Four Green Squares

the tiny little blog no-one will ever read

Plot-hole-whack-a-mole, or the post in which there are many, many hyphens June 15, 2014

Filed under: clarion,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 7:18 pm

So, I figured out the scene.

And I really felt what Steve Pressfield calls Resistance. Words on the page like sludge instead of a cascade out of my pen. Not right. This or that? Start here or there? Before or after? Move it to later?  Am-I-a-writer-or-a-goddamn-engineer-and-why-did-no-one-warn-me-I-need-to-be-both?

That moment when the voice in your head senses its moment, slips from its crevice to pipe up, “You can’t do this, you know.  You can’t. 3rd draft and you’re  still faffing. C’mon, stop kidding yourself.”

I think my Tai chi and meditation are paying off because I’m definitely better at being self-aware about moments like this. A def. light bulb moment: Aha, Resistance, I see you.

Half the trick of such self-awareness, I’m learning, is having the vocab to parse what’s happening. Yes, names have power, and here, they let me differentiate strands of thought from the formless mass of goo at the bottom of my subconscious that occasionally births monsters to rampage across my mind.

And yes, once again as in critiquing, so in life. Thank you Clarion.

So–I was able to say, You know what, Resistance? I really want to finish this scene today. No, it won’t be perfect, but I have tomorrow to make it better. Today, I just want it done.

And I did. 🙂

I think this is why I love first draft and approach editing with, shall we say…more trepidation?

First draft: white-hot out of my brain, no time for doubts. But the mess that results…

Which is why now, done the second draft (yay me, I finished the second draft), I’m trying something new for the third draft.

My first draft, I figure out which, out of all the millions of possible stories/plot lines/directions/etc., is the one story I really want to tell. I simply can’t do this in outline because I need to get my characters walking and talking their way into trouble, to singe themselves on the forge of experience, in order to learn who they are–what their story actually is.

Second draft, I tell that story.

Normally, second draft is also where I come up with a Cool Act Three Plot Twist, change everything, and end up playing endless rounds of plot-hole-whack-a-mole until a new idea seizes my brain and I abandon the old novel, mid-draft.

Not this time.

I always write longhand, then type up the first draft  and try to edit the typescript. I hate working with typescript or on computer screen, but always told myself, “It’s stupid to write the entire thing again longhand. What a waste of time. Really. Trulio.”

So I’d type it up, then the stiff print on the page would freeze my mind and I couldn’t draw all my little arrows to marginalia and header notes that meander around the rim of the page so you actually have to turn the paper upside down to read them.  Fun.

Typescripts. Not fun.

So–Resistance, I see you. This time, I said, so what if I have to hand write it all out. I like writing longhand better, and its more fun.

That’s my goal for draft 3. Yes, I’m editing (!) and shaping (!!) and its all hanging together (!!!), this novel that fell out of my pen, but I want to keep it fun. Typescript looks like work. (Turnabout is fair play. I was so easy for my subconscious to fool for so long, only fair that I get my own back).

And I’m also realising that all my endless plot-hole-whack-a-mole has protected me from this point. I say protected because it’s almost ready to show people. So much easier to continually faff around with Act Three than actually finish.

“See, I am working,” I could say, as I hefted my hammer to bash at those plot holes. Making it better. Or different. Different is better, right? ( I should have that on a t-shirt).

Clarion really helped me realise (by which I mean it shoved my face under the water and refused to let me up to breathe until I had an NDE and saw the beckoning light) when different isn’t better, because different is taking you away from the story you really want to tell. For easily-distracted me, well, that was another amazing light bulb moment.

And here I am, halfway through editing Act One of Draft Three.

Today, I have slayed the dragon of Resistance.

Feels good.

And now I have to do it again tomorrow.


Wicked Words loose in the World May 27, 2014

Filed under: clarion,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 4:57 pm

As I mentioned before, my story “Stranger has Disconnected” was accepted for inclusion in  the first issue of Wicked Words Quarterly.  I am pleased to announce that the issue is available now!

There I am:

Stories and contributors: 
In a Tower copyright © 2014 Nicole Tanquary 
The Diary of Magreth Frogonne copyright © 2014 Phyllis Green 
The Flicker of Farolitos copyright © 2014 Matthew Barbour 
Spookmoth copyright © 2014 D.J. Cockburn 
Odin Waits copyright © 2014 Jason D’Aprile 
The City of the Wren copyright © 2014 Robin Wyatt Dunn 
Dinner Time copyright © 2014 Mai-Chi Pham 
Stranger Has Disconnected copyright © 2014 Deborah Bailey 
The Old Neighbourhoods on Mars copyright © 2014 J.J. Steinfeld 
Pipe Monster copyright © 2014 Logan Merriweather 
Mac the Repairman copyright © 2014 Adam Gaylord 
2007 OR-10 copyright © 2014 Ellen Denton 
Dare to Sleep copyright © 2014 Tony Peak 
Diamondback copyright © 2014 Teri Chetwood

This was my week 3 Clarion story. I’d written very description- and atmosphere-heavy stories in the first two weeks so I wanted something different–hello, chatlog-format story that is all dialogue. I want (again) to say thank you for all 2012-ers and amazing week 3 instructor Ted Chiang for amazing feebdack.

Which means I’m going to get my first plug in for the Clarion Write-a-thon

It runs from the end of June through the beginning of August, mirroring the workshop dates. Its a great chance to raise money for workshop scholarships, meet other Clarionauts, and if you plan to apply, to get a taste of the workshop pace.

And, direct from the website: “Remember, there are prizes! We’re giving away plaques again. But better yet, our top five fundraisers will receive free critiques from some of Clarion’s most eminent faculty and friends. Everyone who brings in $250 or more will receive a critique from a Clarion grad.” So all aspiring writers, this is a great chance to start your stories for next year and get them critiqued.

If anyone wants to sponsor me, pop on over to my writer page.

I hope you enjoy the story–let me know what you think!



The good, the better, and the ugly May 10, 2014

Filed under: clarion,the way it is,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 6:23 pm

May, May, May. What are you trying to do to me?


First, I suppose I should share the good news: My week 3 Clarion story “Stranger has Disconnected” will be in the first issue of Wicked Words Quarterly out in June. It’s about a customer service chatbot attaining sentience and contains the epic line “Eggs are made of chickens and darkness”. You know you want to read it.


I’ve also got another story passed up from slush to editorial board (informed by email), and another that (fingers crossed, going by the time frame, though I’ve not been told explicitly) I think is in the same boat. Fingers crossed.


Except to type. Or write. Yes, you can uncross your fingers for that.


Congrats are also in order to Clarion classmates Sam J. Miller for his Shirley Jackson Award nom. (Cross those fingers again—way to go, Sam!) 2012 is on a roll.


All of which makes me wish I didn’t have a day job so I could spend all my time writing.


Even when that writing is, in fact, editing. I love editing other people’s stories (my day job is an editor and copyeditor, after all) but my own…we hates it, we do.


At least when I edit other people’s manuscripts, I can make all the suggestions then…not actually have to tear up the text, muck up dialogue that interleaves perfectly, hack apart descriptions that evoke the right mood, disrupt pacing that hits all the right emotional notes yet ends at just the perfect point…Argh. Now I have to do all that again?


(Of course, revisions are also when I realise I actually failed to do any of those things the first time, so at least I get another chance. So maybe edits are a Good Thing Really.)


Nope. Still hate ’em.


I really like this novel. I wrote the first draft in a few weeks, and amazingly for me, it came out essentially structurally sound. I quickly realised, however, that I’d set it entirely in the wrong place and too close to present day. I also had the wrong job for one main character. Once I got those sorted, I dashed out another first draft, also in a few weeks.


Then, despite my gut instinct—because years of experience had drummed into me that nothing I write is ever structurally sound the first time around—I proceeded to fiddle endlessly in outline until I completely messed up the story. A friend pulled me back from the brink and the story, with a few minor tweaks, was restored to its second-first-draft form.


But there are still enough changes that I have to edit rather than simply polish. And actually edit, not just write new scenes from scratch, which tends to be easier for me most of the time.


Grr. Edits. Hiss. Did I mention I hate them?


Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaattttttttttttteeeeeeeeeeeeee them.


Just in case there was any confusion.


I’m at least trying something new. Rather than leave typing them up to the end (because I also saddle myself with the ridiculous need to write everything longhand first), I’m going to type and second-round revise as I go. Maybe not leaving myself with all the hated parts at the end will help? Maybe?


If only I had time. I can write a first draft anywhere: bus, café, hurricane… The story is in my head, and I just need pen and paper to let it fall out. But editing…I have to cram the story back into my head to work on it, and that takes more time and concentration. And silence.


And May, merry month of May, what are you doing to me?


Grand opening of the new Writers’ Studio premises (yay!), dance recitals, many, many  family birthdays, board meetings, and the tail end of dissertation season. Plus regular work…


In the grand tug of war between sleep and writing, the latter wins. Until the former takes revenge in the form of gibberish.


Have I reached that point yet?


Can’t you tell?


Mission Critical March 2, 2014

Filed under: clarion,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 7:16 pm

I’m very pleased to let you all know that my story “Mission Critical” is the featured story in the new issue of Luna Station Quarterly.


Direct link to story.


Let me know what you think…
Oh, and without this turning into another Clarion squee post, I have to say that this is the story where everything I’d learned at Clarion and have struggled since to integrate finally gelled. It felt different whilst writing it, like I could be both in the flow as the words fell out of my pen and at the same time see what those words were doing on the overall story level. Worth all those tossed out drafts (of the novel, not this story) over the past year and a half as I tried to figure out how to use everything I learned.
Of course, applications to the 2014 Clarion closed yesterday, so instead of encouraging people to apply, I can only say best of luck to everyone waiting to hear!



Well, this is weird… January 29, 2014

Filed under: clarion,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 4:11 pm

So. I’ve been interviewed.

Mostly about Clarion and my journey as a writer, but also some process and other craft tidbits in there.

The interview was the project of Elaine Aldred, a fellow Notts writer who interviews many writers on her blog.

If you are so inclined, you can find the interview here:

Answering the Clarion Call

Thanks again to Elaine for an interesting afternoon discussing my favourite subject. No, not me, silly! Writing. Yes, definitely writing…


Yet more Clarion Squee October 28, 2013

Filed under: clarion,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 2:27 pm
Tags: ,

Sorry for the long silence. Writing, writing, travelling, editing, writing…

But finally, something spurred me back here to share some news. May I therefore present:

The Clarion Pin Up Calendar

Just in time for the holidays! 

Such a good cause! 

I’m still marveling at how much I learned. When I went, I knew I had some issues, but thought they were more mechanics, easily fixed (yeah, I’m laughing right along with you). Because what I discovered was that I had one big problem, and lots of coping mechanisms. Simply, I had no idea how to plot. How to arrive at plot, how to figure out what went in, and what stayed out. And solving that problem meant dismantling all my coping mechanisms and techniques. It was awful, let me tell you, watching all my classmates get noticeably better week by week (not that part; it was awesome to see them kick ass) while I got noticeably worse. I hit bottom week four, and by week six, had started to find my feet again.

So I left Clarion clinging to my life-raft of character arc. Now–three novel drafts, numerous short story drafts and even more critiquing later–I think I feel like the Palm Island thing in Dubai. Reclaiming land, sinking deep foundations. Not The World, one as that’s sinking in to the sea. Hopefully not, in any case (never pays to temp fate!).

In other words, Clarion has changed my writing and life for the better, at a level deeper than I ever could have anticipated. If I could, I’d buy out all the calendars and make all my relatives hate me (birthday presents for the next decade sorted!) But I can’t. So I’m spreading the word instead.

It’s definitely a worthy cause. And fun. C’mon, what writer doesn’t need a handy-dandy wall-mounted temporal management device? 

Added 3 Nov: Just got home from World Fantasy Con in Brighton, where I had the chance to meet the charming and talented artist behind the calendar. I’m even more exited for it now. Squeeeee…


They Are Entwined June 11, 2013

Filed under: clarion,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 3:51 pm
Tags: ,
Join the fun!

Join the fun!

I’ve signed up for the Clarion Write-a-Thon  this year and have decided to sponsor myself for the full amount I’ve made from fiction sales this year. I could not have done it without Clarion (or at least not nearly so quickly or so well), and I’m thrilled to be able to support the Workshop.

The amount puts me over that needed to form a group. If anyone out there wants to join, or indeed sponsor me, check it out! And if you are an aspiring writer, the Write-a-Thon is a great way to get a taste of the Clarion pace–and get a head start on your submission stories for next year. Hope to see you there, or on the page!