The next chapter: December 2016 update and year in review

My goodness, here we are in 2017 (!) and now it’s time for me to take stock of my year. Did I accomplish what I hoped to at the beginning of the year?

We’ll get back to that in a few.

First, I have to sum up (‘cause there is too much—I live by PB references) December 2016.

I knew when I decided to tackle Wavedancer, the third book in my epic fantasy series, for NaNoWriMo 2016 that I wouldn’t even come close to finishing the draft (it is EPIC fantasy, after all) in November. I was, however, foolish enough to think, initially, at least, that I’d write another 50k words in December and finish the draft by the end of the year.

I should have known better.

This is the fourth year I’ve done NaNo, and my third win. Each year, I enter December in a fog, still half-living in the world of my novel. I work a day job. There’s no way I could keep up the NaNo pace for another whole month.

Accordingly, I adjusted my expectations to 500 words a day and, though there were two days I didn’t write at all and a few assorted low-count days in the mix, there were also five days in which I wrote over a thousand words, so it all came out in the wash.

decemberprogress

To be more specific, of the 15,500 word goal for the month, I wrote 18,859 words, exceeding my goal by 3,359 words 🙂

Blogging 5,610 words brought my writing total for the month to 21,600 words.

Not 50k, but not bad at all 🙂

Back to my year-end review.

2016 was the first year that Jamie Raintree incorporated separate columns and totals for revision in her Writing Tracker, now called the Writing & Revision Tracker.

Though I’ve looked back at 2015’s and 2014’s trackers, the totals were skewed because in 2014, I didn’t track my revisions, and in 2015, I was tracking my revisions at one counted word for every two words revised. So there’s no real point in trying to compare.

What I set out to do at the beginning of 2016 was to go through all of my written novels to date and start to revise.

I’m happy to say that I accomplished this goal, but things didn’t go quite as I’d hoped. They never do. Quite.

For most of the novels, it was more of a getting reacquainted with the stories and the characters. I didn’t do a lot of revising, but now that I have the lay of the land, so to speak, the next passes will all be more in-depth.

I already mentioned that, having revised my goals post-NaNo, I did write two thirds of Wavedancer. To be specific, I wrote 71,157 words between November and December, and I will continue in that vein until the draft is done in my estimation.

I continued to query Initiate of Stone, but finally got it through my thick skull that it’s not the best project to use when trying to get a deal. So I’m changing gears and going to prepare another project for querying this year. We’ll see how it goes.

How did all this shape up as far as numbers went?

yearend

Of my 138,100 word writing goal, between all projects, I wrote 169,288 words, or 123%. Considering all the revision I was doing, that’s a lovely total.

With respect to revision, I managed 359,114 words of my 375,000 goal, or about 96%.

Some things happened in the year that I didn’t plan on, however.

Though it didn’t happen until July, I wrote a new piece of short fiction. I hadn’t expected that with my focus on the novels. It was a good surprise 🙂

January through March, I participated in the first offering of the Story Genius course created by Jennie Nash and the story genius herself, Lisa Cron. It was something unexpected, but I couldn’t let the opportunity pass. I had to try to make space for the course in my overall plan for the year and ended up making some poor decisions that didn’t serve me well.

While my experience in the course wasn’t, overall, a positive one, I still love the Story Genius method (and book—go get it!) and I would recommend it highly to anyone who can devote 100% of their time to the work. You will reap the benefits.

I just learned, in the most ego-wrenching way possible, that I cannot learn on someone else’s schedule. Especially while I’m working full time. I also made the decision to use Apprentice of Wind, the second in my epic fantasy series, as the project for my work in the course. Story Genius, in the form I took it, was not intended for novels that are already drafted, or for books other than the first in a series. I understand that strategies and approaches for projects of this type have been developed since.

These issues were entirely of my own creation and should not cast any doubt on the excellence of the course, of Lisa or Jennie, or of their dedicated team of editors.

I signed up for K.M. Weiland’s Character Arcs course through the Digital Freedom Academy. It’s entirely self-paced and Kate has loaded her usual extras into the course materials. Her Creating Character Arcs book also came out in the fall, and I definitely recommend both. I am a fangirl, though.

In August, I signed up for another Nelson Literary Agency course on the first five pages. NLA courses are excellence sources of feedback from professional agents who know what makes a successful submission.

At the end of September, I enrolled in a Mary Robinette Kowal Short Fiction Intensive. Blew my mind.

Finally, as far as courses go, I signed up for a course by Kristen Lamb on writing query letters and synopses.

I also tried my hand at #PitchWars for the first time with Reality Bomb, and while I didn’t make the extremely competitive cut, I did have a positive experience thanks to the team who considered my proposal, Michael Mammay and Dan Koboldt. It’s quite an eye-opener, and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to test the waters with one of their novels.

It was a lot of fun and another pleasant surprise.

As far as conferences and conventions, I attended Ad Astra, The Canadian Writers’ Summit, and my very first WorldCon last year.

I was also pleased to participate as a panellist at Wordstock Sudbury 2016.

And I had two stories published in the Sudbury Writers’ Guild anthology, Sudbury Ink, which launched in November.

Complicating all that, Phil had some significant health issues to deal with at the beginning of the year (now resolved), and, from August through to November, he renovated our living room after work and on the weekends.

We’re still waiting for the last pieces of furniture to be delivered, and he’ll be working on building wall-to-wall bookshelves, as the weather allows (he’s working in the unheated garage) throughout the winter. Pictures will be forthcoming in a future post.

Looking at all of that written out, I accomplished a helluva lot last year.

I think I’m going to have to ease back a bit in 2017, work smarter instead of harder.

Yeah, that’s the ticket.

What are my plans for 2017?

Well, you know I’m not one for resolutions. I have goals that I work steadily toward and amend as required.

First, I’ve nabbed my copy of Jamie Raintree’s 2017 Writing & Revision tracker. I’m setting up the projects in series this year, and will identify different novels in my Ascension series with different colours so I’ll be able to distinguish them and extract the numbers I need to feed my production geek.

I’ll continue to finish drafting Wavedancer, as I mentioned (way) above. At my current rate, I should be finished by the end of February.

Once drafting is done, I’m going to return to revising. I should be able to get through all of the novels in the course of the year. Again, as I mentioned above, I intend these revisions to be more in depth and to address some of the structural issues, as I see them, in the stories.

I’m going to be working with a coach to get Reality Bomb reworked. It’s something else I’m trying in my quest to improve my craft. My hope is that I’ll be able to query RB later this year.

With the short fiction surprise last year, I’ve actually had another idea I want to work on, and some other ideas for revising a couple of my other stories to improve them. Accordingly, I’ve made some room for these projects in my plan.

For NaNoWriMo, I’m going to tackle the fourth novel in the epic fantasy series, tentatively titled Playing with Fire.

I may also have a new, semi-regular writing gig to tell you about. I don’t want to let the cat out of the proverbial bag yet, but if it materializes, you can be sure I’ll let you know all the tasty deets I can 🙂

I’ve already signed up for the Story Masters Workshop in May. Donald Maass, James Scott Bell, and Christopher Vogler are coming to Toronto. This is a squee-worthy score, in my books. It was another opportunity I couldn’t let pass.

When I heard that the No Excuses cruise was going to be in Europe this year and timed to immediately precede WorldCon in Helsinki, I was seriously considering signing up. Unfortunately some non-writerly priorities make both the cruise and WorldCon impractical. Mellie haz a sad.

In fact, I may not attend any conferences or conventions at all this year. We’ll see how things shape up.

The reason for this dialling back is that Phil, who’s in his 50’s now, wants to proceed with renovations to the kitchen and bathroom this year. Though he will continue to do as much of the work himself as he can, these two projects will require a significant financial investment. And we haven’t paid off the living room renovation yet.

We also want to get another puppy. This will depend on whether my employer sorts out their payroll issues and I can apply for another self-funded leave. I will need the time to train our new dependent, furry quadruped. Again, deets will be forthcoming as I can share them.

On that front, if the payroll issues at work are sorted, I’ll finally see my acting pay from mid-February to the end of September last year, less about a thousand dollars outstanding from my last self-funded leave.

We’ve heard that union negotiations have resulted in an offer, the terms of which look reasonable. If we vote to ratify the new contract, it will mean about two and a half years of retro pay and a signing bonus, again, dependent on when the payroll issues can be sorted.

Our car loan should be paid off in late spring, as well, and so, between it all, we’ll have a little extra money to use to pay down our debts.

Phil got a promotion and raise last year from his employer, so we figure this will be the year to finish the renovations.

As you can see, this is going to be a different kind of year, but I’m hopeful that everything will work out.

Besides, come the end of February, it will be the Chinese Year of the Rooster (I’m a rooster!) and I think the powers that be might finally be aligning in my favour 😉

Here’s to a fabulous and productive 2017 for everyone.

Love and light and loads of good words to you all!

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: March 2016 update

In my 2015 year-end update, I said that 2016 would be the year of revision. To this point, I’d only ever revised the one novel, Initiate of Stone. I revised IoS eight times and I recently got a few ideas on how to improve it further as a result of my first run through of Apprentice of Wind.

In the first few days of March, I finished that first review of AoW. I’m going to return to it again, but this time, as I mentioned last month, I’m going to apply what I hope to be improvements to IoS and then move on to AoW.

My idea is to reinforce my voice over the two novels, which is quite different to the other novels I’ve drafted so far. Most of those are in a modern setting. Urban fantasy of various stripes. Though I’ve worked with IoS for so long, when it came to reviewing AoW, because I’d drafted the five other novels in between, I found I’d lost touch with the voice of the series and its characters.

We’ll see how that turns out, later in the year (I hope).

YTDProgress

Year Goals and Totals page

The current draft of AoW stands at 119,590 words. So 120K, which is reasonable for an epic fantasy.

I then moved onto Figments, my YA urban fantasy. It’s considerably shorter, nineteen chapters, and 53,536 words. I know I’ll have to punch that up a bit, but I have a number of ideas to make that happen.

Both of these novels were drafted, let to sit, printed out, read through, mapped, let to sit again, read through again, and then reviewed. I just changed some of the major things, POV, character deletion, consistency over the novels (in the case of AoW), and notes for future revision.

I don’t think I’ll need as many drafts of either AoW or Figments as I needed with IoS to finish them to my satisfaction.

I’m trying something different with Marushka, which I moved on to in the last few days of March.

My revision plan so far has been to review a chapter a day, which was challenging for AoW and Figments, because a number of the chapters of both were several thousand words long. I often found myself up until midnight on a weekday trying to get my work finished before I went to bed.

Marushka was the first novel I drafted using Scrivener and it really changed the way I drafted. The chapters are comparatively tiny (1000 to 1500 words so far) but there are a lot more of them (54).

I didn’t print Marushka out. I didn’t read it through or map it. As I review each chapter, I’m reading it through for the first time and mapping it as I go.

We’ll see if this is more or less productive than printing the draft out, and reading and mapping it out prior to my first run through.

I’m approaching this year of revision as an opportunity to experiment. My process is in continual evolution and, as I learn, from both success and failure, I’m seeing improvement in my process and in my writing overall.

I’m not looking for short cuts as much as efficiencies. I’m not doing any less work, I’m just doing it differently.

Again, we’ll see how it goes.

So here’s how the month breaks down.

MarchProgress

MarchProgress1

Want your own Writing and Revision Tracker? Visit http://jamieraintree.com/writing-revision-tracker

  • AoW – 7,334 words revised
  • Figments – 53,536 words revised
  • Marushka – 4,737 words revised
  • Blog – 8,436 words written.

I achieved 141% of my writing goal and 177% of my revision goal.

At this rate, I’ll finish the first run through on Marushka part way through May and move onto Reality Bomb and finally, Gerod and the Lions. Once I’ve got everything reviewed once, I’m going to take a break (which I tend to need in the summer months) and work on my outline for Mistress of Waves, the third book in my Ascension series and NaNo 2016 project 🙂

Then I’ll get back to deeper revisions until November arrives. I may not be able to conquer more than IoS/AoW. Maybe I make it as far as Figments.

Querying continues. I’ve not devoted much time to short fiction recently, though.

As far as conferences and conventions, I’m hitting Ad Astra (April 29-May 1), The Canadian Writers’ Summit (June 15-19, though I’ll only be attending June 17-19), and WorldCon, AKA MidAmericon II (August 17-21). I have paid my fees and reserved accommodation, but it’s all pending leave approval.

I’m holding my breath until I know it’s approved. Once it is, I’ll be able to book my flight to Kansas City.

My employer asks us to apply for leave every six months. We apply in March for the first half of the fiscal year, April to September, and in September for October through March. Approval is subject to seniority and operational demands (peak seasons).

I should know whether this first round of leave requests has been approved by the end of April.

My plans for fall and winter will have to wait on the approval of the second round of leave in October.

I’ll save those potential plans for a later update.

For the remainder of this month, I’ll be offering some Series discoveries posts (fall season, part two, mid-season follies, and anime) and at least one book review (Jane Ann McLachlan’s second Kia novel, The Salarian Desert Game).

As of Ad Astra, the convention reportage will resume.

So there’s lots of Writerly Goodness to look forward to, and of course, Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday curations will continue through the week.

In the meantime, break a bunch of pencils, you wonderful, creative people.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: January 2016 update

First, a note about the non-writing parts of my life

Well, the new year has gotten off to a bit of a shaky start, not with respect to my writing and revision goals, but with respect to other stuff.

In the last week of December, Phil got sick enough he had to go see a doctor. He hadn’t been in a very long time and in the process of diagnosing the illness he went to see the doctor for in the first place, the doctor diagnosed him with two other, fairly serious, illnesses. Three for the price of one. Yay?

I won’t go into the details, because it’s not my story to tell, but he’s on several medications, we’ve had to change our diet (not significantly, but still), and we’ll have to commit to several more lifestyle changes in the coming months. It’s going to be a good thing, ultimately, but I’m a creature of habit. Change is stressful.

Phil’s been told not to tackle everything at once, and so we’re dealing with things one issue, and one day, at a time.

I’ve gotten a cold for the first time in about three years. Since I don’t get them often, I tend to get doozies. I’m also in the process of seeing whether I’m anaemic or not, and my gall bladder is acting up.

I guess this is my reaction to the stress of everything else.

Which includes learning that I’ve been screened out of the consultant process at work. We’ve had a general information session, because many of the over three hundred people who applied were screened out, but I’m still getting an informal discussion of the specific reasons I was screened out. That happens Tuesday.

I’ve really been trying not to get upset. Work is work and I’ve tried to prioritize my creative work over the day job, but having been successful in the last three processes and had four acting assignments in as many years, I can’t help but feel that I’ve been kicked in the teeth. They still have testing and interviews to go, and if the eventual pool ends up being as small at I suspect it will be, there will be another process in the future. I have to question the point of putting myself through the wringer again, though.

My current acting assignment ends next Friday and at that point, so far as I know, I’m heading back to the training and advice & guidance team, but everyone keeps saying that I’m not going back and even managers aren’t including me in the training plan and no one is telling me anything. I’m kind of suffering from mushroom syndrome.

I’m trying to be Zen, but I’m not very good at that, in all honesty. I am a lot more laid back than some people, but I internalize a lot. Hence, the illen.

Now, onto the Writerly Goodness 🙂

I took some time over the holidays to plan out my writing year. Using Jamie Raintree’s amazing new Writing and Revision Tracker, I set writing and revision goals for the year, and for each month.

As I mentioned in my last Next chapter update, 2016 will be the year of revision. As I return to the querying process with Initiate of Stone, I realize I want to have some of my other five finished novels revised and edited and ready to go so that I can keep working toward my dream of a traditional deal.

What I did was to add up the current word totals of all my drafts and divided them up according to what I figure will be my productive months. I also estimated what my blogging totals would be per month and add in my NaNo 2016 writing goals.

What that worked out to was 37,550 words of revision each month (except November and December), between five and seven thousand words of blogging each month (except November), and 50k words drafted in November and December (NaNo this year will be book three of the Ascension series I figure it will take me two months to complete the draft).

So this is what January looked like.

JanuaryProgress

And I even took a few days off (!)

The month started with a couple of days devoted to reading through my draft of Apprentice of Wind, and then I set to. I’ll probably have the first run through done within the next couple of weeks, and then I’m probably going to go through it at least one more time.

So at 9,274 words, I wrote 141% of my writing goal and at 69,774 words, I almost doubled my revision goal (186%).

I also revised and sent out two short stories, and heard that another short story is still under consideration from a submission last year. So that’s awesome.

I also sent out IoS packages to open submission periods for a couple of publishers. As of the end of last year, the three Canadian small publishers I’d pitched last fall had either declined or failed to respond.

We’ll see where all of that gets me.

Other excitement

I’ve attended a few events this past month. The first was Last Stop at the Sudbury Theatre Centre, in which a couple of writer friends had their plays in progress workshopped in front of a live audience (us). It was awesome.

Then, I attended a Skype workshop with Barbara Kyle through the Sudbury Writers’ Guild on adding magic and verve to your first thirty pages. Barbara is an excellent presenter and so knowledgeable about her craft. It’s a pleasure to learn from her.

Finally, I attended a lecture by singer/songwriter Steven Page at Laurentian University on ending the stigma around mental illness. He sang a couple of songs from his new album and discussed his struggles with mental illness.

I’m also currently enrolled in two online courses.

First, I couldn’t resist signing up for Story Genius with Lisa Cron and Jennie Nash. It’s based on Lisa’s new book (of the same name) and is eight weeks long. I’m working on my week four submission this weekend. It’s hard (like, it hurts my poor, tender head hard), especially negotiating the day job and health issues Phil and I are facing right now, but I can see how it’s going to improve my ability to write a novel that will hook readers and keep them reading.

Second, I signed up for Jamie Raintree’s Design a writing career you love workshop. I’m trying to keep one foot in the business side of things. Jamie’s an excellent instructor and I always enjoy her courses.

I’ve booked my hotel for both Ad Astra in April and WorldCon in August and am still waiting for the registration information for The Canadian Writers’ Summit to emerge.

So, I guess it’s no wonder I’m under the weather at the moment.

By and large, though, I love my life. The creative part of it anyway 😉

Next week, the CanCon 2015 reportage continues.

Hope your creative endeavours are moving full steam ahead and that you’re all well on your ways to meeting your goals. Feel free to share your trials and triumphs in the comments below.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: December 2015 update and a year in the writerly life

Another year has come and gone. This one flew, but was filled with both Writerly Goodness, and sadness.

First up: December 2015

DecemberProgress

I kept drafting Reality Bomb until it was complete. By December 20, it was, at a tidy 65,556 words (total). 10,550 of those were written in December.

Then, I moved on, or back, to Gerod and the Lions, finishing that draft on December 31, with 45,012 total words in the draft (not bad for a MG novel) and 6,252 of those words written in December.

I also revised and submitted two short stories, but the net words were negligible, so I didn’t enter them into the Excel.

Finally, I wrote another 6,647 words on the blog.

My total production for the month: 23,449 words. That’s my second best month after November (and you know what happened then) for non-revision work.

2015 in review

Did I accomplish everything I wanted to in 2015?

Mostly. And I did better in some respects than I hoped. So, yay me 🙂

I did finish my last (for now) revisions of Initiate of Stone and started querying. I also took several query letter writing workshops and revised my query many times. Currently, the novel, or excerpts of same are on submission with several small publishers. I’ll be following up this month. If those submissions bear no fruit, I’ll be returning to the querying in February.

I did map and reverse engineer Apprentice of Wind and Figments. Both are ready for revision. I’ll be starting on AoW tonight, or tomorrow. I just gave the existing draft another read-through. And yes, I’m now in the everything-I-write-is-shit phase of the revision process. This, too, shall pass 😛

I finished Marushka, but have not mapped or reverse engineered the draft yet. This will come later in 2016, which I am going to call The Year of Revision.

I finished GatL (see above).

I won NaNoWriMo with Reality Bomb and subsequently finished the draft (again, see above).

I revised and submitted short stories to 17 contests and open anthology calls. That’s more than I ever have in the past.

I did not write any new stories.

I have exhausted the available markets for my one long short story and have received sufficient feedback that I believe the piece to be the beginning of a novel, rather than a true short story. It will be slotted into the drafting schedule when I get through the current spate of revision.

It was a year of near misses. I made the short list in two contests and merited a second reading in one anthology call, but ultimately failed to make the final cut in each case.

At the eleventh hour, however, I had two short stories accepted into the as yet untitled Sudbury Writers’ Guild anthology, which, though work will continue throughout the year on revision, editing, cover design, layout, and all that funky stuff, I don’t think will be published this year. You never know, but we’ll see.

I did deliver my How to get published workshop in February.

I attended Ad Astra in April and CanCon in October.

I did not attend the writing retreat in the summer. I tried to attend another, smaller writing workshop in August by the same author, but my plans were derailed by work.

I organized two great workshops delivered by Jane Ann McLachlan and Madeleine Harris-Callway in May and June, respectively, and participated in Wordstock 2015.

On the downside, my dog, Nuala, died of kidney failure in July, which sent me into a bit of a tailspin, but I wrote through it, with only one month of I-can’t-bear-the-thought-of-writing-ness (August).

 

2015Progress

Let’s look at the numbers:

  • 68,784 words written and/or revised for Initiate of Stone (remember, my strategy was to halve the words revised so as not to skew the overall numbers too much)
  • 20,856 words written on Gerod and the Lions
  • 39,034 words written on Marushka
  • 65,556 words written on Reality Bomb
  • 1,676 words of short fiction written and/or revised, and
  • 83,289 words written on this blog

That’s a grand total of 279,195 words!

That’s more than 100k more words than my 175,480 total in 2014. Last year, I called that a fuckload. So 2015 was a mega-fuckload?

This ramble is to say that I am incredibly pleased with 2015’s production.

2016: The year of revision

I realized last month, in the wake of NaNo, that if I did complete the drafts of Reality Bomb and GatL by the end of the year, I’d have five novels (aside from IoS) on my hands. Five unrevised novels.

So, guess what Ima do this year? Yup. Revise and edit those suckers to within an inch of their wordy lives.

Using Jamie Raintree’s new and improved Writing and Revision Tracker, I’ve established some lofty goals for myself, like 37,550 words of revision a month every month but November and December. And this year, I’m counting every word, because Jamie’s spreadsheet accounts for revision separately.

Plus, anywhere between two and seven thousand words of new writing each month (mostly blogging) except for November (2K on the blog and 50K for NaNo) and December (between 6 and 7K on the blog and potentially another 50K to finish off NaNo, which I hope to be book three in the Ascension series—epic fantasy = epic word count).

I’ll also be continuing to revise and submit some short fiction, map and reverse engineer Marushka and Reality Bomb (and GatL, if I can get to it) and outline Mistress of Water for NaNo.

Like I said, my goals this year are lofty. I won’t be disappointed if I don’t reach them all, but I find that if I set high goals, I tend to stretch to reach them. There are certain areas in which I can push myself outside of my comfort zone and be pretty damned happy about it. I lurve the writing life.

All of that means that I intend to aim for a super-duper mega-fuckload of production in the coming year.

Wish me luck (break a pencil) 😉

I’ll also be working toward a more balanced approach to writing and revising in the future. I’d like to draft two novels a year, one in NaNo, and one outside it, and work on revision and editing around the drafting. But that is for ensuing years. I have to get on top of my current drafts, first.

Conference and convention-wise, I’ll be returning to Ad Astra (April 29 – May 1), possibly attending the Canadian Writers’ Summit (June 15-19) and . . . I’ll be attending my first WorldCon (Aug 17-21)!

Leave pending, of course.

I have no idea what’s going to be happening with me at work in the next year or so. Right now, I’m in another acting position until Feb 12, but I have applied for the next consultant’s assessment process and pool. Also, we’re re-entering contract negotiations this year. We could be successful, or we could be going on strike. I’ve been designated essential in the latter case, and will have to work, regardless.

So it’s a crap shoot at work for the foreseeable.

If I can negotiate another leave with income averaging sometime in this next year (I’ve tried twice before for November and been asked to defer for operational reasons) Phil and I may be welcoming a new little squirmer into our home. We want the time to house train the new pup and enjoy the milk breath and buttery belly to its utmost 🙂

And that was my best imitation of Janus, looking back, and looking forward.

All the best to all of you in the coming year.

The Next Chapter

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, August 9-15, 2015

Four methods to invigorate your prose with surprising sentences. K.M. Weiland.

Moar Katie: How not to waste your story setting’s full potential.

The love that dare not appear in print. David Corbett for Writer Unboxed.

The socially awkward writer. Sarah Callender for Writer Unboxed.

Roz Morris guest posts for Romance University on what you need to do for your NaNoWriMo preparation.

Harry Connolly shares what keeps him writing full time. Jim C. Hines.

The five things productive writers do differently. Joe Bunting guests posts on Tim Grahl’s blog.

Kristen Lamb explains what went wrong with True Detective, season 2.

To the lab! Veronica Sicoe writes about creating alien species in three steps.

Joanna Penn and Guy Windsor discuss the difficulties of writing good sword fights.

Just call her our lady of dark grace. Silvia Moreno-Garcia responds to commenters who call her a “little bitch” for daring to publish an anthology of Lovecraftian tales written by women.

Why do people say that the novel is dead? The New York Times.

Deborah Malcom was inspired by Neil Gaiman to create Meh, her wordless picture book that helps kids understand mental health issues. The Big Issue.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s first fantasy story to be published. Aaaannd, it’s from the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic poem. The Guardian.

Hear Shakespeare’s plays in Renaissance English. Open Culture.

Cannabis found in Shakespeare’s pipes (!). As a friend said, this explains The Tempest! The Telegraph.

Russell Smith offers six tips to help you write and publish your first novel. The Globe and Mail.

Five Room writers talk about their favourite writing tools.

Being a medieval librarian was hard work. Medieval books.

New images from the set of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Entertainment Weekly.

More Tipsday coming up next week, but in the meantime, swing back for some thoughty on Thursday 😉

Tipsday

The next chapter: March 2015 update

Last month, I wrote about how I was reprioritizing my life because I’d made the realization that pouring all my creative energy into the day-job was not making me happy. It wasn’t getting me any closer to my goals as a writer, either.

I started March out, work-wise, by applying for my self-funded leave and putting in my vacation requests for the first two quarters of the 2015-16 fiscal (to the end of September). I started expressing my opinion (which, of course, did me no favours, professionally) and reframing my experience with the perspective my wee revelation had provided me.

A series of serendipitous learning opportunities came my way, many of them concerned with following one’s dreams, or finding one’s calling. Funny how these things happen when we really need them to.

As I write this post, I’m listening to Michael Hyatt’s podcast on the Disciplined Pursuit of Less. This month’s newsletter from Katie Weiland included a piece on her “spring cleaning” of her subscriptions and social media. She was doing this to reclaim writing time from potentially wasteful or distracting electronic practices.

Having said all that, I was burned out by the time March rolled around. Last fall, when I had originally intended to take my self-funded leave but decided to defer it, I said that I was a little toasty around the edges, but that I’d probably be able to hold out until the spring.

That was before this acting consultancy.

Truthfully, I was burnt before the end of January. Part-way through February, I stopped revising Initiate of Stone and then I stopped drafting Marushka.

With IoS, I had to shift back into drafting mode to rewrite a chapter that was completely altered by my decision to remove a character from the novel. I was blocked, essentially, as I tried to write around the hole I’d decided to make in my plot. I didn’t stop writing per se, but I was having trouble finding my way out of the maze.

I made several abortive attempts to redraft the chapter in Word (which I didn’t count), but ultimately found that drafting by hand (which I also do not count) was much more effective. Once I had the chapter mapped and pieces of it written out, I was able to regain my momentum and complete the new chapter in Word.

Shifting gears with IoS meant that I didn’t have the drafting mojo going for Marushka. By looking at my spreadsheets, I can see clearly that when I stopped revising IoS, about a week later, I stopped drafting Marushka. Once I got back on track with IoS (the word counts recorded in red), again, about a week later, I was able to pick up with the drafting of Marushka again.

So, clearly, while it is possible for me to work on multiple projects at once, I definitely have to be working on them in different phases (drafting vs. revising). I’ve also realized that with the exception of the blog and some short stories, that the limit of my focus with regard to multiple novel-length projects is two.

Interestingly enough, I’m getting close to the end of drafting Marushka. I’ll be short of my 75k goal for the draft, but I’m okay with that. So far what seems to be my evolving pattern is to draft short, rewrite long, and revise/edit to goal length. Will let you know if this new piece of my process puzzle proves to be effective in the long run.

After my staggered, two-week disruptions in IoS and Marushka respectively, I got back on track for the rest of the month.

Judging for the Friends of the Merril contest continues. Originally, when I was notified that my story made the long-list, I was also advised that judging would be complete by March 31st. On March 31st, a post was released on the site indicating that deliberations continued.

I have a 25% chance of placing. The delay is a little nerve-wracking, but I’m trying to remain positive. It means I have some tough competition, but that we’re all in the same quality boat.

I also spiffed up three short stories, including the one I submitted to the FotM contest, and sent them off for consideration in the Sudbury Writers’ Guild anthology.

I’d wanted to revise my longer short story for submission to a magazine, but didn’t have the energy or focus to spare.

I did, however, submit my short story “The Broken Places,” which was published in Bastion last year, for consideration in the Imaginarium anthology. It’s a year’s best anthology put out by ChiZine Publications. It’s a long shot, but I can’t win if I don’t play 😉 So sayeth the lottery gods.

Now, at the beginning of April, and with a long weekend to enjoy, I’ve decided that I’m taking a breather. I’m still burnt, and trying to work all day and then come home and write all night is making things worse.

I have a writing sample to prepare for my workshop with Julie Czerneda and Ad Astra next weekend. So . . . I’m being evil and burning through Avatar on Netflix 🙂

This past week, I walked home from work. Once. I’m still sore. Mellie is out of shape. So I’m going to get back on track with regard to that. My goal is to walk home from work three evenings a week. It’s about five kilometres and takes about an hour. I have a number of books on Audible ready for the purpose.

There are a couple of anthologies that I’d like to write stories for in April, but I’m not sure if I’m going to manage them. My main goal is to complete this round of revision on IoS and my draft of Marushka. Anything else is gravy. Not saying that I’m purposefully disregarding these anthologies; I like gravy, but I’m also aware of my limitations, now more than ever.

Once that’s done, I’m going to shift gears again with IoS and get into query mode and I’ll then be completing my draft of Gerod and the Lions.

Those are my goals for the intermediate future.

Now to take a look at my progress for the month:

March Writing Progress

IoS Revisions (remember these are half counts, except for the new chapter in red, which were all new words): 11,901 words. Compare this with 11,851 in February, and 7,789 in January. I’m at the 50% mark of the novel.

Bloggage: 7,200 words. This has held more or less steady with 6,676 words in February and 8,432 words in January. I’m at 23% of my annual goal, which is more or less where I expected to be for March (one quarter through the year).

Drafting Marushka: 4,520 words in March; 3,859 in February; and my blow-me-away 9,462 in January. I’m at 44% of my drafting goal. I might make 60% by the time the story is finished.

Short stories: 90 words in March; 1,206 in February; and 34 in January. I’m at 27% of my goal for the year which is good.

Totals: 23,711 for March; 23,592 for February; 25,717 for January.

March Summary

So there we are.

Progress is, as ever, being made.

Now, season 3 of Avatar is calling, and Bitten this evening.

Have a lovely Easter, everyone.

See you on Tipdsay!

The Next Chapter

The Next Chapter: February 2015 update

As you may have been able to surmise from recent weekend posts, February was a rough month for me. March is gearing up to be another such, but, the good news? Apparently, work misery doesn’t affect my creative life 😉

February 2015 Progress

Revisions of Initiate of Stone overtook drafting of Marushka, quantity wise. Blogging dropped a bit, and short fiction increased as I got back on that horse after my rejections in January.

I submitted a fantasy piece to the Friends of the Merril contest and I’m pleased to announce that I made the long list. I can’t disclose the name of the piece at this time because the judging is blind and I don’t want to prejudice the judges one way or the other. For those of you who may be in on the secret, please don’t let the cat out of the bag for the same reasons, please and thank you. Judging should be complete by the end of March. I hope to have more good news to share.

January was my best-ever month, productivity-wise, at 25,717 words, but, amazingly, February wasn’t far behind with 23,592 words between all active projects.

Revisions of IoS clocked in at 11,851 words (and remember revised totals are halved), Marushka at 3,859 words (this was the speed at which I expected the drafting to go—last month was a surprise), and short stories at 1,206 words. The blog’s share of the total word count was 6,676.

Year to Date Summary

As you can see by the summary tab, I’m 33% toward my goal of revising IoS, 31% toward my drafting goal for Marushka, 25% of my goal for short stories, and 16% of the way to my annual blog word count goal. It’s nice to see those bar graphs growing as I progress.

What’s up for March?

I’ll be submitting three stories to the Sudbury Writers’ Guild anthology, and revising another piece of short fiction for another market.

There are a couple of anthologies I’d like to submit to in April, and so I’m going to start drafting those. Both anthologies are themed, and I don’t have anything suitable in my current oeuvre.

I’m going to continue revising IoS. So far, I’m quite pleased with my progress. I’ve hit a point, though, where I have to start rewriting chunks of the novel because I’m writing out one of the characters. It’s a little more challenging than I expected, switching into drafting mode in the middle of revisions. In fact, it’s kind of stumped me this first week of March. I had to resort to writing by hand to get back into the groove.

I’m going to continue drafting Marushka. Though my goal is for a 75k draft, I’m thinking that I’ll land somewhere between 50 and 60k. There’s a lot of fleshing out that has to happen. I may overshoot my 75k goal when I do flesh things out, and then I’ll have to edit back down. This seems to be the way things go for me (so far).

Blogging will be blogging and I don’t anticipate a huge change in that department at this time.

I have registered for Ad Astra (April 10-12) and a Master Class with Julie Czerneda, booked my hotel, and put in for my leave from work around the weekend. This is a goody-goody-gumdrops event for me and I’ll be doing the reportage thing again 🙂 It’s only a month away! Eeeee!

That’s it on writerly progress until next month.

Next up, I’m going to be posting about anime and manga, and a writer friend has inspired me to write a post on my literary mothers. Should prove to be interesting. I hope you’ll all think so 😀

The Next Chapter

The Next Chapter: December 2014 update and a year in the writerly life

Janus has two heads so he can look back and ahead. Plus, you really can’t make meaningful progress unless you take some time to reflect on your accomplishments and understand where your journey has brought you to this point.

Let’s start with December, shall we?

In the wake of NaNoWriMo, I needed a wee respite from the purely creative writing. I kept up with my regular blog posts and caught up on a few things that happened in November that I had set aside posting about because of the aforementioned NaNo.

I returned to Marushka after a few days, though, because the force is strong in this one 😉 Also, I have to finish my shit (Wendigism).

Toward the end of the month, though, I wanted to get another short fiction submission revised and sent.

December 2014 writing progress

So at the end of the month, I’d written a total of 15,167 words, 8,812 of them on the blog, 6,234 on Marushka, and 121 on the short story.

What about 2014?

It was a good year, I think.

Since it was the first year I tracked my writerly output, I really have nothing to compare it to, but I know I’ve written more words in this year than I did in 2013 or any year before that.

The highlights:

“The Broken Places” was published in Bastion Science Fiction Magazine in its June issue.

“On the Ferry” won second place in the In Places Between contest.

“Downtime” will be in the fall 2014 issue of On Spec Magazine. The issue hasn’t come out yet (long story short—please subscribe or support them on their Patreon page), but I’m still pleased as punch.

I have writerly income to report on my tax return for the second year in a row!

I’ve put “The Broken Places” and “Downtime” in the short story category in the Auroras. It’s my first year doing this kind of thing, so we’ll see how it goes.

Overall, I submitted six short stories for publication. This is fewer than in past years, but given my greater focus on my larger projects, I’m happy with this.

I attended Ad Astra, CanWrite!, and When Words Collide conferences, and workshops by Brian Henry and The Humber School for Writers.

In 2014, I have written:

  • 110,361 words on this blog
  • 34,589 words on Marushka
  • 21,464 words on Gerod and the Lions
  • 3,521 words of short fiction
  • 3,161 words on Apprentice of Wind
  • 2,384 words on Figments
  • Total: 175,480

2014 Summary

That’s a fuckload of words. Sorry. I felt the profanity appropriate.

Plus, I mapped out and reverse engineered both IoS and Figments, and revised some of IoS.

I am still eternally grateful to Jamie Raintree for her wonderful Excel spreadsheet. This year’s has enough project slots that I don’t have to modify it 🙂 Also, it appears to have a way to track drafting and revisions. I’m excited to see how it works out.

For the second year in a row, the most popular posts on my blog have been those I wrote back in 2012. Dress for Success has been consistently popular. I didn’t think a post about writing in my pyjamas would have been so compelling. Go figure.

Eight Metaphors for Persistence . . . is also a heavily viewed post. I appreciate that a bit more because it was the first post on this iteration of the blog and spoke to how I picked up the pieces after being hacked.

Still, I would like to see some of my book reviews, or conference reportage posts, rank higher.

My overall views on the blog went down from last year. In 2013 I filled the Sydney Opera House five times. In 2014 I only filled it four times.

I take all this with a grain of salt, however, as the number of my followers through WordPress has only grown and at 373, I’m closing in on 400 followers. That’s not bad for three years of blogging when I don’t have a book to sell.

Those who receive my posts via email, or who can read them through WordPress may not be counted because they haven’t actually visited the site.

Personally, as long as you’re enjoying what you read, I’m good. I’m a fan of the slow build.

What’s ahead for 2015?

I’ve you’ve read me for any length of time, you’ll know I don’t go in for resolutions. I set goals and manage my projects on an ongoing basis, sometimes re-evaluating and adjusting my goals to account for the dreaded scope creep 🙂

That’s all stuff I learned from the project management I have to do for work. It’s also similar to the dreaded underwear creep (damnit, not another wedgie).

In all seriousness, I intend to revise and submit several more short stories throughout the year. I also intend to write a few new ones.

I intend to finish my first drafts of Marushka (goal length approximately 76,000 words) and GatL (goal length approximately 50,000 words). I can manage this at a pace of about 5,000 words a month. I’ll finish Marushka first, because it’s where my head is at the moment, and then return to work on GatL afterward.

I will revise IoS and finally (FINALLY) start querying. This is so long overdue, I can’t even. Can’t. Even.

I will move onto revisions of Figments once I start querying IoS.

I will map and reverse engineer AoW and probably Marushka.

I don’t think I’ll be able to manage much more than that for the bulk of the year.

I will again engage in the NaNoWriMo Challenge, even though I will be working through the month of November. I was very pleased with the 2014 results, even though it wasn’t a “win,” per se.

For financial reasons, I’m going to stay close to home this year with conferences and conventions. Most likely Ad Astra and Can-Con.

My big expense, professional development-wise, will be a writing retreat in the summer (if I can swing the leave from work—summer’s a peak time and it’s always a big deal), also local.

I’m facilitating my first writing workshop in years in February. You know I’ll be blogging that one 🙂

And the rest will be based on opportunities as they come my way.

I like preparing my Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday curation posts on the weekend for easier distribution (and more writing time) through the week.

Aside from that, the bloggage will come out of my writerly life, as it usually does.

I have one more post to go before the night is over.

See you shortly 🙂

The Next Chapter

Ad Astra 2014: It’s a wrap!

Doctor Who Welcomes You

The TARDIS and a Dalek formed the welcoming committee

I’ve been blogging this puppy for a month and a half now (!)

There was so much more to Ad Astra than the awesome sessions, though. There was so much that I couldn’t take part in.

I mentioned waaaaay back in my first post that there was Klingon Karaoke (not karaoke in Klingon, though that might be cool …). There was an anime lounge with various series and movies running all three days of the convention, an art room, a Lego room, the book store, author readings, and signings.

Also, for every session I attended, there were, like six others. There was astronomy in the parking lot at night, the masquerade, gaming sessions, Consuite events, and book launches by various SF/F publishers.

And there was the Guest of Honour brunch, which I foolishly chose not to purchase a ticket for (hey, it was my first time, I didn’t know it would be so awesome).

If I thought it was possible, I could have stayed up for the entire three days and done something different every hour.

What I did do (aside from the sessions)

I attended readings by Patricia Briggs, Julie Czerneda, Marie Bilodeau, Matt Moore, and Dennis Lee.

Patricia Briggs

Patricia Briggs

Julie Czerneda

Julie Czerneda

I bought (way too many) books and got some of them signed by the authors.

I bought a couple pieces of jewellery and a t-shirt.

Had a tonne of fun.

Not bad.

Think I’m going back next year 🙂

The book haul

The book haul

What about you? Have you attended any conventions or conferences recently?

Ad Astra 2014 day 3: Biotech, identity, and personal freedom

Panellists: Alison Sinclair; Shirley Meier

SM: Everyone is terrified of the loss of control. We use plague zombies to explain our fear. Dracula was about the fear of women’s power and blood magic. One of our biggest fears in biotechnology. There are a couple of good TED talks on the subject (Mel’s note: I found this one and this other one). Chemotherapy can be delivered directly to the tumour.

AS: Spider Robinson wrote about electrodes implanted in the pleasure centre of the brain. In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “Crossroads,” the Federation becomes a dystopia. The Borg are biological machines. In Star Trek: Voyager, 7 of 9 and Hugh explore these ideas.

SM: The essential questions are: Who am I? Who owns my thoughts?

Q: In Brave New World, what was horrifying then is common place now. People fear science. What’s the positive side of biotechnology?

SM: In my books, MOM (the medical override module) is corrupted. Technology is what saves people, frees them from the villain, Prime. Pets are modified into true companions. Of course, then you have the issue of old age, disease, and how you can justify putting the dog down. They rejuvenate animals, mammals specifically.

Q: What about clones? Currently they age rapidly to the age of the animal they were cloned from.

AS: Medical technology is always advancing. Right now, they’re working on cloning the heart. The brain is still too much of a mystery. Is it ethical to “treat” mental illness? How does the process impinge on personal freedom?

SM: Heart surgeons have noticed personality changes after bypass surgery. There is a distinctive decrease in, or complete loss of, empathy.

Q: Who should be afraid of biotechnology? Who will suffer?

SM: We add to our knowledge; we don’t replace it. The old doesn’t disappear. Norms shift.

Q: Do you have statistics regarding the percentage of personality change in heart transplant patients?

SM: It was in a Smithsonian Magazine article. The percentage isn’t certain. They’re not even sure why it happens. It might be a drug interaction.

Q: If we look at biotechnology rationally, our fear is relatively low. Irrational fear is automatically high, however. People forget our own criminal predisposition.

SM: Look at the military. They have drills for the nuclear fighter jets frequently. They have to make sure that all is in readiness in case the worst happens. They don’t run in these drills. They walk slowly. If the jets take off, the world will probably end. The ground crew is assessed. If they don’t react appropriately, they will be removed. When we write SF, we are troubleshooting. What if? Utopias are boring. Consider the controversy over stem cells.

AS: But what about the cost? We need to invest in quality control. In our society, who can afford it? In Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon, the main character is autistic and offered a cure. Who chooses?

Q: What do you consider “you”?

AS: My mother has Alzheimer’s. Her personality hasn’t changed yet, but layers of memory get stripped off.

SM: Treatment is not the same as a cure. It makes illness tolerable. There’s a loss of dignity in Alzheimer’s that’s difficult to deal with. In the early stages, patients can be mistakenly addressed as if they are in the advanced stages. They don’t need that.

Q: There’s a tension between internal and external identity. Who we are vs. who others think we are. Is it the same person? I’m thinking of Heinlein’s Puppet Masters.

AS: Do we have a problem with free will?

SM: Yes. Our monsters steal our free will. Truth, justice, and the American way vs. the New World Order.

Q: What about mind control?

SM: Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent is a fascinating look at mind control and possession in our society.

AS: There’s also a struggle between personal and medical personhood.

SM: Why do things not work? We’re essentially monkeys. Would you give a monkey “the button”?

AS: Technology both reinforces and subverts existing power structures.

And that is the last session I attended at Ad Astra this year.

I’ll save the wrap post for next weekend.

In the meantime, have a fabulous weekend, my writerly peeps. I’ll be back on Tuesday with my regular Tipsday curation.