Tag Archives: workinprogress

Settling for ‘Good Enough’

Not in your love life (hell no!). But in writing.

I know the ideal is to always strive for perfection, and to keep working until something is the best that it can be, both for yourself and for the thing. It’s Art, dahling.

Frankly? F*** that. In a general sense, I think that striving for perfection damages you. It will never be perfect. It will never be exactly how you want it to. My choice has always been to get it as good as I can, admit the flaws, then move on. I take what I’ve learned and I do better with the next piece.

However, in a specific sense, I do try to get the best I can. I do aim for some level of perfection. I want to write the best work I can; I want to iron out the flaws, fill the plot holes, make the characters tug at the heartstrings. I want my readers to immerse themselves in a story without getting dragged out by flaws or problems.

And most of the time, I succeed. If it’s three major edits and countless minor ones…or another proofread on top of the one I’ve just done…or a complete rewrite…I do want what I push out into the world to be as perfect as it can.

Unfortunately, for one piece that I’ve just completed, I’ve had to just say f*** that. It’s done.

It’s not perfect. It’s good, sure. It’s ok. It’s probably got some flaws and some holes. But meh. It’s as good as it’s going to get.

Part of the problem is that I’ve had so much criticism of the piece that I can’t see where the flaws are any more. I don’t have any distance or confidence in myself to be able to fight back. I’ve been advised to almost completely re-write it, and that is a bit of a shock when I considered something pretty good. Is my judgement flawed? Am I wrong? Am I truly as crap as I feel when I’m reading the critique? I have tried to take the advice on board, tried to be reasonable, and some of it I have accepted and changed. But…at the point that I’m shouting at the screen? At the point I’m nearly in tears? At the point I’m considering giving up writing, because I obviously can’t do this? No. I can’t do more work on this; I just can’t. It’s finished. And that means that my choice at this stage is simple. I put this work out in a format that’s Good But Not Great, or I scrap it. That’s it.

So much as it frustrates me, I have to accept my limitations. I am not perfect, and in this case, I have not achieved the perfection I wanted. It’s not awful, sure. But it’s not as good as I want it to be.

And in this case, I’m fine with that. I make that choice, and move on. I’ll do better next time. I have to do better next time.

And I think that’s what matters: keep learning. Always keep learning.

Coding again: CodeCademy

I’ve been using CodeCademy this week. It’s a web package that lets you learn a whole variety of coding languages by doing exercises and seeing what happens! I was warned that it might annoy me, but it’s also considered a very good learning platform, so – I had a go!

It did annoy me. But it’s also a very good learning platform. So…best of both worlds, I guess?

I’ve got a number of languages on my list; HTML/CSS, Sass (a type of CSS), Javascript, JQuery, Command Line, and also Git & website uploading. Obviously, I already know HTML and CSS – and those were the bits that were very frustrating! Yes, I know how to write a table. Yes, I know how to change fonts, and WHY ARE YOU HARD CODING COLOURS SERIOUSLY DON’T DO THAT.  Argh. CodeCademy also has a mix of practical exercises and then projects, which allow you to use your skills in a more free-form environment. However, the HTML/CSS ones are incredibly repetitive; I like some of the others as they’re more structured to what I just learned, but to be asked to put a background image on for the fifth time…BLEG.

I’m currently on Javascript, which I’m finding hard as my brain just doesn’t get the logic of the language, but I love Sass – it’s essentially a shortcut way of writing CSS and it looks wonderful. I’m also halfway through Command Line, which lets you move around/create/delete files on your computer without using the mouse or clicking through folders, so that’s useful to know even if I won’t use it.

There are bugs in the platform; you can’t vary your techniques (so I got caught out on the HTML/CSS one a few times, as the way I’d do something wasn’t the way they wanted me to do it) and the error messages can be frustratingly vague when it comes to working out what I’d done wrong. I’d really appreciate a crib sheet or some way of just getting reminded about commands, too; if I’ve learned something literally two minutes before, I may just need a reminder of exactly how to spell it – and not the answer given to me! The platform bugs are probably the most annoying part; several of the CSS and Sass pages wouldn’t work unless I had Chrome on 60% zoom, despite a comment from others that they needed it on 100%.

Anyway. Essentially, if you like step-by-step tutorials, it’s a good learning tool. It doesn’t provide useful help – I could really use a crib sheet or a reminder tool rather than the Q&A forum or ‘assistant’ who I’m not sure how to contact – and it has some frustrating usability bugs. But overall, if you want a basic grounding in the languages, give it a try. It’s free for a basic version, and worth using to see if you get on with it!

No Man’s Sky: alpha-read progress!

My wonderful alpha reader has just finished her first read of No Man’s Sky, and I’ve been squeaking with delight. This is how you should feel – when you get comments back, it’s “YES, of course!” or “Ooh that’d work” or “Hmm, how do I do that?” or “Now that’s a good idea…”

Comments should make you think. Make you write. Make you see a different side of the characters. Show you what’s on the page, and make you think about how you’ve portrayed the world or the people or the conversation. Can you tweak it to add more anger? Can you show the hurt? Can you add in a conversation with some foreboding? What happened during that event? Can they go to that place which sounds really interesting?

My other beloved alpha, Ryan, gave me some comments too – and it’s always reassuring when both alphas highlight the same things! I wish he was here to re-read my changes, and I miss his wisdom, his comments, his laughter. But that’s life. He’s got the dedication already, and he knew it. I miss him so much, even when it’s a nice feeling of getting back into something and using his comments and thoughts. I really miss him.

Anyway! I’ve now got a lot of work and a lot of thinking to do. I need to make it faster, give it an additional bit of pace, an impetus to their quest that’s external to both of the character’s internal drives. I need to make Arran more shocked and hurt, and toy with his feelings more. I need to show more of the world.

I enjoyed writing this one, so it’s a pleasure to get back into it and start adding to it.

Ps. The two favourite lines;

“I’m going to be grown-up and then I can do all the things, and I’ll never have to eat stew again!” – this from a six-year old 😀

And, “The goose was unimpressed.” Because…geese.

Cake Club, March 2017: Aims

So, I’m part of a thing called Cake Club. Basically, it’s a small group of authors who get together every few months, talk goals, and eat cake.

The cake is the important part. You can tell by the name.

One of the members was ill this month, so it was just Adrian and I. In between plotting chaos (which may or may not come to anything, so watch this space) we also updated each other on progress and what our plans are. Adrian did an update on Saturday, and while I did tell him everything I’m up to, I’m going to put it here too – just to give myself a public record of incentives!

I like having my progress bars in the sidebar (down to the right) – it lets me see how I’m doing. Greensky’s ongoing, and I’ve submitted No Man’s Land to more agents to bring my total there up to eight. I’ve also had one short story accepted; I’ll tell you more about that when I know more!

My aims for the next two months, before the next meeting? I’ve got the Shadow series to rewrite; I’m having some time away soon (if plans work out) so I’m hopefully using that as dedicated writing time. No Man’s Dawn is in progress, currently on 18000 words with things roughly plotted. No Man’s Sky is at about 50k and needs to get to 70k, so…eh. Ongoing. I’m thinking about it!

Beyond that, it’s basically business as usual for me. The thing I like is that I am – despite all my frustrations – in a rough routine for writing. I know when my next few short story deadlines are; I’m happy with my three-times-a-week-plus-Sunday blog post schedule, and I’m reading enough to put up the occasional review. I keep enough ongoing that I still feel that I am writing.

It makes for a fairly boring update, but everything really is trundling along! I’m just waiting for news from agents (good or bad), waiting for submissions to come back, waiting for more anthology calls that I can write for or submit to, waiting for my novels to progress chapter by chapter, waiting for the ideas to fall into place. This is what a lot of writing is – step by step progress, one word at a time, one story at a time!

Progress: No Man’s Dawn

Writing feels like a jigsaw puzzle sometimes, except you have to make up the pieces yourself.

I start off with some of the edges, and a few bits of tree or whatever, and then realise that maybe the pattern is a kitten in a basket and that’s some of the basket, and I’ve got the kitten, plus I found a few more bits of edge, but maybe it would look good with a puppy in there too? And then the cat sits on the board and I lose a few of the pieces down the back of the sofa and the sky seems to be a weird mix of blue and cloud, and it’s all a weird mess within a few random edge pieces.

Also, I think metaphors can be taken too far. But you get what I mean.

I didn’t feel that No Man’s Dawn was quite right; I was missing something. Dee was boring. While the outline was good – someone running away from a problem, making a new life, discovering secrets, murder mystery – it didn’t have the spark I wanted.

Well, I came up with a solution.

I added Luk.

I came up with the idea in the car, and my housemate just gave me a Look when I started giggling.

This is now the start of the book:

“Fuck. Fuck, fuckitty fucking fuck. Fuck!”

That last one echoes off the rock ahead of me, and I glance over my shoulder to try to spot my pursuers.

Of course, I can’t see anything.

“Fucking invisible bastard fuckers!”

You see why I was giggling?

Adding Luk adds depth and familiarity. I’m doing alternate chapters, Luk and Dee; it means I can add an extra plotline, add an extra thread to my murder mystery, and I don’t necessarily have to explain everything to the clueless Dee as Luk is already experienced. He’s also a complete bastard, and it’s been great fun to play out some of the consequences – especially on Dee. I’d already planned for him to come into the story, but having half of it from his perspective is definitely the right thing to do.

The spark’s back. I’m loving this almost as much as No Man’s Land; it hasn’t got the same snark factor, but hopefully it’s going to have a similar Not Nice feel, along with a twist at the end.

I’m also doing some work on No Man’s Sky; I’ve got ideas for some fill-in sections thanks to my beloved alpha-reader and aunt, and it’s been through a couple of other readers who have also given me ideas and encouragement. I’m waiting on my other alpha to finish writing Suddenly Lesbians (working title) and then she can focus on it, but that’s definitely got some spark back too.

So it’s getting there! (Again). Yay!