We’re deep into Beer Magic revisions this week! My wonderful agent and I had a great phone call about the novel and thoughts for the next draft. It involved much pacing around the apartment while we thought out loud—and also lots of leaping to my laptop/notebook to jot things down.
Fortunately, it doesn’t need a massive structural overhaul. Even so, this is what my office looks like right now:
I’m not sure I’ve talked about my notecards, but they’re an essential part of my initial plotting process and later-draft revisions. My method is kind of-sort of adapted from Holly Lisle’s notecard plotting workshop. She uses notecards to throw scene ideas down and weave a plot from thin air.
I find it difficult to plot that way. My stories tend to marinate for a long time in my head and then burst out in a torrent. But part of the marinating process is getting a roadmap. And that’s where the notecards first come in.
The first step is knowing the major plot points. Beginning, catalyst, midpoint, crisis, ending. It’s the barest of five-act structures. (Note that I usually don’t know the climax yet—I have no idea how the crisis gets resolved into the ending.) But whatever, I write all of those scenes down on notecards.
By then, there are usually some few discrete flashes of story floating around. Unconnected scenes, moments from a mental movie trailer. Those get their own notecards as well. Usually, it’s just a single line or a few words—enough to trigger the scene in my head.
Then we get away from the desk! I start laying cards out on the floor: main plot points first. Gradually, an order starts suggesting itself for the unconnected scenes. More importantly, I can see where gaps appear in the plot. “If B is here and G is here, what has to happen in-between?”
Eventually, a basic point-by-point outline emerges from the morass of notecards. That outline gets transferred into a Word doc (I don’t worry about assigning scene POVs yet—that happens in the moment), and then I write the book.
That sounds like it should be more complicated. But that’s all it is. I follow my map and I write the book.
But then the notecards come back!
After the first draft, some scenes inevitably need to get moved. Or maybe there’s the same POV for a million years in a row and it needs to get broken up. I’m sure there are programs to help play with the structure of an ms, but I’m an analogue kind of person.
I lay my notecards out again. This time, I include the POV character (assuming more than one). Sometimes I even colour-code them, so that I can tell narrators at a glance!
And the re-arranging begins. For me, the tactile nature of physically moving scenes helps me hold the entire story in my head. I can literally see and manipulate the structure.
Would this method work for everyone? Of course not. But that’s the way it goes, right? You mess around, adapting advice and experience until you find something that works for you.
Onwards with rewrites!
What I’m Listening to this Week
It was another Ešenvalds week. We had “Long Road” on here not that long ago, but the poetry is so good, I had to return to it.
I’d like to tell a story.
About a year ago, I was heading to a Christmas party when I learned that Six Stories, Told at Night had gotten into the Toronto Fringe. That’s a story I’ve told before.
This is a Christmas party with lots of (choral) music-types. Fantastically nerdy conversations abounded. After a few pints, a friend and I were talking in the hallway about Toronto’s two big Christmas shows—Handel’s Messiah and the National Ballet’s The Nutcracker—and how many people tend to be a “Messiah” person or a “Nutcracker” person, and—
“Hold on,” quoth I, “what if you combined them?”
“The music of Messiah,” I continued, flush with possibility and good ale, “and the story of The Nutcracker!”
My friend giggled.
“But who may abide the nut of his cracking?” I sang. Then, to the tune of the Hallelujah chorus, “O Nutcracker! O Nutcracker!”
We giggled some more and eventually I went home, and that should’ve been the end of it.
Except that in the morning, it was still funny. New words to “There were shepherds” dripped from my fingers easily enough. And for a few months, I poked at the idea again and occasionally threatened to put this show on.
“It wouldn’t be too hard,” quoth I (so innocent, then!). “You just need a piano and people who know Messiah.”
On and off, on and off, I wavered back and forth. And then Blythe had the brilliant idea of using it as a fundraiser for Gangway! Theatre Co., and we were off to the races. For the first time, I seriously considered what I needed:
Quartet of soloists
Thanks to awesome, dedicated friends…uh, we got all those things. Yes, certain parts were harder than I anticipated. Like my poetry, my parody seems to prefer spontaneity—sitting down to a keyboard and messing with Messiah for realsies was less footloose and fancy-free than I expected. Also, as I learned with Six Stories, there are always tiny maddening logistical things that crop up like black flies.
Will it be funny? I mean, I think it’s funny. The choir thinks it’s funny. People outside a cross-section of classical music nerds?
This was an anxiety-making moment over the last week.
But we’re doing it. The hilarious drunk idea has become a real show, hitting the Comedy Bar mainstage (945 Bloor St. West), November 13th at 9:30 pm. And I’m proud: I’m proud of the musicians, proud of my friends, and proud we got this sucker to the stage. We actually went for it.
Comfort ye, my people. For unto us, Nutcracker comes!
What I’m Listening to this Week
But of course…
The Six Stories, Told at Night showcase/party is distressingly close. Blythe and I have been racing about, organizing things and booking things…and going to other people’s events.
It has been a bad week for social anxiety, as I feel terribly out of my element. In many ways, indie theatre is a lot like the SFF world. It’s small. Most people know each other. Different theatres have their niches. There is a whole web of social connexions and unwritten social codes that I can’t see, because I’m not aware of them. Going to the Word on the Street book/magazine festival yesterday felt like heaving myself onto a life raft.
Writers! Editors! Readers! Book people! I know how to do this! I have friends here! I feel safe!
And then back to feeling generally useless.
So what does it feel like, when the anxiety starts kicking in?
Imagine, dear reader, a dimly-lit bar with lots of loud conversations and lots of people clustered in groups. But it’s not a background hum of noise. Oh, no. You’re getting ten different conversations piped directly into your ears—and your brain treats them all as equally important.
It’s a bit like having pop-ups that can’t be turned off. You’re just trying to surf the web, but you can’t get very far before something fills the screen demanding all the attention, right now. My brain’s trying to navigate a situation that it’s fairly sure might kill us, but half of it’s stuck processing incoming sound.
Sensory issues make me good at podcasting, and bad at crowds.
Anyway, they’re all having conversations. Great. So – who has two thumbs and gets intimidated by groups?
Except at cons, weirdly. But then, I know con etiquette better. Loose circle of people drift into the hallway after that panel you all saw? It’s probably okay to introduce yourself and have a brief chat. Two people in a deep conversation, by themselves, in a withdrawn corner of the bar? Keep walking.
Anyway, it’s that classic social anxiety thing of being the weird kid standing along the playground fence.
And we can throw in some general competency-based anxiety, just for fun.
My chest tightens. My thoughts race. My hands shake. Really, my brain is trying to be helpful. It’s CERTAIN that danger’s lurking RIGHT HERE, and by George, it’s going to let me know.
But—I’ve been trying to remind myself that SFF has only started feeling comfortable over the last few years. And it’s only been really comfortable for…I don’t know, maybe the last two? Whenever I started going to Can-Con, I suppose.
What made the difference?
Some of it was time, of course. It takes a lot of form rejections, awkward cover letters, and nervous pitches to learn the rhythms of publishing. It also takes time to nurture relationships.
And I started going to stuff. That made the biggest difference. Take ChiZine’s reading series. I made myself go month after month. Sometimes, I had to literally force myself up the stairs. I still went. Every month. Hard rule.
And now…man, I love ChiSeries.
But the point is that it was a conscious decision to force myself over the hump. Going to new cons is a conscious decision. I can do it. I’ve proved it to myself.
I just need to trust that theatre works the same way.
Reminder that you can purchase your tickets for Six Stories, Told Again right here. And join us at Theatre Passe Muraille for the after-party! The Seventh Story will drop there, that night, and in the podcast feed the next day!
What I’m Listening to this Week
More Emilie Autumn, a take on “The Lady of Shalott” this time. I’ve been thinking about that poem a lot this year…
Yes, this post is late. I got back from Readercon on Saturday night, and proceeded straight from the airport to Postscript, the Toronto Fringe patio/general hangout area. Then we had our final show Sunday afternoon, followed by one last night of Fringing.
Monday was mostly naps and lounging, to be honest.
But here we are! Fringe and Readercon both behind us! It’s an awful lot of emotion for any one blog post, but I do want to say this:
I am so very, very lucky in my friends and communities.
Fringe first: I couldn’t believe the support given to Six Stories, Told at Night. From the GoFundMe to the general logistical assistance, from everyone who came out to see the show (and some of you travelled a long way, I know!) and everyone who held our hands and told us that everything would be Okay—we’ve been overwhelmed with your kindness.
So thank you. Truly, sincerely, deeply—thank you.
And then I went to Readercon, where I caught up with wonderful old friends, met amazing new ones, and plunged headfirst into insightful, well-organized programming. Again, I felt swaddled with kindness and care. The writing and theatre communities share a lot of similarities ; this support is certainly one of them.
You’re all awesome. That’s my point here.
Now, more general updates: there are still some GoFundMe rewards to deliver! Specifically, the Super Secret Magic Seventh Story and Coxwood 2.0. What’s going on there?
The seventh story is mostly figured out (in my head, at least). We have a plan for recording it. I just need to write it. Because my 2018 is ridiculous, I have a major deadline on August 1st. I’m trying to write this story alongside that work, but it may need to wait just a few more weeks. But it is definitely on my radar.
Coxwood 2.0 is also on my radar, never fear! It’s going to be later in the year, though. Once the ridiculousness of summer dies down, I’ll be reaching out to actors and seeing what sort of cast we can put together. A gentle reminder that it won’t be as long as Season One…but I have some ideas percolating. It’s gonna happen. Don’t fret.
That’s it for now, I think. Blythe and I have some loose ends to tie up and some plans to bash out. No rest for the wicked, after all.
But we are really, really happy. That’s my other point. The Toronto Fringe has been the most challenging experience of my creative life—but also the most rewarding. I am so incredibly proud of our scrappy underdog play. The reviews speak for themselves!
Originally a podcast drama, this adaptation makes rollicking, enjoyable show…it’s clear that Bryski is a storyteller to watch. (NOW Magazine, NNNN review)
A love letter to broken hearts and letting go, to ambiguity and formation, this is a rich, complex play that had many an audience member discretely dabbing at tears. (Mooney on Theatre, “Rave Review”)
The folding paths through which the play presents itself are prevented from getting too murky or confusing through the anchor of the intensely realized, warts and all friendship portrayed by the leads, Blythe Haynes and Alexandra Milne. The heart of an almost delicately intricate, multi-narrative sequence remains throughout the emotional ties between two young women… (My Entertainment World)
Of course, none of that would be possible without amazing people. In addition to the love from our community, we are so grateful for the hard work, dedication, and professionalism shown by staff and volunteers at the Toronto Fringe and Theatre Passe Muraille. We literally couldn’t do it without you!
And there’s our creative team: cast, crew, and everyone who helped along the way. You gave your hearts and souls to this story, and we couldn’t be more thankful.
And of course, my creative partner-in-crime, who’s been with Six Stories from the beginning.
In my head, I see Six Stories as a scruffy little waif who runs around punching things. We can’t wait to see where the journey takes us next.
What I’m Listening To This Week
A little Lord of the Rings music. I’ll be moving to a hobbit hole soon, so it only seems fitting!
SIX STORIES, TOLD AT NIGHT opens this Thursday. That doesn’t seem entirely real.
But the show’s in great shape. Right now, it sits at a comfortable eight minutes below the time cut-off. The costumes look amazing. The set’s built. We’ve found all the props. We’ve run the sound/lighting cues at Theatre Passe Muraille – and the venue managers have greenlighted all of our fight scenes and intimacy choreography.
And ohhhhh, my friends. That moment. That moment, when the theatre was still in blackout, and everything was still—that moment when the first notes of the Six Stories theme played over TPM’s sound system—
It was freaking awesome.
So what I’m saying is, we’re ready. We’re so ready.
Why am I nervous?
Because it feels like stepping off a cliff, I guess. It’s here, it’s really happening, people are really coming to see our show. This one story made of many stories that grew from scratches in a notebook to…all of this.
But anyway. There’s a podcast coming on Wednesday, so I don’t want to repeat myself too much. For now…
Here’s the link for tickets. And also, our schedule:
Thanks, everyone. Your support means the world to us.
What I’m Listening to this Week
The Ralph Vaughan Williams streak continues, this time with “Five Variants of ‘Dives and Lazarus.’” I love the richly bowing strings, the way it sometimes feels nearly like Elgar…
Sorry pals, everything is ridiculous right now. Sturm und drang! Sound and fury! Madness and chaos!
Okay, that’s perhaps a little dramatic. But over the next three days, I am…
Finishing a major writing project!
I’m aiming to complete the first draft of my interactive fiction novel for Choice of Games either today or tomorrow. It’s running about 115k in total. You can become a knight…riding a dinosaur!
Good fun, but I shall be relieved to have it off my plate for now, because…
A CANTICLE OF LIGHT opens on May 30th!
Dress rehearsal tonight, opening the day after tomorrow! The cast and crew have worked extremely hard, and I’m so incredibly proud of them. I can’t wait to see this Canadian Gothic piece live onstage!
Still need your tickets? Buy them here!
“Six Stories: Road to the Fringe” drops on May 30th!
Because we’re really good at planning! Just kidding, just kidding, I pulled out my calendar and worked out a whole release schedule for the SIX STORIES companion podcast. Turns out this was the best day. It’s almost poetic, the way these two plays have stayed in lockstep…
Anyway, interviews, behind-the-scenes chatter, and more faerie tale goodness coming your way soon. It’s dropping right into the preexisting “Six Stories, Told at Night” feed. Subscribe here (if you haven’t already)!
Wait. Was this a post?
Ah, let’s say it was. To dinosaurs!
What I’m Listening To This Week
When you need something high energy and emotional, and also a reminder that it’ll be okay in the end…
I’ve been getting an interesting question lately, as a general trend. And it’s a question that’s very difficult to answer.
“How long did it take you to write that?”
It leaves me scrambling because I’m never sure what they mean. Or more accurately, what they think they mean. Is it just the actual sitting-and-typing draft work? Or are we including outlining and research? Does editing time count? The early rambling noodling I do with every project? Or does the clock start the moment the idea sparked in my brain?
For me, at least, they’re all different answers. Generally, I say something like, “Writing the first draft took X time, but I’ve been thinking about it since Y.”
But even then, I need to do some personal archaeology.
Take A CANTICLE OF LIGHT. One of those “On This Day” posts appeared on my Facebook this evening. My former housemate’s cat lies on two whiteboards that pretty clearly show CANTICLE ponderings.
The photo is dated May 2016. Except then I put the play aside for a few months. It ended up being a NaNoWriMo project of sorts—I banged the first draft out in about five weeks. Which sounds pretty quick, but again, it’d been bouncing around my skull for ages.
What’s the right answer? Very few people want to hear about skull-bouncing time.
Besides, that’s not even counting editing. As far as I remember, I had a table read in February 2017. I forget when Missed Metaphor offered to produce it, but it must have been summertime, because I do remember a) wearing shorts, and b) walking home through a warm, sticky night.
Then things got busy, so I put edits on hold. The final draft got finished around December.
So was it five weeks to write? Was it a year? Was it a year of editing even though I took months off to deal with other projects?
But here’s the kicker. I remember sharing very, very early CANTICLE thoughts in 2014. One character had a different name, the ages were different, and the plot wouldn’t have worked—but it was still CANTICLE, in zygote form.
Really, all my projects are like this. Quick drafting times, really long gestations.
And all of those phases are “writing.” The long periods between editing where the story reshapes itself in the dark. The white-hot rush of fingers on keys. The sporadic poking at outlines and characters.
Sitting on the bus, musing about a boy with two sisters.
It’s similar to the museum, where visitors look at a saddle or a tin lantern or a dress and ask, “How long does that take?” I mean, I get it. It’s an easy hook in. A yardstick. It’s a way to quantify something overwhelming, and to relate it to one’s own experiences.
But the honest (if frustrating answer) is, “As long as it needs.”
How very true, for all our arts.
Also, while we are here: CANTICLE and SIX STORIES updates!
SIX STORIES has begun rehearsals and now we’re sourcing props, costumes, and set. The landing outside my apartment has become an impromptu theatre storage space.
CANTICLE’s fundraiser was a delightful evening! Great talent, great people, great fun! Tickets are available to purchase here! (We run May 30th – June 2nd.) Next stop: the Box Theatre!
What I’m Listening To This Week
You know I keep it honest here. When things get particularly stressful, I bust out the Anglican chants. The repetitious tunes help calm the squirrel-brain—it’s my comfort music!
Whoa! Here we are, back on the blog! It’s not Monday—what gives?
Our GoFundMe campaign for Six Stories, Told at Night wrapped at midnight, and a Facebook post wasn’t going to cut it!
When last we saw our plucky co-producers, they had tweaked the campaign after blowing past the initial goal on the first day.
“Well, we were going to offer a vlog,” quoth I. “And I can write a seventh story; I’ve got some ideas. And…oh man, okay. What about…Coxwood Season Two?”
“Are you sure?”
“We’ll set a ridiculous target,” I said, all confidence. “We’ll never make it.”
And so the campaign trucked along. It was wonderful! Blythe and I spent a very pleasant week feeling warm fuzzies, writing limericks, and recording messages for donors (if anyone out there is Fringing It Up, drop me a line when you’ve decided what you’d like Blythe to record for you!).
We closed Monday at $730. “Cool, cool,” I said, “we’ll see how far we can get by Wednesday night.”
Tuesday passed. We had enough to cover the admin/festival expenses, plus a chunk of production.
“What if you make it to $1500?” a friend asked.
“We won’t,” I replied.
“I think we’ll hit $1000,” I said, coming home on the subway. “I’ve got a good feeling.”.
On arriving home, I made our final “ZOMG last few hours!!!” post. Then I sat back, ready to relax into a job well done. The box office would probably still take a hit, but not a huge one. If we were careful, we could probably manage pretty good shares when it came time to divvy up the takings…
Incredibly, you guys carried us to our ultimate goal.
We got very excited:
And then the lurking migraine I’d been fighting burst forth, I threw up, and we called it a night.
But now it is morning! So—we made our ultimate stretch goal. What does this mean?
For SIX STORIES:
We can have a kickass show. There are festival/administrative expenses associated with the Fringe. Those are covered. Set, design elements, costumes, signage, programs, handbills/buttons…all that just got so much easier. We’re entering Fringe from a strong position. A lot more is within our grasp!
And of course, compensating our cast and crew is a massive priority. This is why this campaign has meant so much to us—we wanted to give as much box office to them as possible. From the entire “Six Stories” team, THANK YOU.
You’ve unlocked everything, you wonderful people!
ROAD TO THE FRINGE PODCAST!
Once this blog posts, I’m pulling out the calendar to figure out a release schedule. Get ready for interviews, chatter, shenanigans, and rehearsal snippets!
Can’t make it to Toronto? We’ve got you covered! Meet our fab cast and crew, see bits of rehearsals and design elements, and make the leap with us from pure audio to live theatre!
I’ve been noodling some ideas. I definitely know the direction I want to go in. And oh…oh, I think it’ll be so cool. For this, I’ve got to consult with the team a little. I’ll keep you all posted.
COXWOOD SEASON TWO!
I’m gonna admit, I didn’t expect to make it to the ultimate goal. But we did! So—back to Coxwood for a second mini-season! I’m not entirely sure how many episodes it will be, but I’ll be taking a look at this after Fringe finishes in mid-July.
If we can release it by the end of 2018, amazing! As always, I’ll keep you posted.
Thank you, everyone. Seriously, from both of us—thank you, thank you, thank you. We are stunned that you believe in our show like this. We’ve spent the last fortnight feeling incredibly humbled and loved.
And now the work and fun begins! Our first production meeting and rehearsal is Friday. We can’t wait to get started!
KT and Blythe
What I’m Listening To Today
Sorry, friends. I’ve got very little wit or wisdom to offer this week. Between the horrific van attack in Toronto, returning to the dayjob, and a swamp of work, it’s been a bit of a blur.
I did get out to the McMichael Gallery of Canadian Art, which is a wonderful place I visit far too infrequently. It was an absolutely lovely day—the kind that keeps you going through the slog.
Since we’re here, I’ll take this opportunity to remind the Internet that the “Six Stories, Told at Night” GoFundMe continues until Wednesday—and it’s been an incredibly humbling experience. We have well surpassed our initial goal and we both want to thank you all from the bottom of our hearts. Let’s see how far we can get by Wednesday night. (Our Faerie Queen needs her crown, after all!)
And with that, I’m off to the ravines for some much-needed time with my trees.
What I’m Listening To This Week:
I found this totally by accident, but it makes me think SO MUCH of A Canticle of Light. More importantly, it pulls me back into that family. I’m not sure that I’m completely done with those characters yet…