Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Sept 3-9, 2017

Here are your informal writerly learnings for the first full week of September (!)

K.M. Weiland continues her most common writing mistakes with part 62: head-hopping POV. Helping Writers Become Authors

Colleen M. Story explains how your time personality influences your writing productivity. Writers in the Storm

Susan Spann explains the law (and ethics) of conference blogging. Writers in the Storm

James Scott Bell stops by the Writers Helping Writers coaches’ corner: using the novel journal to make writing breakthroughs.

Vaughn Roycroft is fortified by gratitude. Writer Unboxed

Donald Maass muses on what makes a journey. Writer Unboxed

Here’s the second part of my exploration of The Hero’s Journey on DIY MFA.

Crash Course Mythology – The Hero’s Journey and the Monomyth. They do a really good job of illustrating how some of the stages of The Hero’s Journey are optional, or can be shifted 🙂

 

Leanne Sowul: it’s back to school time at DIY MFA—what do you want to learn?

Kristen Lamb explains why suffering is essential for great fiction.

Jeff Lyons returns to Jami Gold’s blog to bust the rest of the top ten writing myths.

Rachel Chaney is Dan Koboldt’s equine expert for this article: matching horses to use, climate, and characters in fiction.

And then, Judith Tarr contributed in praise of the hard-working fantasy horse to the Tor.com blog. What do these ladies have against Friesians, anyway?

Rebecca Solnit: if I were a man. The Guardian

Isabella Biedenharn: Libba Bray has some thoughts on this all-female Lord of the Flies remake. Entertainment Weekly

What growing up in the sulphur city taught me about beauty. Christine Schrum on the Latitude 46 blog.

Cat Rambo announces that games writers will be eligible for an award in the 2018 Nebulas. Geekwire podcast.

Tor.com presents Ursula K. Le Guin’s introduction to the Library of America’s The Hainish Novels & Stories, volume one.

OMG. Droughtlander’s almost over! Actually, the first ep will have aired by the time I post this. Still. OUTLANDER!

 

Ever think Gandalf was a dick? Well, so does Emily Asher-Perrin: five things Gandalf should have admitted instead of being a jerk. (ROFL-hilarious) Tor.com

So I went to WorldCon in August, eh? This happened. The Tea & Jeopardy live podcast taping with George R.R. (Really Really) Martin!

 

Enjoy, and be well until Thoughty Thursday!

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, July 2-8, 2017

It’s time for your dose on informal writerly learnings 🙂

K.M. Weiland continues her most common writing mistakes series with part 60: flat plots. Helping Writers Become Authors

Later in the week, Kate continues her series on the do’s and don’ts of storytelling according to Marvel with a look at Guardian of the Galaxy, volume 2: how to ace the first act in your sequel.

As a follow up to her last post on critiquing, Jane Friedman helps you recognize patterns in the way you respond to criticism.

Then, Gary Zenker guest posts on DIY MFA: a new approach to critique.

Larry Brooks stops by Writer Unboxed to discuss the big lie about writing compelling fiction.

As a follow up to Larry’s post, Anna Elliott asks, what’s your truth? Writer Unboxed

Donald Maass explores characters light and dark. Writer Unboxed

Parul Macdonald uncovers the world of a literary scout and international rights. Writer Unboxed

Abigail K. Perry joins the DIY MFA team: how to make you character descriptions do double duty.

Stacey B. Woodson shares five writing lessons from thriller master David Morrell. DIY MFA

Gabriela Pereira interviews Sarah Dessen for DIY MFA radio.

Marielle Orff shares five ways to get to know your characters better. DIY MFA

Emily Wenstrom offers some email marketing tips. The Write Life

Jami Gold gives us one simple trick to avoid the opening page infodump.

Janice Hardy continues her birth of a book series with testing the idea. Fiction University

Then, Janice visits Writers in the Storm: what do you want your readers to wonder about?

Chris Winkle covers five more dualities that can replace good and evil. Mythcreants

Bryan Hutchinson explains how to become a prolific writer while holding down a day job. Positive Writer

Sophie Playle: where is your budget for book editing best spent? Liminal Pages

Sarah Fox shares seven things editors wish authors knew. Well Storied

Jeremy Szal shares his tips for writing a successful query letter. Fantasy Faction

Caroline Leavitt: when the writing mentor becomes the mentee. The Millions

Anne Lamott: 12 truths I learned about life and writing. TED Talks

Jarred MGuiness says writing is the only magic he still believes in. TEDxEaling

 

Folklore Thursday takes a look at how iron became the enemy of the fairy folk.

Shane Koyczan: the weather.

 

And that is how we Tipsday.

See you on Thursday for some mental corn popping thoughty.

Be well until then!

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Story Masters: May 11-14, 2017

This lovely workshop came to my attention last year through Jenny Madore, a writer friend. It was put together by Lorin Oberweger and Free Expressions. Jenny sent me a notice last spring, yes, that was waaaay back in March of 2016, with the notification and a special early-bird discount.

The notification? Christopher Vogler, James Scott Bell, and Donald Maass would be coming to Toronto to present their Story Masters workshop. Needless to say, I registered on the spot.

Fast forward to May 10, 2017, and I was on my way to the Crowne Plaza Airport and excited to learn from these three masters of story.

Day one: Christopher Vogler

ChristopherVoglerI’ve read The Writer’s Journey (and Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, Murdock’s The Heroine’s Journey and The Hero’s Daughter, as well as watching Campbell’s series with Bill Moyer, The Power of Myth), and I was looking forward to meeting Christopher Vogler in person.

One thing I’d forgotten, having read his book years ago, was that Vogler is a screenwriter. He’s been working with the hero’s journey for forty years, since his film school days.

Highlights of the presentation:

  • A knowledge of structure will help you see the bones of a story.
  • The map is not the journey.
  • Get all five senses on the page – Ray Bradbury.
  • They won’t remember your words but they’ll remember how you made them feel – Maya Angelou.
  • Economy of language.
  • Make invisible things visible.
  • Use dissonance.
  • Theme – boil it down to one word.
  • The chakra system can be used to orient where your story comes from. There’s a parallel between the chakras and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
  • Vogler’s rule – the story’s good if two or more organs are leaking fluids. Visceral, but accurate (blood, sweat, tears, vomit, pee—from fear or laughter, and, erm, sexual fluids—it’s true; a well-written sex scene gets the juices flowing, doesn’t it?).
  • A story should be focused, “in alignment with the grid,” a term from dance.
  • How your protagonist/main character enters the story is critical. Classically, protagonist means the first person to struggle. Now, that’s your hero or main character.
  • A story should evoke catharsis. The classical definition of catharsis was vomiting. Now it’s an emotional cleansing.
  • How stories work: want vs. need. Want is generally external or physical. Need is internal or emotional. There are two story questions, one inner and one outer. It creates suspense. There’s always a price.
  • Every world/milieu is polarized. The hero brings synthesis.

Vogler also showed us a number of movie clips to illustrate the 12 stages of the hero’s journey, discussed the two founders of screenwriting, Aristotle and Syd Field, three-act structure and how the hero’s journey works with it, storytelling aesthetics, and his own meeting with Campbell.

Day two: James Scott Bell

I’ve read some of Bell’s writing craft books and followed his collective/blog – Kill Zone. Again, I was looking forward to meeting JamesScottBellsomeone I’d only ever known as a virtual presence.

  • A writer needs to have an edge. What is it? Unforgettable writing. Seductive believability.
  • Write from the middle. The mirror moment. What’s happening to the character at that moment is what the story’s about.
  • The mirror moment can focus on one of two things: 1) Who am I? What have I become? What will I become? [emotional/spiritual struggle] Or, 2) I’m going to die. [Physical] The death can be metaphorical. Both result in the transformation of your character.
  • Once you know what your story’s about, you have your focus, your theme.
  • Pre-story psychology. Does your character have a moral flaw to overcome? Do they change or get their comeuppance? Is your character ordinary? What circumstances force the character to change?
  • Short fiction is about a shattering moment rather than a mirror moment.
  • Bell’s golden triangle: pre-story psychology leads to the mirror moment, which leads to the transformation. It can be applied in an individual novel, or over the course of the series, or both.
  • The shadow story – what’s happening elsewhere?
  • Keep a story journal to keep track.
  • Great characters jump off the page. They’re unpredictable, burning, wounded, complex, resourceful, courageous, noble.
  • Bell’s corollary to Vogler’s rule: you must have a fluid fight inside your character.
  • Ways to develop character: 1) The closet search – what’s the skeleton? 2) Throwing the chair (out the window) – why do they do it? 3) Best day/worst day. 4) What tattoo do they have, where, and why? Or, why would they never get a tattoo? 5) what would they do or think about in jail?
  • Opposition character: you must know what they yearn for, why they deserve it, and then make your closing argument (convince the reader).
  • Cut the boring parts, or, make them interesting.
  • Fear is a continuum. It raises the stakes. Fear of the known. Fear of the unknown.
  • Scene structure: every scene must have an objective, obstacles, and an outcome [yes, but/no, and].
  • SUES = something unexpected in every scene.
  • Every scene has a reaction: time for thought, perception, emotion, backflash (short remembrance), or flashback (full scene – use sparingly).
  • Dialogue: every character has an agenda. If those agendas are conflicting, even better. Dialogue creates conflict/tension, subtext, sets the tone for the scene, and sets the tone for the characters. Specific concerns: vocabulary, expressions, syntax. They should vary between characters. Dialogue should be unpredictable and compressed. Dialogue should reveal character webs, backstory, and theme.
  • Tools: Orchestration, transactional analysis (Google it), curve the language.

Bell, also from a screenwriting background, showed us clips from Casablanca and Now, Voyager and cited a number of novels (ranging from Gone with the Wind to The Hunger Games) to illustrate his points, linked to Vogler’s hero’s journey, and set us up for Donald Maass’s presentation on the next day.

Day three: Donald Maass

DonaldMaassI think Donald Maass was the story master I was most excited to meet. I’ve bought and read all of his books (except The Emotional Craft of Fiction, which I bought at the event), and I’ve read and shared all of his Writer Unboxed contributions.

I’m such a fan that when I met him in the elevator, I blurted out, “I’m here to see you!” like a total fangirl.

He paused. “Do I know you? You look familiar …”

“We’ve never met in person, but you may have seen me online—the white hair’s distinctive. I share all of your posts. I’m a big fan.” And then, mercifully, we reached the lobby and debarked. I was completely mortified, certain Maass thought I was a stalker.

It reminded me of a recent post by my friend, Kim, who said she becomes so distracted in the presence of a writer that she says the most inappropriate things. Happens to me all the time.

For those of you who haven’t been to a Donald Maass presentation, it’s a bit different from what you might expect. He presents a topic, speaks briefly, and then, he begins to ask questions. The questions are intended to guide you into the heart of your characters, your scenes, your story.

It’s very meditative, very zen. And totally effective.

Unfortunately, after a few hours, the brain stops working and you just write down the questions for future review and examination. At least, that’s what happened to my brain.

I just wanted to give you a flavour of Maass’s style.

Openings

  • Too many novel openings are written objectively despite the prevalence of first and close third person narration.
  • Where does the story truly begin?
  • Story does not equal plot.
  • What’s different and how does your protagonist know things will never be the same? What symbolizes this? What do they do differently? What needs to be explained? What expertise does your protagonist have? What do they know that the reader needs to know? How does the trouble come? Why?

Voice

  • Writers adopt a voice that suits the genre, but not the story.
  • What happens? What’s unique to the setting? What anchors you? What wakes you up to your reality? What’s unique to the character? Name, role/occupation, what task/goal/purpose do they think they have? What’s on the “to do” list of your character?
  • [We then did an exercise in which we rewrote the beginning of our works in progress with three different voices: ironic, academic, and spiritual.]
  • The inner life of the character is the true story.
  • Plot does not equal story.

Emotion

  • You have to write with emotion about emotion in a way that deeply engages readers.
  • What makes you angry?
  • Your protagonist feels a new emotion. Pause. Slow things down. Go deeper. How does that change your protagonist? What will they never do again? What will they never feel again? What will they never feel the same way about again?
  • How do you create the sense of an evolving human being rather than someone to whom stuff happens?
  • Does your character have flaws?
  • My Writer Unboxed colleague Lisa Cron wrote a book called Story Genius that I highly recommend. She states every character has a misbelief that shapes their story. What is your character’s misbelief? Who will be hurt because of their misbelief? What does the character get wrong? What do they believe that will cost them dearly? Who will walk away from them because of the misbelief? What will they lose? What can they do that shows they’ve changed? Is it big? Symbolic? What’s the secret they’ve never told anyone? Is your protagonist concealing something from someone else?
  • What’s the character’s origin story?

Other facets of novel construction

  • Summary. Lorin Oberweger posted on Writer Unboxed about this. When should you use it?
  • Scene structure. Things have changed by the end of the scene. Subvert expectations. Show the inner shift in the novel. Scenes must change either the plot or the character.
  • Enhancing the story world. What’s the environment? What does your protagonist see that no one else sees? What does your antagonist see? Is there a class structure? How does that play out with your characters? What historical events have shaped the world? What are the political structures? What is just not done? Is there a code of honour? How do you make a deal? How do you pay respect?
  • Telling and showing. Both have value.

What do readers want?

  • They want an emotional experience. They want to engage with your protagonist. They want a satisfying payoff. They want aesthetic value. They want a challenge. They want to figure it out. They want a feeling of success.
  • Readers have their own journey.

Third level emotion

  • Pick a pivotal scene in your novel. What is the character feeling? What else are they feeling (cancel out any similar emotions)? And again, what else (that is like neither of the first two)?
  • Use the third emotion you identify to frame the character in the scene. It seems counterintuitive, but it’s very effective. Readers use cognitive evaluation.

Mythic roles (archetypes)

  • What fairy tale character is your protagonist most like? Shakespearean? Biblical? Greek or Roman mythos? Indigenous or other cultural figure? Urban legend?
  • What symbology have you built around your character?

The four things your story must do

  • The macro level: structure/plot/character arc.
  • Scene level: structure and goals.
  • Microtension: every page, every line. Court cognitive dissonance.
  • Subvert reader expectations.

The big event

  • Think of the event that changes everything for your protagonist and the story world. What causes people to think it’s never going to happen? Think of three reasons why. How do we know it will happen? Think of three reasons.
  • Take out foreshadowing. Include misdirection. Manipulate expectations.
  • Choose a secondary character who is good. Invent a way to create doubt. Cast suspicion.
  • Make the reader wait for the payoff. What are three reasons it might be the wrong thing for your protagonist to do? Build a case for doing something different.
  • Every story has a moral map. Point the reader down the path. What makes a reader care even when nothing is happening? Hope. What is good? What can be saved?

StoryMasters

Day four was an analysis of To Kill a Mockingbird in which all three story masters brought their individual strengths to bear.

My brain was mush by the end, but I brought a lot of awesome back with me and twice as many pages of notes as what I’ve shared with you here.

RobertJSawyerOther writerly goodness: I met Jenny Madore in person, saw writer friends Jeanette Winsor and Sue Reynolds, and hung out with Robert J. Sawyer for a bit. It was comforting to know that someone I consider a story master in his own right is still learning 🙂

I had a fabulous time and suggest you check out the Free Expressions web site if you’re interested in attending one of their workshops.

As always, my friends, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

Muse-inks

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, April 30-May 6, 2017

Pleased as punch to present your informal writerly learnings for the week … and a little too fond of alliteration 😀

K.M. Weiland continues her most common writing mistakes series with part 59: overly complex plots. Helping Writers Become Authors

Later in the week, Kate helps you write in an authentic historical voice.

Jess Lourey guest posts on Jane Friedman’s blog: pantser or plotter—deciding which can save your writing life.

Then, Anne Carley guest posts: going public by design. Are you clear on your writer persona?

Orly Konig Lopez: how to handle accolades. Writers in the Storm

Fae Rowan shares eight easy ways your characters can show love. Writers in the Storm

Julie Glover teaches you to embrace your authentic writing voice. Writers in the Storm

Greer Mcallister says, yes, your novel has a message. Writer Unboxed

Sonja Yoerg rattles the cup for blurbs. Writer Unboxed

Donald Maass writes of spells, palls, and poisoned apples (and what they mean to your characters). Writer Unboxed

Anna Elliot: bad writing habits and how to break them. Writer Unboxed

Writing coach Michael Hauge returns to Writers Helping Writers: if you want to grow as a writer, transform your critique group.

Janice Hardy shows you six ways to identify a contrived plot. Fiction University

Following up on her post about experimenting with minimalism, Bess Cozby offers three tips for trying it out yourself. DIY MFA

G. Myrthil shares eight reasons adults read young adult novels. DIY MFA

Gabriela Pereira interviews Katherine Neville for DIY MFA radio.

A rant about men who write women as sexual objects. Hilarious. And sad, because it’s true 😦 But alas! The creature grows degenerate.

Sarah Gailey: American history is a work of fiction. Tor.com

Helena Kelly exposes the many ways in which we are wrong about Jane Austen. Literary Hub

Sarah Lyall is home alone with the ghost of Emily Dickenson. The New York Times

General Leia Organa is the hero we need now. Anne Theriault for The Establishment.

David Emery shares the real deal on Peter S. Beagle’s ongoing legal battle. Snopes

Gail Harding reports that Diana Gabaldon may include PEI in a future Outlander novel. CBC

Because Twin Peaks is coming back:

 

Dan Auty takes a look at the new Twin Peaks trailer. Gamespot

Emily Asher-Perrin reviews episode 2 of Doctor Who: “Thin Ice” is the best Doctor Who episode in years. Tor.com

Vince Mancini praises Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 2. UPROXX

The Dark Tower trailer 🙂

 

Then, Katharine Trendacosta unpacks all the secrets in the trailer for i09.

Aaaaand—The Defenders trailer. Netflix

 

Wowsers! I hope something in this mix gave you the tools you needed to take your craft to the next level, or at least the next version. Writer 1.1, anyone? I have to admit, some days it feels like writer 0.1 for me 😛

Be well until thoughty Thursday arrives to pop your mental corn (A.K.A. inspire you) 🙂

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The next chapter: April 2017 update

Greetings, writerly friends 🙂

Yes, it’s that time of the month again—no, not that time—it’s time for my next chapter update. Yay (flailing Kermit arms)!

Ok, maybe that’s a little too enthusiastic.

That’s what spring does to me, though.

Even though we haven’t had a particularly warm spring up here, the fact that there are more hours of sunlight each day really helps me find my energy.

And what do I do with that energy? I overcommit. That’s what I do.

What does that look like in 2017? Let’s see …

  • work full time;
  • write as much as I can, evenings and weekends;
  • produce the monthly Sudbury Writers’ Guild newsletter;
  • serve on the Canadian Authors Association Program Committee (and various sub-committees); and
  • sign up for Writing the Other with Nisi Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford (yay—it’s awesome, but I can’t keep up with the assignments and so feel crap about it).

Truly, though Writing the Other is one of the bit of writerly awesome to happen this past month. It continues through to the middle of May, so I’ll save the deets for a future weekend wrap-up post. Suffice it to say for now, though, that I would recommend the course to anyone.

A second is my continued semi-regular SF&F column with DIY MFA, Speculations. As I mentioned last week, I’ll be posting to share those columns on the blog. The next one should be coming up Tuesday, and it’s a dreamy one, so stay tuned 🙂

A third bit of awesome was that I participated in was the Sudbury Poetry Project. April was National Poetry Month, after all. When Kim Fahner, Sudbury’s Poet Laureate put out the call, I wrote a new poem and submitted it.

thiswintersky

“this winter sky” was inspired by what has been a particularly gloomy winter here in Northern Ontario. I believe that almost everyone who lives in the northern hemisphere experiences some degree of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and those of us predisposed to depression tend to feel the effects of SAD more than others.

More than, that, though, the poem is about the hope that blossoms when one recovers, or learns to live with, mental illness. This is why I was honoured to have the poem posted outside the Northern Initiative for Social Action (NISA) which is a safe place where survivors of mental illness and consumers of mental health services can gather, learn, and heal.

And now, onto the writing progress report 🙂

April was a decent month. I finished my latest revision of Initiate of Stone. Unfortunately, it only reduced the overall word count of the novel by a few thousand words 😦 I was, however, after a short respite, move on to Apprentice of Wind.

I also revised two short stories for submission to a contest and an open anthology call. We’ll let you know how that goes in the future.

All the new writing in April was once again on this blog.

AprilProgress

Here’s how the numbers break down:

  • 79,078 words revised on the Ascension series, or 113% of my 70k goal.
  • 4,105 words of short fiction revised, or 164% of my 2,500 goal (makes up for not revising any short fiction in the last two months).
  • 6,098 words written on the blog, or 92% of my 6,600 goal.

That’s a total of 83,183 words revised and 6,098 words written. That’s not counting my column for DIY MFA, which I really don’t have a place for on the tracking sheet.

What’s up next: I’m going to continue work on revising AoW, which I don’t anticipate will be finished until next month. Revision will yield (I hope) to writing with respect to short fiction. We’ll see how everyone likes the new plan for the blog.

Next week, I’m heading down to Story Masters in Toronto, with Donald Maass, James Scott Bell, and Christopher Vogler, but that, of course, means that there will be no post next weekend. I’ll have another wrap-up post to share on this lovely event later in the month.

And then we’ll see. This writer’s life is never boring, that’s for sure.

Until next I blog, be well, be kind, and stay stong, because this winter sky will always yield to the light.

The Next Chapter

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, April 2-8, 2017

There’s so much writerly goodness out there, I wish I had more time to devote to curating these informal writerly learnings for you.

Aliette de Bodard guest posts on Terribleminds: in defense of uncanny punctuation. I love semicolons, too!

K.M. Weiland adds number 58 to her most common writing mistakes series: too much description. Helping Writers Become Authors

Later in the week, Kate shows you how to write stories your readers will remember.

Then, Kate pops over to Jerry Jenkins’ blog: two ways to find out if a scene deserves a place in your story.

Kathleen Jones guest posts on Jane Friedman’s blog: six ways to prepare for writing as a second career.

Angela Ackerman shows you how to use timelines to organize story details. Writers Helping Writers

Lisa Preston offers seven strategies for revising your novel. Writer’s Digest

Penny Sansevieri helps us decode Amazon keywords. Writers in the Storm

Fae Rowan shares five tips to get your characters—and you—through adversity. Writers in the Storm

Janice Hardy introduces us to a fun way to learn story structure. Writers in the Storm

Chris Winkle shares five signs your story is ableist. Mythcreants

Oren Ashkenazi looks at six objectively good stories and finds ways to make them better. Fabulous analysis. Mythcreants

Laurel K. Denton guest posts on Writer Unboxed: changing horses mid-stream (or how not to panic over a mid-book structure revision).

James Scott Bell asks, is your fiction big enough? Writer Unboxed

Donald Maass wants you to captivate readers with your opening lines: casting the spell. Writer Unboxed

Bryn Greenwood: write a book, save the world. Writer Unboxed

Kathryn Magendie explores this writing life. Writer Unboxed

Emily Wenstrom helps you grow your online platform in real life. DIY MFA

Shameless self-promotion time again: it’s me! Defining speculative fiction. DIY MFA

Gabriela Pereira interviews Susan Perabo for DIY MFA radio.

Bess Cozby offers five tips for revising your trunk novel. DIY MFA

Kristen Lamb: the single best way to become a mega-author. Later in the week, she follows up with how you can make all ads, marketing, and newsletters work better.

Jeff Lyons visits Jami Gold’s blog again: creating a strong moral premise for our story.

Michael Everest responds to a provocative post and explains the difference between giving up and giving in. Fantasy Faction

David Barnett responds to the same “failed novelist” post. The Guardian

Alex Brown unpacks Marvel’s “diversity doesn’t sell” argument and explains what diversity really means. Tor.com

The Hugo and Campbell awards finalists announced! Locus

This grammar vigilante stalks the Bristol night putting apostrophes in their right places. Ladies and gentlemen, the BBC gives you, the Apostrophiser!

I hope you learned something tasty 🙂

Be well until Thursday when you can come back for some thoughty inspiration!

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Feb 26-March 4, 2017

Ah, another lovely batch of informal writerly learnings for you 🙂

K.M. Weiland: the lazy writer’s six-question guide to writing an original book. Helping Writers Become Authors

Kathryn Craft shares seven ways to get rich from writing (it’s not quite what you think). Writers in the Storm

What a sensitivity reader is and how to hire one. Natalia Sylvester guest posts on Writer Unboxed.

Julia Munroe Martin tells us how to get by with a little help from our (writer) friends. Writer Unboxed

Sarah McCoy: a hard change will do you good. Writer Unboxed

Donald Maass says, impossible odds for everyone! WriterUnboxed

Jo Eberhardt: how to (not) overcome fear. Writer Unboxed

Laura Drake: the angels are in the details. Writers in the Storm

Chris Winkle lists twelve traits that help create loveable heroes. Mythcreants

Oren Ashkenazi examines five great characters from horrible shows. Mythcreants

Chuck Wendig never fails to crack me up (while sharing awesome advice). A very good list of vital writing advice—do not ignore! Terribleminds

Jenna Moreci: how to outline your novel, part 1.

 

Angela Ackerman shares the news about the new worldbuilder tool on One Stop for Writers. Looks amazing. Writers Helping Writers

This feels weird, but also awesome. I’m curating myself! Why I write speculative fiction. DIYMFA

Bess Cozby embarks on an experiment in minimalism. DIYMFA

Gabriela Pereira interviews Dale Wiley for DIYMFA radio.

Michelle Chalkey shares five benefits of aromatherapy for writers. DIYMFA

Ruth Harris examines stress and burnout, how they’re different, and why it’s important to know the difference. Anne R. Allen’s blog

Dr. Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein asks us to, um, stop demonizing filler words. Quartz

Check out this year’s Latitude 46 line up. The North Bay Nugget

Stephanie Convery reports on Ali Cobby Eckermann, the unemployed, indigenous poet who just won the $215,000 Windham-Campbell Award. The Guardian

George Saunders: what writers really do when they write. The Guardian

Zen Pencils: Stephen King’s desk.

Hillel Italie: Ursula K. Le Guin among authors inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. SFGate

George Gene Gustines interviews Ta-Nehisi Coates about creating black superheroes. The New York Times

Don Pittis: machine intelligence lessons from science fiction. CBC

Swapna Krishna pits science against The Expanse: is it possible to colonize our solar system? Tor.com

Genevra Littlejohn critiques Iron Fist. The Learned Fangirl

If you liked the movie Arrival, Phil Plait wants a (single) word with you. Blastr

In the latest Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 trailer, Peter gets to meet his dad. Katharine Trendacosta for i09.

And that’s it until next week!

But you can always come back on Thursday for a little thoughty 😉

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Jan 29-Feb 4, 2017

It was another fantabulous week of writerly goodness 🙂

K.M. Weiland helps you find the exact right story hook. Helping Writers Become Authors

Nina Munteanu helps you make your opening count.

Over on Writers Helping Writers, Angela Ackerman writes about describing your character: making every detail count.

Jessica Stawser is acting out of character. Writers in the Storm

Cathy Yardley: writer, know thyself. Writer Unboxed

Donald Maass bid us add a touch of romance to our stories. Writer Unboxed

Susan Spann explains how to evaluate a publishing contest. Writer Unboxed

Porter Anderson: “… when authors hunker together to kvetch about “writing is so hard,” they’re romancing the career in a profoundly counter-productive way.” Writer Unboxed

Jo Eberhardt: be the encouragement you want to see in the world. Writer Unboxed

Janice Hardy: how to write a teen voice. Fiction University

Fae Rowan invites us to use the energies of 2017 to jumpstart our writing careers. Writers in the Storm

Naomi Hughes returns to Jami Gold’s blog with her top three scene issues.

Becca Puglisi delves into overcoming mental illness for the character motivation thesaurus. Writers Helping Writers

Gabriela Pereira interviews Shanthi Sekaran about capturing diverse experiences on the page. DIYMFA

Bess Cozby: three questions you should ask before committing to a revise and resubmit. DIYMFA

Michelle Chalkey lists five benefits of the writer-editor relationship. DIYMFA

Brandon Taylor helps you escape the slush pile. Electric Lit

Blake Atwood launches his new column, editorially speaking, with this post: how to find a book editor you can trust. The Write Life

David Robson introduces us to the untranslatable emotions we never knew we had. BBC

Chris Saylor reminds us how to use apostrophes properly. Marcy Kennedy’s blog

Meet the 2017 Canada Reads contenders. CBC

Ursula K. Le Guin writes a letter to the editor, responding to a comparison between “alternative facts” and fiction. Oregon Live

Andrew Postman’s father, Neil, in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death, posited Brave New World as our probable dystopic future as opposed to Nineteen Eighty-Four. It turns out, he was right. The Guardian

David Tennant, the eleventh Doctor himself, tells us everything will be all right.

 

Alisdair Stuart believes it’s time for Doctor Who to change television history for the better. Tor.com

And that was your informal writerly learnings for the week!

Stay strong until Thursday!

tipsday2016

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

Welcome to your informal writely learnings of the week 🙂

K.M. Weiland continues her common writing mistakes series with part 55: beginning your story too late. Helping Writers Become Authors

Immerse yourself in POV with Donald Maass. Writer Unboxed

Chris Winkle helps you choose your perspective. Mythcreants

Do you work on your stories character first, or worldbuilding first? Jo Eberhardt says it really doesn’t matter. Writer Unboxed

Zara Quentin guest posts on Fiction University: how to build a world (and why), an evolutionary approach.

Chuck Wendig encourages us to write despite. Terribleminds

Kristen Lamb gives ‘em hell: NYC gooood, self-pub baaaaad. It’s an author animal farm out there!

Janice Hardy guest posts on Writers in the Storm: how bad times and new starts affect our writing.

Writing coach C.S. Lakin offers some tips for weaving romance into your novel. Writers Helping Writers

Blake Atwood shares ten easy ways to self-edit your novel. The Write Life

Gabriela Pereira interviews Alexia Vernon on the art of public speaking for DIYMFA radio.

Joe Fassler compiles the best writing advice of 2016. The Atlantic

Glenn Leibowitz recommends the one book you must read to become a better writer. Inc.

Terri Windling muses upon a parliament of owls. Myth & Moor

Jessica Stillman lists the most misused words according to Daniel Pinker. Inc.

Libby Coleman examines Ken Liu’s body of work so far. Ozy

Cheryl Eddy shares a list of January’s must-read science fiction and fantasy. i09

I’m so excited! James Whitbrook gives us a first look at the live action Fullmetal Alchemist movie (!) i09

Connie Verzak has some fun with the animals of Outlander for her 2017 resolutions. The Daily Record

Beth Elderkin (I lurve her name, don’t you?) shares The Handmaid’s Tale teaser on i09.

I sincerely hope you found something you wanted to learn about among this week’s offerings.

If you’re interested in writerly inspiration, come back on thoughty Thursday to get your mental corn a-poppin’!

Be well until then!

tipsday2016

The next chapter: December 2016 update and year in review

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

We’ll get back to that in a few.

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

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

I should have known better.

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

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

decemberprogress

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

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

Not 50k, but not bad at all 🙂

Back to my year-end review.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

yearend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was a lot of fun and another pleasant surprise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, that’s the ticket.

What are my plans for 2017?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Next Chapter