The next chapter:  October/November 2021 update

Sweet Lord! It feels like forever since I wrote one of these. Forever and a week. And three days. Sorry about that. The last couple of weeks have been hectic at work. Ran out of weekend on the 4th/5th (what with all the Christmas-ing). And I ran out of weekend again on the 11th/12th because it was my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday party. Both of those will feature in December’s next chapter update.

The month(s) in writing

 Will start off with October … if I can remember that far back 🙂

The writing was not going well.

I was still recovering from my autistic burnout, still being kind to myself, and still busy at work. There are more days when I did not work on Reality Bomb than days I worked on it. Of my conservative 5,000-word revision goal for the month, I only revised 3,060 words. That’s 61%.

I did work on a piece of short fiction, but it was focused editing to reduce the word count, so there was nothing to record. I submitted the story and the rejection came back two days later.

Aside from RB and the story, I kept up with my curation posts. I wrote 4,811 words of my 3,500-word goal, or 137%.

And that’s all I did in October.

The November update is just going to be summary 🙂 I embarked on NaNoWriMo 2021 with a conservative goal. All I really wanted to do was get back to a regular writing habit, if for no other reason than to prove that I could do it.

I was a NaNo Rebel and titled my project NaNo Rebel Combo. I counted everything I wrote or revised in the month. It helped that I had the first two weeks of November off work, but I sincerely thought my progress would crater after I returned.

Surprisingly, it didn’t.

Words revised on RB and edits to its story map: 44,854

Words written on short fiction: 1,424

Words blogged: 2,138

Words written on (my last) Speculations column: 1,653

Other words written: 360

Total words revised: 44,854

Total words written: 5,575

Grand total: 50,429 words

I submitted the short story I wrote to an anthology call. Will let you know if anything comes of that.

Filling the well

In October, I attended two virtual writerly events. A reading by Wab Kinew, and the combined Writing Excuses/Surrey International Writers’ Conference online. Both were lovely. And WXR/SiWC posted all their sessions for attendee viewing for 30 days after the event, so I was able to watch all the sessions I had to miss because work.

My mom hosted Thanksgiving for our family.

I also tracked down a therapist who specializes in autism and scheduled an appointment with her in early November.

I went in to work on October 29th and retrieved my chair. It was an accommodation request resulting from an ergonomic assessment before we got our adjustable desks at work. At the time, sitting was the issue and standing was the solution. After eight years of standing to work and write, I decided to change things up and try sitting again for a while.

I adjusted the seat pan and back to encourage me to lean back, so I wouldn’t get tense and torque out my neck, back, and shoulders the way I used to. And it’s working. I had some difficulties with the height of the arm rests, but now that I’ve resolved those, I’m golden. I credit my NaNo win, at least in part, to my new, comfortable sitting arrangement.

I made the tough decision to stop writing my column for DIY MFA. They’ve become a kind of family. I’ll miss writing for them, but I have to refocus on myself right now.

In November, aside from NaNo, I attended several virtual sessions from this year’s Wordstock Sudbury and a couple of Jane Friedman webinars.

Home for the Howlidays, with my short story, “The Wolf You Feed,” was launched on November 23rd. It’s available on Amazon if you want some wolfish holiday reads.

I had my first session with my therapist, got a note from my doctor for insurance, and submitted my first claim (which was subsequently paid). I investigated the accommodation process at work. In short, I made progress.

My two weeks of vacation in November, compared to the two weeks of sick leave I took back in September, were truly restorative. September was just about getting my head back. My success in NaNoWriMo cemented for me that I can still write and/or revise daily, that everything I produce is not crap, and that I can still accomplish lofty creative goals if I commit.

But now, there’s another urgent project that needs to be completed at work, and I’m taking another break (not voluntarily). I have to manage my energy levels and health.

And get lots of cuddles!

What I’m watching and reading

Watching first, as has been my pattern of late.

The Black Widow movie wasn’t as bad as I’d been led to believe. It didn’t blow my mind, but it was enjoyable.

I finished watching the last season of Riverdale, for real this time. Not fond of the time jump and the super-clichéd storylines. Betty’s basically Clarice Starling, Jughead’s every substance-abusing writer ever rumoured, Archie’s a veteran now, but all his flashbacks look like WWII (?), Veronica is the vixen of Wall Street … just ugh.

The New Mutants was okay. I always enjoy Maisie Williams and Anya Taylor Joy, but I wasn’t fond of how the latter, as Illyana Rasputin, was framed as a mean girl. It just didn’t fit with my experience of the comics.

The series finale of Supergirl was sappy, as expected. The conflict felt off all season, though. Kara (and everyone, really) made a lot of uncharacteristic decisions, because final season? A little disappointing.

Phil and I watched the second season of Locke & Key. Not bad. Better than season one, I think, but it took a while to kick into gear, and, honestly, it had been so long since the first season, I was unclear on a lot of the plot, even with the season one recap under my metaphorical belt. It came together in the end, though.

The latest season of Doom Patrol was … frustrating more than anything. Excuse my language, but they’re all still fucked up fuckups. You’d think they’d have spanked their inner moppets by now.

Finally, the shining view of the last two months, Reservation Dogs. Loved! That is all. Go watch it now!

In the reading department, I read nine books over the two months. Having said that, I’m currently nine books behind in my 2021 Goodreads challenge. I may not even make last year’s goal (which I surpassed, by the way) of 60 books.

I listened to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, part 1 on Audible. It was a fully produced audioplay, with top actors, and I loved it, despite its meandering story. It was originally a graphic novel, and episodic, so that was to be expected. I’m looking forward to the Netflix series.

Having read and enjoyed P. Djèlí Clark’s Master of Djinn, I thought I should fill in the gap with the novellas that lead up to it. The Haunting of Tram Car 015, was fun and focused on supporting characters from the novel, Hamed and Onsi.

I read Django Wexler’s The Thousand Names as part of a book club my critique group started. It was good, but the protagonist, Winter, doesn’t show up right away. Maybe it’s because the novel is more properly Marcus’s story, but, being a woman, I connected to Winter more. As a result, it was an uneven read. I enjoyed it, and the world building was great, but Marcus was a very traditional protagonist in epic fantasy. I wasn’t as interested in his story and thus didn’t enjoy the novel as much as I might have.

I finished This is How You Lose the Time War by Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar next, though I’d started it before taking up The Thousand Names. It was actually the first novel selected for our book club. I loved the lyrical nature of the book and the largely epistolary structure. Other readers were not as enamoured. El-Mohtar is a poet. So am I (sometimes). I really got into the words, savoured them, rolled them around on my tongue and in my brain. Loved.

Witchmark, by C.L. Polk, was an enchanting (pun intended) read. It was so good I can’t wait to get into the rest of the series 🙂

Alice Payne Rides is Kate Heartfield’s follow up to Alice Payne Arrives. It was interesting reading this so soon after This is How You Lose the Time War. There were enough similarities that I wonder if El-Mohtar might have been influenced by Heartfield’s Alice, at least in part.

Catherine Hernandez’ Crosshairs was a bit of a harrowing read. It’s a dystopia, which takes as its genesis that Canada followed our neighbours to the south in instituting a totalitarian, fundamentalist, and fascist regime. In fact, Hernandez imagines a Canada that goes even farther, instituting workhouses for all “others,” be they people of colour, Indigenous peoples, LGBTQ2S+, or followers of religions other than Christianity. An excellent novel that challenges everything you think Canada is.

I then listened to Tanya Talaga’s All Our Relations. Excellent. I now want to find out more about the Sami, Scandinavia’s Indigenous people.

Finally, I read Roshani Chokshi’s The Bronzed Beasts, the third book in the trilogy that began with The Gilded Wolves. Yum! Bittersweet ending that in some ways reminded me of The Invisible Life of Addie Larue.

And that was the last two months in this writer’s life.

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

NaNoWriMo 2021 wrap post

As promised, here is a fulsome review of my experience of NaNoWriMo 2021.

The plan

I had no expectation of winning this year. Because I had just come out of an autistic burnout and was finding writing or revising anything challenging, I decided to be a NaNo Rebel again this year and I set my goal low.

In addition to revising Reality Bomb and filling in my chapter and scene map for the novel, I was going to write my Speculations column for DIY MFA, work on a short story (I had hoped, more than one), and to round things out, I also counted my blogging. In short, I counted everything I wrote in the month.

Even so, I thought I’d only get 30,000 words revised on RB, 2,500 words each on the short story and blog, and 1,000 words on my column. 36,000 words seemed like a reasonable goal.

The progress

I did have the first two weeks of November off work. I was kind to myself, got a solid 8 hours sleep each night, ate well, walked Torvi twice a day, watched television and streaming, and played a computer game as a nightly reward. I didn’t put any pressure on myself. I think it was a good approach 🙂

Between RB and the map, I revised 44,854 words, or 150% of my goal.

I finished my short story in 1,424 words, which was only 57% of my goal. I also submitted it.

I blogged 2,138 words, or 86% of that goal.

On my column, I wrote 1,653 words, which was 165% of my goal there.

Plus, I wrote 360 words on a little side project.

I wrote 5,575 words of the 6,000 I had intended to. That’s 93% of my writing goal.

My winning total for NaNoWriMo 2021 is 50,899, but when I add everything I recorded up, it totals 50,429. So, I made a mistake of 470 words somewhere. Still, I won!

Evidence …
I was all over the place!
The only badge I didn’t get was recording 1,667 every day.

The pivot

I had expected my progress to slow when I returned to work. And it did, but the progress I’d made in the two weeks I was off, plus the work I was able to do on the weekends was enough to shore up the low production days.

I’ve hit a problematic part of RB at this point, though. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it’s the mid-point of the novel. Yes, my middle is saggy. It’s going to require some thought and strategic thinking to tighten it up.

So, I’m going to take another little break, let things percolate for a bit, decorate the house for Christmas (which I haven’t done for … years), and marshal my resources.

I don’t know if I’ll get back to revisions later this month or wait until the new year. I’m going to take the same approach I did with NaNo. I’m going to be kind to myself, set reasonable expectations, and do what I can.

The other factor at play is my recent diagnosis as autistic. I’ve found a therapist, joined a support group, and I’m looking at workplace accommodations. And I’m working full time. I know there are a lot of authors who work full time, but with this new understanding of, and context for my life, I can see the times when I’ve been overwhelmed and burned out. I can’t do it all, all the time.

This weekend, I’ll be posting my next chapter update for October and November (the November piece should be short, ‘cause mini updates).

Until then, be well and stay safe; be kind and stay strong. The world needs your stories!

NaNoWriMo 2021, week 4, mini update

This will be a super quick update today. I’ll have a more complete update on the 30th. Or maybe the 1st. Depending on how I feel. I usually need to take a bit of a break after the blitz.

The plan

 Keeping on as I was keeping on appears to be working out 🙂

The progress

Between revision on Reality Bomb and filling in its map, I put in 11,484 words.

I wrote 393 words on my short story. Probably only going to get the one done this month.

And this post is 162 words.

Total for the week: 12,039 words.

Running total for NaNoWriMo 2021: 49,861 words.

Think I’ll make the 50k? Yeah, me, too 🙂

The pivot

There are only two days left (!) No time to pivot, even if I wanted to.

As mentioned of the top, I’ll be posting a NaNoWriMo 2021 wrap up on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Until then, be well and stay safe; be kind and stay strong. The world needs your stories!

NaNoWriMo 2021, week 3 mini update

It’s the end of week 3 and I’m still doing well … ? Better than I thought I’d be faring at this point, that’s for sure. Best be grateful, eh?

The plan

I expected my production to dip with my return to work, and there was one day where I only managed 407 words of revision, and two others where I logged less than 1,667 words (1,187 and 1,099, to be specific). Otherwise, though, I recorded over the 1,667 and made up for the shortfall.

There were a couple of stressful days (the ones where I logged 407 and 1,099, coincidentally), but overall, I’ve been trying to manage a better work/life/creative balance. I think it’s working?

The progress

Revisions to Reality Bomb and filling in my scene map amounted to 10,451 words.

I wrote another 360 words of short fiction.

And this update is 214 words.

My total for week 3 is 11,025 words.

And my total for NaNoWriMo 2021 so far is 37,831 words.

The pivot

I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, I think. No pivot necessary. Of course, I’ll have to watch the work stress. It’s getting better, though.

I hope all my American friends have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

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

NaNoWriMo 2021, week 2, mini update

Here we are, on Sunday of week 2.

The plan

The plan was to finish my Speculations column and submit it, and to continue revising Reality Bomb and working on my first short story. If I was so lucky as to finish the first story, I’d start a second. There are several open calls and contests coming up. I know I won’t hit all of them, but I’m going to try for a couple.

The progress

I wrote 748 words to finish my column. It’s 1,653 words in total. A little long, but it’s another personal post.

Between revisions and my evolving map of RB, I racked up 12,446 words. I’ve finally made it past the point where I realized I’d have to change the POV to first person and start over. It’s good to be forging ahead.

I wrote 112 more words on my story. It’s a cute one. I’ll tell you about it later in the year.

This update is 359 words.

And … I did a little personal project that amounted to 360 words.

This week’s total word count: 14,025.

NaNo 2021 running total: 26,771 words. That’s an average of 1,912 words a day.

The pivot

Tomorrow is my first day back to work after two wonderful and restorative weeks off. I expect that my productivity will be significantly lower during the week. It’s to be expected. I usually write or revise 250 to 500 words a day when I’m working. It’ll be a bit more than that because I’m not curating. Optimistically, we can probably double that to 500 to 1,000 words a day. But that’s being optimistic. I might catch up a bit on the weekends, but I doubt I’ll “win” this year.

It’s all about the motivation, though. Writing something every day has been good for me. I’m feeling refreshed and inspired. I’m remembering why RB was important to me (actually, I didn’t forget, but autistic burnout messed with my head for a couple of months).

My best wishes to everyone who’s participating in NaNoWriMo 2021 in any capacity. You can do the thing!

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

NaNoWriMo 2021, week 1, mini update

Today is November 7th and I’m happy to report that I’ve written 12,746 words so far.

The plan

I named my project this year “NaNo Rebel Combo.” And it’s exactly that. I’m working on next round revisions on Reality Bomb, including the work I’m doing on my scene map as I go, some pieces of short fiction, and my next Speculations column for DIY MFA. I’m even counting these blog posts (and my curation posts) toward my goal. It’s a real mixed bag this year 🙂

Also, I have the first two weeks of November off from work. I expect my productivity to take a nosedive starting on the 15th.

The progress

On RB and the scene map, I’ve written 9,872 words;

I’ve written 141 words on a short story;

I’ve written 905 words of my Speculations column; and

Including this post … I’ve blogged 1,353 words.

Grand total for week one: 12,746 words (1,820/day).

The pivot

Once my Speculations column is submitted, I’m going to refocus on RB and the first short story. When that short story is finished, I’ll start another.

As I mentioned, I’ll be returning to work on the 15th and don’t expect to accomplish as much after that. But I’ll keep plugging away, as I’m able, and see what I can put together.

We’ll see what I can do in the next week, but I’m not set on winning this year. This is just motivation for me to get back to a more regular practice. As you can see, I’ve only set myself a goal of writing 36,000 words on my spreadsheet. I think that’s reasonable, but what I often think is reasonable turns out to be a stretch.

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

Tipsday: Informal writerly learnings, Oct 24-30, 2021

This will be the last tipsday until December 7th! Yup, it’s NaNo again. So, stock up for the month and feel free to peruse past weeks’ posts as well. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, but this tipsday is jam packed full of writerly goodness. Enjoy!

Kim Bullock faces a fork in the writerly road. KL Burd: “The loss we carry, a sea we must wade.” Elizabeth Huergo discusses genre and its discontents. Then, Milo Todd is losing the magic of writing: The Sweatbox. Heather Webb: Halloween is all about fear; turns out, so is publishing. Writer Unboxed

Racism and horror | Khadija Mbowe

K.M. Weiland poses six questions to help you avoid repetitive scenes. Helping Writers Become Authors

Lisa Cooper Ellison says that structure isn’t the Holy Grail you’re looking for. Jane Friedman

Vivek Hariharan shares six tips for expanding a novel into a series. Live, Write, Thrive

Princess Weekes reveals what the f—k happened behind the scenes of Justice League. Melina Pendulum

Kris Maze offers a worry-free approach to double down on your writing goals. Then, Laurie Schnebly Campbell asks, how deep should you go into your POV? Kathleen Baldwin makes the case for “was” and the much maligned passive voice. Writers in the Storm

Shaelin explains how to write a horror novel. Reedsy

Then she follows up with the best and worst horror tropes. Reedsy

Sue Coletta: what are pinch points and where do they go? Then, Colleen M. Story explains how to tell if you’ve found the best book marketing niche. Lisa Hall-Wilson lists five ways trauma makes your character an unreliable narrator. Writers Helping Writers

Kris Hill is creating characters using collaborative storytelling. Then, Manuela Williams explains how to organize a collection of poetry. Gabriela Pereira interviews Debbie Macomber about writing and publishing a Christmas novel. Then, Alison Stine explains how to write a cli-fi novel. Sarah Van Arsdale shares five ways to resist the inexorable forces pulling you from your writing. DIY MFA

On her own channel, Shaelin shares 20 NaNoWriMo tips. Shaelin Writes

Chuck Wendig reviews the worldbuilding in Villeneuve’s Dune. Emmie Mears shares five things she learned building a writing career the wrong way. Terribleminds

Chris Winkle lists five important ways episodic stories are different. Then, Oren Ahskenazi analyzes To Sleep in a Sea of Stars: how Paolini undercooked his setting. Mythcreants

Princess Weekes shares everything you didn’t know about the father of science fiction. It’s Lit | PBS Storied

Patricia A. Jackson shares a pantser’s tale: follow the white rabbit. Fiction University

Emily Zarka presents the werewolf’s modern metamorphosis. Monstrum | PBS Storied

Kristen Lamb explains how horror can improve your writing in any genre.

Guy Kawasaki interviews Seth Godin: marketing god, blogger, and author. The Remarkable People Podcast

“Queerbaiting” is a tricky term. Don’t abuse it. The Take

Alan Garner: “You don’t want to have a brilliant idea for a novel at the age of 87.” The Guardian

Ena Alvarado reveals the science and slavery in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko. JSTOR Daily

Hanna Flint says that Dune is an accomplished escape into the realm of cinematic Arab appropriation. The New Arab

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you found something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

NaNo Eve Mini-Update

Hallooo, writerly friends! At the last minute, I have decided to NaNo. I am once more a rebel, hoping to make some progress on this next round of Reality Bomb revisions as well as penning some short fiction. The hope is that, between the two, I’ll rack up a reasonable word count.

I am not, however, striving for 50k. I’m not going to stress. This is going to be a casual NaNo this year and my emphasis will be on trying to get back my writing mojo. My practice has been spotty since my burnout and I really just want to get some words on the page. Or revised. Or something. It just doesn’t feel right, not writing.

To facilitate this recapturing of joy, I’m going to hold off on my next chapter update until December. I will not be doing my regular curation beyond this week (because I already have the Tuesday and Thursday posts completed). I will be scarce on Twitter.

I will offer mini-updates every week, however, to make up for the lack of content otherwise.

Then, in December, I’ll do a double update (October and November), resume curation and Twitter, and I’ll let you know if this little experiment works out 🙂

If you want to be my buddy on the NaNo site, I am (unsurprisingly) MelanieMarttila.

Until tipsday, be well and stay safe!

Tipsday: Informal writerly learnings, Oct 17-23, 2021

Another week, another batch of informal writerly learnings 🙂 Enjoy!

Jan O’Hara receives a wake-up call. Then, Dave King is writing in both directions. Barbara Linn Probst reviews the three aspects of revision: reworking, refining, and revisioning. Later in the week, Desmond Hall drops some more bite-sized writerly learnings on us. Writer Unboxed

Angela Ackerman explains how to make your characters’ choices more difficult. Helping Writers Become Authors

Jill bearup wants to talk to you about your enemies to lovers fixation (see Jenna Moreci, below, for a little writerly how-to).

Jessica Conoley shows you how to use your analyzer switch to increase productivity. Then, Stephanie Bourbon shows you how to fly by the seat of your pants—and win NaNoWriMo. Lizbeth Meredith asks: does the idea of promoting your book make you queasy? Jane Friedman

Emily Zarka recounts the killer origins of the werewolf. Monstrum | PBS Storied

Becca Puglisi reveals how internal conflict fits into the character arc. Live, Write, Thrive

Then, Becca shifts blogs to further discuss failure, conflict, and character arc. Then, Lisa Norman covers publishing dilemmas, distribution, and disruption. Ellen Buikema touts the benefits of writing SMART goals. Writers in the Storm

Jessica Thompson is subverting expectations in satisfying ways. Elizabeth Spann Craig

Louise Harnby answers the question: what is narrative distance?

The “mean girl” trio – three types of bad female leaders. The Take

Nathan explains how to raise the stakes in a novel. Then, Lindsay Syhakhom declares that writing in the library is wonderful. Nathan Bransford

Jeanette the Writer helps you figure out where to put the comma. Tammy Lough: romantic gestures create heat waves. Gabriela Pereira interviews Stephanie Bwa Bwa about world building and the YA fantasy serial. Then, Jessica Vitalis is tackling heavy subjects with middle grade readers. Angela Yeh shares five fun ways to get your butt in the chair (and keep it there). DIY MFA

Jenna Moreci offers her top ten tips for writing enemies to lovers.

J.D. Edwin shares six helpful ways any writer can overcome burnout. The Write Practice

Piper Bayard explains that outside of Hollywood movies, not everything can be “silenced.” Kristen Lamb

Bonnie Randall offers a few foundations of fear in fiction. Fiction University

Chris Winkle explains the problem with multiple viewpoints. Then, Oren Ashkenazi tests how useful Elmore Leonard’s ten rules of writing are. Mythcreants

Shaelin critiques Leonard’s rules, too. It’s interesting to note the differences … Reedsy

Sudbury’s YES Theatre hopes to build new outdoor venue. I remember when this space was open for movie nights and poetry readings and all kinds of artistic events. CBC

A process for the transfer of energy and feeling: George Saunders on the key to great storytelling. Brain Pickings

Kinship: Ursula K. Le Guin’s love poem to trees, the interleaving of life and death, and the eternal flame of being. The Marginalian (formerly Brain Pickings)

Thank you for taking the time to visit, and I hope you found something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe, my writerly friends!

The next chapter: December 2020 update and year-end review

Here we are, in January 2021. While we may have hoped that our situation changed with the dawning of a new year, this is just not so. Despite the slow distribution of vaccines and lockdowns, we still haven’t seen the impact of holiday gatherings and numbers of infections in hot zones continue to rise. Hospitals in those same hot zones are on the verge of overwhelm. Some have already started to ship non-covid patients to hospitals in less affected areas.

Until we have most of our population vaccinated, which may not be until late summer, or early fall this year, we must continue to wear our masks, wash our hands, maintain physical distance, and avoid gathering outside our households.

Institutionalized racism is still a problem. A HUGE problem. We can’t stop learning how to be good allies, fighting the good fight in whatever ways we can, and working to dismantle racist institutions. All lives cannot matter until Black and Indigenous lives matter.

The month in writing

All I did in December is give Reality Bomb another pass, and blog.

With respect to RB, my goal was to cut back to 90k words. I would have accepted 100k words, but I didn’t quite manage it. I did cut almost 15k, ending with 101,024 words. I posted it for my critique group on Christmas Day. I don’t know how much of a gift it will be. We’ll see at the end of February, when critiques are due.

I set my revision goal for 90k words, but ended up with 102,105 words, or 113% of my goal, with the addition of the last three days on the initial revision from November.

In the blogging department, I set my goal at 3,500 words and ended up writing 4,527, or 129% of my goal.

Filling the well

I started off the month with the launch of Stellar Evolutions and a reading of my poem on December 1st. I had three more Free Expressions online workshops, the last class of Writing the Other’s Diverse Narrative Structures, and another Jane Friedman webinar on writing your second draft with Allison K Williams.

The holidays have been quiet. Phil and I only got together with my mom (because she lives alone, she’s part of our household) for Christmas and a couple of other meals. No gifts. No parties. Quiet.

What I’ve been watching and reading

In the viewing department, I finished watching the most recent season of Anne with an E. This takes Anne to her departure for Queen’s university and her confession of love to Gilbert Blythe. I wonder what this means for the Black and Indigenous story lines the writers added into this iteration of the tale.

I also watched the last season of The Order. And it was the last season. Netflix has elected not to renew the series. It was okay. Problems from past seasons cropped up in both plot and in the writing. It wasn’t a must-see, but I wanted to watch it to see what would happen and how conflicts would be developed.

I read four books in December.

Emma Donaghue’s Room was brilliant. Jack’s voice grabs your heart right out of your chest. He’s an innocent in the midst of a horrific situation that he can’t understand. His eventual realization that he’s outgrown Room made me weep.

I finished N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. Some readers have disliked the mix of second person and first person narratives. I didn’t mind it. In fact, I think the use of second person (you) narratives have frequently been used when the subject has experienced some form or trauma. It is effective.

**SPOILERS**I also figured out that the three main POVs are different parts on one character’s life before it was revealed in the narrative. Again, some readers found this to be a cheat. I enjoyed it. I think The Fifth Season was deserving of its Hugo Award.

Then, I read Sabaa Tahir’s A Sky Beyond the Storm, the finale to her An Ember in the Ashes series. Tahir resolves the seemingly insurmountable problems of her characters cleverly and satisfactorily. It was a good capstone, but I still don’t think it measures up to something like A Song of Fire and Ice (to which An Ember in the Ashes was compared when it debuted).

Finally, I read Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones. Like Room, The Lovely Bones is told from the point of view of an unusual narrator. In this case, it’s Suzie, the dead victim of sexual assault and murder. Suzie watches her friends and family from heaven as they come to terms with her never-solved murder and move on with their lives.

Sebold made a bold choice for her resolution. I kept waiting for someone to find the clues that they were standing right next to. I was disappointed in the fate of the serial killer, but I think that was Sebold’s point. Some things in life don’t turn out the way we hope. You have to accept it and move on. It might have been a little too realistic in these pandemic times. I really liked it, but it wasn’t my favourite read.

I did read 62 books of the 60 that I aimed for, though. That’s nice 🙂

The year in review

At the beginning of 2020, I’d set myself some lofty goals. I wanted to finish my rewrite of RB much earlier in the year, rewrite Marushka, and have the first novel of Ascension ready for rewriting in time for NaNoWriMo. I’d wanted to write some short stories. I’d wanted to get my poetry collection out.

Then the pandemic hit, and I had to shift the goal posts.

I let Ascension slide completely. I didn’t finish the initial rewrite of RB until October. I never got to Marushka. I did write a couple new short stories and even submitted them (to no positive response). I did send out my poetry collection.

My year-end summary sheet looks a little skewed because I didn’t adjust all of my goals from the start of the year.

This year, I’m taking a different approach. Because I’ve just posted RB for its second critique, which won’t be due until Feb 28th, I’ve decided to start off the year slowly. I’m going to work on the outline for my rewrite of Marushka, work on some poetry, send out my poetry collection to another publisher, revise a short story each month January to March, and work on revision notes for other short stories.

I’m going to continue work on Ascension as time allows, which may not be much at all, but it’s still there.

March will be devoted to another revision of RB and preparing my query and synopsis in anticipation of querying starting in April.

In April, I’ll start working on the rewrite of Marushka at a reasonable rate. I don’t anticipate being done before mid-September. If this pans out, I hope to post it for critique at that time and get feedback in time to start on revisions in November.

Then, I don’t know if I’m going to plan on tackling anything else in December.

There will be a lot of stuff that I’m not going to track in terms of word count (poetry collection, querying, outlining, revision notes, Ascension), and if I don’t get everything I want done, I’m not going to panic. The pandemic hasn’t gone anywhere, after all.

I’m taking a more casual outlook on planning than I have in the past.

We’ll see how it works out.

And that was the month, and the year, in this writer’s life.

Until tipsday, be well and stay safe, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories!