My latest column on DIY MFA

Come on over and visit me at DIY MFA for my latest column.

Mythic structure: The Virgin’s Promise, part two.

VirginsPromise2

This time, I analyze Ever After and The Hobbit using Kim Hudson’s archetypal feminine structure.

And while you’re there, check out the rest of Gabriela’s amazing resources 🙂

Until next time, be well.

 

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, July 8-14, 2018

Another week, another batch of informal writerly learnings.

K.M. Weiland says, don’t let anyone tell you how to write, or, eight tips for learning responsibly. Helping Writers Become Authors

Greer Macallister tries some reverse psychology: how to write bad characters. Writer Unboxed

Keith Cronin: if I know then what I know now. Writer Unboxed

Juliet Marillier says that the magical formula is setting priorities. Writer Unboxed

Kathryn Craft: when perspective is the story. Writer Unboxed

Gwen Hernandez shows you how to compile a docx in Scrivener 3. Writer Unboxed

Kathryn Magendie: hey! Let’s all celebrate the madness! Writer Unboxed

Tamar Sloan shares five things writers need to know about characters with mental illness. PsychWriter

Roz Morris has some advice for shy writers: feel the fear and put yourself out there. Nail Your Novel

Sacha Black: how do you lead readers to your theme? Writers Helping Writers

Piper Bayard explains how to nail the character of an espionage hero for your spy novel. Writers Helping Writers

Orly Konig give you three reasons to embrace the prickly synopsis. Writers in the Storm

Ashly Hilst shares five ways to take your novel from good to great. DIY MFA

Oren Ashkenazi engages in some Q&A: what should I consider when creating a fictional economy? Later in the week, Chris Winkle helps you understand character karma. Mythcreants

Chuck Wendig examines the Save the Cat conundrum. Later in the week, T.J. Berry shares five things she learned writing Space Unicorn Blues. Terribleminds

Jenna Moreci lists her ten worst fantasy tropes.

 

Joanna Penn shares seven continuity issues to avoid when writing a series. The Creative Penn

Writer’s Digest interviews three agents about current science fiction trends.

Mary Robinette Kowal geeks out: five really cool things I learned at the NASA’s neutral buoyancy lab. Tor.com

Porter Anderson reports that the European parliament rejected a new copyright directive. What does that mean for copyright on this side of the pond? Porter Anderson Media

Adam O’Fallon Price: on semicolons and the rules of writing. The Millions

Be well until Thursday, when you can come back for your weekly dose of thoughty.

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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.

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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

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, June 24-30, 2018

It’s time for your weekly dose of informal writerly learnings.

/rant on/

I’ll start off on a negative note. Harlan Ellison died last week, but I have purposefully not posted about it or shared any posts about it on social media. Though he was influential in the science fiction universe and wrote much that is considered objectively great fiction (he was even a consultant on my favourite series ever, Babylon 5), I have never read any of his work. I wondered why that was and realized that I instinctively disliked the man in the interviews in which I saw him. Since, I have learned that he was a universal asshole and a misogynist prick. The incident with Connie Willis at the 2006 Hugos was just one, very public incident. For the record, I may read his work someday, but regardless of what I think of the man as a writer, I will always think of him as a poor example of a human being. I don’t care what his damage was, to be honest. It’s no excuse. We must do better, be better, than the pathetically low bar he set.

/rant off/

Now, on to the good stuff.

Patrice Williams Marks stops by Writer Unboxed: what is a sensitivity reader, and can I become one?

Susan Spann says, fear is a liar. Inspirational. Writer Unboxed

Barbara O’Neal considers light and dark, and writing with duende. “Duende is the dark magic, the force of Other, that enters the work and turns it from something interesting, maybe even really good, into something transcendent. It is born of the knowledge that death walks among us, that sorrow will mark you with her handprint, that we are all doomed to be forgotten.” Yum!  Writer Unboxed

Heather Webb wonders, is juggling multiple writing projects at once is exhausting or a bright idea? Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland: writing as the art of thinking clearly in six steps. Helping Writers Become Authors

Victoria Mixon: five advantages of rereading.

Joanna Penn interviews Michaelbrent Collings about writing with depression. The Creative Penn

Nathan Bransford explains how to list your publishing credits in a query letter.

A.K. Perry continues her exploration of James Scott Bell’s signpost scenes: trouble brewing. DIY MFA

Ambre Dawn Leffler shares five tai chi and yoga techniques to help with writer focus. DIY MFA

Gabriela Pereira offers six writing exercises to fuel your creativity. Writer’s Digest

Jami Gold breaks down the revision process, so you can improve your storytelling.

Lisa Granshaw offers an oral history of Babylon 5, the beloved TV novel that showed us a different way to tell a science fiction story. SyFy

Thu-Huong Ha: No mas, say the writers. How bilingual authors are challenging the practice of italicizing non-English words. Quartzy

MTV’s Decoded with Franchesca Ramsey – six phrases with racist origins.

 

Jessica Leigh Hester: why medieval monasteries branded their books. Atlas Obscura

Arika Okrent presents the curious origins of 16 common phrases. Mental Floss

And that was Tipsday for this week.

I hope all of my Canadian friends had a LOVELY Canada Day long weekend (today will have been our Tuesday-that-feels-like-a-Monday) and that all of my friends in the US will have an equally enjoyable Independence Day holiday.

Be well until Thursday rolls around and don’t forget to come back for some quality thoughty.

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, June 17-23, 2018

It’s that time of the week when you get to reward yourself with some informal writerly learnings 🙂

K.M. Weiland explains how to intertwine plot, character, and theme in every scene. New insights from my favourite guru 🙂 Helping Writers Become Authors

This column was a-MA-zing. Read it. Love it. Live it! Asking myself why I write … again. Vaughn Roycroft on Writer Unboxed.

Jim Dempsey explains how to create drama with your character’s desire. Writer Unboxed

Roz Morris posts about what she wished she’d known in school: two instructions for making a creative life. Nail Your Novel

Jennie Nash stops by Writers Helping Writers to explain how the growth mindset for writers leads to the satisfaction of excellence.

Chuck Wendig explains how to be a writer in this fucked-ass age of rot and resistance. Terribleminds

Literary agent Barbara Poelle answers the question, what are the best times to query an agent? Funny you should ask. Writer’s Digest

Nathan Bransford confesses something about the fear of never finishing.

L.L. Barkat stops by Jane Friedman’s blog to share her introvert’s guide to launching a book.

Lisa Hall-Wilson encourages you to write beyond lust and attraction and use the body language of love. Writers in the Storm

Elisabeth Kauffman answers another writerly conundrum in her ask the editor column: travelling between worlds. DIY MFA

Bran L. Ayres wonders, should we include trigger warnings in our novels? Then, Bran L. Ayres returns to Jami Gold’s blog: how to develop and show a healthy romance.

Oren Ashkenazi provides six more bad arguments against social justice in speculative fiction. Then, Oren critiques six supposedly powerful abilities that don’t measure up. Really, it’s about overpowered characters. Mythcreants

Melody Wilding: how mental illness inspired Gabriela Pereira to launch a creative writing business. Forbes

Tajja Isen hopes writers of colour can expand the way they write about their identities. “Despite the position from which I write, and the need for it to inform my work, I also want that work to bloom around a richer core than the supposed pain of racial difference. If each writer chases a singular question, then I need a refrain that does more open-ended, unexpected work than just announcing the color of my skin as the intellectual bottom line — even if, or especially if, that tortured pose is the kind of work that editors expect.” Buzzfeed

Camille Perri says, we need more queer stories where nobody suffers. Electric Lit

MTV’s Decoded: code switching with Franchesca Ramsey.

 

And that was Tipsday. Tomorrow is hump-day and that’s one day closer to Friday!

Come back on Thursday for your weekly dose of thoughty.

Be well until then, my friends.

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, June 10-16, 2018

You’ve made it through Monday and now it’s time to reward yourself with some informal writerly learnings 🙂

Roz Morris shares five tips for writing good prose. Nail Your Novel

K.M. Weiland walks you through the five steps to creating great character chemistry. Helping Writers Become Authors

Jeanne Kisacky explores non-verbal communication in writing. Writer Unboxed

Sarah Callender laments losing a beloved critique partner. Writer Unboxed

David Corbett follows up on Sharon Bially’s post (which I shared—last week, was it?) with whiff of death, meet moment of clarity. Writer Unboxed

Porter Anderson looks at solitude and solidarity and the advocacy of the Authors Guild. Writer Unboxed

Chuck Wendig presents the opposite of “kill your darlings.”  Then, he’s setting free the sacred cows of writing advice. He was going to slaughter them, but, ick. Terribleminds

Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes glean five writing lessons from “The Americans.” Writers in the Storm

Lisa Hall-Wilson says that emotional layers are the gateway to deep point of view. Writers in the Storm

Becca Puglisi helps you determine your character’s emotional range. Writers in the Storm

Jami Gold stops by Writers Helping Writers: watch out! Avoiding sneaky plot holes.

Christina Delay dives deep into POV on Writers Helping Writers.

Kristen Lamb talks boundaries: be nice … until it’s time to not be nice.

Brenda Joyce Patterson helps you solve the riddle of voice. DIY MFA

Valentine Ferrari shares five tips to keep your blog healthy and vital for many years. DIY MFA

Nathan Bransford advises you to watch out for empty gestures in your novel.

Rebecca Monterusso on Jane Friedman’s blog: what does it mean to write a scene that works?

Chris Winkle presents five underused character archetypes. Mythcreants

And that was Tipsday. Be sure to come back for some thought on Thursday!

Until then, be well.

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, June 3-9, 2018

Another week, another batch of informal writerly learnings.

Jane Friedman excerpts from Tanya Hall’s Ideas, Influence, and Income: what to look for in a book publicist and tips for going it alone.

Donna Galanti offers eleven ways to find and connect with other authors in your genre. Writers in the Storm

Fae Rowan explains why you have to give your readers what they want. Writers in the Storm

Jenna Moreci shares her top ten hacks for your writing process.

 

Agent Barbara Poelle answers a question about word counts on Funny You Should Ask. Writer’s Digest

Nancy Johnson helps you find rhythm in your prose. Writer Unboxed

Donald Maass gives you the reason to build a box. Writer Unboxed

Kathryn Magendie explores rhythms in reading and writing. Writer Unboxed

James Scott Bell invites you to use the writer’s spice cabinet. Writers Helping Writers

Chrys Fey stopps by Writers Helping Writers to help you boost your creativity mindset naturally.

K.M. Weiland reviews Avengers: Infinity War and gives us four ways to write a better antagonist. Helping Writers Become Authors

Sara Letourneau provides a case study on revenge as a literary theme. DIY MFA

And here’s my latest column. Mythic structure: The Virgin’s Promise, part one. DIY MFA

Ashley Hilst shows you five ways to inject theme into your story (without being obvious). DIY MFA

Chris Winkle explains how to give your hero sympathetic problems. Mythcreants

Monday and Tuesday are under your workweek belt. Feel good about that.

Be well until Thursday!

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The next chapter: May 2018 update

Hello, all you writerly people!

It’s time for my next chapter update for May 2018.

Looks like I’m finding my stride. Things were going so well with the drafting of Playing with Fire, that I actually decided to take a purposeful break to read the draft to date. The problem I was encountering is that it’s taken me so long, relatively speaking, to draft the darned thing that I started to forget what I’d written way back in November (or December, January, February, March, or April!).

It’s been niggling at me for a while, and sometimes, I’d just go back to the chapter I suspected contained the bit I was looking to be refreshed on, but that got cumbersome, particularly since, once there, I’d start tweaking …

K.M. Weiland has been mentioning how she does a periodic re-read of her WIP, and I decided to give it a try. It was a nice rest, and a great way to tighten some of my plot threads, especially since I didn’t have to time to do much of an outline for this novel before I started drafting.

MayProgress

Even with the break, about nine days, I still managed to surpass my 7,500-word writing goal. I wrote 8,302 words, or 111%.

I’m enjoying the break from weekend blogging as well, and though I adjusted my blogging goal to 3,000 words, even with just the curation posts going up, I managed to write 3,940 words on the blog, or 131% of my goal.

I met my DIY MFA deadline with a long column of 1,739 words, or 174% of my goal, and aggregated my penultimate Sudbury Writers’ Guild newsletter at 6,777 words, or 169% of that goal.

So, it’s been a good month, writing-wise.

The burnout thing

I promised to tell you how the whole burnout thing was going.

Well, after a lot of soul-searching, pondering, and some all-out navel-gazing, I’ve finally figured out why I’ve suffered such a protracted burnout in the past year. And, let’s be clear, I’ve been struggling since at least the beginning of 2017. It might, in fact, be longer than that.

Part of it is historical. It’s my writing wound, the lie I believe about myself as a creative person and about my work. If you’re ever curious and you have the time, you can read the posts in the category, My History as a So-called Writer. That will give you the low-down.

The short version is that my creative life has been full of threshold guardians (in hero’s journey terms), who’ve blocked me, stunted my growth, and betrayed me in various fashions. When I finally found my way back to a consistent writing practice in 2007, I thought I’d conquered those demons. In that version of victory, all the naysayers were wrong, and I was just going to do what I wanted. Screw them.

That, it turns out, was only half the battle. It’s the bitter legacy those experiences left me with that make me innately distrustful of handing my work off to anyone else, whether a friend, beta reader, editor, or … anyone. I don’t believe that the advice I receive is in the story’s best interest. Or mine. I always see it in terms of a personal attack, though unconsciously. I’m aware of it now but, in the moment, I often slip back into old ways of thinking.

While I’ve had some writing success, that lie has never left me. It’s made finding a critique group difficult. It makes working with editors a bit fraught. It also leaves me thinking that I’m not, at heart, a good writer (passable good, not even great) and that people are just humouring me. It’s not merely imposter syndrome. It’s a deep distrust of anyone else’s opinion of my work.

There’s been a lot of self-sabotage involved, mostly unconscious.

This is what I’m working to overcome now. It’s a process. It’s going to take time.

The next piece of the puzzle is that, in January of 2016, after decades of what we thought was good health, Phil went to the clinic thinking he might have shingles, and came home (well, there was some bloodwork in there) with multiple diagnoses: type II diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and possibly shingles.

He had no rash, though. Several months passed and the doctor said, fibromyalgia. Several more months passed, and they finally settled on widespread diabetic neuropathy. Until the doctor found the right combination of meds, there were some horrible times, but it all worked out. Eventually.

Two of the meds Phil was on were Lyrica (an antidepressant found to be effective for nerve pain) and Cymbalta (an anticonvulsant also found to be effective for nerve pain). Aside from managing his pain and elevating his mood (it has often been said of my husband that the inside of his skull is painted black), both medications increased the amount of melatonin in his system.

Phil, who had always been a night owl and considered sleep to be the enemy, was now getting the best sleep of his life. Things went well for a while.

Then, because he got a promotion that required occasional travel, Phil decided to stop both the Lyrica and Cymbalta. He couldn’t risk falling asleep at the wheel. Combine this with a progressively complex and worsening situation at his employer (ongoing) and things quickly went from bad to worse.

The health problems shook me, probably more than I’d care to admit. It was after Phil’s health situation resolved that I started to feel the real effects of the burnout.

But it was the work situation that broke the peace of our household. I was used to living with Mr. Grumpy Pants, but his problems at work followed him home and made everything more difficult. It was about that time that we brought Torvi home. The extra stress of bringing up puppy did not help.

Also in the mix was my great adventure of last year. Though Phil encouraged me to go, I felt horribly guilty about the expense. I’ll just be paying off the last of that debt this month.

Add to all that my own health problems. Though less life-threatening than Phil’s, they were affecting my quality of life. Now that most of them have been addressed, I’m in a much better place.

But every time I tried to dig myself out of the hole, emotionally speaking, in the last couple of years something popped up and dragged me back down. I’ve suffered several episodes of depression, panic attacks, and poor quality of sleep (resulting from the other two).

Most of these issues are resolving. I’ve had my ablation and other health issues are being investigated. I’ve lost about 25 pounds. I’ve gotten back to my regular writing practice and it’s feeling good. Torvi, at eight months and in her second obedience class, is becoming a good dog but, that too is a process.

Really, it’s just Phil’s work situation that’s the continuing problem but, though there’s still no end in sight, slow progress is being made. There’s hope that things might be largely sorted by the end of this year. We just have to hang in there.

I’m sure other world events have played their parts, but I’m actively seeking to minimize their effects on me.

I’ll keep you updated, for those who want to know.

My writerly event of the month

On May first (May Day, Beltaine—yes, I’m a paganish sort) I went to see the staged reading of the latest iteration of Kim Fahner’s play, Sparrows Over Slag. It was part of Play Smelter, which ran the rest of the week. It was fascinating to see the evolution of Kim’s play, of which I was privileged to read an early draft.

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She gave a lovely Q&A afterward that gave further insight into her process. Writing a play is a different beast than any other kind of writing, even screenplays.

Later that week, I had lunch with Kim, who was only in Sudbury for a couple of weeks around Play Smelter. She’s been in south western Ontario, working hard on her craft and trying to figure out her next steps, creatively.

Just chatting over lunch was a balm. We are soul sisters and that won’t change wherever she goes and whatever she chooses to do.

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