect, though, that it maybe has more to do with my reading (we read our pieces out loud to the rest of the group) than the prose itself, but I could be wrong.
  • No one really had any nits to pick about the prose itself. Again, it's kind of like the tone of my rejection letters: "Great prose, but the story blah blah blah..."
The Bad
  • I was afraid that I'd included some extraneous details in this section, although I didn't exactly know what would be extraneous until after I'd finished. The group concurred on both counts.
  • I'd inadvertently altered the voice of the protagonist. One person noted that he had a "sweetness" to him in the beginning that disappeared. I wish I could say that I did that on purpose, because there were some darker themes to the section I wrote, but the crit was right. The truth is, there's a noticeable jump in the protag's voice between the first 1300 words and the next thousand. And the themes really stay at a certain level of darkness.
  • The same critiquer thought that I was wandering from the main thrust of the story. Again, she was right. Although I think I can fix that with some serious editing.
The Ugly
Again, no real "ugly" to speak of. Heck, one person in the group said she didn't have any crits to give.

Afterward, we had the usual kaffeeklatch that went pleasantly longer than it typically does. I talked about how I psyched myself out by presenting a portion of the story last time that got such rave reviews that I was freaking out that I had to come up with something that would garner as much praise. Apparently, I'm not the first person this has happened to, which is the reason for the prevailing wisdom that one should only bring finished pieces to a writing group. I've always been in 100% agreement. It was just that all I had for last time was the start of "The one with the mask," so that was what I brought. I guess you can call it my self-imposed consequence of not having something finished within the alotted time.

Deadlines, people--the reason I hooked up with a group to begin with.