Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, April 3-9, 2016

Wahoo! Is it possible there’s even more writerly goodness in here then there was last week? Hella yeah!

More exciting local news: Sudbury is part of Reading Town 2016 (think Hockey Town with books) 🙂

 

Most common writing mistakes, part 50: Info dumps (and how to fix them). K.M. Weiland. Helping writers become authors.

Liz Bureman looks at parataxis and hypotaxis (and how Greek makes you a better writer). The Write Practice.

Sara Letourneau explores how to develop theme in your stories through symbolism. DIYMFA.

Donald Maass discusses relevance for Writer Unboxed.

Juliet Marillier writes about the different responses you can (and should) have to an editorial report. Writer Unboxed.

Roz Morris asks, must plot twists always be misfortunes or disasters? And, where does your story end? Nail you novel.

Daniel José Older offers twelve fundamentals of writing the other (and the self). Buzzfeed.

Marcy Kennedy explores how to read as a writer (part 1).

Real writers don’t self-publish, part two. Kristen Lamb shares her further thoughts on the issue.

Mike Shatzkin wonders what will happen to high-cost non-fiction in the evolving indie world.

C.S. Lakin points out the need for persistence in your writing journey. Live, write, thrive.

Janice Hardy shares her thoughts on challenging yourself, versus setting yourself up to fail. Fiction University.

Kameron Hurley writes about career milestones and prioritizing projects.

Catherine Ryan Howard recounts how the idea for her novel Distress Signals evolved.

How to create a better writing space (and other thoughts on writing). Avoiding Atrophy.

Jennie Nash shares her one page book planner on Kobo Writing Life.

Sarah Selecky shares more writing retreats for your wish list.

Speaking of writing retreats, my friend, Kim Fahner, has just spent the week in Banff with Lawrence Hill. Here are her posts on the experience: Making time to write, and Writing retreats and the friends you meet.

“Mad Men” creator, Matthew Weiner’s reassuring life advice for struggling artists. Fast Company.

Sword and Laser: Interview with Ken Liu.

 

The Writes of Women: a celebration of female writers and their work.

Stephen Greenblatt explores how Shakespeare lives now for The New York Review of Books.

A Shakespeare first folio was discovered on the Isle of Bute, just in time for the Bard’s 400th anniversary. The New York Times.

The history of typography. Ben Barrett-Forrest.

 

Christopher Zumski Finke discovers what Battlestar Galactica teaches us about the militarization of police. Yes! Magazine.

Rogue One teaser trailer.

 

Kate Spencer says, hey dudes, you should be watching Outlander. Esquire.

And that should keep you busy for a while (!)

See you on Thursday for a video heavy dose of thoughty edutainment 🙂

Tipsday

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: 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

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, June 21-27, 2015

W00t! You wanted moar writerly goodness? Well, here it is!

In local publishing news, Latitude 46 moves into the void left by Your Scrivener Press. The Northern Life.

Listen to K.M. Weiland’s weekly podcast (and subscribe) or read her companion post. Last week’s offering: What every writer ought to know about omniscient point of view (POV).

How to make your secondary characters truly memorable. Katie’s Wednesday vlog.

Will readers find you protagonist worthy? Angela Ackerman on Writers Helping Writers.

The bigger the dream, the greater the resistance. When resistance pays you a compliment. Steven Pressfield.

The four dangers of writing and critique groups. The title says ‘hidden dangers,’ but they’re not really hidden. First-timers and eternal optimists might be blind to them, though. Jennie Nash on Jane Friedman’s blog.

How to write about guns without sounding like a doorknob. Benjamin Sobieck (who was much more polite about it that I was) guest posts on Jane Friedman’s blog.

The Listen Inside podcast from Readers in the Know features chapter 2 from Veronica Sicoe’s The Deep Link.

The ten best literary love songs brought to you by Quirk Books.

BuzzFeed compiles their list of the 53 best opening lines in literature.

Not to be outdone, Penguin Random House offered its list of captivating first lines.

In case you weren’t already crushed by the weight of your unread book stack, BuzzFeed compiles this list of ALL 339 books referenced in Gilmour Girls.

i09 lists its essential cyberpunk reads.

ZDNet shares their list of 26 essential science fiction novels that will help you prepare for the future.

Where Japanese science fiction has been and where it’s going. Japanese Times.

The 2015 Sunburst Awards finalists announced on the CBC.

And here’s Quill & Quire’s piece on the awards.

The brilliant ideas that didn’t make it into Pixar’s Inside Out. i09.

I must say that Phil and I are enjoying Sense8 quite a bit. Then again, we love well-developed character and story. The slow burn is just fine with us. Here’s Bram E. Geiben’s take on season 1 for i09.

Moar season 2 fodder for your Droughtlander jonesing. Carter Matt.

See you on Thoughty Thursday!

Tipsday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, May 24-30, 2015

It’s writer-palooza, er, um. Tipsday. Yeah.

Make sure you include these five factors in your story if you want it to make an impact on your readers. K. M. Weiland.

What’s the trick to creating vivid descriptions? Focus on the obscure details. Katie’s Wednesday vlog.

Harrison Demchick guest posts on Katie’s blog about what to do with your very long manuscript.

Scars and shame: the secrets of female characters. Barbara O’Neal nails this post for Writer Unboxed.

John Vorhaus gets into something deeper on Writer Unboxed.

Heather Webb asks, As writers, what are we worth? Writer Unboxed.

Jane Friedman writes about the age-old cynicism surrounding the book writing dream.

Kazuo Ishiguro and Neil Gaiman debate “genre fiction” on BBC Radio 4.

Phoenix Sullivan digs deeper into the latest Author Earnings report for David Gaughran.

The Authors Guild dumps Author Solutions (yay!). David Gaughran.

Use these five steps to write a killer elevator pitch for your book. Jennie Nash for BookBub.

Bryan Collins posts the ultimate how-to guide to blogging with Scrivener.

Terrorism in Elizabethan England, a post by Barbara Kyle for English Historical Fiction Authors.

Lauren Carter, whom I’ve featured here on the blog for a workshop she delivered in Sudbury, won the 2014 Room Poetry Contest. Here’s their interview with her.

Ten books that will change the way you think about fairytales. i09.

The horrifying origins of your favourite Disney films. Diply.

Mental Floss presents ten Old English words you should be using.

What do you think of this list of 24 brilliant portmanteaus? Ima start using some of them 🙂 Earthporm.

This little bit of awesome is courtesy of Addicting Info: J.K. Rowling slams Westboro Baptist Church’s hate-tweet.

John Doyle writes about Outlander and the triumph of the true female superhero. The Globe and Mail.

Caitriona Balfe’s serves up an insider’s view of Outlander. LA Times.

How Outlander broke the mold with their two-part finale. MTV.

Cute writing comic from The New Yorker.

Have a good week until Thoughty Thursday!

Tipsday