Writing objectives is not simply a process of sitting,
Pen in involvement,
Waiting in the interest of guidance
At the word-for-word on one occasion
The laboratory spikes and analyzes
If you have in the offing vital data
That is not addressed by the questions
There is a deductive way

– #spamadvice aggregated from the last two weeks

A healthful gym should be a resource where you stool punch your wounds.

-#spam comment that I should put on a workout shirt

It is February, and it is almost over, blessedly over.

For a while, years now, there has been too much in February, good and bad and too often cooped up indoors while the weather is trying to make up its mind if it is finally winter or if it is time for spring.

Things either finally get organized or they start to slip. This year, it was slip.  I didn’t post blog entries. I stopped doing my Duolingo refresher. I stopped studying every night and started cramming schoolwork in on weekends. I stopped reading every day (to be fair, I read a fair bit in January).  I took off my FitBit at some point during the last week of January, and I haven’t put it back on yet, except for the one time — maybe twice — I made it to the gym.

However, I did bake bread each week.  We cooked at home almost every night. I succeeded in cleaning out the coat closet that has been mocking me for probably four years, and maybe six.  Did my taxes. Got in a plumber to deal with the master bath toilet and downstairs sink, both of which decided to go out in a mutual pact of drippy rage, and take part of the hot water heater with them, because … it’s February?

It’s February.  Soon it will be it was February.

It will get better.

I started another dishcloth yesterday morning.


Creep Constraint

Yesterday was too rainy to do yard work or set up the garden (yes, I know it’s May, but we just thawed out up here!), so I spent it futzing with this blog’s format and fonts. I’m still not one hundred percent happy with it, but at least it no longer scares me. The yard on the other hand…

Modus Dementi is supposed to be Latin for ‘demented mode’, but since I don’t know Latin, it probably isn’t. Google Translate suggests that it’s ‘stupefied by the mode of’ … and I can’t argue with that at all.  The title comes from one of the old LiveJournal entries that I stumbled across while I was trying to find the interview @debela gave me about the penguins.

Part of yesterday’s futzing involved reading several years’ worth of LiveJournal entries. You know, for SCIENCE. I can now safely hypothesize that I was just as much a fruit bat in 2001 as I am in 2011, though I think I was more entertaining back then. Or maybe just more manic.

I’m still slogging through the WIP, despite my best efforts not to. Even on days when I’ve said ‘screw it, I just don’t want to think about that right now,’ I’ve wound up making my word counts … but I’m a wordy girl.

A long pre-work chat on Monday with @CamilleRoth helped me firm up the hero’s blurbline for this thing. Once that came together, the heroine’s was cake.  They still don’t have much in the way of chemistry, but I’m not yet convinced that’s a problem. Okay, at least it’s not a Book One problem. I’ve gotten them to work together, and really, that’s all I ask from my characters.

I ran an Amber PBEM for five years. In that time, only three of the player characters ever met each other. Briefly. And almost everything each of them did in their individual story arcs wound up having an impact on the rest of the players. I don’t recommend doing this. While some of your players may love you for it (even while they swear at you), by the campaign’s end, you’ll wind up never wanting to be a GM again. Or maybe that’s just me.

I do like to think that the experience educated me about the need to build solid story constraints in order to avoid scope creep.

Signs and Conversations

Oh … right. The block outline of the current WIP.  The one I finished.  That one.  The one that I offhandedly mentioned before springing — pun intentional — into a discussion about  Easter bunnies and tooth fairies and the not-so-imaginary Monster I live with.  Yep, it’s done.  Nope, I can’t show you a picture of it.  While I was trying to fix the novel’s flat butt, I got so frustrated with crossing things out and scribbling over them that I ripped every single Post-It off the wall and threw them in the trash.

A half hour later, I fished all of them out of the office garbage can, put them back in order, and transcribed the scrawl-and-chicken scratch into Word — along with some scraps of dialogue that popped into my head along the way, which I took as a sign…

Okay, I took it as a couple of signs.  Number one, that I rescued the outline instead of leaving it in the garbage, is a good one.  I think it hints at some willingness to commit to this project, instead of my just treating it as yet something else I’m playing with while I have one foot on the floor and my eye on the door.

I’d say “hi, I’m a Sagittarius”, but I’m Ophiuchuian (Ophiuchi?).  I think. Unless there was a transit in there somewhere, which there very well may have been. I’ve always believed I was more like the description of my Chinese sign (Earth Monkey) than anything else.  

It makes me laugh that Personology description of my birthday suggests I “have a knack for instilling fear in the most powerful of adversaries, or at least a worrying sense of anxiety”.   (December 4th, the Day of Fortitude). If I’m my own worst enemy, hey, I could be convinced to believe that.

Sign number two?  I was beginning to imagine the characters interacting with each other.  I’d thought I’d lose that while I was figuring out how the story was getting from Explosion Alpha to Explosion Omega.  Looks like I haven’t … so, yay, another good sign.

I’m writing conversations right now, scene by scene, through all of the scenes that require conversations.  Once the talking’s done, I’ll go back and put in body language, environmental reactions, and finally, all of the shiny scenery that I absolutely DO NOT WANT to touch until the very end, because I don’t want to wake up my inner frustrated visual artist before I have to.  Seriously, there needs to be enough of the manuscript done so I can roll it up and club the creature over the head (metaphorically speaking) when it starts wanting to bust out the Pantone and pinking shears.

Block Party

What the block map looked like last Wednesday.

Last Wednesday

I’m blocking things  faster than I thought I would.  I gave myself five days to put together all of the Medium (chapter-sized) Blocks for Big Block #1, and I wound up doing it in three.  It looks like the same’s going to be true for Big Block #2.

And yes, I’m predicting this.  Despite having a test today and two proposals due the beginning of next week and umpteen jillion other things that have to be done, even though my hypothetical ear infection (not concussion, since I don’t have time for a concussion — even though that likely means it’s a concussion)  is making it hard to think about more than one thing at a time. On the bright side, the house has been clean for going on four days. At least someone could say that if they didn’t count dust, didn’t open a closet, didn’t look too close at the floors and stayed out of the home office, the garage and the basement, but…

Okay, I will make a doctor’s appointment today.


What the Block Map Looks Like This Morning

This Morning, Part One

Today's Progress, Part Two

Part Two

Halfway through blocking Chapter One, I changed my mind about using medium-sized Post-Its for the Medium Blocks. I found that I had more stuff to cram into those smaller plot buckets, so the smaller workspace wasn’t working.  I’ll use the medium-sized ones for the Small (scene-sized) Blocks … or I won’t, and this novel will wind up covering the office.

So glad I’m not trying to write War and Peace here.

Fun With Blocks

To expand on a recent Twittervation I had with @mouseferatu, I’m trying nested block outlining with the current novel.

I outline all of my work writing. I hate it, but it’s necessary to make sure every i gets crossed and t gets dotted. Did I mention I hate outlining?  Does that suggest that I don’t do it for personal writing? Yeah? It does? Good.

Unfortunately, I’m either having to write myself out of the weeds more, or I’m just beginning to notice how frequently I do it.

I’m not outlining on the computer.  I’m writing the blocks on lined Post-Its and sticking them on the wall beside my computer monitor.  I’d show you a picture of the current progress — I just finished Big Block #5 — but I’m worried that the combination of purple ink scrawl and lime green Post-It would make you blind.

This is not entirely true. I’m also not sure where the camera is.

Okay, yes, there’s one built into my cell phone.  Fine.

Today's Block Outline Snapshot

Fun with Blocks!

The general idea is that to start out, there’ll be six Big Blocks (roughly three chapters’ worth), eighteen Medium Blocks (roughly a chapter each, with three Medium Blocks per Big Block) , and however many Small (scene-sized) Blocks I’ll need to fill up those Medium Blocks. When I started doing this, I guessed that there’d be at least three Small Blocks for each Medium Block, but I’m beginning to think six’s going to be a more reasonable minimum.

Yeah, I know there’s software out there that does all of this (and it’s easy enough to do in Excel), but I’m actually appreciating the constraints imposed by the Post-It size.  In the interests of reducing the amount of crumpled-and-pitched Post-Its, I also outline with a timer running.  When it goes off, whatever’s under my pen goes up on the wall, and I get to have a shower and my second cup of coffee at a civilized pace, instead of two minutes before everybody else wakes up.

There’s also been some benefit of having the Blocks stuck somewhere they’re hard to ignore. I reflexively re-read them every time I sit down at the home computer, and more often than not, think of something to add. I’ve also given myself a deadline to get all this block work done, so I won’t be sitting around tweaking until the dry cows show up and burn down the bar.

Proverbial dry cows.  My family uses the phrase ‘out with the dry cows’ to mean staying out very late.  When I was a kid (for the record, I didn’t grow up in dairy country), I got the ‘dry’ in ‘dry cows’ mixed up with ‘dry county’. To this day, when I hear the phrase, I can’t help but imagine Carry A. Nation as a spotted heifer. Black dress, white cap, axe and all, yep.

Will the Blocks keep me out of the weeds? Maybe. So far, writing the Big Blocks has shown me that the action throughline could easily bog down between the midpoint and the final scene, and that the heroine’s at grave risk of taking a nap through the entire midpoint (and her coming back into focus after it is part of the reason the action throughline might bog down).  Looks like I’ll have to give her more to do so that she stays too busy to keep stuff from blowing up.

I guess that’s helpful.