Sketchbook #41

It’s the end of March! And, since it’s also the end of the first quarter of 2019, this feels like a particularly significant creative check-in. I’m trying to focus on 90-day goals this year, or at least breaking down my bigger goals into smaller milestones, and… well, the end of March is my first big deadline of the year.

I finished the first draft of Violet Lane yesterday, two days ahead of schedule. It clocks in at almost exactly 75,000 words, and it’s… weird. I’m starting to feel like this is more of a ‘discovery draft’ than an actual first draft—it’s a mess. There are hints of the story that I want to be telling (a couple of scenes are absolutely perfect), but the story itself isn’t actually there yet. I haven’t written a first draft this disjointed since I accepted that I really do need to outline before I sit down to write anything longer than a vignette.

But I’m on the right track. I’m figuring out who the characters are, and what the story really is. I’m already making notes for the next draft, and I’m really looking forward to that part of the process.

Soon. First, I want to finish up the revisions on The Black Sun, because I’m not going to hit that deadline. I’ve made a lot of progress, and I’m thrilled with the work I’ve been doing the last few weeks—I made a major character breakthrough a couple of weeks ago, and once I’ve finished weaving that into the story, it’ll make the whole thing so much stronger—but I’m not there yet. (Mostly because I’ve been prioritizing Violet Lane the last two weeks.) So, I’m moving the deadline for the revisions out to 15 April; I’ll want to do one more quick polish after that, but then….

I’m hoping this will be the last major revision. I’ll send it to the beta readers, and if everything works as well as I feel like it is, the story will just need a few more tweaks before I can start querying. Assuming I can get over my perfectionism and stop at just a few tweaks, rather than just endlessly making up new problems that need to be fixed.

We’ll see.

So, yeah. I’m really happy with my story progress these last few months, and I’m so excited about the next stage in both of these projects. (I’m also starting to think about what I want to work on next; if everything goes according to plan, I’ll be able to set aside The Black Sun for a little while very soon, and obviously I’ll keep working on Violet Lane, but I really enjoy having two active projects.)

Photography… is what it is. This month has produced some of my favourite photos ever… but I’ve also had those days when I don’t know what to do and I really wish I hadn’t committed to a year-long project. That’ll start to get better soon—it’s got to start feeling like spring sometime, which will inspire me to get outside a little more often, and in the meantime, I’m thinking about starting one of those mini projects I mentioned earlier in the year. It’s just a matter of choosing one (I say ‘just’ like that’s not the most difficult part) and committing to it.

I have not done any real work on that big project I keep hinting at. I have excuses, but none of them are actually valid. This is just me letting the big important thing slide because it scares the hell out of me, and because not doing it doesn’t have any real consequences. (Except for my own disappointment.)

… which brings me to those creative hobbies I want to cultivate. I’ve dropped the ball there, too.

Some of that really does come down to circumstances. This has been kind of a busy month, not always in a good way. Even when it hasn’t been taking up a lot of time, I haven’t had the mental energy to devote to non-essentials… which means cultivating a new hobby is going to be the first thing I set aside.

But it’s more than that. I’ve realized that, when it comes to drawing, I’m not being specific enough. I’m not really clear on why I want to do it (other than I’ve always been ok at it, but never as good as I’d like to be), and I’m definitely not clear on what I actually want to get better at. Urban sketching? Drawing people? In what style? Even hand-lettering… I love looking at it, but does that translate to wanting to do it? (In more than a vicarious ‘I wish I could do that’ kind of way?) I don’t know.

I don’t have the same intrinsic motivation for that sort of thing that I do for photography or writing, so I need to think about it a bit. It’s possible I’m on the wrong track.

Sewing is different. I find it endlessly frustrating, but when it works the way I want it to, I love it. (Fun fact: I very nearly studied theatrical costume design at university, but was talked out of it by people who said I should go for a more ‘practical’ degree first. Still annoyed about that.) I have a(n always-changing) list of projects I want to make, and the only reason I haven’t been working on any of them is because the fabric store is in an awkward location, and I’m never just there.

At the same time, I feel like I can’t really call it a hobby in the way that I’m defining the concept. I can’t leave my sewing machine set up full-time, or leave projects half-finished (because I have a cat who destroys everything that’s not put away), so every time I want to make something, it’s a whole production. It doesn’t work as a distraction, or a break; I can’t walk away from my desk when a story isn’t working and just… make a dress.

I don’t know. Am I rambling? I feel like I’m rambling. Point is: I haven’t been developing a creative hobby. I still intend to, but first I need to figure out what I want to do, and why—other than just the vague feeling that I need a hobby. If I don’t have a reason, or if I don’t have something to aim for, then I’ll just keep setting it aside.


In a general sense, I’m happy with my creative work these last few months. I just wish I’d done more (but that’s always the case).

And now it’s time to start thinking about my goals for the next three months.

The Black Sun revisions are my top priority right now. I’ve already set April 15 as my deadline for this round, and I’d like to have it ready to go out to a few readers by the beginning of May. After that, things get a little unpredictable, since I’m not the only variable in the equation. But I’m pretty sure I’ll be done with the big structural changes to the story by then, so I can use that time to draft my query. Just typing that scares me a bit. But… yeah. That’s the goal.

Violet Lane is going to have to sit for a couple of weeks before I even look at it, let alone make solid plans for the next draft. But I can spend some time in April on research and general planning, and if I can develop an outline and plan-of-attack for the next draft by the end of June, I’ll be happy.

Other than that, my big writing goal for the next little while is to come up with a clear plan for my next project, whatever that’s going to be. I have a few ideas, but I haven’t found my way into the stories yet—I need to figure out which one’s the strongest, and then turn it into an outline. I’m really looking forward to that; the part of the process is fun, and it’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to really play like that.

For photography, I am going to tackle that big scary project that I keep putting off. The official announcement will happen before the end of June. (I’ll probably announce it on the newsletter first, and yes, that is a thinly-veiled hint that you should subscribe.)

Big scary project aside, I’m going to keep going with my 366 project. I’ll probably incorporate a mini project or two into that, assuming I can narrow down my options.

Now. The other stuff. In the next three months, I want to make a muslin for one of the sewing projects I’ve got planned. (I like it too much to just dive in without a practice run first.) Depending on how much time that takes (and how long it takes me to find the perfect fabric for the final product), I might be able to tackle the project itself… or I might make a muslin for the other project I’m daydreaming about. (In a perfect world, I’d be able to have both projects finished by summer, but that’s almost definitely not going to happen. They’ll work for autumn, too.) I’ve got a couple of smaller projects I want to try in the meantime (including another super-simple home decor thing), so… I am going to get some sewing done before the end of June.

I’m not going to set any long-term goals for drawing, at least not yet. I’m going to spend some time in April figuring out what I want to get out of my drawing practice, and then I’ll decide where I want to go from there.

Looking at it all laid out like that… it’s definitely an ambitious set of goals for the next three months, but I think I can do it. It’s not unreasonable.

You might have to remind me that I said that when I have a dark night of the soul sometime in the middle of May.

2 responses to “Sketchbook #41”

  1. I remember watching a demonstration of Scrivener being used several years ago, and it got me thinking about if you could conceivably evolve an outline until the greater part of a book almost wrote itself.

    1. That sort of reminds me of the Snowflake Method: start with a one-sentence description of the story, expand it to a paragraph, then expand that to a page, and so on. A lot of people swear by it, but it never really clicked for me—if my outline gets too detailed, I lose interest in writing the actual story.