Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Out Like a Lamb? March Summation.

The new laptop is working a treat. Definitely my favorite toy for the year. My Cass word count is around 33,000 right now, which makes me happy.

My weekly three-tiered to do list plan was useful in that it jarred me out of an unproductive rut, but I never got to the point of being fully engaged in it. The most helpful part of it was having specific, measurable goals each day. That's the part I'm going to keep up with.

New plan - scrap the printed out weekly calendar in favor of a whiteboard on the fridge that's more easily modifiable and interactive.

My productivity plan for March ultimately had partial success and while the results aren't wildly amazing, the overall results aren't too shabby. How'd your month go?

Sunday, March 29, 2009


It's been a while since I've put up a piggy-back post, and I think Jenny's latest deserves some piggy-backing. She's thinking about process these days, it would seem. Dickens wrote things out, Jenny sort of writes things out, and then she asks how the rest of us do it.

When I think about it, it seems like the projects I've outlined/pre-written the most, are those I've been least successful with. I'm not sure what the correlation is, but there's something about either why I pre-write, or the pre-writing itself, that trips me up. With the bar novel I started a while back, I did a lot of outlining & pre-writing. The novel never really got off the ground.

With Cass, I've been making notes in the Cass Bible, but those are all reference to make sure technical details - like the color of a character's hair - stay consistent. There's no plot involved. CRP is going smoothly. I'm not writing it linearly at all, I keep skipping around from one scene to another, then back again, but each time I finish one piece, I know which piece to work on next.

A few days ago, while I was re-reading and revising, I came across a scene that I knew I needed to make a little bigger, but wasn't ready to tackle. I inserted the note, "make bigger here, they need to have a fight," and moved on. Yesterday, I went back and wrote the fight. That's as close as I've gotten to outlining.

I think maybe the reason I dislike outlining and have little success with it is because once I make an outline, it feels like the ideas are all on the page and out of my head. When I don't write it down, I keep tossing the ideas around in my mind until I'm ready to write them out in full. It's like outlining for me is picking the fruit before it's ripe.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Trilogy

I'm usually not one to pick up a book out of a series. My main reasons are that I've not been reading at the same pace I used to, which makes keeping up with a series tricky, and since I almost always get my books from the library, I'm at the mercy of what's available, which often means not all of the books in a given series.

But, the other day, a book caught my eye and since it was book one, vs. book five, I picked it up. The book in question was The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie. I wasn't sure I'd be into it, but once I started reading, it hooked me. The interesting parts are: that for all that it's a fantasy book, the magic element is really downplayed, which eliminates a lot of the pitfalls some fantasy yarns have; the characters are interestingly complex; and Abercrombie's voice has hints of humor that I love.

So, the first book doesn't really stand alone, which is one of the things I dislike about a series, but I'm into it enough that I've put the remaining two books on hold at the library. It's not quite what I expected, which makes me happy.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Early Submission

I'm currently printing out my first submission of Crossroads Promise for the CWC on Monday. My laptop is proving itself just as useful as I hoped it would be. I took it for its first major field test yesterday and did some OOTH pages. Not much to show by way of pure page count, but I re-read and revised as much of it as I'm currently printing. 49 pages for the sub., which puts me at one page under the 50 minimum, but it's also the end of a chapter and the next one isn't quite ready. I think the CWC will forgive me on this one.

I'm excited about this 1st sub. I know that despite my best efforts, the gang will find problems in it, but it feels like it's where it needs to be for right now. And, like I said, it's ready early.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Double Joy

I've officially hit the 100 page mark on Cass, which is exciting. It feels like it's more impressive to have 100 pages of something than 98. I think it's the fact that we as a culture like numbers that fall into sets, and 100 is a good batch-type number.

Also adding to my fun is my technology adventure yesterday where I managed to buy the last of a discontinued model of laptop that was exactly what I was looking for. It's nothing fancy. As far as laptops go, this one has just about as few bells and whistles as you can find, but it was in my price range and now I get to streamline my out of the house pages. Coffee shop, here I come.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Two P.I.s Walk Into a Bar...

Lately, I've been trying to find some novels to read that are along similar lines as my Cass project. That's why I recently read Fool Moon by Jim Butcher, which I wasn't super impressed with - you can't pull off 1st person POV when the narrator is that in love with how tall he is and how awesome his coat is.

During my library adventure I picked out Underground by Kat Richardson. Also 1st person, also with a PI narrator who's tied to the supernatural. However, I liked the voice much better here. Much less, "look how cool I am." Richardson used 1st person well and I liked her treatment of the supernatural a lot. Underground is the 3rd book in a series and now I feel the need to get the others from the library.

In terms of researching the genre, it was good to read both. In terms of what I like, I'm more glad I read Richardson than Butcher.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Dollhouse: A Turn

One of the things I love about Joss is his meticulous planning. He'll have a vision of something and start planting seeds, then, after a while, you hit that episode where the parts suddenly fit together. I just finished watching the latest episode of Dollhouse and that's exactly what happens. It was way cool. Especially since one of the secrets unveiled was something I'd been guessing at already. I thought to myself, "It's Joss, that character can't be there, can't be like that, by accident."

This is a tricky show to pull off, but he's doing it.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Reading Break

With spring break upon me, I decided it was time to hit the library and pick up some fun things to read. I picked up four books, with an eye to books that I can potential use as references for my on-going Cass project. I was just realizing that, at about 25,000 words, I'm roughly a third done. Cool.

Spring break is going to be wonderful.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"ould" Edits

I'm working on draft three of "When Bridgette Went Into the Water" right now. It's taken me a while to figure out how to approach revising it, but now I've finally decided and progress is going well. Among larger, more global, changes, I've also noticed a need to weed out a large number of words ending in "ould." Sometimes they serve a purpose, but usually they're just in the way. I didn't realize how many of them I had in this story until today.

"She could feel..." and the like have cropped up all over.

Well, a little bit of CTRL+F and now it's less of that and more "She felt..." which is much nicer.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Taylor Mali

The other day Amanda pulled me over to the computer in our office and said, "Watch this." This turned out to be Taylor Mali. He's a funny guy who is a teacher and a poet. He's got a couple of fun videos on youtube, but I'm going to share with you one in particular. It's called The The Impotence of Proofreading.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

The End Of The Scheduled Week

My highly-structured schedule sort of worked this week. I got some things done I wouldn't have otherwise, but I fell short of my non-negotiables more than one day. It was good, though, because it illustrated the difference between what I thought should happen each day and what tended to really happen.

In light of this, I'm going to do another 3 level week with some adjustments. Less "X will happen on Tuesday" and more "X, Y, or Z will happen on Tuesday."

I've got to say, even though I didn't get done everything I wanted to, it was still very satisfying to mark something off my list on the fridge. That's the best part of TO DO lists.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I just watched the pilot for Castle. I like it. The most hilarious part, of course, being the portrayal of writers. Also fun, Castle's daughter & mom as foils. And, of course, it's hard to go wrong with Nathan Fillion as the lead.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

New To-Do List Plan

This week went okay in terms of productivity. I did get a few things done, but it wasn't much above and beyond the things I get done any other week. So, I decided to change my strategy.

I just printed out a plan for the week. This plan is broken down in two ways: by day, and by levels. I'm falling back on a technique I learned doing sales. The idea was that for each goal you set for yourself, you create three levels:

1. Must do - this is the non-negotiable, bare minimum level. If I do nothing else, I WILL do this on that day.

2. Should do - this is what I should reasonably be able to do on that day.

3. Could do - this is the one where, if I'm really on my game, I can achieve.

Each level builds on the one that came before and I've got it all worked out on a spreadsheet stuck on my fridge. The funny thing about it all is that once I put it all on the page, it really doesn't seem like much. I've also built in some catch up in my goals toward the end of the week to help fill in the gaps if I need to. It's all doable, it's just about a greater level of structure. I'm feeling good about it.

This time next week, assuming I stay on the plan and get done what I want to, I'll be feeling really good about it.

A New Symbol

Symbols are important. We all have our talismans, and there's a reason we have them. Heroes are nothing but symbols. That's why they say you shouldn't meet your heroes in person, because suddenly they're a real, flawed, human.

In the past few days, I've been watching more reality TV than I've watched probably in the whole of the past six months (I'm really not a reality TV fan). I started with Hell's Kitchen and now I'm also working on Kitchen Nightmares. The common denominator: Gordon Ramsay.

The first thing that struck me about him is that he's a bit psychotic, then I watched more and other things came out. Mainly, that guy is incredibly smart and demands excellence. Anything short of perfect just isn't good enough for him. It's a tough standard, but the part that makes me like him is however much he expects from others, he expects just as much or more from himself. He is absolutely NOT the "do as I say, not as I do" type. He's more, "What do you mean five o'clock is early? I've been here since four and I've already done inventory on the whole kitchen, prepped today's food, and killed a Russian spy." The man's a machine.

My new interest in Ramsay is well-timed. This semester is a tough one for me between working on my thesis, drafting the Cass book, and teaching three classes. I've been feeling a little overwhelmed about it all. Then I watch Ramsay and think he'd probably roll his eyes at me, tell me to stop whining, and say he's going to write two theses and found a university just to show me how it's done.

This morning I set a picture of him as my new desktop so the first thing I see when I hop on my computer is Ramsay at a kitchen doorway looking out at me with an expression on his face that says, "Is that the best you've got?"

Friday, March 6, 2009

Under Pressure

The latest show that I've gotten into is Hell's Kitchen. Last night, I couldn't help but think like Jenny was a while back with Top Chef. That it'd be interesting to translate the show. The specific dynamics of it are fascinating, especially watching Ramsay watch the contestants.

Now, a large part of the show isn't just about individual performances, but about making the individuals work together. That's where it all comes out in the wash. So, if we do a writing version it wouldn't be able to just be writers doing their own things, it would have to be group-based. So, I'm thinking some kind of collaborative setting. Maybe a Hell's Magazine. Each of the writers would, instead of working different stations in the kitchen, work different articles and/or different types of editing.

Or maybe a Hell's Critique Group. That one could be fun. We'd find a writing equivalent of Ramsay who would watch over each critique session and have fits, screaming things like, "Hey, you. You come here. Read that dialogue out loud. That dialogue is F*ing despicable. F*ing terrible! I wouldn't serve that dialogue to my dog." And then he'd throw the manuscript at somebody's head.

Then, after the elimination, there would be all the pettiness of, "Yeah, she can't write a strong protagonist to save her life," and "I can write circles around everybody here. Everybody. That's why they give me dirty looks, it's just 'cause they're so intimidated by me."

It'd be awesome.

Monday, March 2, 2009


My February challenge went all right until the last week when my revising time skipped the week all together and piled up on the weekend. Though, I did manage at least 100 minutes per week, and by the end I did twice the amount of time I was aiming for.

March is a bit of a grab bag with enough different things going on in different parts of my life (major papers are due soon in all three of my classes, I need to keep making progress on my thesis, I'm due for a CWC submission which means reviewing and preparing the first part of the Cass book, and I really ought to take down my Christmas decorations, etc, etc) that I can't think of a good specific thing to focus on.

Thus, I've decided to have a more generalized challenge for myself this month. For this month, it will be my aim to do something productive every day after I get home and to work on structuring my time more effectively. I've got this To Do list that's never actually gotten done and with this sudden beautiful weather, now feels like the perfect time to cross some things off.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Finishing Honeymoon Edits

"The Honeymoon of Mr. and Mrs. Roux" is one of the three major overhaul stories in my thesis (the others being "Albatross" and "When Bridgette Went Into the Water") and it's been the biggest 2nd time revision thus far. Two big details got changed, a few minor ones, and loads of things got either cut or condensed.

By the end, I went from 7,420 words down to 6,467. Put another way, that's about 13% of the story gone. I feel like I've accomplished something.

I didn't keep track of how long it took me exactly, but it took at least an hour out of today and boy am I ever glad to see the end of it. Plenty more stories to go, but just about all of the others will be easier revisions.