Two Steps Forward…

More of that Writing Amidst Life stuff today.

Two hour delay; breakfast with husband; the lure of fine writing implements

The kids had a half day yesterday because of The Blizzard That Never Was, and I not only negotiated some writing time with the Husband, but used it productively to add 1400 words to a scene in the novel.

Today I had more time at my disposal and managed to sit and stare at the scene for quite a lot of it. I figured out my problem, though, which is something: I need to know what the heroine’s story goals at this point in the story. It’s a waste of my time to just add more words to the scene if they don’t serve the overall story. So I did some background writing to figure out what she needs to figure out at this point.  That sounds very clever and it would have been, had I not succeeded in completely confusing myself. Time to go back to my notes, It think.

But this is the absolute worst time of the day for met to try to make decisions, so I’m going to send a few emails and try to get back to this later. Or tomorrow. But at least knowing what the problem is, now.

Sheesh!

Current projects/priorities/progress:

  1. Finish draft of the novel (so I can revise it for the critique group) – Getting there. Have added, since last week, about 4000 words in three different scenes, building towards the climax. Huzzah!
  2. Post weekly Write On Wednesday prompts to StoryADay – No progress, but I have three weeks’ worth in the bank
  3. Start prepping for April’s build-up to StoryADay – Wrote a Thursday Feature Article about Turning Up At The Page
  4. Non-fiction book proposal No progress
  5. Reading –  Um…
  6. Regular column for other site – Really very little progress unless you count what I do  in the next 30 minutes…
  7. Planning – Captured a list of Things I Want To Do This Year. It’s quite a lot, and now it’s all organized and in a Google Document that I can update from year to year. Fun!

Writing Process

I’m trying to figure out my own writing process at the moment: trying to find a practice that I can use to get my writing going every day, not just when I feel inspired.

This novel I’m working on has been dragging on for too long and I’m determined to get a draft finished. To that end I’ve promised to hand a draft to my critique group in early March. So I have to write it, now. 1

So, given that I am, by nature, a sprinter, not a marathoner, I am struggling a bit.

Currently what seems to be working is to sit down and write a summary of the next scene: what is going to happen and why, what the reader should be feeling during the scene, and what it leads into. I jot it all down in the present tense and then I can start writing the scene. Having figured out where it’s going before I try to write any prose frees me up to get there by any route I fancy.

I’m also coming and working at the co-working space because it makes me feel more professional and less of a hobbyist.

Tools I am using:

  • The Snowflake Method
  • The Scene Checklist from Story Engineering
  • Scrivener for writing
  • Google Docs Spreadsheet for capturing a list of scenes
  • Google Docs Spreadsheet for capturing my word count every day (which isn’t really important but helps me to see my progress)
  • Google Docs Slacker Tracker Spreadsheet set up by Carol to help me manage different projects. Which reminds me, I have to work on another thing today too!
  1. to be clear, I have lots of words written. it’s just that they don’t entirely hang together as a coherent story with a middle and an end and any obvious reason for all the stuff that happens.

My House Is Empty – Song Of Praise

I’m not saying I dislike my family, or resent them being here.

I’m just saying that there’s a moment, when I close the door behind them, that feels like this:

by Julie Duffy (c) 2015

creative commons noncommercial

Creative Commons License: Attribution, NonCommercial, ShareAlike

My House Is Empty
(to the trad. tune Bunessan, a.k.a. ‘Morning Has Broken’)

(with alternate lyrics for work-outside-the-home parents)

My house is empty!
My house is empty!
I’ll be the only one here all day.
No one to say “no!”;
Ask me a question…
I can do everything my own way.

Yes, there is cleaning.
Yes, there is laundry.
Yes, there are errands that I must run, (alt: Yes, there’s a day job and I must run,)
But there is no one
To interrupt me (alt. Here to detain me);
I am in charge of when they get done (alt. I am in charge of what I get done)

No one will bicker.
No one will rampage.
No one will knock on my bathroom door.
After my six hour (alt. eight hour)
Mental vacation
I can be pleased to see them once more.

You say I’ll miss this
When my nest’s empty,
“Never forget these days are a gift.”
I will endeavour
To count my blessings
As 3pm brings my second shift (alt. As 6 pm brings my second shift)

You may also like: The Parents’ School Morning Lament

Writing-Adjacent

So far today I haven’t got very far with the actual *writing* stuff.
Lots of stuff that is “writing-adjacent”, not to mention booking tickets to see a touring Broadway show in June (that was surprisingly stressful. The tickets went on sale this morning and we had to get into an electronic queue and be alerted — by email — that our number had come up. Then K had a meeting to go to and IM-ed me the information, but I couldn’t take over his spot int the electronic queue of course, and had to wait for my own number to come up. When it did, the system told me it had expired, in spite of its only havng been up for 10 minutes not the much-vaunted 20 minutes they said I’d have. Aargh! So then I had to get into another queue and wait for that number to come up and all the while I was thinking ‘but what if all the good seats are gone?’ even though this is a pre-sale and only certain bona fide theater goers — as evidenced by previous ticket purchases — were allowed to be in this queue. Agree! So mumuch stress for 10:30 in the morning.

Now I’m faced with the eternal problem: lunch? Nap? Work?

Let’s have a look at what I achieved yesterday. Hmmm. I think it’s clear that the answer to the above question needs to be ‘work’, with a lunch chaser.

I spent some fun time after the stressful-ticket-buying experience, creating (templates for) graphics of inspirational quotes that will work well on Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest, because everyone seems to like images these days. People allegedly are all about video now, online too, but I surveyed “my” people and it turns out they, like me, do not like everything to happen by video. So that’s good. I can forget about veering off into distracting video-producing territories and stick to the writing.

Ah, yes, the writing…

Current projects/priorities/progress:

  1. Finish draft of the novel (so I can revise it for the critique group) – No progress. Boo
  2. Post weekly Write On Wednesday prompts to StoryADay – Yes! Posted three of these as well as five Reading Room Tuesday reviews of short stories I have read.
  3. Start prepping for April’s build-up to StoryADay – Some social media stuff. Lots of lists made. Reminders put in Evernote.
  4. Non-fiction book proposal – No progress
  5. Reading –  Read 1 short story
  6. Regular column for other site – No Progress

Writing Amidst Life

Life is happening around here.

Biohazard

It’s interesting stuff. There’s been serious illness, hospital visits and rehab. Not to mention international travel insurance, car hire, and the whole Christmas and New Year stuff.

I was feeling quite good about myself, getting in some writing here and there, while waiting for a scheduled 3-week family visit to wind down, whereupon I would plunge back into the writing.

But then…life.

And it’s fine. Because it’s important stuff. And I am thrilled that things are now going well. And that I have all these new experiences to draw upon.
I do, however, have to figure out how to write amidst it all. It’s a challenge, but one I’m kind of enjoying.

Because I’ve finally realized that life will continue to happen (at least until it doesn’t, and I certainly won’t be writing after that!).

Summer vacations will be part of my life for the next 8 years and probably longer. I have to figure out how to not put my writing on hold during them. Busy times with the kids will happen. Jobs might come and go. And I have to figure out how to write during them.

Listened to a WritingExcuses podcast yesterday where the hosts were talking about what they and people they know do, to keep writing amidst life. It was eye-opening and thought-provoking. Still not sure I could write during a foreign-language lecture, like Neil Gaiman apparently did, but you never know: there have been times when I’ve been in the middle of a story AND in the middle of the family, with the TV going in the background, and still able to write because the writing was flowing.

So.

Life.

And writing.

Watch this space.

Current projects/priorities:

  1. Finish draft of the novel (so I can revise it for the critique group)
  2. Post weekly Write On Wednesday prompts to StoryADay
  3. Start prepping for April’s build-up to StoryADay (choose projects, pare down projects, write and produce stuff e.g. this year’s prompt book)
  4. Non-fiction book proposal
  5. Reading
  6. Regular column for other site.

Beating Facebook’s Bots – How To See The Content You Want

If you’re not a marketer, you might not know this, but Facebook is hiding things from you.

I won’t bore you with the details (search online for  “page likes” and “Facebook algorithm” to hear the small business howls of protest), but Facebook has changed the way they serve information to your newsfeed.

What does this mean for you?Even if you have ‘liked’ a page (say a local business or a charity you support), you won’t see all their posts in your newsfeed. You’ll have to remember to click on their link to see their page and all their posts.

Which kind of defeats the purpose of the Facebook newsfeed, don’tcha think?

How To See What YOU Want To See

There is a really easy way to customize your news feed so that you see ONLY what you want to see, and you see EVERY post.

But it does require a couple of clicks.

(Another advantage is that you can corral all those quirky blogs you like to read but keep forgetting to check. Using the method below, you can have them all served up to you on one page, every time they update. No more ‘losing’ favorite voices online!)

Introducing FEEDLY

I use Feedly to slurp content from all my favorite sites and let me read them all in one ‘news feed’ at Feedly.com.

Here’s what it looks like:

Feedly home

Say What?

The Short Story: You’ll have to train yourself to check another site as well as FB every day,  to get the content you want. But it’s worth it.

The Slightly Longer Story: Behind every blog is a stream of code called an RSS feed. (It stands for Really Simple Syndication, and its a way your browser can slurp all the content you want into one place. But no, you don’t need to know any code.)

You tell Feedly what sites you like to have updates from, it slurps the content in, turns it into a pretty News Feed, and you turn up and read it.

(Yes, there’s an app for your phone.)

Yes, you’ll have to check Feedly as well as FB, but the upside is that you won’t have to scroll through all the pictures of puppies and the political outrage of your casual acquaintances, unless those are the kinds of sites you like to read.

How Do I Use This Magical Service?

1. Go to Feedly.com and sign up.

You can use your Google account (if you have one) or your Facebook account, if you really want to hitch your wagon to the FB star.

2. Enter the address of the webpage of a blog/organization you care about.

Feedly will find the RSS feed on the page, if it has one. (Most sites use blog software for their news and updates, so it probably will).

For example, to see all the updates on this page, you can just type in ‘www.julieduffy.com‘ and it’ll subscribe you to this blog. To see every post from my StoryADay May challenge, type in ‘www.storyaday.org‘ and it’ll pull up that blog.

3. Subscribe

Feedly Add Content

See that little green button that says “+Feedly”? Click it.

4. (Optional) Put Things In ‘Collections’

A collection is like a folder, in old money. (Or a ‘directory’, if you’re really old). This is optional but something you’ll appreciate once you have more than a few subscriptions.

When you click “+Feedly” it will pop up a little window like this, which lets you add the site to an existing collection or create a new one.

Feedly collections

I have some collections called things like ‘art’, ‘blogs about life’ and, not surprisingly, ‘writing’.

5. That’s All, Folks

Ok, it’s not all. There are lots of things you can do, like change the way you view the page, download an app, integrate Feedly with IFTTT and Evernote and suchlike, but for now? That’s all you need to do.

How To Find The Addresses of Pages You Like on Facebook

Go to your Facebook Pages feed in the sidebar (and yes, you could just train yourself to do this everyday instead of using Feedly, if you’re happy to keep suckling at the warm Facebook teat and are reluctant to emancipate yourself from their whims).

Click on the name of an organization you like. Click their ‘about’ page and look for their website address.

A Disclaimer

Many organizations have fallen into the trap of using only Facebook for their updates. Now is probably a good time to send them a note saying “hey, I’ve subscribed to your blog in my RSS Feed reader. Please remember to update the blog as often as you update Facebook, so I don’t miss your news”. You’ll be doing them a favor, helping them assert their independence!

Some Sites I Follow

The Happiness Project

XKCD

PostSecret

ZenHabits

Ali’s African Adventures

 

 

Blue Riband

So, I’m gearing up to write this big climactic series of scenes in my novel. They’re set at a country faire, the kind where people enter jams and cakes and flower arrangements and knitted layettes into contests and are judged under tents by ladies in hats and men in clerical frocks.

Apparently I’m a little bit Method in my writing because I’ve been obsessively doing this for the past few days:

Cake

Cake, sliced

After a few false starts, I now honestly think I could give Mrs Pattmore a run for her money….

images

Rote, Routine, Rout

I don’t do routine.

Luckily, my lovely husband does.

Coffee in the morning

He has imposed a routine on our mornings that ensures everyone is up, clean, caffeinated-where-appropriate, clothed, fed and out the door on a timeline that does not require panic, screaming, name-calling and/or recriminations. It’s like voodoo.

This morning I woke up at the appointed time, told Lovely Husband about my dream (Céline Dion? Really?) and then—in flagrant disregard of The Routine, he suggested maybe I’d make the coffee this morning. (That should have been a clue.) It was not an unreasonable request, so I began to lever myself out of my nice warm bed.

At which point…I woke up. Told Lovely Husband about the dream I’d just had. He handed me my coffee, as usual.

###

My conscious brain loves our morning routine and the benefits it brings.

I strongly suspect my subconscious of planning a prison break.

 

A Love Letter To My Library

Posted as part of The Guardian‘s Love Letters To Libraries campaign

Dear Troon Library,

Troon Library

I’ll be honest: I’ve been in a lot of libraries that are prettier than you.

But you were my library.

Your ugly, low-ceilinged children’s room was inviting, on my scale and stuffed with books for me to devour. I have no idea what happened to my parents whenever we visited, because all I remember is hunkering down with my new friends: Flicka, Ann Shirley, Emily of New Moon Farm, the folks in Narnia…and when I discovered your audio book section? Well, that was the start of a love affair I’ve now been able to pass on to my own children.

Now that I can afford to buy books, I still use the library. Otherwise my reading would become an echo-chamber of careful investments chosen because the reviewers made them sound like something I’d agree with. There would be no casual stumblings-upon, no cost-free I’ll-give-it-a-trys, no delightful discoveries.

Thank you for giving me companions, new worlds and all my best dreams.

Love,

Julie