aamcnamara: (Default)
Well.

I've been training myself in how to read seventeenth-century sentence constructions, and meanwhile gotten halfway through Anne Conway's treatise and maybe a third of the way through the collected Letters of her and her friends and family.

I've attempted to outline Queen of Spades at least twice and may have to resign myself to not being able to write that right now.

I've read slush, I've sent emails, I've planned things, I've written letters myself. I have also read quite a few books and wasted a large quantity of time. (This is what break is for, sometimes, when you have just finished revising a novel. And then wrote a short story in a day. Um.)

Books read: include reread of Fire Logic and Earth Logic by Laurie J. Marks (underappreciated, even by me); Nnedi Okorafor's Akata Witch (intriguing and neat and hooking into her other work in interesting ways); and at least one other I can't recall right now.

And I've written some solstice stories, which is good because people gave me these prompts in December 2010 and there are still--er--three left, now. Usually I am close to done by the next winter solstice, and then I scramble to finish the last ones so I can get to work on the new set of prompts. This year, though, I was in the midst of revising fever when the solstice happened. So I didn't post anything asking for new prompts and didn't finish the old ones and... yeah. This happens.

Three left, though, and then perhaps I can figure out what I'm doing this year. Solstice stories again? Offer to hand-write and send people letters or fictionlets? Since I am usually too poor and/or cheap to buy presents for my friends, giving them my writing seems like the least I can do, but I am starting to wonder if people actually enjoy them.

On the other hand, one of the ones I wrote today made me remember why I like doing this solstice-stories thing purely for myself. Usually I would not write a story about a talking hedgehog and his rat friend catching moon-light in jars to light their houses during the winter. But I did, and now I'm contemplating writing more stories about them. What do they do during the summer? Who are their other friends? They seem like the sort of stories that need illustration, but I don't know how well I'd be able to provide that.

Which all makes me feel comfortable inside. Writing something that wasn't even in my head before the words started is something I hadn't done for a while. This says to me that my brain's recovering nicely from its fits of revision.

...into which it will descend again next week, after all the people who have ARP get back to me, but shhh. I'm enjoying it while it lasts.
aamcnamara: (Default)
So I wrote a play.

excessive verbiage )

Basically, it was a great experience. I'd love to have something else produced, either this again or a different script; I'm having to talk myself out of starting lots of plays now. (Alena, you still have a novel to revise, remember?) It was fantastic. It was [lots of adjectives].

Writing a story in two days at Viable Paradise was something, but this... was something else.

flop.

Jul. 23rd, 2011 04:18 pm
aamcnamara: (Default)
Today I typed up/wrote 3391 words of fiction. Mostly typed up, from my notebook, going back ~2 weeks. Readercon: awesome, and stole my whole weekend. But I modified some stuff along the way, and it's awesome to get it all on computer where I can start looking at the larger pieces there.

...part of that was a self-contained piece, one of my solstice stories, this one for [livejournal.com profile] vcmw. Yay, another solstice story down! I like to get most of them done before the winter solstice comes around again.

A bunch of it, probably the majority, was bits and bobbles on the short story I've been working on a lot this summer (still untitled). Once I had typed up everything I had in my notebook, I was sort of startled to realize that that takes care of all of acts II and III, basically, plus most of act I (it needs linking material or possibly just a revision of this one scene). Which means I am getting very close to having an actual draft of that. It feels too long but that could just be me, and it's around 3000 words right now, which isn't so big for a short story.

The rest was a couple of scenes for QoS, namely the last big turn of the two main characters' relationship and also what is in at least one sense the climactic scene of the whole book. Now that I know the ending of that, I think I will be able to write it--although I almost never outline wholly before I write a novel, I usually need some sense of how the ending turns for me to be able to begin it. So that rocks. If I ever have enough time to start filling in the rest of the prose.

Also I read a couple of books today/lately, so belated start to documentation:
Geek Fantasy Novel: which is pretty much as one might expect. Lots of geekery. Wasn't sure it hit its target audience, and I am not so easily charmed by the meta these days, but still, meta. (And geekery. And fairy tales.)
What I Didn't See, Karen Joy Fowler: I am not sure whether I'd read her before. The stories had enough variety to not bore me in reading a single-author anthology straight through (which is always a danger); however, I think they might benefit most from being read apart. So I'm not completely sure that the first story, "Pelican Bar", is actually the best, or if I just read it first. But I found "Pelican Bar" really intriguing in some creepy ways, and the rest of the stories were good too. And they are the sort of stories I think would be even more neat on re-read, so hopefully I'll run across the anthology again sometime and do that.
aamcnamara: (Default)
After writing a very odd post on my stopover in Chicago on the way here, I deleted it, and henceforth got distracted by home and Christmas and family and books and friends and being back in Minneapolis/St. Paul and winter and so on.

(Minnesota has snow. Minnesota has lots of snow. It was a little unpleasant yesterday, when it started raining and there was damp and wet and slush everywhere, but what can you do? And at least it still looks like proper winter outside.)

---

excessive description of my journey )

---

Brief summary of books so far this break:
Freedom and Necessity, Bull and Brust, on the train, a reread: still excellent. Good train reading--long and dense enough to occupy my head for a while, compact enough to put in luggage.
A Fine and Private Place, Beagle: [livejournal.com profile] vcmw gave this to me a while ago and I kept forgetting to read it. I finally did! It was not quite what I had been expecting--to be fair I think I was expecting Spoon River Anthology by way of Peter S. Beagle, and it was not that. But it was interesting, and the voices (particularly the New York accent) quite distinctive.
The Well-Dressed Gentleman's Pocket Guide: A gift from my sister. A quote: "Instinctively, the gentleman craves a hat." Details on various kinds of coats, hats, etc; diagrams of several methods of folding one's handkerchief or tying one's tie. Lovely.
Fun Home, Bechdel: A friend was getting rid of this, so I nabbed it. I'd read it before, but didn't remember many details. Elegiac.
Mythic Delirium, Issue 23: In progress--I am a slow reader of poetry. [livejournal.com profile] aliseadae has a poem in this one, which is really the reason I got it (see: do not read much poetry), but the other poems are lovely as well! And a couple of other people I know in here too, which is neat.

I also got copies of Gaudy Night and The Jewel-Hinged Jaw for Christmas, which I haven't started rereading yet but certainly will at some point.

---

Other than that (and finishing the solstice stories left over from 2009, which I did on the train) I have been fairly useless this break. This is okay, I think. That is sort of what breaks are meant for. (I just feel like I ought to be writing oodles of novels because I am me.)

But I started compiling my resume for physics-research applications yesterday. And today I did a copy of the second (first and a half) draft of A Returning Power to edit, and renumbered all the scenes in order so they no longer go 8.5 10 9 12/11 10.1 (my numbering system was based off an outline I did before I started the redraft).

And somewhere in there it became almost 2011. Which is just strange. But here we are.
aamcnamara: (Default)
I'm still in the post-novel slump. I've been vacillating aimlessly between doing nothing productive and not caring, and doing nothing productive and feeling guilty about it.

Also, sometimes when I think about the summer, just writing/finishing the first draft of a novel (and volunteering at the library a few days a week) doesn't seem like that much of a big deal, and I should've been doing more with my time--I'm not exactly sure what, saving the world maybe, but anyway sometimes I feel all unaccomplished and unproductive even about that.

Brains. Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.

But today I wrote one of my solstice-stories, which was something, anyway. It turned into a pretty terrible, pretty-terribly-illustrated Edward Gorey & William Shakespeare pastiche--at the very least entertaining for me to write and draw. So I only have 4-6 of those left to write (and 2 or 3 to finish or rewrite) between now and, oh, the middle of December.

I know I'll feel better as soon as I find something to distract me, it's just a question of finding such. Maybe I'll go write down awesome things to see if anything seems like a good next project.

...yeah. That's about all I've got.
aamcnamara: (Default)
202 / 350


To my eternal gratitude, I actually passed 200 pages today. For a while this seemed improbable--I lingered at 199 pages for a while, due to one character asking another a question that I didn't know the answer to. (Oops.)

And then I had an idea for one of the solstice-stories that I had been trying to remember to write, and I'm going to a grad party for two other people who'd asked for stories, and one of the prompts they gave me was perfect for a grad-party story-gift... so I wrote all three of those, and then looked back at the novel and it still said 199 pages.

Thankfully, everything had by that point worked itself out in my subconscious, so all was well.

Typo of the day: "They occupied a different word."

...also today, I finished reading Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban. Having been instructed for the past, oh, six months that I ought to, I finally obtained a copy and read it. You know those post-apocalyptic novels where the dialogue is all spelled wrong/phonetically because English has degraded, etc., etc.? This is like that, except that the narration is like that, too. Which makes it difficult to get into, but also sets up for some neat tricks with language.

I would perhaps not have picked it up if I hadn't been encouraged to (though if it'd been billed to me as "post-apocalyptic fiction by the author of Bread and Jam for Frances" I probably would have, since I liked that book as a kid), but I enjoyed it.
aamcnamara: (alena)
Yesterday, I read Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand. Excellent. I had trouble getting into it, at first, and then I got hooked. There is something about deep emotion in stories that just pulls me right through them. (To be fair, there's emotion in the first part of the book as well, just more distant.) It's a very (very very) different book than Dhalgren. In many ways I enjoyed this more--well, it's more my kind of book, to start with. (Dhalgren reminded me in ways of Walt Whitman--the sensory overload, for one thing--and while Whitman is fine, he's never been my favorite.) But really it's hard to compare the two.

And then this morning I read Liar. It was not what I was expecting, but it was a fascinating read. Most of what I knew was the whitewashing cover controversy, and so I guess I didn't really know what to expect. It shifts in interesting ways, though, and definitely worked very well for me.

Also, in a dream last night I was looking through a box of used books for sale and found a Doctor Who tie-in novel that Connie Willis had written. None of the friends I was with knew who she was, so I got it all to myself without even having to argue about it.

I've been writing again, in bits and dribbles. I'd been restless, wanting to write but not able to pin myself down long enough to get words on a page, uncertain what to write about or how to start. Yesterday afternoon, after lying in the sun/wandering in the library and the garden, I actually sat down and opened up my file of solstice-story prompts. I wrote two, finished a third I'd had half-done. It felt good, putting fresh words and ideas out there. None of them are likely to turn into anything longer, but it's good to get my mind back in that headspace.
aamcnamara: (Default)
Today I finished the last of the stories I told people I would write for them last year. So now I just have to write the ones requested this year, which so far number twenty-three, not counting the two people who've said they want one but not given me a prompt.

So far, these stories have been as short as a few hundred words, as long as 1500. I used to write stories this long, when I was about thirteen--then again, my "novels" weren't much longer. As I started to figure out how to show, not tell, how to develop characters and plots, the length stretched out.

My short stories tend to hover on the low end of the range even now, but they're a normal length. (My novels are now novel-length.)

And then I started this project. I don't get much in the prompts: a couple of nouns, maybe. Sometimes there's a full sentence of description, which is usually, oddly, harder to write--more restriction. At any rate, there isn't enough to write a full-length short story off the top of my head, fleshed-out characters and plot and setting. I've never been great at working off prompts.

But a quick minute of brainstorming usually brings up a scenario, a place, a person, and the point of these isn't that they are the best or the most thought-out stories in the world: the point is my friends getting a story that I wrote for them, the point is the act of writing them.

In that state of just-writing-it, maybe even purer than exists for NaNoWriMo, there have been some unexpected moments of grace. Sometimes the whole thing feels flat, but that's okay--sometimes it curls up in itself, or twists out at the last moment into something beautiful.

Because they're so short, the vast majority of their work is done in implication, in subtext. But in obvious subtext, because there isn't enough time to build up the soundless structures that hold up a full short story, or a novel.

So, since I was thirteen, I've kind of come full circle. I'm going to loop back out again as soon as I get back on campus next week and start trying to buckle down and write The Urban Fantasy Novel. Since I have 23 left to write, though, I'll probably keep writing shorter things for a while, too.

And, who knows? Maybe after I'm done with all of them, I'll start writing flash fiction. It's a fun length.
aamcnamara: (Default)
Finals-o-meter: three out of four done.

Last one will be tomorrow.

I've been working on the solstice-story requests from last year. On the Any writing is good practice theory I have been avoiding thinking that I ought to be working on The Urban Fantasy Novel. I now have two left I haven't started at all; one that's half-finished; and one that wants revision. Then I can start on the currently-around-twenty requests from this year!

The first few days of writing these, the stories were all very, very short, almost all telling and no showing, just a bit of concept and we're done. Yesterday and today I've only managed to write one each day, but they were both longer--one around a thousand words, one around fifteen hundred--and I'm fairly happy with them. So that was worth it, I think.

Snow of doom did not arrive. We got about half an inch: enough to make the paths pretty and snowy, and not enough to cover up the still-green grass I can see from my window. Not cool, New England weather. Not cool.

(Still, it was enough to creak becomingly under my feet when I went to take a final this morning, which is something.)
aamcnamara: (Default)
One final down! Three to go!

And now I feel all virtuous because I studied philosophy this morning and then took the final this afternoon, so I will not feel bad if I spend the rest of the day goofing off.

--
Sometimes I am sort of amazed by how many friends I have.

Last year I posted on facebook offering stories to my friends as presents for anonymous wintry holiday (or non-wintry, depending on hemisphere), if they gave me a prompt. The idea was that I would be forced to write them and therefore get back into the swing of writing.

It didn't work so well for that! I wrote precisely one of them in late January and then promptly got busy, forgot, et cetera. I remembered about them yesterday while avoiding studying philosophy, so I dug up the list of prompts again and started writing some of them. There were twelve requests all in all last year; I have five and a bit done now, with some ideas for the other ones, and I've started posting the ones that are done to their respective recipients.

One of the nice things about doing it this way is that I've lost touch with some of the people who asked for them last year. So they get a story from me, and we're both reminded of each other's existence.

So, because clearly it is not enough to only have a bad idea once, I offered the same thing again this year. Already there are twelve requests, and I know perfectly well that there are at least a few people who just haven't been on facebook in the past day or so. What have I gotten myself into?

I only have a week and a half for winter break this year, because I'm coming back to campus for our January term. It looks like I will have something to do every day while I'm home, if everything works out. Which is awesome, because I didn't see any of my friends over Thanksgiving break and then felt silly and alone, and I really do like my friends a lot.

(As a side note, if anyone who's on here wants a solstice-type-holiday story present from me, comment and give me a prompt, and I will write you one. This is not restricted to facebook friends, that's just where a lot of mine tend to live.)

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