The next chapter: July 2016 update

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

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

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

July

JulyProgress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I continued querying.

Year-to-date

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

Writing equates to original words.

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

 Now and the rest of the year

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

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

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

Under consideration are:

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

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

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

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

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

Other stuff

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s this writer’s life.

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

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: June 2016 update

Welcome to July! Half of 2016 is already past 😦

Let’s get right down to business.

June was a good month. As far as revision goes, I focused on Reality Bomb. It was another pleasant surprise. I didn’t hate what I wrote. This was just the first pass, and I’ve identified a number of things I need to work on, but I wasn’t writhing as I read 🙂 I don’t know if this means I’m a better writer now, or if I’ve just become inured to my failings (!)

I approached RB as I did Marushka before it, reading, mapping, editing, and making notes as I went. RB was my 2015 NaNoWriMo project and my second “win.”

I finished the first pass on July 1st (yes, Canada Day—the fireworks were for me, too) and the draft comes in at 282 pages and 67,808 words. Not bad for what I still consider a rough draft.

I’ve moved on to Gerod and the Lions, since. Early days, but not hating this one, either 😀 I should be finished this first run through of GatL in early August, just in time for another break—for WorldCon!

Since I’ve been a part of Gabriella Pereira’s Launch Team for DIYMFA, I’ve had extra blogging to do each weekend. As a result, I more than doubled my blogging goals for the month. I’ve also had some guest posting opportunities come my way, which has been another, validating surprise.

I went to the Canadian Writers’ Summit from June 17th to 19th and took a wee vacay from revising, blogging, and, in fact, most social media. It was a nice break.

My query, synopsis, and opening for Initiate of Stone have been revised and querying continues.

I’m starting work on some short fiction. It kind of just happened. It’s a good thing, though.

This is how the month settled out:

I achieved 128% on my revision goal with 48,009 words.

I achieved 207% of my blogging goal (yes, even with the vacay) with 12,013 words.

JuneProgress

The summer office is in operation, and I’ve been enjoying our lovely, lovely weather (so far). The garden is growing, though I haven’t been able to keep up with the weeding 😦 Still, we’ve been enjoying the fruits (literally) of what labour has been done and have had strawberries every day for the last three weeks. The raspberries are ripening. Phil’s been harvesting lettuces and herbs for the occasional meal.

It just makes you feel good to eat food out of your own garden.

In other news, I’m walking a little more, and getting some minor health issues sorted. I’ll be getting a new pair of glasses, not because my prescription has changed, but because my current pair is in disrepair. It’s time for a new perspective 🙂

Phil’s in good shape, now. He and his doctor have sorted his meds and he’s feeling well. All of his labs are showing results in the acceptable range, as well. I’m glad. Through the first few months of the year, it was not a good situation. Very stressful.

And that’s what June brought into this writer’s life.

Next weekend: I’ll be back to Ad Astra 2016 reportage.

Happy Independence Day to all of my American friends!

I’ll be back to work tomorrow.

The Next Chapter

Catching up with the DIYMFA Launch Team

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

Let’s start with the week 11 prompt:

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

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

Muse-inks

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

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

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

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

Initiate of Stone/Apprentice of Wind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When he meets Ferathainn, Dairragh is becoming the magician.

Figments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marushka

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who the heck is this girl?

He’s the lover.

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

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

Yuki’s another hero/warrior.

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

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

Reality Bomb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morgan is the sage.

Gerod and the Lions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brawn is a mentor, another kind of caregiver.

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

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

I’ll be back in a few with QotW #12!

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

The next chapter: May 2016 update

The year of revision is progressing steadily.

MayProgress

I finished my first run through of Marushka, which ended up at 75,473 words total, 33,258 of which were revised in May, and moved on to Reality Bomb. I revised 17,624 words on that manuscript.

I achieved 136% of my revision goal for May with 50,882 words revised.

All my writing was on Writerly Goodness, and, because I joined Gabriela Pereira’s DIYMFA launch team and have been posting twice each weekend, I’ve achieved 181% of my writing goal for May with 10,474 words on the web.

In other news, I’ve let my querying slip. I’ve received enough form rejections that I have this feeling I need to return to Initiate of Stone and give the manuscript another run. I’ve come up with some ideas to improve my first pages (and other stuff) as a result of working on Apprentice of Wind and I’m not sure I should burn any more agent bridges . . .

At the same time, I want to continue on the chance that I haven’t presented IoS to the agent that will love it. I’ve had success pitching the novel in person to both agents and small publishers, so the idea has merit. It must be the execution that needs work.

Accordingly, I’m probably going to take a break from revising RB for a few days to focus on reworking the first chapter and query of IoS and then get back at it.

I’ve booked my flight to Kansas City in August. I’m one step closer to WorldCon and a visit with a friend who lives in KC. So looking forward.

In the meantime, the Canadian Writers’ Summit is taking place in less than two weeks. I’m looking forward to that, as well, but the scheduling is a bit strange. Because the

CWS is a joint conference between a number of professional writing organizations in Canada, some of the sessions are overlapping. It will make things challenging, but I’m also going to get to attend a great session by Robert J. Sawyer, as well as key note addresses by Jean Little, Kenneth Oppel, and Nalo Hopkinson.

If I had more leave, I might have gone down Wednesday evening to see Lawrence Hill, but I had to make a choice between the CWS and WorldCon/friend visitation. Seeing a new city and an old friend won out 🙂

A new short story idea is brewing for an anthology call later in the year, but I haven’t been paying a lot of attention to short fiction this year, as was the plan. We’ll see if I can keep the idea from blowing up into a novel-sized concept and premise.

I’ve signed up for another online course, this time from one of my favourite authors/writing craft experts, Kate Weiland. It’s another thing I’m looking forward to. We’ll let you know how things go in future updates.

And that’s it for now.

I’m doing too much, as usual, but enjoying every minute of it. I’m really not happy unless I’m learning something/pushing my boundaries.

Hope everyone has a productive, happy-making month!

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: April 2016 update

April was a steady month of revision. I made it to the two thirds mark in Marushka by the time I left for Ad Astra.

Drafting with Scrivener, as I mentioned before, has resulted in more, but shorter, chapters. It’s meant a more casual pace.

Though I missed a few days of revision for the convention, I made up for it by doubling up for a few days upon my return. I should be on track to finish up with this first run through of Marushka by the Victoria Day long weekend (May 21-23).

Then, I’m moving on to the first run though on Reality Bomb 🙂

I’ll probably need a couple more passes for each work in progress before I’m ready to send them out for editing . . . And I have my eye on a couple of people for that. We’ll see how that progresses, but probably not until next year.

AprilProgress1

Total words revised for April: 37,478, just a hair under 100% of my goal

Total words written (for this blog): 10,498, 187% of my goal (!)

I sent out more queries, and received more thank you but no thank you rejections.

Work on the Sudbury Writers’ Guild anthology, which the guild wants to release in time for the next Wordstock Sudbury in the fall, progresses. We want to have the content and cover ready for June. I have two speculative short stories in the anthology (yay, me!).

There are some more opportunities coming up for short fiction, so I’ll try to get something together for those deadlines.

In June, I’ll be heading to the Canadian Writers’ Summit (June 17-19) and . . . my leave for WorldCon has been approved. W00t! So I’ll be heading down to Kansas City in August (17-21). That’s one of the things I have to do now: book my flight. And check with my buddy. She’s moved recently, so I want to make sure she’s still available for visitations. It will be my first WorldCon, so I’m very excited.

I got an early start on next year’s writing events by registering for Story Masters, May 11-14, 2017. Christopher Vogler (The Writer’s Journey), James Scott Bell (author of LOTS of writing craft books, member of The Kill Zone), and Donald Maass (agent to the literary stars, Writer Unboxed member, and author of numerous publishing and writing craft books). Four days of workshops. Yum!

And that’s all that’s new in this writer’s life.

See you Tipsday!

The Next Chapter

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

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

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

QOTW 4: What’s Your Storytelling Superpower?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DIYMFASuperpower

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My next chapter update will have to wait for tomorrow.

See you then!

The next chapter: March 2016 update

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

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

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

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

YTDProgress

Year Goals and Totals page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, we’ll see how it goes.

So here’s how the month breaks down.

MarchProgress

MarchProgress1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As of Ad Astra, the convention reportage will resume.

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

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

The Next Chapter

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

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

First up: December 2015

DecemberProgress

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

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

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

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

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

2015 in review

Did I accomplish everything I wanted to in 2015?

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

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

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

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

I finished GatL (see above).

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

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

I did not write any new stories.

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

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

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

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

I attended Ad Astra in April and CanCon in October.

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

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

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

 

2015Progress

Let’s look at the numbers:

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

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

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

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

2016: The year of revision

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wish me luck (break a pencil) 😉

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

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

Leave pending, of course.

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

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

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

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

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

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: October and NaNoWriMo 2015 extravaganza!

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

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

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

Write.

October in a nutshell

My goals for October were to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come the New Year, though, watch out!

My October numbers:

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

October was a good month 😀

OctoberProgress

NaNoWriMo 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NaNo-2015-Winner-Badge-Large-Square

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

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

NaNoWriMo2015

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

What did I do to turn this around?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What did I learn from NaNoWriMo 2015?

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

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

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

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

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

What am I working on now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: September 2015 update

What can I say about September? First, I’m back on track. Second, I finished drafting Marushka and am well on my way to having a finished draft of Gerod and the Lions.

Marushka ended up at a tidy 73,961 words altogether, or 97% of my 75k goal. As it’s a YA fantasy, I’m quite happy with that.

I’m going to set my sights a little lower with GatL than my original 50k goal. I think 40k should be enough. With revision and editing, It will likely settle somewhere around 45k, which is pretty perfect for a middle grade (MG) novel.

I did some more work on my query letter and am now preparing my next batch. To make up for missing August and September, I’m going to send out in batches of 10 queries for the next two months. I might do this in batches of five every couple of weeks. We’ll see.

I’m also making good progress on my outline for Reality Bomb (working title), which should be complete in time for its drafting in NaNoWriMo 2015. I’m on chapter 21 of 36, so I think I’m in a good place. I should note that as I’m writing this outline in a notebook, by hand, in my own, rather chaotic, cursive, that I’m not counting these words on my spreadsheet.

As far as the short fiction is concerned, I continue to revise and submit, but I haven’t had any positive response recently.

September's progress

Here’s how things broke down in September:

  • The blog has once again taken over as my most productive medium with 6,466 words;
  • In second place is GatL with 5,691 words;
  • Marushka clocked in at 1,776 words;
  • My query rewrites totalled 116 words; and
  • I revised 79 words of short fiction.

Total words generated in September: 14,128.

September's summary

There were only four days where I didn’t record any word count, but those days, I was likely working on my outline.

I’m settling into the writing life again after all my trials and tribulations this year. It feels good. It feels freaking fantastic.

And now, I’m going to try to get a few words in for October 3rd before Doctor Who 🙂

Have a wonderful weekend, all!

And we’ll see you again on Tuesday for more Writerly Goodness.

The Next Chapter