The next chapter: August 2019 update

September. The end of summer; the resumption of everything else. Fall is a favourite season of mine. Cooler days, brilliant colours, and the bittersweet retreat of the light. Fall is a season of gathering, mustering, of rededicating oneself to one’s priorities.

To that end, I’ve taken this long weekend and, with the exception of this blog post, I’m not writing anything, nor am I critiquing anything. I’m just taking some time for myself and to think about the rest of the year in terms of what I want to accomplish.

The goals I set at the start of the year have mostly been laid aside. Now I’m laying aside a few more and narrowing my focus yet again.

Taking stock

While I did finish drafting the final novel in my epic fantasy series around the time that I’d hoped to, my subsequent review of the series has been agonizingly slow. I haven’t yet finished reading through book two and making my notes. I’d hoped to have read through the whole and started on the next round of revisions. I see that it’s going to take significantly more time than I had allotted. At this rate, I’ll be reading through the end of the year, at least, and not getting to revisions until some time next year.

This is okay. I have more learning and more improving to do before I can do justice to the series.

I’d also set the rather lofty goal of trying to write one short story per month. I have one finished and I’m trying to revise that into shape so I can start submitting it. I’ve remembered that I suck at short. Half the stories I come up with are actually novel length, or at least novella length. Still, I’m going to keep working at the one I’ve written and working on the second story idea I came up with. I hope to have two decent stories moving into next year.

I decided to leave off revising my short stories into collections for self-publication. They’ll still be there. I can return to the projects (one genre and one non-genre collection) in the future.

I did assemble my poetry into a collection and I’ve now received some excellent revision notes. I’ll look at preparing that for submission in September. I’ve also written a few new poems and hope to get those published somewhere in the nearish future. I already sent one submission, in fact, and got a rejection the next day. I hope that doesn’t reflect the overall success of this venture. It’s been a few years since I’ve written much poetry and I’m out of touch with the market.

I’ve received some insightful, but difficult-to-hear, critique on the SF novel I put up for my critique group. I’ve decided that I’m going to work on restructuring and revising that novel for the remainder of the year. This includes November.

Yes, for the first year since I’ve participated, I’m going to be a NaNoWriMo rebel and work on revision instead of a new work. I had thought I was going to proceed to one of the other novel series, but I realize that I can’t keep producing new material without dedicating focused time to revising my existing novels.

Something else I must confess: I have yet to figure out revision in a practical way that works for me. The closest I’ve come to true revision is the work I’ve done on the first book of my epic fantasy series. I’ve changed PoV, removed PoV characters, and removed characters entirely. I’ve rewritten chapters, put chapters on index cards, pinned them to my cork board, and reorganized them for more structural integrity. Still, after all that work, the core story has stayed the same.

In subsequent novels, I’ve only reviewed the work, maybe added a few elements, and mapped the structure as it exists without changing it substantially. I’ve grown fearful of revision. I think I just have to put on my mature writer trousers and do the work. Revision is where all my resistance lives these days.

So, I’m going to go back to basics. I’m going to read through the critiques again and let everything settle. I’ve already started to make some notes and I’m thinking about the story all the time. I’m going to take a page from Victoria Mixon’s book and “reverse engineer” the story, work on the character arcs and story structure, and then I’m going to rewrite the story.

I want to focus on this novel because it’s my only standalone right now. I think it will be my best chance at getting representation.

Wish me luck many broken pencils.

The month in writing

This month was a quiet one. My sense of things is that the sea change happening now has been in the works for a long time. It’s probably been trying to make itself heard since my epic burnout, if I’m being honest. I have to find a better way of taking my work from crappy draft to publishable work.

Accordingly, the bulk of my writing this past month has been on this blog. I increased my blogging goal because of the addition of book reviews, which I’m still trying to catch up on. I’m only going back to the books I read this year, otherwise I’d never catch up (!) still, there are a lot of books to catch up on. Still even with the increased goal of 4,800 words, I blogged 5,097 words, or 106%.

I finished the second version of my January short story. It’s now 6,222 words and will likely have to be cut, but I only wrote 602 “new” words on the story in August. After that, it was all cutting and editing, so there wasn’t anything to report, because how do you record a negative word count? Well, I could put a minus sign beside it, but it becomes even more of a challenge when the word count goes up and down several times in a single writing session. Although I probably did write at least 2,000 words on the story, I can only count the 602, which is 24% of my 2,500-word goal for short fiction in the month.

AugustProgress

The third thing I did was continue my review of the Ascension series. As I mentioned, I’m still on book two.

‘Nuff said there.

Filling the well

The two things I have to report here were not events, per se, and there are no pictures or other artefacts to share with you.

The first thing was my meeting with my poet friend to go over my manuscript. That few hours going over what I needed to fix or change and her encouragement to write some new material was refreshing and I came away from the meeting feeling lighter. It helps that she’s one of my best friends and has always liked my poetry. I’ve already written one new poem which has passed muster 😉

The other was a brief note from one of my critique group encouraging me to take stock and not give up on the SF novel. Another said she enjoyed the novel despite its deficiencies. It’s something to move forward with.

Hope is always a good thing.

What I’m watching and reading

August saw the end of a few mid-season shows.

The latest season of The Handmaid’s Tale came to its close with more harrowing trials for poor June. She’s thoroughly mad now and determined to stay in Gilead until her daughter is free. She’s killed one of the commanders, the Commander, in fact, and Gilead is reeling. The Waterfords have basically screwed each other over and are both in American custody. June’s also been shot helping more than fifty children, with their handmaidens and marthas, to escape. She’s managed to stay clear of retribution, so far, but I don’t think that situation can pertain without seriously straining credibility. That June has remained largely unscathed has already strained my credibility to breaking.

But, of course, I’ll be watching the next season to see what happens. I’ll probably pick up The Testaments when it’s released later this month.

Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD also finished its, what, sixth season? They continued with the fall out from the time travel shenanigans of last season, searching for and finding Fitz, getting embroiled in Chronicom politics, and a strange plague of beasties that destroys worlds. That plague and its mistress, Izel, are being hunted by a man called Sarge who looks exactly like Coulson and, in fact, turns out to be what’s left of him in some inexplicable (literally, they never do manage to explain it to my satisfaction) cosmic switcheroo. Izel is heading for Earth.

She gets possession of the monoliths, which were apparently hers all along, and Coulson let the alien personality within him, Izel’s partner, take over. Though the team manages to defeat the otherworldly pair and close the portal they opened to their realm, May is dying. Fitz and Simmons, aided by a deus ex machina Enoch, come to the rescue. May is put in stasis and they travel back in time to New York to foil the plans of the other Chronicoms who want to make Earth their new home world and have gone back in time to set in motion the events that will destroy the human race and make the world ready for their occupancy when the time comes.

The next season is supposed to be their last and I’m kind of looking forward to it (the end, that is).

I also watch the latest season of The Good Witch. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine.

Finally, Phil and I watch the first season of The Boys. It was dark and bloody and thoroughly enjoyable.

Reading-wise, I tackled Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Fated Sky, the sequel to The Calculating Stars. Loved.

Then, I read Richard Wagamese’s unfinished last novel, Starlight. It was lovely and touching and I wish he had been able to finish it.

Next, I dove into Emma Newman’s Planetfall series, reading Planetfall, After Atlas, and Before Mars. I enjoyed all three, the third the most, but, as in her Split Worlds series, Newman is drawn to writing isolated and somewhat powerless characters. It’s sometimes difficult to read, but ultimately satisfying.

Finally, I read Ursula K. Le Guin’s Words are My Matter, a collection of some of her speeches, critical introductions, and reviews. Loved.

Again, I’ll be reviewing several of these in coming months.

And that was a month in this writer’s life. Thanks for coming by.

Until tomorrow, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories 🙂

The Next Chapter

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