- Anaxagology for January 2024
Anaxagology for January 2024
A Free Monthly(Ish) Newsletter From Award-Winning TV Writer, SFF Author, And Middle-Grade Novelist David Anaxagoras
The soundtrack for this month’s newsletter is the official disco-fied version of the opening theme from In Search Of…
New Free to Read Short Story—Featuring Birthdays, Bigfoot, Bees, and BBQ!
I’m happy to announce that my short science fiction tale, “We Shall Not Be Bitter at the End of the World” is now free to read online at Lightspeed Magazine!
I wrote this one to find some comfort in the End Times. I did, a little, and I hope you do too.
Also, be sure to check out my accompanying author spotlight, where I discuss the impetus for this story, out myself as a fountain pen nerd (see header photo) and explain why the 70s paranormal docuseries In Search Of… was an inspiration.
Award Nomination Season
Exciting and unexpected news! My cosmic horror story told as Door Dash updates, “Your Dasher Has Accidentally Awakened the Crawling Chaos by Gazing into the Loathsome Geometry of the Taco Pup Mega-muncher Meal Box“ has been longlisted for the 2024 Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Awards. You know, the Oscars of horror fiction!
I’m absolutely amazed. I’m also delighted to be sharing the preliminary ballot with some very talented writers, including Rachael K. Jones, whose story, “The Sound of Children Screaming,” I recommended in a previous newsletter.
Speaking of awards, nominations are open for both the Hugo Awards and the Nebula Awards. If you are a member of either voting body, I have two eligible stories this year for consideration—the aforementioned “Your Dasher,” and my short fantasy, “The Boy Who Ran from His Faerie Heart.” Please consider these stories if you are nominating!
WIP and Looking Ahead
Earlier this month I finished the first draft of my middle-grade seaside mystery adventure novel. Six weeks, 69,000 words. It was mostly smooth sailing, except for the obligatory second-act panic attack. I spent another two weeks mopping up and cut about 8,000 words. The novel is now officially in the hands of my agent.
My writing brain feels a little mushy now and I’m trying not to rush into anything new just yet, although I have been sharpening up some ideas for the next novel to bounce off my agent. Developing ideas is one of my favorite things. Contenders so far: a weird western, a spin on Greek mythology (it’s time for Greeks to do the retelling for a change), a magical realism quest, and a frame narrative which weaves multiple stories together. All of these projects scare the hell out of me and I don’t feel like I’m a good enough writer yet to tackle any of them—which is how I feel at the start of every novel.
Of course, I won’t start drafting a new novel until the current one is revised and out to publishers. I’d really like to work on more short stories in the meantime.
One of my favorite horror stories last year was “Undog” by Eugenia Triantafyllou. It’s a story about the unwanted and undervalued, and how one woman finds love and acceptance despite her mother’s emotional abuse.
When people have watched all of Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street, I’m often asked what they should watch next. Is there anything else like Gortimer out there? Well, not exactly. But there is Rocket’s Island, a BBC family show from about the same time we were airing Gortimer. It’s about a brother and sister and their foster siblings who have magically tinged adventures on a small British island. I think it belongs to the small subgenre of Gortimer, The Adventures of Pete & Pete, and Eerie, Indiana.
An Approach to Writing
Writing a novel is daunting. That’s a lot of words staring down the barrel at you. Getting started on a writing session takes a high amount of activation energy. You have to overcome resistance. Starting is always the hardest part. After that, it’s a matter of focus and maintaining flow.
Once you do manage to get going, getting distracted can be deadly. If you fall down an internet rabbit hole while looking up a word or quickly researching something, you’ve lost momentum. Having to start again takes another concentrated burst of energy.
A popular method to help writers get moving and stay focused is the pomodoro technique. Set a timer for 25 minutes. Write like hell. When the timer dings, stop. Take a 5 minute break. Then go for another 25 minute run. After 4 of these sessions, take a longer break, then start the cycle again (if needed). This breaks long, nebulous or unwieldy tasks down into manageable chunks and gives you frequent rest time.
I find that time pressure works well for me to get the words flowing, but pomodoro has a huge drawback. At about 20 minutes into a session, I really start to jam. That means the timer goes off right when I’m hitting my stride, and then I have to start again five minutes later. Finding that activation energy not once, not twice, but four times is a serious drain. Adjusting the timer is an option, but for how long? Too long and it defeats the purpose of short, focused bursts of activity. And any set time won’t take into account how the writing is going and if I’m at a good stopping point.
When I started my last novel I began with the pomodoro technique. About half-way through, I found it was counter-productive. I didn’t need help getting started anymore, I instead needed to reward my stamina, honor my flow, and stretch my effort enough to make some good, consistent progress. So I switched to aun untimed 1,000-word per day quota.
I can write about a thousand words in 4 pomodoros, so this has always been close to my daily output. But with a quota, when I started writing, I didn’t have to stop when things got good. I kept going. My 1,000-word goal meant that when my energy flagged, I had a reason to give myself a little nudge to get there. And when things were cooking, I could just ride that horse right past the goal and keep going. Practically, this meant I wrote about 600-700 words in the morning in a single session, and then finished my quota in the afternoon with another shorter session.
The other thing I really love about a 1,000-word per day goal—it’s incredibly motivating to watch your total word count accumulate 1,000 words at a time. It feels like progress. Every week you pile on another 7,000 words. It’s the next best thing to watching printed pages pile up.
What’s important about writing tools is that they work with you. They play to your strengths to help you get your best work done. You have to pay attention to how you work, how you feel when you’re working, and what gives you great results. Don’t punish yourself with a tool that doesn’t work for you. Changing up tools is an option. So is combining them. I’ll probably use the pomodoro again, but it doesn’t have to be the only method.
The best option, of course, is to develop a great relationship with your writing. If writing feels like sitting down and having a conversation with an old friend, you don’t have to goad yourself into doing it. I’m not all the way there yet, but it’s a goal. I’ve had a lot practice avoiding work, so finding new ways into the writing helps. In the case of my last novel, pomodoro got me started. The daily quota got me finished.
Join me for the Gortimer Gibbons’ Life on Normal Street pilot’s 10th Anniversary!
If you’re just joining the party, here’s a rundown of what I’ve been up to and where you can find my work.
I will be a guest on the Shining Moon podcast later this year, discussing YA and middle grade fiction.
My short horror story, “Your Dasher Has Accidentally Awakened the Crawling Chaos by Gazing into the Loathsome Geometry of the Taco Pup Mega-muncher Meal Box“ is free to read at The Dread Machine and has been longlisted for The HWA Bram Stoker Award. My latest short SF story, “We Shall Not Be Bitter at the End of the World,” is free to read at Lightspeed. Visit my Bibliography for a full list of works and links.
I wrote for Nickelodeon’s Glitch Techs, an animated sci-fi adventure about teens who hunt video game monsters that have broken out into the real world. I also created and co-executive produced Amazon Studio’s first live-action kids and family series, Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street, about three kids whose life is anything but normal.
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