[sticky entry] Sticky: Howdy

Jan. 24th, 2019 10:18 pm
disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
Welcome to my journal! I live in New England, and I'm a novice writer and very amateur birder. Most of my entries here discuss my efforts to be a better writer. I also occasionally post links to my fanworks (see [archiveofourown.org profile] disgruntled_owl); review books and movies; and, every once in a while, write about my life.

One topic you'll see me write about from time to time is my Craft on My Commute project, in which I read books about writing craft and productivity. You'll find my current list of completed books under the cut.

Craft on My Commute Books )
disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
You might be visiting my blog if you've been assigned me as a recipient in an exchange. Here are some details on my general likes and dislikes.

Relationship Interests: I enjoy gen, het, slash, and femslash. Poly is less of a thing for me, but I am open to reading about it if you find it makes for a compelling story. I’m particularly intrigued by mentor and student relationships, romantic possibilities for older characters, sexual extortion, and power dynamics and imbalances.

Other Likes: Gothic tales, noir, intrigue, atmosphere, vampires, ghosts, period settings, spooky monsters, ruins, fairy tale motifs, nature (forests, deserts, oceans, shores, and swamps), villains and their motives and psychological characteristics.

Do-Not-Wants: cannibalism (vampires drinking blood is okay), bestiality, zombies, mpreg, gratuitous graphic violence, scat/watersports, tentacle porn, underage, body horror, animal or child abuse.

Gray Areas: I’d prefer not to read stories about infidelity or very explicit rape/non-con. Given my relationship interests, dub-con is okay. I understand this territory is murky, so don’t worry too much about crossing a line. I’m primarily trying to avoid really extreme or violent situations.

Story Characteristics: I’m good with missing scenes and canon divergence, but I like to stay in the world of the story, so I’d prefer the story not be set in a dramatically different AU (coffee shop, high school, etc.). I'm also not into reader inserts or stories written in the second person. Also, I read a lot of fiction with dark themes, in large part because it's what I like to write. However, I enjoy receiving light and fluffy stories, too, not least because that style is a bit outside my repertoire. So, if you feel inspired to write something happy or silly, go for it! 

disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
Status Update

I think I read somewhere once that writing lives go in cycles. Sometimes you can produce a lot, and sometimes things slow to a trickle. In the DIY MFA book, Gabriela Pereira talks about always keeping three parts of a writing life going in some respect: writing, reading, and building community. She adds, though, that each element's share of your time will grow or shrink over time. I write a lot for my job, especially this time of year. It's bureaucratic stuff, but it takes a lot of work to make it clear and to communicate what certain audiences (read: the feds) are looking to read. Lately, by the end of the day my brain is fried from playing word Tetris, which makes working on my personal projects challenging. So for me, this may be one of those times when the writing part shrinks and the reading part grows.

1. Words written this week: 879 words. I didn't meet or exceed my GYWO daily quota (411 words) any day this week.

2. Write 4+ mornings a week: Not quite...maybe two? I think I wrote for an evening or two.

3. Friday Morning Writer Date: Achieved, but in the evening, with tiramisu and coffee probably way too late in the day.

4. Write two original stories:  No progress this week.

5. Write to prompts for story ideas:
No progress this week.

6. Post personal fanfic: Still chipping away at my Van Helsing/Hammer Horror fic, and wrote some excerpts for a long-ignored WIP and a future Dracula (Bram Stoker) fandom project.

7. Craft on My Commute: Achieved. More DIY MFA reading. I also read and prepared write-ups for a handful of stories for my Short Story 100 project.

What Else Happened This Week

1. Work, of the "10-hour day/work most of the weekend" variety.
2. Tried to be a good spouse. Fortunately, this included fun stuff, like listening for singing frogs in the woods and watching Spiderman: Into the Spider-verse.

disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
Netflix reports that it will be removing Star Wars: the Clone Wars TV show from the streaming service on April 7. I feel like this is a threat they make about once a year, but as Disney expands its media empire, maybe this show is being snapped up for one of its streaming services. So, I'm frantically re-watching the final episodes of Season 5 (the Jedi Temple bombing ones), which are space noir perfection. Doing so reminds me how much I LOVE the Clone Wars Tarkin, who was so clearly created by a dedicated Cushing fan.

LOOK AT HIM. Those cheekbones, that widow's peak!



He's even better on video! Stephen Stanton's voice work is pretty good, but what really brings Tarkin to life is the way the character moves. He does the Cushing finger thing! I watched S5E18: The Jedi Who Knew Too Much and almost fell off the couch when I noticed it this time.

Damn, I'm gonna miss having easy access to this show.

disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
Status Update

Aaaaand I am back to real life. Real life in the spring, which means work is a beast and not much is getting written. >_<

1. Words written this week: 925 words. I met or exceeded my GYWO daily quota (411 words) one time. I made my March check-in yesterday and am just over 16 percent of my goal.

2. Write 4+ mornings a week: Nope; I made it to three, max. I think I am going to start tracking writing during any time of day, just to see my patterns and determine if evening/night writing actually works better for me.

3. Friday Morning Writer Date: Achieved. This seems to be the task I complete come hell or high water; maybe this because it comes with coffee and egg sandwiches.

4. Write two original stories:  Nope.

5. Write to prompts for story ideas: mmmmmmnope.

6. Post personal fanfic: I didn't get any personal stuff written. I did make some more progress on the Van Helsing fic and I submitted two drabbles to the first 2019 round of the Multifandom Drabble Exchange (see [community profile] multifandomdrabble). This is my third time doing the exchange and I've always enjoyed lt, both for satisfying tinkering I get to do with really short pieces Iike drabbles and because I can actually finish a thing, get it to someone, and enjoy the thrill of connecting with and being a recipient.

7. Craft on My Commute: I don't think I hit the "four commute legs" threshold mark this week, but I'm coming back slowly to the DIY MFA book and am rediscovering my appreciation for it.
disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
The Idea:

Read 100 short stories between April 1, 2019 and July 31, 2019 to learn more about how to create compelling characters and plots in a limited number of words. 

Where It Came From:

In the book Memo from the Story Department, director and film professor David McKenna suggests a self education program for screenwriters, which includes an activity he calls “A Hundred Plays in a Hundred Days." He instructs writing students to read 100 screenplays over the course of three to four months and record a log line and a synopsis for each one. By doing this exercise, a novice screenwriter would read the types of work she hoped to master, and she would learn about what makes them work through such focused reading. He closes the description of this exercise with this alluring line:

“Like any workout routine, it only takes effect if you do it regularly. But if you do the work every day, you will transform yourself into something you have never been before, I promise.”

For my pleasure reading I primarily turn to novels instead of short stories, but pretty much everything I write (and finish, anyway) is a short story. I read a lot about different writing techniques through my Craft on my Commute project, but it can be challenging to practice them at the scale of a novel. And while I intend to keep writing fic, I’d like to produce more original work as well, and short stories are where I’m likely to have initial success. There are several structural and character building questions about short stories to which I’d like to find answers, such as 

  • What kinds of plots work at the short story scale? How much time do they cover? How complex do they tend to be? What kind of subplots are involved?
  • How much do characters grow and change in short stories? 

Hence, the adaptation: the Short Story 100. 

Ground Rules: 

1. I can read a maximum of two stories written by the same author. (If I want to read more, I can’t count them toward my total.)  
2. At least 25 stories I read must have been published in 2000 or later. (Otherwise I’d just be giving myself a crash course in ghost stories and Gothic horror fiction.) 
3. The stories I read must be at least 1,000 words long.
The Process: 

1. Read a story!
2. Record the story’s title, author, publication year, and an estimated word count.
3. Write a log line and synopsis for the story.
4. Record relevant notes about plot structure, character development, theme, or other topics. which may be in response to prompt questions. I'm finding some of these in the DIY MFA book.
5. Lather, rinse, repeat. 

What’s Next:

On April 1, I plan to get things started. I have a blank notebook ready, and a bunch of anthologies I can use to find my first set of stories. Help me get off the ground here, friends: do you have favorite short stories that I should read? 
 
disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
 Status Update

Hooray for annual late winter/early spring writing retreats! I got a room at a bed and breakfast in Portland, Maine and enjoyed a weekend away from my aggravating job. I would get up and write for a few hours in my room, head out in the early afternoon to write some more at a tea house, and then take walks until dinnertime. While a lot of the local attractions were not yet open for the season, the weather allowed for a few pleasant harborside or cemetery strolls. I also spent a lot of time in Portland's many bookstores; if you like vintage paperbacks (especially horror ones), you'll find this city a paradise.

1. Words written this week:
 3,127 words. I met or exceeded my GYWO daily quota (411 words) three times, and made it past the 15 percent mark on my 2019 GYWO goal. 

2. Write 4+ mornings a week: I didn't check this box this week, but the weekend mornings when I did write were lovely. My room at the bed and breakfast had a desk, a little floor heater, and a white noise machine, and it was lovely to be able to take breaks with a tasty breakfast downstairs or a relaxed shower. I've found on my retreats that I can sometimes get some leeway on when housekeepers visit by telling the innkeepers I'm a writer working in the room, although this time I got a bunch of questions about my work that I didn't really want to answer.
 
3. Friday Morning Writer Date: Couldn't get this box checked either, but I was able to make up for it later in the weekend.

4. Write two original stories: I finished that draft of my fairy-tale style GYWO Yahtzee entry and a first draft of an art-inspired flash fiction piece (see #5).

5. Write to prompts for story ideas: I ended up writing for a visual prompt at the Portland Museum of Art, which had one particular sculpture that I found remarkable. I hesitate to say more because I'd to keep the magic going with the story until I can get a second draft done.

6. Post personal fanfic: This was a pretty fic-intensive weekend. I got a bunch more written on my current Hammer Horror fic, though I spent a lot of that time trying to figure out how to give a particular character a convincing development arc. That's always an interesting exercise when writing fic: how do you force a character to grow and change when their creator may not have been that invested in them to begin with?

7. Craft on My Commute: Kept plugging away at the DIY MFA book during the week, though I gave myself the weekend off from all but guilty pleasure reading. 

disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
Status Update

This writing week went better than it had a right to, given my work schedule and other stuff going on in my life, but I'll take the little miracles where I can get them. 

1. Words written this week:
 2,260. I met or exceeded my GYWO daily quota (411 words) four times, and as of Sunday night I crossed the 20,000 word mark.

I'm finding that I can write words relatively quickly in longhand (about 500 on 30 minutes), but when I am entering things into the computer and revising, I slow way down. It gets tricky to balance making progress against my GWYO goal and actually finishing projects by completing second and third drafts that don't generate many new words (unless I find myself doing wholesale rewrites). Sometimes I am drawn  to my GYWO goal, which often feels insurmountable and makes me feel guilty for not writing more, but I'll also look at projects I care about and know they need the kind of attention that won't get me closer to my desired word count. I'd try to make progress on both but most days I just don't have the extra time. I guess it's just a matter of figuring out how to work with that tension from day to day. 

2. Write 4+ mornings a week: Made it!
 
3. Friday Morning Writer Date: A quick one, part of which I spent filling out a Congratulations/Best of Luck card for the executive director of the agency where I work, who retired later that day (and sadly, I can't count those words for GYWO). But! This coming Friday, I leave for my long-weekend, out-of-town writing retreat, so I'll be able to make up for any recent short sessions. 

4. Write two original stories: I may have inadvertently started something that would qualify for this. I signed up for GYWO Yahtzee (admittedly, without thinking it through all the way) and received a set of five picture prompts. The idea here is that I'll write something for each prompt, and receive a score based on length and whether I hit on certain things during the story. I took a look at the first prompt, started writing, and just...kept going. It's a longhand first draft, so I'm not yet sure how much of what I've written is really usable, but it felt good to run with an original fiction idea. 

5. Write to prompts for story ideas: Achieved (see #4). Essentially, I used one prompt to cover multiple writing sessions. 

6. Post personal fanfic: I wrote a Van Helsing (Hammer) headcanon that I'm not sure I'll ever post anywhere, but am glad I have recorded for reference. 

7. Craft on My Commute: My Gotham Writers Workshop course is over and I didn't really want to go back to the Story Grid, so I started reading the DIY MFA book by Gabriela Pereira (creator of the DIY MFA website). I've been really enjoying it so far. The early chapters are focused on writing productivity and on using the scientific method to identify writing practices that work for you. 
disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
Status Update: 

Man, March always wipes the floor with me, but gotta keep on keeping on.


1. Words written this week: 1,721. I met or exceeded my GYWO daily quota (411 words) twice.

2. Write 4+ mornings a week: Not quite.

3. Friday Morning Writer Date: Achieved, if not on time. I couldn't pull this off on Friday morning, but I visited a coffee shop on way home.

4. Write two original stories: No specific progress this week.

5. Write to prompts for story ideas: I did a couple of these about my character from my Gotham Writer's Workshop course, who is an original character but who is very much based on people I've met in real life. Character development baby steps, I guess. I did end up liking the 500-word or so pieces I created

6. Post personal fanfic: Some, but very little, going on here. Still, I signed up for
[community profile] multifandomdrabble so you should see something from me before the month ends.

7. Craft on My Commute: I don't think I read or listened to enough podcasts this week to check this box. I read the rest of the lectures for the Character Development course. Next week I'll be transitioning back into regular books.

disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
Status Update:

1. Words written this week: 1,058. I met or exceeded my GYWO daily quota (411 words) once. Last week I made my February GYWO check-in. As of 3/1, I was at the 10% mark for my 150,000 word goal. March is always a super-stressful month at work, so I don’t have much hope for catching up. I would like to meet the proposed March monthly goal of 12,740 words, but that might be a real long shot.

2. Write 4+ mornings a week: Achieved.

3. Friday Morning Writer Date: Achieved. Turned my ankle on the way to the coffee shop, but I made it there and made it happen.

4. Write two original stories: No specific progress this week. I’m still writing scenes for my Gotham Writers Workshop Character Development course, though.

5. Write to prompts for story ideas: No specific progress this week. A lot of the homework for the Character Development course is oriented toward making lists or trying to capture the characteristics of people I encounter to day-to-day life. It’s useful stuff that’s getting me thinking, but it means that I don’t produce that much in the way of stories or produce many more words that count towards my GYWO total.

6. Post personal fanfic: No specific progress this week. I expect that I’ll be working on my recipient-oriented project for a while. Still, sign-ups open for Round One of the 2019 MultiFandom Drabble Exchange ([community profile] multifandomdrabble) this week, so if I do that I’ll get the satisfaction of finishing something, however small.

7. Craft on My Commute: Achieved. I read Gotham Writers Workshop lecture content and listened to more Writing Excuses. I feel bad because I kind of want to give up on the Story Grid. The book is big and hard to trundle around, and I feel like the book would have been better had the author written it about two or three years after he did, and taken the time in the interim to think through his ideas more. That said, I’m about halfway through, and I am learning some stuff, so maybe I can force myself to push through to the end.
disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)

This past weekend, Mr. Owl and I went a day-long winter raptor tour led by guides from our local Audubon Society. We went on a nine-hour epic quest all over Eastern Massachusetts, from Newburyport down to Middleboro, in search of birds of prey. We've been on a lot of owl prowls and haven't even heard a wild owl on those trips, so it was a real thrill to be able to see:

  • Bald eagles, young and old, swooping over rivers
  • A big black raven by the roadside
  • Northern harriers, rough-legged hawks, and short-eared owls all hunting in a field at sunset
  • Red tailed hawks everywhere
  • A Snowy Owl near a runway at Logan Airport, another in a coastal marsh, and a third one in a unexpected location
  •  

We were lucky to have the extremely experienced ornithologist  Norman Smith and several other knowledgeable Audubon staff leading our group. Smith is well known in birding circles for his Snowy Owl rescue activities, in which he catches owls that are hunting prey at Logan and releases them at beaches on Boston's North or South Shores. (Sadly, owls found at airports in other places are sometimes shot to prevent them from being a hazard to planes.) Though I should have suspected it a little, I was surprised and delighted to find that he had secreted a rescue owl in one of the tour vans. When we got to Salisbury Beach, he took her out of her crate and allowed us to see her up close. He was able to keep her incredibly calm even though people from all over the parking lot were coming to take a look. Looking back at the photos later, I was shocked to realize that he had held her legs steady just above her feet with his bare hands.

 The owl had kept a healthy fear of humans though, and flew off right away once he let her go. It was pretty magical to watch this majestic bird take flight over the beach and back into the wild.

disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
Helpful Resources:
- How I Stopped Sabotaging My Writing Goals: Confessions of a Late Bloomer by Andrea Jarrell at Writer's Digest
- Twenty Steps to Writing Great Love Scenes by Karen Wiesner on Writing-World.com
Maximizing Writing Productivity While Working Full-Time by Audrey Wick at Writer's Digest 

Status Update:

1. Words written this week: 2,450. I met or exceeded my GYWO daily quota (411 words) four times. 

2. Write 4+ mornings a week: Achieved.

3. Friday Morning Writer Date: Achieved. Unfortunately, during the date I discovered that my laptop may be dying, so I have mixed feelings about this event this week.

4. Write two original stories: No specific progress this week. However, I created a character and wrote a scene for my Gotham Writers Workshop Character Development course this week, so I did do some work in this family. 

5. Write to prompts for story ideas: Achieved. I had to make a lot of lists for my Character Development course and I started doing some exercises from the book Naming the World: And Other Exercises for the Creative Writer, which features prompts and exercises provided by a variety of fiction (and perhaps also nonfiction) authors. The exercises in this book are similar to the ones in Steering the Craft in that they include a lot of introductory material and context, which I like. 

6. Post personal fanfic: No specific progress this week. I'm still working on the same recipient-oriented gothic horror project from a few weeks ago. I wrote a first draft longhand and now I'm rewriting it as I type it up, and things are going slooooooow.

7. Craft on My Commute:  Achieved. This week was a mix of Gotham Writers Workshop lecture content, the Story Grid and podcasts (DIY MFA and Writing Excuses). The Writing Excuses podcasts are particularly useful for commuting because they are about 15-20 minutes long (the length of a painful Green Line connection) and there a ton of them. 

disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)

Helpful Resources:
-
#5onFri: Five Vehicles for Showing Emotion by Becca Puglisi at DIYMFA
-
7 Misconceptions About Revision at Writer's Digest
  
-
6 Tips for Reading Like a Writer by Chuck Sambuchino at Writer's Digest 
Want to be a Great Writer? Then Don’t Focus on Writing. (Do This Instead) by Sarah Cy at The Writing Cooperative

Status Update:

This was not a good week for writing, given work stress during the week and family stress over the weekend. But here’s an update anyway, because it’s important to record the weeks that don’t go well along with the ones that do. 

1. Words written this week: 1,271 words. I missed several writing days this week and met or exceeded my GYWO daily quota (411 words) only one time. I kept going on my longhand first draft of a fic.  

2. Write 4+ mornings per week: Nope.

3. Friday Morning Writer Date: Achieved, thankfully.

4. Write two original stories: No progress this week.  

5. Write to prompts for story ideas: No progress this week, but my Gotham Writers Workshop online course starts tomorrow, so hopefully activity in this area will pick up next week.  

6. Post Personal Fanfic: No progress this week.

 7. Craft on My Commute: Achieved. I continued reading The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know. More notes on this book to come. 

disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
Status Update:

1. Words written this week: 3,127. I wrote every day this week and met or exceeded my GYWO daily quota (411 words) five times, up from previous weeks. This week I wrote most of a shitty first draft, as Hemingway would say, longhand for a fic in a Gothic horror fandom. I find that it’s easier to plow through a story idea when I write on paper as opposed to on a computer, mostly because it’s materially more difficult to tinker or go backward. I know my next draft is going to need a lot of clean up, which is intimidating, but my hope is that I'll be able to give every section of my story a consistent amount of revisions and edits. 

2. Write 4+ mornings per week: Close but no cigar according to the rules I established last week.

3. Friday Morning Writer Date: Achieved! I actually got my act together the night before and got in a whole hour-and-a-half of writing time Friday morning.

4. Write two original stories: No progress this week.  

5. Write to prompts for story ideas: No progress this week—all of my writing energy went to working on the fic. I’m starting a three-week Gotham Writers Workshop online course on character development soon, so hopefully that will enable me to check this box in future weeks.

6. Post Personal Fanfic: No progress this week. I realized that the fic I'm writing is one that I'll want to give to a specific recipient because 1) they offered the specific prompt that inspired me to write it, and 2) I am really encouraged by the fact that I can find fans of the source material that may actually want to read it. The recipient I had in mind included the prompt in their recent Yuletide sign-up, so this may be a good candidate for the New Years Resolutions collection. Fortunately I have a slew of other WIPs that would meet the criteria for this personal fic goal, as long as I can make myself finish them.  

7. Craft on My Commute: This week I started The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know by Shawn Coyne, who also created the Story Grid website. This book is geared much more toward questions of structure than the LeGuin book. It also is written by an editor rather than a novelist. I've found it helpful to include books by editors and sometimes even agents in my reading list because they see a large volume of manuscripts and can common on patterns, particularly in stories that don't quite work. 

I decided this week that this writing goal needs some structure, too. I can mark this goal complete for the week if I read a Craft on My Commute book for at least four of my 10 commute trips per week.

Helpful articles and resources this week:

disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
I needed to reach the end of Ursula K. LeGuin’s Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story to really appreciate the guiding metaphor for her book. I expected that this book would focus on how to construct a compelling story through plot, themes, and character, but the lessons she presents are more about how to understand, traverse, and reveal stories that already exist. Hers is not the first book I've read that suggests that stories are somehow out there waiting to be discovered and honed, as opposed to something that writers build. 

While I still need to built up faith that I'll find the stories I'm meant to write, I'm glad I found my way to LeGuin's succinct, elegant guidebook. The
 text clearly defines and provides examples of the tools writers use to explore and uncover their stories: word choice, sentence structure, point of view, verb tense, and narration. If you have a rough idea of these concepts, but want to make that knowledge more precise, this book is a great place to start. Her discussions of verb tense and different types of narrators were clear and simple, and revisiting them in this essential way refreshed my thinking about how to identify and use these narrative elements. She delivers her advice efficiently and with a lot of charm (even when being a bit of a curmudgeon), which made the time I spent reading and learning from her delightful.  

If you are looking for writing exercises, the ones LeGuin includes in this book are great. She introduces each with a clear description of what idea the exercise is designed to teach or demonstrate and provides examples of how to alter the instructions so you can explore a different aspect of the lesson. The subjects of the exercises range from word choice and sentence structure to exploring narrative points of view to managing exposition and backstory. One thing I like about her exercises in particular is that you don’t need to apply them to a work in progress. LeGuin provides a few simple scene or story ideas to help you get the most out of the exercise and the accompanying lesson.

While reading this book, I realized that I may not have ever read one of LeGuin’s novels. (If I have, it's been decades.) Friends, if you are a LeGuin fan, which of her books would you recommend to a new reader?

disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
1. Words Written this Week: 2,959. This week I primarily wrote brainstorming notes and draft text for my fic, which I hope to finish by the middle of this month. I achieved the daily word quota for my Get Your Words Out pledge level (411 words) three days this week. I also completed my first GYWO check-in for January. As of 1/31, I wrote 7,053 words, putting me around 5 percent of my 2019 goal (150,000 words). This is still behind where I need to be, but I did surpass the mini-goal I set last week (6,370 words for the month), given that I started the GYWO challenge about halfway through January. Gotta keep my head down and run my own race. 

2. Write in the Morning 4+ Days per Week: Achieved, mostly by moving my Craft on My Commute reading to my ride home. I realized that I should have some more specific rules for this item. So, to be able to check this box, I need to write for 20 minutes or more before noon.  

3. Friday Morning Writer Date: Achieved. I also found a hotel in Maine for my late winter/early spring writing retreat so I now have a longer term treat to anticipate.

4. Write Two Original Stories: No progress this week (see #5).  

5. Write to Prompts for Story Ideas: Achieved a little bit. I did one or two exercises from the LeGuin book but mostly focused on my fic (#1). I realized that I needed to reframe this exercise so it will be more useful.
Thoughts and feelings about this under the cut )

6. Post Personal Fanfic: Some progress this week (see #1). 

7. Craft on My Commute: I read most days this week and finished up
Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story by Ursula K. LeGuin. I also listened to part of Episode 234 of the DIY MFA Radio podcast, in whch the host interviewed David Corbett, author of The Art of CharacterIt was interesting to learn more about the interests and writing strategies of the author of one of the best (if intimidating) writing guides I’ve read. The podcast option continues to be helpful for this project because I carry a change of clothes and shoes to work during the winter (two on gym days) and sometimes it’s nice not to have to carry a book on top of everything else. 

disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
 Status Update: 

1. Words Written this Week: 2,288. This week I mostly wrote for prompts and did some "shadow story" (documentation of "off-screen" events) writing for a fic I'd like to post around Valentine's Day/International Fanworks Day. I achieved the GYWO daily word quota for my pledge level (411 words) two days this week. I'm feeling a bit behind on my word count but I did start my pledge in the middle of the month, so I'll be satisfied if I can hit half the January goal (6,370 words) by February 1. 

2. Write in the Morning 4+ Days per Week: Achieved, just barely. 

3. Friday Morning Writer Date: Achieved! Going forward, I am going to try to wake up earlier so I can make these sessions a little longer.

4. Write Two Original Stories: Some progress this week. I started writing for an idea that I'm not sure will crack the 1,000 word story threshold I've set, but I'm interested to see where the concept goes.

5. Write to Prompts for Story Ideas: Achieved! I wrote responses to several prose style exercises from my current Craft on My Commute book (see #7). I also kept doing the art postcard exercises, which have been fruitful for me thus far (and give me an excuse to buy more art postcards). 

6. Post Personal Fanfic: Some progress this week (see #1). 

7. Craft on My Commute: Achieved! I started a new book this week: Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story by Ursula K. LeGuin. I also listened to Episode 236 of the DIY MFA Radio podcast on writing on a morning when reading proved difficult. It was pretty good; I'll try out a few more episodes to see if I'll want to keep listening on a regular basis. 

Helpful articles and resources this week:
- #5onFri: Five Steps to Creating Characters of Color by Andrea J. Johnson at DIY MFA
- One Simple Tip To Improve Your Description by Robert Wood at the Standout Books blog

disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
Here are my Fandom Stocking entries, 'cause why not:

Conquered
723 words
by [archiveofourown.org profile] disgruntled_owl for [archiveofourown.org profile] calliopes_pen
Fandoms: Dracula - Bram Stoker, Dracula & Related Fandoms
Relationship: Jonathan Harker/Brides of Dracula
Not Rated, No Archive Warnings Apply
Collection: Fandom Stocking 2018
Additional Tags: Jonathan Harker, Brides of Dracula, Vampires, Gothic, Blood Drinking, Vaginal Sex

Summary: Once Dracula leaves for London, his women lay claim to his castle and to the victim inside. Now fully in the Brides' clutches, Jonathan Harker must choose whether to resist or to surrender.

AND

Turning Time
340 words
by [archiveofourown.org profile] disgruntled_owl for [archiveofourown.org profile] MiriamKenneath
Fandoms: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel - James Luceno, Star Wars - All Media Types
Relationship: Galen Erso/Orson Krennic
Not Rated, No Archive Warnings Apply
Collection: Fandom Stocking 2018
Additional Tags: Galen Erso, Orson Krennic, Missing Scene, Angst, Manual stimulation, Memories, Backstory, Betrayal, Hand Jobs, Intimacy, Tragic Romance, Minor Canonical Character(s)

Summary: Galen gives in to Orson's affections to keep him from discovering Bodhi Rook's flight to Jedha. But once he takes Orson in his arms, Galen succumbs to memories, desire, and a longing to change their fate.
disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
This past weekend I attended Arisia 2019, an annual sci-fi and fantasy convention in Boston. The con program has a number of different tracks, including one specifically about writing with panels that include both writers and editors (more details in the pocket program here). I enjoy this track because it's like writer-advice speed dating. For the price of a one-day workshop at a writing center or adult-education school, I can get perspectives and ideas from lot of different people, who vary in terms of genre, experience, and role in the writing process. Here are some of the panels I attended and lessons I learned.

Tricks for Self-Editing: This leader of this small-group seminar described an approach where writers use colors and symbols to mark up hard copies of their manuscripts. She suggested that writers color code their sentences (or in novels, paragraphs) to make sure each sentence or paragraph is helping to achieve one of two key story story elements: 1) developing character or 2) advancing the main plot. It should also achieve one of these other elements: 3) advancing the setting, 4) advancing a subplot, or 5) establishing an emotional theme. She also suggested putting boxes of various shapes around potentially problematic words or phrases: adverbs, filter words, uses of the progressive or past-perfect tense. These uses may not be problematic in specific situations, but the boxes can help identify when certain techniques are being overused. As a very visual person, I like this sort of thing.

Writing Outside of Comfort Zones: This was probably my favorite session from the whole conference. The moderator,Smith College professor Andrea Hairston, did a great job of setting the stage by describing the importance of narratives to individual identity, how the narrow American mythology leaves the stories of some groups out and commodifies the stories of others, and how caricatures and stereotypes can become so ingrained that it can be difficult to distinguish them from character. The other panelists shared their experiences being black, queer, legally-blind and with having ADD or non-visible physical disabilities, experiencing sexual assault, or being an "invisible bisexual" (I know a thing or two about the last one). This prompted a lot of useful questions for me to think about in terms of creating three-dimensional characters.
The panelists emphasized the importance of being brave and trying new things and that everyone almost certainly gets some things wrong in their depictions, citing examples from their own work. The important thing is to own, and not deny, your bullshit, and to focus on your next project and opportunities to do things better. The group also talked about how to find, vet, and appropriately use sensitivity readers (and the importance of not generalizing from one person's experience). They also reminded everybody to take advantage of museums and their staff: these are professionals that want to share the histories and experiences of particular groups. 

The Past in Present Tense: Escaping Flashbacks: This was the most technical session I attended. Two grizzled veteran sci-fi writers and a novice writer moderator debated when, if ever, to use flashbacks and flash-forwards, and how else to successfully deal with time jumps. 
 
More under the cut )
The con also features a lot of other sci-fi and fantasy activities: book, movie, music and video game panels; costume contests; video and board games; movie, TV, and anime screenings; and the like. They also have some maker stuff. I attended a block printing workshop, which turned out to be another highlight of the con for me. I cut a mold and printed this design befitting my namesake.

disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
1. Words Written this Week: 1,470. I spent most of my writing time working on two fics for [community profile] fandom_stocking, which totaled about 1,000 words when they were done. I also did a little bit of prompt writing (see #5). I achieved the GYWO daily word quota for my level (411 words) twice this week. I'll need to do a bit more to get my numbers up to stay on track, and will work on that next week.

2. Write in the Morning 4+ Days per Week: Achieved!

3. Friday Morning Writer Date: Achieved! My work week was trash and I was glad to have this practice as a something to anticipate and use to cheer myself up.

4. Write Two Original Stories: No progress this week.

5. Write to Prompts for Story Ideas: Achieved. I spent most of my morning writing time on the Fandom Stocking stories but I did do a few "postcard" exercises where I looked at some random art postcards from my collection and tried to come up with a story based on the images. I'm not sure I'd turn any of the specific results into longer stories, but I was intrigued by some of the themes that emerged.

6. Post Personal Fanfic: No progress this week.

7. Craft on My Commute: Achieved! I read for at least one leg of my commute each of my five workdays and finished James Scott Bell's Just Write: Creating Unforgettable Fiction and a Rewarding Writing Life. I'd recommend this one if you haven't read a craft book in a while and are looking for topics of interest; this one offers bite-size pieces of advice on subjects ranging from plot development to productivity to marketing, which may help you identify areas you'd like to focus on. I also bought a notebook to take notes on these craft books in longhand, which I hope will help me retain the information better.

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