How Did I Do In February?

Darn good, as it turns out. No, not 100% on point with my plans, but probably 90% there. Which is pretty awesome, considering my realistic goal was about 70%!

Rather than taking you through the things I did this week, I’m going to summarize how my overall goals for this month fared.

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  • The Shadow of Saturn First Draft
    • GOAL: 30,000 words
    • ACTUAL: 23,000 words, but the day isn’t over yet. I’m sure I can get to 28,000 tonight, which is close enough. I am still on track to finish this first draft by May.
  • Paradisa Edits
    • GOAL: To be halfway done with developmental edits
    • ACTUAL: This is a bit hard to quantify, but I did schedule all my edits between now and March 31, and I met all of those goals. I also decided to devote April to line-editing, which takes off some burden. Originally I wanted my past tense conversion and all line edits to be done within this next month, but I’m going to focus on developmental editing only.
  • Short Story Submissions 
    • GOAL: Submit 12 poems or short pieces to 12 publications.
    • ACTUAL: Achieved! And two are in the “final round of consideration” for two different publishers. I will hear back from both in April.

Overall writing grade? I’d say an A. I was a pretty studious writer this month.

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  • The Con Runner’s Handbook
    • GOAL: Brainstorm the book.
    • ACTUAL: I did brainstorm it. I thought my goals were more lofty on this one, as I felt bad about not having it fully outlined. Looks like past!Michelle knew that would be a bit too much for the time being, and already set the bar low.
  • Kindle Shorts
    • GOAL: Write and publish four shorts for Kindle.
    • ACTUAL: I completed one of them, and hope to publish it tonight. The other three were consumed by Sundays that went to other projects. I’m not going to beat myself up about this, especially as writing the first one was a lot of fun and not terribly difficult. But this first one is taking me awhile because the process is new to me. Once I can get into a routine, I’ll hopefully become more prolific. Additionally, I’ve decided to devote 1 Sunday every month to writing a short story for publication, so that will reduce my Kindle burden too.

I’d say a B for this one, as I technically completed my Con Runner’s goal and I am exploring the Kindle Short publication process. Perhaps not as quickly as I’d hoped, but it’s coming.

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  • Video Company
    • GOAL: Work on website, research equipment, and file for an LLC.
    • ACTUAL: I did manage to file my LLC, ha! I am now officially a business owner. I also researched equipment, and narrowed it down to two DSLR cameras (the Canon 70D and one of the Canon Rebel EOS t series. Any opinions?). I designed my logo, linked my domain to my Squarespace account, and started designing my website. And best of all, I secured two “gigs” for when I purchase my camera (nonpaying, but it will help my reel). I still hope to launch the site officially on April 1st (no joke ;D) and I feel that I’m on track. I get a bonus at work this month, which I’ll use to purchase my equip.
  • Dead Air Webseries
    • GOAL: Complete Episode #4
    • ACTUAL: I did it, aside from some color correction and sound balancing. On to the next!
  • Indie MoCap
    • GOAL: 20 articles, a completed March newsletter, functional social media accounts and a site launch on March 1st.
    • ACTUAL: 9 articles, plus two secured interviews with some wonderful people in the industry. March newsletter is complete. My Twitter is thriving, although I need to get my YouTube, Google +, and Facebook accounts going. The site launch has been pushed back to March 7th, but I’ve been working diligently on the site, mailing list, forums, and many other features.
  • Animation Tutorials
    • GOAL: 4 animation tutorials complete
    • ACTUAL: 1 complete, plus some tinkering with Black Desert Character Creator, downloading Source Filmmaker, and the start of a 2nd tutorial. Mondays were rough. I’m going to move animation to Thursdays in March, and maybe put my Indie MoCap stuff on Mondays (as I….sometimes get that stuff done at work >.>)

I’m very pleased with how things are going. The prospect of my video company becoming a thriving business is incredibly exciting, as is the growing interest in Indie MoCap. I modified my schedule to make animation more of a priority, and I will continue to work diligently on finishing Dead Air in time for my video company’s launch. \o/

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  • Freelance
    • GOAL: Have talent, make money?
    • ACTUAL: So, you can see why I failed here. I didn’t have any concrete goals! I threw Freelancing onto the burner end of my schedule – Friday nights and Saturdays – which I normally use to relax. I did start interacting with the Freelance Writers Den and doing research, but I didn’t set up my profiles on Odesk and such. With all of my film goals thriving, I’m starting to wonder if freelance writing and graphics is too much extra effort. Or if I need to approach this a different way. Perhaps in March, I will resolve to 1) set up my profiles and 2) write an essay or article to pitch to a few different magazines.
  • Side Hustles
    • GOAL: Earn $100
    • ACTUAL: I earned enough through Google Opinion Rewards to pay for my YouTube Red subscription (I think it was about $13 total). I am up to $15 on Inbox Dollars and $15 on Swagbucks, as well as $13 on Ibotta. I think I’m at $4 on ShopKick. Total, that’s $60. I didn’t put nearly as much effort into this as I could have, and I haven’t cashed out yet. I think I’ll lower my goal to about $40 in March and see where that goes.

Big C for this one, gang. I need to decide where to take my Freelance work and accept that my side hustle apps are pretty low priority.

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  • AusmAtari Retro YouTube Channel
    • GOAL: 8 videos
    • ACTUAL: 5. It would have been 6 or 7, but Austin’s setup gave us massive technical difficulties on Saturday. At least the 5 we have turned out really well!
  •  AusmAtari Retro YouTube Channel
    • GOAL: A book every week
    • ACTUAL: I did it! I completed Chris Kennedy’s Self Publishing For Profit, Leona Wisoker’s The Secret of The Sands, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s These Broken Stars, and Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places. All of which were quite good, although TSotS was long and has scared me away from books over 100k for awhile (it just took me a long time to get through, and I don’t want to get behind on my 50 book goal). This week, I’m reading Ready Player One. Also in the pipeline for March is The Call of Cthulhu by Lovecraft, If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler by Calvino, and Rollback by Robert J Sawyer.

 

Usually after a productivity attempt, I totally overhaul my old methods and come up with something new. However, I think I’ve finally struck gold with this schedule. Aside from swapping my Indie MoCap and Animation days, and consolidating The Shadow of Saturn to 4 days instead of 7, this schedule will remain the same. I am also reducing my load on Fridays, as I find it to be the most unproductive day of the week. Overall, I do not feel any sense of fatigue or burnout. I did a lot of fun things this month, from playing several hours of Fallout 4, to going to a friend’s party, to going to the movies three times and watching plenty of Hulu and YouTube.

We have to know ourselves honestly to achieve that which we strive towards. I have to accept that I am useless on Fridays. I have to accept that technical difficulties happen sometimes. I have to accept that sometimes, projects require more work than I originally planned and may require a week or two of delay. And don’t be afraid to reevaluate your plans and consider if they’re what you really want (like my freelancing). If you really want something, you will make time for it. You’ll have vision for it. If something keeps getting pushed off, you and that project may not be right for each other after all.

Cheers, kids! What are your proud of from February, and what are you looking forward to doing in March?

 

Productivity Progress Report Week 2: I Need A Time Turner!

Last week began excellently, but I threw it away in the 4th quarter. Chalk it up to Deadpool, Valentine’s Day, and my general fatigue over the weekend (Deadpool, by the way, was quite good. I don’t normally enjoy R-Rated humor, but it was funny and edgy while still being….tasteful? You’ll have to wait until December for my Movie Report Card to hear more of my verdict, but I massively undercut my prediction on this one.)

Anyway, here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly for my second week on this schedule.

THE GOOD

  • Indie MoCap Newsletter: I actually finished this for the entire month, meaning my next two Thursdays will have an hour freed up. Whoo.
  • AusmAtari Retro YouTube Channel: Once again, we filmed two Let’s Plays on Saturday afternoon.
  • Cover Design For Kindle:  Already had my cover designed for the current WIP.
  • Dead Air Webseries: Still on track to finish an episode by the end of the month.
  • Editing Paradisa: I exceeded my plans! I had two medium level edits, one new scene, and one easy edit to make. I think I did all of those and an additional 2-3 edits on my list. I might actually have this finished before March 31…
  • Camera and Equipment Research: I let this slide on the first week, but did plenty of catch-up. I am torn between a Canon DSLR and a Sony HD cam, leaning more towards the Sony now. In a perfect world, I could get both. Alas.
  • Animation: Learned how to set up a reference photo box in 3Ds Max and began a tutorial on character box modeling. I got a bit stuck on the tutorial I was working on, but I figured out my issue after mulling a bit. I also downloaded Source Filmmaker and picked up the PC version of Fallout 4 during Steam’s Lunar sale, mostly to play with its resource files.

THE OKAY

  • Indie MoCap Website: I set up my BlueHost account and installed WordPress, along with transferring my domain. It will take a week for the transfer to go through, so I couldn’t actually edit the website yet.
  • Writing Submissions: I managed to edit one of my stories and submit it to Okey Panky. Now that it’s fixed, I need to send it off to some others.
  • Aether Motion Website: Set up my Squarespace account.
  • LLC Research: I still haven’t filled out my paperwork, but I have a list of all the steps I need to do and a pdf of the Articles of Organization. It’s just a matter of doing it.
  • Reading: My reading improved this week. I am almost finished with Secret of The Sands.
  • Indie MoCap Articles: Once again, I finished two and started on a third.  I’m starting to think that Thursday nights might be for my long form articles and all my other articles will be written on the spot before posting. The idea of writing five in one night is daunting.
  • The Shadow of Saturn First Draft: I wrote some, but am currently 4000 words behind. I was too busy with Indie MoCap stuff on Thursday, and I didn’t even want to look at my computer over the weekend. Luckily, I’m still pulling words from my original draft, so I’m certain I can catch up this week.

THE BAD

  • The Con Runner’s Handbook Outline: Didn’t work on this at all. Not a big deal to skip a week, but I still want an outline complete by the end of February.
  • Freelance Video and Writing: I did not progress much. I agreed to devote some of my freelance time to editing the AusmAtari videos, but I didn’t even manage that.
  • Side Hustles: Didn’t do much for these at all.
  • Writing For Kindle: Probably my biggest disappointment of the week. I had full intentions on Sunday morning to tackle the 3500-4000 words I had left to write for this….and then I spent five hours finishing Austin’s V-Day present and it exhausted me. Alas, I know there wasn’t much of a choice here. I needed to finish that present! But by 1:00, after setting up dinner and finishing that, I was pooped for the rest of the day. Which is why I was like “screw it, let’s just go see Deadpool.”

Unfortunately, this week will not get off to the easiest start, as my Monday night will be monopolized by seeing former President George W. Bush at the local arena (one of my bucket list items is to see a President in person, and my mom surprised me with a ticket. May as well, right? Especially on President’s Day!) Despite my bucket list having one more check, I will be another 1000k in the Shadow of Saturn hole and still trailing on animation.

I am also entering this week with a lot more fatigue in general. This work is not coming as easy as it did the first two weeks. I don’t feel burnt out or overworked from an inspiration standpoint, and mentally I’m in a good place, but my body is bedraggled and my neck/skull area has been in a bit of pain. Heh, might need more caffeine and vitamins this week. And maybe some cheering on from my lovely readers ^_^

 

Productivity Progress Report: Week 1

How about that accountability? You seemed supportive of my scheduling, so I’m continuing the transparency by keeping you aware on my progress. Eventually, all this work may become so habitual that I don’t need to track it. But while I’m still hammering my life into a routine, I need to monitor what I’m accomplishing one day at a time.

And I’m pleased to say that last week went REALLY well. Almost perfectly!

Here’s the schedule again, for reference.

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And here are my results…

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My Productivity Schedule…and YOU!

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, she explains that ideas are alive and we are merely their hosts. When an artist abandons an idea for too long, the idea moves onto someone else like a virus. Agreeing to work with an idea in order to manifest it? That’s inspiration.

Perhaps it is because I believe this so strongly, and have always believed this — Gilbert just put it in to words I never could – that I like to juggle multiple balls. I love all the ideas that wish to use me as their host, and I fear they may crawl away forever if I abandon them too long. However, I also know that spreading myself thin results in nothing finished.

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Do you ever hate your own writing?

Here’s a dialogue I hear a lot in my head:

Brain: Wow, this book I’ve written is not good. It’s actually quite bad. No one is going to want to read this. It’s not publishable.

Optimistic Side: Every writer goes through this. Every writer has self-doubt. Don’t let it get you down!

Brain: I’m sure terrible writers tell themselves the same thing. Doesn’t make them any less terrible.

Optimistic Side: You’ve been doing this a long time. You know more about this than you think you do.

Brain: But that one guy hated it. Couldn’t even get four chapters in.

Optimistic Side: Maybe it wasn’t what he expected it to be/maybe he wanted it to be something else. Maybe he had no clue what he was talking about. You can’t please everyone.

Brain: It was the most critiqued entry in that Live Action Slush Contest I went to. Those people know what they’re talking about.

Optimistic Side: True, but that’s still just their opinion. And even you weren’t sure about that entry. You’ve made it a lot better since then.

Brain: I still keep getting rejected from magazines.

Optimistic Side: ALL writers get rejected. Has that really been your best work either? You’ve only submitted to 15 or so places, and you made the short list on one of them. Two others complimented your writing personally.

Brain: They probably do that with everybody. They’re just being nice.

Optimistic Side: They don’t have to be nice.

Brain: Even half my betas didn’t read it and I thought I could count on them.

Optimistic Side: People get busy. There could be a million different reasons why they didn’t read it that have nothing to do with the book itself.

Brain: Yeah, but if I wrote a real knockout, they wouldn’t need excuses. People make time for good stories.

Optimistic Side: It’s still a draft. And less complete stories get picked up by agents every day.

Brain: Most agents only take one new client a year out of 3-4k submissions. I am not that good.

Optimistic Side: It’s not just about being good. It’s about being the right fit. Remember how much Greg likes your story?

Brain: Yeah…

Optimistic Side: Well maybe you’ll find an agent just like Greg, who has the same interests. Maybe this agent is dying to see a pan-pantheon fantasy with diverse characters and he doesn’t even care about the flaws. He’s willing to work with you because he likes the potential.

Brain: That’s unlikely; my stuff isn’t that marketable. I can’t even think of anything to compare it to.

Optimistic Side: Sometimes uniqueness is a good thing. They’ll pick that over something formulaic.

Brain: The shelves at Barnes and Noble say otherwise.

Optimistic Side: Okay, so some agents like a safe sale. But you wouldn’t want to work with them anyway.

Brain: There are so many better writers than me.

Optimistic Side: There are still better writers than Stephen King. Doesn’t make him any less of Stephen King. You’ll never be the best, but you can be the best for some people.

I’m still not sure if I lean more with my brain or with my optimism. It’s hard to even listen to the optimism at all when everywhere I look, there are people telling me I’m not good enough, or that there’s something inherently wrong with the way I write. Hearing critique about my book is easy – that stuff can be fixed. Hearing critique about my intrinsic writing philosophies, about the style I am in my soul…that’s a lot harder.

Sometimes I wish I was just normal, and wrote generic deep POV paranormal romances or something. Or thrillers. Something that’s an easy sell. Something that doesn’t make this journey so much harder on myself. Being me makes things harder on myself.

But I can’t get too down just yet. It’s not like I’ve even queried this book yet. It’s not like I have any metrics to go on. I haven’t failed yet. I haven’t even begun. So maybe life will surprise me. And maybe the optimistic side will be proven right, and that I’m simply going through What All Writers Go Through.

 

Cinematic Writing: Avoid or Embrace?

My second beta round draws mostly to a close today with…mixed success. 1 beta fully read the book and responded within the initial window, and with incredibly thoughtful comments (thank you Millie Ho!). 1 dropped out due to disliking the style (more on that in a bit). 1 got back to me last night after having read half of it.

The way things have gone, I think I can expect No Response from 4/11 of my chosen betas. Eek. Maybe I should have written a better book?

However, what I want to discuss today is a feature of my writing that all 3 of the responders – including the one who dropped out – mentioned. It’s something I’ve heard all my life, it’s something the readers of Beta Round One mentioned, and it’s something I find myself in a mental war over: my book feels like a movie.

I used to embrace this without a second thought. I am a filmmaker. I love film just as much as I love the written word – perhaps even more. I have been fascinated by movies and the moviemaking process since childhood. I am in love with non-linear editing in particular, and I will defend the merit of film to pretentious literary types until I’m hoarse. So, I used to think this was a good thing because it’s a reflection of who I am.

And others, throughout my life, have seemed to feel similarly. The beta I spoke to last night said, “I liked that it read like a movie; it was very visual.” Millie commented a lot about the visual storytelling in her critique, and that she could tell I had a cinematic mind. But on the flipside, the beta who dropped out did so because “it read like a script for an anime” and he couldn’t get past 10% before having to give up. My father, last year, also critiqued it for being cinematic, saying “it’s a book, not a movie. Write it like one.”

Now I have pause. Maybe Dad is right? People go into books expecting books, right? Sure, you can’t please everyone. But maybe I’ve been pleasing the wrong people.

So I’m on a quest to discover what makes my writing cinematic, and if that’s a good thing. Most writing purists would say “no.” They think that literature should not resemble film, that film is a lesser art form, that fiction should envelop all five senses instead of just your sight. These people usually say “the book is always better” when confronted with any movie adaptation simply because books have more details (which I have entirely separate rant about, by the way.) I do think there’s something to be said for this – literature allows us to look into a character’s head and experience things beyond a mere picture. Characters are undoubtedly easier to understand and relate to in print.

But let’s give pictures their due: the adage “a picture is worth 1000 words” is true, and there are plenty of things in Paradisa that would be much easier to establish if I only had a camera, some editing software, and the London Symphony Orchestra. I imagine Paradisa as a movie in my head, with full production value – and putting it on the page always feels like a shade of what I’m really imagining. I have to emulate “background music” in other ways – describing the general mood and emotion that my intended music actually pulls out of me. The psychic camera can be manipulated by choosing what to describe – start with an “establishing shot” of setting description, a close shot of our character’s exterior description, then an extreme close-up of his actual thoughts. And so on.

There are two features of my writing which are easy to pinpoint as cinematic though, and they are scene breaks and present tense. The present tense provokes a reader’s visual mind a bit more naturally. (I have no fancy, deep reason why I write in present tense aside from my dislike of the word “had”). Scene breaks are somewhat unusual, as most novels follow characters in a nonstop, single shot with a few “the next day, I…” or “I went to sleep and woke up a few hours later…” transition sentences to establish a new scene. I love scene breaks though, because they’re a great way to build momentum. Each scene break can end in a bit of a cliffhanger, or a note of resonance. If you do it all in one take, your resonance can only really appear at the end of a chapter. Also, I have 2+ POV characters in the book, who require new scenes to establish that we’re in THEIR head.

But is there something more to my writing than two stylistic choices? Is there something inherently cinematic about the pacing, or the action? Is there something inherently cinematic about beautiful fantasy settings? Is it how I think of my characters like a cast of actors that I am only here to direct, rather than to control? Or the story being told itself – its themes, its characters, its plot and climax? The scene breaks have to stay, but I am considering converting my book to the past tense in order to make it more marketable – would this ruin the cinematic appeal that so many have complimented? Or would it still be cinematic in past tense; I would have just made my book infinitely more marketable without detracting any of its positive aspects.

Or, on the other side of the coin, should I embrace the destruction of my cinematics? Should I embrace making my book more like a traditional novel? Surely that will help it sell better. And that’s all I really want, of course. I’m of the mindset that most agents have the same taste – as most of them give the same advice – and that becomes even more true when you zoom into a particular genre. If most say “don’t write like a movie,” that might as well be all of them. No use playing roulette looking for the one agent out of 1000 with unpopular tastes that match yours. The stars would have to align to find both an agent and an editor/publisher who would all see eye to eye with me, the author.

I’m wondering what game to play here, because “being true to yourself” is not always the right answer. There is a difference between an artistic choice and bad writing. And I’m starting to wonder if my cinematic roots result in what most informed gatekeepers would call bad writing. It would hurt like hell to change my entire style to fit the norm. I’m not even sure I could do it aside from giving up novels altogether and writing screenplays instead. But as they say, “kill your darlings,” right? Maybe this is one of those times.

Any thoughts? Are there merits to this writing style, or is it kind of amateur? Should I try to be more marketable or hedge my bets with what I’ve already written?

How To Propose to A Writer

For the past five years, Halloween has carried extra meaning for me. Because on October 31, 2010, Mr. Aetherhouse (Austin) and I officially became what kids these days call “a thing.”

Last Saturday was our 5th anniversary. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been with Austin since I was 18 years old. That I’ve wanted to be with him since I was 16. Maybe even 13 if you count the fact that I thought he was cute when we first met. We’ve known each other a long time and it’s almost uncanny how well we still get along. He’s pretty much the only person I could ever live with, because I never get sick of him.

On Saturday morning, I was messing around upstairs while he made bacon and Millennium Falcon shaped biscuits for breakfast (you can find the mold here). I scribbled my long treatise on our relationship into my fancy handmade greeting card and grabbed the anniversary present I bought him – a BB-8 Alarm Clock. (He gave me an R2-D2 bathrobe earlier this month saying that it would be my present, so I reciprocated the droid theme.)

Only to find this waiting on my living room desk when I came downstairs. Way to be upstaged!

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A Royal 5 Typewriter, over 100 years old, just like the one in my favorite game Heavy Rain. I’ve never owned a typewriter before, but this one is clearly in good shape. All the keys are there, all the etching is still readable.

Then I read the note, pretty aware of where this is going.

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My response: “Of course.”

He later told me that he’d had lots of proposal ideas throughout the years, but most of them concerned things I liked rather than what I was. The fact that he acknowledged that I’m a writer, that he bought me a working typewriter instead of a ring, was pretty special to me. It’s a part of myself that I can’t deny, but I know it makes me a difficult person to be with. Most of my flaws can be tied to it – that I’m a flake, that I let the house fall apart around me because I prioritize fiction over almost anything. That I make him read my works in progress, that I’m constantly living with one foot in fantasy. That I plan excessively, that I’d rather stay inside, that I like my solitude. I need stupid amounts of space in order to be happy as a writer, but by giving me this typewriter, he can be with me while I write.

I will probably not be typing actual fiction on this thing, as I would hate to transcribe a 100k word story into a word processor after typing it! But I generally hand write notes, brainstorming, outlines, etc in physical spiral bound notebooks. I think the typewriter is a nice alternative to that, because I’ll easily be able to scan the pages and the clean typeset will make up for my atrocious handwriting. So this thing will definitely get some use. Once I fix the draw band and get a new ink spool on it, I’ll be ready to go. Hopefully that will be soon, because I’m really itching to use it.

And of course, the message inside – I’m excited about that too, but in a much more reserved way. I take marriage very seriously, and I’m content to let that desire grow more with time. If I’m going to marry anyone, it can only be Austin. And I’m happy that an engagement validates our relationship on a deeper level, particularly after 5 years of commitment. But I am the child of parents who are each twice divorced, and I know one must be careful when they make a lifelong commitment. Austin is worth marrying a hundred fold, but am I? I think I need some time to figure that out first. Hopefully the me I give into marriage is a lot closer to my Ideal Self.

Still, I’ve already got some Pinterest boards going, despite only wanting a cocktail reception and no actual ceremony, because I am a bit of a cliché. I’m torn between a Pacific Rim theme or a Lovecraft theme. Hmm….:)

Stuff To Be Proud Of: Looking Back on August

August was the first month of putting my new work system into action. It began in June when I outlined all the major projects I want to tackle in the next 4-5 years, across a variety of mediums. In July, I mapped out a general timeline for each of these projects and plotted all the little goals I would need to get there (they say that breaking big tasks into smaller ones is a hallmark of productivity.) In August, I abided by a daily schedule, which would accumulate in 8-10 goals I wanted to achieve by the end of the month. So how did I do?

On a task-to-task basis, if you count up all the items on my August calendar, I completed about 75% of my tasks. Not bad for a newb, I think. If you look at my actual goals, I only achieved about 2/10 fully – although many were partially completed. Overall…

Things I Did Great At:

Editing my web series, Dead Air. This web series was originally realized in my sophomore year of high school, and I filmed a lot of my Broadcast Journalism class goofing around in order to create it. Eight years later, Dead Air has remained a dream. I decided to tackle it now in order to give my videography background another credit. I wanted to finish one episode by the end of the month, and I am about 95% of the way there. I really enjoy editing, but I especially enjoy tinkering with this footage. I don’t have any doubts that all five episodes will be complete by January, which is the big picture goal.

– Writing Paradisa. I wanted to finish the entirety of Draft Six, and came about 8000 words short. I did write  13,000 words for Paradisa this month though. Part of the reason I fell short was a purposeful priority shuffle, considering that I’m starting a 9 day vacation at the end of this week ;) I knew I’d have plenty of free time over Labor Day to pump out those last 8k, so I diverted my sputtering August energy to short stories instead.

Outlining my Kindle business. This is also super fun, so I had no problem tackling it. I want to start selling Kindle erotica next year for some extra money, and coming up with all the different pseudonyms, storylines, etc., is oddly enjoyable. Don’t worry – when I start publishing in January, you guys will be with me every step of the way! I will be very open about the financial results of my little Kindle experiment. I will also try publishing some nonfiction next year, but I’ll talk more about that when we get there.

Reading. I finished The Disaster Artist this month, which I will reflect on during my end-of-year book post. I also started J.J. Abram’s S, I read a few stories from a Vladimir Nabokov short story collection, I skimmed through some mythological books…so I’m pretty satisfied! This is way more reading than I’ve accomplished in a while, and I feel like it’s not taking any extra time. I’m mostly replacing “scrolling through Facebook” with reading, and I now read 30 minutes before bed. That’s it. In September, I will continue with S, and will read The Martian and The Maze Runner books.

Things I Did Okay At:

– Short Stories.  I wrote 5500 words of a story called Ambrosia, and about 1000 words on a story about workplace harassment. I also wrote a poem called In The Event of My Death, and I revised an older piece from college. Still, I missed about 4 deadlines that I wanted to hit because I didn’t finish my two main stories. Part of this is because of all the work I did on Paradisa. Part of it was lack of inspiration, as I’m not really a great short author. I’m not going to be too down on myself about August’s progress, but I do hope to improve my short story turnaround times in the future.

– Literary submissions. I wanted to send out 20 stories. I only sent out 8, mostly because I didn’t finish any of my short stories, so I ran out of pieces to submit. Additionally, I’m running out of publications that accept flash fiction and/or simultaneous submissions. Most of what I’m sending out now is flash. *shrug* If I manage to finish Ambrosia in the next week, I’ll be able to catch up a bit. I’m sure I will get much closer to 20 in September.

Animation Tutorials – Planned to do 4, only did 2. I’m remedying this by setting aside an hour a day for animation and modeling practice in 3Ds Max, rather than an hour every Tuesday. I know I have the time, and I do quite enjoy it. It’s just a matter of making sure the timing is manageable.

My Writing Journal – Granted, I didn’t start this til the 16th. I think I’ve written four entries between then and now. I’d like to make this a daily, or at least every-other-day thing.

Things I Sucked At:

– Motion Capture. I pretty much tanked at this. I didn’t work on my motion capture site, I didn’t work on my email list, I didn’t get my Kinect set up. Luckily, none of this was urgent. It needs to get done in September, though. I’m trying to brainstorm and schedule mocap stuff in a way that encourages me to actually do it this month.

– Working on Saturdays. No more of that. I need Saturdays to rest. I assumed all this creative stuff would be fun and wouldn’t feel like work, but it does feel like work sometimes. Especially fiction writing. So if I fully take off Saturdays, I hope I will  have the energy to use Sundays as a truly productive work day.

It’s not perfect, but it’s progress. I think that setting really high goals is a great way to be productive, because even if you fall short, you still end up miles ahead of where you’d be otherwise. Yeah, I was a little short on finishing Paradisa Draft Six, but it looks like I’ll have that 40,000 word rewrite done with only 2.5 months of work. That’s crazy, considering it took me 7 months to do the same amount of work on Draft Five! And the fact that I’ve nearly finished a web series episode, I’ve written 6k+ worth of short story, I’ve put my work out there to 8 places….yeah, I may have fallen short of the goals, but 80% of “awesome” is still “pretty great” ;)

My Experiment With A Writing Journal

No, not a blog, my friends. Not a composition notebook by your bedside table where you jot down ideas that strike in the middle of slumber. Not a list of “Cool titles I might use one day” or “writing prompts” or “neat character names.” A writing journal can have all of those things…but what a writing journal should be is a foundation for what it means to be human. A way to store all the emotions you feel on a daily basis, reflect on them, and then summon them at will when you want to use them in a character. A place where you keep progress of your work in order to keep yourself accountable. A place where you work out the chaos in your head by simply turning it into an alphabet.

I haven’t kept up with my writing journal for very long, nor have I reached the habit where I write in it every day. But already, I see why it’s beneficial. Pouring out the bad emotions and weird thoughts and worried delusions and speculation of my future is a great way to encapsulate my humanity – a humanity that, often when I’m writing, I wonder if I really have. I’m not frequently emotional. I worry that my work is often bland and shallow and devoid of character because I don’t pull at the reader’s guts every other page. I’m a commercial writer, I admit, but I appreciate a blend between commercial plot and loveable, heart wrenching characters a la Doctor Who.

I have that journal in front of me and I can go back to a day where I felt fully in love, or inadequate, or fat, or useless, or uneasy, or lucky, or curious, I can relive what it means to be those things. I can use my prior self as a vector and fill in my character, or whatever plot thread I’m trying to twist.

On a less personal note, I can write down all the weird “what if?” thoughts I had throughout the day, thoughts that both disturbed or elated me or struck my curiosity. I can write down funny anecdotes from work, funny things Reggie said that I might use later in a character like him, or amusing people I saw at dinner. I can talk about news stories that angered me, scared me, or made me shake my head. I can log trends in the universe that I observe as a way to predict what’s next in fiction. I can write about books I’ve read, movies I’ve watched, and games I’ve played to dissect what I loved and hated about them, and why the story worked or why it didn’t. I can count my submission response letters and make note of journals who were particularly kind or helpful in their rejections. I can preserve – in ink, in something tangible – the moment when I actually get accepted to something.

When I first read about the habit of keeping a journal, I thought, “I don’t need to do that – I have a blog.” Or, “I don’t need to do that, I have a plot bunny journal.”  But after giving it a try, I see why this is different. Because the writing journal is not a place where you wax about your writing philosophy, as my blog is. It’s not a place where you simply tinker with ideas, like my plot bunny book. It’s a place where you can keep track of experiences that are so important in building authorial maturity. It’s a place where you sketch out who you are, and that identity will define what you write about.

And let’s face it – it would make a mighty fine auction item if you ever became famous one day ;)

Breaking The Stigma of Commercial Fiction: Why Writing “to Entertain” is Not A Lesser Aim

Recently, I picked up a copy of The Creative Writer’s Handbook from the used bookstore a sort of college textbook on creative writing. It is dense, detailed, and contains several short story and poetry samples from well-respected authors.

But in the opening chapter, that was a line that made me put the book down a second and just…stare at the wall, shaking my head. It went something like “when a writer’s goal is to encapsulate the whole of human experience, or more modestly, to entertain…”

This isn’t the first time I’ve witnessed a gentle, condescending pat-on-the-head towards those who write primarily to entertain. John Gardner didn’t even bother with formalities when it came to genre fiction, calling most types of sci-fi or fantasy “junk” in his guide, The Art of Fiction.

Over and over again, usually in writing books or writing classes or journal submission pages or perhaps even writing circles, I see the stigma attached to entertainment: If you write to entertain, you are lesser. You are less talented, you are less motivated, you are less creative. You’ll probably end up richer, because you’re a “sell out.” But you’re not an artist so much as you are a clown, serving as nothing more than a distraction to the sheep masses while the starving literary types plow through humanity’s preconceived notions and actually change the world.

I would even hazard to say that the word entertainment is portrayed shallowly in general, from television to video games, in the eyes of those who have ~better things to do~ than be entertained.

What bull.

Entertainment inspires. Entertainment saves lives. Entertainment makes us love. Entertainment connects us with lifelong friends. Entertainment makes dreams come true. Entertainment erases our prejudices. Entertainment causes social change.

How many people have changed their minds about gay marriage because of Will and Grace, or Ellen DeGeneres, or Glee? How many people have made new friends at a bar because they both liked Game of Thrones? How many actors, directors, writers, and video game designers are now living their dreams because we pay them to? How many Millenials are grateful to have grown up during the Golden Age of Disney? How would we have Lost or Battlestar Galactica or Guardians of the Galaxy if there was no Star Wars? How would we have Star Wars if there was no Seven Samurai? How many writing careers started with a teenage girl writing fanfiction? How many suicides have been averted, how many bouts of depression vanquished, how many lives enriched and given purpose because someone wanted to be alive to read the next Harry Potter book?

How many people have felt less alone because of characters they related to and loved?

To call entertainment a “modest” pursuit is dismissive and pretentious. There is a false perception that escapism is as toxic for people as high fructose corn syrup or smoking (you know the old one about TV and video games “rotting your mind,” right?). I would argue the opposite –  that escapism is as essential for the human mind as a good night’s sleep. Particularly in America, the modern human being leads an incredibly stressful life. Almost 7% of Americans, about 15 million adults, suffer from major depressive disorder. I’m assuming that’s just the people who are diagnosed. 52.3% of Americans are unhappy at work. Of course there is a place for dark, down to earth literary works – the sort of books that shed light on illness, human trafficking, social injustice, or mental disorders. Some people find it cathartic to read about their own problems, and we do need serious authors to sound the alarm on the world’s problems in order to draw visibility towards them.

Equally, I am not usually a fan of vapid entertainment, but everyone has different tastes. If someone feels their life is enriched in some way by 50 Shades of Grey, or an Adam Sandler movie, or the latest formulaic crime novel, who am I to judge?

But I think hybrid works – those that impact us on a deep level while primarily written to entertain, are probably my favorite stories. Harry Potter was certainly written to entertain, but it has deeper themes of anti-racism, anti-bigotry, self-acceptance, and feminism. You could acknowledge these themes and let them impact you, or you could ignore them and simply enjoy a story about wizards. Both make for a good read, and I appreciate the accessibility that JKR left with the reader in this regard. Stories that can appeal to those who want fun escapism, but also contain something beneath the surface for any literary types out there, are the most masterful of works in my opinion.

Literary genre fiction is also pretty great, as it aims to tell an exciting story in a beautifully written way. Although I will fight tooth and nail for entertaining stories, escapism stories, and commercial stories, I do not advocate for clunky, lazy writing. Quality writing is still a priority. Those who can adequately blend both are some of my favorite authors, including Jeff Vandermeer and Neil Gaiman.

So phooey I say to those who would degrade entertainment as a lesser form of creation. We can squabble all day about what defines art, but I can promise it doesn’t need to contain the universal bredth of human experience to qualify. Usually, people say that art should evoke some response, or emotion. And I don’t find joy or laughter or fun or suspense or social engagement to be modest responses at all.