journalnulla dies sine lineashaping lilywriters is nutswriting life

today i sat in a beanbag for 8 hours (it was the best day evah)

Today, determined to finish the first pass of edits on "Shaping Lily", I decided to track my progress throughout the day. In the interests of accountability, you understand.

Read on at your own peril. You have been warned.

9:17: Realise I've been dicking around on the internet far too long already, mostly reading through 6 insane discoveries science can't explain (yet).1 This is not a promising start to my revisions. Quickly check my to-do list, and remember in a panic all those bloody things I promised myself I'd do today. Realise edits on Lily is therefore not the first thing I have to do today. Decide edits on Lily are the first thing I'm going to do today anyway.

9:20: Notice the bean bag has broken a seam and am in danger of drowning in bean bag beans. Get swayed by the idea of going couch shopping. Grab needle and thread and sew up seam and decide edits are what I'm doing today. Couches tomorrow, if the edits are done. (Take a moment to marvel at my willpower. Attribute it not to any interior strength but instead to apathy: couch shopping would mean I have to get dressed.)

9:22: Open file, discover with pleasant surprise my attempts this week have got me up to page 7 already. Of course, i appear to have added 500 words in the process. Like women by men, my stories always grow by editing.

9:38: Stuck on how to describe age and its effects on a body. In desperation, open up the very first draft of the story from four years ago and discover all this wondrous material that had somehow been cut out. Gleefully plagiarise myself. (Story grows by yet another 100 words or so. Edit it back down to only a 50-word growth spurt.)

9:42: SUNSHINE! The sun is high enough in the sky to be pouring in through my lounge room windows like a massage on the back of my neck and OOOOOOOHHHHHHH YEAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH that's good. (Realise I've been neglecting my cup of tea, which I'd set aside to cool and which is not quite tepid. Down half a cup of tea. Feel a bit gurgly. Down the other half rather than wasting it.)

9:53: Have just spent the past ten minutes pondering who on earth "MS" is. I have a list of all the comments this story garnered during its clarion critiques, and one of the commenters is MS. Tick off in my head all the students and realise there is no MS. Who the hell is MS? At last remember that, although it was a week one story, the week two tutor also commented on it and MS is, ergo, MICHAEL SWANWICK. Not that this makes a difference to anything in particular, but brain can now stop nagging at its memory banks and get back to the story, dammit!

10:10: Realise I've used the word sunshower and ponder whether it's the right word (do I perhaps want summer showers instead?) and whether it's universal enough. Google. Discover there's a Wikipedia page on sunshowers. Get distracted by the folklore behind sunshowers. Feel yet another story idea forming. Banish it. Decide to use sunshowers in this story, as it fits nicely with the folkloric feeling building in the background at this point. Then, perversely, decide I like the rhythm of "summer showers" better. Ponder, can't decide, torn. Leave a comment to myself in the margin to come back to later.

10:19: Pause to take note of the sunshowers folklore for the faerie novel and/or any other story which might come along. Idea safely stored, back to edits. Decide on "summer showers" after all.

10:25: Not back to story after all. Need a snack. Time for another cup of tea. Which one, which one?

10:29: Lady Grey. Can't go wrong with a cup of Lady Grey. Have chewed down a dozen or so almonds while waiting in the kitchen for the kettle to boil. Kitchen is south-facing and is still FARKING COLD. Am exceedingly glad to return to sun-filled lounge room (and, er, story. yeah.) (Despite starting on page 7, appear to be back on page 5.)

10:40: Finally back to page 7, at the point where i left off yesterday. Have spent 10 minutes staring at this point. There's a reason this is where I stopped yesterday. BECAUSE I DO NOT KNOW HOW TO MAKE THIS SENTENCE WORK. THIS ONE BLASTED SENTENCE.

10:51: Cup of tea finally cooled enough that I can drink without burning my mouth. Have resorted to an age-old writerly trick that helps me when i can't make a sentence work: open up a brand new document. Something about the blank, unsaved, temporary page makes it easier to "write out loud". It must take away the fear that I'll break the story and not be able to get back to the unbroken state. Writers' brains are weird — or at least, mine is.

11:06: Oops! 11am news on the radio tells me that gay penguins Harry and Pepper have split up after Harry shacked up with widow penguin Linda, and I am distracted into googling this to find out more. Poor Pepper 🙁 (On the other hand, the new-document trick worked and I have the sentence I needed. Plus, page 8. At last!)

11:19: More tea! (Needed to stretch my back anyway.) Rooibos with vanilla this time. Still in the same cup as the last two, however, which may undercut the experience somewhat.

11:45: Page 9. Up to a tricky bit, where Lily meets Red. Editor points out Lily seems to be caught between taking Red seriously and humouring her addled wits, and story would work better if we just had the single reaction. Think Editor is right and decide Lily needs to be a little bit snarkier. No, not snarkier, more prim and determined. H'm. Tricksome.

11:52: Have discovered some chocolate I didn't know I had in the house. This is dangerous. Looks like the story will not be the only thing growing during these edits: my backside will be joining the party. Also, have reached grievous part of day where sunshine prevents me from seeing the screen no matter what angle I use. Reluctantly, must lower blinds a smidge. Check Twitter for another moment's procrastination, and see that Tessa is out and about and d'oh! remember today is Melbourne Open House Day and I had meant to explore the city's normally locked buildings. Must continue with edits. Edits are more worthwhile usage of my time today. Still, am snarky over this realisation. Will channel snark into the prim and determined confrontation.

12:33: Page 10! Tricksome confrontation turned out to be not so tricksome after all — just deleted the glaring references to humouring Red's addled wits and poked at a comma here and there. I am always surprised when pruning reveals a structure i didn't realise was actually there.

13:04: Nearly at the bottom of page 12. Sore back. Should maybe switch to sitting at desk. But desk is not in lounge room, in fall of sunlight. Attention flagging badly now. Perhaps it's time for a proper break. Contemplate going for a drive to take photos of a secret awesome view of Melbourne Tessa showed me last night, but discover camera battery is flat. New plan: will keep revising until battery charged, then take break. (Hope it doesn't take æons to charge camera battery.)

13:46: Am so sick of sitting here! Battery charger is flashing. I do not recognise this behaviour, but I have never studied my battery charger's behaviour before. Perhaps this is normal? Halfway down page 13. Radio is playing You Am I's "Damage", which suits my mood nicely. Can no longer remember what fixes this part of the story needs. Decide this means it needs none. Obviously.

14:13: Investigate what flashing light means on battery charger. Instruction book makes no mention of this. Take battery out, put battery back in. Flashing ceases. H'm. Decide all this lack of attention span must be the result of not enough food. Lunch time!

14:51: Was I at page 18 when I left off? Didn't realise. This is promising, not much to go on this pass! (Steadfastly ignoring the fact this story wasn't 18 pages long when i started editing it.) Oops, first problem: dizziness receding. I've used this phrase already, haven't I? Sort of. Back on page 10, there's keeping dizziness at bay. H'm. Different enough, I suppose. For this pass.

15:00: (Why doesn't someone email me, so I can legitimately do no work for a moment?)

15:02: Got sick of radio and pressed play on the CD player … to find that track 1 is the exact same song the radio was just playing. What are the odds? Plan to change music mood: failed.

16:05: Attention span shot to hell. Took a break to eat a bowl of ice cream and watch an episode of Arrested Development. I introduced Tess to this series last night, just when she can least afford a marathon. Back to it now. So close, so close. Nearly to the bottom of page 18, and the natural climax. Then I just have to take the next two pages (which will probably be cut) and weave the bits I desperately want to keep back through the story. Onward!

16:13: Page 19! No idea precisely how to weave the cut but salvageable bits from pages 19-20 back through pages 1-18. Pressed ⌘X anyway. Snipsnip, the quickest way is just to do it.2 Also, just scrolled to the end of the original first draft of this manuscript and realised I had, very helpfully, made a note of which initials matched up with which critiquer. So that ten minutes, trying to figure out MS = Michael Swanwick? Totally wasted.

16:41: Oh noes! Word is not responding! When did I last save? FARK.

16:43: Recently enough, it appears. If I've lost anything, I'm not aware of it. Ignorance is bliss.

17:15: End of page 19, end of the story! Except now the final note of the story doesn't quite ring right. Damn.

17:33: Have poked at the transition from climax to final note, and it's not quite the same as before, but I think it works. Am going to turn off track changes and do a quick read-through out loud, see if I'm right. The story got up to 1,000 words longer at one point, but I seem to have chopped it back again to only 700 words longer.

18:04: Read-through done. No idea what I achieved, other than convincing the neighbours I am loopy. Calling it quits on this story for today.

  1. I knew about the antikythera mechanism, but didn't know about the others. Really like the pipes. And the bloop Cthulhu. []
  2. Have pasted the cut portion into a blank document for reference. I'm not a walking memory stick, after all. []

9 thoughts on “today i sat in a beanbag for 8 hours (it was the best day evah)

  1. XD Aaaaaaaaah, writers. It IS a spectator sport, you see!

    (If it makes you feel better, WILL NEVER DO MELBOURNE OPEN HOUSE AGAIN. HOLY ARMADILLO SCROTUM. The queues were insane. INSANE. After three of the buildings I was half interested in had queues two hours long I made a beeline to the Russell Place Substation, which was the one at the top of my list, and planted myself there. I WAS THERE FOR FOUR HOURS before I got in, and I was the second last group to go down. 'cause, after I'd been there an hour, two hours, three hours! I COULD NOT LEAVE. I'D ALREADY GIVEN SO MUCH TIME. Strange and grueling way to spend a day, like editing, only without the delicious sunshine and beanbag and cups of tea. Hope I got some decent photos.)

    (Now I'm going to, er, write.)

  2. Hi Deborah

    Now I know what you look like. I wrote Pieland's Dream, the one described as a 'crumpled short story'. I'll have to read The Wages of Salt again top fully understand it.

    I think In the Porches of my Ears got the best reviews, though they are all brief.


  3. Hi Clive, welcome to the blog! I enjoyed your story in the antho – I enjoyed all the stories in the antho, for that matter!

  4. Hi damselfly

    I am glad you liked all of them. There is quite a mixture of genres and styles. I wanted to send PS two more stories, but they aren't reading new material until 2010.

    When I was writing Pieland's Dream, my second reader and I did not think it was very creepy, but friends from the pub where the action took place thought it was. It helps if you believe in ghosts. My friend Pieland does.

    Best Wishes

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