The next chapter: December 2017 update and year in review

Well, hello there, writerly folk!

It’s time for December update and 2017 wrap up post.

December was a decent month. I was still on my self-funded leave until December 13thand initially, I thought I’d be able to write a bit more because Torvi had been with us a few weeks. I thought we’d start to see some improvement in her behaviour and I might be able to manage a thousand words a day.

As I mentioned last week, that lasted all of a day before I realized I wouldn’t be able to manage it. So, I amended my goal to 500 words a day and mostly kept to it. There were just some days when I was too tired, especially after I returned to work.

I wrote 41k words in November and hit the 50k goal just in time for Christmas 🙂 I’m currently closing in on 60k and figure I’ll be drafting Playing with Fire through March this year. In all, I wrote 14,567 words in December on PwF (94% of my 15k goal) and another 5,361 words on this blog, or 88% of my 6,600-word goal.

That’s a total of 19,928 words for the month. Not too shabby considering pup and work and the holidays (which were lovely and quiet—hope yours were too).

No revision happened in December.

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Overall, 2017 was a strange year. I set my usual ambitious goals at the start of the year and adjusted them as circumstances demanded. Circumstances being my protracted burnout fuelled by depression and anxiety.

Writing-wise, I did fairly well, exceeding some of my goals and falling short of one other.

I finished drafting Wavedancer by the end of February, achieving 106% of my goal for the novel, and the rest of the work on the Ascension series was revision. I made it through all three novels before I left on my grand adventure at the end of July.

I wrote 127% of my short fiction goal, but that story, once again, turned out to be a novel-length idea that will have to be developed in the future. I just can’t seem to think small these days.

On the blog, I wrote 103% of my goal and when it came to PwF, my NaNoWriMo (and after) project for the year, I wrote only 85% of my goal.

I hit 97% of my overall writing goal for the year.

The above-mentioned revisions for the three books in the Ascension series came in at 95% of goal, the revisions for Reality Bomb came in at 85% of goal, and my revisions of short fiction (I did make a few submissions last year) reached 92% of my goal.

My overall revisions met 93% of my goal.

I’m pleased. I had wanted to go through my other novels as well, but, honestly, I wouldn’t have been able to manage.

AnnualProgress2017

This year, I aim to finish drafting PwF. As I’d mentioned in my NaNo recap, I didn’t have a full outline to work with this time around and so, even if we hadn’t adopted Torvi, I don’t think the writing would have gone very smoothly. I finished the main plotline around Fer and Dair and their mission to the dwergen deepholds, but I hadn’t more than a sketchy idea of what any of the other characters would be doing this time around. So, I’m pretty much pantsing those parts of the story.

I’d given some thought to stopping the drafting and finishing the outline, but I decided against it. While it can be a bit frustrating to dive into a piece without a clear idea of where you’re going, there’s something liberating about discovery writing that I don’t want to abandon. Even when I do have an outline, my brain tends to take the story in new (and often better) directions in any case.

After the draft of PwF is finished, I’ll be diving into the next rounds of revision on the whole series. With each novel I write, bits and pieces of the earlier ones have to be adjusted. I develop ideas, settings, and it all has to become one seamless story. The whole thing gets better every time.

As the result of some connections I made during the Writing Excuses cruise, I’m now part of a critique group made up on people from all over the world. Freaky, but in a good way. I’m going to be submitting Reality Bomb to them for review. It’s still rough, but before I get into the hard work of revision on that one, I want feedback on the essentials. Structure, characters, arc, and all that.

I’m not so invested in the story yet that I couldn’t tear it down and start over, if that’s what’s required.

By the time I’m finished with my revisions of the Ascension series as it stands, I should have my critiques and I’ll turn my attention to RB. If things go well, I may have something I can start to query with by the end of the year.

I should have time to devote to getting one more project prepared for the next round of critiques, likely Marushka, before I turn my attention to the final book in the Ascension series, Tamashki, for NaNoWriMo 2018. I’ll spend October working on the outline, which I sincerely hope I’ll get finished this time, and charge into drafting come November first.

And, as in past years, I’ll continue to draft until the story’s done.

While I have made some goals for short fiction, I really don’t know whether or not I’ll have the time or energy to devote to it.

2018WritingAndRevisionGoals

As a result of the big travel expenses of the last couple of years, I’m staying close to home in 2018. I’ll probably attend the Canadian Writers’ Summit in June, and Ad Astra in July.

I’m continuing with my column for DIY MFA as well and will continue to post here when each is released.

And I’m continuing to create the newsletter for the Sudbury Writers’ Guild, though I’m thinking that after this year, I might try to hand the reins over to someone else. It’s not a great burden, but it is time I could be spending on my own writing. I’m continuing to draw in and refocus my energy.

Those are my writerly goals for the year, and I think they’re reasonable. I still may have to adjust them as time passes, though. I see goals as living things. They’re affected by events and other priorities in my life.  I’ll let you know how it all goes in my next chapter updates throughout the year.

Until next I blog, my friends, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

The Next Chapter

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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.

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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?

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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

CWS 2016: Grants for writers

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you see anything that needs correction or clarification, please email melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I’ll fix it post-hasty.

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Presenter: Jack Illingworth, Literature Officer, Ontario Arts Council (OAC)

The majority of funding dollars go to written works. The budget is approximately four million and that hasn’t changed significantly since the nineties. Programs are fiercely competitive. In general, 11% of applicants receive funding.

Apply often and apply widely.

There are three streams of funding for literary creation.

The Canada Council of the Arts is moving to a non-disciplinary model in 2017.

Don’t put yourself in a box.

The writers’ works in progress grant offers up to $12,000 to work on a specific project.

For poetry, we want to see 15 pages of your work. For prose works, we want to see approximately 40 pages.

Juries assess the applications on relative artistic merit.

October 18 is the next deadline. There is also funding set aside specifically for northern writers and for comic arts (graphic novels). These have separate deadlines. You can’t apply to more than one type of works in progress grant, though.

Prose and poetry juries are separate. I try to have a “wild card” juror on each. For fiction, it’s a jury of four and for poetry, it’s a group of three.

The program could change in 2017.

We may add funding for an additional specialized genre.

Our current anonymous assessment model could go for the sake of equity and diversity. How can we ensure equity and diversity without knowing the identities of the applicants?

For the work in progress grant, there is an emerging writer category. We ask for one published work (novel or collection) or three publications of short fiction, non-fiction, or poetry.

We may be adding self-published works to the eligibility requirements.

There is also the writers’ reserve. This is not assessed by a jury, but by the participating publishers. It runs from September 1 to January 31 of the next year. Please see the OAC website for our list of participating publishers. It’s wide open genre-wise.

Approximately 10% of applicants receive funding. The available funding is divided among the publishers.

We hope to have an online application coming soon, but technological change is slow to come.

Juries for the WIP grants are selected after the applications are received to avoid conflict of interest. There are six considerations for equity: persons of colour, indigenous writers, disabled writers, francophone writers, and regional writers (in the case of the northern WIP grant).

Keep your application professional in tone. Don’t be pretentious. The synopsis is optional.

Also keep your eye out for the Chalmers Art Fellowships. They’re offered one time a year (currently TBA) and are interdisciplinary grants intended for research and development. For artists with up to 10 years of practice, the funding amount is between $10,000 and $25,000. For artists with over 10 years of practice, the funding range is between $10,000 and $50,000.

And that was the last session I’ll be reporting on from the Canadian Writers’ Summit. The rest of the presentations I attended didn’t lend themselves to reportage and the rest of the events were key note speeches or awards ceremonies.

As I implied last week, I’m going to take some time to vary my programming before I dive into WorldCon sessions. Next week, I’ll get into the current reno Phil has undertaken and something else of a more personal nature. The following week, I’ll probably finish my review of mid-season TV and offer my thoughts on a few more movies I’ve seen in the past year or so.

And then it’s time for another next chapter update. Gosh, time really does fly, doesn’t it?

Be well!

CWS 2016: Diversify your writing income

And . . . I’m back from WorldCon and my blogging vacay 🙂

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you see anything that requires clarification or correction, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I’ll fix it, post hasty.

Presenter: Robert J. Sawyer

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One of the easiest ways to diversify is to use your expertise and become a public speaker. If your expertise is in writing, you could receive a nominal fee, funded by a professional writing organization or granting agency.

A science fiction writer, however, can use their scientific research as the basis to become a futurist. A futurist demands a more substantial fee, potentially between five and ten thousand dollars. The more established the writer is as an expert, the higher the fee offered for their presentation.

Public speaking ability, is, of course, a benefit. Join your local Toastmasters to develop that. Sign up for an improvisation class.

Short fiction can earn a small amount, but even small amounts can add up over time and the publication credit becomes part of your platform. Hugo Gernsback, for whom the Hugo award is named, founded Amazing Stories and paid .06 cents a word. It’s still a payment standard used today.

A more lucrative form of writing is screenwriting. The Screenwriters Guild has standardized rates of pay for screenwriters. A one hour script for a television series, such as ABC’s Flashforward, based on my novel of the same name, earns the writer about $3600. That’s approximately 6000 words. Compare that to a short story of 6000 words paid at .06 cents a word.

If you do get a novel published, pursue film and screen rights. It doesn’t happen without effort, though.

I’ll never win a Giller Award, but I earn the equivalent of that prize amount every year.

Whatever you write, become an expert in that subject.

Authority comes from the same etymological root as author. Market your authority.

Record your presentations. A video is a great promotional tool. It will convince people to hire you. Embed it on your web site.

Too often, the author is the only person not being paid.

If you present in schools, don’t be shy about asking for a fee. The only classes I don’t charge are the ones studying my book. If they’ve bought a class set of my book, it’s not fair to charge further, in my opinion. Some professional writing organisations will provide you with a reading fee. Some will cover travel or accommodation expenses as well.

In general, non-fiction sells better and pays better that fiction. I might avoid book reviews, though. The Globe and Mail will pay $175 for book reviews, but you have to either be prepared to hold your punches, or have someone want to punch you. You can’t like everything you’re given to read.

Write what you want to find out about. Maureen Jennings writes the Murdoch Mysteries. She also writes articles on historical Toronto.

Q: What are the tax implications?

I happen to be a dual citizen so that makes some of it easier. The IRS is assiduous about getting its money, but you can work around it to some extent. I live and do most of my work in Canada. It makes a difference. For a presentation I gave in the US, I wrote it in Canada. If the work is completed in Canada, the income is declared in Canada.

For publishing income in the US, you need to have a ITIN or EIN.

Q: Do you enjoy public speaking?

Yes, I do. The more speaking engagements you get, the more comfortable you get on the stage.

Q: How did you get started?

Back in 2000, I was invited to speak at an AI conference based on my research from a recent novel. Previous to that, I was making $250 per speaking engagement as a science fiction author. I asked for $2500 and the organizers said yes. I could have asked for more.

I used to be on panels with Jay Ingram and Bob McDonald, but now I can earn more than they do for a speaking engagement.

Q: How does the unpublished or minimally published author make a living?

The number one thing is to get on television or radio as soon as you can. An agent or publicist can be helpful with this.

I used to teach for Ryerson, but it was actually the least lucrative channel of income I had when you factor in the hours spent on prep and marking.

Q: Do you have to seek out engagements?

Initially, yes. Not so much anymore. Once you’re an established expert, people will come to you.

If you have an author newsletter, let your readers know that you’re available for talks. Fans will convince their businesses to hire you just so they can meet you.

Q: Can diversification compromise your author identity?

It can.

There are some writers who end up making more public appearances and presentations than writing novels.

In 1988, I was 28. I wanted to be a novelist, but I was writing financial columns. That was how I paid the bills. I decided to start turning down these opportunities to make more time for writing novels. I was terrified. In 1996, eight years later, I won the Nebula award. It took that long to make the transition.

And that was time.


You’ll be happy to know I’m returning to Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday curations starting this week.

Next week: I’ll be offering up my next chapter update for August and then I’ll have only one more session from the Canadian Writers’ Summit to share before I move on to WorldCon panel notes 🙂 I have enough of those to keep the weekend blogging going into 2017 (considering the time I’ll be taking off for NaNoWriMo).

Be well until next week, writerly peoples 🙂

Canadian Writers’ Summit 2016: Writing hard truths

Disclaimer: I’m not perfect, and neither are my notes. If you see anything that needs correction or clarification, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I will action it post hasty.

HardTruths

Panellists: Lorri Neilsen Glenn (moderator), Kim Pittaway, Clem Martini

LNG: So many people are struggling with how to approach difficult topics and hard truths in their writing. Each presenter will have the opportunity to frame their work, each will give a reading, and then we’ll open the floor to Q&A.

CM: In 2010, I wrote Bitter Medicine, which is about my family’s struggle with mental illness. It ends on a positive note, but the story itself is difficult in that it documents our journey with my brother’s schizophrenia and my mother’s developing dementia. When I recognized the first signs of my mother’s dementia, the support structure we’d had in place for my brother collapsed. They were living together, and had been able to take care of each other, with my support, until then. I’m now working on the continuing story, the working title of which is The Book of Lies. Caregiving is a verb. Ideally, it’s perfect, like a spider web, a delicate network of mutual and community support. In reality, it’s more like a spider web that’s been woven by a spider on LSD. It’s full of flaws. My problem now, because I’m writing our story as I’m living it, is to decide what’s safe to write about. What do I include? How far do I go? Those are cogent questions for all writers facing true stories with demanding subject matter.

KP: My current manuscript is about families and unforgiveness. The concept of difficult knowledge versus lovely knowledge is used in curation. Deborah Britzman defines lovely knowledge as easily assimilatable. It confirms what we know, or think we know, about the world. Difficult knowledge does not confirm, or conform with, our reality. How do we curate suffering? Are we showing it?  Are we turning suffering into something productive? How is truth-telling gratuitous? How is it harmful? This is intriguing to me as a writer because most memoirs are full of lovely knowledge. There’s nothing wrong with sweetness and nostalgia, but we have to be aware that everything contains within it, its opposite. Do you face it head on, or obliquely? We have to question our tools, our strategies, and our craft.

LNG: I was reading Martha Nussbaum. She states that the heart cannot change without story. I found myself thinking about readers and readers’ responses. My students ask me why I don’t have any happy stories or poems. It’s a valid question, but it made me think. Writing hard truths forces us to confront our shadow selves as writers and as readers. Despite what you think you’re writing about, the tough stuff is already there. Do we really need those details, though? There is a hunger for stories that get close to the bone. Take a look at the stories that have come out as a result of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for residential school survivors. Those are terrible stories, but they’re also healing stories. Stories about difficult truths invite us to remove our masks. They can be, and often are, gendered.

Readings ensued, with the attendant and courteous trigger warnings, followed by Q&A.

Remember: I’ll be on blog-vacation, so there won’t be a post next weekend, though this week’s curation posts will be scheduled and should be posted on their regular days. No curation on the 23rd and 25th, though. I’ll be back on August 27th with my notes from Robert Sawyer’s presentation on diversifying your income and regularly scheduled blogging will proceed from there until November.

The Canadian Writers’ Summit 2016: Achieving your dream: the shadow side

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that needs correction or clarification, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com

Panellists: Suzanne Alyssa Andrew, Carrie Snyder, Maria Meindl, Heidi Reimer, Sarah Henstra (Moderator)

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SH: Everyone talks about the struggle that precedes publication, but what about what happens afterward?

[Panellists introduced.]

What’s been your experience with the shadow side?

HR: I’ve been thinking about this because I achieved my creative goals and felt things nobody I knew had ever mentioned. I finished my novel and I felt depressed rather than elated. My spouse is an actor and he’s experienced in the art of letting go. In his world, it’s a recognized thing that all actors experience. It’s not in mine. When I won the Chatelaine contest, I was elated, and then terrified. I looked up their distribution and readership on line. That amount of exposure made me feel vulnerable. I physically recoiled. Something intensely private was about to become public. I talked to friends about my distress.

MM: I feel like I’ve confronted the connection between success and darkness in my life. My grandmother was Mona Gould. By the time I was a child in the 60’s, her poem, “This was My Brother at Dieppe” was everywhere. When her success faded, she turned to alcohol and became bitter. What I learned from that experience is that success is harmful. It can destroy you. When she died, I received boxes of her materials. It took me five years to sort through it. She started promoting her work at the age of eleven. Her poem was sponsored by an arms manufacturer, but she was a pacifist. She didn’t feel she could object. Now I understand that it’s not success that’s destructive, but the lack of a forum and the means to use it.

CS: I always wanted to be a writer. As I was driving in from Waterloo, I tried to figure out what that seven-year-old girl’s impulse was. I focused everything on becoming an author. I published by first book at the age of twenty-nine. It was written when I was twenty-six. It was another eight years before I published my second novel. In 2012, The Juliet Stories came out and was nominated for a Governor General’s Award. It was a huge moment for me. I embraced the high and I rode it. I wasn’t prepared for not winning, though. I mean, I knew I wasn’t going to but knowing it and experiencing it are two different things. They informed us ahead of the public announcement and I sat with the secret for a week. I felt ashamed. I was afraid of disappointing my kids and everyone else who’d been so supportive of me and my book. I didn’t know how to cope with it. I am so grateful for my blog because I was able to get my experience out there. I almost changed careers. I had my acceptance to McMaster’s midwifery program in one hand and the offer for The Girl Runner in the other. I thought I’d made a mistake in pursuing my dream. Now I’m making a living as a writer. It’s wonderful and it’s amazingly difficult at the same time. It’s hard to be here and to be vulnerable in front of you.

SAA: Everything you’ve all said resonates. I’ve just published my first novel and I, too, have always wanted to be a writer. I went on a book tour and it was the first time my family had heard me read my work. I play bass in a band. It’s a group, a community. We share. In literary circles, I find there’s a lack of transparency, especially about publishing in Canada. I think the reality’s worse than any of us realize. There’s a lot of pressure to market your own book. I invested in promotion. I’m a freelance writer. I don’t regret making that investment. At the time I figured, I’ll worry about it later. Well, it’s later and I’m feeling the financial impact. I have second book paralysis, knowing how hard it was promoting my first. Musicians are open and honest about the challenges. They offer each other advice and strategies. Authors in Canada don’t talk about these issues. We’re worried about seeming ungrateful. It’s very isolating. We need to be more vocal as a community.

SH: Can any of you comment further on shame and vulnerability?

CS: You’re novel is something you’ve worked on for years. It will be judged. There will be reviews. I’m a private person. I work through things in writing. It doesn’t feel right to be so exposed. To create anything of value, you have to go there, though. I was terrified of being changed by success. I can deal with rejection, but I have no experience in dealing with success.

SAA: It’s about being a creative person in the public sphere. You can get so involved in the persona you adopt for the media that you can start to feel schizophrenic. We don’t express our real feelings on social media. Everyone else seems more successful, happier. You compare yourself to others and find yourself wanting. There’s another reality to the one presented on Facebook.

HR: When I was published for the first time (I wrote an essay about the experience) I suffered anxiety and panic attacks. If it’s not discussed openely, everyone thinks it’s only them. I have a novel on submission. I received a rejection and felt relief. I know what to do with rejection. A ‘yes’ involves a whole other world. I was happy to stay in my identity as a rejected writer. You have to redefine yourself in light of success.

SH: Is this a question of gender? We’re all women on this panel.

MM: There’s a line between the inner and outer worlds of the author. There’s a free-floating shame still attached to being a woman and a woman writer in particular. Hélène Cixous once asked, “write? With what right?” We’ve internalized this social message. It’s about taking charge of the narrative. Take hold of the narrative. Be heard. It’s a gendered issue.

CS: Are there any men authors in the audience?

Aud: Yes. When the questions was asked, all the women were nodding and the men were shaking their heads. We don’t talk about the shadow side.

MM: The word authorship, etymologically, it means leadership, mastery. As a woman, I didn’t feel welcomed into that world.

SH: Many authors speak of their novels as their ‘book babies.’ There’s a stigma to post-partum depression. You’re not allowed to feel down after having a human baby. Have you found anything that helps?

SAA: Being someone who had this dream, I had high expectations. Being in a band dialled those expectations back. Check your expectations. Talk about it with other authors. What does success mean to you?

CS: Create a safe, private space in which to create. Don’t get down on yourself if you can’t create while you’re doing publicity. It’s not what I thought the job was. I have to remember why I write. I have to turn off all of my expectations. I’m still a writer, even if I never get published again. I wanted to make a living as a writer. I have. But there are worse things than not making a living as a writer.

HR: I did a releasing ritual. I needed to get all of that stuff out. Society says you should be happy. I felt loss. I had to write it out. I had to acknowledge the feelings and affirm what I wanted.

SH: How do you not miss the moment because you’re rushing on to the next fifty things you have to do? You have to celebrate your successes. Ania Szado says you also have to honour your losses.

MM: When my book came out, my Rabbi did a blessing over the book. It was a wonderful thing, on the Sabbath, so, no selling, no pressure. We were just honouring a life event.

SH: Do you want to say something about your definition of success?

MM: The more I thought about it, the more I realized how much others define success for us. We also internalize those definitions and move the bar.

CS: My ‘word of the year’ was success. It terrified me. To everyone else, it looks like success. To me, it doesn’t feel like success. It has a lot to do with what we expect.

SAA: Amy Winehouse’s definition of success was to sing. That’s it. When she got big, she imploded.

Q: What issues turn you on to writing?

CS: I write because I have something to say. Later, the issues grow out of what I’ve written.

SAA: Despite all the challenges of writing, we all have something to say. The joy of writing is in expressing something, of speaking to your readers.

Q: How do you relate to your readers and how is that relationship affected by the shadow side?

MM: I used to be more involved in small press publication. A man bought my book for a dollar and then returned later to tell me that he was moved. It was a wonderful feeling.

SAA: I started out on fire about online marketing. Eventually, I felt like I was speaking into the void. It wasn’t until I went on tour that I felt it was real. I could talk to people. Writers are rarefied outside Toronto.

CS: I was at a writers’ festival in BC and a woman gave me an envelope. In her letter she asked me how I had known her so intimately? She felt like I had written for her, to her. It was humbling.

SH: When I launched Mad Miss Mimic last year, a girl bought the book, sat down, and didn’t stop reading all night. My favourite thing is when parents send me pictures of their kids reading the books. It’s old school. One reader can change your world.

Q: What kind of support do you look for?

SAA: I get the best support from other writers. I have a wonderful agent, Samantha Haywood, and she held my hand through the process.

Q: What strategy do you use to deal with criticism?

CS: I bounce back really quickly now. I’m as polite as possible in person. Privately, I allow myself 24 hours of bleakness, and then I get over it.

SAA: A lot of critique says more about the critic than the writer.

Q: Do you get requests for information from aspiring writers?

CS: Yes. I have advice on my blog. I’ll respond to individual requests for advice from friends.

HR: Take me out for lunch and I’ll tell you whatever you want to know.

Q: How do you deal with family stuff?

HR: I write what I write and when it goes out into the world, I panic. The Chatelaine article reveals some personal information about my relationship with my dad. I had to tell him when I heard that it would be published. I was worried, but it was good. It’s best to deal with it directly.

And that was time.

Next week, I’m going to post another book review.  It’s a five-star so you can look forward to that 🙂

Be well until next I post, my friends.

The next chapter: June 2016 update

Welcome to July! Half of 2016 is already past 😦

Let’s get right down to business.

June was a good month. As far as revision goes, I focused on Reality Bomb. It was another pleasant surprise. I didn’t hate what I wrote. This was just the first pass, and I’ve identified a number of things I need to work on, but I wasn’t writhing as I read 🙂 I don’t know if this means I’m a better writer now, or if I’ve just become inured to my failings (!)

I approached RB as I did Marushka before it, reading, mapping, editing, and making notes as I went. RB was my 2015 NaNoWriMo project and my second “win.”

I finished the first pass on July 1st (yes, Canada Day—the fireworks were for me, too) and the draft comes in at 282 pages and 67,808 words. Not bad for what I still consider a rough draft.

I’ve moved on to Gerod and the Lions, since. Early days, but not hating this one, either 😀 I should be finished this first run through of GatL in early August, just in time for another break—for WorldCon!

Since I’ve been a part of Gabriella Pereira’s Launch Team for DIYMFA, I’ve had extra blogging to do each weekend. As a result, I more than doubled my blogging goals for the month. I’ve also had some guest posting opportunities come my way, which has been another, validating surprise.

I went to the Canadian Writers’ Summit from June 17th to 19th and took a wee vacay from revising, blogging, and, in fact, most social media. It was a nice break.

My query, synopsis, and opening for Initiate of Stone have been revised and querying continues.

I’m starting work on some short fiction. It kind of just happened. It’s a good thing, though.

This is how the month settled out:

I achieved 128% on my revision goal with 48,009 words.

I achieved 207% of my blogging goal (yes, even with the vacay) with 12,013 words.

JuneProgress

The summer office is in operation, and I’ve been enjoying our lovely, lovely weather (so far). The garden is growing, though I haven’t been able to keep up with the weeding 😦 Still, we’ve been enjoying the fruits (literally) of what labour has been done and have had strawberries every day for the last three weeks. The raspberries are ripening. Phil’s been harvesting lettuces and herbs for the occasional meal.

It just makes you feel good to eat food out of your own garden.

In other news, I’m walking a little more, and getting some minor health issues sorted. I’ll be getting a new pair of glasses, not because my prescription has changed, but because my current pair is in disrepair. It’s time for a new perspective 🙂

Phil’s in good shape, now. He and his doctor have sorted his meds and he’s feeling well. All of his labs are showing results in the acceptable range, as well. I’m glad. Through the first few months of the year, it was not a good situation. Very stressful.

And that’s what June brought into this writer’s life.

Next weekend: I’ll be back to Ad Astra 2016 reportage.

Happy Independence Day to all of my American friends!

I’ll be back to work tomorrow.

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, June 12-18, 2016

Your writerly goodness for the week.

Most common writing mistakes, part 51: one-dimensional characters. K.M. Weiland. Helping writers become authors. Kate returns with these eight tips for editing other writers’ work while remaining friends. And . . . for the hat trick: grab readers with a multi-faceted characteristic moment.

Writing “linked novels,” a series of standalones sans spoilers. Katy Rose Guest Pryal on Writer Unboxed.

Cassandra Khaw is vexed about voice. Terribleminds.

Kristen Lamb explores using time as a literary device.

Angela Ackerman guest posts on Writers in the Storm: how to deliver critical backstory using setting.

This is where I was last weekend: Mark Medley reports on the Canadian Writers’ Summit. The Globe and Mail.

I’m also a professional member of the CAA, so here are a couple of CWS bits of news relating to the CAA literary awards (which were presented there):

Alexis Daria covers the do’s and don’ts of querying your novel. DIYMFA.

Janet Reid warns against shopping an offer. And over on Query Shark, she posted no, no, and no.

Kameron Hurley engages in some real publishing talk: author expectation and entitlement.

Choosing the best categories for your book sales on Amazon. BookBaby.

Ceridwen Dovey wonders if reading can make you happier. The New Yorker.

Misc Magazine: The future according to women.

The Heroine Bookstore interviews A.M. Dellamonica.

John Glover writes about the life and afterlife of horror fiction on Postscripts to Darkness.

J.K. Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech.

 

Now it’s time to get writing 🙂

Tipsday

The next chapter: May 2016 update

The year of revision is progressing steadily.

MayProgress

I finished my first run through of Marushka, which ended up at 75,473 words total, 33,258 of which were revised in May, and moved on to Reality Bomb. I revised 17,624 words on that manuscript.

I achieved 136% of my revision goal for May with 50,882 words revised.

All my writing was on Writerly Goodness, and, because I joined Gabriela Pereira’s DIYMFA launch team and have been posting twice each weekend, I’ve achieved 181% of my writing goal for May with 10,474 words on the web.

In other news, I’ve let my querying slip. I’ve received enough form rejections that I have this feeling I need to return to Initiate of Stone and give the manuscript another run. I’ve come up with some ideas to improve my first pages (and other stuff) as a result of working on Apprentice of Wind and I’m not sure I should burn any more agent bridges . . .

At the same time, I want to continue on the chance that I haven’t presented IoS to the agent that will love it. I’ve had success pitching the novel in person to both agents and small publishers, so the idea has merit. It must be the execution that needs work.

Accordingly, I’m probably going to take a break from revising RB for a few days to focus on reworking the first chapter and query of IoS and then get back at it.

I’ve booked my flight to Kansas City in August. I’m one step closer to WorldCon and a visit with a friend who lives in KC. So looking forward.

In the meantime, the Canadian Writers’ Summit is taking place in less than two weeks. I’m looking forward to that, as well, but the scheduling is a bit strange. Because the

CWS is a joint conference between a number of professional writing organizations in Canada, some of the sessions are overlapping. It will make things challenging, but I’m also going to get to attend a great session by Robert J. Sawyer, as well as key note addresses by Jean Little, Kenneth Oppel, and Nalo Hopkinson.

If I had more leave, I might have gone down Wednesday evening to see Lawrence Hill, but I had to make a choice between the CWS and WorldCon/friend visitation. Seeing a new city and an old friend won out 🙂

A new short story idea is brewing for an anthology call later in the year, but I haven’t been paying a lot of attention to short fiction this year, as was the plan. We’ll see if I can keep the idea from blowing up into a novel-sized concept and premise.

I’ve signed up for another online course, this time from one of my favourite authors/writing craft experts, Kate Weiland. It’s another thing I’m looking forward to. We’ll let you know how things go in future updates.

And that’s it for now.

I’m doing too much, as usual, but enjoying every minute of it. I’m really not happy unless I’m learning something/pushing my boundaries.

Hope everyone has a productive, happy-making month!

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The next chapter: April 2016 update

April was a steady month of revision. I made it to the two thirds mark in Marushka by the time I left for Ad Astra.

Drafting with Scrivener, as I mentioned before, has resulted in more, but shorter, chapters. It’s meant a more casual pace.

Though I missed a few days of revision for the convention, I made up for it by doubling up for a few days upon my return. I should be on track to finish up with this first run through of Marushka by the Victoria Day long weekend (May 21-23).

Then, I’m moving on to the first run though on Reality Bomb 🙂

I’ll probably need a couple more passes for each work in progress before I’m ready to send them out for editing . . . And I have my eye on a couple of people for that. We’ll see how that progresses, but probably not until next year.

AprilProgress1

Total words revised for April: 37,478, just a hair under 100% of my goal

Total words written (for this blog): 10,498, 187% of my goal (!)

I sent out more queries, and received more thank you but no thank you rejections.

Work on the Sudbury Writers’ Guild anthology, which the guild wants to release in time for the next Wordstock Sudbury in the fall, progresses. We want to have the content and cover ready for June. I have two speculative short stories in the anthology (yay, me!).

There are some more opportunities coming up for short fiction, so I’ll try to get something together for those deadlines.

In June, I’ll be heading to the Canadian Writers’ Summit (June 17-19) and . . . my leave for WorldCon has been approved. W00t! So I’ll be heading down to Kansas City in August (17-21). That’s one of the things I have to do now: book my flight. And check with my buddy. She’s moved recently, so I want to make sure she’s still available for visitations. It will be my first WorldCon, so I’m very excited.

I got an early start on next year’s writing events by registering for Story Masters, May 11-14, 2017. Christopher Vogler (The Writer’s Journey), James Scott Bell (author of LOTS of writing craft books, member of The Kill Zone), and Donald Maass (agent to the literary stars, Writer Unboxed member, and author of numerous publishing and writing craft books). Four days of workshops. Yum!

And that’s all that’s new in this writer’s life.

See you Tipsday!

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