The Next Chapter: September 2014 update

So here we are at the beginning of October, my favourite month, not in least because Samhain (Hallowe’en) was my hatch-day (and yes, I’ve heard them all and would proudly claim to be witch, werewolf, vampire, or anything else you’d care to call me).

September was an interesting month.

I made further progress on Gerod and the Lions. Total word count on the project is 21,423 words, just over half-way for an MG novel, which this is supposed to be. I’m no longer on track to finish by the end of the year for reasons I’ll tell you about shortly, but I figure I’ll be done the first draft in January or February of 2015. Not bad.

I finished mapping and reverse engineering Figments (finally!). One thing I’ve learned from this project is that reverse engineering is tough.

When I worked backward through my plot for Initiate of Stone earlier this year, I was working with a seventh draft. I’d already completed a lot of the structural reorganization that reverse engineering might have indicated was necessary. Though I fine tuned a lot of foreshadowing and really tightened things up, there wasn’t a lot of tearing apart and putting back together.

With Figments, there was. Figments is a first draft, a NaNoWriMo first draft, at that. I’m not ashamed to admit that I lost my way a few times. I ended up listing events in reverse chronological order and then reorganizing them into Victoria Mixon’s holographic structure. In made my head spin.

Another thing I’ve decided is that I’ll head back to the computer for my mapping. It’s just a lot easier than rewriting everything out by hand. The reverse engineering, though, has to be done by hand. It really puts you in a different headspace.

Having accomplished the Figments mapping and reverse engineering, I’ve moved onto Apprentice of Wind. That will take me a while to get a handle on as well. It might as well be a first draft, though I went as far as draft four with IoS and AoW as one honkin’ monster of a novel 😛 I have subsequently changed enough in IoS and cut up parts of AoW that it really is like starting from scratch.

The other thing I started on this month is reworking IoS. I still have betas outstanding, but my writer’s head had to go there. I haven’t gotten very far, just a few chapters, but I think it’s going well. I have enough distance from the novel that I’m seeing a lot of things more clearly than I had before.

This isn’t to say that the outstanding betas work over the last year and a bit has been for nought. I still want to see what you recommend. I’m not above going back and changing even more. I just had to get at it.

I can finally tell you about my mysterious short(-ish) story tale. I had submitted it to Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine in response to a special call out by C.C. Finlay in the first part of August.

I received word on September 21st that he wasn’t taken with the story (though it was a very nice rejection—thank you!). So, I promptly revised to try and fix what may have been the dear thing’s flaws and sent it off to Writers of the Future.

In reviewing my previous submissions to that contest, I realized that my honourable mention from 2011 was for the same story that I eventually revised and submitted to On Spec: “Downtime,” which should be out in the fall 2014 issue (I’m still so excited about that).

Can’t wait to get my paws on my contributor’s issue. Sorry, drooling there a bit.

Other On Spec news: they won an Aurora Award! W00t! Congratz! So pleased for them. Chuffed even.

Also, Bastion Science Fiction Magazine, the online publication that accepted “The Broken Places” back in June, has become an Amazon bestseller. More W00t! and Gratz! to the good people at Bastion.

Though I decided not to move forward with my self-funded leave this fall, I’ve decided that I still want to attempt to do NaNoWriMo again this year. Yes. That’s while working the day job. Yup. I’m certifiable.

I had considered taking a blogging holiday for a month, and it may come to that if I can’t manage my time and get the words down, but I’d prefer to keep to three posts a week: Tipsday, Thoughty Thursday, and my WWC2014 reportage.

In the last month, you may have noticed that I haven’t posted a lot on Sundays. I’ve found that to be a wonderful gift for the writing side of things. This weekend is an exception. You’ll find out later in my second post of this particular Sunday.

The other thing I’ve tried in the last couple of weeks is to prepare my Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday posts on Sunday and just post them on the appropriate weekday. I think between giving myself Sundays, prepping the weekday posts, and then focusing on my NaNo project to the exclusion of most other creative endeavours for the month, I’ll be able to hack it.

Of course, November will be the acid test. I’m also heading down to Toronto for a couple of days for a Humber School for Writers workshop on November 6 and 7. I just can’t help myself. I have to try.

I’ve already been doing some research on my idea and I’ll be working on a rough outline and further research this month. It’s the strength of this idea that has convinced me to make this crazy NaNoWriMo commitment.

I’ve also joined Jane Ann McLachlan’s street team I’ll talk a bit more about street teams in a future post. Her next novel, a YA science fiction, will be coming out soon. Much excitement there!

So, here’s how September’s numbers worked out:

September's writing progress

A total of 13, 218 words. Modest, but reasonable.

7,921 on the blog, 5203 on GatL, and a scant 94 on my longish short story (that was after removing and rearranging several hundred, but I never count negative words).

So that was my month in writing.

How have your projects been shaping up? Please share in the comments. I love hearing about your yummy, yummy words.

The Next Chapter

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The Next Chapter: August 2014 update

This has been a weird month, writing-wise.

I started out well enough, continued working on Gerod and the Lions, and started revising one of my longer short stories for submission.

Then I went to When Worlds Collide.

It was a great conference, but the pace was killer. They really need to work in proper breaks for lunch and dinner. It’s bad enough that they have eight sessions running at all times, but if you want to eat, you have to grab and go.

Yes, Surrey had more concurrent sessions than WWC, but there were a number that I didn’t regret missing. They kind of organized sessions into streams so that sessions on similar topics wouldn’t conflict with each other.

Maybe it was that I was a little more eclectic in my choices of what to attend at WWC. Maybe it was the extra day where I hiked approximately twelve kilometres in the mountains and canyons of Alberta. Maybe it was the time change and the red-eye flight back to Ontario with only a day off to recover before I returned to work.

I don’t know. Whatever it was, I was exhausted upon my return.

I finished the work on my story and got it submitted. As I mentioned previously, it’s a longer short story, nearly 10,000 words and the magazine to which I’ve submitted it is one of the big markets. I still don’t want to talk about it too much right now because I could come off as cocky. I could just end up jinxing the whole business. Regardless of the outcome, I’ll let you know once it’s transpired.

I just couldn’t get back into GatL, though.

On Collapse

Then I received an email from SARK. She was giving a free conference call on the topic of creative collapse.

It was interesting.

One of her points is that all creative people collapse, whether they admit to it or not, and many of us will need to collapse every once in a while.

Now collapse isn’t a negative thing. It’s more of a phase where we’re not actively writing new words, but maybe working through ideas, researching, editing, and the like. So I’ve been in this place, off and on, for a while now. It’s part of a creative cycle and it seems to me, a natural part.

We have to recognize our need to collapse, give ourselves permission to do so, and remain creatively open throughout our collapse period so that we can return to our work renewed and ready to give ‘er 😀

So aside from blogging, I’ve given myself permission not to write. It’s felt strange. I still have that urge to write, that need, and if I can’t or don’t work on my fiction, I feel very odd. Outside my own skin. Alien.

But I think it’s been a good thing for me, what with everything that’s been going on in my life otherwise.

So tomorrow will be a planning day. I’m going to relax and think about my re-entry into daily writing practice. Perhaps I’ll sign up for a workshop or two that I want to attend in the fall, and think about whether I can tackle NaNoWriMo this year without having time off from work.

I’m going to figure out how I can fit back into my skin and reconcile the two sides of my life.

What I’ve been doing

I’ve been researching a new story idea. I had a dream back in the spring and it stuck around, started making a fuss, so I figured I should pay attention.

I’ve also been letting Katie Weiland’s Character Arcs posts help me sort out a few things that I want to do with Initiate of Stone and Apprentice of Wind.

And, with Phil, I’ve been working my way through Bleach. I’ll get around to talking more about that when I get to my Mel’s Movie Madness and Series Discoveries posts in September.

SFCanada

I can’t tell you how happy I am that I joined SF Canada in the spring. The discussions that happen on the listserv are awesome. The experiences shared are heartening. I’m learning so much just being attentive.

Recently the topic came up of making the leap to full-time writer, something that’s been on my mind a lot recently. Serendipity at work 😉

I’m going to preface this next bit by explaining to my followers in other parts of the world that being a full-time writer, and a full-time genre writer at that, in Canada, is tricky. Our market is a lot smaller (our population is a lot smaller), and even if we aim for an agent or publisher in the States, we throw our hats into the ring with millions of other writers who are vying for the same kind of success.

It can be daunting.

I know a number of authors who manage to make it work, but each path to independence and story is unique.

Some writers have made the leap after having had another career. Some have supportive spouses who have enabled them to devote time to their craft. Some have “taken turns” with their spouses, alternately supporting each other through career transitions. Some have damned the torpedoes and just gone for it. For this last group, the going hasn’t always been easy, but they’ve managed.

As you know, I’m not in a place where I can do that yet.

In conjunction with this discussion was another strand about paying your dues, fine-tuning your craft, your 10,000 hours or your million words, and about newer writers who feel that they can dispense with revision and editing, and that volume alone is the key to success. Quantity vs. quality was a theme that came up a lot.

So did the idea that just because you can, doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

There was discussion about the dreaded “trunk” novel, the novel a writer uses to learn and practice on and speculation as to whether these novels should ever see the light of day.

The whole has been very informative, and, I must say, inspirational. It’s made me want to get back into my work and start mucking around in the words again.

We’ll see where all this takes me.

August's writing progress

The stats

My total output for the month has been 11,600 words.

A scant 57 words went into the short story, but were then more than edited out again.

1,113 went into GatL.

And, as ever, the bulk of my words went into this blog. 10,430 to be exact.

I’m still waiting for beta reports. I haven’t finished the mapping of Figments yet, let alone moved on to AoW. Despite the limited progress this month, I’m still on track to finish GatL by the end of the year. So everything is on the cusp of its next evolution. I’m full of optimism.

As I watch my writerly friends publish their second novels, I get a twinge of envy, but I’m trying to convert that into motivation, because, in the end, my writing career is up to me.

It’s time to get back to work.

Farewell until next month, my friends. Wonderful words to you all. Break a pencil*!

*I’ve mentioned in the past that this is the superstitious writer’s “good luck,” but more recently, I’ve realized it might be a, shall we say, Canadian, way of saying Chuck Wendig’s “Art harder, motherfucker!” Yup. Break those keyboards, make those pens bleed ink, crush those pencil leads. I want y’all to art that hard. If you will, I will, too. Deal? 🙂

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: July 2014 update

July was much the same as June for me.

I worked primarily on Gerod and the Lions, am still slowly mapping out Figments, and though I did some work on a short story (it’s almost 10K, so not really short, per se) it was revising, and the word count was negative.

July's progress

Total for the month: 17,516 (not quite as high as last month, but still a w00t! in my book)

Total on GatL: 4,821 (again, a little less than last month, but I’m still on track to finish the first draft by year’s end)

Total on blog: 12,695

Thought it might be time for a review of the year to date:

Month Total Blog Initiate of Stone Apprentice of Wind Figments Gerod and the Lions Short Stories
January 11,532 7,114 0 2,781 207 821 609
February 9,789 6,303 0 47 308 1,296 1,835
March 10,781 8,193 0 333 1,488 312 455
April 11,612 10,930 0 0 381 0 301
May 7,503 7,503 0 0 0 0 0
June 18,471 13,425 0 0 0 5,046 0
July 17,516 12,695 0 0 0 4,821 0
YTD Total 87,204 66,163 0 3,161 2,384 12,296 3,200

I must say, I’ve impressed myself. This ain’t bad for a writer with a day job.

It’s a comfort to know that I could convert some or all of those words spent on the blog into other writing projects, even while continuing in my day job. That could be two books a year, and that’s awesome.

Why don’t you do that now, you ask (and well you might). Right now, I’m happy to blog away for the benefit of my readers and writerly friends. Though a platform isn’t required for a publishing deal, it doesn’t hurt. Plus, sharing my struggles, progress, and process, curating and conference/convention reportage is gratifying to me. It seems that I’m sharing material that benefits my network.

It warms my wee heart when people like, comment, reblog, or otherwise share my posts.

The fact that I’m making progress also makes me happy. I don’t want to rush into querying or publication and regret it later.

I have to work the day job at least until Phil and I have our remaining debts paid off. There’s a lot of uncertainty in our lives right now (of which I’ll write tomorrow). Call me a chicken, but I can’t take the risk of quitting at the moment.

If I’m fortunate enough to get a deal of some description before we’re debtless, I’ll also have a choice. I could potentially devote all my time to writing, and produce three or four novels in a year. That could translate into a replacement income . . . eventually.

Due to the uncertainty in our lives and in the rapidly-shifting publishing industry at the moment, I’m not prepared to take that chance now, but I know I can do it if I have to.

I write because I enjoy it and I want to keep it that way.

What’s on for this month?

I’m going to continue to plug away at GatL and Figments, and that 10k story I mentioned, I’m going to submit it after revision. I don’t want to talk too much about it, because a story of this length is a huge risk. I’ve also submitted it to other anthologies and magazines in the past to a resounding “no.” Let’s see if I can’t do better this time.

This coming Friday, I’m off to When Words Collide in Calgary, and I’ll learn on Sunday morning whether my top ten story “On the Ferry” was considered a winner in the In Places Between contest. Though I’m really excited about the possibility, I’m just pleased as punch to be in the chapbook anthology.

So, of course, there will be more conference reportage coming your way 🙂

And that’s about it.

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting my CanWrite! Conference wrap and writing about the unsettled nature of things, not necessarily in that order.

Have a happy Civic Holiday long weekend, my Canadian friends 🙂

The Next Chapter

The Writing Process Blog Hop

Yes, it’s actually happening!

I had a bit of a false start back in April when Gemma Hawdon originally tagged me, and now that Claudette Young, A.K.A. Claudsy has tagged me for a second time, I actually found a couple of fellow bloggers who hadn’t already done it 🙂

First, I must thank my nominators:

Gemma Hawdon and familyGemma Hawdon lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and two children. She writes articles, short stories and web content for clients. She’s just completed the first book in a two-part children’s fantasy series and writes a blog http://topoftheslushpile.com/ about – funnily enough – trying to get to the top of the slush pile. She loves hot coffee, long walks and sneaking off to the movies when everyone else is at work.

Public Contact Details:
Twitter: @gemmaleehawdon
Facebook: facebook.com/topoftheslushpile
Email: gemmaleehawdon@gmail.com


 

Claudette J. Young began writing seriously in 2008 and continues to write in multiple Claudette J. Younggenres. She strives to learn something new each day—a new poetry form, new writing technique, new foreign word, or whatever strikes her fancy. Her primary genres are poetry, science fiction/fantasy, flash fiction, children’s literature, women’s fiction, along with creative non-fiction, essay, and memoir. She tries to cover all of her bases by writing for audiences that range from young children to senior citizens.

Claudette has been published in numerous online publications for poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, as well as print magazines and two international poetry anthologies. She continues to hone her craft by working on multiple projects, including book-length ones. Her regular work can be viewed on her collaborative website and blogs at: http://2voices1song.com/ as well as www.claudettejyoung.com/


 

Now for the hard part

I have to answer four questions all about—you guessed it—my WIPs and process. I’ll apologize to my followers, for whom some of this will be a repeat of my Next Chapter posts, but I hope there will be some new, tasty stuff in the mix for you too.

What am I working on?

Several projects. This year, I decided, inspired in part by Rochelle (one of my nominees – see below) to attempt working on multiple projects at once.

First is my epic fantasy, Initiate of Stone.

An aspirant mage is betrayed by those she trusts most, but when war razes her village, she loses family, friends, and the possibility of initiation. The secrets kept from her may be the keys to stopping the mad god intent on enslaving her world and her quest for power leads to a confrontation with the man who tore her life apart.

Yeah, still needs work.

It’s currently out with betas. I have a couple who are very thorough/detail oriented, and that’s just fine with me, because I’ve been able to use the time to make some major decisions about the novel, remap it, make editing notes, a beat sheet, and reverse engineer the plot. When I hear back from my peeps, I’ll be ready for one more massive rewrite, and then it’s onto querying.

Second is a young adult urban fantasy titled, Figments.

Her father’s murder sends a girl spiralling into depression, and, she fears, delusion. As her figments turn out to be real, she learns that everything else she thought she knew is a lie, opening the door to the terrifying possibility that her father was a modern-day Frankenstein, and she is his apocalyptic monster.

Figments was last year’s NaNoWriMo project and I am currently mapping it out, then I’ll get to the beat sheet, edit notes, and reverse engineering. This one has a few revisions ahead.

My third project is Gerod and the Lions, a middle grade, traditional fantasy.

A boy’s father sells his little sister to the Child Merchants and he sets off, alone, to rescue her. Clever, but small, he fails his first attempt and finds shelter in a circus where he discovers a talent for talking to lions and allies who help him track the Child Merchants to the capital, where a royal encounter and a daring rescue bring the boy face to face with his sister and her new owners.

I’m still drafting this one, but I expect to be finished by the end of this year.

Finally, there’s Apprentice of Wind, the second book in my epic fantasy series.

She’s come into her power through an act of murder and now a rogue sourceress (it’s not a typo), in the company of the half-brother she never knew and the avatar of the goddess, must defend the king’s city and then race to battle the mad god. If she can’t become powerful enough to defeat him, her life and her world will be destroyed.

The draft has been assembled and mapped, but will require substantial rewriting because of the revisions to IoS.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

What’s that saying? There’s nothing new under the sun.

The only thing that distinguishes my work from other fantasy novels being written and published is me. It’s my writing and my voice that will set them apart.

The epic series is pretty standard fare, but I have what I hope is a truly strong heroine who drives the plot and some compelling secondary characters all of whom I torture mercilessly. None of the characters is purely good or evil—except the mad god, he’s just psychotic—so it’s complex and dark and unrelenting. And there’s a lot of vomiting, or so I’ve been told by at least one reader 😉

The YA novel features a gargoyle, but I think in the search for “original” beasties, this ground has already been trod, as has the Frankenstein angle, but not, perhaps, in the way I have approached it.

The MG might be fairly original, a young lion tamer who takes down a child slavery ring? I might have something there.

Why do I write what I do?

The main reason is that fantasy and science fiction were what I started reading: C.S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, Madeline L’engle, Ursula K. Le Guin. It was also what I started watching: Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, etc.

As I read or watched, I imagined myself as a character in the story. Sometimes I’d even dream about it. These derivative, or fan-based, works were some of my earlier stories. When I grew older, I understood that I wanted to help other people feel what I felt as the consumer of these creative works.

How does my writing process work?

Sweet Jebus.

The thing about my process is that it is . . . a process. It’s what happens between my head and the page. The two words I might choose to characterize my writing process are organic and evolving.

I generally shoot from the hip. I write first and ask questions later, but I’m also addicted to learning. With every writing craft book or blog post I read, or workshop I take, I learn something, and I incorporate bits and pieces of everything into my process. How do I choose which bits and pieces? It feels good or right. It fits.

I’m an unapologetic pantser, but I generally outline after the first draft, and even though I may not have a formal outline to write by, I always know where my story is going. I know the end and major events before I begin. I may even have sketched out scenes and characters before I get to the actual drafting. I do a lot of preliminary work in my head (read, incubating).

According to some coaches, that’s a form of outlining. *bats eyelashes endearingly*

I’ve tried alpha readers (who read an early draft), beta readers (who read later drafts), professional editors, reviews of the first X pages, first act (some of this done with Jenny – see nominees, below) . . . I generally give everything a try once and decide by the results I get whether I’ll do it the same way next time or not.

In this moment, here’s how my process works:

Ideas:

Ideas emerge from dreams. I, like many writers, dream in story. It may be a bit surreal, but they’re full-colour movies, sometimes even in three acts. This used to happen a lot when I was a kid, but now, I might get one or two story dreams a year. Still, that’s a fair backlog of ideas.

Ideas emerge from journaling. I started keeping a journal in university when knowledge from different disciplines kept colliding in my skull. Now, I find that my curation is taking the place of journaling. I share the articles and posts that make me think or feel and that becomes a kind of record. I also use Evernote.

Ideas emerge from reading. I’m a “clip-rat.” If I read something physical that makes me think, I clip it, or make a copy and save it in my idea file.

Ideas emerge from exercises or prompts. This is not as frequent as I’m not keen on exercises and prompts, but on a few occasions, it’s worked. Gerod and the Lions resulted from a Natalie Goldberg prompt.

Drafting:

I used to draft long hand because that was the tool I had most easily available to me. The idea that became Initiate of Stone filled two large spiral-bound notebooks.

Then, I started to type.

That gave way to word processing when I got my first computer. Those were the DOS days of black screens and orange text.

Now, I rely mostly on Word, and though I have purchased Scrivener, I’ve found that the process of importing and formatting is a bit cumbersome. I’d rather be writing. But I have enrolled in a course, so that may change.

Revisions:

After drafting, I let things sit for a while and move onto other projects, or work on short stories, or do something completely unrelated like home renovation or gardening.

I print out my draft as economically as possible and read it through.

I “map” my novels out. It’s an outline of sorts and I can easily rearrange, cut, and rewrite based on my map. Mapping is done long hand and then transcribed into a computer document.

Beat sheets and edit notes are generally long hand as well. I usually relocate to the living room or some other place than my office to make these notes.

Once I have all my structural work and edit notes completed, I’ll launch into editing the draft, copying each chapter into a new document and rewriting/editing it fully before moving on to the next.

This process repeats until I’m satisfied.

Alpha or beta readers, or editors might come in around the third or fourth version.

And that’s pretty much how it’s gone to this point.

My process is continually subject to change.

And finally, my nominoms (da-doo-da-do-doo – yes, I’m a Muppet at heart).

Jenny Madore (writing as JL Madore)

JL MadoreJL Madore didn’t find writing so much as it found her. Waking each morning with a vivid cast of characters tangled in chaos in her head, it seemed essential to capture them on the page. With Blaze Ignites and Ursa Unearthed published and receiving rave reviews, she’s turning her attention to Watcher Untethered, an unpublished paranormal/erotic romance manuscript which just won 4th place in the Toronto Romance Writers – The Catherine. Aside from spinning tales of elves, weres, demons and fallen angels, she’s also Vice President of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region, a 300 member writing organization just outside of Toronto. www.jlmadore.ca


 

Rochelle Sharpe (writing as R.L. Sharpe)

I’m many things: A reader; a writer; a mother of 2; a wife of 1; Christian; Australian.Rochelle Sharpe

I’ve been telling stories since I could talk and started writing them down when I was 8. It will take an awful lot to stop me – like death. Some say I’m a dreamer, and I have my head in the clouds, but I say that’s better than having two feet planted firmly on the ground.

I define myself as a storyteller. Writing is my life. Through writing I get to record all the worlds I have been blessed with discovering, worlds I would love to share with you fully one day, as soon as I can convince a publisher my worlds are worth sharing 🙂

I spend most of my time in fantastical worlds with fantastical people, both I have created and those created by others, and there is no other way I’d rather spend my time.

I work hard on making my dreams come true. And I believe in myself, because if I don’t, who else will?

http://rlsharpe.wordpress.com/

Writing Process Blog Hop

The next chapter: June 2014 update

Hey all!

I must say that June was a blockbuster month for me.

It started with the publication of my science fiction short story “The Broken Places” being published in Bastion Science Fiction Magazine. Still so excited about that.

I attended June’s @M2the5th Twitter chat with Roz Morris, focusing on her Nail Your Novel series. I’m learning quite a bit from these, and though we cancelled July’s because, Independence Day, we’ll be getting back to our monthly schedule in August.

A comment on last month’s update had me a little concerned about what my readers might be taking away from these posts. It seems May’s update was taken as a warning about social media. If the warning was timely and helpful, great, but it’s not the message I hoped to convey.

I have now finished reading my ARC of K.M. Weiland’s forthcoming Jane Eyre: Writer’s Digest Annotated Classics. I’ll be posting a review later in the month, so stay tuned for that.

The adjustable desk is working out very well, and I’m now standing for longer between rests. At work, I read a post from a learning and development blogger in which he discussed his experience with his standing desk, which he described as continual fidgeting.

He uses a kitchen stool to take a periodic break from standing and has discovered that he can’t write while standing (!) Thankfully, that hasn’t been my experience.

CanWrite! 2014 was a great time, as usual. I’ve been blogging the panels, sessions, and workshops I’ve attended on a weekly basis.

Another piece of exciting writerly news arrived when I returned home from the conference: another speculative short story, “On the Ferry,” made it into the top ten in the When Words Collide writing contest.

This means I’ll appear in their chapbook anthology, In Places Between, though I’ll have to wait until the conference to find out if I’ve placed. Still. Squee-worthy.

Last month, I had a blogging disruption around the arrival of my desk and spent most of my non-blogging writing time working through Initiate of Stone, all of that work in long hand. Though I completed a lot of work on IoS, I wasn’t able to capture a word count from it.

In last month’s update, I mentioned I would be getting back to countable writing.

June's writing progress

June’s total word count: 18,471!!!!!

13,425 of those words were on my blog, but 5,046 were written in Gerod and the Lions. I set myself a goal of 5k for the month on that project, and I made it. The draft is now just over 10k words and I’ll have a workable draft by the end of the year 😀

I only just started working on Figments (my NaNo project from last year) as I had worked on IoS last month. In all fairness, I have a little more to do with Figments than I had to do on IoS.

First, I’m mapping it. This is something I picked up from reading Donald Maass’s The Breakout Novelist. For each chapter, I list the title, page count, word count, the first and last lines (both hooks, one to draw the reader into the chapter and the other to propel the reader onward), the purpose of the chapter, in story terms, the internal and external conflicts, and finally, what changes for the story, and for the POV character as a result of the chapter.

These are actually from several separate exercises in Maass’s workbook, but I’ve cobbled them together to create my map. These are like index cards and I can rearrange them as needed when I work on the structure of the story. I can see where I might have to divide longer chapters, and fairly easily pick out plot points, pinch points, reversals, etc.

Once I get the mapping done, I’ll fiddle with Figments’s structure and tighten things up, work through a beat sheet ala Roz Morris, and finally reverse engineer the plot with Victoria Mixon’s holographic structure.

June has taught me that I can’t draft one project and then work by hand on another project simultaneously. I’m going to try alternating and see how that goes.

And that is all the Writerly Goodness I have for you tonight.

How are your works-in-progress coming, my friends?

Coming up this month: An interview with author and editor Mat Del Papa on his new anthology Creepy Capreol, I take another shot at the writing process blog hop, the review of Katie’s book, more CanWrite! reportage, and a couple of poems with creation stories.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: March 2014 update

The Next ChapterToday was, indeed, a glorious new day. This morning, the sun was shining, the high for the day was predicted to be above zero degrees Celsius (it turned out to be plus six), and Phil made me breakfast—wakey, wakey, eggs and bacey!

Unfortunately, around noon, I threw my back out. Note to self: do not try to dead-lift the over-full laundry basket.

Still, I went out and bought a new pair of sandals (yes, I’m that optimistic—there was much meltage today), spent a Chapters gift card on books, and stocked up on Atlas Mountain Rose, my spring Body Shop scent. My back regretted it, but I went.

Because this month was “heck month,” I did not get as much writing done as I would have liked, and by the time the second week rolled around, I knew I wasn’t going to stick to my schedule.

Truth be told, I’d been feeling a certain tension having to leave one project for another before I’d gotten what I thought needed to be done all along. I used that tension to good effect, however, because when I did return to the project in February, that tension propelled me into the project more quickly.

In March, though, it wasn’t working for me.

Week one was for Apprentice of Wind, the second book of my Ascension series and what I’d been doing so far was cobbling together the pieces I excised from Initiate of Stone with what I had already written for AoW, cutting the scenes and chapters I’d determined I didn’t want to use, and going through to write in the consistencies I’d established in IoS.

I was itching just to get everything together in one document and formatted, though, so I could print it out and read it through, making edit notes as I went. I quickly saw that some chapters would have to be completely rewritten.

In week two, I did move onto Figments, and I did continue to work on editing the draft, but again, at the end of the week, I hadn’t quite finished refining the climax and denouement the way I wanted it.

So in week three, when I had my time off, I finished both compiling and printing out AoW and finishing off Figments. I’ll be printing out the latter tonight 🙂
This past week, I’ve only started reading through AoW and making notes. I haven’t touched Gerod and the Lions at all (though I did work on a scene at Brian Henry’s workshop and counted my handwritten words), and I just finished off the work on the short story I submitted to Bastion at the beginning of the month, but haven’t worked on any short fiction since.

I also have a play I’m working through for a friend, and I haven’t gotten nearly as far through that as I’d like either, but I hope things flow more smoothly this month.

My plan for the coming month will be to focus on AoW and Figments, as well as finishing off my review of the play.

What am I going to do with my novels? I am going to read both of them through and make notes. I’m going to use two approaches to guide me.

The first is Roz Morris’s Nail Your Novel. Without having read her method before, I realize that I’ve kind of found my own way to it. Part of her method is to write out cards for bits and pieces of the story. These cards can then be shuffled and rearranged as required in the process of redrafting.

On these cards are the short form notes for what changes for the plot, the world and the character, first and last lines, that kind of thing.

I’d actually done something like with IoS. Years ago, I’d read Donald Maass’s books on writing, and in one of the workbooks, there were several exercises that I grouped into one document I called a map. For each scene, or chapter, I needed to list the first and last lines, the purpose of the piece, the internal and external conflicts for the point of view character, and what changed for the plot and the character as a result of what occurred in the piece.

So I’ve got some of this done already. For AoW. I’ll have to do the same for Figments.
The other thing I’m going to do is start analyzing both novels in terms of Victoria Mixon’s holographic structure. I tried to explain this technique to someone recently, and really, you have to read Mixon’s Art and Craft of Story to understand it, which I’ll encourage you to do.

Suffice it to say that Mixon takes the three act structure and divides it into six component parts. Each of the six parts then has its own six components. Thus, holographic structure.
I have some work ahead of me 😉

Onto the month’s progress report.

I have to make a correction, first. I discovered an error in the way I had the spreadsheet set up.

January’s word count total is actually 11,532. February’s should be 9,789.

March’s is 10,673.

March wordcount

How that breaks down:

The blog is once again the lion’s share at 8,193. Next is Figments at 1,380, then short fiction at 455, then AoW at 333, and finally, GatL at 312 words.

So that, my friends, is my month in writing.

I will be taking a trip next weekend, to attend Ad Astra, one of the bigger Canadian SF/F conventions in Toronto. This will be my first year going, but well-known authors like Patricia Briggs and Steven Erikson will be there, as well as Canadian names in the genre like Julie Czerneda and Marie Bilodeau. I’m hoping to make some new connections, or at least some in person ones (I’ve been following Julie and Marie online for years).

The weekend after, I just remembered, I will be attending Renny De Groot’s book launch for Family Business.

Yes, there will be more Writerly Goodness coming your way in April.

I’m off to watch Cosmos with Phil now.

Catch you all on Tipsday!

Ups and downs: A week in the writerly life

Greetings, my writerly peeps!

It’s been a weird and wonderful week for me.

First, I headed down to Mississauga (second of three trips for the day-job this month) on Monday. Since I had full travel days (Monday and Thursday) this week, I was able to travel in a more leisurely fashion.

My mission: to co-facilitate the Business Writing Made Easy course (my seventh time with that particular curriculum) with one of my colleagues.

Monday afternoon was spent preparing the room and testing our technology. There were a few tense moments. There was a TV in the room, and we attempted to hook it up as the monitor for the lap top so we could use it to show the slides for the course. It didn’t work.

So we brought the good old SMART Board into the room, and while not able to achieve full connectivity (some of the cables were missing) we were able to use it as a basic projection screen. Good enough.

My colleague was preparing for her own trainer certification. At this time, our employer’s internal college is getting out of the certification biz, however, and so she had to record a full day’s training, edit it down to four hours, and demonstrate the eighteen trainer competencies.

This would mean that I couldn’t be in the classroom, though, because to have a co-facilitator in the room would have invalidated her certification.

So what would I do? Due to another colleague’s absence, I was able to set up at her workstation, but there wouldn’t be a lot of work I could do.

The day ended, and I had to leave ends a little loose for the time being.

That evening, I tried to connect to the interwebz through my hotel’s wi-fi. It wouldn’t even let me have multiple windows open (that’s how I manage my SoMe). So that meant dependence on my smart(er than me) phone for SoMe for the week and actual productive writing time.

This was a boon in disguise. I quickly accepted it for the gift it was.

That night, I realized that my colleague and I would be co-facilitating Business Writing Made Easy again at the end of this month (my third trip of three) and that she could record her session again there. In the morning, I proposed that I observe her and give her some tips for the end of the month, then jump in on day two.

This was an agreeable plan and so we proceeded.

There was a little panic (actually ongoing) because we were uncertain whether the course at month’s end would be approved.

The video tapes (yes, it was an old camcorder) ran out before half the day’s training was finished. We weren’t sure if my colleague would have enough footage to even make up the four hours she would need to submit.

Regardless, that night we went out to celebrate and enjoyed Korean BBQ, a first for both of us. You cook your own food, right at the table, and it’s a la carte, so you just keep ordering as long as you’re hungry. It was very tasty.

The next day, a snow storm blew in. The course finished well—the grammar module is my favourite—and my colleague had figured out how to transfer her video to digital so she could edit. So she had a possibility of moving forward with her certification video even if it turned out we couldn’t co-facilitate again.

I had a quiet night, writing away, and finished editing my NaNoWriMo novel. I just have to fill the ending out a little more now. We have denoue- but need a little more -ment.

The drive home on Thursday was terrible, largely because of the previous day’s snow storm.

It took me an hour and a half to travel a distance I normally would in about fifteen minutes, even with traffic. Then I got off the highway and travelled a little more indirectly to bypass the closed lane I assumed was the reason we couldn’t travel more than 10 km/h.

Once past that bit, I was fine, but I didn’t get back into Sudbury until about 3:30 pm.

When I got home, I noticed I had received a lovely email from R. Leigh Hennig of Bastion Science Fiction Magazine. They would like one of my stories for an issue later this year. W00t!

I have to back track just a bit. I submitted my story on March 1st. There was originally a deadline of February 28, but when I went to check on the web site, I noticed the date had been removed and that Bastion was now accepting submissions on a rotating basis, with issues filling up fast.

I decided to take the extra day to polish, and I’m glad I did.

When I was in Mississauga the week before last (first trip of three), I received an email that my submission would be brought forward for discussion with the editorial team. I was cautiously optimistic. Hell, I was all alone in my hotel room doing the happy dance.

And yes, I was dancing again on Thursday night, to Phil’s delight, when I received the second email confirming Bastion’s interest.

In fact, while I’m not one to too my own horn (it makes me distinctly uncomfortable), I have to share the following: “After some careful deliberation on this piece with the rest of the staff, we’ve decided that it would be a crime not to publish this.”

Oh. My. God.

Mellie was a wiggle-puppy.

Please donate (find the link on their About page) to support this wonderful new magazine.

 

It was back to work on Friday, and I forgot my phone, which meant no keeping up with email or SoMe or my reading during the day.

Then it was over to my friend Kim’s for home-made chilli and much writerly talk with Kim and a new (to me) friend, Violet. There was wine. I had to drink tea to sober up before the drive home and I ended up getting home after 11 pm when I finally caught up on email and SoMe.

Connecting to like-minded, creative souls is an important part of a writer’s life. It was wonderful, even if I didn’t get to write.

Saturday morning was cranberry bread French toast with Mom, a quick clean up of the house, and then an afternoon of shopping while Nuala went for her spa day (grooming) at Petsmart. After ordering out pizza for supper, I hosted a couple of friends from out of town.

It was another night of great conversation, though accompanied by coffee and oatmeal cookies instead of wine.

Unfortunately, that meant I was unable to meet a writing deadline. I was hoping to submit to the Northwestern Ontario Writers’ Workshop (NOWW) because the judge for the speculative fiction category is none other than Robert J. Sawyer. I would have loved to get something in front of his wise eyes.

I wouldn’t have given up my time with my friends for anything though. So, I’ll have to look for other opportunities.

So it’s been a week of ups and downs, but more ups than downs. It’s been a good week. And now I’m looking forward to a week off so I can recuperate and prepare for my next business trip.

How about you? How has your week played out? Let me know in the comments below.

The next chapter: February 2014 update

The Next ChapterGreetings writerly peeps!

As I mentioned yesterday, this winter has gotten me a bit down, and as a result I have not written as much as I would have liked to this month. There were some nights that I didn’t manage to write anything at all.

With the increasing light, however, I’ve started to feel better and I’ve gotten back on that horse.

So here’s what February looked like for me as a writer.

February 2014 tracking

As with last month, I continued working on a project each week, plus blogging on the weekends. I don’t think I’ve stayed with the strategy long enough for significant results, either negative or positive, yet, so I will stick with it for the foreseeable.

Once more, I wrote the most words for my blog, 6303 to be exact. I’m still good with this. Most of my projects are revision at the moment and new words are sometimes hard to come by, particularly when you end up cutting scads of words rather than writing more.

Also, I attended WANAcon last weekend and, as Kristen Lamb said in her Blogging for Writers session, blogging teaches you to ship. That means you learn to pump out quality material on a schedule. It teaches discipline. I’ll have a bit more on the blog later in this post.

The next highest total was for my short stories at 1835 words. I have finished working with On Spec editor Barb Galler-Smith of the final revisions for my story “Downtime” and they have been submitted to the magazine. At this stage, we’re looking at the fall 2014 issue, most likely, but I should be getting confirmation on that in the future.

I also finished revising another short story for submission to Bastion Magazine, which I sent off yesterday. There’s nothing that feels quite as good as that combination of finishing and submitting.

In other short story news, I was once again rejected by Writers of the Future. I’m still waiting on tenterhooks to hear about my submissions to Tesseracts 18. I’ve been trying to get into that anthology for years.

Next up is the Northwestern Ontario Writers’ Workshop contest in which I will be submitting another speculative fiction piece. The judge for the category is Robert J. Sawyer (!) I’m bloody excited about that one too.

After short stories was my MG fantasy, Gerod and the Lions, with 1296 words. Last month, I pushed past what I had previously written and it’s all new words from here on out. Though I have a rough outline, the writing is proving a little daunting at this stage.

I’m blaming it on my winter funk.

Figments, my YA urban, came in next at 308 words, and Apprentice of Wind rounded things out with a scant 47. Both of these projects are of the revision category and most of the work I’m doing on AoW is structural and cut-work. With Figments, I’m filling in some of the gaps.

My Figments week was the week I had missed the most evenings of writing (3). It was also the week I started writing a course for work and it took me a while to learn how to conserve some of my writerly energies for my personal creative endeavours.

My total word-count for the month was 7954. I’m still pleased with that, even though it’s a lower total than January’s. If all of this year’s writing was focused on a single project, I’d be a third of the way to a finished draft. I don’t think that’s too shabby for a writer with a day job.

I still haven’t heard back from all of my beta readers, so I haven’t dug into the next round of revisions on Initiate of Stone at this point.

In other writerly news, I’ve reserved my accommodations for all of the conferences I’m attending this year. I’ll wait a bit before booking my flight for When Words Collide in August. I’m still struggling to pay down my Visa from Surrey and this year’s conference registration fees.

I have done some research and have identified 50 agents that I can start querying. I’m also watching Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents site and Brian’s Henry’s Quick Brown Fox for agent news. I have a free year on Writer’s Market online to cash in and will also be using that tool to amend my list.

I’m going to wait until I get IoS revised one more time before I start into that process in earnest. By then, I should have a much more solid draft of AoW to work with, be mostly finished Figments, and well into GatL.

I have assessed my life and skill set and have decided to aim for a traditional deal first. If that does not materialize, I’m going to move on to self-publishing, but I will do so reluctantly. Perhaps if I wasn’t working full time it would be a better possibility, but right now I’m doing all I can just to write.

I have become involved in the M2the5th Google Plus community, however. I blogged about my first outing as Twitterview host last weekend. My next event will be with Roz Morris on Saturday March 29 at 2 pm EDST.

As a lead up to the Twitterview, March has been declared Roz Morris month on M2the5th. Please join us to read and share our thoughts on Roz’s blog, books, and general brilliance (more details available in the community).

As I mentioned in my post on the conference, WANAcon was great. It got me thinking in all kinds of ways. A lot of it centered on my web site/blog.

I’ve been thinking about a site revamp for more than a year now and I just can’t get around to taking action on it. I’ve been slowly reviewing my past blog posts, but because I’m on WordPress.com, I just can find a free template that’s any better than the one I have now.

I’ve decided that I’m not going to make the move to self-hosted WordPress until I have made more progress toward publication. Though I received my first comment on my CV this past week, and it was complimentary, I don’t think my accomplishments to date are sufficient to impress an agent or publisher in this day and state of the publishing industry.

When I do make the transition, however, I’m going to invest in a designer and an author-focused hosting service.

Finally, I’m considering expanding my blogging schedule again. I’m thinking of including a couple of curation posts. Tuesday Tipsday will focus on writer’s resources and blog posts that I’ve discovered through the week. Thoughty Thursday will feature articles that don’t directly relate to writing, but that might provide some interesting research or blog-fodder for others.

My thinking is that curation posts based on my activities elsewhere in social media will be fairly simple to pull together and may provide some added benefits for those of you who do not follow me elsewhere.

Please see the poll at the end of this post if you think these additional curation posts would be worthwhile for you.

Coming up on Writerly Goodness: I’m going to be piloting the course I wrote this coming week. You know I’ll be blogging that 🙂 March will also see Brian Henry return to Sudbury for another workshop. I always get something worthwhile out of Brian’s sessions.

The next chapter: January 2014 update

The Next ChapterFor those of you who may not remember, I decided to try out some new programs and templates for my writing this year.

So far, Scrivener and OneNote haven’t seen a lot of action.

I think that if I start a brand new project from scratch, I’ll give Scrivener a proper try. Having attempted to import several different writing projects, I wasn’t very impressed with the result. I’d still have to do a lot of work just to organize the piece of writing (break down the sections and chapters, format it the way I want, etc.).

Since I’m writing around a day job, those are precious hours I could be spending writing rather than figuring out how to import and configure my existing work.

Right now, Evernote is seeing more action than OneNote, so far as researching and organizing my short story submissions, etc.. The Webclipper tool is too convenient not to use.

The third tool that I investigated was an Excel spreadsheet that Jamie Raintree shared with her readers in December.

With a minimum of tweaking, this tool has proved TEH AWESOME for me.

I became aware of the joys of word count when I participated in NaNoWriMo last year. The simple thrill of meeting a daily goal quickly became addictive.

I’ve also been following Dean Wesley Smith’s Writing in Public reporting. That man can pump out the words!

My results are not so impressive when compared to his, as you’ll see in a bit, but just having a record of the accomplishment feeds back into my motivation. It’s a positive energy cycle 🙂

Another thing I decided to try this year was working on several projects, more or less simultaneously. In the past, I’ve been focusing on one WIP and writing short stories and my blog on the side.

This year, I’m working on the second book of my epic fantasy series, the YA Urban I drafted for NaNo, and the MG fantasy I worked on this time last year while waiting for my content edit. Plus stories and blog. Plus revisions on Initiate of Stone when all my beta readers report back.

Eep!

When it came time to implement my strategy, I just couldn’t see taking the few hours of writing time I have each night and dividing them amongst my projects. I’m good at rapidly changing focus between projects (what most people call multitasking), but not that good.

So I decided to try an experiment.

I focused on one project each week, plus the blog on weekends.

I’m not certain yet whether my experiment has been successful or not. So I’m going to continue in this vein until the experiment proves itself a worthy strategy, or it ceases to work for me. In the latter case, I’ll modify and try again.

Here’s what I’ve discovered so far

I write the most new words in a month for my blog. For January, I wrote 7114 words of Writerly Goodness. Flerkin’ shnit!

Apprentice of Wind clocks in next with 2781 new words written.

Then Gerod and the Lions with 821, my short stories with 609, and finally Figments with 207.

That’s 10,923 for the month. Holy kung pow chicken, Batman!

Keep in mind that these are new words I’m counting. AoW and Figments are already drafted, and I’m mostly realigning and writing in the holes on both of those. GatL had two chapters written, and after revamping them, I’ve gotten into fresh writing with that project. Even with the short stories, the work has been largely revision.

I’m working with the magazine’s editor to bring “Downtime” up to snuff for On Spec, and reworking one of my stories from last year for a submission deadline in February with Bastion.

January's results

January’s results

I’m not setting any hard and fast writing goals each day. I might be setting myself up for failure that way. I’m just seeing what I actually do without putting any pressure on myself.

Still, it’s interesting to see what I’ve been able to accomplish in a month of “normal” writing.

How have your writing projects been going?

Geeking out and gearing up

Last week, I wrote about my accomplishments in 2013.

Now I’m going to write a bit about what I want to accomplish in 2014.

First, I have to tell you about a few things I picked up.

One of the rewards from my NaNoWriMo win was a 50% discount on Scrivener. So I finally bought the software after being on the fence about it for a couple of years. Jack Whyte’s commendation of the program for research purposes was one of the things that tipped the scales in the favour of purchase. The discount didn’t hurt either.

I’m still working my way through the tutorial and sorting out exactly which project(s) I’m going to use it for, but rest assured, I’ll tell everyone about my experiences when I do start using it.  I know I won’t have anything to add to the conversation considering the cajillions who already use Scrivener, but I’ll put in a few words.

A few months ago, Jenny Hansen discussed how she uses OneNote to support her writing. I’m running a Microsoft box, much to my husband’s discontent, and I have the program, so I figured, why not use it? At first blush, it seems that several of the features of Scrivener and OneNote overlap, but we’ll see how they work together, and if they behave themselves.

I have Evernote too, but I find I’m using the webclipper a lot more then anything else. Again, we’ll see how the various programs work together. Or not.

Writing progress worksheet, ready to go

Writing progress worksheet, ready to go

I nabbed Jamie Raintree’s Writing Progress Template. I spent some time customizing it to my projects, and we’ll see how it goes.

I loved the ‘ding’ moment I had when I finished NaNo. I’ve also been following Dean Wesley Smith’s Writing in Public challenge. I think that I write quite a bit and it would be nice to see that progress reflected in concrete form.

I’ve been having fun with the technology. Yes. That’s the geek part.

Finally, I just purchased the Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents 2014. Guess what I’m going to do with that?

Now for the goals

I took a bit of a break after November’s triumph. I didn’t stop writing altogether, but I focused on getting my last original short story of the year completed and submitted. Oh! And while we’re on the subject – I managed to write or revise and submit 13 stories (3 of them on Dec 31, but I did it) thus meeting Kasie Whitener’s Just Write Challenge! W00t!

I also kept up with my blogging.

This weekend I’m spending time getting things organized and as of Monday, I’ll be back in the writing swing of things.

  1. Initiate of Stone. I’m beginning to hear back from some of my beta readers and so I will be revising the old girl once again based on the feedback I receive. That’s going to be a while in coming back from some readers, so I’ll focus on other projects until I’ve heard from everyone. I’ve decided to hold off serious querying until I get the next revision done. I don’t want to ruin IoS’s chances with too many agents by submitting a manuscript that’s less than ready.
  2. Apprentice of Wind. I’m going to start working on book two. It’s mostly drafted, but I have to assemble a few chunks I cut out of IoS, move them into AoW, and stitch everything together with an eye to structure. Revisions for IoS may further inform the work on AoW.
  3. Figments. This is the YA Urban Fantasy I drafted during NaNo. I worked from an outline I had written a few years ago. Beginning, ending and overall structure need some work before I redraft.
  4. Gerod and the Lions. This is the MG medieval I was working on while I waited for my content editor to get back to me last year. I only have a few chapters, but I have an outline to write to.
  5. Short stories. I still want to write a few short stories and attempt to have them published some time this year. I know I can’t always have as banner a year as I’ve had last year, but I can’t win unless I continue to play.
  6. Blog. I still want to revise/revamp, but my efforts from my first week of leave did not continue. I had other writing on my mind. I still have to update posts and pictures (to use my own or something in the public domain) and may actually be looking at a move to self-hosted WordPress, but I’m not going to put a timeframe on the project. The blog seems to be the first writing to get set aside and I hate making promises I can’t keep. I’m going to try to get back on the review and interview track as well.

This is going to be the first year that I’ve worked on so many things at once. It’s going to be a challenge, but I think I’m up to it. I’ve always been pretty good at switching focus between priorities, and I hope that moving between projects will keep the work, and my perspective on it, fresh.

All of the bits and pieces I’ve purchased or obtained (above) will help me on my way.

I think that being so devoted to one project for so long has been a bit of a detriment. I need to diversify.

I’ll let you know how it all goes.