The Next Chapter: August 2014 update

This has been a weird month, writing-wise.

I started out well enough, continued working on Gerod and the Lions, and started revising one of my longer short stories for submission.

Then I went to When Worlds Collide.

It was a great conference, but the pace was killer. They really need to work in proper breaks for lunch and dinner. It’s bad enough that they have eight sessions running at all times, but if you want to eat, you have to grab and go.

Yes, Surrey had more concurrent sessions than WWC, but there were a number that I didn’t regret missing. They kind of organized sessions into streams so that sessions on similar topics wouldn’t conflict with each other.

Maybe it was that I was a little more eclectic in my choices of what to attend at WWC. Maybe it was the extra day where I hiked approximately twelve kilometres in the mountains and canyons of Alberta. Maybe it was the time change and the red-eye flight back to Ontario with only a day off to recover before I returned to work.

I don’t know. Whatever it was, I was exhausted upon my return.

I finished the work on my story and got it submitted. As I mentioned previously, it’s a longer short story, nearly 10,000 words and the magazine to which I’ve submitted it is one of the big markets. I still don’t want to talk about it too much right now because I could come off as cocky. I could just end up jinxing the whole business. Regardless of the outcome, I’ll let you know once it’s transpired.

I just couldn’t get back into GatL, though.

On Collapse

Then I received an email from SARK. She was giving a free conference call on the topic of creative collapse.

It was interesting.

One of her points is that all creative people collapse, whether they admit to it or not, and many of us will need to collapse every once in a while.

Now collapse isn’t a negative thing. It’s more of a phase where we’re not actively writing new words, but maybe working through ideas, researching, editing, and the like. So I’ve been in this place, off and on, for a while now. It’s part of a creative cycle and it seems to me, a natural part.

We have to recognize our need to collapse, give ourselves permission to do so, and remain creatively open throughout our collapse period so that we can return to our work renewed and ready to give ‘er 😀

So aside from blogging, I’ve given myself permission not to write. It’s felt strange. I still have that urge to write, that need, and if I can’t or don’t work on my fiction, I feel very odd. Outside my own skin. Alien.

But I think it’s been a good thing for me, what with everything that’s been going on in my life otherwise.

So tomorrow will be a planning day. I’m going to relax and think about my re-entry into daily writing practice. Perhaps I’ll sign up for a workshop or two that I want to attend in the fall, and think about whether I can tackle NaNoWriMo this year without having time off from work.

I’m going to figure out how I can fit back into my skin and reconcile the two sides of my life.

What I’ve been doing

I’ve been researching a new story idea. I had a dream back in the spring and it stuck around, started making a fuss, so I figured I should pay attention.

I’ve also been letting Katie Weiland’s Character Arcs posts help me sort out a few things that I want to do with Initiate of Stone and Apprentice of Wind.

And, with Phil, I’ve been working my way through Bleach. I’ll get around to talking more about that when I get to my Mel’s Movie Madness and Series Discoveries posts in September.

SFCanada

I can’t tell you how happy I am that I joined SF Canada in the spring. The discussions that happen on the listserv are awesome. The experiences shared are heartening. I’m learning so much just being attentive.

Recently the topic came up of making the leap to full-time writer, something that’s been on my mind a lot recently. Serendipity at work 😉

I’m going to preface this next bit by explaining to my followers in other parts of the world that being a full-time writer, and a full-time genre writer at that, in Canada, is tricky. Our market is a lot smaller (our population is a lot smaller), and even if we aim for an agent or publisher in the States, we throw our hats into the ring with millions of other writers who are vying for the same kind of success.

It can be daunting.

I know a number of authors who manage to make it work, but each path to independence and story is unique.

Some writers have made the leap after having had another career. Some have supportive spouses who have enabled them to devote time to their craft. Some have “taken turns” with their spouses, alternately supporting each other through career transitions. Some have damned the torpedoes and just gone for it. For this last group, the going hasn’t always been easy, but they’ve managed.

As you know, I’m not in a place where I can do that yet.

In conjunction with this discussion was another strand about paying your dues, fine-tuning your craft, your 10,000 hours or your million words, and about newer writers who feel that they can dispense with revision and editing, and that volume alone is the key to success. Quantity vs. quality was a theme that came up a lot.

So did the idea that just because you can, doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

There was discussion about the dreaded “trunk” novel, the novel a writer uses to learn and practice on and speculation as to whether these novels should ever see the light of day.

The whole has been very informative, and, I must say, inspirational. It’s made me want to get back into my work and start mucking around in the words again.

We’ll see where all this takes me.

August's writing progress

The stats

My total output for the month has been 11,600 words.

A scant 57 words went into the short story, but were then more than edited out again.

1,113 went into GatL.

And, as ever, the bulk of my words went into this blog. 10,430 to be exact.

I’m still waiting for beta reports. I haven’t finished the mapping of Figments yet, let alone moved on to AoW. Despite the limited progress this month, I’m still on track to finish GatL by the end of the year. So everything is on the cusp of its next evolution. I’m full of optimism.

As I watch my writerly friends publish their second novels, I get a twinge of envy, but I’m trying to convert that into motivation, because, in the end, my writing career is up to me.

It’s time to get back to work.

Farewell until next month, my friends. Wonderful words to you all. Break a pencil*!

*I’ve mentioned in the past that this is the superstitious writer’s “good luck,” but more recently, I’ve realized it might be a, shall we say, Canadian, way of saying Chuck Wendig’s “Art harder, motherfucker!” Yup. Break those keyboards, make those pens bleed ink, crush those pencil leads. I want y’all to art that hard. If you will, I will, too. Deal? 🙂

The Next Chapter

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WWC Day 1: Anthology Jam

Panelists: Ron S. Friedman, Randy McCharles, Charles V. Prepolec

RonFriedmanrandymccharlescharlesprepolec

 

 

 

 

Q: As a writer, how do you approach an anthology? How to you get in?

RM: There are two kinds of anthologies, open and closed. Open anthologies are exactly that. There will be an open submission period. Closed anthologies tend to be by invitation only and some are dedicated to a particular franchise or theme.

CP: Open anthologies are the only chance for newer writers to get published. They tend to be niche and specific. Pitching an anthology to a publisher is difficult these days. People aren’t reading them as much. You can check out the possibilities on ralan.com. Ralan’s good because it will list the rates as well as the contact information. Professional rates are like six cents a word or something like that. I think Innsmouth Free Press has an open call out for She Walks in Shadows, for Lovecraftian stories featuring a female protagonist or deity. Also check out Kickstarter (Mel’s note: I just did a quick search for anthologies and sorted by newest). It’s a way of guaging the market as well as raising funds. Some of them have open reading periods, for example, ChiZine Publications’ Fearful Symetries, which Ellen Datlow edited. Duotrope is another good place to go. It’s reasonable at $50 a year.

RM: Really, you have three options: magazine, open anthology, and collection. There’s no other way to get your short stories published.

Q: Do you write to a particular Anthology’s theme?

RM: Yes. I wrote to theme for Tesseracts: Parnassus Unbound.

CP: You can write to the market.

RF: If you write for a particular anthology and your story doesn’t make it, you can always submit it elsewhere.

RM: You write stories. Keep a “story drawer” and repurpose as required. I had five short stories that I cobbled together for Tesseracts 16. It was published in the anthology, the year’s best, and nominated for an Aurora. Sometimes it’s an issue of money vs. passion.

RF: You can also publish short fiction on Amazon. Kindle Singles.

Q: What rights go to the anthology?

CP: Usually for an anthology it’s first time print rights for about a year.

RM: Short fiction is a one time sale. There aren’t any royalties like for a novel.

RF: Rights are usually considered from date of publication, not date of sale.

RM: Anthologies love reprints because they feed back to sales for the originating anthology.

CP: Gaslight Grimoire had two stories picked up for other publications. You don’t want to be competing with yourself though. If you want to find out more about the market, you can check out The Market List, Writeaholics.net, Towse’s links to online submission guidelines.

RF: Check out the SFWA site as well.

Q: I’d recommend submission grinder.

CP: If you’re heading into this world for the first time, I’d also check things out on preditors and editors.

RM: Your goal isn’t just to sell, but you want to sell to a market that people read. Ask yourself, is this a market that people are reading? Send to the highest paying markets first. They usually have a larger readership.

RF: Bundoran Press will have an open submission period for Second Contact, September 15, 2014 to January 15, 2015.

CP: Small presses are more open to anthologies and collections. Prime Books – Sean Wallace. Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing – Brian Hades.

Q: How much material do editors request? Do you ever oversubscribe?

RM: Content or contributors may be assigned. Choose between five or six of these authors. The editor may choose. There is going to be a total word limit you have to stay within.

CP: We oversubscribe by about 30%. There will always be people who drop out or don’t follow through.

Q: Can a writer pitch an anthology?

CP: No. Editors, maybe. You could pitch a collection of your own stories, but not an anthology.


 

Tomorrow: The Next Chapter: August 2014 update.

Caturday Quickies: Recent developments

So . . . I went to work Monday morning to learn that I had been successful in the Consultant process. Yes, I am now in another qualified pool. Treading water at the moment, thanks.

On Tuesday, Phil got a call from the municipal engineer. Apparently all the reports were in and they were ready to start work. He wanted to meet with us after work to discuss the plan and get our sign off on the work.

Our former front yard

Just a reminder of how things currently look

The plan they had come up with was to blast out the rock, rebury the gas line, build a three foot knee-wall, and then slope the yard down from the house to meet the knee-wall. They’d have to demolish and build a new set of front steps for us, because the slope on the yard would necessitate two much longer legs on pylons. The slope would be about 60 degrees.

Phil said, “Do we have any other options?”

He explained that the bus stops by our house, and we have kids who tromp through our yard on their ways home to the apartments up the hill. There are also a couple of bars down Regent Street whose inebriated, late-night patrons also seem fond of our yard. Should any of those individuals take a tumble down the 60 degree slope and off the three foot knee-wall, they could be injured. Worse, we’d be liable.

To his credit, the engineer agreed with Phil’s assessment and together they discussed options.

What are we going to get? A full six to seven foot retaining wall with a railing for safety. Much better.

Three quarters of our driveway will also be re-paved because it also has to be sloped properly. In the process, they will be re-seating the two water shut-off valves that are in the middle of the driveway. We’ve had persistent issues with frost heaving and buckling around those.

Though we’re basically losing the full easement from the front of our lot, the city is not going to be expropriating now and they seem perfectly content to leave us easement-less until the street is developed in X year’s time.

So yay!

I also had a wee setback with the video project I was working on, but found a permanent (and easy) solution within a day. Thank you, National Service Desk 🙂 Joy! This will make doing further videos super easy, and super fast, relatively speaking.

Now onto the next WWC2014 post: The Anthology Jam. All sorts of good information on getting your stories published in anthologies 🙂

Caturday Quickies

By the way, the kitteh in this blog image is our dearly departed Thufir (Howat, the Mentat Cat)

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Aug 17-23, 2014

I have a feeling that this week might be more along the lines of entertaining rather than thoughty, but we can’t be serious all the time, right?

So have some fun 🙂

Three images that will change the way you think about mental illness. Engage. I like the cartoon myself.

ASAP Science explores the science of depression. Love these videos.

 

ASAP Science mentioned Laurel Braitman in their wee video, so when I saw Laurel’s TED talk on animal madness, I had to share. She’s quite entertaining. I think she might also have a little stage fright.

 

Fond of meteor disaster movies like Armageddon? Well, this graphic shows the comparative size of the comet the Rosetta has been sent after. Just to put things in perspective. IFLS.

All right. This oceanic worm is a little creepy, but it’s also pretty cool. IFLS.

Take a look at this transparent solar concentrator. IFLS.

David Brin talks Next Technologies on his blog, Contrary Brin. Lots of linkage.

Captain America and the Hulk, explained by science (kind of). Polygon.

Kid President’s pep talk for teachers and students. Find your awesome.

 

A young goat is introduced to a litter of puppies. The San Francisco Globe. OMG cute 🙂

P!nk and John Legend in Herbie Hancock’s arrangement of Don’t Give Up. Teh beautiful.

 

Walk off the Earth covers Am I wrong? by Nico & Vinz.

 

Time explores the other roles the 12 Doctors have played over the years.

The Nerdist’s Alicia Lutes wonders why actors in fantasy and science fiction series get the Emmy snub.

So . . . were you edutained? Let me know.

See you Saturday with the next instalment of WWC 2014, and a Caturday quickie about the week’s developments. Things are looking up 😉

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Aug 17-23, 2014

I really tried to get used to the new WordPress editor, but I finally had to give in and activate Classic Mode (Dum-ta-de-dah!). It’s so much easier to apply tags in the classic editor.

Let’s start with some publishing news. From Publishers Weekly, no less. What copyright changes mean for Canadian publishers.

Here’s K.M. Weiland’s weekly podcast/post: Can a character’s arc be a subplot?

Here’s her guest post on the Writer’s Alley on what weather can do for your story.

Then Katie wandered over to the Wordserve Water Cooler to discuss how to make a walk-on character memorable (but not too memorable).

Here’s Katie’s workshops & webinars page if you want to get moar of the good stuff.

And her weekly vlog on how to tighten your tale by streamlining your symbolism.

Anne R. Allen rounds up the usual suspects for her post on five protagonists readers hate.

Roz Morris examines how to write a character with an addiction.

Angela Ackerman guest posted on The Insecure Writers Support Group about how to deepen your conflict by forcing your hero to embrace the grey of morality.

Jan O’Hara considers cadence and its power to affect the reader in this post on Writer Unboxed. I started off as a poet. Believe me, people can tell 😉

Dave King shares his love of bafflgab on Writer Unboxed.

Painting vs. Dramatizing: How to make a scene, on Janice Hardy’s Fiction University.

How one writer kept a productivity streak going for 373 days. Jamie Todd Rubin on 99u.

Jami Gold has some fun discovering how writing changes our brains. Brain science rules 😀

I do a little conference reportage, but today I get to feature Mona Alvarado Frazier’s post about the lessons she learned at the Writer’s Digest Conference. Part two will be coming up next week, if you’re interested.

Lev Grossman writes about finding his voice in fantasy. The New York Times.

Buzzfeed presents the epic writing tips of George R. R. Martin and Robin Hobb.

I was shocked to discover that William Gibson’s Neuromancer is 30 years old. Egad. The Guardian.

25 pieces of life advice from literature, presented by Flavorwire.

A little writer tech for you here. Bookbaby blog posted about proofreading software. Interesting . . .

And that’s the load for this week.

See you on Thoughty Thursday with researchy, inspirational stuff.

Let me know if any of this curation tweaks your muse, will you? I’d love to know how things are going 🙂

Tipsday

Further thoughts on uncertainty

I guess I was a little over the top last week. Several of you reached out to me in concern, and I thank you, every one, but I’m okay. Really.

Writing is one of the principle ways I address feelings of anxiety and depression when they arise. It’s very much like I wrote last week, I pin my thoughts and feelings to the page. Once they’re there, I can gain perspective in a way that I can’t when talking to family and friends.

Phil, love him as I do, like most partners, tries to offer solutions. I have to find these for myself. My mom and other family can only commiserate, really, and after a while, repeating the same story over and over again to friends only serves to intensify my negative feelings.

Let me tell you, that beast does not need to be fed.

A few things happened at work in the last week that helped a bit.

  1. The project I was working on finally worked out.
    I’ve been struggling with this thing for weeks.
    Short version: I’ve been making some screen videos. The recording was okay once I had some dedicated time to write my scripts and work out my storyboard. I’ve had to learn how to use a new video editing program (thank you Lynda.com), edit the videos (again, no sweat), and export the final product. This is where my lack of experience in formal video editing has come back to bite me in the ass.
    I tried format after format, but either the audio was choppy, the program required add-ons that I cannot install, or I ended up with a monster file. How monster? A seven minute video was over 5GB. Whaaaaat? That’s like a whole movie!
    In any case, I finally got most of my problems resolved.
  2. I’m no longer going to be travelling for training. Generally, I don’t mind it, but this would have been three weeks away from home. Mellie is a happy camper.
  3. I managed to negotiate my self-funded leave. This, too, is a boon, but this weekend, I’ve been thinking that I might defer it until the spring.
    Yes, I’m a bit toasty around the edges, but I’m not burned out yet. The summer’s break from training and monitoring has been a balm. My trips to Ad Astra, Can Write, and When Words Collide have fed my creative side, and I think I can move into the fall refreshed.
    There’s some truth to the saying that a change is as good as a rest.
    Plus, it will be nice to resume my full salary for a portion of the year. The way I had to rearrange my leave around training and monitoring means that I also didn’t get the time I wanted off. I had wanted the last week of October and the month of November so I could do NaNo again this year. It’s going to be most of October and just a week in November.
    Spring might be a better time.

Otherwise, work is still up in the air, but things will sort themselves out eventually. They always do. I just have to pull myself back into the here and now, appreciate each day for what it is, and take it as it comes. Projecting too far into the future is not a good thing.

At home, we’re still in a holding pattern, waiting for reports to get to the city engineers regarding the rerouting of our gas line (currently naked) and the removal of the rock in our front yard/building of the retaining wall.

Creatively, it’s been a low month.

I’ll write about this a bit more in my month-end update, but I’ve been in a state of collapse since my return from Calgary.

It’s not writer’s block. My well is topped up. It’s just my creative brain’s reaction to going all out for so long. I had a bit of a stumble back in the spring, but then I jumped right back on the writing bandwagon with a vengeance. It was a great few months of writing, but I think writer me wanted a holiday.

It’s the joys of writing with a day job. There just aren’t enough hours in the day and I’m getting old enough that working two jobs is a bit much for me. I think I’m going to work a day of rest into my schedule.

And now the new television season is about to begin. I hate to say it, but I’m a bit of a TV junkie. I watch, as I read, for story. There are a number of new shows I want to check out. I’m getting increasingly picky, though.

Last year, I worked out a great system with my lap top. I’ll see if it continues to work this year.

That’s it until next week, when I’ll get into The Next Chapter update.

What’s going on in your lives, lately? Just drop me a line in the comments and let me know.

Muse-inks

WWC Day 1: On dialogue, building accents, and dialect

Disclaimer: These are my notes. I am human. As such, I fully acknowledge that my notes are imperfect. Feel free to correct me if you see any glaring errors or misrepresentations.

Panelists: Axel Howerton, Sandra Fitzpatrick, Nola Sarina, Minister Faust

axel_photoSandraFitzpatrickNolaSarinaMinisterFaust

 

 

 

 

 

NS: You have to be consistent. Don’t shock your readers by changing things up part way through your novel. Don’t write phonetic dialect or idiom. It’s too much.

MF: There is no right and no wrong. Everything is a matter of taste. Chaucer would have probably hated Shakespeare. Does that make either of them wrong, or one better than the other?

SF: Make sure your dialogue is pronounceable. There are problems with other languages, like Gaelic, in which nothing can be sounded out, or Japanese, in which everything is contextual.

NS: Write out the dialogue from movies whose characters reflect your protagonist. Reflect the evolution of your character.

Q: What if all your characters are from the same small town? How do you make them distinct?

MF: Look at your friends. You can identify each of them by specific catch phrases or tics. Go someplace in your town or city where you don’t normally go. Listen. Learn to love how people talk.

NS: Bond two characters through dialogue similarities. Have a third party interpret for your reader.

Q: Any tips of how to keep consistency in your characters? In one novel, I had to tone down the protagonist’s swearing, but it was a part of his character. In the end, I only had him swear when he was upset, but that could come off as jarring.

NS: Edit for voice by character. Make a pass for each.

Q: What about using other languages?

NS: Intersperse them in the text. Try not to have long passages in other languages. Use another character as interpreter.

Q: How do you avoid caricatures or stereotypes? For example, I have a character much like Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid.

MF: Avoid stereotypes if you can. If you can’t, make sure there’s a reason for it. With regard to Miyagi, if someone watches the Karate Kid and comes away thinking that Miyagi is uneducated or backward, they’ve missed the point of the character. He was betrayed by his country, lost his wife in tragic circumstances, and has a disorder as a result. He’s chosen isolation as protection. He’s rejected the society that betrayed him.

Q: Is there a way to ease off dialect over the course of the novel?

NS: We’re back to consistency again. If it’s too much at the beginning, it’s too much, period.

MF: If you want to write a character with thick dialect, then do it. Don’t tease. Write the book you want to write.

Q: What about multiple different languages?

SF: It depends. In a science fiction setting, you could have something like a universal translator, but you have to make it plausible. Otherwise, think about syntax, word order. What are the differences between the languages we speak on this planet?

Q: I’m writing a YA historical. It’s historically accurate for the protagonist to call his parents mother and father, but writing it that way felt awkward.

MF: If it feels awkward to you, chances are it will feel awkward to your audience, too. If you want to address it, do so head on. Show it. Hang a lantern on it. Reveal it’s relevance by contrast. Do people of other classes refer to their parents in the same way?


 

I hope you enjoyed this opening salvo of When Words Collide (WWC). I’ll be continuing the transcription of my notes, one session each weekend, until I run out of notes.

WWC set a military pace. Most sessions were one hour and though intended to end at about 50 minutes, initially, most session ran overtime. There were no breaks for meals with sessions running from 10 am through to 9 or 10 pm. Special events often ran later.

In many cases, I had to arrive late or leave early to catch the next session with enough time to hit the bathroom, or grab a quick snack at the commissary.

Next week: The Anthology Jam. All about how to get published in an anthology.

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Aug 10-16, 2014

Of course, the big news of the week was the death of Robin Williams. I loved his work as a comedian and an actor. The circumstances of his death were tragic, but as a friend posted, so was his mental illness, the periodic substance abuse he engaged in throughout his life, and the effect that must have had on his family. The man touched me. He made me laugh. I’ll miss him. I’m just saying.

On that note, IFLS posted this on identifying and overcoming depression.

And my friend Kim wrote this lovely post. Seriously, one of the best I’d read on the subject.

The Globe and Mail’s offering: Thoughts on depression from an artistic mind, by Michael Redhill.


Shaking my head, not so briefly, to evict the maudlin.

This is verging on the Writerly Goodness, but I decided to put Justine Musk’s post, the art of being a heroine, in my Thoughty Thursday curation because it’s not so much about writing as about the intersection of myth and womanhood. Thoughty indeed.

Why we can’t catch our own typos, from Wired. Brain science explains why writers need editors.

Wired features Maryam Mirzakhani, the first woman to win mathematics’ most prestigious prize.

A video love letter to Curiosity from Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

How wolves change rivers. This is amazing. IFLS.

What’s the smallest thing in the universe? IFLS features Talk Nerdy to Me.

The “super moon” of August 10th, as seen from space. IFLS.

The Atlantic featured more photos of the super moon on its In Focus page.

Imogen Heap has to be my favourite musical artist. Just lurve her to pieces. So when CBC music featured her new release Sparks as a “First Play” selection, I had to tune in. I listened to the whole thing in one night. The video is a great look behind the scenes too. Heaven. Of course, Ima buy it too, but I couldn’t resist the awesome.

A couple of great covers from Walk off the Earth. First, Rude, by Magic!

Next up, Say something, by A Great Big World.

Think I got carried away by music this week. Lindsey Stirling, Master of Tides.

And Beyond the Veil. This one caught me, because Fer spends a bit of time there . . . A candidate for the revision soundtrack?

This. Saturday. Can’t. Wait.

And this is fabulous: a fan made his own opening sequence for Doctor Who. Steven Moffatt saw it, and guess what happened? Space.

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Aug 10-16, 2014

Here we go in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1!

K.M. Weiland’s blog tour continues on the Writer.ly community with the ten commandments of reading like a writer.

And on Darcy Pattison’s Fiction Notes with four types of villains.

Here’s Katie’s regular Sunday post with podcast: How to figure out what your character’s arc should be.

Finally, her Wednesday vlog: Characters or ciphers? Which are you casting in your story?

MJ Bush collects 99 essential quotes on character creation. Each entry cited and linked for further reference.

Sarah Callender posts about rumination frustration on Writer Unboxed.

Lisa Cron explains how to get what you need out of a famous author’s talk. Very useful for conferences, conventions, and literary festivals.

And . . . forgetful Mel forgot to catch up on the couple of posts I couldn’t link two Tipsdays ago when WU was experiencing some technical difficulties. So here they are now: David Corbett on the tyranny of motive, and Jane Kisacky on the many dreams of writing.

Becca Puglisi ponders, what makes a good blurb? on Writers Helping Writers.

Jami Gold guests on Anne R. Allen’s blog: Everything you need to know about giving and receiving feedback on your WIP.

Then, Jami had to follow up on her blog with the beta reading worksheet.

Jami also posted on characters both strong and vulnerable.

Bronwyn Hemus of Standoutbooks explains why showing and telling is not an either/or proposition, but a matter of how and when.

Here’s Amy Shojai’s entry in the writing process blog hop: Why I write what I write.

Barbara Geiger’s confessions of an ex-there-are-no-rules-writer.

Rebecca T. Dickson tells us all the crap someone should have told us writers by now.

Julian Friedmann on the mystery of storytelling. TEDxEaling.

 

Open Culture shares Jane Austen’s unusual editing method.

Fifteen scientists share their favourite science fiction novels and movies. The Huffington Post Science.

As a friend of mine would say, that’s a shite-load of Writerly Goodness.

Enjoy, my friends 🙂

Tipsday

The uncertainty post

I mentioned a couple of (a few?) weeks ago that I’d be posting about the uncertainty in my life these days. Then I went away to When Words Collide and all bets were off. The literary festival was great, but the pace was intense.

So I figured I’d give you this piece before I got on with transcribing session notes from WWC. That will start next weekend.

The uncertainty at work

This is a multi-layered situation.

  1. Massive hiring requiring massive training.
    Last December, a first group of internal hires came through my office to be trained. I trained them, was briefly given an acting assignment (all of three weeks in length), and when I returned to the training team, I was given a special project, and thus largely excused from the burdens of training and/or monitoring the 50 additional internal and new hires that started in January.
    In March, I piloted the training that was the result of the special project and then cofacilitated two sessions of Business Writing to help a colleague achieve her certification (good news there – she got it!).
    As the new fiscal started in April, the second round of training and monitoring began. Once more, I trained the local group and it soon became apparent that while my manager wanted me to continue to work on special projects (three this time), that this would not be possible.
    I dove into monitoring, and then into advice and guidance, which, having been ignored to give priority to the monitoring, was backlogged by several weeks. Our mandate is to respond to these requests within 48 hours. Yeah.
    Starting in September, there will be another wave of new hires to be trained and monitored followed by a third in November, which I may or may not have to assist with because the position they are being hired for is outside my expertise.
    I’m steeling myself for several weeks out of town in September, and further training in late November.
  2. We may be losing our manager.
    This is a mixed blessing, because my manager is younger than I am, she has a lot of potential for mobility, and, more importantly, she has the skill set to take her fairly high in the corporate hierarchy. Our manager is a driving force for our team, though. She fights for us, and ensures that we have what we need to succeed in our jobs and careers, and what we need to achieve work/life balance.
    About the time I was assigned the second set of special projects, she received and accepted the offer of an acting senior manager. For a few weeks, she attempted to manage both teams. This soon became untenable, and the training team received an acting manager.
    This was supposed to be a temporary situation, until the assessment process for the senior manager’s position was concluded and a permanent senior manager moved into the position. The thing is, my manager’s in that process. If she’s offered the position, she will likely accept. Or she should, because it’s an excellent opportunity for her.
    In the meantime, we have a very capable acting manager, but one who is unfamiliar with our business line, and the responsibilities of the team. We’ve been there before. When I started with the training team back in 2009, we were without an actual manager for years, and the team had been for years previous to that. It does not make for a good situation. Most acting positions last a day short of four months, and with that many changes in leadership, the team was foundering.
    Plus, there have been several retirements among the executives in the last year or so, and as gaps appear, they must be filled, generally from levels below.
    I anticipate we’ll be in a very reactionary mode for some time while the corporate structure stabilizes.
  3. I’m on the verge of giving up ever moving beyond my current circumstances.
    The last pool I was in, for consultant, expired Dec 31st, 2013. Since then, I’ve applied for no less that five other positions. I’ve been screened out of all but one. That one is also for consultant, and I was almost screened out of it, but managed to squeak by. At the interview, most, if not all of the candidates must have failed the written portion, because they had a second written test. We were supposed to know the results of the assessment by the end of June. I think the board members must be on holiday.
    I’m coming up against a geographical brick wall. Our regional headquarters is in Toronto and our national headquarters is in Ottawa. I live in neither city, nor am I willing to move. This is the reason I’ve been screened out of several of the assessment processes. Even though our work environment is virtual (I currently work on a virtual team) someone in the hierarchy wants to consolidate skilled workers in our respective HQs. I get that, but still feel the patent inequity of the situation. I have skills. Mad ones even. While I’m content in my current position, the coming overload of training and monitoring and the potential lack of, or frequent change in, management makes me much less content in the day job.
    I’m getting to the point, though, where I want to give up the fight. Even if I make it into the next consultant pool, I’m not likely to get anything more than an acting position, precisely because I’m anchored in Sudbury. There’s no indication that the situation will change any time soon.
    Always hovering on the edge of my mind is the possibility of leaving the day job early in order to pursue my writing. Do I want to persist in a losing battle for the remaining years of my career?
    Also, Phil may be looking at reducing his hours, transitioning to a subsistence job, or retiring in a few years (which option depends on the uncertainty at home – see below). Since he works for a charity, and I work for a larger employer, I’ve always made more money that he has. Even when I make an agreement for a self-funded leave, that basically takes us to a rough parity. But I still make more. I won’t take the risk of sinking us below the poverty line so I can write full time. Though if I can write full time, there’s a much better chance that I will be able to make a reasonable income within a few years. What will we do for those critical years, however?
    Quandries, quandries . . .
  4. My satisfaction with my writing life is quickly outstripping my satisfaction with my day job.
    Yeah. So. That’s pretty self-explanatory, but my last point, above, is a concern. A big one. I have no answers.

The uncertainty at home

This year, the city has been working on Regent Street, right outside my house. This process has involved the tearing up on my front yard and driveway. A retaining wall is going to be constructed once our gas line is rerouted and the rock in our front yard (which is the same rock in our basement) is hacked away. Our driveway has to be sloped properly and will be resurfaced afterward. There’s no estimated time on when this will happen, but they can’t leave things the way they are for the winter.

Regent Street construction

There has been talk of developing our little street and of extending it through to the other side of the block for years. And I mean YEARS.

The driveway . . . for now

I’ll be clear: this is not happening now.

We’ve been told that it is happening, though. At some vague point in the future. Officially, no one can confirm anything.

In order for this to happen, Marttila Drive has to conform to the dimensions of the cross street. They’ve already made the opposite side of our street conform with Bouchard, which has narrowed the street considerably. On our side, there is a huge rock to deal with, and our house.

Our former front yard

Apparently, there will likely be a new turning lane when the street is expanded. This will cut into both the side and the front of our yard. The proposed retaining wall is already at our front step. Our easement is effectively gone.

This means expropriation.

Really, it’s not a bad thing.

If we had to sell our house, we’d have to invest tens of thousands of dollars to do so, and we probably wouldn’t get the investment back. The value in our property is in the fact that our zoning is commercial/residential, and the property is deep. Yes, it’s mostly Pre-Cambrian Shield, but that’s not unusual in a city like Sudbury. Most developers anticipate blasting.

Plus, it’s not the best place to live with the constant traffic, which includes transports, and the continual noise, which includes inebriated patrons walking home from the bar down Regent.

We’ve been led to believe that the city will make a reasonable offer for the property based on the assessed value. We’re good with that.

My mother lives next door to us (yes, two Marttila’s living on Marttila Drive – it was my grandfather’s property and I’m so over the notion of always having a Marttila live on Marttila Drive, thank you very much) and she will likely opt to sell, if her property is not also expropriated, and we’ll work on some mutually satisfactory solution. My mom’s pretty cool, and Phil and I have already discussed the option of a granny suite, or a duplex, or some other, at this time unnamed, solution.

But we don’t know when any of this will happen.

Last year, one of our neighbours went to an information session and he was told that the development would occur in three to four years. But plans change, and this is why no one Phil has spoken to has been able to tell us anything. It’s so aggravating.

Though our mortgage is paid off, we still have a sizable debt on our line of credit, and a car loan.

This is why I’ve been so reluctant to take any kind of chance on my writing.

I’m still working steadily toward the publication of at least one of my novels, and this year, I’ll have two short stories published in paying markets and I just won a prize for another piece of short fiction (yay!). This still amounts to less than $500 income from my writing. I’m not comfortable with leaving a $60K a year job for that, as wonderful as the publication credits are.

So that’s the deal.

The only stable things in my life right now are my relationship with Phil/my family/my friends, and my writing. It’s enough, and I can still claim contentment, but the rest just makes my head ache.

Thanks for letting me vent.

I’ve tried my best not to descend to the whiny, self-pitying voice in this post. I’ve tried to stick to stating facts, but I know my irritation has likely leaked through. Honestly, these are all first world problems. No one will die, or even go hungry, as a result of any of the above.

Unless I break completely and decide to quit. We might go hungry, then.

I keep this in mind as I wake up each day and I hug my contentment tightly to myself, take a deep breath, and move forward.

I have absolutely no control of all the uncertainty in my life. I can only control my own reaction to it and how much I let it affect my life. Frankly (Frankl-ly?) I don’t feel like giving it that much power.

I’ve bound it in words now. Writing is potent magic 😉

Wishing lots of that for you, my friends!

Break a pencil!

Muse-inks