Wednesday, February 15, 2012

ROW80 - Brainstorming Mostly

My mind has switched to brainstorming mode this week. I don't know why, it just did. It might be a side effect of the artwork. It might just be that I've been neglecting that part of my head for a while.

Sunday Day 42 - 90 minutes. I bought some Story Cubes (after seeing a tweet by Tracy McClusker) and played with them on some brainstorming. Instead of working on the WIP, I worked on a new short story for my Max series (which has yet to see a competed story, but I think this will be the right one to be first, since Maude will be the client). Max is a young P.I. (inspired by my cat) who seems to have delusions of grandeur, but he's smarter than your average bear.

I also had some thoughts about another Mick and Casey idea, and so I think the one I'll be writing this fall will be A Dark And Dusty Night - where Mick and Casey are hired to guard a fresh grave against resurrectionists, and find that the graveyard is strangely busy at night.

Monday Day 43 - 75 minutes. I've been overeating and under-exercising, and I kind of over-corrected that today. Which means I wore out early. I got some very good prep work done on The Man Who Stepped Up. I've got a good sense of where the main characters start at the beginning. I have some sense of the overall form of the story behind the mystery, but there are too many fuzzy blank spots as yet. I also did Mondays blog post.

I was going to go to a movie tomorrow, but I think instead, I knock of early tonight and try to make up for it tomorrow. I am just too tired to make decisions about ANYTHING.

Tuesday Day 44 - 90 minutes. I sat down and intensively sorted out the tangles in Devil in a Blue Bustle. There are some some threads to weave in, but they are doing nicely. I did NOT make up for the lack of work yesterday, but I did do a lot of lateral tasks, so I'm not too upset with myself. The question is only whether I will lose momentum over the next couple days of non-writing. I might put in a little more brainstorming effort just to keep my hand in the game.

I also had some very very nice thoughts about the major plot arcs of "The Serial." I moved an event which I thought would be part of a later story, and it fits very well in this arc. I think this story will be made up of four long novelettes. I am also now sure that the illustration in my header would be great inspiration for a scene in the first story.

* * *

I finally brought the progress bar in my sidebar up to date. I'd been neglecting it for two weeks. And with good reason. For the past two weeks I've been slack. I mentioned the enthusiasm gap, but I think there is something else here at work:

I think I set my goals too low and my standards too high.

When I say "standards" I'm not talking about quality of writing. I go with Dean's motto "Dare to be bad!" all the time. No, I think the problem is that I am holding myself to too narrow of a definition of what I consider to be "writing."

I did it for good reason -- in the last dare I was drawing to the end of the book which I had to finish and I didn't need to do any more thinking on it. While I might want to do a little brainstorming and work on other projects, those were distractions, so I had to do them on my own time.

So I only counted what I call "Nose in Book" time. That is, the manuscript is open, in front of me and I'm either writing new words or I'm reading and working on old ones.

And that was a great way to go, except....

I've discovered that when I'm not on the clock, I'm on my own time (psychologically speaking), and when I'm on my own time I waste it. It's like the clock is a switch I can flip in my brain. Working. Not Working. And when I use that clock for a very narrow range of activities, that means it's mostly off.

Still, the very concept of having a "WORK" switch that I flip is really useful. What I think I really need to do is broaden the footprint of "working" so I'm doing more of it. I can push the "nose in book" goal later on if I need to. Or add a word count, depending on what I need.

In the meantime, I am adding two things to my goal: working on upcoming stories, and doing brainstorming or outlining. My mind seems to be in great brainstorming mode right now anyway. The work will have to be done on it's own "nose in book" sort of time. That is, no drifting around. I'm working or not working.

I also need to raise the goal on number of hours I work each day if I do that -- but because I'm behind, the overall goal will stay the same. I'm going to try to use brainstorming to push up to three hours on Sat-Tues in future. We'll see how that goes.

(Check out the other ROW80 participant updates.)

See you in the funny papers.


Tracy McCusker said...

Story cubes!! I hope they weren't too distracting. :D

I hear you on the enthusiasm gap. On-time versus off-time is a struggle for me too. Right now, my brain is in "pre-trip vacation" mode and thus uses every excuse to work on anything that isn't related to my almost-finished manuscript. It is a real pain.

Cutting yourself some slack by putting brainstorming into "work" time may help you regain your steam.

So this may or may not be helpful. But it may help to create a third squishy category between work and not-work. I know it can take a lot to convince your brain to take this time seriously. But if you can...

I have a catch-all category for "planning". It is time I spend staring at a page, staring off into no-where in shower (and thinking about my projects), or making stray/random marks (words or otherwise) will eventually count into my work time if and only if the end of it sees something productive. Did my random marks lead to a story idea? A revelation about a character? A change in perspective on a poem? If so, then I'll count that time as planning.

(Planning time is only half-work, so I usually count only half of the minutes I spend doing it when I count up my work totals at the end of the week.)

Good luck with the long weekend! :D

Emily said...

A PI inspired by your cat? This sounds completely awesome! :D

The Daring Novelist said...

"Planning time" is the devil for me. It's like Ice Cream. If I allowed myself to consider planning time to count for anything, I would never do anything else again.

Sure it's necessary, but for me? I do it All. The. Time. I do it 24-hours a day. I dream stories.

But what I call "brainstorming" could be considered a focused work version of that.

The Daring Novelist said...


Max is a very enthusiastic fellow. And one day when I saw this purple/burgundy PT Cruiser and I thought that if Max were a person that would be his car. I imagined this short but determined guy in a long orange trenchcoat and fedora -- kind of a young retro hipster whom nobody takes seriously (at first) -- and his girlfriend is a sassy and plump barrista with black goth lipstick, freckles and tiger striped hair, and his boss is a fluffy old lady with claws.

The characters are people, not cats, but I keep having fun partial ideas for them. I've got to finish one one of these days.

(To see the cats in question, you can visit their website at )

DarkWyvern said...

Story Cubes sound intriguing! Having the brain go into brainstorming mode can be frustrating, especially when you're trying to work on a certain bit of your novel, but at least it's still progress, in a way. Good luck with your goals :)

P.S. I love the pic in your blog header :D

The Daring Novelist said...

Rebecca: Story cubes ARE fun, although they are also limited, in that you have only so many of the little pictures. (I can see a time when future literary critics discuss how important moon imagery is to my writing....)

I'd like to create some work books with long lists of words, and you can use a randomizer (or a pair of number dice) to pick a wider variety of story starters. Heck, I might even do little sketches!

And thanks about the pic in the header -- I got it from a very old copy of The Strand, and I just love it.

Actually, there is another story starter kind of idea -- get bunches of old public domain illustrations, especially ones which are not a dramatic scene, but are just curious or evocative -- and write stories to go with them.

Tracy McCusker said...

Camille, I really like the idea about public domain illustration stories! That would be quite lovely. <3

Rick said...

I am so glad I found your blog.

I have a unique work switch- it's an actual hand painted sign by the most beautiful woman in the world that says "The Writer Is In" on one side and "The Writer is Visiting Reality and Will Be Back Shortly" on the other.

The Daring Novelist said...

Tracy: yeah, I was even thinking of posting a picture once a month (or even once a week) as a story prompt for everybody. It's a fun idea.

Rick: yeah, that's exactly the kind of thing you can do to keep yourself on task. I like it. I have a stop watch that I use as a physical "on" button.

(BTW, I thought you said, at first that you had a picture painted OF the most beautiful woman in the world, and I thought that would be distracting....)