The next chapter: January 2019 update

Greetings, my wonderful, writerly friends! How has your January gone? This isn’t a throwaway question, I’m sincerely interested. If you want to share, that’s what the comments are for 😉

As I mentioned in my last next chapter update, I’ve set myself some fairly steep goals. Though I didn’t meet all of them, I’m happy to report that I met most of my goals for January.

January in review

I continued drafting Tamisashki, the last of my epic fantasy series. I’d set my goal at 16,802 words (based on 542 words a day, which would allow me to reach my ultimate goal by the end of April). I managed to write 17,554 words, or 104% of my goal. And I did it even giving myself a break on the weekends (boggles).

I don’t expect to be able to continue this pace beyond the end of March, but I’ll keep it up as long as I can.

I only managed 74% of my 5,000-word writing goal on this blog, or 3,696 words. I’m never too distressed about not meeting my blogging goals. In some ways, it depends on how many tasty posts and articles I can curate, and that’s variable.

I did write more than my 2,500-word short fiction goal for the month, but I didn’t finish the piece. Most of the extra words have been shunted into a secondary document, as I started to do the thing I usually do, which is to start building the world and backstory and detail to the point where short would no longer be tenable. What does the reader really need to know? That’s where I have to focus, moving forward. Still, 106% is satisfying.

I met my goal of revising and formatting 31 poems in my collection. I’ve decided to work on the poetry in terms of poems rather than words or pages. Some of my poems are haiku. Others are several pages long (though the lines are short). It’s the most convenient way for me to track my progress in this respect.

Finally, I wrote an 833-word piece for the WarpWorld blog in honor of the launch of the last book in the series.  The theme was “the end,” and I chose to explore writer’s grief. My goal had been to write 750 words for them and so I surpassed that goal, as well, at 111%.

January2019progress

I did start reading one of the pieces posted for critique in my group, but I’m already behind. I’ll find a way to catch up.

In January, I also attended Tracing our Wild Spaces, an exhibition of triptychs (poem, photograph, and painting) put together by Kim Fahner (poems and photos) and Monique Legault (beautiful, photo-realistic paintings). It was held at the Fromagerie on Elgin and will be displayed through February.

Sean Barrette provided musical accompaniment and Kim read her poetry, which will appear in her upcoming poetry collection, These Wings.

Looking forward to February

In February, I hope to draft another 15,176 words on Tamisashki, blog about 4,200 words, work on another 28 poems for the collection, write my next Speculations column for DIY MFA, finish my January short story (get it critiqued and edited, and submitted, somewhere), and write another short story. I might aim for flash, which will be even more of a challenge, given my propensities.

As February is a short month, my goals are, accordingly, smaller. I’m trying to keep things reasonable.

I’m going to keep on with the reading for the one critique and start on another.

I’ve also started the Writing the Other Building Inclusive Worlds course.

Wish me luck 😉

What I’ve been Reading and Watching

I’ve decided to add in a mention of what I’ve been reading and watching during the month. I used to post book reviews and do a periodic post on movies and series. As these posts have fallen by the wayside, I wanted to add something in so that you’d have an idea about what I spend some of my non-writing time doing.

I started my 2019 Goodreads reading challenge with several books in progress. I finished N.K. Jemisin’s The Shadowed Sun (loved), Octavia Butler’s Patternmaster (liked), Marcy Kennedy’s Cursed Wishes (liked), and Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars (loved), before starting in on fresh books in the New Year.

I started in on Patternmaster not realizing that it was the last in Butler’s series. It was the first written, though, so I’ve decided to read the series in the order written. Maybe it was whatever pulled Butler back to the premise again and again until she finally wrote Wild Seed, which is technically the first book in the series, that left me with the feeling that the book was somehow incomplete.

I’ve been wanting to read The Calculating Stars since last summer, when it came out. It’s full of everything that made Hidden Figures great, and more. There are complex characters, loving relationships, and explorations of misogyny and racism in an alternate historical United States in which a meteorite takes out most of the eastern coast, including Washington DC. Loved.

I have since read Sarah Gailey’s River of Teeth (loved), Signe Pike’s The Lost Queen (loved), K.M. Weiland’s 5 Secrets of Story Structure (writing craft, really liked), and Seth Dickinson’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant (liked).

The Lost Queen was a book I discovered through the Kobo Writing Life podcast. They interviewed the author, Signe Pike, and I decided on the strength of that alone to purchase the book. It’s a different take on the legend of Merlin and based in historical research. It was a great historical fantasy and I’ll be looking for the next book in the series.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant was a novel that I picked up on the strength of a recommendation. I generally don’t enjoy reading stories with unreliable narrators. The thing is that Baru isn’t really unreliable. She’s straightforward in her goals all the way along. It’s just that the things that she says at every turning point in the story can be taken multiple ways.

I had to admire Dickinson’s craft in misdirection, but, as a reader, I also resented it. The book is written in a close point of view. The reader is privy to Baru’s thoughts. It is, most often, those thoughts that are misleading. Everything made sense in the climax, but I felt deeply dissatisfied.

I haven’t watched any movies yet in 2019.

In terms of series, I just finished watching the latest season of Outlander. I’m really appreciating the changes that are being made for the television series. In the novels, Brianna and Roger’s respective journeys in getting to the past were given short shrift, of a necessity, because of the focused point of view in the novel. They basically had to tell Claire and Jamie what happened after their arrival. They’ve kept the major events of the novel without getting overly complicated with the cast. Young Ian’s induction into the Mohawk was different in the novel, but the series weaves the threads together more cleanly.

Phil and I were surprised by Titans. Phil has never liked DC. I’ve watched most of the DC series that have come out, but they were never “can’t miss” viewing. Titans was grittier without being emo. I tell ya, Oliver Queen’s brooding is harder to watch than Angel’s ever was 😛

Vikings went off on a tangent when they killed Ragnar. I watched the final season, but, honestly, The Last Kingdom is SO much better.

I’m really enjoying The Rookie. It’s feel-good without being saccharine. Also, Nathan Fillion.

This next season of Star Trek: Discovery is also enjoyable. As is Deadly Class, though it’s so full of bullet plot holes … I’m more looking forward to The Umbrella Academy, in all honestly. Magicians has just started. I know it’s far removed from Grossman’s novels, now, but I’m enjoying it as its own thing. I finally got around to watching The Man in the High Castle. Not too far into it, yet, but I’m enjoying what I’ve seen so far.

I’m watching a bunch of other stuff, too, on TV and on Netflix or Amazon (Good Omens, why can’t you be here NOW?), but not much of it is noteworthy. Riverdale doing the D&D, excuse me, G&G is devil worship/brainwashing thing is so lame I can’t even. The other DC series, which I’m not even going to list, are uniformly meh. I watch Grey’s and Murder, but I could miss them—and not miss them, if you know wheat I mean. The Charmed reboot is ok.

One thing that I’ve noticed about the shows I watch is that I can often figure out what’s going to happen next. I read, and watch, like a writer, analyzing as I go. It’s when I stop analyzing and just get wrapped up in a show that I know it’s good.

And that’s where I’ll leave you for this month.

It’s been a monster post. Thanks for hanging in there.

Here’s a few pics of Torvi.

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

The Next Chapter

Advertisements

The next chapter: September 2018 update

Happy Thanksgiving, to all my Canadian friends! And happy Columbus Day to all my American ones. To be honest, I don’t know what other celebrations might be taking place this weekend elsewhere in the world. If you have something special to celebrate, I wish you joy. If nothing else, it’s the weekend, and reason enough to celebrate.

Even it it’s a nice, quiet supper with friends and/or family. Aren’t those really the best celebrations? Maybe it’s just introvert me.

I’m celebrating a few things. Torvi turned 1 on September 26. She’s still a handful, but she’s getting better every day (we have to believe that, regardless). Phil’s work troubles are almost at an end. It’s been formally announced, now, so I can say. Phil’s retiring November 30th. There’s going to be an adjustment period, but there it is.

Writing-wise, September saw me writing the last words on Playing with Fire. Finally. I also brushed up the last batch of chapters of Marushka and got them posted for critique. The only other writing I did in the month was to blog.

Here’s how the month looked, production-wise.

SeptProgress

I reviewed 11,852 words of Marushka and got the last chapters posted over the Labour Day long weekend. I kind of fudged my goal at 10k, so ended up with 119% of my “revision” goal. I put revision in quotes, because I didn’t really revise anything. As I wrote above, I reviewed it. Quick pass before I let it out the door, so to speak.

Once again, I set myself the modest writing goal of 5k on PwF. I ended up writing 6,108 words, or 122% of my goal. It’s the most I’ve written since June, so I take heart.

I estimated 2,600 words on the blog and wrote 2,610; so, 100%.

September wasn’t a month for creative events, but for more personal ones. For example, my coworkers arranged our annual Christmas in not-December (it’s been June, July, August, and now September, so far).

In October, I have a few things to get accomplished. In the critique group, I have to finish my critique of one novel and look at a novella. I also have to review the opening of a friend’s novel (not associated with the critique group).

I have another column due this month for DIY MFA. Aside from that, I’m trying to outline Tamisashki for NaNoWriMo. It’s the fifth and final book in my epic fantasy series and I don’t want to put myself in the same situation I was this year—interminable drafting.

The reason I was working on PwF for so long (if you don’t remember, and it’s totally okay if you don’t) is that, aside from my crazy burnout, I didn’t get a chance to finish my outline for the novel before NaNo, and Torvi, arrived. I had the protagonist’s plot line worked out, but the rest of it was all pantsing.

I’ve come to appreciate the preparatory work I do, even if I don’t end up sticking to the outline, and I usually don’t because I’m a creative monkey.

And, of course, there’s the blogging.

This year, I’m thinking of doing a weekly NaNo update post in November, just to keep something going up on the blog. We’ll see how things work out.

And that’s it for the writerly update this month.

Tomorrow, I’m going to post a special, Torvi-oriented blog and then it’s back to work and curation posts.

Thanks for stopping by and seeing what’s been up with me.

Be well until tomorrow.

The Next Chapter

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Sept 23-29, 2018

Let’s start off October right with some informal writerly learnings 🙂

K.M. Weiland returns from hiatus with three tips for improving show, don’t tell. Helping Writers Become Authors

Susan Spann explains when zero is greater than one. Writer Unboxed

Bryn Greenwood: how long is a piece of string? Ruminations on quitting the day job and what it takes to make a writing life. Writer Unboxed

Barbara O’Neal writes about the pause between. Sometimes, you have to take a break between projects. Listen to your body. Writer Unboxed

Heather Webb offers some tips on writing the authentic modern woman (especially if you’re a man). Writer Unboxed

Julie Carrick Dalton uses a metaphor to describe the editing process: putting words on trial. Writer Unboxed

Jane Friedman shares three principles of finding time to write. Then, Grant Faulkner joins Jane to help you overcome creativity wounds.

Elisabeth Kauffman answers another question in her ask the editor column: conflicting critique advice. DIY MFA

Barbara Poelle answers another “Funny you should ask” question: what is new adult fiction? Writer’s Digest

Chuck Wendig tries his hand at another writing analogy: a writing career is basically a really weird RPG. Terribleminds

Laura Drake explains why learning writing takes so long. Writers in the Storm

Chris Winkle shows you how to break storytelling rules. Mythcreants

Jami Gold: how to save a broken story.

Cold Crash Pictures takes a look at the five most annoyingly sexist tropes in movies. Works for fiction, too.

 

That was Tipsday for this week.

Come back on Thursday for your weekly dose of thoughty.

Until then, be well!

tipsday2016

The next chapter: August 2018 update

Greetings, my writerly peeps!

I won’t say it again. I will not. If you’ve read the last few next chapter updates, you know what I’m resisting writing.

It’s still true, but I think that by this time, it goes without saying.

On to the writing progress report.

AugProgress

Once more, I fell short of my modest 5k writing goal on my current work in progress, Playing with Fire. I did write 3,828 words, or 77% of my goal, but I had some competing priorities that made it both necessary and the best I could do given the circumstances.

One of those priorities was a quick run-through of Marushka, as I broke the monolithic manuscript into chapters for posting online. I’ve just finished this task and will be writing up some further notes for me new critique group. In the process I bumped the word count for the draft up by about a thousand words. Draft 2.5 (‘cause this wasn’t really a true revision in any sense of the word) is now just shy of 78k words and I’m sure I’ll be able to take it into the 80-90k range once I have my critique notes.

So, technically, I revised 65,196 words of my 60k-word goal, or 100%

I also sacrificed some personal reading time to do an initial reading of the draft of another writer in the group. As one does in a critique group 🙂 Critiques were initially due by the end of August, but an extension has been granted. I have the time to so a second reading (at least) and put together some juicy notes.

August saw the recurrence of the due date for my DIY MFA column, which should be out on the 11th. It’s another big one, 1,632 words worth, and 163% of my goal.

Finally, I published 3,235 words on this blog in August, or 116% of my 2,800-word goal.

Overall, it’s been a good month with more hits than misses.

In September, I’ve set myself what I hope to be my final 5,000-word goal on PwF. I shouldn’t need that many words to finish off the draft (yes, I’m that close—so close I can taste it, as my mom would say) but I’ve given myself the “space” in case I need it.

Then, I’m going to organize my novel notes into a true series “bible” and begin outlining the final book in the Ascension series, Tamisashki, for NaNoWriMo 2018.

I’ll get to work on my critique and possibly take on another.

My next DIY MFA due date isn’t until October and so, because this won’t be a writing-heavy month, I’ve decided to take on a couple of learning opportunities, just for shits and giggles.

The first of these is the NaNoWriMo/Wesleyan prep course, offered through Coursera. The cost is nominal, and I get to see what Wesleyan offers.

The second is that I’m formally participating in Rachael Stephen’s Prep-tober this year (are we seeing the theme here?).

Writing is and always has been my happy place and that’s where I’m “spending” my creative energies.

Other aspects of my life are still in strange limbo-land, but there is hope/an ending in sight.

In other news, here are some Torvi pictures:

And my attempts at sunrise/sunset/moon pictures:

I’m no professional and all I’ve used here was the camera in my cell phone, but I thought I captured some lovely moments.

And that’s it for this month’s next chapter update.

Until the next time I blog, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories!

The Next Chapter

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, July 1-7, 2018

And here is another week’s worth of informal writerly learnings.

Jane Friedman says, author income surveys are misleading and flawed—and they focus on the wrong message for writers. Jane kindly offers a TL;DR summary up front, but it’s worthwhile reading her whole post. Verra interesting.

K.M. Weiland asks you to judge yourself less, trust yourself more, and write better stories. Helping Writers Become Authors

Rachael Stephen offers her tips on self-care for writers (and humans).

 

Tamar Sloan helps you level up your character’s wound. Writers Helping Writers

Elise Holland explains how to writer your best cover letter. DIY MFA

Fae Rowan brings us part one of a series: five conflict-making choices for your characters. This one’s about the need for control.  And here’s part two: conceit and coveting. Writers in the Storm

Black, white, gray, rainbow: what is heroism now? Donald Maass on Writer Unboxed.

Anna Elliott is keeping her hustle joyful. Writer Unboxed

Natalia Sylvester offers her thoughts on writing a novel that people call political. Writer Unboxed

Jo Eberhardt delves into the challenge of writing dialog separated by a common language. Writer Unboxed

Jim C. Hines gathers contributions from the speakers of different languages. Why? Because, rather than being able to ask for a beer or a toilet anywhere in the world, Jim wants to know how to ask people for their permission to pet their dogs. A very important linguistics post about petting dogs.

Ryan Van Cleave applies Stephen Covey’s seven habits for writers’ groups. Fiction University

Chris Winkle discusses creating a magic system for superpowers. Then, Oren Ashkenazi looks at five story elements that worked in one story but not in another. Mythcreants

Gabriela Pereira interviews Jeff and Ann Vandermeer on the Writer’s Digest podcast: anthologies, the genre fiction divide, and deep reading.

Wynona Earp returns. It’s not the greatest series ever made, but it’s fun, doesn’t take itself too seriously, and I’m kind of in love with the grrl power.

 

And this looks good: The House with the Clock in its Walls

 

And that was Tipsday.

Be well until Thursday when you can return for some thoughty.

tipsday2016

The next chapter: June 2018 update

Hello all you writerly people!

I know I’ve said this often in recent months, but this past month has been a weird one.

It started off well, but in the first full week of June, I was asked to deliver training with just one week to prep in and amongst my other duties. We didn’t even have a proper participant list until the Thursday before the class was to start. At least no one had to travel.

So, a week of frantic prep and two weeks of training followed by five weeks of post-training monitoring (PTM). Yeah, I’m going to be busy through to August.

I’ve had another life lesson confirmed for me. I no longer have to deliver training away from home to feel exhausted by the activity. Introvert me has to be on all the time in front of a class. It really leaves me drained at the end of the day with little to nothing left for my creative pursuits. And what little energy I have is still focused on Torvi, who, while she is showing steady improvement as she grows older, is still a handful. More on the T sitch, later.

On Wednesday of the second week of training, our group was inducted into a new PTM pilot project. The first class and group of monitors was chosen to be the pilot in advance of that class. The participants, their team leaders, and the trainers and monitors were all provided with training and information prior to the class. In other words, they were well-prepared.

Following the training, we were scrambling to mark the final tests, create course summary reports, and my co-facilitator was the lead monitor for the transition week, essentially dedicated advice and guidance for the whole class of fifteen. Plus, we both had our own agents (three each) to take care of.

I won’t get into the details, or this will be a very long, ranty post. Needless to say, it was madness.

JuneProgress

Given the crazy, I think I did pretty good. I wrote more days than not, and I wrote less than I would have liked, but I wrote, and that was the biggest part of the battle. I only wrote 6,635 words of my 10K goal, or 66%.

This means that it will be one more month drafting Playing with Fire. I should, however, finish the draft by the end of July.

I wrote 3,363 words on this blog, or 129% of my 2,600-word goal, got my DIY MFA column in early at a honkin’ 2,141 words, or 241%, and assembled my last Sudbury Writers’ Guild newsletter at 4,072 words, or 102% of goal.

In all, I wrote 16,213 words in June, or 92% of my monthly writing goal. Not too shabby 🙂

I did nothing in terms of creative events this month, but I did have supper with a good friend the other night. We haven’t seen each other in forever and it was lovely to catch up.

This coming month, however, I’ll have a couple of events to share. I’ll be heading down to Ad Astra next weekend, and the Sudbury Writers’ Guild will be holding a workshop with Gail Anderson-Dargatz on the 28th.

I may have another critique group in the making. I’ll find out more tomorrow and be sure to fill you in when I compose next month’s update.

In other news …

Phil continues to trudge toward sanity at work. It’s still rough, but they’ve hired someone who’ll be able to ease some of Phil’s burden and who’ll be starting mid-month. There will be some training before the new hire is going to be able to take some of the workload off Phil’s shoulders, but it’s another small win.

Health-wise, I’m pretty much sorted. My doctor put me through a battery of blood screenings, and other tests, and all of the results came back showing that I’m in good health. The one issue I’d wanted to investigate turns out just to be age-related and manageable without medication. Oh, and I have fibroids, which I didn’t have a few months ago, but I haven’t experienced any problems as a result of them. Funny, I don’t feel old enough to have these problems …

And … five months after the ablation, I had my first non-period. It was essentially just prolonged spotting. I’m cautiously optimistic.

We have one class left in Torvi’s intermediate obedience. As I said above, she’s improving, but she’s still a handful. One bit of progress is that I was able to take her across town in the car—without meds (!) I think we’ll be able to stop using them soonish. She may never enjoy the car, and she’ll probably drool every time we take a ride, but she’s not really distressed, and she hasn’t thrown up.

I took her to get her nails trimmed and she was snappy with the groomer. They may have to muzzle her in the future 😦

Feisty pup is feisty.

Tomorrow, I’m going to introduce her to a beach and see if she’ll swim. If, as I suspect, she’s got a good bit of husky in her, she may not do more than wade in and get her belly wet. I’ll be instagramming the pics.

And that was a month in this writer’s life.

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

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: April 2018 update

Hey, all you writerly people 🙂

Here we are in May, Cinco de Mayo, in fact, and it’s time for my next chapter update.

It’s been a weird few weeks since I made my decision to stop posting every weekend. I had one weekend that was fairly restful, caught a flu and was sick for a week, and have spent the last week frantically catching up at work and at home.

I still think it was a good decision, but I’ll likely have to give it more time before I see real results.

I have formally announced my intention to hand off responsibility for the Sudbury Writers’ Guild newsletter, but elections (newsletter-er isn’t an elected position, but volunteer positions are filled at the same time as elected ones are voted upon) aren’t until the May meeting at the end of the month. Also, whoever decides to take over for me won’t do so until the beginning of the new SWG year in September. We usually break for the summer, so the June newsletter would be my last.

I’m still on the program committee and one of its sub-committees for the Canadian Authors Association, but my obligations have not been too onerous there. For now. If that changes, I’ll have to bow out.

On another front that I haven’t discussed much, I’m sad to report that my critique group has imploded. Well I’m two parts sad to one part relieved. I’m sad because I had great hopes, and relieved because it’s one less commitment to fulfill.

Several members were in the process of moving (some internationally) in January and February and so we delayed the start of the critiquing year. One submission has been made and I’ve read and critiqued it, but I haven’t heard from anyone else in the group about an online conference to actually discuss the submission, or anything else moving forward. I’m going to read through the submission one more time, finalize my written comments, and return them to the author. And then I’m going to pull the plug.

I may check out the novel critique group that the SWG runs. I need something. Writing in a feedback void isn’t getting me anywhere. I can continue to write and revise, but unless I can get some other eyes on the work, my revisions will lack direction and I’ll take so much longer to get anything ready for an editor, or for submission to agents or small publishers.

I got my taxes wrangled and, for the first time in a number of years, I’ve has absolutely no income to report from my creative work. No workshops. No panelist honoraria. No prize money. No sales of short fiction or even contributor copies. It’s a bit distressing. I’ve never had much income to report, but I’ve generally had something. It just makes me feel like I’ve been falling back, that it’s not just been my burnout, but something more insidious going on with me.

AprilProgress

I have, however, made strides with regard to my writing practice. For April, I set (or reset) the modest goal of 5,000 words written on Playing with Fire. I managed to write more days than not, and wrote 7,568 words, or 151% of my goal.

I also adjusted my writing goal for the blog given that I’m not posting most weekends. Even though I adjusted my blogging goal to 3,600 words, I wrote only 3,086 words, or 86% of my goal.

My DIY MFA post came in at 1,359 words of my 1,000-word goal, or 136%, and the SWG newsletter was 5,333 words of my 4,000-word goal, or 133%. Admittedly, the newsletter is not all my writing. I have submissions from the membership and the contests and inspirational quotes are found online and copied. Still, I have to fill in gaps, edit, format, and cobble all the disparate parts of the newsletter together into a more or less cohesive whole.

Overall, I wrote 128% more in the month than I set out to, and that makes me happy.

Though it was May 1st, I was able to attend one literary event, the staged reading of the latest iteration of Kim Fahner’s play, “Sparrows Over Slag.”

20180501_171021

Here are the actors, Morgan St. Onge, Matthew Heiti, and Sarah Gartshore.

Kim also had an artist talk afterward during which she explained the impetus for the play and its development.

On the Torvi front, we’re one class away from graduating from the beginner obedience class at Skiplyn Kennels, only to jump right into the intermediate class. Torvi is still a challenge. The second biggest problem now is her propensity to get up on counters, tables, desks, grab whatever she can get her teeth on, and run. She also jumps on people. We’ve been persistent with telling her to get off, and pushing her off, but she still hasn’t gotten the message.

The biggest problem is that she’s started peeing in the house again. We thought we had this licked, but no. So now we’re pacing around the yard reciting “do your pee” until she complies. She’s still distracted by everything. Even if she asks to go out, she forgets what she’s there for once she sees a bird, or squirrel, or a truck or a motorcycle goes by.

She’s showing steady improvement in all other areas, but those are the two stubborn problems.

Here’s a comparison: Torvi at seven weeks and Torvi at seven months 🙂

20180505_164010

As for the orchids, it’s all the fuchsia phalaenopsis. The pink has dropped all its blooms now.

And that’s all I have to report for this month. It’s been mostly good and I’m looking forward to better yet to come.

Until Tipsday, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories!

The Next Chapter

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.

DecemberProgress

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

Lessons learned and takeaways from my European adventure

Over the weeks since my return and interspersed with monthly updates, I’ve been recounting my European adventure. Now, I’m finally ready to talk about the benefits I’ve gained and the things I’ve learned from the experience.

Muse-inks

Planning and preparation are important

I committed to the Writing Excuses Retreat and WorldCon in early February. It could have been January, but I was hesitant because of the expense. Ultimately, it was a confluence of events: WXR doing a Baltic cruise—they usually cruise the Caribbean, WorldCon being in Helsinki, my desire to visit the country of my ancestry, and the fact that I could do all that AND get in some quality first time tourism at the same time as I continued my professional development as a writer.

Once I committed, I was hip-deep in making the travel arrangements. WXR had their own travel agents and I was able to get a great price on a return European flight through them. All of the cruise arrangements were made through the travel agency.

They facilitated the registration for the cruise, the booking of all the tours at each of the stops, and the issuing of all electronic travel documents.

I made my own hotel booking and, with very little back and forth, I was able to secure the convention rate for my extended stay.

While I attempted to make my additional travel arrangements through the travel agents associated with the cruise, they were busy enough handling the details for the cruise. I’d noticed that the Canadian Auto Association, of which I am a member, was promoting their European travel services. I decided to make the remaining arrangements through them.

There was much more back and forth, but by staying on top of the email thread, I had my flight from Hamburg to Helsinki booked, my rental car, and my bus tour to cover the days in between the cruise and WorldCon.

I went to the airline sites and to CATSA to help me with my packing. My thought was to travel light and only have my carryon luggage and my (fairly large) purse. I reviewed my itineraries for the flights, cruise, and the schedule for the convention to plan out, in rough strokes, where I’d have to be, when.

I was as prepared as I could be by the time I left, but while planning and preparation are important, they aren’t everything.

I still suffered panic attacks in the week leading up to my trip. I still had to deal with ongoing anxiety during the flights—not because I’m afraid of flying, but because I was afraid that despite all my planning, that something catastrophic in terms of making my connections, delays, or other uncontrollable elements (weather) that attend travel would render my planning useless.

Fortunately, none of that happened.

Travelling alone is empowering

Because so much is out of your control when you travel alone, you quickly realize you just have to put on your big girl (or big boy) pant(ie)s and git ‘er done.

Anxiety serves no purpose in these situations and, frankly, can’t be indulged. Yes. I wrote that. Anxiety, in some situations, is an indulgence. It’s an indulgence of imbalanced or malfunctioning neurotransmitters, and not easily managed, but it’s still an indulgence.

I have a friend who lives with obsessive compulsive disorder and its attendant anxiety. I invited her up for a short visit that, because of its brevity, was highly structured (I guess planning’s a thing with me). In the ensuing whirlwind, she didn’t have the time to perform her particular rituals.

Months (it might have been years) later, she told me how that visit had changed her. It was concrete evidence that even if she couldn’t indulge her OCD, that the things she feared would happen, didn’t. It was a breakthrough for her.

I travel alone all the time. I drive down to Ottawa, to Toronto, or to other cities in southern Ontario to train for my day job. I attend writing conferences, conventions, and workshops alone. Some of these have been across the country, or in the States. But I’d never been outside of continental North America before. In a very real way, I had never been more alone.

After the pre-departure panic attacks, though, I progressed straight to a semi-fugue state during travel. I was completely in the moment. I had to continually check my itinerary to make sure I was making progress to the next queue, or boarding, or whatever, because it was too tempting to slip into a place in which I wouldn’t care if I got anywhere at all.

Though I spent my waiting and flight time reading or watching movies to keep myself distracted, I wasn’t really forming solid memories of these things. I felt like a deer in the headlights most of the time. It was a test of endurance more than anything else, but I didn’t have a panic attack for the duration of my trip.

A little bit of that disconnect from reality followed me throughout my journey and reasserted itself for my days of solo travel. I was more in control once most of the uncertainty was behind me, once I’d reached the Atlantic Hotel in Kiel, for instance, or embarked on the cruise ship, or checked into the Sokkos Presidentti.

During the retreat itself, I had to be intentionally vulnerable, painfully honest, and resist attempts to make my work, accomplishments, or failures—essentially me—sound better, less devastating, or more professional than they were. It takes effort to do this when your body and brain is used to preventing you from doing these very things. It’s very liberating.

And, as my friend Kim told me, it’s also empowering. I can be authentic and the world doesn’t end. People still like me. I can be honest, and my tribe (writers) will support me.

As I’ve mentioned in past posts about this trip, the experience is still changing me. I’m a creature of habit and change is slow to come.

It was bucket-listy

When I started to attend conferences, conventions, and workshops, I started to set goals. Attend  Ad Astra. Check. I’ve now attended three. Attend the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. Check. Attend When Words Collide. Check. Attend Can-Con. Check. Attend WorldCon. Check.

When I started to listen to the Writing Excuses podcast, I became aware of their writing retreats. Initially, they were held at Mary’s parent’s house. Eventually, though, they became more ambitious and the retreat took place on a cruise ship.

So I put that on my list of writerly goals. The Baltic cruise was special, though. The Writing Excuses cast will likely not be doing something similar in the near future. I could have made it even more bucket-listy by attending the German castle tour that followed the cruise, but I had to draw my financial line somewhere.

Still, to attend a writing retreat on a cruise ship, in Europe, and to be able to see some of the world in addition to developing my skill as a writer? As they say on the credit card commercial, that was priceless. It was the perfect storm of opportunity.

Travel and experience are critical parts of becoming a better writer. You have to push your limits, get out of your comfort zone, to make a breakthrough.

Ask and you shall receive

I left on my trip with a couple of personal goals in mind aside from travelling Europe and participating in the cruise.

Again, as I’ve mentioned previously, I have been having increasing difficulty with creative burnout. I wanted to see if I could get some practical advice and solid strategies for identifying and addressing the underlying reasons for this.

K. Tempest Bradford and Emma Newman were particularly helpful in this respect. The path they’ve lit the way to is one I’m still walking. I’ll have to devote another blog to this in the future, once I’ve sorted more of it out.

For now, I’m easing up on the writerly goal setting. I’m making room for other entertainment, down time, and self-care. I’m not so obsessed with heeding the siren song of production (moar!). I’m working on understanding that what I can get done is enough, that I am enough, and that reminding myself of the reasons I chose to write in the first place (love!) take precedence over external validation.

The other thing I was looking for was something that I’ve been trying for a couple of years to get in place, a mentor, editor, or some other form of support to help me get to the next level, so to speak, in my writing. I’ve tried to get a situation in place, but often personalities, interests, or skill sets have not meshed.

I’ve also been a part of many informal writing groups in real life as well as on line over the years. Again, personal goals, interests, and skill sets have not meshed. Or the methodology has been, in my opinion, flawed. Focusing on the first X pages or chapters doesn’t result in appropriate feedback, and feeding chapters, or sections, to readers over months or years isn’t necessarily productive either. Neither approach allows the reader or critique partner to get a feeling for the whole story, which I think is critical to feedback that results in improvement.

By the end of the cruise, I’d expressed interest in a full-novel critique group. Over the course of WorldCon, connections were made and things were firmed up. Starting in January of 2018, there’s a group of us that are going to give it a shot. I have hope and expectations, but not so many, nor so high, that they will be easily disappointed 🙂

One thing that I wasn’t expecting to receive was the excellent advice of Thomas Olde Heuvelt on how to develop and maintain a creative life plan. I’ve been setting writerly goals for years, but they’ve been primarily one-dimensional and focused on production.

Thomas’s advice to let the over-the-top, blue-sky, dreamy goals inform your overall writing goals and to include holistic life goals, like health—physical and mental—and financial, in the plan helped me to realize how much wellbeing I’ve been leaving out of my goals in recent years. He also recommended having a five year plan in place, subject to change (life does have a habit of intervening).

My European adventure was truly a life-changing experience, in many ways.

I’ll have to let you know how everything works out, but as many of my takeaways were things I’m going to be implementing over time, the results may be a while in coming.

Next week, I’ll be devoting some time to Kim’s launch of Some Other Sky and my presentation for the Sudbury Writers’ Guild on Fantasy (yes, the topic is wide open—it’s going to be fun). After that, I’m going to be participating in NaNoWriMo and taking a month-long blogging break, except for the Thoughty Thursday coming out on November 2nd.

I’ll catch everyone up in December with another bonanza October/November next chapter update. There are also going to be some writerly events coming up in November, including WordStock Sudbury and a possible Gail Anderson-Dargatz workshop with the Sudbury Writers’ Guild.

There will be more writerly goodness coming up.

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

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Oct 1-7, 2017

Here are your informal writerly learnings for the week!

This is October now … and so you know what those of us who do the crazy of NaNoWriMo are doing. Yup. NaNo prep (not to be confused with those other preppers). For the month of October, therefore, I will be posting lots of tasty NaNo prep materials, which can be pretty useful even if you don’t participate 🙂

K.M. Weiland assembles her complete guide to preparing for a successful NaNoWriMo. Helping Writers Become Authors

To help y’all prepare for NaNoWriMo, Janice Hardy’s running a 31 day novel workshop. Here’s the first instalment: brainstorming your idea. Day two: develop your hook. Day three: what’s driving your plot?  Day four: creating your characters. Day five: developing your protagonist. Day six: creating the novel’s conflict. Day seven: developing your antagonist.

Laura Highcove lists the pros and cons of NaNoWriMo. DIY MFA

Rachael Stephen continues preptober with how to be an early bird.


Laura Drake helps you find your perfect critique partner. Writers in the Storm

Kristen Lamb has a little tongue-in-cheek advice for you. Fun is for losers! If you aren’t miserable, you’re doing it wrong! Later in the week Kristen returns with 50 shades of butt-in-gear—the ultimate slacker’s guide to writing success.

Bryn Greenwood: haters gonna hate (but you don’t have to). Writer Unboxed

Writerly wisdom from Donald Maass: the world is inside out. Writer Unboxed

Jo Eberhardt encourages us to write like a girl. Writer Unboxed

Gabriela Pereira interviews Jodi Kendall for DIY MFA radio.

C.S. Lakin visits Writers Helping Writers: what’s the dark night moment all about?

Ari Ashkenazi: five ways David Weber built the Honorverse into an immersive world. Mythcreants

Even John Scalzi is having a challenging writing year. Whatever

Elizabeth Bear wonders, where are all the women? Tor.com

Terri Pous shares 17 bits of word nerd trivia. Buzzfeed

And that be it until Thursday, my writerly friends.

Be well until then!

tipsday2016