Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Jan 27-Feb 2, 2019

And here I am, back with your weekly dose of informal writerly learnings.

Kathryn Craft: the story that holds you back. Hint: it’s the one you tell yourself. Writers in the Storm

Kim Bullock advises you to vanquish emotional overwhelm to increase productivity. Writer Unboxed

Elizabeth Huergo honors Mary Oliver on Writer Unboxed: walk slowly and bow often.

Cathy Yardley guides you from cool idea to premise. Writer Unboxed

Jo Eberhardt mines her (misspent/not misspent) RPG youth: when your characters have minds of their own. Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland shares her nine writing goals for 2019. Helping Writers Become Authors

Manuela Williams shares five simple SEO tips for authors. DIY MFA

Pamela Taylor explains how to create authentic details: keeping secrets. DIY MFA

Bess Cozby shares her experience going for six weeks without social media. DIY MFA

Sofia Ashdown shares her top ten editing tips. The Creative Penn

Chuck Wendig explains the story about the story, or, how writers talk about their books. Terribleminds

Becca Puglisi guest posts on Jerry Jenkins’ blog. Got subtext? Writing better dialogue.

Janice Hardy explains what writers need to know about hooks. Fiction University

Chris Winkle shares lessons from The Maze Runner’s point of view disaster. Then, Oren Ashkenazi tackles the problem with oppressed mages. Mythcreants

I post about writer’s grief. WarpWorld

Sangeeta Mehta lists 19 diversity-focused writing conferences and events in 2019. Writer’s Digest

I hope you found something you need to fuel your creative efforts this week.

Come back on Thursday to get your weekly batch of thoughty.

Until then, be well.

tipsday2016

Advertisements

The next chapter: March 2018 update

Hey there, writerly peoples!

March appears to be the month when I got back on track with my writing. I didn’t write more days than I wrote at the beginning of the month, but that eventually changed. Toward the end of the month I wrote more days than I didn’t, but the days I didn’t write were the result of other commitments, namely Torvi’s obedience classes, the newsletter due date, and the necessary days juggling priorities before I could get back to the page.

MarchProgress

I adjusted my goals, given my limited progress in the first couple of months of this year. Still, with respect to my work on Playing with Fire, I fell short. Of my 5,000-word goal, I wrote 3,989 words, or 80% of my goal. Still, it’s close to four thousand words I didn’t have before. I’m pleased.

March was a long month and I estimated 7,400 words written on the blog … of which I only wrote 4,954, or 67%. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m okay with blogging less. It’s been a rough period for me, writing wise, and I’m happy that I can keep it up. Some of my friends have advised me to cut back on the blogging and it’s something I’m considering, but I haven’t committed to it yet, and I don’t know how it might look moving forward.

Once again, the newsletter was my overachiever. I wrote 5,113 words of my 4,000-word goal, or 128%. As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I want to move this commitment off my plate as well.

I anticipate that April will be another rough month. My most recent column for DIY MFA was unusually problematic and ended up being a little late. While I wrestled with that, PwF languished again.

I’m trying to get our tax information assembled, but Phil’s employer has announced a third T4 will be issued to correct errors in the other two. So that’s going to take some time away from the writing, too.

I have to compile all my writerly expenses and, this year, for the first time in a number of years, I have absolutely no income. In the past, even if I didn’t have any sales of short stories to declare, I had workshop or panel honoraria that filled in the gap. I’m almost ashamed to send in 2017’s information showing no income at all.

Things in other aspects of my life are sorting themselves out and this helps. Torvi is maturing and with the obedience classes, she’s showing progress. We have a way to go. She’s just six months old and experience tells me that it’ll be a year or two before she settles into the dog she’s destined to be.

Between the Thunder Shirt and the anti-emetic medication, car rides aren’t quite as fraught as they once were. I really hope she grows out of the car sickness. Because we live in an urban area, we have to drive just to give her a good, long walk at the conservation area or go to a dog park.

Funny Torvi fact: she has butt-hackles. It may be because she still wears a harness most of the time, but where most dogs would have hackles rise the length of their spines, Torvi’s hair only lifts on her butt. It’s adorable.

Phil’s work situation is slowly resolving itself and my day job is levelling out, so the household is happier in general, these days.

Finally, my health situation is also settling. My menstrual difficulties have decreased to the point that, if this is as good as it gets, I’m satisfied. The procedure was worth it and if I have to do it again, I will. Yay, ablation.

And that’s about it for this update.

Until the next time I blog, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: December 2017 update and year in review

Well, hello there, writerly folk!

It’s time for December update and 2017 wrap up post.

December was a decent month. I was still on my self-funded leave until December 13thand initially, I thought I’d be able to write a bit more because Torvi had been with us a few weeks. I thought we’d start to see some improvement in her behaviour and I might be able to manage a thousand words a day.

As I mentioned last week, that lasted all of a day before I realized I wouldn’t be able to manage it. So, I amended my goal to 500 words a day and mostly kept to it. There were just some days when I was too tired, especially after I returned to work.

I wrote 41k words in November and hit the 50k goal just in time for Christmas 🙂 I’m currently closing in on 60k and figure I’ll be drafting Playing with Fire through March this year. In all, I wrote 14,567 words in December on PwF (94% of my 15k goal) and another 5,361 words on this blog, or 88% of my 6,600-word goal.

That’s a total of 19,928 words for the month. Not too shabby considering pup and work and the holidays (which were lovely and quiet—hope yours were too).

No revision happened in December.

DecemberProgress

Overall, 2017 was a strange year. I set my usual ambitious goals at the start of the year and adjusted them as circumstances demanded. Circumstances being my protracted burnout fuelled by depression and anxiety.

Writing-wise, I did fairly well, exceeding some of my goals and falling short of one other.

I finished drafting Wavedancer by the end of February, achieving 106% of my goal for the novel, and the rest of the work on the Ascension series was revision. I made it through all three novels before I left on my grand adventure at the end of July.

I wrote 127% of my short fiction goal, but that story, once again, turned out to be a novel-length idea that will have to be developed in the future. I just can’t seem to think small these days.

On the blog, I wrote 103% of my goal and when it came to PwF, my NaNoWriMo (and after) project for the year, I wrote only 85% of my goal.

I hit 97% of my overall writing goal for the year.

The above-mentioned revisions for the three books in the Ascension series came in at 95% of goal, the revisions for Reality Bomb came in at 85% of goal, and my revisions of short fiction (I did make a few submissions last year) reached 92% of my goal.

My overall revisions met 93% of my goal.

I’m pleased. I had wanted to go through my other novels as well, but, honestly, I wouldn’t have been able to manage.

AnnualProgress2017

This year, I aim to finish drafting PwF. As I’d mentioned in my NaNo recap, I didn’t have a full outline to work with this time around and so, even if we hadn’t adopted Torvi, I don’t think the writing would have gone very smoothly. I finished the main plotline around Fer and Dair and their mission to the dwergen deepholds, but I hadn’t more than a sketchy idea of what any of the other characters would be doing this time around. So, I’m pretty much pantsing those parts of the story.

I’d given some thought to stopping the drafting and finishing the outline, but I decided against it. While it can be a bit frustrating to dive into a piece without a clear idea of where you’re going, there’s something liberating about discovery writing that I don’t want to abandon. Even when I do have an outline, my brain tends to take the story in new (and often better) directions in any case.

After the draft of PwF is finished, I’ll be diving into the next rounds of revision on the whole series. With each novel I write, bits and pieces of the earlier ones have to be adjusted. I develop ideas, settings, and it all has to become one seamless story. The whole thing gets better every time.

As the result of some connections I made during the Writing Excuses cruise, I’m now part of a critique group made up on people from all over the world. Freaky, but in a good way. I’m going to be submitting Reality Bomb to them for review. It’s still rough, but before I get into the hard work of revision on that one, I want feedback on the essentials. Structure, characters, arc, and all that.

I’m not so invested in the story yet that I couldn’t tear it down and start over, if that’s what’s required.

By the time I’m finished with my revisions of the Ascension series as it stands, I should have my critiques and I’ll turn my attention to RB. If things go well, I may have something I can start to query with by the end of the year.

I should have time to devote to getting one more project prepared for the next round of critiques, likely Marushka, before I turn my attention to the final book in the Ascension series, Tamashki, for NaNoWriMo 2018. I’ll spend October working on the outline, which I sincerely hope I’ll get finished this time, and charge into drafting come November first.

And, as in past years, I’ll continue to draft until the story’s done.

While I have made some goals for short fiction, I really don’t know whether or not I’ll have the time or energy to devote to it.

2018WritingAndRevisionGoals

As a result of the big travel expenses of the last couple of years, I’m staying close to home in 2018. I’ll probably attend the Canadian Writers’ Summit in June, and Ad Astra in July.

I’m continuing with my column for DIY MFA as well and will continue to post here when each is released.

And I’m continuing to create the newsletter for the Sudbury Writers’ Guild, though I’m thinking that after this year, I might try to hand the reins over to someone else. It’s not a great burden, but it is time I could be spending on my own writing. I’m continuing to draw in and refocus my energy.

Those are my writerly goals for the year, and I think they’re reasonable. I still may have to adjust them as time passes, though. I see goals as living things. They’re affected by events and other priorities in my life.  I’ll let you know how it all goes in my next chapter updates throughout the year.

Until next I blog, my friends, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

The Next Chapter

The Writing Excuses Retreat, part 3

We resume the tale of the WXR Baltic cruise on Tuesday, August 1st, day four.

I woke up at ridiculous o’clock and couldn’t get back to sleep. So I dealt with the morning’s email, social media, and blog reading, got up and dressed for the day, and went out onto the balcony with my lap top to work on my revisions.

We were approaching Stockholm, having sailed all night, and I was struck by the landscape. It looked just like northern Ontario. I could have been on Georgian Bay or in the Nipissing Narrows. So, of course, I took some pictures 🙂

JustLikeHome

It was the second of four consecutive port tour days and the early rising was a good thing as I had to get ready for my day in Stockholm.

StGeorgeandtheDragon

Our tour took us into the old town (every major city in Europe has one, apparently) for a walking tour. We saw the parliament and a couple of old churches, had the opportunity to get some souvenirs, and then we were off to Skansen.

DragonWaterspoutCoolDoor

Skansen is basically a Viking pioneer village. We toured some of the old farms there, saw a windmill, church, and old pillory (the pole they chained miscreants to for public punishment—like stocks). While we didn’t have time to see them, they had heritage craftspeople, and reindeer, which a group ran off to see—and were almost too late to catch the bus to our next destination (!)

Skansen

We then went to the Vasa museum. The Vasa was an enormous war ship, commissioned by the then king of Sweden. Against the advice and better judgement of his shipbuilders, he ordered a third deck of gun ports. This severely overbalanced the ship and the gun ports were too close to water level.

VASA

The Vasa’s maiden voyage lasted 15 minutes and she sank in the silty harbour where she sat for 300 years until salvage crews were able to raise her. The ship was remarkably preserved by the silt and the Vasa museum has been built around the salvaged ship to tell the tragic tale of one king’s hubris.

We got back to the Fantasia a little late and, after dropping my goodies off at my stateroom, I ran down to catch most of Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s presentation on maintaining a writer’s life. It was about setting and tracking writerly goals, not word count goals, but career goals.

First, he said to blue sky a goal. His included a house on the French Riviera 🙂 Then, you scale down to five years, then one, and finally break your year up into monthly goals. The important thing is to assess your progress.

At the end of each day, review what you accomplished, and what you didn’t, without judgement. Adjust your goals accordingly. Unexpected things are always going to happen. The point is to adjust course in a way that will facilitate success. Always take the positive view.

Thomas’s presentation appealed to an organized, goal-oriented person like me. I didn’t dive in and create a plan immediately, but I think I’m going to work on one for next year, taking account for how my experiments of the past couple of years have gone.

At dinner that night, I sat at Dan Wells’ table, and again, I enjoyed getting to know one of our hosts, more of my fellow participants, and the conversations we had about our work and goals.

After dinner, I went to the upper deck to take a picture of the sunset as we travelled to Estonia.

SunsetDay4

The next day was our tour of Tallinn, which I think was one of the port cities I enjoyed the most. We started with the amphitheatre where the annual song festival takes place. Apparently choirs from all over the world perform there, as well as many popular music bands.

We drove around the harbour to walk on the shore, saw a war memorial, and an old abbey which was being restored.

The centrepiece of the tour was the old city. In the case of Tallinn, the old city is completely surrounded by a wall, which still stands. It’s a place you have to walk through to appreciate. All the old buildings, the narrow, winding, and ascending laneways, the churches, the old merchant houses, the excavated headstones of Estonian notables.

And the market square. After the walking tour of the old town was complete, we were given thirty minutes to wander and shop. I bought most of the gifts I brought back for family and friends there and a few things for myself.

TallinnWall1TallinnWall3

Back on the ship, I attended Ken Liu’s presentation on how to work with your translator.

That night’s dinner was dubbed the elegant night. I sat with a table of other participants, most of whom I hadn’t yet met, and had another enjoyable night of camaraderie and conversation.

Once more, I took a picture of the sunset.

SunsetDay5

The next day was our day in St. Petersburg, Russia … which I’ll save for my fourth and final instalment of my WXR cruise adventure 🙂

I hope everyone in Florida is safe, tonight.

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

The next chapter: February 2017 update

And here we are at the beginning of a new month.

It’s been a month of big decisions and rearranging goals and priorities.

First, the good news.

After discussing the issue at length with Phil and Mom and some of my writer friends, I’ve made the decision to go to WorldCon 75 in Helsinki, Finland … and I’ve registered for the Writing Excuses cruise that immediately precedes it!

You can’t see me right now, but I’m so excited and nervous (it will be my first time to Europe) I’m vibrating on a higher level. I might be worn out before August even gets here.

Though travel arrangements are still in flux, and we haven’t even gotten to leave requests at work (which is always a concern), I’ve made the leap. I’m confident the net will appear.

I’ve also joined the DIYMFA team as a semi-regular genre columnist. My genre? Fantasy and science fiction, of course 🙂 This is another squee-worthy achievement and I hope I can live up to the DIYMFA brand.

Finally, I’m on the program committee of the Canadian Authors Association.

Add that to my newsletter-er gig with the Sudbury Writers’ Guild, and ye olde day job, and my schedule is getting pretty full.

Writing-wise, I’ve finished drafting Wavedancer and am now moving on to the mapping.

This is a bit of a change for me. In the past, I’ve left the mapping for my first revision pass, but I want to keep the novel fresh in my mind as I map this time. What’s happened in the past is that the first revision pass has ended up being primarily about the mapping because I’m reading to refamiliarlize myself with the story. Not much actual revision happens.

By mapping it out before I let the draft rest, I hope to be able to dive into more substantial structural issues with the first true revision. We’ll see how this tweak to my process works out. So far, I’m liking it, because I’m making notes for the revision and cutting extraneous stuff as I go. It’s so much easier when the story is still fresh in my mind.

I had hoped to make a mentoring connection to work on Reality Bomb, but this has not come to pass. There are some significant issues with the story and the science that mean research and rethinking. So I’m going to let that project simmer for a while longer while I conduct the requisite research and return to it later in the year with more objectivity.

I missed the first anthology call I’d identified for the year. I’d have had to write a new story for it and while an idea did eventually pop into my head, it was too late to execute. I’ve now identified several contests, magazines, and anthology calls that I’d like to try for, and I’ll see if I can’t organize myself to meet some of them at least.

Here’s how the numbers worked out:

Drafting Wavedancer – goal 14,000 words – actual 13,191 words

Blogging – goal 5,600 words – actual 4360 words

While I had planned to write a piece of short fiction, it didn’t work out because reasons.

Total writing goal for February: 19,600 words

Actual words written: 17,551

februaryprogress

Wavedancer worked out pretty much as I expected it would. The total draft is just over 100K words. I was able to wrap it up earlier than I thought, though, thanks to a number of days in January and February in which I wrote more than my daily goal of 500 words.

I don’t mind not having blogged so much. While I want to continue to curate and create useful content, I don’t want it to become a chore or to take over my creative time.

For the foreseeable, I’m going to be researching for RB, mapping Wavedancer, and working, yet again, on a brand new opening chapter for Initiate of Stone in preparation for another revision pass on that novel.

This time, I’m writing the first chapter out by hand and except for the major events, I’m going to abandon all past versions. We’ll see if this works. I’ve been too bound to what I’ve written and it doesn’t work. My unsuccessful queries and various first page/first 50 page critiques have all led me to this conclusion.

Actually, the conclusion was always there. I was just ignoring it. Delusional Mellie is delusional.

So there may not be a lot of actual words counted for the first part of March because it’s too labour and time intensive to capture hand-written work.

I’m also going to revise a piece of short fiction for a contest. It’s another problematic piece that may require a return to the drawing board.

Long story short, all this experimentation and process tweakage has meant a substantial reorganization of my writing goals for the year. I’ve shuffled and we’ll see how things go.

In other aspects of this writer’s life, the sun is finally coming out. Literally. It’s been a dull and gloomy winter up here in northern Ontario and, as a result, a lot of us are experiencing more-than-usual levels of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). I’m feeling better than I have in a long time and I thank Sol.

I’ve also been experiencing persistent health issues due to being a woman of a certain age. I think that, too, is working itself out. Finally. I still have a referral to a specialist this month and I’m going to keep it. I still want to explore my options in the hope of maintaining my recovered health.

Phil’s doing well, and is still planning to tackle further renovations this year. Exactly when these might happen is up for discussion, but, as he often reminds me, he’s not getting any younger.

It looks like problems with the pay system at work are not going to be resolved in time for me to consider a self-funded leave in the spring. So I’ll defer it, and puppy plans, until the fall (again).

But I have a lot of good stuff to look forward to in the meantime: Story Masters in May with Donald Maass, James Scott Bell, and Christopher Vogler, a possible workshop with Gail Anderson-Dargatz or CanWrite! in June, and Writing Excuses and WorldCon in August.

And, of course, lots of writing in between.

Next week, I’ll be resuming WorldCon 2016 reportage. This should continue on the weekends until sometime in April and then I’ll have a bit of a break until my next workshop, conference, or convention. I might fill it up with some series discoveries or movie madness posts.

Until next I blog, be kind, be strong, and be well.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: January 2016 update

First, a note about the non-writing parts of my life

Well, the new year has gotten off to a bit of a shaky start, not with respect to my writing and revision goals, but with respect to other stuff.

In the last week of December, Phil got sick enough he had to go see a doctor. He hadn’t been in a very long time and in the process of diagnosing the illness he went to see the doctor for in the first place, the doctor diagnosed him with two other, fairly serious, illnesses. Three for the price of one. Yay?

I won’t go into the details, because it’s not my story to tell, but he’s on several medications, we’ve had to change our diet (not significantly, but still), and we’ll have to commit to several more lifestyle changes in the coming months. It’s going to be a good thing, ultimately, but I’m a creature of habit. Change is stressful.

Phil’s been told not to tackle everything at once, and so we’re dealing with things one issue, and one day, at a time.

I’ve gotten a cold for the first time in about three years. Since I don’t get them often, I tend to get doozies. I’m also in the process of seeing whether I’m anaemic or not, and my gall bladder is acting up.

I guess this is my reaction to the stress of everything else.

Which includes learning that I’ve been screened out of the consultant process at work. We’ve had a general information session, because many of the over three hundred people who applied were screened out, but I’m still getting an informal discussion of the specific reasons I was screened out. That happens Tuesday.

I’ve really been trying not to get upset. Work is work and I’ve tried to prioritize my creative work over the day job, but having been successful in the last three processes and had four acting assignments in as many years, I can’t help but feel that I’ve been kicked in the teeth. They still have testing and interviews to go, and if the eventual pool ends up being as small at I suspect it will be, there will be another process in the future. I have to question the point of putting myself through the wringer again, though.

My current acting assignment ends next Friday and at that point, so far as I know, I’m heading back to the training and advice & guidance team, but everyone keeps saying that I’m not going back and even managers aren’t including me in the training plan and no one is telling me anything. I’m kind of suffering from mushroom syndrome.

I’m trying to be Zen, but I’m not very good at that, in all honesty. I am a lot more laid back than some people, but I internalize a lot. Hence, the illen.

Now, onto the Writerly Goodness 🙂

I took some time over the holidays to plan out my writing year. Using Jamie Raintree’s amazing new Writing and Revision Tracker, I set writing and revision goals for the year, and for each month.

As I mentioned in my last Next chapter update, 2016 will be the year of revision. As I return to the querying process with Initiate of Stone, I realize I want to have some of my other five finished novels revised and edited and ready to go so that I can keep working toward my dream of a traditional deal.

What I did was to add up the current word totals of all my drafts and divided them up according to what I figure will be my productive months. I also estimated what my blogging totals would be per month and add in my NaNo 2016 writing goals.

What that worked out to was 37,550 words of revision each month (except November and December), between five and seven thousand words of blogging each month (except November), and 50k words drafted in November and December (NaNo this year will be book three of the Ascension series I figure it will take me two months to complete the draft).

So this is what January looked like.

JanuaryProgress

And I even took a few days off (!)

The month started with a couple of days devoted to reading through my draft of Apprentice of Wind, and then I set to. I’ll probably have the first run through done within the next couple of weeks, and then I’m probably going to go through it at least one more time.

So at 9,274 words, I wrote 141% of my writing goal and at 69,774 words, I almost doubled my revision goal (186%).

I also revised and sent out two short stories, and heard that another short story is still under consideration from a submission last year. So that’s awesome.

I also sent out IoS packages to open submission periods for a couple of publishers. As of the end of last year, the three Canadian small publishers I’d pitched last fall had either declined or failed to respond.

We’ll see where all of that gets me.

Other excitement

I’ve attended a few events this past month. The first was Last Stop at the Sudbury Theatre Centre, in which a couple of writer friends had their plays in progress workshopped in front of a live audience (us). It was awesome.

Then, I attended a Skype workshop with Barbara Kyle through the Sudbury Writers’ Guild on adding magic and verve to your first thirty pages. Barbara is an excellent presenter and so knowledgeable about her craft. It’s a pleasure to learn from her.

Finally, I attended a lecture by singer/songwriter Steven Page at Laurentian University on ending the stigma around mental illness. He sang a couple of songs from his new album and discussed his struggles with mental illness.

I’m also currently enrolled in two online courses.

First, I couldn’t resist signing up for Story Genius with Lisa Cron and Jennie Nash. It’s based on Lisa’s new book (of the same name) and is eight weeks long. I’m working on my week four submission this weekend. It’s hard (like, it hurts my poor, tender head hard), especially negotiating the day job and health issues Phil and I are facing right now, but I can see how it’s going to improve my ability to write a novel that will hook readers and keep them reading.

Second, I signed up for Jamie Raintree’s Design a writing career you love workshop. I’m trying to keep one foot in the business side of things. Jamie’s an excellent instructor and I always enjoy her courses.

I’ve booked my hotel for both Ad Astra in April and WorldCon in August and am still waiting for the registration information for The Canadian Writers’ Summit to emerge.

So, I guess it’s no wonder I’m under the weather at the moment.

By and large, though, I love my life. The creative part of it anyway 😉

Next week, the CanCon 2015 reportage continues.

Hope your creative endeavours are moving full steam ahead and that you’re all well on your ways to meeting your goals. Feel free to share your trials and triumphs in the comments below.

The Next Chapter