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.


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.


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.


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


Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Dec 3-9, 2017

Here’s your informal writerly learnings for the week 🙂

Autocrit offers five quick editing wins for December. NaNoWriMo Tumblr

Laurie McLean of Fuse Literary gives an agent’s take on NaNoWriMo.

Lance Schaubert writes a defence of spoilers. Writer Unboxed

Donald Maass objects to the willing suspension of disbelief. Writer Unboxed

Lynne Griffin stops by Writer Unboxed. Dying to know, afraid to find out: building tension in fiction.

Allie Larkin is refilling the well. Writer Unboxed

Kathryn Magendie: the big ole scary monster at the window. Writer Unboxed

Sara Letourneau looks at identity as a theme in YA. DIY MFA

Brenda Joyce Patterson teaches you how to use small forms as steps to a novel. DIY MFA

Jonathan Vars: five tips for building tension into your scenes. DIY MFA

James Scott Bell visits the Writers Helping Writers coaching corner: ten ways to goose the muse.

Julie Glover wonders, what motivates you to finish? Writers in the Storm

Kristen Lamb says all wounds matter: writing better stories.

Jefferson Smith guest posts on Jami Gold’s blog: how can we improve our readers’ experience? Story immersion.

Author Amal El-Mohtar was detained for hours in customs because she was travelling to the States … even though she’s a Canadian citizen. CBC

Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nobel lecture: my twentieth century evening and other small breakthroughs.

Steph Farnsworth: science fiction, speculative fiction, and the problem of imagination erasing race (featuring Nisi Shawl). Stand Up

Here is part one of Adam Fitzgerald’s interview with Samuel Delaney: don’t romanticize science fiction. Literary Hub

Kari Maaren writes through grief: unfinished.

Stephanie Marchie describes what happened when she enlisted an algorithm to help her write the perfect piece of science fiction. Wired

Jess Zimmerman: when bad men define good art. Electric Lit

How we eclipse women’s literary brilliance with scandal. Sarah Seltzer for Jezebel.

Sarah Gailey: fear of the female voice.

I hope this writerly goodness will sustain you through the week!

Be well until Thoughty Thursday.


Wordstock Sudbury 2017

While I was offline in November, other than pup prep and pup rearing, and NaNoWriMo, I also attended Wordstock Sudbury 2017. It was November 2-4 and I took in several events.

On Thursday, November 2nd, I went to the Femme Poetic Force reading at One Sky.

Dinah Laprairie opened the event on behalf of Wordstock, then yielded the floor to former poet laureate Tom Leduc, who introduced the femme force readers, Tanya Neumeyer, Emily Ursuliak, Kateri Lanthier, and our current poet laureate, Kim Fahner.

Later that evening, I attended a dramatic reading of Kim’s play-in-progress, Sparrows Over Slag.


For those who don’t know, a dramatic reading is unstaged. The actors stand to read their parts. It’s a stripped down version of the play that acts as part of the workshopping and development process. A play is meant to have an audience and a staged reading can tell the playwright a lot about how well the piece works. Staging is intended to enhance the play, but the words, the dialogue, has to be solid on its own before the rest of the play is built around it.

On Saturday, I attended Merilyn Simonds’ master class on The First Page.


And later on, I attended Nathan Alder’s master class on speculative fiction (sorry, forgot to take a picture).

Overall, it was another successful year for Wordstock. The festival improves each year. There are still a few rough spots, but it bodes well for the future.

Plus a week in this writer’s life

Post-NaNo, I’ve continued to work on Playing with Fire, the fourth in my epic fantasy series. I’ll be working on the draft into the New Year.

Foolishly, I thought I’d be able to continue to write around 1000 words a day while I was still on leave. That resolution lasted for exactly one day before I realised that it would be untenable. Since then, I’ve been writing about 500 words a day, around pup duties.

With regard to the Torvi-beast, Phil and I have been trying to train her to our habits rather than letting our world revolve around her, as it kind of has been for the last few weeks. I have to keep reminding myself that Torvi was six weeks old when we adopted her. We’ve never adopted a pup so young.

Two weeks makes a lot of difference. I’m seeing it. She’s learned a lot in the last weeks. And she’s really good around my mom, who will be taking care of her when I return to work.

She’s sleeping through the night (mostly). She’s pooping outside, but there are still times when she pees inside, mostly when I’m not quick enough to get her out. I’m still her favourite chew toy, but we’re making progress. I’m told that’s the shepherd in her.

Torvi’s a pro at the sit, now, lays down with kib incentive, shakes a paw inadvertently, and walks a block or so most mornings. We’re too indulgent with the pup love for her to get off dependably. That’s brilliant for a ten week old pup. Really.

And she hasn’t actually destroyed anything … yet.

Though I’m back to work next Thursday, I’ve done the best I can at this point. I have to have faith that the work I’ve put in will bear fruit.

I’m going to start scheduling pup play dates in the near future. She’s okay to play with dogs we know have been vaccinated. She’s just prohibited from pet stores and dog parks until she had her full set of vaccinations in March.

I’m exhausted, though. Walking zombie. Our next pup will still be a rescue, but by then, I’ll be old enough that training a pup from scratch will be impossible. She’ll have to be three to six months and house trained.

Still love Torvi insanely and the cuddles are worth the rest of it, but I’m looking forward to catching up on my sleep. Someday.

Than and now 🙂

Speaking of which, it’s time for final outings and bed.

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



The next chapter: October and NaNoWriMo update plus pupdate

Hello all you lovely writerly people!

Coming out of the semi-conscious haze that is NaNoWriMo and I owe you all a two-month writerly update.

So let’s get right to it.


I went through Reality Bomb one more time. I ended up adding three chapters over the course of my revisions this year. This last pass was to check on continuity and to see if I couldn’t smooth over some of the more jarring transitions.

It still isn’t pretty. I haven’t added in touches to bring the setting to life yet in the event that I have to cut or change things. But … I think I’m ready to expose it to the critique group next year. Yay me.

Unfortunately, because of this last pass and a very busy month at work (I had to prep and deliver training), I wasn’t able to complete my outline for NaNoWriMo. I didn’t get to review the structure of Apprentice of Wind, either.


Of my 5,000 word revision goal, I completed 4,012 words, or 80%.

I exceeded my 5,800 word writing goal for this blog with 6,771 words, or 117%.

I did draft a #5onFri column for DIY MFA.

Also, for those of you who wonder about my lovely spreadsheet (and where you can get your hands on it), Jamie Raintree has now produced the 2018 Writing and Revision Tracker (squee!). I’ve already nabbed mine 🙂


I entered November with some trepidation this year. Not only was I ill-prepared (see above) but Phil and I also welcomed a little furry bundle into our lives (see below). I knew it was going to be a challenge to “win” this year and I decided just to do what I could.


Having said that, I did write 41,077 words over the course of NaNoWriMo, or 82% of the goal 50k. Not a win, but pretty damn close.

I only had one post scheduled for the month and wrote 201 words of my 200 word goal, or 101%.

I also drafted my regular DIY MFA column, which I shared with you yesterday.

Bonus pupdate

In anticipation of our new puppy, I had requested a leave with income averaging, but my employer changed the rules and I had to begin my leave at the start of a new pay period. Because of the aforementioned training, I could start my leave until November 2nd.

On the 3rd, the rescue operator called to let us know that Torvi would be ready to come home on November 10th. Cue the frantic pup prep. I had to clean and pup-proof the main level of the house. The basement is unfinished, and basically Phil’s dumping ground for all manner of (potentially deadly) things. We just have to keep Torvi out of the space until Phil gets motivated enough to clean up.

I had shopping to do for food, toys, dog bed, and all the other puppy accoutrements. So I didn’t have a lot of time to write in that first week.


Isn’t she adorbs?

We brought Torvi home, freshly vaccinated and dewormed. The first night, Phil slept on the couch to keep watch on the pup. After exactly one night of that, we brought her into the bedroom with us. I got up whenever she did to get her out.

That was my main challenge for the remainder of the month: sleep deprivation. Even now that she’s sleeping through most of the night, our sleep is disturbed. I still wake up whenever she stirs and even if she’s just changing positions, it can take me a while to relax enough to get back to sleep.

We’re in the wilful pup, chew the planet stage. Though I’ve been diligent in substituting her toys for my hands/clothes/feet and praising her when she chews on them instead of me, she’s resistant to making the connection.

There’s a reason for this. We got Torvi at 6 weeks. Our other pups didn’t come home with use until they were 8 weeks old. She’s smart, and promises to be a big dog (she’s already 19 pounds at 9 weeks), but right now, it’s all puppy ID. She wants what she wants and she wants it NOW.

But I head back to work of December 14th, so we’re hoping that the next week and a half will prove fruitful for puppy training and that she won’t terrorize my mom, who will be watching her for us when we go to work.

She’s already made a lot of progress for such a young pup. She’s learning how to sit (aced), lie down (ok), and shake a paw (wha?). I’m taking her on short morning walks and trying to get her to “stay with mommy” and “keep left.”

She’s mostly good about doing her toileting outside, but sometimes it’s play-play-play-pee! There’s no way to catch her in time.

This is the way of new pup parenthood. I can’t wait until we can start socializing her with other dogs. She’s super sweet with people and has only peed in excitement a couple of times.

Speaking of which, it’s about time I take her out.

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

The Next Chapter

My latest column for DIY MFA

Good afternoon writerly folk!

I’m hot off the NaNoWriMo crazy train and back to kick the blog into high gear again.

Tomorrow, I’ll be providing you with a detailed breakdown of October and November’s writing progress with my next chapter update (flailing Kermit arms–aaaaaahhhhhhh!).

In the meantime, join me over at DIY MFA for my latest column: five nursery rhyme origins to spark your next story!


Until tomorrow, be well my friends.

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Oct 22-28, 2017

Here are your informal writerly learnings for the week.

Janice Hardy continues her 31 day online writing workshop for preptober. Day 22: the inciting event. Day 23: the first act problem. Day 24: the act two choice. Day 25: the midpoint reversal. Day 26: the act two disaster. Day 27: the three act plan. Day 28: the climax. Day 29: the wrap up. You’ll have to read the rest yourself on Fiction University.

Marie lists 24 novels that started off as NaNoWriMo projects. Goodreads

K.M. Weiland: four ways to prevent story structure from becoming formulaic. Helping Writers Become Authors

Angela Ackerman visits Jane Friedman’s blog: using dysfunctional behaviour to reveal characters’ wounds. Then Jordan Rosenfeld takes a turn: four ways to start a scene.

Terri Frank invites you to go beyond Westworld and reinvent the western. DIY MFA

Brenda Joyce Patterson helps you write through fear and anxiety. DIY MFA

Kathryn Craft offers five tips to help you survive a career quake. Writers in the Storm

Jamie Raintree guest posts on Writers in the Storm: waking up early to write. Then, Jamie pops over to Writer’s Digest: building self-care habits so you can write your best work.

Barbara O’Neal helps you vanquish the killer critic. Writer Unboxed

Bran L. Ayres guest posts on Jami Gold’s blog: want to write with diversity but not sure how? Later in the week, Jami wonders, how do you persevere?

Mark O’Neill stops by The Creative Penn: writing while under the influence of depression.

Joe Fassler talked to 150 writers and collected the best advice they had. Literary Hub

Jess Zafarris and Cris Freese share six lessons writers can learn from Netflix’s Stranger Things. Are you binging? You’re binging, aren’t you? Writer’s Digest

This will be the last Tipsday until December—!

Be well through the time change and whatever challenges November presents you.

You are awesome just as you are.


Recently in the writerly life

Greetings, all!

Here we are, at my last pre-NaNoWriMo weekend post.

I’m going to recap some of the writerly events I’ve attended in recent weeks and mention a thing or two that will be happening in the nearish future.

First, we’ll be going back in time to September 28 and the Latitude 46 fall launch. One that evening, five authors were reading from their works.


Liisa Kovala is a friend from the Sudbury Writers’ Guild and she was launching Surviving Stutthoff, her memoir of her father’s experiences behind the death gate.

Also launching books that night were Sudbury’s Roger Nash, with his nineteenth poetry collection, Whazzat?, Rod Carley from North Bay, Hap Wilson from Rousseau, and Suzanne Charron with the second edition of Wolf Man Joe LaFlamme: Tamer Untamed.

The event was held at Ristorante Verdiccio, and it was a delightful evening.

Last weekend, October 21st, I attended the launch of Kim Fahner’s fourth poetry collection, Some Other Sky, which was held at St. Andrew’s Place in downtown Sudbury.

Kim not only reads, but she also sings, and she usually has The Wild Geese perform Celtic music before, during, and after.

Next weekend, November 2-4, I’ll be attending Wordstock Sudbury.

On Thursday, I’ll be at a poetry reading by Emily Ursuliak, Tanya Neumeyer, Kateri Lanthier, and Kim Fahner at One Sky, followed by the festival opening, and then a dramatic reading of Kim’s play Sparrows Over Slag.

On Saturday, I’ll be attending Merilyn Simonds’ masterclass on The First Page and then Nathan Adler’s masterclass on Writing Speculative Fiction.


Phil and I will also be visiting our new puppy, Torvi 🙂 She’s still a few weeks from adoption age, so we’re bringing a blanket and toy out for the pups. When we do adopt, we’ll be able to aid the transition with the smell of momma Mocha and a familiar toy.

Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday will be posted this week, but after that, I’m getting to puppy prep and working on Playing with Fire. I’ll see you after the writerly masochism that is NaNoWriMo!

As ever, be kind, be well, and stay strong, my friends. The world needs your stories!

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Oct 15-21, 2017

Your weekly dose of informal writerly learnings is here!

First, get your fill of preptober:

Janice Hardy continues her 31 day online novel workshop with day 15: discovering your internal conflicts. Day 16: finding your stakes. Day 17: turning your idea into a summary line. Day 18: turning the summary line into a summary blurb. Day 19: creating the most basic of outlines. Day 20: developing your plot. Day 21: the opening scene.

Gabriela Pereira guest posts on the NaNoWriMo blog: outline your story like a subway map.

Later in the week, Gabriela interviews NaNoWriMo’s Grant Faulkner for DIY MFA radio.

As part of her preptober series, Rachael Stephen shares three efficient techniques for fleshing out characters.


Jenny Hansen plots up a storm (for NaNoWriMo) with Writers in the Storm.

Elizabeth S. Craig offers some suggestions on how to be a #NaNoWriMo rebel.

And now …

K.M. Weiland follows up on a recent post: the only good reason to write. Helping Writers Become Authors

Jan O’Hara shares lessons learned from Ruby Dixon: how to write sex scenes that readers can’t and won’t skip. Writer Unboxed

Julianna Baggott: the writerly skills test. Writer Unboxed

Porter Anderson considers the book doula. I love how Porter presents the evidence and lets the reader decide what they think about the topic. Writer Unboxed

A.K. Perry ponders the eternal question: to outline or not to outline? DIY MFA

And here’s my most recent DIY MFA column—the science in your science fiction: artificial intelligence.

Jami Gold helps you decide what you should show and what you should tell. Then, she helps you find balance between showing and telling.

Tamar Sloan stops by the Writers Helping Writers coaching corner: what’s the real purpose of writing?

Is there such a thing as a good MacGuffin? Robert Wood, Standout books.

Adrienne Liang interviews Patrick Rothfuss for Omnivoracious: what brings him joy?

And that was your writerly goodness for the week.

Be well until Thursday!


Lessons learned and takeaways from my European adventure

Over the weeks since my return and interspersed with monthly updates, I’ve been recounting my European adventure. Now, I’m finally ready to talk about the benefits I’ve gained and the things I’ve learned from the experience.


Planning and preparation are important

I committed to the Writing Excuses Retreat and WorldCon in early February. It could have been January, but I was hesitant because of the expense. Ultimately, it was a confluence of events: WXR doing a Baltic cruise—they usually cruise the Caribbean, WorldCon being in Helsinki, my desire to visit the country of my ancestry, and the fact that I could do all that AND get in some quality first time tourism at the same time as I continued my professional development as a writer.

Once I committed, I was hip-deep in making the travel arrangements. WXR had their own travel agents and I was able to get a great price on a return European flight through them. All of the cruise arrangements were made through the travel agency.

They facilitated the registration for the cruise, the booking of all the tours at each of the stops, and the issuing of all electronic travel documents.

I made my own hotel booking and, with very little back and forth, I was able to secure the convention rate for my extended stay.

While I attempted to make my additional travel arrangements through the travel agents associated with the cruise, they were busy enough handling the details for the cruise. I’d noticed that the Canadian Auto Association, of which I am a member, was promoting their European travel services. I decided to make the remaining arrangements through them.

There was much more back and forth, but by staying on top of the email thread, I had my flight from Hamburg to Helsinki booked, my rental car, and my bus tour to cover the days in between the cruise and WorldCon.

I went to the airline sites and to CATSA to help me with my packing. My thought was to travel light and only have my carryon luggage and my (fairly large) purse. I reviewed my itineraries for the flights, cruise, and the schedule for the convention to plan out, in rough strokes, where I’d have to be, when.

I was as prepared as I could be by the time I left, but while planning and preparation are important, they aren’t everything.

I still suffered panic attacks in the week leading up to my trip. I still had to deal with ongoing anxiety during the flights—not because I’m afraid of flying, but because I was afraid that despite all my planning, that something catastrophic in terms of making my connections, delays, or other uncontrollable elements (weather) that attend travel would render my planning useless.

Fortunately, none of that happened.

Travelling alone is empowering

Because so much is out of your control when you travel alone, you quickly realize you just have to put on your big girl (or big boy) pant(ie)s and git ‘er done.

Anxiety serves no purpose in these situations and, frankly, can’t be indulged. Yes. I wrote that. Anxiety, in some situations, is an indulgence. It’s an indulgence of imbalanced or malfunctioning neurotransmitters, and not easily managed, but it’s still an indulgence.

I have a friend who lives with obsessive compulsive disorder and its attendant anxiety. I invited her up for a short visit that, because of its brevity, was highly structured (I guess planning’s a thing with me). In the ensuing whirlwind, she didn’t have the time to perform her particular rituals.

Months (it might have been years) later, she told me how that visit had changed her. It was concrete evidence that even if she couldn’t indulge her OCD, that the things she feared would happen, didn’t. It was a breakthrough for her.

I travel alone all the time. I drive down to Ottawa, to Toronto, or to other cities in southern Ontario to train for my day job. I attend writing conferences, conventions, and workshops alone. Some of these have been across the country, or in the States. But I’d never been outside of continental North America before. In a very real way, I had never been more alone.

After the pre-departure panic attacks, though, I progressed straight to a semi-fugue state during travel. I was completely in the moment. I had to continually check my itinerary to make sure I was making progress to the next queue, or boarding, or whatever, because it was too tempting to slip into a place in which I wouldn’t care if I got anywhere at all.

Though I spent my waiting and flight time reading or watching movies to keep myself distracted, I wasn’t really forming solid memories of these things. I felt like a deer in the headlights most of the time. It was a test of endurance more than anything else, but I didn’t have a panic attack for the duration of my trip.

A little bit of that disconnect from reality followed me throughout my journey and reasserted itself for my days of solo travel. I was more in control once most of the uncertainty was behind me, once I’d reached the Atlantic Hotel in Kiel, for instance, or embarked on the cruise ship, or checked into the Sokkos Presidentti.

During the retreat itself, I had to be intentionally vulnerable, painfully honest, and resist attempts to make my work, accomplishments, or failures—essentially me—sound better, less devastating, or more professional than they were. It takes effort to do this when your body and brain is used to preventing you from doing these very things. It’s very liberating.

And, as my friend Kim told me, it’s also empowering. I can be authentic and the world doesn’t end. People still like me. I can be honest, and my tribe (writers) will support me.

As I’ve mentioned in past posts about this trip, the experience is still changing me. I’m a creature of habit and change is slow to come.

It was bucket-listy

When I started to attend conferences, conventions, and workshops, I started to set goals. Attend  Ad Astra. Check. I’ve now attended three. Attend the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. Check. Attend When Words Collide. Check. Attend Can-Con. Check. Attend WorldCon. Check.

When I started to listen to the Writing Excuses podcast, I became aware of their writing retreats. Initially, they were held at Mary’s parent’s house. Eventually, though, they became more ambitious and the retreat took place on a cruise ship.

So I put that on my list of writerly goals. The Baltic cruise was special, though. The Writing Excuses cast will likely not be doing something similar in the near future. I could have made it even more bucket-listy by attending the German castle tour that followed the cruise, but I had to draw my financial line somewhere.

Still, to attend a writing retreat on a cruise ship, in Europe, and to be able to see some of the world in addition to developing my skill as a writer? As they say on the credit card commercial, that was priceless. It was the perfect storm of opportunity.

Travel and experience are critical parts of becoming a better writer. You have to push your limits, get out of your comfort zone, to make a breakthrough.

Ask and you shall receive

I left on my trip with a couple of personal goals in mind aside from travelling Europe and participating in the cruise.

Again, as I’ve mentioned previously, I have been having increasing difficulty with creative burnout. I wanted to see if I could get some practical advice and solid strategies for identifying and addressing the underlying reasons for this.

K. Tempest Bradford and Emma Newman were particularly helpful in this respect. The path they’ve lit the way to is one I’m still walking. I’ll have to devote another blog to this in the future, once I’ve sorted more of it out.

For now, I’m easing up on the writerly goal setting. I’m making room for other entertainment, down time, and self-care. I’m not so obsessed with heeding the siren song of production (moar!). I’m working on understanding that what I can get done is enough, that I am enough, and that reminding myself of the reasons I chose to write in the first place (love!) take precedence over external validation.

The other thing I was looking for was something that I’ve been trying for a couple of years to get in place, a mentor, editor, or some other form of support to help me get to the next level, so to speak, in my writing. I’ve tried to get a situation in place, but often personalities, interests, or skill sets have not meshed.

I’ve also been a part of many informal writing groups in real life as well as on line over the years. Again, personal goals, interests, and skill sets have not meshed. Or the methodology has been, in my opinion, flawed. Focusing on the first X pages or chapters doesn’t result in appropriate feedback, and feeding chapters, or sections, to readers over months or years isn’t necessarily productive either. Neither approach allows the reader or critique partner to get a feeling for the whole story, which I think is critical to feedback that results in improvement.

By the end of the cruise, I’d expressed interest in a full-novel critique group. Over the course of WorldCon, connections were made and things were firmed up. Starting in January of 2018, there’s a group of us that are going to give it a shot. I have hope and expectations, but not so many, nor so high, that they will be easily disappointed 🙂

One thing that I wasn’t expecting to receive was the excellent advice of Thomas Olde Heuvelt on how to develop and maintain a creative life plan. I’ve been setting writerly goals for years, but they’ve been primarily one-dimensional and focused on production.

Thomas’s advice to let the over-the-top, blue-sky, dreamy goals inform your overall writing goals and to include holistic life goals, like health—physical and mental—and financial, in the plan helped me to realize how much wellbeing I’ve been leaving out of my goals in recent years. He also recommended having a five year plan in place, subject to change (life does have a habit of intervening).

My European adventure was truly a life-changing experience, in many ways.

I’ll have to let you know how everything works out, but as many of my takeaways were things I’m going to be implementing over time, the results may be a while in coming.

Next week, I’ll be devoting some time to Kim’s launch of Some Other Sky and my presentation for the Sudbury Writers’ Guild on Fantasy (yes, the topic is wide open—it’s going to be fun). After that, I’m going to be participating in NaNoWriMo and taking a month-long blogging break, except for the Thoughty Thursday coming out on November 2nd.

I’ll catch everyone up in December with another bonanza October/November next chapter update. There are also going to be some writerly events coming up in November, including WordStock Sudbury and a possible Gail Anderson-Dargatz workshop with the Sudbury Writers’ Guild.

There will be more writerly goodness coming up.

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

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Oct 8-14, 2017

Here are your informal writerly learnings for the week 🙂

First, your preptober fix of NaNo:

Janice Hardy continues her 31 day NaNoWriMo prepcourse on Fiction University. Day eight: developing the character arcs. Day nine: choosing your point of view. Day ten: choosing your POV characters. Day eleven: finding your theme. Day twelve: choosing your setting. Day thirteen: determining your goals. Day Fourteen: discovering your external conflicts.

Arthur Klepkuchov shares his first (and last?) winning NaNoWriMo. Writer Unboxed

Rachael Stephen: creating a powerful character backstory.


Grant Faulkner on Writer’s Digest: how one month of NaNoWriMo can lead to a lifetime of better writing.

K.M. Weiland: four reasons you’re confused about scene structure.  Later in the week, Kate explains why we need more thematically pertinent female protagonists. Helping Writers Become Authors

Roz Morris helps you figure out what should go into your story’s ending. Writers Helping Writers

Sacha Black helps you improve your sentences: getting jiggy with the nitty gritty. Writers Helping Writers

Angela Ackerman guest posts on Writers in the Storm: does your villain have well-developed motivations?

Emily Wenstrom answers the question: should writers be on LinkedIn? DIY MFA

Bess Cozby shows you how to build rest and retreats into your writing routine. DIY MFA

Sarah Callender shares her experience with a bun in the oven: the gestation period of a novel. Writer Unboxed

Writing what you (never hope to) know: empathy, perception, projection. Kathryn Magendie on Writer Unboxed.

Orly Konig Lopez explains why every writer needs writer’s events. Writers in the Storm

Jami Gold: genre is worldbuilding. And, later in the week, Jami asks, how do you define success?

Alex Acks is perplexed by the river systems of Middle Earth.

Alison Flood reports on Vita Sackville-West’s miniature book, said to have inspired Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. The Guardian

Sophie Elmhirst celebrates Philip Pullman’s return to his fantasy world. The New York Times Magazine

Nell Irvin Painter: Toni Morrison’s radical vision of otherness. New Republic

Alexandra Alter profiles Nnedi Okorafor for The New York Times.

Laura Bradley: the strange history of “nolite te bastardes carborundorum.Vanity Fair

Be well until Thursday, my writerly friends 🙂