The next chapter: July 2016 update

So, here we are again at a monthly update. August. Where has the year gone?

One of the great things about tracking your production (and this applies to all things, not just writing) is that you can look back and see the evidence of your work. It’s very comforting.

In addition to wrapping up my work in July this time, I’m going to review the year to date.

July

JulyProgress

This month, I finished my first review of Gerod and the Lions. As with the last couple of novels, I wasn’t twitching as I reread, reacquainted myself with the story, and worked on some of the flow issues I saw. One reason for the flow issues was that GatL was written in chunks, separated by work done on other projects.

Sometimes the gaps were months long, and it shows. I had to get my head back into Gerod’s world and each time I returned to it, it took a few days to recapture the feeling.

The draft comes in at 44,996 words, which is decent for a middle grade book and 124% of my revision goal for the month.

I also continued work on the short story, which I’ll be submitting for consideration soon. 2,615 words written on that.

And, of course, there was the blog, and since I continued to participate in the weekly challenges presented by Gabriela Pereira to her DIYMFA Street Team, I far outblogged my goal.

Between the short story and the blog, I wrote 173% of my goal for July.

I also had the pleasure of guest blogging a couple of times in July, once on Mel’s Madness, and later, on DIYMFA (holy cow!). I have another guest blog due out this month on Kristene Perron’s Warp World blog.

I continued querying.

Year-to-date

Please keep in mind that revision is a very different animal than writing. I’m not writing all these words from scratch. I’m rearranging words, rewriting sentences or paragraphs for flow, inserting or removing punctuation, and making notes for future revisions.

Writing equates to original words.

Month Revision Writing Projects
January 69,774 words 186% of goal 9,274 words 141% of goal Apprentice of Wind, blog
February 40,708 words 108% of goal 5,027 words 90% of goal Apprentice of Wind, blog
March 66,637 words 177% of goal 8,436 words 141% of goal AoW, Figments, Marushka, blog
April 37,478 words 100% of goal 10,498 words 187% of goal Marushka, blog
May 50,882 words 136% of goal 10,474 words 181% of goal Marushka, Reality Bomb, blog
June 48,009 words 128% of goal 12,013 words 207% of goal Reality Bomb, blog
July 46,656 words 124% of goal 11,387 words 173% of goal RB, Gerod and the Lions, short fiction, blog

 Now and the rest of the year

With GatL, I’ve finished reviewing all of my drafted novels. Many of them are still grossly underwritten, but at least I have a better idea now of where I’m going with each.

For August, I just finished up my short story, which I will now revise, and otherwise, the only writing I’m doing is on the blog.

I’ve taken some time off to consider the remainder of the year and what I want to do.

Under consideration are:

  • Assembling a poetry collection (going to submit to a local small press) – August
  • Organizing a collection of my non-SFF short fiction (again, targeted at the small publisher) – August
  • Outlining the third book in my epic fantasy series. I’ve already taken a shot at it, but I know I have to rework it. I’ll do this anyway, because it’s this year’s NaNoWriMo project, but it’s on the list. – concurrent with other projects through to the end of October
  • Returning to Initiate of Stone and AoW, to recapture the voice of the series and bring everything into line in light of the outlining and NaNo for the third book. I want to get to November steeped in the world and its characters. – September and October

Because the third in series is of the epic nature, I expect to be continuing the drafting well into December.

I’m also taking a bit of time to think out how I want to structure my writing year from here on out. Previous to 2016, my focus was on getting the words down. Great, but then I had six novels drafted, only one of which was ready for querying.

This year, I’m focusing on the revision of all those drafts. They won’t be completely ready to go, but I’ll be in a place where I can alternate writing and revision in the coming years.

I want to draft new work twice a year, and then work on revision in between. I don’t know exactly what form that’s going to take (except for NaNo), but I think it’s something I can do.

Other stuff

I’m heading out to WorldCon/MidAmeriCon II on the 17th. It will be my first big con, so I’m super excited. This will be my last convention or conference for the year, though. I’ve blown my budget.

As a result, though, I’m going on a blogging vacay. I’ll schedule my Thoughty Thursday curation for the 18th before I leave, but you won’t hear from me again until I’m back and recovered and ready to resume bloggage on the 27th. Sacrifices have to be made.

I’ve done the crazy and applied for Brenda Drake’s #PitchWars. I’ll find out how that goes on the 25th. Not saying more about it for now.

I’m investigating partnerships with an editor. I want something long term, a professional editor who can help me get my drafts into publishable states.

I signed up for a first five pages workshop with NLA. Again, I’ll leave the deets for later.

And that’s this writer’s life.

Next weekend, I’ll be continuing with my CWS 2016 reportage with my notes from the Writing Hard Truths panel.

The Next Chapter

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Catching up with the DIYMFA Launch Team

Since I was away last weekend, I have a leetle catching up to do. So you get twice the DIYMFA QotW this week.

Let’s start with the week 11 prompt:

QOTW 11: What’s Your Favorite Supporting Character Archetype, and Why?

As you already know, at DIY MFA, we’re big on archetypes. We’ve talked about protagonist archetypes and supporting character archetypes on the site and podcast. We even created our Storytelling Superpower quiz by understanding what different protagonist archetypes want (and how that want drives the story). This week, I want you to turn your attention to the supporting cast. What’s your favorite supporting character archetype and why?

Muse-inks

We’ve established previously that my storytelling superpower is the Protector. All of my protagonists are trying to protect, or save something. Interestingly, I think they all start out as survivors and make the transition to protector. Check out Gabriela’s Storytelling Superpower video series (it’s free!) to find out more 🙂

I’ll approach this by going through each of my WIPs and look at who I’ve written by way of supporting characters. I’ll also limit it to the main supporting characters. For example, my epic fantasy has a lot of characters. It’s the nature of the beast; so I’ll do y’all the favour of not covering all of the supporting cast members.

By the way, I’ve based my assessment on the 12 character archetype system. I know there are a lot more potential archetypes out there, but I, like Gabriela, wanted to keep it simple 😉

Interestingly, these are mostly groupings of three (protagonist + 2 supporting characters). Nice how I managed to get the whole power of three thing without even thinking about it (!) If you want to find out more about the power of three, check out the DIYMFA book, coming soon!

Initiate of Stone/Apprentice of Wind

Protagonist: Ferathainn Devlin. She’s an uninitiated mage from whom war takes everything. She starts out wanting to take revenge on the man she believes to be responsible, but when she realizes there’s more at stake, like, the fate of her world, she has to choose between revenge and sacrifice.

Eoghan: Eoghan doesn’t fit neatly into one archetype. This is because he is physically transformed over the course of the first novel.

He starts out as an innocent, a postulant monk living in a dormitory with a bunch of other orphans, waiting to be called to serve. His much older brother, a priest, is accused of, and executed for, heresy. Eoghan is exiled, and then the goddess Auraya calls him to become her Kas’Hadden, her hammer of light. That’s where the transformation comes in.

On his way, though, fleeing the destruction of war and trying to help the wounded and dying left in the wake of it, he finds Ferathainn, apparently dead. He decides to make her his last stand. He will save her no matter what. And he does, though it involves months of care to nurse her back to health. So he becomes caregiver.

And once Auraya insists, he finally goes to her where she waits, at the Well of Souls, and she transforms him into her holy warrior, her hammer of light. And he becomes a hero/warrior. He has been made to spare his goddess the indignity of murder.

Dairragh: Dairragh transforms, too, though not in the same way as Eoghan. He starts out as the son of an aging lord, eager to prove himself and inherit Gryphonskeep and its lands. He’s been taking care of things in all but name for years now, and is impatient for his father to recognise that he is worthy. He is the ruler without anything to rightly rule.

After Gryphonskeep is destroyed, his father killed, and the gryphons slaughtered, he is taken in by the anogeni, the hidden people, and through their influence, he learns shamanism.

When he meets Ferathainn, Dairragh is becoming the magician.

Figments

Protagonist: Charlene Kalveras (Chas). Chas has been pretty messed up since her father was murdered. Depression and nightmares have yielded to insomnia. When she starts to see things the other kids can’t, she’s worried she’s had some kind of psychotic break. When her figments turn out to be real, though, she discovers a whole other world, and truths about herself and her father that she could never have suspected.

Chas is a protector-mage, an hereditary group of magic-using humans devoted to maintaining balance between Earth and Regnarium (think Plato’s world of ideals mashed up with Jung’s universal unconscious—crazyworld of myth, fairy tale, and, of course, gods).

Ben: Ben is one of Chas’s two best friends. They’ve known each other all their lives. He’s an athlete and a beautiful brown boy who’s smart enough to get by without studying and has developed an unrequited crush on Chas. She’s just been so damaged since her dad was killed, he can’t help himself. He wants to fix things for her.

Though there are shades of the caregiver and lover in there, Ben’s pure everyman. He’s the realist. He keeps Chas grounded.

Finn: The other of Chas’s life-long friends, Finn, might seem to be another everyman. Every person? Whatever, that’s not her. She’s perfectly average, in most respects, but she has a secret fondness for dreams and dream interpretation. Finn also has no internal censor. She says everything she thinks and has to really struggle to be polite sometimes.

When Chas finally reveals what’s happened to her, Finn is on board. She is the creator, the visionary. It’s no surprise to any of them that she has some of the mage-blood in her family, too.

To make the dynamic of the threesome just a little more problematic, Finn’s crushing on Ben, and Chas is aware of the awkeird love triangle but she doesn’t feel anything romantic for Ben and wants nothing more than for Ben to shift his moony gaze to Finn.

Marushka

Protagonist: Marushka. She’s a weirdo, but anyone would be, in her place. Stolen at birth by Baba Yaga (who then ate her mother—shudder), she’s lived in Baba’s sentient hut, Khizhina (literally, hut), all her life. She has no idea how old she is and aside from a few adventures into the normal world to attempt to go to school, or get some books to read, she’s never left Khizhina. Until, that is, Khizhina tells her she has to take Baba Yaga’s place.

Khizhina has mercifully segregated Marushka from her horrid kidnapper/captor, who regularly dines on young, homeless people. Marushka can’t bear the thought of becoming a cannibalistic hag and runs away.

Out in the world, though, she learns she can’t escape her destiny. First, her latent powers begin to express themselves. Second, a patriarchal shadow organisation, bent on destroying goddess-power and subjugating all women for all time, targets Marushka and tries to take her out of the game before she becomes the next Yaga.

She’s socially awkward and doesn’t make friends.

Declan Russell: Declan’s parents decide to foster Marushka. He’s never met anyone like her before and is pretty much instantly smitten. He’s a computer geek/gamer-boy, loves death metal, and is a brown belt in Aikido. His younger sister, Cindy, is the pain in his ass.

In a home invasion and arson (an attack by the shadow org) Declan’s family is killed and only he and Marushka are rescued. Kind of. They’re not allowed to go out, even to the police. Marushka’s birth father, Alex Solomon, who led their rescue, calls it protective custody.

Who the heck is this girl?

He’s the lover.

Yuki Oshiro: Yuki is the Matriarch of the Oshiro family, one of a number of Old Families who have been tasked with the preservation of goddess-power and women’s agency in the world. Her mother actually represents the Oshiros on the Matriarch Council, because boring, and because Yuki would much rather have boots on the ground. She has to be doing something concrete and meaningful. She leaves the political manoeuvring to the Council.

When Marushka suggests a clandestine invasion of the shadow organisation’s stronghold, Yuki can’t resist. Now if they could only dump the kid . . .

Yuki’s another hero/warrior.

This one’s not such a neat grouping. Marushka’s constantly moving, constantly changing circumstances, from Khizhina, to a Children’s Aid Society group home, to foster care, to her (surprise-surprise) birth father’s other family home, and then finally to the Oshiro’s. She doesn’t have a lot of time to make friends, not that she’s any good at it. Declan attaches himself to her, and, after the Russells are killed, Marushka feels responsible for him.

Another attack happens while Marushka and Declan are with the Solomons and after Marushka manages to save them, Yuki, who’s been on patrol, takes them to her family’s home. Yuki’s a bit of an odd duck herself, and so she kind of likes Marushka. That whole goddess thing—bonus. Until Declan proves himself, which he does, she’d as soon turn him over to the CAS.

Reality Bomb

Protagonist: Brenda O’Connell. Brenda is a PhD candidate in physics and astronomy who becomes aware that a fellow candidate, Simon, is attempting to prove that time travel into the past is possible. She tries—and fails—to stop him resulting in the destruction of their reality and the relocation of her consciousness into her alternate self in another reality, nearly a year in the past.

Her alternate self is nothing like her and Brenda has no idea how she’s going to make her situation known to her other self, let alone how she’s going to try to figure out if Simon’s alternate self is heading toward the same disastrous experiment in this world.

B2: This is another weird one. Brenda’s alternate self is in the fashion design program at an art school co-located with Brenda’s university. She’s a cool girl, fashion whore, hard partier, and pretty much everything Brenda’s not, including straight (!)

When Brenda finally is able to make contact, B2’s first reaction is to think she’s insane. Understandably. They fight each other over everything, initially, but eventually come to an uneasy understanding. Brenda can’t do anything without her alternate self.

Over time, they start to influence each other—until disaster happens.

B2 is the explorer/hedonist. Truthfully, Brenda’s a little repressed. She needs B2’s influence.

Morgan Estys: Morgan was the woman Brenda was in love with in her reality. In the alternate world, she’s in the journalism program, and the key to uncovering Simon’s secret lab where he is trying to prove that time travel into the past is possible.

Morgan is the sage.

Gerod and the Lions

Protagonist: Gerod Tucker. Gerod is the youngest boy and the second youngest child of the very large Tucker family. His father, Old John, values strong hands and strong backs, neither of which Gerod possesses. He’s small for his age, not that anyone knows what that is, and makes it his business to try to take care of his family, who all work on Lord Somber’s land and estate. Still, the Tuckers are destitute.

It’s a lean year, and the Child Merchants always come in lean years to buy the ‘surplus’ children of the poor and sell them to the noble families and merchants in the big cities, far away.

Gerod’s been working on a plan, and a hiding place for himself and his little sister, Annabelle, but the Child Merchants come to his village before Gerod is ready, and when Old John sells Annabelle in Gerod’s absence, Gerod chases after the Child Merchants, determined to rescue his sister.

Unfortunately, by himself he can’t fight the large and well-armed Child Merchants. In desperation, he attempts a night rescue, but the cries of the frightened children alert the Child Merchants, sending Gerod running, pell-mell through the woods, into an enormous tent, and right into the paws of a lion.

Maisy: Maisy is the lioness whose enclosure Gerod stumbles into. Prior to her capture in her distant home, Maisy was the queen of her pride, and proud mother of many cubs. A rival fought her and beat her, killing her cubs and driving her out of the pride. She doesn’t mind being in a cage so much. It saves her from having to think about her home and her poor babies . . .

She quite likes this furless cub that fell into her cage. He understands her. He can speak to her. She thinks she’ll keep him.

Maisy is another caregiver, a mother-figure who will actually defend him.

Brawn: Brawn is the lion-tamer of Melchior’s Arcadia of World Oddities. Maisy is his best girl and the one he performs with most for the villagers who come to see them. He also has Tefta and Neruk, but those lionesses belonged to royalty and have never taken well to training. When he sees a boy in the cage with his Maisy, he knows the child must be something special and he’s not disappointed. He brokers a deal between Gerod and Master Melchior. The Arcadia will help Gerod find his sister and get her away from the Child Merchants if Gerod will perform with the lions.

Brawn is a mentor, another kind of caregiver.

So I think the caregivers have it, followed by the hero/warrior.

I wouldn’t say I have a favourite character archetype. As a plantser (combination plotter and pantser), everything starts with the characters for me. I start with my protagonist and the other supporting characters just seem to appear around her or him as the story world forms around them. And then I make bad things happen to them, muwahahahahaha!

I’ll be back in a few with QotW #12!

Tomorrow: Ad Astra 2016 reportage continues with ‘How to get an agent,’ and I’ll have a long overdue post of the home and garden variety 🙂

What’s my storytelling superpower and my writer’s Kryptonite?

Because I was away last weekend, I didn’t have a chance to cover my DIYMFA question of the week (QotW) and now I have two to answer (!)

Note, before I begin: superpower and Kryptonite come into play in this context with respect to the kinds of characters I create and the weaknesses in writing those kinds of characters. I have other writerly strengths and weaknesses, but I’ll limit this post to the questions asked.

QOTW 4: What’s Your Storytelling Superpower?

I’ve done the quiz three times so far, and it’s been Protector every time 🙂 Here’s what the result of the quiz says:

Your superpower is writing superheroes! Your favorite characters see their world in danger and will do whatever it takes to protect it and those they love in it. These characters may not wear spandex and capes, but they show almost superhuman fortitude in their quest to prevent disaster, whatever the cost to themselves. From Scarlett O’Hara to James Bond to Iron Man, you’re drawn to characters who stand up to the forces of evil and protect what they believe in.

Looking at the protagonists of my novels (so far) they are all protectors, to a one.

In terms of her series arc, Ferathainn (Fer), is ultimately going to heal the world (literally, the planet). She just doesn’t do it the way the spirit of the world wants her to 😉 In Initiate of Stone—by the way, I’m considering a change in title, but I’ll hang on to IoS in terms of discussing the book on this blog—Fer is out to avenge her friends, family, and the destruction of her village. In Apprentice of Wind, Fer defeats Yllel (temporarily); Book three sees her trying to stop a continental power struggle and war while trying not to become the god-killer her father has told her she will be; In book four, she helps to stop a civil war among the dwergen and liberates the dragons; and in book five, Yllel escapes his temporary prison, forcing Fer to confront the monumental task of healing the world, which will eliminate the threat of the mad god for good. It all revolves around Fer’s solution to god killing, which is what she faces from book two on.

She’s all about saving the world, to a greater, or lesser, degree.

Charlene (Chas), protagonist of Figments, starts out trying to solve the mystery of her father’s murder and ends up becoming a protector-mage, defending the balance between Earth and Regnarium.

Marushka runs away from a distasteful destiny (becoming the next Baba Yaga) but, once out in the world, struggles with her emerging powers and a shadow organization bent on the subjugation of all womankind.

Brenda, protagonist of my new adult science fiction (and yeah, I know it’s a genre stretch, but I have seen them out there), Reality Bomb, fails to stop a fellow PhD in physics candidate from conducting his experiment to prove time travel is possible. As a result, her reality is destroyed, and she is thrown into the past of a parallel reality in which nothing is the same, especially her alternate self . . . except that her former colleague is still working toward his fateful experiment and the destruction of another reality.

Finally, Gerod, protagonist of my MG fantasy, Gerod and the Lions, just wants to save his sister from the Child Merchants. He ends up convincing the king that he should outlaw the Child Merchants altogether.

All protectors. They each become larger-than-life characters and they each want to preserve something or someone. But . . . the way in which they preserve often involves changing the way things are, or are done. So they’re all a bit on the disruptor side of things as well.

DIYMFASuperpower

QOTW 5: What’s Your Writer’s Krpytonite?

The elaboration of the question indicates that the writer’s weakness is often related to her greatest strength.

So I guess the problem for me would be that my characters, by virtue of their talents and abilities, might come off as too perfect to the reader, the stereotypical Mary Sue or Gary Stu.

Not to worry, my characters all have their challenges and foibles.

Fer fears she might become a monster because of her magickal talent (origin story stuff). She has to overcome the trauma she experiences from witnessing the destruction of her village and the murders of the people she loves. It’s some serious PTSD. Though she has to fight battles, physical and magickal, she firmly believes that killing is wrong and has to overcome a lot of self-loathing to come to terms with the reality that killing, right or wrong, is sometimes necessary to serve a greater good.

Charlene has been suffering from depression and insomnia since her father’s death and is obsessed with finding her father’s killer, which she sees as the solution to all her problems. She’s willing to lie and steal (literally—she commits a B&E) to bring the killer to justice. And when she learns that the murderer is one of her parent’s friends, that her mother might be involved, and that she’s the monster to her father’s magical Frankenstein, things get complicated.

Marushka, having been raised in isolation by what most people would understand as a supernatural serial killer and her sentient, chicken-legged hut, is just strange. She doesn’t know how to relate to people. She doesn’t understand body language or facial expressions. Her reactions are very clinical. She just wants a normal life, but comes to understand quickly that it won’t be possible for her, and not just because she’s inheriting Baba Yaga’s powers.

Brenda faces a unique challenge in the alternate reality she’s thrust into. She’s trapped inside her alternate reality self, a woman who is so different from her it shouldn’t be possible. Brenda first has to discover some common ground and a way to reach her alternate self without making her think she’s lost her mind before they can find a way to stop the time travel experiment from unravelling another reality.

Gerod is simpler. He’s small, and, as a consequence, weak, and this frustrates him to no end. Though he tries, he can’t protect either himself or his sister from the Child Merchants, only luck saves him, initially. He can’t rely on his parents, who sold his sister in the first place. Stubbornly, he follows the Child Merchants out of his village, but they are several men who know how to fight, and they have many more children than the ones they bought in Gerod’s village. A failed attempt at a night time rescue ends with Gerod fleeing through the woods . . . and right into the paws of one of the titular lions.

You could say I like being mean to my characters. They kind of have to become bigger-than-life to face the challenges I put in front of them.

My next chapter update will have to wait for tomorrow.

See you then!

The next chapter: March 2016 update

In my 2015 year-end update, I said that 2016 would be the year of revision. To this point, I’d only ever revised the one novel, Initiate of Stone. I revised IoS eight times and I recently got a few ideas on how to improve it further as a result of my first run through of Apprentice of Wind.

In the first few days of March, I finished that first review of AoW. I’m going to return to it again, but this time, as I mentioned last month, I’m going to apply what I hope to be improvements to IoS and then move on to AoW.

My idea is to reinforce my voice over the two novels, which is quite different to the other novels I’ve drafted so far. Most of those are in a modern setting. Urban fantasy of various stripes. Though I’ve worked with IoS for so long, when it came to reviewing AoW, because I’d drafted the five other novels in between, I found I’d lost touch with the voice of the series and its characters.

We’ll see how that turns out, later in the year (I hope).

YTDProgress

Year Goals and Totals page

The current draft of AoW stands at 119,590 words. So 120K, which is reasonable for an epic fantasy.

I then moved onto Figments, my YA urban fantasy. It’s considerably shorter, nineteen chapters, and 53,536 words. I know I’ll have to punch that up a bit, but I have a number of ideas to make that happen.

Both of these novels were drafted, let to sit, printed out, read through, mapped, let to sit again, read through again, and then reviewed. I just changed some of the major things, POV, character deletion, consistency over the novels (in the case of AoW), and notes for future revision.

I don’t think I’ll need as many drafts of either AoW or Figments as I needed with IoS to finish them to my satisfaction.

I’m trying something different with Marushka, which I moved on to in the last few days of March.

My revision plan so far has been to review a chapter a day, which was challenging for AoW and Figments, because a number of the chapters of both were several thousand words long. I often found myself up until midnight on a weekday trying to get my work finished before I went to bed.

Marushka was the first novel I drafted using Scrivener and it really changed the way I drafted. The chapters are comparatively tiny (1000 to 1500 words so far) but there are a lot more of them (54).

I didn’t print Marushka out. I didn’t read it through or map it. As I review each chapter, I’m reading it through for the first time and mapping it as I go.

We’ll see if this is more or less productive than printing the draft out, and reading and mapping it out prior to my first run through.

I’m approaching this year of revision as an opportunity to experiment. My process is in continual evolution and, as I learn, from both success and failure, I’m seeing improvement in my process and in my writing overall.

I’m not looking for short cuts as much as efficiencies. I’m not doing any less work, I’m just doing it differently.

Again, we’ll see how it goes.

So here’s how the month breaks down.

MarchProgress

MarchProgress1

Want your own Writing and Revision Tracker? Visit http://jamieraintree.com/writing-revision-tracker

  • AoW – 7,334 words revised
  • Figments – 53,536 words revised
  • Marushka – 4,737 words revised
  • Blog – 8,436 words written.

I achieved 141% of my writing goal and 177% of my revision goal.

At this rate, I’ll finish the first run through on Marushka part way through May and move onto Reality Bomb and finally, Gerod and the Lions. Once I’ve got everything reviewed once, I’m going to take a break (which I tend to need in the summer months) and work on my outline for Mistress of Waves, the third book in my Ascension series and NaNo 2016 project 🙂

Then I’ll get back to deeper revisions until November arrives. I may not be able to conquer more than IoS/AoW. Maybe I make it as far as Figments.

Querying continues. I’ve not devoted much time to short fiction recently, though.

As far as conferences and conventions, I’m hitting Ad Astra (April 29-May 1), The Canadian Writers’ Summit (June 15-19, though I’ll only be attending June 17-19), and WorldCon, AKA MidAmericon II (August 17-21). I have paid my fees and reserved accommodation, but it’s all pending leave approval.

I’m holding my breath until I know it’s approved. Once it is, I’ll be able to book my flight to Kansas City.

My employer asks us to apply for leave every six months. We apply in March for the first half of the fiscal year, April to September, and in September for October through March. Approval is subject to seniority and operational demands (peak seasons).

I should know whether this first round of leave requests has been approved by the end of April.

My plans for fall and winter will have to wait on the approval of the second round of leave in October.

I’ll save those potential plans for a later update.

For the remainder of this month, I’ll be offering some Series discoveries posts (fall season, part two, mid-season follies, and anime) and at least one book review (Jane Ann McLachlan’s second Kia novel, The Salarian Desert Game).

As of Ad Astra, the convention reportage will resume.

So there’s lots of Writerly Goodness to look forward to, and of course, Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday curations will continue through the week.

In the meantime, break a bunch of pencils, you wonderful, creative people.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: February 2016 update

February is always a struggle for me, even in this year, when we didn’t have snow until after Christmas. By the time February rolls around, the dimness of winter has resulted in some degree of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). I’m tired of being cold. I’m tired of slogging through the snow. I’m just tired.

Just a note here: We’ve had more snow in January and February that we had by this time last year, and last year, the snow started in the last week of October. That’s global warming for you.

Add to that Phil’s health issues (which are steadily showing improvement, so we’re good on that score), my illness, and my subsequent discovery that I’m anaemic, and we have a perfect storm of personal stress.

I suspect that I’ve been anaemic for some time. Persistent exhaustion and difficulty sleeping (among numerous other symptoms) have supported this hypothesis. Heck, in the days when I used to donate blood, I remember being turned away on several occasions because of low iron.

Then there’s work. The problems there are mostly political in nature and not anything I have either control or influence over. It’s frustrating and disappointing more than anything else, but that’s contributed to my desire to leap-month over February and get on with things.

Creatively, I’ve still managed to exceed my revision goal, but was unable to meet my writing goal in February. I’m not going to go into the reasons for that because it doesn’t have an impact on you, gentle readers, nor would there be any nugget of wisdom to be pulled from those events.

My challenge in February was in trying to continue my coursework in Story Genius while proceeding with my writing and revision goals, which were set prior to the course, and (for me) take precedence. I also committed to another, shorter course from Jamie Raintree, and though I enjoyed it, I think I simply took on far too much. Far. Too. Much.

I had a rough week during which I felt stupid because I couldn’t effectively implement the Story Genius lesson. It blocked me. I couldn’t even revise for a number of days because I could see my failures too clearly in front of me. I could see all the ways in which my existing work sucked ass (sorry, but that was the exact thought in my head at the time).

There are several reasons for this:

  1. I’m a keener and I have been learning my entire life. I’m a perfectionist. I’m used to doing well. I’m so much harder on myself than anyone else can be. My confidence is easily shaken. Usually, I can write through the malaise, but this time, I balked.
  2. I chose to work on a finished draft rather than a new story idea. Worse, I chose the second book in a series. I set myself up for failure because the focus of the course is to develop an idea from, “oh, this is cool,” to a realized story map given the specifics of the Story Genius methodology. It would have been much easier if I had chosen to do this. I was stubborn and thought I could both revise Apprentice of Wind and use it as the basis for my work in the course. Silly rabbit.
  3. This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, but I had neither budgeted for the expense of the course, nor, because of my day job, could I budget sufficient time to do a good job.
  4. Illness played a role, both mine and Phil’s. My personal circumstances have made me less able to cope with what would otherwise be a minor disappointment.

Ultimately, I’ve stepped back. I have the lessons, transcripts, examples, etc., and I’m going to take the time to do the learning, and incorporate it into my creative process. In my own time. Benefits will be reaped, just not tomorrow.

There’s one week left and I’m not going to ignore it or dog it. I’m going to do the best I’m currently capable of and be content that, with practice, the true learning will occur.

My difficulties have been completely of my own making and I could have prevented them from happening by waiting for the next time the course was offered, or the time after that. If I’m able to prepare properly, I can meet (and sometimes exceed) my own, admittedly high, expectations.

Learning nugget for y’all: If we fail to plan, we plan to fail. Thank you, Benjamin Franklin.

Mel’s version: If you’re keen on something that’s popped up unexpectedly, sit back and really assess the situation. What will happen if you don’t do it this very minute? Are there future opportunities you could take advantage of? Do you really have the resources (time, money, focus) you need to invest? If not, is there a way you can shift things around to make those resources appear? Look at the long game. What part in your career does this opportunity have? Will things look any different in five years (or ten, or twenty) if you don’t “do all the things” now?

Above all, be kind to yourself.

Having said that, Story Genius is a mind blowing course and I value the opportunity to learn from Lisa Cron and Jennie Nash, both incredible experts in writing and editing. My assigned editor is also a fabulous guy and he’s been very supportive. It’s well worth the investment in time and money.

I’ll reiterate what I wrote above: my problems are of my own making and should not in any way reflect on Jennie and Lisa’s amazeballs course.

So. What did I get done in February?

I have finished the first run-through of Apprentice of Wind. There is at least one more structural edit I have to do, in which I will make use of the Story Genius method, but I’m going to let the work relax for a bit before I dive back in. In fact, I’ve seen some further areas for improvement in Initiate of Stone, as well. I might start at the beginning and work straight through both novels on the next round. It will keep me in the Ascension series headspace and voice, too, something I feel is lacking in AoW.

In the meantime, I’ve moved on to Figments. Reading through it, it’s a lot better than I remember, which has been comforting. I’m going to apply Story Genius to that, too. Before I get to the actual revision, so I’m not mucking up one process (planning) with the other (revision).

I think that repeated practice will be the key to successful implementation. Eventually, it will become second nature. Then, I will actually be able to say that I’m a story genius 😉

I resumed querying, and I submitted more short stories.

I also received more rejections. Some of them were positive (this story isn’t suitable, but please send something else), but it still results in no further publications.

This hits home in tax season, during which one becomes acutely aware of how little income one has made from one’s creative efforts.

It doesn’t help, either, that nominations for various awards have opened. Even though I really don’t have a chance in hell of getting on a ballot, it would be nice to be able to put my name beside the title of a story I wrote (and was paid for), and then stand back and say, like a proud five year old, “I made this.” 😀

FebruaryProgress

Here’s how the numbers break down.

I achieved 108% of my revision goal with 40,708 words revised.

I achieved 90% of my writing goal with 5027 words, all written on this blog.

I sent out five queries and one package for a publisher’s open call.

I submitted short stories to one anthology call, and one magazine.

And that was my month in review.

This month, as I mentioned, I’m moving on to revising Figments, and will be submitting more queries and short stories.

And I’m going to give myself a break. I’m making progress. It’s enough. So am I. I just have to remind myself what would happen if publishing was taken out of the equation.

That’s right. I’d still be writing.

If you don’t love what you’re doing, why the hell are you doing it?

Have a good week, everyone.

Hugs all around.

You’re awesomesauce, each and every one of you.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: December 2015 update and a year in the writerly life

Another year has come and gone. This one flew, but was filled with both Writerly Goodness, and sadness.

First up: December 2015

DecemberProgress

I kept drafting Reality Bomb until it was complete. By December 20, it was, at a tidy 65,556 words (total). 10,550 of those were written in December.

Then, I moved on, or back, to Gerod and the Lions, finishing that draft on December 31, with 45,012 total words in the draft (not bad for a MG novel) and 6,252 of those words written in December.

I also revised and submitted two short stories, but the net words were negligible, so I didn’t enter them into the Excel.

Finally, I wrote another 6,647 words on the blog.

My total production for the month: 23,449 words. That’s my second best month after November (and you know what happened then) for non-revision work.

2015 in review

Did I accomplish everything I wanted to in 2015?

Mostly. And I did better in some respects than I hoped. So, yay me 🙂

I did finish my last (for now) revisions of Initiate of Stone and started querying. I also took several query letter writing workshops and revised my query many times. Currently, the novel, or excerpts of same are on submission with several small publishers. I’ll be following up this month. If those submissions bear no fruit, I’ll be returning to the querying in February.

I did map and reverse engineer Apprentice of Wind and Figments. Both are ready for revision. I’ll be starting on AoW tonight, or tomorrow. I just gave the existing draft another read-through. And yes, I’m now in the everything-I-write-is-shit phase of the revision process. This, too, shall pass 😛

I finished Marushka, but have not mapped or reverse engineered the draft yet. This will come later in 2016, which I am going to call The Year of Revision.

I finished GatL (see above).

I won NaNoWriMo with Reality Bomb and subsequently finished the draft (again, see above).

I revised and submitted short stories to 17 contests and open anthology calls. That’s more than I ever have in the past.

I did not write any new stories.

I have exhausted the available markets for my one long short story and have received sufficient feedback that I believe the piece to be the beginning of a novel, rather than a true short story. It will be slotted into the drafting schedule when I get through the current spate of revision.

It was a year of near misses. I made the short list in two contests and merited a second reading in one anthology call, but ultimately failed to make the final cut in each case.

At the eleventh hour, however, I had two short stories accepted into the as yet untitled Sudbury Writers’ Guild anthology, which, though work will continue throughout the year on revision, editing, cover design, layout, and all that funky stuff, I don’t think will be published this year. You never know, but we’ll see.

I did deliver my How to get published workshop in February.

I attended Ad Astra in April and CanCon in October.

I did not attend the writing retreat in the summer. I tried to attend another, smaller writing workshop in August by the same author, but my plans were derailed by work.

I organized two great workshops delivered by Jane Ann McLachlan and Madeleine Harris-Callway in May and June, respectively, and participated in Wordstock 2015.

On the downside, my dog, Nuala, died of kidney failure in July, which sent me into a bit of a tailspin, but I wrote through it, with only one month of I-can’t-bear-the-thought-of-writing-ness (August).

 

2015Progress

Let’s look at the numbers:

  • 68,784 words written and/or revised for Initiate of Stone (remember, my strategy was to halve the words revised so as not to skew the overall numbers too much)
  • 20,856 words written on Gerod and the Lions
  • 39,034 words written on Marushka
  • 65,556 words written on Reality Bomb
  • 1,676 words of short fiction written and/or revised, and
  • 83,289 words written on this blog

That’s a grand total of 279,195 words!

That’s more than 100k more words than my 175,480 total in 2014. Last year, I called that a fuckload. So 2015 was a mega-fuckload?

This ramble is to say that I am incredibly pleased with 2015’s production.

2016: The year of revision

I realized last month, in the wake of NaNo, that if I did complete the drafts of Reality Bomb and GatL by the end of the year, I’d have five novels (aside from IoS) on my hands. Five unrevised novels.

So, guess what Ima do this year? Yup. Revise and edit those suckers to within an inch of their wordy lives.

Using Jamie Raintree’s new and improved Writing and Revision Tracker, I’ve established some lofty goals for myself, like 37,550 words of revision a month every month but November and December. And this year, I’m counting every word, because Jamie’s spreadsheet accounts for revision separately.

Plus, anywhere between two and seven thousand words of new writing each month (mostly blogging) except for November (2K on the blog and 50K for NaNo) and December (between 6 and 7K on the blog and potentially another 50K to finish off NaNo, which I hope to be book three in the Ascension series—epic fantasy = epic word count).

I’ll also be continuing to revise and submit some short fiction, map and reverse engineer Marushka and Reality Bomb (and GatL, if I can get to it) and outline Mistress of Water for NaNo.

Like I said, my goals this year are lofty. I won’t be disappointed if I don’t reach them all, but I find that if I set high goals, I tend to stretch to reach them. There are certain areas in which I can push myself outside of my comfort zone and be pretty damned happy about it. I lurve the writing life.

All of that means that I intend to aim for a super-duper mega-fuckload of production in the coming year.

Wish me luck (break a pencil) 😉

I’ll also be working toward a more balanced approach to writing and revising in the future. I’d like to draft two novels a year, one in NaNo, and one outside it, and work on revision and editing around the drafting. But that is for ensuing years. I have to get on top of my current drafts, first.

Conference and convention-wise, I’ll be returning to Ad Astra (April 29 – May 1), possibly attending the Canadian Writers’ Summit (June 15-19) and . . . I’ll be attending my first WorldCon (Aug 17-21)!

Leave pending, of course.

I have no idea what’s going to be happening with me at work in the next year or so. Right now, I’m in another acting position until Feb 12, but I have applied for the next consultant’s assessment process and pool. Also, we’re re-entering contract negotiations this year. We could be successful, or we could be going on strike. I’ve been designated essential in the latter case, and will have to work, regardless.

So it’s a crap shoot at work for the foreseeable.

If I can negotiate another leave with income averaging sometime in this next year (I’ve tried twice before for November and been asked to defer for operational reasons) Phil and I may be welcoming a new little squirmer into our home. We want the time to house train the new pup and enjoy the milk breath and buttery belly to its utmost 🙂

And that was my best imitation of Janus, looking back, and looking forward.

All the best to all of you in the coming year.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: October and NaNoWriMo 2015 extravaganza!

In a way, I really enjoyed not posting on the weekends, but I don’t know how else I’m going to share my struggles, accomplishments, and great content like the CanCon 2015 panels I’ll start transcribing next week, unless I resume weekend (and mostly Saturday—today is an aberration) posts.

As I often tell y’all, it’s all writerly goodness 🙂

I’m happy when someone lets me know that I’ve shared something that’s been helpful to them. What’s a writerly girl to do?

Write.

October in a nutshell

My goals for October were to:

  • revise and submit a short story to a contest,
  • resume/catch up on querying,
  • finish Gerod and the Lions,
  • finish my outline for Reality Bomb in preparation for NaNo, and
  • attend CanCon 2015, October 29-November 1.

My short story made it all the way to the short list in Pulp Literature’s Raven Short Story Contest. This was my third ‘near-miss’ this year, having made the short list for the 2014 Friends of the Merrill Contest with one story, and having another short story set aside for special consideration in an anthology call, but ultimately rejected.

I don’t know whether this means I’m improving, or stuck in a rut O.o

I sent out not one, but two batches of queries in October. I’ve also already heard back from a number of agents with ‘thanks, but no thanks’ emails. I’ve decided to give the querying a break for now until the new year. The poor agents will be flooded with hopeful writers and their newly revised NaNo novels. I don’t want to get lost in the inundation. Besides, I have other reasons, which I’ll let you know about shortly.

I didn’t get GatL finished. I did write almost 9k words on the draft and I’m up to the climax, but then I was on the road for CanCon and I figured I’d save myself for the convention and for NaNoWriMo. I’ll resume work on GatL once I’ve finished Reality Bomb. Yes, more news on that coming, too.

I finished my outline for Reality Bomb with days to spare. It was a hand-written free-write in my journal, a ‘draft zero,’ if you will, which I was quite happy with, even though I made one major change that had some interesting cascading effects.

I attended CanCon, with Phil in tow, and, aside from attending a great workshop and two days of great panels, I also booked three blue-pencil sessions and two publisher pitch sessions. Right now, various portions of Initiate of Stone are on under consideration by three (one publisher was unable to attend and gave everyone a chance to pitch electronically after the fact) amazing small Canadian publishers.

That’s another reason why I’m holding off on further querying.

Come the New Year, though, watch out!

My October numbers:

  • GatL – 8,913 words
  • Short fiction – 45 words
  • Blog – 8,444 words
  • Total: 17,402 words.

October was a good month 😀

OctoberProgress

NaNoWriMo 2015

The idea for Reality Bomb was a dream that I’d had back in January.

Short pitch: Physics PhD candidate, Brenda O’Connell, fails to stop a misguided colleague from conducting his experiment to prove that time travel into the past is possible, destroying their reality and hurling Brenda into an alternate reality, nearly a year in the past. Nothing about her life in this new reality is what Brenda knows or remembers, but her former colleague is still heading toward a repeat of his catastrophic mistake. Can Brenda stop him before he destroys another reality?

I’ve decided that I like the free-writing, draft zero kind of outline. I’ve tried both more formal and less formal outlines in the past and I think this method really allows me to flesh out the characters and the ideas in a better way. Also, outlining by hand makes me feel as though the outline is more flexible, less permanent, and it facilitates my process better.

November first, I was still in Ottawa. It was also the first day of the time change, so I basically had an hour to write in the morning before I went to my first session. I cranked 1,559 words out and then spent the rest of the day in panels, blue-pencils, and pitches, drove the six hours home to Sudbury in torrential rain (and in the dark), and kind of crashed.

Fortunately, I’d taken the following week as vacation and set myself the goal of writing 30k words before my return to work the next Monday.

I’m glad to say that I accomplished that goal, writing between three and five thousand words each day.

The reason I wanted to get all those words written was that I knew I was going to be working, and travelling to deliver training, for the rest of the month. The week I was on the road was, as I expected, a low-production week. But I wrote, something I hadn’t been able to do the last couple of times I travelled to delivery training. So that in itself was a win.

NaNo-2015-Winner-Badge-Large-Square

And when I got back home I was able to comfortably write between 1,000 and 1,500 words each evening, finishing the month, and winning NaNo, with 55,006 words. The validator missed out on some of the words because I forgot to remove all of Word’s formatting (doh!). Still—writing stuff is awesome!

Including the blog, I wrote 56,994 words in November. Awesome. Indeed.

NaNoWriMo2015

Last year, I only managed 28,355 words while I was working.

What did I do to turn this around?

As I mentioned at the top of this post, I stopped blog posts on the weekends, but still kept up with my Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday curation posts (I couldn’t abandon you completely!).

Front loading my words in that first week off was critical to my success. I figured if I could get the 30k written, that I could ‘coast,’ relatively speaking, for the rest of the month. I would even have room for a day off if I needed it, but I wrote something every day, even if it was only a few hundred words. Also, the momentum I developed over the course of that first week carried me quite far into the month. I never felt stressed or worried that I couldn’t do it this time around.

I didn’t do any much housework. There’s always some of that to do, but I cut back substantially.

I told people. I’ve told people about NaNo in the past, but, with the exception of Phil, no one really got on board. This year, if people forgot, I just told them again. Kindly. Happily. Enthusiastically, even. It kept me accountable.

I wrote as soon as I got home from work and made it my priority before I did anything else. Get your words done first. The rest of life will wait.

Unfortunately, I can’t get up early enough anymore to write before I go to work. So first thing after work is the best I can do.

What did I learn from NaNoWriMo 2015?

I can write 50k (and more) in a month, even while I’m working.

Why is this important? Well, if I get a publishing deal, I’d hope it would be for more than one book, and, generally speaking, publishers want the books to come out fairly quickly (relatively speaking). So I’ve just proven to myself that I can produce when I need to. It’s comforting.

Also, it wasn’t that long ago that I was bemoaning my inability to produce. I was kind of stuck writing very little each day and letting myself get away with the not so occasional day of not writing at all.

I think I’ve been depressed, to be honest. It’s been a very mild recurrence, though. So mild I didn’t even realize what I had on my hands. Having to euthanize Nu back in July probably got to me more that I’d like to think. I thought I was grieving. I was actually shutting down.

Now, thanks to writing, I’m coming back.

What am I working on now?

I’m finishing up Reality Bomb first. I’m up to 58,376 words as of today. I’ve gone back to writing around 500 words a day, but I know I can do more if I need to. About to start chapter 33 of 36, so I should be done soon-ish.

Then I’ll finish up GatL. Finally. Remember when I was saying that about Marushka (last year’s NaNo)? I do finish my shit. Sometimes it just takes a while.

I have another contest to get a short story ready for, and if that doesn’t take me through to the end of the year, I’ll probably get back to work on Apprentice of Wind.

So . . . let’s just take a brief accounting.

  • Initiate of Stone – Adult epic fantasy of about 130k words. In the submission process.
  • Apprentice of Wind – Adult epic fantasy. Drafted at 115k words. Substantial rewrite required to bring it into line with the changes made in IoS.
  • Figments – YA urban fantasy. Drafted at 53k words. Reviewed, mapped, and reverse engineered. Ready for revision.
  • Gerod and the Lions – MG secondary world fantasy. Aiming for a 40k draft.
  • Marushka – YA urban/fairy tale retelling. Drafted at 67k. Awaiting review.
  • Reality Bomb – New Adult science fiction. Aiming for 65k in the completed draft.

That’ll be six novels by the end of this year. In various stages of completion 😉

And I have ideas for another fifteen (or so) more. Oh, this writing life is a good one. And I love it.

See you next Saturday with the first of the CanCon reports.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: January 2015 update

Technically, I could have written this post last Saturday, but I was still writing into the evening and I count everything up until go to sleep on the last day of the month. As is often the case, better late than never, right?

January 2015 progress

As you can see, I’ve continued to work on Marushka, the project I started for NaNoWriMo 2014. I had indicated in last month’s next chapter post that I wanted to work away at finishing my first draft of Marushka (total goal 75k words) and figured I’d manage this at about 5k words a month.

Well colour me blown away, I wrote almost 10k new words in January alone (!)

I continued to blog, but have stuck to my weekly curation posts and posting on Saturdays. I like this amount of output and time dedicated to the blog. It’s reasonable.

I also restarted my final pass on Initiate of Stone. It’s interesting. Back in December (I think), I shared a post in Tipsday by another writer who uses Jamie Raintree’s Excel worksheet. He had some excellent suggestions for tracking revisions.

One of them was that two words of revision = one word on the worksheet. I’ve implemented this, but in a way, it feels like cheating. In any given chapter I revise, I might, at most, change 500 words.

For example, I one chapter I revised, I cut out a page and a half to two pages of a battle scene that was a little long in the tooth, plus a few words here and there, tightening things up, etc. The chapter was over 3,800 words, however, and so when I entered my 1,950 words in the IoS column for that day’s revisions, it felt to me like I hadn’t done the work to earn that entry.

I’m still struggling with the idea, but revisions and editing are their own beasts. There has to be some way I can recognize the effort without artificially inflating my word count. I think the two-for-one word scheme is the closest I can come to doing that for now. We’ll see how that works out as the year progresses.

I also revised one short story for submission to an anthology call.

Totals for January:

  • IoS: 7,789 words
  • Marushka: 9,462 words 😀
  • Short stories: 34 words
  • Blog: 8,432 words
  • Grand total: 25,717 words (17,928 without IoS revisions)

Even without considering my revisions, it’s one of my best months outside November since I started tracking my word count. I’m amazed.

Progress summary as of Feb 7

This is something new that Jamie added to the 2015 worksheet that was not in last year’s: a place to put goals and track overall progress. I think it’s cool.

With IoS, I halved the total current word count of the last draft and entered that number as my goal in the drafting progress table (as per the two-for-one word scheme). This table pulls data from the monthly sheets, so I kind of had to do that in order for the table to make any sense.

I did the same thing for Apprentice of Wind and Figments. I do intend to proceed to those revisions after I’ve settled IoS. Because Marushka and Gerod and the Lions are still in the drafting process, I subtracted the word count as of the end of 2014 from my goal word count and entered that in the table.

I intend to write a few new short stories this year in addition to revising my existing ones for submission, so I figured 5k would be a good number of new words to aim for. NaNo is and always will be 50k.

Seeing how many words went into my blog last year, I thought 100k would be a good, round number to aim for there.

There is also a separate table for tracking revisions, specifically, this in pages. This table does not pull data from the monthly sheets. So I’ve entered the number of pages revised and the total number of pages manually. I’ll only be tracking IoS, AoW, and Figments in this way.

Because the table pulls data from the monthly sheets, the following progress reflects everything I’ve done up until today, not including this blog post.

  • IoS: 10,145 words/72 pages, or 16% of goal
  • Marushka: 10,522 of 40,192 or 26% of goal
  • Short stories: 46 words, or 1% of goal 😛
  • Blog: 9,078 words, or 9% of goal

That’s pretty awesome.

In other writerly news

January saw the publication of “Downtime,” the short story On Spec purchased back in 2013. And, yes, I’m going to put that sexy Skeksis in your way again. As they say in one of my associations, I’m chuffed.

On Spec Fall 2014

Days afterward, I received a rejection of another short story, which, despite my best efforts, took the wind out of my sails. I know I should cultivate rhino-skin, but I’ve tried and I don’t think the goal possible. For me. At this time.

I missed one deadline for a special speculative issue of another magazine. It kind of blew right past me.

I did get my story submitted to Tesseracts 19, and I’ll be waiting on tenterhooks to see if this time will be the charm. I’ve been submitting to the anthology since 14, and I keep trying.

It’s what you have to do as a writer, keep writing, and keep trying.

And otherwise

Work has been a bit of a grind and it does not show signs of slowing up. For February, anyway.

I signed up for a five-session yoga class, and finished the last one this past Thursday. I enjoy yoga, but not the expense, or the time it takes from my already hectic life. So this is the only treat I’ve given my poor old body for now. I may well join up for the summer, if they offer the discounted membership again.

But life is good, overall. I’m making greater progress toward my goals that I thought I would, especially with the work hell.

Today, after I post this lovely thing, I’m progressing to IoS revisions, more Marushka, and perhaps working on one of those brand new short stories I told you about. Plus, the new season of Bitten (based on Kelley Armstrong’s series of novels) starts tonight, and I may fit in an episode or two of Log Horizon.

Tomorrow, another meeting of my writing/critique circle will take place, and I’ll be writing some more.

I’ll say it again. Life is good.

And so the chapter closes. See you next month!

The Next Chapter

The Next Chapter: December 2014 update and a year in the writerly life

Janus has two heads so he can look back and ahead. Plus, you really can’t make meaningful progress unless you take some time to reflect on your accomplishments and understand where your journey has brought you to this point.

Let’s start with December, shall we?

In the wake of NaNoWriMo, I needed a wee respite from the purely creative writing. I kept up with my regular blog posts and caught up on a few things that happened in November that I had set aside posting about because of the aforementioned NaNo.

I returned to Marushka after a few days, though, because the force is strong in this one 😉 Also, I have to finish my shit (Wendigism).

Toward the end of the month, though, I wanted to get another short fiction submission revised and sent.

December 2014 writing progress

So at the end of the month, I’d written a total of 15,167 words, 8,812 of them on the blog, 6,234 on Marushka, and 121 on the short story.

What about 2014?

It was a good year, I think.

Since it was the first year I tracked my writerly output, I really have nothing to compare it to, but I know I’ve written more words in this year than I did in 2013 or any year before that.

The highlights:

“The Broken Places” was published in Bastion Science Fiction Magazine in its June issue.

“On the Ferry” won second place in the In Places Between contest.

“Downtime” will be in the fall 2014 issue of On Spec Magazine. The issue hasn’t come out yet (long story short—please subscribe or support them on their Patreon page), but I’m still pleased as punch.

I have writerly income to report on my tax return for the second year in a row!

I’ve put “The Broken Places” and “Downtime” in the short story category in the Auroras. It’s my first year doing this kind of thing, so we’ll see how it goes.

Overall, I submitted six short stories for publication. This is fewer than in past years, but given my greater focus on my larger projects, I’m happy with this.

I attended Ad Astra, CanWrite!, and When Words Collide conferences, and workshops by Brian Henry and The Humber School for Writers.

In 2014, I have written:

  • 110,361 words on this blog
  • 34,589 words on Marushka
  • 21,464 words on Gerod and the Lions
  • 3,521 words of short fiction
  • 3,161 words on Apprentice of Wind
  • 2,384 words on Figments
  • Total: 175,480

2014 Summary

That’s a fuckload of words. Sorry. I felt the profanity appropriate.

Plus, I mapped out and reverse engineered both IoS and Figments, and revised some of IoS.

I am still eternally grateful to Jamie Raintree for her wonderful Excel spreadsheet. This year’s has enough project slots that I don’t have to modify it 🙂 Also, it appears to have a way to track drafting and revisions. I’m excited to see how it works out.

For the second year in a row, the most popular posts on my blog have been those I wrote back in 2012. Dress for Success has been consistently popular. I didn’t think a post about writing in my pyjamas would have been so compelling. Go figure.

Eight Metaphors for Persistence . . . is also a heavily viewed post. I appreciate that a bit more because it was the first post on this iteration of the blog and spoke to how I picked up the pieces after being hacked.

Still, I would like to see some of my book reviews, or conference reportage posts, rank higher.

My overall views on the blog went down from last year. In 2013 I filled the Sydney Opera House five times. In 2014 I only filled it four times.

I take all this with a grain of salt, however, as the number of my followers through WordPress has only grown and at 373, I’m closing in on 400 followers. That’s not bad for three years of blogging when I don’t have a book to sell.

Those who receive my posts via email, or who can read them through WordPress may not be counted because they haven’t actually visited the site.

Personally, as long as you’re enjoying what you read, I’m good. I’m a fan of the slow build.

What’s ahead for 2015?

I’ve you’ve read me for any length of time, you’ll know I don’t go in for resolutions. I set goals and manage my projects on an ongoing basis, sometimes re-evaluating and adjusting my goals to account for the dreaded scope creep 🙂

That’s all stuff I learned from the project management I have to do for work. It’s also similar to the dreaded underwear creep (damnit, not another wedgie).

In all seriousness, I intend to revise and submit several more short stories throughout the year. I also intend to write a few new ones.

I intend to finish my first drafts of Marushka (goal length approximately 76,000 words) and GatL (goal length approximately 50,000 words). I can manage this at a pace of about 5,000 words a month. I’ll finish Marushka first, because it’s where my head is at the moment, and then return to work on GatL afterward.

I will revise IoS and finally (FINALLY) start querying. This is so long overdue, I can’t even. Can’t. Even.

I will move onto revisions of Figments once I start querying IoS.

I will map and reverse engineer AoW and probably Marushka.

I don’t think I’ll be able to manage much more than that for the bulk of the year.

I will again engage in the NaNoWriMo Challenge, even though I will be working through the month of November. I was very pleased with the 2014 results, even though it wasn’t a “win,” per se.

For financial reasons, I’m going to stay close to home this year with conferences and conventions. Most likely Ad Astra and Can-Con.

My big expense, professional development-wise, will be a writing retreat in the summer (if I can swing the leave from work—summer’s a peak time and it’s always a big deal), also local.

I’m facilitating my first writing workshop in years in February. You know I’ll be blogging that one 🙂

And the rest will be based on opportunities as they come my way.

I like preparing my Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday curation posts on the weekend for easier distribution (and more writing time) through the week.

Aside from that, the bloggage will come out of my writerly life, as it usually does.

I have one more post to go before the night is over.

See you shortly 🙂

The Next Chapter

The Next Chapter: October 2014 update

The month’s been a bit of a wonky one.

I started out working on Gerod and the Lions, but with NaNoWriMo coming up, I started to work on my outline for my project more and more. That work was all done by hand in my handy-dandy Moleskine notebooks. Handwritten words are a pain to track, so I don’t.

I don’t outline like a normal person. Actually, to put it a different way, I don’t think there is a normal way to outline. Everyone will do it differently.

my outline (such as it is)

I start sketching things out, make notes, what to research, and then I’ll get to a point in the story that I have to figure out a few things. So I’ll leave the “outline” and start on a character’s backstory, because I need to know what it is. Who’s the antagonist? What’s her or his motivation?

And then I’ll go back to the outline until the next gap emerges. I’ll deviate to fill it, and so on and so forth. I finished off one notebook and started another. I hope to have time to transcribe my notes before I’m neck deep in word deficits.

The blog was my big word-producer again this month. No surprise there.

The only other thing I worked on was a short story for a contest. Sadly, I realized too late that the story was double the length of the word limit set out in the contest rules. Doh! Homer moment. I didn’t have another suitable story to offer up, so I let it go. There was an entry fee anyway, and I try not to enter anything with an entry fee these days.

Fortunately, I’ve identified another market for the story and, as ever, will try again.

Everything else went by the wayside, Initiate of Stone, Apprentice of Wind, Figments, everything. This happens when I get focused.

So this is how the month looked, production-wise:

October's writing progress

GatL – 2,852 words. Short of the 5,000 I was aiming for, but my new story is kind of obsessing me right now. That’s a good thing 🙂

Blog – 11,766 words.

Short stories – 49 words. There was a little additional writing, and a little editing.

Total – 14,667 words.

I’ve got the Excel all revved up for NaNo, with an extra project and column for November.

Eeeeeeee! Let the writing begin!

So far, we’re on track for continuing with the blogging, even during NaNo. I hope it lasts, but if it doesn’t, forgive me, won’t you?

Anyone else out there doing NaNoWriMo?