2006-02-27

Last week / this week

Last week's "top 3" progress report:

1. Revise "Seven" to a workshop-able draft
Spent 9 hours getting "Seven" to draft 4.0. Not workshop-able by a longshot, but at least I got the structure wrestled out.
2. Write and send letter to Friend re. her new, wonderful book
Nope.
3. Write and send letter to Writer Whom I Admire and would like to befriend
Nope.

Which means we're at it again, this week -- with deadlines!

1. Revise "Seven" FOR workshop (Weds Mar. 1)
Biggest hurdle: fix the ending. It loses steam in the last quarter, and of course, with all stories, the last quarter is really the whole point. That gives me another hour or so this afternoon, then all day tomorrow, and the morning of Weds to fix it ... and Weds afternoon to close my eyes and xerox it for critique (for better/worse).
2. Write to Friend
A good Thursday activity, as hopefully I'll be feeling productive enough in the wake of Wednesday's deadline to reach out and chat about the biz with this Friend who hasn't heard from me in a year or so.
3. Write to Writer I Admire
A good Friday activity, since the following week I'm going to New York and can hand this letter to my good friend, who is also the wife of Writer I Admire's best friend ...

2006-02-22

Full stop? Or not?

Argh. Killed TWO WHOLE HOURS surfing the web today. Husband gave the best pep talk he's really ever given me, and I still didn't pull it together. This is so depressing to type about that hopefully it will kick my butt into gear now ...

In fact:

One of the main tenets of Neil Fiore's THE NOW HABIT is that you must never end blocked or down -- you must always manage a half hour of real work before giving up. So that's what I'm going to go do now.

The other night, a Friend pointed out that this blog seems to be a good way for me to work through my process, to get my head around my work. I'd thought of it, until then, as pure reportage--"here's what I'm working on, and how." But he's right--today, just venting about how un-focused I feel has me feeling a little less unmoored than I felt before I posted this note.

2006-02-17

Weekly Progress Report

A very successful week -- 104 points, despite the (fabulous Valentine's day) interruption of the work week.

Status report:
Revise "Seven" to Draft 3.0 -- complete!
I finished the third draft of "Seven" yesterday. Unfortunately, it STILL doesn't work, so I launched right into draft 4.0, trying a completely different direction. Complete "Seven" Draft 4.0 is item #1 for next week ...

Draft critique of mss for friend -- complete!
I finished my notes for friend on Wednesday. Nearly 400 pp mss took me about a week to read and three more days to assemble written notes for, which is encouraging, considering I've decided to go pro.

Launch editing business with email blast -- complete!
Sent the email announcement yesterday, and created the site for my new venture today.
Anyway, I'm feeling pleased with myself, especially since next week looks fairly clear on the project-level, so I should have the entire week to try to wrestle "Seven" 4.0 into some semblance of workshoppable shape. "Seven" has been a real struggle -- I wrote a first draft over two years ago, and then last week I wrote an ENTIRELY different second draft, and this week, a COMPLETELY new third. Still, something's misising. It's ringing really empty still.

Hopefully a weekend spent away from the story will bring some sort of clarity or epiphany to my work next week -- it's rare that I have so much difficulty getting the bones of a story down the way that I want. It may be that this is just too close to the vest -- one of the things that I've found to be a failure with it is the tone (I tend to get breezy when I'm writing about things that touch me too closely).

It could be I just need to sit down with a pen and paper and write it longhand, try to get out of my head that way. Hmmph. Who knows. Frustrating to kick something around for so many years and still find myself stymied. I've tried as an exercise boiling down what I'm trying to say in a single sentence, but no matter how I frame the sentence, I'm having trouble figuring out how to dramatize it. Probably that means my focus isn't specific enough. Which means before I keep writing I probably have to go back to the brainstorming board, and boil down the question I'm attempting to answer here ...

I'm hanging up my editor's shingle!

As most of you know, I’ve spent a good amount of time over the years reading, critiquing, and editing the work of my friends. Happily, lots of these people have gone on to great success with work that I’ve been lucky enough to help shape. I really enjoy doing this—my brain likes playing with logic and structure—and I believe what I’ve learned helping my friends has gone a long way to sharpening my own work.

Now I've decided to take what all my brilliant friends have been teaching me, and pass it on to the paying public.

I've posted a description of my services here:

EDITING SERVICES

2006-02-10

Weekly check-in: The Power of Three

This was the first week since the start of the year that I accomplished less than I'd hoped. There were a few reasons for this -- a little bit of a horse melt-down made it tough for me to concentrate at work, plus an unexpected visit from an out-of-town friend, plus hours wasted/spent researching, buying, and playing around with my new Treo (I dropped my old phone in a puddle). It wasn't a TOTAL wash, but I only gained 72 of the 100 points I was going for this week, so I don't get the pretty Timbuk2 case for my new Treo ...

Here's what I did manage to do, despite all the silly distractions. I chose three projects for the week, and made headway on them all:
1. Revise "Seven" to a second draft -- completed!

2. Critique mss for friend -- in progress -- read his mss, but still need to write up my critique notes for him

3. Launch editing business -- in progress -- collected comments on my one-sheet, but decided to wait until I was finished with friend's mss to draft the email blast about the venture ... Dilly-dallied as I debated with myself the pluses and minuses of opening shop, worrying about whether I can spare the time from my own writing to edit others on any larger scale than I'm already doing free, for my friends. But this afternoon I decided that I can always turn away clients if I need more time for my own work -- the point of this business is I can modulate it anyway I like. So next week I get this thing off the ground.
Looking over these notes, I'm feeling encouraged by the amount I accomplished despite this being a "bad week"-- go me. Once again, the power of three proves itself -- three projects is just enough to make me feel productive without feeling overwhelmed.

Next Week's Big Three:
1. Revise "Seven" to a third draft.
2. Complete and deliver mss notes to friend.
3. Send an email blast about my new editing business.

2006-02-02

"ALBERT & NANCY" AND A FEW WORDS ON PROCESS

Last night after Group, I sat in bed reading a roundtable of all the Best Pic directors in Newsweek. The guy who directed CAPOTE said something about Phillip Seymour Hoffman's having a "brutal process" as an actor that involves his becoming, about halfway through the process, convinced that he'll never succeed, that he can't get into the character, that the whole world is finally going to see that he's a fraud.

And I thought: yeah, well. Isn't that how this whole art thing works?

That's how it works for me, at least. Last night, I brought the second draft of "Albert & Nancy" to Group. I'm so deep in it I have no idea how it's playing, but Group seemed to love it. (They had amazing insights for deepening it, as usual, but general comment seemed to be it's damn close to done). So that was wonderful.

But rewind a week, and things really sucked. See here, direct from the pages of my notebook:

27 January 06 7:10 am Starbux

Tough writing day yesterday. I powered through the structure draft in the morning, only to return to it in the afternoon convinved it was unreadable and unworkable. That so freaked me out I spent the rest of the afternoon on other projects, like reading for Friend. Whas TOTALLY depressed by the time I left work after 4. Husband asked to look at it, so I let him, and then I went to wallow in a bath.

Which is where I decided the problem with the story was that it had the wrong protagonist--that it really ought to be a story following her. Husband disagreed. He liked it as Albert's story, liked the writing, thought for the most part it was working, just needed more of the WHY these people like each other, a little less stock-character stuff, and more evolution of the relationship, more WHY.

I got in the car to meet Friend at the Ahmanson, still disagreeing with Husband, head all abuzz with the possibilities for Nancy's story, called "The Good Nurse." Got to restaurant before Friend, and wrote out a series of note cards for the new version, then could barely watch the play because I kept hearing lines from the new version in my head. Went to sleep with the sinking feeling that I had to start completely anew and cobble together the new version in less than a week so I could submit it for Group.

But then this morning I wroke up and had a few insights into how to fix the current, Albert story. If I still hate it, I can always write Nancy's story, later. But I must commit to finishing this, to not sabotaging myself at the very last moments. So I have cards of notes I scribbled while brushing my teeth this morning, and today I hit these points ...
That's pretty much the way it always works. Which really sucks, especially when you know you've been depressed enough in your life that any time you're low for a day you're freaking out that means you're about to sink into the months-long morass. But the good news is, this time at least, I managed to identify the freak-out as self-sabotage WITHIN LESS THAN A DAY, which is huge huge huge for me, and work through it. The trick is this year's mantra of finishing things.

I can't say it too often. 2006 IS THE YEAR OF PUTTING THINGS TOGETHER.

MORE ON THE PRINTABLE CEO ...

This new accoutability system rocks my world, plain and simple.

Last week, I set myself the goal of reaching 75 points over the course of the week. I so loved filling in all the task-tracking bubbles that I actually hit 110 points. Even more amazing: I let the laundry pile up, and we ate out A LOT. Husband even cooked. The world didn't end, and I wrote a TON, spending in excess of 12 whole hours TYPING. UNTIL DARK. IN MY OFFICE. I even found the time to do a little editing for a friend.

Prize: Levenger Pocket Folders for my work-bag. I've been jonesing on those for awhile.

This week I upped the ante to 100 points. Work continues hard and heavy, and I'm at 66 points as of this morning. It's shocking how motivating this all is.

Granted, it helps that I get fun prizes. This week I'm writing for a pair of noise-cancelling headphones like these, which are perfect for when I'm stuck working at Starbux or at home or on airplanes. (The price bump up from the Levenger Pocket Folders is determined by the fact that I actually FINISHED a damn strong second draft of "Albert & Nancy" in two weeks!)

Conclusion: Printable CEO rocks my world.