What I’m up to for September and beyond

So far this month I’ve been up to… slacking off, feels like. Suddenly it’s the 3rd. What the heck happened to the last two days?

Well, family things happened. Meals needed to be cooked, people needed to be socialized with. I just think I could’ve spent my free time better. Gotta be more focused.

I did get some reading done, though. I read my first several Raymond Chandler stories, a Ross Rocklynne short story (Iron Man), and Seabury Quinn’s first Jules de Grandin story, The Horror on the Links. This is immediately relevant to my short term work goals so I suppose the last couple days weren’t entirely wasted, but man, I hate to make it several days into a month without writing a single word of fiction. It just feels like a crappy start to a fresh beginning.

Okay, enough beating myself up. Here’s what’s on deck.

In the immediate future, as in this week, I want to bang out two short stories. The first is a horror story in which I’m intentionally using “offensive” tropes. I may just publish that here without bothering to submit it anywhere. Depends how sarcastic I get I suppose. The second story is my first attempt at hard-boiled fiction, but in space! That’s why I’ve been reading Chandler. I’m definitely not aping his style but I do want to get that 30s feel. I have the setting half built in my mind already. Turns out it’s not that difficult to translate a lot of the social conditions of urban 1930s life to life in the early days of space colonization. I’m writing that story specifically to submit it to Cirsova magazine. So, fingers crossed it turns out well.

Also this week, I will submit the shortest story I’ve written since high school to a magazine. It ended up 2000 words on the dot. I haven’t read it since I finished it in July, but I think it’s a decent story.

Once the short stuff is out of the way, I’m moving on to getting serious about a trilogy I first dreamed up back in October or November last year. The first two books are roughly plotted (I don’t like to plot heavily) and I wrote a couple thousand words in each already, but ~98% of the work remains to be done. I have only a vague idea of what the third book will be about. I know that the main villain and the protagonist need to duke it out for good and all, but I have no idea how that’s going to happen.

I want to grind out the full trilogy by Christmas. That is, I want to have the first two books in a fairly polished state and be finished with the first draft of the third novel. If I can have the third polished too, great. I may also sneak in some short fiction work, maybe finish up some of my partial novelettes (I have a whole freaking pile of them) when I need a break from the longer stories. Or maybe I’ll write another couple short stories for submission.

Christmas is 114 days away, including today. I figure I need to write a minimum of approximately 250,000 words: eighty thousand words for each of the three novels, minus the ~4000 I already wrote, plus two 7,000 word short stories. That’s just 2193 words a day, writing every day. Piece of cake! If I can’t do that, I don’t deserve success.

I’m too tired to bother with it right now but after I get some sleep I’ll put up a status page and link to it in the blog menu. I’ll detail every day’s word count and where I’m at with each story there. Check it out if you want and feel free to heckle me when I inevitably fall behind in November.

Back on ye olde WordPress…

I’m too busy with other things to make some necessary changes to my static site generator and I want to do some blogging. So, since I already have this all set up from an experiment back in February, here I am! Back on WordPress.

This is running on VestaCP, on a VPS with one Xeon core and—if I recall correctly—just 1 gig of RAM. It feels very snappy, though, much better than WordPress on a shared host server. Of course, it’s also a minimal installation. I just have a security plugin and a couple passive plugins running. I don’t need much more than that for a simple blog.

I’ll probably be using WordPress for a few months, anyway, since writing will remain my main focus until I can get at least two novels done.

That’s all for now.

The Parable of the Pottery Class

This is not an original story, but my rendition of a modern parable. I first read a simpler version of this tale years ago on a software development blog (possibly Coding Horror, but I’m not certain), and I have seen it several places since in various forms. I have modified the story slightly because most versions are written to emphasize the idea that “if you throw enough crap at the wall something will stick”, which is misleading.


The Parable of the Pottery Class

Once upon a time there was a beginner’s pottery class at a small college. The professor teaching the class soon ran into a problem with his students: few of them were completing their assignments within the allotted class time. Despite his prodding attempts to get them to use their time well, most of them simply didn’t know when their pot was done. They would waste whole class periods making endless adjustments to single pots, trying to coax those pots into more perfect shapes.

After the third week of mass dithering, the professor decided drastic action was required. He told the students he was splitting them into two groups as an experiment. The first group, the Quantity group, would be graded on how many complete pots they made. At the end of the class, if they’d made 200 pounds of pots they would get an A, 180 pounds would get a B, and so on.

The other group was the Quality group. They were only required to make *one* pot, but would be graded on the quality of that single pot.

And so the students went to work. The Quantity students spent their classes throwing pot after pot, while the Quality students spent their classes discussing the theory of pottery. What made a perfect pot? How big, and what profile? Handles or no handles? Over time the Quality students each settled on their own idea of pot perfection and threw their pots on the last working day of the class.

It was the professor’s custom to display select pots from each class for students of the next class, as inspiration for the new students. He chose the pots he would display the following semester on the last day of the class. Much to the students’ surprise, all of the pots he selected were made by the Quantity group. Nor could the Quality students argue, because they could see plainly that the chosen pots really were the best.

The professor explained that while paying attention to quality was important, ninety percent of achieving a quality result was *practice*. Thus the students who had made hundreds of pounds of pots had trained their hands, learned tricks and shortcuts, and had become very efficient and adept at producing a quality pot quickly. Even the most careful efforts of the unpracticed Quality group students did not match the casual efforts of the well-practiced Quantity group.

And so, hopefully, the students went home a little wiser than they’d begun.

The end.


I’ll riff on this idea more later. This post is also serving as a test post to see if SteemPress is working properly from my WordPress server. If it is, this should show up properly formatted at about 6 PM EST.