Join me at DIY MFA for my LAST Speculations

Oh, my goodness, writerly friends! It’s the end of an era!

After five years, I’m leaving my DIY MFA family. It’s sad, because I’ve really enjoyed writing Speculations, but, as I mention in the column, I’ve had to honour my reality and make some tough choices.

I have some new priorities in my life right now and they need my attention.

While you’re there, please do check out the other, excellent columnists, and Gabriela’s awesome writer’s resources.

Until next time, be well and stay safe, my writerly friends!

NaNoWriMo 2021 wrap post

As promised, here is a fulsome review of my experience of NaNoWriMo 2021.

The plan

I had no expectation of winning this year. Because I had just come out of an autistic burnout and was finding writing or revising anything challenging, I decided to be a NaNo Rebel again this year and I set my goal low.

In addition to revising Reality Bomb and filling in my chapter and scene map for the novel, I was going to write my Speculations column for DIY MFA, work on a short story (I had hoped, more than one), and to round things out, I also counted my blogging. In short, I counted everything I wrote in the month.

Even so, I thought I’d only get 30,000 words revised on RB, 2,500 words each on the short story and blog, and 1,000 words on my column. 36,000 words seemed like a reasonable goal.

The progress

I did have the first two weeks of November off work. I was kind to myself, got a solid 8 hours sleep each night, ate well, walked Torvi twice a day, watched television and streaming, and played a computer game as a nightly reward. I didn’t put any pressure on myself. I think it was a good approach 🙂

Between RB and the map, I revised 44,854 words, or 150% of my goal.

I finished my short story in 1,424 words, which was only 57% of my goal. I also submitted it.

I blogged 2,138 words, or 86% of that goal.

On my column, I wrote 1,653 words, which was 165% of my goal there.

Plus, I wrote 360 words on a little side project.

I wrote 5,575 words of the 6,000 I had intended to. That’s 93% of my writing goal.

My winning total for NaNoWriMo 2021 is 50,899, but when I add everything I recorded up, it totals 50,429. So, I made a mistake of 470 words somewhere. Still, I won!

Evidence …
I was all over the place!
The only badge I didn’t get was recording 1,667 every day.

The pivot

I had expected my progress to slow when I returned to work. And it did, but the progress I’d made in the two weeks I was off, plus the work I was able to do on the weekends was enough to shore up the low production days.

I’ve hit a problematic part of RB at this point, though. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it’s the mid-point of the novel. Yes, my middle is saggy. It’s going to require some thought and strategic thinking to tighten it up.

So, I’m going to take another little break, let things percolate for a bit, decorate the house for Christmas (which I haven’t done for … years), and marshal my resources.

I don’t know if I’ll get back to revisions later this month or wait until the new year. I’m going to take the same approach I did with NaNo. I’m going to be kind to myself, set reasonable expectations, and do what I can.

The other factor at play is my recent diagnosis as autistic. I’ve found a therapist, joined a support group, and I’m looking at workplace accommodations. And I’m working full time. I know there are a lot of authors who work full time, but with this new understanding of, and context for my life, I can see the times when I’ve been overwhelmed and burned out. I can’t do it all, all the time.

This weekend, I’ll be posting my next chapter update for October and November (the November piece should be short, ‘cause mini updates).

Until then, be well and stay safe; be kind and stay strong. The world needs your stories!

NaNoWriMo 2021, week 2, mini update

Here we are, on Sunday of week 2.

The plan

The plan was to finish my Speculations column and submit it, and to continue revising Reality Bomb and working on my first short story. If I was so lucky as to finish the first story, I’d start a second. There are several open calls and contests coming up. I know I won’t hit all of them, but I’m going to try for a couple.

The progress

I wrote 748 words to finish my column. It’s 1,653 words in total. A little long, but it’s another personal post.

Between revisions and my evolving map of RB, I racked up 12,446 words. I’ve finally made it past the point where I realized I’d have to change the POV to first person and start over. It’s good to be forging ahead.

I wrote 112 more words on my story. It’s a cute one. I’ll tell you about it later in the year.

This update is 359 words.

And … I did a little personal project that amounted to 360 words.

This week’s total word count: 14,025.

NaNo 2021 running total: 26,771 words. That’s an average of 1,912 words a day.

The pivot

Tomorrow is my first day back to work after two wonderful and restorative weeks off. I expect that my productivity will be significantly lower during the week. It’s to be expected. I usually write or revise 250 to 500 words a day when I’m working. It’ll be a bit more than that because I’m not curating. Optimistically, we can probably double that to 500 to 1,000 words a day. But that’s being optimistic. I might catch up a bit on the weekends, but I doubt I’ll “win” this year.

It’s all about the motivation, though. Writing something every day has been good for me. I’m feeling refreshed and inspired. I’m remembering why RB was important to me (actually, I didn’t forget, but autistic burnout messed with my head for a couple of months).

My best wishes to everyone who’s participating in NaNoWriMo 2021 in any capacity. You can do the thing!

Until next week, be well and stay safe; be kind and stay strong. The world needs your stories!

NaNoWriMo 2021, week 1, mini update

Today is November 7th and I’m happy to report that I’ve written 12,746 words so far.

The plan

I named my project this year “NaNo Rebel Combo.” And it’s exactly that. I’m working on next round revisions on Reality Bomb, including the work I’m doing on my scene map as I go, some pieces of short fiction, and my next Speculations column for DIY MFA. I’m even counting these blog posts (and my curation posts) toward my goal. It’s a real mixed bag this year 🙂

Also, I have the first two weeks of November off from work. I expect my productivity to take a nosedive starting on the 15th.

The progress

On RB and the scene map, I’ve written 9,872 words;

I’ve written 141 words on a short story;

I’ve written 905 words of my Speculations column; and

Including this post … I’ve blogged 1,353 words.

Grand total for week one: 12,746 words (1,820/day).

The pivot

Once my Speculations column is submitted, I’m going to refocus on RB and the first short story. When that short story is finished, I’ll start another.

As I mentioned, I’ll be returning to work on the 15th and don’t expect to accomplish as much after that. But I’ll keep plugging away, as I’m able, and see what I can put together.

We’ll see what I can do in the next week, but I’m not set on winning this year. This is just motivation for me to get back to a more regular practice. As you can see, I’ve only set myself a goal of writing 36,000 words on my spreadsheet. I think that’s reasonable, but what I often think is reasonable turns out to be a stretch.

Until next week, be well and stay safe; be kind and stay strong. The world needs your stories!

Tipsday: Informal writerly learnings, Oct 24-30, 2021

This will be the last tipsday until December 7th! Yup, it’s NaNo again. So, stock up for the month and feel free to peruse past weeks’ posts as well. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, but this tipsday is jam packed full of writerly goodness. Enjoy!

Kim Bullock faces a fork in the writerly road. KL Burd: “The loss we carry, a sea we must wade.” Elizabeth Huergo discusses genre and its discontents. Then, Milo Todd is losing the magic of writing: The Sweatbox. Heather Webb: Halloween is all about fear; turns out, so is publishing. Writer Unboxed

Racism and horror | Khadija Mbowe

K.M. Weiland poses six questions to help you avoid repetitive scenes. Helping Writers Become Authors

Lisa Cooper Ellison says that structure isn’t the Holy Grail you’re looking for. Jane Friedman

Vivek Hariharan shares six tips for expanding a novel into a series. Live, Write, Thrive

Princess Weekes reveals what the f—k happened behind the scenes of Justice League. Melina Pendulum

Kris Maze offers a worry-free approach to double down on your writing goals. Then, Laurie Schnebly Campbell asks, how deep should you go into your POV? Kathleen Baldwin makes the case for “was” and the much maligned passive voice. Writers in the Storm

Shaelin explains how to write a horror novel. Reedsy

Then she follows up with the best and worst horror tropes. Reedsy

Sue Coletta: what are pinch points and where do they go? Then, Colleen M. Story explains how to tell if you’ve found the best book marketing niche. Lisa Hall-Wilson lists five ways trauma makes your character an unreliable narrator. Writers Helping Writers

Kris Hill is creating characters using collaborative storytelling. Then, Manuela Williams explains how to organize a collection of poetry. Gabriela Pereira interviews Debbie Macomber about writing and publishing a Christmas novel. Then, Alison Stine explains how to write a cli-fi novel. Sarah Van Arsdale shares five ways to resist the inexorable forces pulling you from your writing. DIY MFA

On her own channel, Shaelin shares 20 NaNoWriMo tips. Shaelin Writes

Chuck Wendig reviews the worldbuilding in Villeneuve’s Dune. Emmie Mears shares five things she learned building a writing career the wrong way. Terribleminds

Chris Winkle lists five important ways episodic stories are different. Then, Oren Ahskenazi analyzes To Sleep in a Sea of Stars: how Paolini undercooked his setting. Mythcreants

Princess Weekes shares everything you didn’t know about the father of science fiction. It’s Lit | PBS Storied

Patricia A. Jackson shares a pantser’s tale: follow the white rabbit. Fiction University

Emily Zarka presents the werewolf’s modern metamorphosis. Monstrum | PBS Storied

Kristen Lamb explains how horror can improve your writing in any genre.

Guy Kawasaki interviews Seth Godin: marketing god, blogger, and author. The Remarkable People Podcast

“Queerbaiting” is a tricky term. Don’t abuse it. The Take

Alan Garner: “You don’t want to have a brilliant idea for a novel at the age of 87.” The Guardian

Ena Alvarado reveals the science and slavery in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko. JSTOR Daily

Hanna Flint says that Dune is an accomplished escape into the realm of cinematic Arab appropriation. The New Arab

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you found something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

Tipsday: Informal writerly learnings, Oct 17-23, 2021

Another week, another batch of informal writerly learnings 🙂 Enjoy!

Jan O’Hara receives a wake-up call. Then, Dave King is writing in both directions. Barbara Linn Probst reviews the three aspects of revision: reworking, refining, and revisioning. Later in the week, Desmond Hall drops some more bite-sized writerly learnings on us. Writer Unboxed

Angela Ackerman explains how to make your characters’ choices more difficult. Helping Writers Become Authors

Jill bearup wants to talk to you about your enemies to lovers fixation (see Jenna Moreci, below, for a little writerly how-to).

Jessica Conoley shows you how to use your analyzer switch to increase productivity. Then, Stephanie Bourbon shows you how to fly by the seat of your pants—and win NaNoWriMo. Lizbeth Meredith asks: does the idea of promoting your book make you queasy? Jane Friedman

Emily Zarka recounts the killer origins of the werewolf. Monstrum | PBS Storied

Becca Puglisi reveals how internal conflict fits into the character arc. Live, Write, Thrive

Then, Becca shifts blogs to further discuss failure, conflict, and character arc. Then, Lisa Norman covers publishing dilemmas, distribution, and disruption. Ellen Buikema touts the benefits of writing SMART goals. Writers in the Storm

Jessica Thompson is subverting expectations in satisfying ways. Elizabeth Spann Craig

Louise Harnby answers the question: what is narrative distance?

The “mean girl” trio – three types of bad female leaders. The Take

Nathan explains how to raise the stakes in a novel. Then, Lindsay Syhakhom declares that writing in the library is wonderful. Nathan Bransford

Jeanette the Writer helps you figure out where to put the comma. Tammy Lough: romantic gestures create heat waves. Gabriela Pereira interviews Stephanie Bwa Bwa about world building and the YA fantasy serial. Then, Jessica Vitalis is tackling heavy subjects with middle grade readers. Angela Yeh shares five fun ways to get your butt in the chair (and keep it there). DIY MFA

Jenna Moreci offers her top ten tips for writing enemies to lovers.

J.D. Edwin shares six helpful ways any writer can overcome burnout. The Write Practice

Piper Bayard explains that outside of Hollywood movies, not everything can be “silenced.” Kristen Lamb

Bonnie Randall offers a few foundations of fear in fiction. Fiction University

Chris Winkle explains the problem with multiple viewpoints. Then, Oren Ashkenazi tests how useful Elmore Leonard’s ten rules of writing are. Mythcreants

Shaelin critiques Leonard’s rules, too. It’s interesting to note the differences … Reedsy

Sudbury’s YES Theatre hopes to build new outdoor venue. I remember when this space was open for movie nights and poetry readings and all kinds of artistic events. CBC

A process for the transfer of energy and feeling: George Saunders on the key to great storytelling. Brain Pickings

Kinship: Ursula K. Le Guin’s love poem to trees, the interleaving of life and death, and the eternal flame of being. The Marginalian (formerly Brain Pickings)

Thank you for taking the time to visit, and I hope you found something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe, my writerly friends!

Tipsday: Informal writerly learnings, Oct 10-16, 2021

This week’s batch of informal writerly learnings is loaded with writerly goodness 🙂

Stephanie Bwa Bwa shows you how to grow your email list (and your influence). Later in the week, Helena Hunting is finding work-life balance as a full-time author. Then, Brian Leung shares five tips for finding the kind genius writer in your mad genius writer. DIY MFA

Tim Hickson reveals the true ending of Lord of the Rings. Hello, Future Me

Janice Hardy explains how narrative distance affects telling: how far is too far? Then, Dario Ciriello waxes on the importance of commas, meter, and reading aloud for the fiction writer (with help from Cordia Pearson). Fiction University

Jill Bearup takes issue with The Guardian’s list of the top 20 duels.

Tiffany Yates Martin explains why you can’t stop thinking about “Bad Art Friend.” Then, Jim Dempsey is telling the truth in fiction. Kathleen McCleary: when you’re the passive protagonist of your own writing life. Then, Kathryn Craft wants you to make your big issue work through story (part 1). Anne Brown: spiders, snakes, public speaking, and querying agents. Later in the week, Kelsey Allagood explains why you should tackle that ambitious dream project now. Writer Unboxed

Shaelin tells you everything you need to know about publishing your short fiction. Reedsy

K.M. Weiland introduces us to the archetypal antagonists of the mage arc: evil and the weakness of humankind. Helping Writers Become Authors

Sarah Tinsley shares seven ways to create an empathetic antagonist. Live, Write, Thrive

Lori Freeland helps you figure out whether to comma, or not to comma (part 1). Then Piper Bayard lets us peek through a window into the top four organizations (writing spies). Lynette M. Burrows wants you to discover your writing strengths (and weaknesses). Writers in the Storm

On her own channel, Shaelin helps you handle rejection. Shaelin Writes

Angela Ackerman asks: who’s standing in your character’s way? Jane Friedman

Nathan explains how to make your novel un-put-down-able. Then, Christine Pride shares what she learned about writing from being an editor. Nathan Bransford

Piper Bayard shows you how to write the good fight. Then, she provides a writer’s guide to knowing your weapon. Kristen Lamb

The anti-Disney messaging of … Disney movies. The Take

Chris Winkle explains how to create a mysterious atmosphere. Then, Oren Ashkenazi analyzes six magic powers that writers had to ignore. Mythcreants

Kristin Nelson makes the case that content creators deserve a larger slice of the earnings pie. Pub Rants

Maria Tatar discusses her new book Heroine with a 1,001 Faces with Moira Weigel. Harvard Book Store

Wab Kinew reflects on Canada Reads and the meaning of reconciliation. CBC Books

Three northern Ontario writers in the running for the Governor General’s Awards. CBC

Thank you for taking the time to stop by, and I hope you found something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

Tipsday: Informal writerly learnings, Oct 3-9, 2021

A belated Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian readers! It’s time to indulge in some informal writerly learnings. Enjoy!

K.M. Weiland presents the archetypal antagonists of the crone arc: death blight and tempter. Helping Writers Become Authors

Greer Macallister seeks success without self-promotion. Then Jeanne Kisacky is walking the line between insanity and perseverance. Donald Maass reveals the secret of passive protagonists: seeking vs. suffering. Nancy Johnson: the blessed curse of the second book. Then, David Corbett discusses the character in secret search of midnight. Writer Unboxed

Jill Bearup made armor. In a cave shed. From a box of scraps.

Karen DeBonis helps you navigate a story identity crisis. Then, Eldred Bird wonders, what (the heck) is a MacGuffin? Jenny Hansen: writing and the law of loss aversion. Writers in the Storm

Shaelin helps you edit your short story. Reedsy

Angela Ackerman says, if you want powerful conflict, you can’t forget the stakes. Elizabeth Spann Craig

Then, over on Jami Gold’s blog, Angela explains how to write conflict without “bad guys.”

Bethany Henry is making magic systems that work and wow. Fiction University

Why fat phobia is still a problem onscreen. The Take

E.J. Wenstrom presents book promotion graphics for newbies. Then, Sara Farmer looks at some modern girl detectives. Maan Gabriel shares hacks to combat writer’s block and develop discipline. Then, Jane Elizabeth Hughes offers five tips for writing a historical mystery. DIY MFA

Seth Harwood says, your writing matters; a coach can help. Jane Friedman

The Bond Girl, her secret, and her future. The Take

Chris Winkle explains how to keep mysteries from looking like mistakes. Then, Oren Ashkenazi analyzes five stories that break their worlds’ themes. Mythcreants

Lindsay Syhakhom: writing and the art of surrender. Nathan Bransford

Allison Flood celebrates Abdulrazak Gurnah’s 2021 Nobel Prize in literature win. The Guardian

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you took away something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe, my writerly friends!

Tipsday: Informal writerly learnings, Sept 26-Oct 2, 2021

Welcome to October, my favourite month of the year 🙂 It’s all informal writerly learning treats and no tricks, all month long.

Erika Liodice explores the creative connection between travel and writing. Then, Robin LaFevers is navigating self-doubt. Jennie Nash recommends seven business books every writer should read. Then, Julie Carrick Dalton advises you about knowing when NOT to write. Deanna Cabinian examines the time vs. productivity paradox. Writer Unboxed

Kristen Lamb shares five simple ways to finish a book by making (not finding) time. Then, Cait Reynolds wonders, is podcasting the new blog? Kristen Lamb

Tim Hickson talks soft worldbuilding. Hello, Future Me

K.M. Weiland introduces us to the archetypal antagonists for the king arc: cataclysm and rebel. Helping Writers Become Authors

Susan DeFreitas: can fiction make a difference in the world? Jane wonders whether Black voices in publishing is a trend or a movement. Then, Jane considers what authors earn from digital lending at libraries. Jane Friedman

Shaelin helps you draft a short story. Reedsy

Following up on her last instalment on planting bugs, Piper Bayard explains how to find bugs (writing spies). Then, Kris Maze compares pros and cons of using Scrivener and Plottr for outlining. Writers in the Storm

Elizabeth Spann Craig looks at the pros and cons of outlining.

Death worms: fact or fiction? Monstrum | PBS Storied

Joanna Penn and Mark Leslie Lefebvre discuss co-authoring The Relaxed Writer. The Creative Penn

Nathan Bransford explains when to get feedback on your novel. Then, Shalene Gupta reveals how to make and keep writer friends. Nathan Bransford

Richelle Lyn is challenging a genre identity crisis. Then, T.J. Torres offers some advice for committed BIPOC writers. DIY MFA

The “white trash” trope and its hidden agenda. The Take

Sofia Jeppsson clears up seven misconceptions about madness and psychosis. Then, Oren Ashkenazi analyzes five movies critics loved but audiences hated. Mythcreants

Richard Marpole says that you’re writing medieval fantasy wrong. Fantasy Faction

Kristin Nelson reveals the connection between velocity, volume, interval, and the New York Times Bestseller List. Then, Angie Hodapp reveals that genre isn’t everything and high concept isn’t king. Pub Rants

How to tell she’s definitely not a Mary Sue. The Take

All the LOLs: the hilarious dictionary of Finnish language and culture. Design You Trust

Allison Flood announces that Laura Jean McKay wins the Arthur C. Clarke Award. The Guardian

Thank you for taking the time to visit, and I hope you took away something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe, my writerly friends!

Tipsday: Informal writerly learnings, Sept 19-25, 2021

September’s almost over (!) Not keen on how time warps these days. In any case, another week has passed and here’s another batch of informal writerly learnings 🙂 Enjoy!

Lauren J. Sharkey is fighting imposter syndrome: faker. Then, Adam W. Burgess explains why LGBTQ+ fiction writers need to read LGBTQ+ history. Tammy Pasterick is writing about the immigrant experience. Then, Heather Campbell lists five things she wished she knew about writing a novel. DIY MFA

Shaelin shows you how to conceptualize a short story. Reedsy

Vaughn Roycroft: a writer’s senses working overtime. Then, Dave King is world building through architecture. Alma Katsu: what to expect when your novel is reissued. Then, Heather Webb gives us the 411 on writing retreats. Liz Michalski: space and shadows. Then, Desmond Hall drops some more writing wisdom on us. Bite-sized writerly learnings #FTW! Writer Unboxed

On her own channel, Shaelin shares everything you need to know about writing workshops. Shaelin Writes

K.M. Weiland presents the archetypal antagonists for the queen arc. Helping Writers Become Authors

Lisa Norman lists five reasons tech can’t replace editors. Then, Lisa Hall-Wilson offers her best pro tip for writing deep POV. Ellen Buikema shares five things kids taught her about writing. Writers in the Storm

Erica Brozovsky shares 60 euphemisms for death. Otherwords | PBS Storied

How much do I need to describe my character’s appearance? Lucy V. Hay has answers. Then, Becca Puglisi says, if you need compelling conflict, choose a variety. Writers Helping Writers

Tiffany Watson explains how to format your manuscript for a designer or publisher. Then, Allison K. Williams explains what it takes to be a freelance editor. Jane Friedman

Why do people think Huck Finn is racist? It’s Lit | PBS Storied

Kristine Kathryn Rusch: comparison is the thief of joy.

Lindsay Syhakhom explains how to protect your manuscript from computer meltdowns and hackers. Nathan Bransford

Love, according to Studio Ghibli. The Take

Chris Winkle shows you how to create an elemental magic system. Oren Ashkenazi: how useful are Neil Gaiman’s eight rules of writing? Mythcreants

Kristen Lamb tackles brave new writing and learning to think outside the book.

Jason Asenap: Reservation Dogs is just the beginning of an Indigenous storytelling explosion. Esquire

Monisha Rajesh: pointing out racism in books is not an attack—it’s a call for industry reform. The Guardian

Thank you for visiting, and I hope you found something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe, my writerly friends!