read it: damn fine story

I’ve read a bunch of writing books. And if I’m going to be honest, I’m going to read a bunch more writing books. In part, it’s because there’s still a part of me that’s looking for the secret even though I know there isn’t one. (Except, write.) (But also, maybe it’s in this other book over here…) But mostly, it’s because I like to read writing books.

I like the memoir-y tomes that talk about the struggling novice writer and the eventual triumph. The ones that meditate on the inner life of writers. The ones that make me think, maybe these are my people.

I like the books that present yet another way to look at structure and plot and character and narrative. Anything to try to help me figure out my own thoughts on those things.

So. I read books on writing, and as I do, the magpie part of me likes to pull out the shiny bits from each of those books and collect them.

When I found myself furiously scribbling notes and collecting quotes for reading during the dark times, I figured it was time to just endorse this whole book: Damn Fine Story by Chuck Wendig.

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This pic ended up a little more holiday than intended.

If you’ve never read any Chuck Wendig, well, you should give him a try. He has a lot of books and a prolific blog and a hilarious Twitter feed — lots of different ways in which you can familiarize yourself with his writing. (Seriously, check out some of his Twitter exchanges with author Sam Sykes. One of them even became a horror movie.)

He has a very particular style, especially when he is talking about writing (or politics), that is equal parts hilarious, profane, and profound.

In Damn Fine Story, he breaks down the elements of a good story and tries to verbalize how to be a good storyteller. He goes through structure and character and theme, and uses a lot of Die Hard and Star Wars references to get his points across. The book is irreverent and joyful and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It is, in short, very much Chuck Wendig.

In lieu of just quoting the whole thing to you, you should go grab a copy and read it for yourself. And if you know any writerly friends, it would make for a good holiday present.

perfection sucks

This is a very special time. The beginning of the beginning.
It’s just you and the manuscript.
Your full mind and the empty page. Tip the cup to spill part of you all over it.
This is fundamental and formative.
This is volcanic and pyroclastic.
This is pure.
The empty page is perfection.

And perfection sucks.

– Chuck Wendig, 30 Days in the Word Mines

nano eve

Happy NaNoWriMo eve, everyone! (And Halloween. Of course.)

NaNoWriMo is a great month for challenging your creative output and getting a sometimes-much-needed kick in the pants. You’re surrounded by supportive friends and fellow WriMos and the energy is buoying. The momentum helps a lot.

I shouldn’t feel nervous about NaNoWriMo, but I kind of do. Being nervous means I have doubts, that I’m still in that mode where I’m thinking I’m going to try to win NaNo. Which means that I haven’t decided that I will yet. Which means I’m still allowing for the possibility of disappointing myself. Which is just whisker-twisting bullshit.

Just have to keep in mind what Yoda says about trying and doing. Agonizing about a decision is just a way to put off making a decision. And then you’ll be in agony, and a decision still won’t have been made.

ANYWAY. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about in advance of tomorrow.

Continue reading

ffic: day 31

Prompt: A party, six pastries, a duel.

Inktober: slice


THE CHALLENGE

  • Write a piece of flash fiction daily for the month of October — 31 first drafts for 31 days.
  • Each flash fiction piece should be <1000 words long and must contain an arc/plot/conflict (vignettes and slice-of-life stories don’t count).
  • Feel free to use the list of prompts collected.
    • Try to go two to three layers down from where your brain first goes with the prompt.
  • Share the piece: to your blog, to a kind friend, to an internet rando (feel free to send it to me!). Maybe tag it with #flashfictioninktober. (Or not. I don’t know how clever hashtags work. How do internet?)

dabble

In advance of NaNoWriMo and to put off the NaNoPrep I know I should be doing, I’ve been distracting myself by trying to figure out what I’m going to use to write. Mostly these days, I have a bunch of Word documents (or sometimes Google Docs) with names like “that one thing ver 1” and “that one thing ver 2” and “that one thing ver 2 – polished” and so on and so forth. All living in folders nested within folders nested within folders.

For a brief period of time, I toyed with Scrivener, which I know is supposed to be an amazing powerhouse piece of software. But I always get vaguely annoyed that the Windows version, which hasn’t received the beautiful 3.0 update that Mac has, just looks kind of clunky. Additionally, there are about a million settings that I can change and get distracted by. Couple that with a handful of settings that I can’t seem to change though I sorely want to, and I just drive myself crazy fiddling with buttons and knobs instead of putting words on a page.

So when I was perusing the NaNo sponsors page and came across Dabble, I figured I might as well check it out.

It is gorgeous. The interface is simple and straightforward. There are basically no settings for you to adjust. You just go in there and write. There are no fonts to choose, there is no formatting to mess with. It’s just a word processor and you.

But also, it has some of the novel relevant functionality that Scrivener has that is definitely lacking in most less specialized pieces of software. You can label scenes and chapters and rearrange pieces. There’s a section for a plotting chart (which I haven’t tried yet, but am curious about) and another for story notes. When you’re done writing, Dabble can export your words into manuscript format with the click of a button — suddenly, everything is Times New Roman and double-spaced and exactly the way it needs to be as a Word doc or a text file. (This might be a me thing, but I hate writing in Times New Roman with a specific formatting because it just. doesn’t. look. nice.)

It even hooks into the NaNo word count API and updates your word count for you if you link your account.

Thus far, it is the thing that comes closest to what I would want in an ideal word processor environment. The only two things I’ve noticed straight off the bat is the lack of inline comments (I make a lot of inline comments to myself) and the inability to resize within the program (though this is solved by just magnifying in the browser).

It’s free to try through the end of November. After that, it’s a subscription service, which I don’t mind — usually means that people are paying attention and updating things in a more or less timely fashion. If you participate in NaNoWriMo you can get 20% off the subscription fee, and if you win, you can get 50% for a year. In any event, I’m going to try it out for this NaNoWriMo and see how it goes.

ffic: day 30

Prompt: Eating an enormous amount

Inktober: jolt


THE CHALLENGE

  • Write a piece of flash fiction daily for the month of October — 31 first drafts for 31 days.
  • Each flash fiction piece should be <1000 words long and must contain an arc/plot/conflict (vignettes and slice-of-life stories don’t count).
  • Feel free to use the list of prompts collected.
    • Try to go two to three layers down from where your brain first goes with the prompt.
  • Share the piece: to your blog, to a kind friend, to an internet rando (feel free to send it to me!). Maybe tag it with #flashfictioninktober. (Or not. I don’t know how clever hashtags work. How do internet?)

ffic: day 29

Prompt: We long for somewhere new.

Inktober: double


THE CHALLENGE

  • Write a piece of flash fiction daily for the month of October — 31 first drafts for 31 days.
  • Each flash fiction piece should be <1000 words long and must contain an arc/plot/conflict (vignettes and slice-of-life stories don’t count).
  • Feel free to use the list of prompts collected.
    • Try to go two to three layers down from where your brain first goes with the prompt.
  • Share the piece: to your blog, to a kind friend, to an internet rando (feel free to send it to me!). Maybe tag it with #flashfictioninktober. (Or not. I don’t know how clever hashtags work. How do internet?)

writing recap 2018: w43

Started this week out pretty strong and then petered out towards the end when my face was overwhelmed by allergies. Spent Friday holed up on the couch sneezing repeatedly until my abs hurt. But! I regained control of all four Divine Beasts in BotW, so there’s that at least.

Stayed with the flash fiction thing still. Had at least two more pieces that I really like that will need some rewriting and polishing. I still have to figure out exactly what I’m going to do with all of these things and work out a timeline for, well, work.

I was telling Adam about some of the pieces that I liked (particularly from prompts numbers 23 and 24 this week) and found that many of them ended with either everyone dying or the world being destroyed or some kind of psychological horror. Not sure why that’s where my subconscious goes for these shorter pieces, but I’m rolling with it. (Some of it seems to be deeply rooted in women’s anger. Can’t imagine why…)

I still didn’t do as much NaNoPrep as needed to happen this week. It’s one of those things that I know that I need to do but that I’m dragging my feet on. Each day’s morning pages were a variation on cajoling, exhorting, or wheedling myself into just. doing. it. but even still. I even gave myself a pretty decent pep talk on Thursday, all to no avail. I know where the Resistance comes from. I know that it’s a marker of something that I should do.

Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

– Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

A little heavy, but you get the point.

I know that it’s fueled by fear. In this case, some kind of fear of things being imperfect. Like if I try or care or let myself feel passionate about this project AND it doesn’t come exactly the way I want it to, then I will be so disappointed and also a failure and I should just go get lost in the woods. WHICH IS SO DUMB. DO YOU HEAR ME, JERKBRAIN? YOU ARE SO DUMB.

Because of course, it won’t come out exactly the way I want to. Hell, I don’t even know what that means or looks like because I haven’t done it yet. So how would I? But even more so, the first draft is going to be a bit of magic and a bit of garbage all rolled together. And I know that I’m going to have to rewrite and pick through the refuse to figure out which little gems to hoard. And the extra idiot thing is that if I JUST DO THIS PRE-WRITING STUFF, the first draft might have a little less garbage to get through to obtain the treasure.

But obviously, I HAVE TO DO THE THING IN THE FIRST PLACE. It’s a well-constructed ouroboros* of inaction (begrudging respect, jerkbrain, for your wily loops) — I’m afraid to do the thing that I need to do because it won’t be good enough (for what, who the fuck knows) so then I don’t do the thing. But I want to do the thing. But I’m afraid. And while I’m wallowing in the bog of ill defined fear and minor despair, Resistance is laughing all the way to the bank (how he makes money off of this, I’m not sure, but somehow he’s getting rich).

This is one of those times when I am totally self aware enough to see myself being counter-productive and I’m just slow-motion screaming in my head. Sometimes I just want to poke myself with a sharp stick.

Fucking jerkbrain.

*My computer wants to correct this to Borobudur, which led me down a brief, distracting Wikipedia hole.

ffic: day 28

Prompt: You discover your mother is a god.

Inktober: gift


THE CHALLENGE

  • Write a piece of flash fiction daily for the month of October — 31 first drafts for 31 days.
  • Each flash fiction piece should be <1000 words long and must contain an arc/plot/conflict (vignettes and slice-of-life stories don’t count).
  • Feel free to use the list of prompts collected.
    • Try to go two to three layers down from where your brain first goes with the prompt.
  • Share the piece: to your blog, to a kind friend, to an internet rando (feel free to send it to me!). Maybe tag it with #flashfictioninktober. (Or not. I don’t know how clever hashtags work. How do internet?)