In ATL for the Conference on Robot Learning, very tired after a long day, please enjoy this picture of a Page One from Cafe Intermezzo. Actually, today was a really good example of "being where you need to be" ... I ran into a fair number of colleagues from Google and beyond just by being out on the town at the right time and the right place, and was also able to help out a fellow who seriously needed some food. And when the evening was ending ... three more Google colleagues appeared on the street as I sat down for coffee.
I don't actually believe we live in a simulation, or in the Secret, or whatever ... but if you're doing the right thing, I find that Providence tends to open the doors for you right when you need it.
P.S. Being in the right place DOESN'T mean you get all your nano wordcount done though. I am making progress on "Blessing of the Prism", my Neurodiversiverse story, but on Dakota Frost #7 I found myself spending most of my writing time sorting chapters in the big manuscript into sections, as I realized that one of the ungainly sections I didn't like was actually a coherent start for Dakota Frost #8.
P.P.S. On my blogroll, I saw someone say, "no writing is wasted", and in a sense the chapters I just saved are not wasted. In another, and I say this as a bloviating maximalist, a big part of writing is selection, and sometimes having too many versions of a thing can make it hard to pick the right one and move on.
So the turkeys are out again! Love to see these fellas in the yard. But they're not the only big ungainly birds out there. I've been reading a lot of writing books recently, and some of them have really great advice. True, in each good book there is, usually, at least one stinker.
But most of the good ones build on the two related ideas that "whatever works, works," so you can adapt their advice to your own needs - HOWEVER, "some things usually work better than others," so if you are having trouble, here are some tools you can try.
One thing I draw from this is a refutation of the idea that if an artist achieves their artistic vision then there's nothing wrong with that piece of art. Phooey. It may be great for them that they achieved their vision - heaven knows, I so rarely do that - but what they envision itself may be flawed.
Dwight Swain, who wrote Techniques of the Selling Writer, talks about this in audio courses built on his book. As a novelist, he claims you often don't know how good an idea is until you get a chapter or three into the story, and that if you find your idea doesn't work (or that you don't care about your protagonist), quit.
There's no shame in this. But if you've got the time, talent or treasure, you can sometimes push a bad idea to its logical conclusion without ever questioning the foundation. For example, hiring Samuel Jackson, but directing him to act woodenly as if he's in an old Republic serial (I'm looking at you, George Lucas).
What you focus on as your artistic vision is itself a matter of choice, and achieving your artistic vision does not mean that you'll end up with something that is aesthetically effective. Hey, as always, you're free to do you, but that doesn't mean that the rest of us are going to get what you've got.
This project was fascinating for me because we learned so much about what to look for in our Kickstarter campaigns:
We changed the title (from "Beautiful Inspiring Postcards" to "Writing Inspiration Postcards") because we didn't realize that the title didn't reveal what the postcards were about until after launch (the information was available in the text and image, it just wasn't salient in the title).
We tweaked our reward tiers to provide more of what people wanted.
We realized as the Kickstarter was ending that we could have added even more reward tiers with useful things that people would have wanted (e.g. Keiko's "White Mice" postcard, or Thinking Ink's other writing postcards that we've already made).
And, for me personally, I'd have run the Kickstarter for another week, as we were just figuring out how to improve our outreach as the Kickstarter wound down. But, there's a tradeoff between how long the Kickstarter runs and how much time and effort it takes for us to manage it, so there's no exact formula for how long a Kickstarter should run in terms of wear and tear on the team.
Anyway, I hope you backed it, and get to enjoy the postcards!
Hey folks, I and my coeditor Liza Olmsted are happy to announce we're looking for stories for THE NEURODIVERSIVERSE ANTHOLOGY, which will explore how neurodivergent folks might have an advantage in dealing with aliens whose thought processes might also be different. From the call for submissions:
The universe is filled with aliens—creatures with different histories, cultures, and even biologies—who may seem strange to us. But our world is filled with a diversity of people, many of whom find each other strange. One particular group finds the rest of humanity especially strange: neurodivergent people.
Would neurodivergent folks find themselves at an advantage in dealing with aliens?
So far, so good, on the new strategy of starting off with the projects, rather than the maintenance: I've tweeted, checked in with LinkedIn, worked on some non-fiction books, am blogging, and am about to switch gears to writing my Camp Nano entry, SPIRAL NEEDLE.
Jim taked to me about how prioritizing book-writing was critical for his process. I don't really have to do that for fiction - or, more properly, I have structured my entire life around ensuring I have time set aside for fiction writing, so at this point it is practically free - but non-fiction books are new to me.
But one of his other suggestions baffled me, not because it didn't make sense, but because it made too much sense - except I was already doing it, and it wasn't working. Jim pointed out that most people go through periods of vigilance, slump, and recovery during their day, and that as a morning person he reserved book writing, which required critical thinking, for his early vigilant time. Errands like bill-paying worked well for him in the slump, and he felt most creative in the recovery period in the evening.
Okay, great, I thought, I can use this. Already I can see shifting the order I do things in my day - as a night owl, I start my day off in the slump, recover from that, and then get increasingly and increasingly vigilant the further and further I go into the night. (If I have a project due and no obligations the next day, this can go on for hours and hours before exhaustion starts to outpace execution and productivity finally drops).
So maybe switch errands to earlier in the day, I thought, and productivity in the afternoon. But wait a minute: I'm already using my late nights for my most creative time. Why isn't this working.
What I realized is that I have an irregular schedule. In THEORY my late-night time is my most productive time, but in PRACTICE on some nights I get an hour, on some nights I get two (or five) and on some nights I am already so wiped that I really don't get much done at all.
But I do almost always get something done in the morning, even if it takes me time to get rolling. And for me, catching up on papers or writing notes or catching up on my blog is a mostly mechanical activity: it's not that creative thought isn't required, but it isn't to the level of, say, a novel or a scientific paper, where a hard-won sentence may be the result of a half an hour's search tracking down a key reference or fact, or, worse, an hour's worth of brainstorming alone or meeting with others to decide WHAT to write.
So: I can't count on myself to do a creative "chore" - something that has to be done regularly, like blogging or social media, or something that has to be done incrementally over a long period of time, like collating references or thoughts for a non-fiction book - by putting it in my evening creative block. The evening creative block is too irregular, and needs to be reserved for novels and art anyway.
The fix: blog (et al) in the morning.
Let's see how it goes.
Pictured: tomato and lettuce sandwiches for breakfast, with the leftovers of the tomato as a side dish. At the breakfast table is Christopher Bishop's Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning, also available as a PDF, the latest of a long series of "difficult breakfast table books" which I laboriously read through, a page at a time - sometimes, one page over several days, until I "get" it - to increase my understanding of the world. Past breakfast table books have included Machine Vision, A New Kind of Science, and Probability Theory: the Logic of Science, the first is out of date now, but the latter two are perennial and highly recommended.
Woohoo! After being just about as behind on a Nano challenge as I have ever been and still won, I managed not only to complete 50,000 words in the month of April, but to blow past it to 53,266 words! Hooray!
To be frank, that steep slope over the top there feels really good, and I'm quite proud of the effort that I put in to make sure I made it this Nano. But, to be equally frank, the steep slope there PRIOR to going over the top really su-u-u-cked, and I pulled two almost-all-nighters (and one actual all-nighter) to finish.
Early in the month, I prioritized Clockwork Alchemy, and the Social Navigation paper, and getting work done in our old house in California that we're trying to renovate. But once I was back in the East Coast, I really had to knuckle down, writing up to 6,000 words a day near the end.
But, by the end, I was so far ahead that the "velocity required" to stay on track actually went negative (as you can see at the very end of the graph). I broke 50,000 words yesterday, but I still had a scene in mind involving the Big Bad of the Jeremiah Willstone stories, the dreaded Black Queen, Victoria. I didn't want to lose that inspiration, so I wrote it today, and the next scene, which is starting to roll back together with other parts I've written already. So now will be a good time to take a break and take stock of my life, to resume editing Dakota Frost #4 SPECTRAL IRON, and to get my new consulting business, Logical Robotics, rolling.
According to my records, I've attempted Nanowrimo challenges (Nanowrimo, Camp Nano, and Script Frenzy) 37 times, with 35 successes, producing over 1.85 million words in successful months. If I'm lucky, and I can keep up the pace, I may crack two million words next year - wish me luck. But I think it's more pressing to get the editing of the existing books done - so wish me even more luck with that.
Oh, one more thing, the excerpt:
“Alive, but deposed,” Jeremiah said, as the proboscis of the thing behind her touched the back of her head—then bit in with a sickening CRACK. “Aaah! Deposed in 1865—or enslaved by the Plague today,” she moaned, as it dug in. “It’s y-your … choice … your … Majesty—”
The Queen raised the pistol. “I am no-one’s slave,” she said, and pulled the—
Falconer Cadet Specialist Jeremiah Willstone awoke with a start. Staring at the ceiling, she tried to hold on to the dream … no. She knew better than that. It felt like a fading dream … but they were echoes of memories, the last remnants of some disruption in time.
The jumbled recollections were slipping away, the tangled thoughts dissipating: canaries and scarabs and plagues and queens. But she remembered at least three key things: there was a war on, in time; her memories would be out of date; and she had to rise to the occasion.
Jeremiah glanced at the clock: 4:45AM on a radium dial that did not look familiar—no, did not look like her style at all, a frilly elegant thing more French than Austrian. She looked over, found what she expected from seeing the clock, and considered. It was late enough.
“Oi, roommate,” Jeremiah sat up, feet off her cot. “Name, rank, year. No joke.”
The human computer on the cot opposite her groaned. “Wha—” the woman muttered, a dark-skinned woman with impressive curls and chest, who managed to make waking up seem elegant. Then one of the vacuum tubes in her head sparked, and she sat bolt upright, blinking.
“The Lady Westenhoq,” the woman whispered icily, then swiveled to look at Jeremiah. “Liberation Academy Cadet. And, like you, Cadet Willstone, I’m a first year.”
“Thank you, Lady Westenhoq,” Jeremiah said quietly, “but I meant the date.”
Westenhoq looked at her, then swiveled her own feet of the cot to face her.
“No, and I … think I’m going to start going by Jeremiah.” She rubbed her face. “Sounds more professional, and pet names remind me of my uncle anyway. But, since you knew my nickname and used it freely, I … take it we’ve worked together before.”
Oh, have they. Prevail, Victoriana!
Pictured: Breakfast at Stax Omega, lots of graphs, and the Camp Nano winner's badge.