I’ve never claimed to be anything but a slow and shallow thinker, which is why I love the idea of Tet/Lunar New Year. It gives me approximately a month of time to faff around, working out what I want to do, and feed off everyone else’s progress on their New Year’s resolutions from way back at the start of January (many of which have burned out by now, let’s be honest).
As per my previous post, I have already done something that’s made me really happy this year… admittedly it’s something that was a holdover from last year, but I am not a temporal creature, and so will likely be celebrating it for the foreseeable future.
There’s enough distraction going on in my own life that even if ‘Murica was being calm and level headed, I could easily fritter away my time on random pointless pursuits and rest on my laurels, for I am good at both of those things. But, I don’t wanna, even if I am a lazy bugger. While having a One Thing (writing in my case) is great, how do you focus on that while not burning the toast so to speak in regards to all the other facets you want to commit to?
A party member and I came up with the solution in late December: Spin off an alt, whose tasks were solely related to the One Thing. That way you can concentrate AND still remember/reward yourself for all the other things that pile up. Already it’s been hard to resist creep of scope, because surely it’s OK to put this vitally important but irrelevant job here, in this nice, pristine location so I don’t overlook it… NO! Stay strong! And while I have overhauled my normal account, there’s still a bunch of red things languishing in my to-do’s and unclicked habits I just can’t bear to remove. But in relation to the One Thing, it doesn’t matter. There’s even some One Thing items on my real account, because why wouldn’t I want to celebrate and chart them there too?
We will be skipping quests and party buffs in favour of having a party chat for actual conversation, mainly progress reports, encouragement and asking for suggestions. I haven’t joined any guilds yet, but will be very judicious in my selection of them, discarding them if they’re not of value to the One Thing, and possibly ignoring the chat and just picking up useful challenges. While that sounds antisocial, I can do all my gadding about on my normal account, and so can keep the mindset of this being all about the One Thing.
It’s still early stages yet, so I have only blocked in the basics: A daily 15 minutes of writing on my WIP (normally I have word count goals, this time I am trying a timeframe to see if I like that better). 15 minutes is not long, but neither is the word count I aim at (usually 350 words based on this excellent post by Chuck Wendig), a couple of Twitter competitions I want to participate in (I don’t really get Twitter, mainly lurking on it for distractions, rather than actually interacting with people, but that seems popular for writers, so I will trial it), habits for extra writing, planning, editing, posting and flash fiction. Plus some to penalise myself when I get distracted, though I prefer carrot over stick and so may end up removing them if they’re too demotivational.
So this, in a nutshell, is my plan for using Habitica for staying focused on my New Year’s resolution of the One Thing while still being able to pretend at doing everything else.
My posting here has been rather scarce lately, because I was focusing instead on a book, a collection of short short stories. Drabbles if you’re familiar with the term… complete stories in ~100 words. I went with 101 words and wrote 101 of them (130 actually, as I knew they wouldn’t all make the cut, but you get the idea).
I enjoyed the process, and learned a lot of things, which I will hopefully keep in mind for next time.
* Have a release date tin mind, that seems rather sudden, but doable if I push myself
I am terrible at focusing my efforts, it took slightly longer than a year to make the book once I got the idea for it. Part of that was in the beginning I was chasing a range of other writing goals, and part of the problem was my inherent laziness. When the finish line was nearly in reach, I picked an arbitrary dated to publish on, which seemed possible so long as I put in some concerted effort. It didn’t work at the start of the project, as the end was too far away, and I experienced plenty of rubber time.
*There’s always a tiny bits of fiddling to do, but ship the bloody thing already.
Even on the day of publication I was still doing minor tweaks (by this stage it was things such as the addition or removal of a comma, or swapping out an occasional word for a better synonym). If I hadn’t picked the publication date, I could still be doing minor cosmetic changes to get it “perfect”, a word that should never be used in a sentence in relation to anything I touch.
*Cover art created by friends is a wonderful thing.
My first port of call was a professional artist that a mate likes, but they were too busy. I think even if they hadn’t been, I had more fun getting an artist friend to do the cover, it makes it feel more special to me, and they weren’t interested in it as just a job. They were happy and excited for me, and we have an overlap of interests so the subject material was right up their alley. I have a bunch of artist mates, so I better get writing so I can share the love. For me, this is a really motivating thing, collaborating with a mate and showcasing their art with my words.
*Get the ebook and paperback all sorted, then announce it.
At first I just A Ton and One Tales up as an ebook. But Amazon has a print on demand option. I ignored that at the start, as who would be interested in my little book? Then a few mates started asking about it, and I began reading about it, and eventually jumped through the hoops to set it up (now I’m just waiting for them to magically realise the two books are linked). Because of the nature of my book (short stories, mostly one to a page), there were a few minor differences between the paper version and the ebook, so that those that were longer were on a double spread. If I had waited for sorting all this stuff out before I announced the book, who knows, I may have made some dead tree sales as well. Now that it is set up, I am thinking of buying a few copies myself, to send out to really good friends.
*I don’t really get marketing yet, or Twitter
But that’s fine, and it’s something I can work out further down the track. The more books I have out, the more effective that’ll be, so there’s no great rush there.
Now the plan is back to more flash fiction and general writing, and a stab at a longer piece (most likely a novella, I think).
A couple of mates were talking up Inktober at the same time Karen Marston of Untamed Writing fame mentioned she was going to do 28 days of writing, kicking off on the third of October. I figured having two such groups running in tandem would be great, so I decided to use the Inktober prompts for flash fiction, and follow along in solidarity. I also thought I might as well do a poxy picture to go with the piece, as it won’t kill me and I might see some other benefits, aside from enjoyment.
Having both friends and random internet people (though the two are not mutually exclusive to my thinking, the latter can morph into the former with enough yarning) to report to worked better than just the one group or the other, I found (I’ve tried each separately in the past). With mates, they tend to be too understanding, because they know your backstory and why that molehill is casting a shadow that is like unto a mountain, and absolve you of your lapses. Unknown weirdos call you on that shit, but there’s no connection (well, at least not at first, I’ve read all the stuff people have posted links to, so some are more familiar than others) so there’s a tendency to not feel engaged with the faceless hordes. So having both camps on your back is ideal.
So I had the Inktober prompt words to go on:
Most days, I’d look at tomorrow’s word before bed, and brainstorm a bit. My normal fiction writing is 100-1K words, with 100 and 300-500 being my sweet spots. Usually I get a couple of tent poles or a punchline/twist and that’s it for me in regards to planning, as a drabble doesn’t exactly need complex story boarding. That didn’t really change during this either, as most pieces fell within my usual word count.
I did intend on using a larger range of media for the pictures (mosaics! found objects! not so much of the interpretative dance, though), but often ended up doing a batch of them in a hit, because I had a backlog I owed. That meant I had to rely on the stuff in my classroom that was already out (except for the time I used glitter just before lunch. Not a good plan, as I think I ate more than I got on the paper). I am a bit self-conscious about the art art side of things, unless I am doing my normal stick figures for my students.
Usually I did the picture after writing the story. Only once was it the other way and it ended up changing the vague plan for the story, for the better. I should have tried that more often, and may do so in the future.
I ranged further in my writing styles than normal. I’m not big on poetry, so I had a stab at a sonnet, and that nearly killed me. The cadences and rhyme structure kept breaking where I wanted to go with it. There was still a lot of SF&F, and comedy (well, I think the jokes work, your mileage may vary). Children’s stories showed up a bit more often than I expected (but I do like them, being a teacher and all), and I had a go at one that had the flavour of a folk tale, which was a fun variant. There were a few darker pieces, especially one for a Halloween entry, but being me, I made the ending more happily ever after because fuck grimdark, there’s enough of that going on in real life. Most of the stories have some elements I quit like, but there’s at least two the less said about them the better.
I loved writing more, though I did notice some words cropping up repeatedly (tentacle was in nearly half a dozen I think), which is something I will have to watch out for.
So far there’s been the aforementioned competition entry, one submission that got bounced (but with a fantastic note, if you’ve read this far, then you should send a story to 101words) and a couple of RP posts that were well received. The rest will need some polishing and will be good for here or submitting elsewhere. I also turned a shorter piece into a poorly animated movie with a voice over, but like I’ve said before skill is
trumped beaten by enjoyment.
There were a few ways I do (did?) my writing. Preferred is obviously using a real computer but I am bottom of the pecking order for that at home. At work, well often work work has to come first, obviously. But I got better at banging the keys in downtime instead of watching another cat video.
Phone typing has always been something I have gone in for. It’s there, I’m there, I might as well get some words down, especially at home when everyone else is otherwise engaged. There was a marked increase in this, especially for things that had to be submitted with a time constraint, such as RP posts.
I have also been ratcheting up the amount of longhand writing I’ve been doing, as pen and paper have no internet connectivity to distract me. I’m no slouch at typing, so transcription is a breeze, unless my desk eats the paper, or my writing is too messy. The losing the paper side of things has been combatted somewhat by my wife giving me a stylish notebook just as this kicked off, which I have used almost religiously, including–and this is a BIG THING–while on holidays. Originally I was going into this a bit half arsed, assuming there would be a week of cocktails on the beach or slogging up mountains hauling offspring, neither of which is overly conducive to putting pen to paper. But I wrote! My word, did I write (at least for me). My target word count was a mere 350 a day but “they” (for various values of them) say if you want to am to make a habit stick, make it a titchy little one that you can flop over with minimal effort.
I found myself writing more, early in the morning (I’m often awake and can’t fall back asleep before/as the sun is rising, why not be productive?) or late at night, instead of slacking on my phone.
Since I was also doing Inktober, I have the scrawls to go along with it. Here they are. Totals are: 34 stories, with a combined word count of 10914. There were also a few other ones (mainly RP posts) but I didn’t count/draw them, so I am not including them in the word count. I was aiming for 350 words a day, and ended up just scraping in with 352, so yay me, and it seems my system of just doing the bare minimum to pass is still alive and well. There were some that took a lot of extra work, like the sonnet, voice recording and editing the movie, and animating the fire (because I’m an idiot), but I don’t begrudge them.
November is Nanowrimo, but that can go jump. 1.5K a day is not currently sustainable for me, even if I gad about on a range of topics and stories like I have this month. I love the 28 scheme, as that gives you two days of brainstorming before you knuckled down and bang it out (or two days of celebration at the end). My plan is to stick to the ~350 words, but on one longer WIP. I already have it in mind, with some planning and tent poles and ideas jotted down from long ago, so I will re-read my notes (something else that’s unheard of, for some reason I always think that’s a waste of typing time, but because I can’t remember what I was doing, I don’t… you know… actually type (because I’m an idiot)). I love writing short format, but I want to have a serious crack at something longer, so I might as well ride the momentum and continue on with my growth.
Plus there’s a pile of editing still to do, and all those cat videos aren’t going to watch themselves. I think I’ll have a busy November.
My last two entries were hard to post, particularly Three Line Thursday one. It seems everything is ending: Midweek Blues Buster, MicroBookends, Three Line Thursday, Flash! Friday.The middle two I shall especially miss, as their concepts were fun above and beyond what you would expect from the description.
Happily some newer ones show promise.
Microcosms looks promising. Only week 2, and a lot of entries already.
I had hoped Story64 would take off, but I worry now it is floundering. But just as I went to it to get the link, I see the January edition is live, with some familiar names.
101words often provides an excellent read and is fun to submit to, so I will keep sending stories there. They are going to open a writing course soon, which I am sorely tempted by. It has a sister site, Flash Fiction Magazine for longer pieces that I might have a stab at soon.
While I love the instantaneous feedback you get with Flash Fiction, I am also trying to get a collection of other stories too. My Grand Writing Plan has shrunk from a novel, to a collection of short stories, to a collection of microfiction…. if this keeps up, I’ll just be knocking out a single haiku, slapping a cover on it and call it good.
Perhaps the next step in becoming a “real” writer is to submit to publications where they pay you, but I don’t think I am at that level just yet. At the moment I am focusing on writing something every day. Normally I’m far more of a dilettante, and fling the bulk of my work up on the internet, keeping very few words for myself.
At the moment I am just doing a drabble a day, but finding my own prompts and inspirations, rather than the whims of whoever is setting whichever flash fiction prompt I am following.
I will also be doing a short story a week based off a list of prompts for 52 stories in 52 weeks because I enjoy the shorter formats. As Chuck Wendig recently said, be the kind of writer you want to be and forget about everything and everyone else.
So my name is Dave James Ashton, and I like short and micro fiction.
Like many people, I was dismayed to hear that Sir Terry Pratchett has died. Growing up, he was one of my favourite authors. I even managed to hear him speak in person a couple of times, and got him to sign the books of his I had.
The first time I did so, my friend and I had been in the queue for quite some time, and were towards the back. That was fine with us, as we talked at length about his presentation. When it was our turn, he asked us who we wanted the books dedicated to. I was starry eyed and blurted out “Terry Pratchett!” Everyone was polite enough for me to realise my mistake and start laughing before they joined in. On another of his visits, I took Hidden Turnings in to be signed, which had his short story Turntables of the Night in it, a great story in an excellent anthology of various authors. He said he wasn’t presented that one often to sign, which is a real shame, as the book is a glorious pastiche, and I wish I could get many of the other authors to sign it as well.
Although my reading tastes have changed over the years, expanding into different genres and styles, he has always had a strong place in my heart. While I may go years without reading one of his books, when asked for my favourite author, Terry Pratchett is one of first names on my lips. I’m not conceited enough to think that my style is anywhere near approaching his, but he is the brightest light from my formative years, and his books I look back to with joy.
When I went to Sweden I managed to get some of the Clarecraft statues: one of Bill Door as Death (my favourite at the time), and a mate gave me one of the Bursar’s containers for dried frog pills. So there are happy memories and yearning tied up in them. They are both in storage at my parents place and like all the things we acquire in our life and lay aside, they pass from our minds while we pile up new treasures, but the sight and touch of them call back remembrances both wonderous and terrible in their vividness.
It is rare that I get new books over here, as most of bookshop English sections cater towards people learning the language, and reading him in ebook format just wouldn’t be the same. I did manage to snap up Dodger a year or so ago, but was fearful of opening it. What it his newer work didn’t live up to my nostalgia – like many other authors of my youth? How would I take it? I haven’t managed to keep up with the Discworld series while I’ve been away, what if his style had changed, or I had changed? But my fears were groundless, it was like coming back to an old friend you hadn’t seen for years, familiar yet fascinating.
It is a sad day, but he caused so much happiness that he will be recalled fondly. It’s been a long time since I’ve read Johnny and the dead, but I am sure there’s a relevant quote there. Everywhere else seems to be quoting from Death at the moment. I have one of the magnificent illustrated copies of The Last Hero here in Hanoi, so I will start reading that in his honour tonight.