Sketchbook #42

Art + Craft, Photography, Writing

The end of April kind of snuck up on me, but here it is: time to check in with how I’m doing with my overall creative goals, and figure out what those goals are going forward.

My big goal, of course, was to finish up the third draft of The Black Sun. I’m technically still working on that, but I’m counting it as ‘done.’ The work is done; all that’s left is the final polish—tidying up a few typos and making sure the big edits didn’t introduce continuity errors, that sort of thing. I’ve done the read-through, and… I’m happy with it. I should be finished the polish in the next couple of days.

I’ve also been brainstorming the next projects. I’ve got a good basic plot and world for the next novel, and should be ready to start character work and outlining sometime in the next month. I’ve also got a vague plan for another thing, but… it’s very vague (as in, I still need to figure out the characters and plot). I’m not sure how quickly I’ll be able to get to that, but I’m mostly treating it as a side project right now, so there’s no rush.

The brainstorming for that side project also helped me clarify some of my plans for the second draft of Violet Lane. I haven’t started work on that, but that’s my big writing goal for May: to come up with a clear plan of attack for that draft, and to complete the outline.

(And I’m finally getting a handle on Scrivener. I still don’t like the file sizes, or the proprietary format, but I’m absolutely in love with the organizational features, and I’m slowly figuring out how to make the application work the way I want and need it to. I like it enough that I broke down and invested in the iOS version… and at $30 Canadian, it is an investment, so I’d better make good use of it.)

Overall, I’m happy with my writing progress this month. Normally, I’d take a break after reaching major milestones in two different projects, but… I don’t really want to. I want to keep this momentum going.

The Black Sun (Round Two Edits): Finished!

Writing

I have finished the second major round of edits on The Black Sun!

It took a little longer than I’d planned, but I wrapped up the revisions yesterday. (Considering I added approximately 20,000 words this time around… I think the extra time was worth it.)

Normally, this is where I’d take a break. Step away, let it sit for a while so I can come back with fresh eyes. But I’ve already started the readthrough, making sure I didn’t break anything too terribly, before I do a final polish and send it off for another round of beta reads. (I’m also figuring out where my chapter breaks go now, since that did break, quite dramatically.)

I am in love with this story. Still. And that’s a remarkable thing for me. I feel like I’ve said this before, but: this might not be the best thing I’ve ever written (I’ve got some snippets and orphaned scenes that are really quite good), but it’s the best complete story I’ve ever written. It’s the best thing I’ve ever bothered to make even better. And I can’t wait to move forward with it.

Snapshot #123 | 10 Things for 24 March 2019

Personal

Currently…

1. loving… everything about Captain Marvel. So much. Including the kid two seats down from me who fist-pumped and shouted ‘yes!’ at the end of the mid-credits scene. (He also air-drummed his way through ‘Celebrity Skin,’ which was kind of awesome. On that note: the soundtrack was pretty much just one of the mixtapes I made in junior high. Which made the whole thing even better.)
2. worrying… about Lucy. She wasn’t feeling well, and had to go to the vet. But she’s doing better now, and the vet says that she’s otherwise in very good health. I had a couple of very anxious days, though.
3. realizing… that I still haven’t changed the time on the office clock. (Which should give you an idea of how often I look at it.)
4. looking… for Cadbury Creme Eggs. I can’t seem to find them this year, which of course means I really want one.
5. trying… to wear dresses and skirts more often. I’m out of practice.
6. making… a major breakthrough in my revisions on The Black Sun. You guys. It’s gonna be so good.
7. realizing… that it’s going to be time start running again soon. I need to make some new playlists.
8. spending… a little too much money lately. Time to rein that in.
8. giving… up on the sourdough starter. Just for a little while. I’ll try again when I’m a bit less frustrated with it. (It keeps almost working, and then… not.)
10. feeling… uninspired. It’s just been one of those weeks.

Sketchbook #35

Photography, Writing

I’ll be honest: the heatwave has been awful for my motivation this month. I haven’t wanted to do anything but hide indoors and stare at my phone. (Even watching a movie or reading has felt like it required too much energy the last few weeks.)

My goals going into July were to write (including outlining and editing) more days than not, and to keep going with my photography project. I wanted to make it another 1/3 of the way through editing The Black Sun, and make a good start on the Violet Lane outline. And I wanted to start carrying a real camera more often.

(I also wanted to announce one of the big scary projects I’ve been working on. And that will be happening before the end of the month, which means by end-of-day tomorrow. And that’s all I’m going to say about it until then. Watch this space.)

You already know how the first round of edits on The Black Sun went (spoiler: really well!). I gave myself a few days off before diving into the second round (mostly to clean up the inevitable errors that I added on my first pass), and as of right now, I’m about half-way through that process. I’m still happy with the story. Mostly. I’m looking forward to hearing what my beta readers have to say; I want to know if the things that I think need work do or if it’s just the fact that I’ve read this story seventeen million times, and I can’t quite tell which way is up anymore.

And I’m making good progress on the Violet Lane outline! I’ve got the arc of the story figured out, and I’ve started filling in the gaps between the big scenes. It’s still a little top-heavy—I know almost the entire first half of the story, and almost nothing in the second—but that’s normal for me at this stage of things.

I’m also starting to suspect that it’s the first of a series (or a trilogy, at least). I haven’t quite decided how I feel about that. One one hand, if that’s how the story has to be told, then that’s how it has to be told. On the other… that’s a lot of story, and I have to write it all. So. (I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I really wish this particular story already existed. I’d be just as happy to read someone else’s version, instead of writing it myself.)

And I’ve started brainstorming a new story concept. I’m not sure when (or even if) I’m going to try writing it, but right now I really love it.

So… I guess my writing went well this month. I still feel like I’ve found a routine that works for me, and I’ve managed to maintain it.

And, for once, I’m happy with my photography, too! (It seems like it’s always one or the other, never both.)

I mean: I’m still picking away at my 100 Days project, but I’m on track to finish it this week. And I have been carrying my camera more often. Not everywhere—I’m still not taking it when I go grocery shopping—but I’ve been making an effort. And it’s paid off: I’m absolutely thrilled with some of the photos I’ve been taking over the past few weeks. I feel like I’ve been figuring out some things about myself as a photographer, and I’m having a lot of fun with it.

I’m also still moving forward with the office refresh; the last two weeks, I’ve been focussed specifically on improving the space for photography, and I’m absolutely loving the changes I’ve been making. (That said: it’s also feeling a little bit cluttered right now. I officially can’t buy anything else that takes up floor space until I get rid of the last of the old, ugly furniture… which I can’t do until I figure out some new storage solutions.)

So, yeah: despite the terrible, terrible heat wave, which has made me feel lazy and unproductive, July was a really good month.

And, since I’m pretty sure that setting very specific goals at the start of the month contributed to that, I’m going to do the same for August.

When it comes to my writing, I want to finish up this round of edits on The Black Sun (hopefully this week), and get it out to my beta readers. And then I want to try very hard to think about literally anything else. (I’m serious: I haven’t sent a story out to readers since before I went through my whole burnout-never-writing-again thing, and I know this is going to trigger a certain amount of anxiety.) It’ll give me a good opportunity to focus on Violet Lane (I need to figure out if one particular character actually belongs in the story, and I’d like to finish the index card outline) and on developing the new story concept into an actual story. (If I end the month with a logline and *maybe* a short synopsis, I’ll be happy.)

For photography, I want to figure out a new daily—or near-daily—project to work on ASAP. I don’t like being without something specific to focus on. (Pun only sort of intended.) I want to keep going with black & white, but beyond that… I’m not sure. And I’m going to keep pushing myself to use a real camera more often than my phone.

Finally, I will get that second big scary project ready to announce by the end of the month. I refuse to put it off any longer.

Now, let’s just hope the heatwave breaks.

The Black Sun (round 1 edits): Finished!

Writing

On Monday, I finished the first round of edits on The Black Sun.

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but this was a new experience for me. Historically, my “edits” have been closer to “full rewrites,” and so overwhelming that I often couldn’t bring myself to bother. (This isn’t a reflection on the quality of the stories, as much as my own perfectionism. The steps I’ve been taking to overcome—or at least work with—that have done wonders for my writing process.)

For the first time in years, I wrote a first draft that I was truly happy with. The first draft of The Black Sun wasn’t perfect, but I could see the story I’d set out to tell. It felt like the story I’d set out to tell.

The past few months have been a learning experience for me, as I figured out how to actually edit a story rather than start over from scratch. But the first round is done. I’m still in love with the story and the world, and that in itself is a small miracle.

I’m going to let the story rest for a few days, and devote my time and energy to the new Violet Lane outline. And then I’m going to read through The Black Sun again, fix any continuity errors that were introduced in this round of edits (I know of at least one important one), do a little more fact-checking.

And then it’ll be time to send it to my beta readers. (That’ll be its own adventure.)

Snapshot #105 | 10 Things for 15 July 2018

Personal

Currently…

1. editing… The Black Sun. I’ll be finishing the first pass this week. Then, I’ll do one more quick pass (for fact-checking—yay for slightly-skewed historical fiction!—and to make sure I didn’t introduce any new plot holes), and then… we’ll see.
2. trying… to get into the habit of carrying a real camera more often than I don’t. I’m not sure if I’ll bother taking it when I go to buy office supplies, but it’s something.
3. moving… forward on the next stage of the office update. I’ll be finished eventually, I’m sure.
4. enduring… the heatwave.
5. repainting… the balcony furniture. Finally. It’s been nagging me since May, at least.
6. worrying… that I might’ve aggravated my back again, but it seems to be fine.
7. hemming… more curtains. And seriously considering selling my sewing machine so I don’t subject myself to this madness again. (Joking. Mostly.)
8. working… on the outline for my new & improved take on Violet Lane. It’s like all the best bits from my previous two attempts are turning into something entirely new, and I can’t wait to start writing.
9. looking… for new podcasts to listen to. I’ve been up-to-date for too long, and not having something waiting in the queue at any given moment to is starting to irritate me. (Do you have a favourite that I might not have heard of? Let me know in the comments.)
10. feeling… the effects of not running or exercising during that heatwave. It was only a few days, but… yeah. I’m recovering quickly, at least.

Busy Bee | Reghan Skerry

Sketchbook #34

Photography, Writing

We’re officially half-way through the year. Or we will be in a few days.

I’m mostly saying that to remind myself, because it feels like 2018 is never going to end. It feels like we’ve been stuck in 2018 for three years already, it will always be 2018, this is our life now. This is an impossible year in which to write, or look for beauty, or make art in general. June in particular has been a difficult month; in light of the news, it’s hard not to feel like this is all a little bit shallow.

But art—writing and photography—is what’s keeping me sane this month. This year.

June was the month that I finally figured out how to function creatively in 2018. I’ve settled into a nice pattern: writing in the morning, working on other projects later in the day, and not allowing the horrors of the world in until after I’ve done something (anything) I’m happy with. It’s good.

I’m about a third of the way through the first round of edits on The Black Sun, and I’ve finally figured out how to make that final scene more dramatic. (As a bonus, it makes the story less dependent on a sequel. From the beginning, I’ve thought of this as a stand-alone with series potential—the world is really fun to play in—but my original ending was too much of a cliffhanger. The new one still leaves some plot threads untied, but it stands on its own.) I’m still debating a few issues when it comes to point of view, and how to drop some clues without relying on a second or third POV character, but in general, I’m happy with my progress.

I’m also pleased with the progress I’ve been making on my plans for the Violet Lane rewrite. Most of it has been brainstorming and worldbuilding, figuring out backstories and character motivations, but I started piecing together the actual story outline today. I’ve still got a lot of work to do before I’m ready to start writing, but I’m looking forward to it. I already feel like I’ve got a better grasp of the story than I did on either of my previous attempts, and I know that this version is going to be closer to the original vision I had for the story.

I still have moments when it feels like I’m not actually writing, like editing and outlining don’t count, but I’m getting better at ignoring that feeling. My ultimate goal is still to be working on three projects at any given time (one first draft, one in editing/revisions, and one in the outline stage), but I’m moving in the right direction, and that feels pretty good.

Now. Photography. I’m not quite ready to make those photography-related announcements that I’ve been dropping hints about, but I am working on them. If anything, I’m over-preparing: at least one of the projects is a little bit scary for me (in a good way!), and I’m definitely procrastinating by anticipating and researching every single problem that I might encounter. And, while I’m aware of that and making a conscious effort to overcome it, it’s still going to take me a little bit of time to get over myself and be ready to launch.

My black & white photo project hasn’t stalled again, and I adore some of the photos I’ve made in the last few weeks. (Though I do wish more of them were taken with a real camera, rather than my phone. I love the peony photo I took last weekend, and wish I could print a nice big version of it, but it’s just too low-res. But I wasn’t expecting to see such a perfect peony in the parking lot of a big-box office supply store, so….)

So, yeah: somehow, despite everything, I have managed to accomplish my creative goals for June. Or, if I didn’t accomplish them, I at least made progress, and can acknowledge how and why that progress hasn’t happened quite as fast as I might like.

What are my plans for July? Keeping in mind that the world is on fire, and everything is impossible.

I’m going to keep going. I’m going to write—or outline or edit, because that’s writing, too—more days than not. I’m going to take pictures, and look for beauty, and stop looking for reasons to not do the things that keep me sane.

More specifically, I want to make it another third of the way through the edits on The Black Sun (at least). I’m going to figure out the key scenes in Violet Lane, and the broad strokes of the outline. (I’d also like to commit to character names, both for the new people, and the ones who I’m not entirely in love with yet.) I’m going to announce at least one of those scary projects that I’m working on.

I’m going to try to carry a real camera a little more often, even if I’m just going out to buy file folders.

Snapshot #103 | 10 Things for 17 June 2018

Personal

A day late with this (time got away from me this weekend), but here goes.

Currently…

1. working… on, like, six different projects, all of which I’m super excited about. (And, because creativity begets creativity, I might be toying with another idea. Or two.)
2. processing… my emotions about Anthony Bourdain’s death. I’m really surprised at how hard it hit me.
3. finishing… the four-week running program I’d been doing! Now I need to set a new goal.
4. going… with a lighter shade of blonde, at least for the summer. I kind of love it.
5. sorting… out logistical issues.
6. waking… up at three a.m. for some reason. And then staying awake until about half an hour before I have to get up. (It’s happened twice now, and I hate it.)
7. thinking… about baking something. Because now that it’s finally starting to feel like summer, why not look for more reasons to turn on the oven?
8. figuring… out how to fix the ending of The Black Sun. It’s kind of awesome.
9. trying… to get back on track. The last week was a bit of a disaster, as far as my schedule goes.
10. reading… for fun. Weird how easy it can be to let that slip, isn’t it?

Sketchbook #33

Photography, Writing

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into May.

I finished April feeling good about how I was approaching my goals. I was feeling really good about the first draft of The Black Sun and my writing routine in general, but not so great about Violet Lane. And kind of awful about my photography. And I wasn’t exactly clear on my goals for May; I knew I wanted to keep moving forward, but beyond that…?

So I have no real metrics with which to judge May. Vague emotional impressions, it is!

I’m still really happy about The Black Sun. I’ve done a second read through, breaking down each plot line and character arc and planning the first round of edits. That’s going well so far, and if everything goes according to plan, I should be able to start those edits next week.

And I think I found my way back into Violet Lane! On the advice of another writer (writer friends are the best), I spent some time brainstorming and figuring out what I still loved about the story. It took some time—and a lot of frustration—but I eventually remembered the original spark of an idea that made me want to write this particular story. And realized how far from that I’d drifted over the past year and a half. (Or more?)

But that original spark is still fantastic. I really love it, and even though it’s evolved (a lot), I can see how to make it work. I can see a way to make it better, to make it into something really cool.

That said, it does mean I’m basically starting from scratch. I don’t have to throw out all of the work I’ve done… but I do have to throw out a lot of it. (The entire current draft—and all the prep work I’ve done on it—has to go, but the initial draft still has some good stuff.) I have to do a lot of worldbuilding, most of which won’t end up in the story (most of it isn’t actually about the story-world itself), but I still need to be clear on it, because reasons.

(Sorry for being so vague. I want to talk about this. I want to give you all the details about this story, and explain to you exactly how it fits together in my head, but it’s too early in the process, and it feels like too much of a spoiler at this stage of things.)

I’m starting to think that the new and improved version of Violet Lane is going to be my 2018 NaNoWriMo story. I’m not sure yet; that feels like a good target to aim for, but if I feel ready to start writing before November, I will. (And maybe use NaNo to finish the draft? I’ve never been a NaNo rebel before… I kind of want to give it a try.) In the meantime, I’m going to dig into the worldbuilding and outlining process, and keep working on editing The Black Sun.

Now. Photography.

I’m taking photos again! And I’m enjoying it again!

It’s not all amazing, and I’ve still got some anxiety around the entire process—and I have to put effort in, every single day, to make sure that anxiety doesn’t stop me from taking pictures—but I’m doing so much better than I was. I’m seeing progress in my 100 Days of B&W project, and I’m actively moving forward on the Big Secret Project That I Can’t Wait to Announce. (Though that’s moving a little slower than I’d hoped; I changed some of the logistical plans for it mid-stream, which will be good in the long term, but slows things down in the short term. But it is moving forward, and, fingers crossed, I’ll be making some big announcements by the end of June.)

So May was a good month, creatively.

Next month, I want to start (and make significant progress on) editing The Black Sun. I’m under no illusions that this is going to be easy or quick, but I’ve got some good momentum going right now, and I want to maintain that. (I also know that editing a draft is kind of new for me—I can’t remember the last time “editing” meant something other than “a complete page-one rewrite”—and I’m learning as I go, here.) I want to start (and make significant progress on) the outline and worldbuilding process for Violet Lane.

I want to keep going with the photography project. And I want to reach a point where I can at least announce the Big Secret Project That I Can’t Wait to Announce… and the other, less big project that I’m still really excited about.

It’s going to be a busy month, but that’s good. I’m looking forward to it all.

Snapshot #86 | 10 Things for 24 September 2017

Personal

Currently…

1. realizing… that I really need to organize my notes in Evernote. It’s kind of a mess right now.
2. finishing… the edits on all the photos I took in August.
3. thinking… about the next painting. I have ideas. I’m going to have to do a few experiments.
4. reaching… 5K in my (no-longer-C25K) running plan! Of course, on the run that immediately followed that one, I managed to do something to my ankle, but… whatever. It’s a setback, but nothing I can’t handle.
5. discovering… a local grocery delivery service! I’ve wanted one for ages. (Putting the link here so I remember it in the future.)
6. learning… that the cat that’s always hanging around the parking lot seems to have people. Which means I’m not going to attempt a rescue mission, because I don’t want to steal someone’s cat.
7. looking… for the perfect shimmery/metallic grey nail polish. (I don’t want silver, or glitter, and I’ve got five or six different shades of black. But I really want something in the pewter-gunmetal range.)
8. studying… character development in preparation for NaNoWriMo. (And generally starting to get serious about my NaNo plans.)
9. starting… to think ahead to fall. (Fall-that-feels-like-fall, not this late-summer thing we’ve got going right now.) I want to start baking again, and wearing scarves, and… yeah.
10. cleaning… up the archives. I think I’m just about finished the new design. I’ve still got a few little details to take care of (obviously), but… I’m getting there.