The next chapter: January 2017 update

Hey all you lovely people 🙂 *waves*

This is probably going to be a shortish post.

January was a quiet month. So, I worked and I wrote.

I exceeded my drafting goal for Wavedancer and for blogging, but didn’t meet my revision goal for short fiction. I find it difficult to pull my head out of one form and stick it into another. Also, the publication I’d intended to submit it to has closed to submissions. Though there is an anthology call looming, I don’t know that I’ll be able to write a new piece of short fiction to the theme. Again, it’s not where my creative head is at right now.

But I got a start on a new version of a story and a few ideas for revising others. Yay me 😉

januaryprogress

I wrote 17,943 words of my 15,500 word goal for Wavedancer, or 116%. I’m well on my way to a finished first draft by the end of February.

I only revised 500 words of my 2,500 word revision goal for short fiction.

And I wrote 6,388 words of my 5,800 word goal for this blog.

That’s 24,331 words written and 500 revised.

The way I figure it, my overages more than compensate for the lack of revision 😀

For my off-book goals, I drafted and revised a guest post and submitted some material to my editor/mentor for review.

I booked my hotel for the Story Masters workshop in May, submitted my eligible short fiction for consideration in a year’s best anthology and to the Auroras. It never hurts to try 😉

I’ve also updated some of the information on my website and I’ll be reviewing the information on various social media profiles for consistency shortly.

That’s really all she wrote this month (pun intended).

We’ve received most of the furniture for the living room/dining room, but it’s been too cold for Phil to continue work on the bookshelves. The garage is not heated.

Once the last of the furniture has arrived, I’ll share the pictures.

As I said at the outset, January was a quiet month. February promises the same. The older I get, the more I feel like hibernating in the winter.

It’s good for the writing, but not much else.

Be well until next I blog!

The Next Chapter

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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

Wordsmith Studio third anniversary blog hop

Alrightie, then!

Three years ago, Wordsmith Studio got its start.

WSS Homecoming 2015

Here’s my interview:

1. Are you a WSSer (a member of Wordsmith)? If so, sound off about how long you’ve been a member, your favourite way to participate, or anything you’ve missed if you’ve been away. We’re not your mother/father… there will be no guilt about how long since your last call.

I was with WSS from the start. I’m a founding member. I’ve only contributed one post to the collective, however. Life is busy. No excuses. Just facts. I have enough trying to keep up with the day job, my blog, and, what’s most important, my writing. Oh, and there’s that pesky family thing, too 😀

2. What medium do you work in? For our writing folks, are you currently working on fiction, poetry or non-fiction, or a combination? Anyone YA or mystery or thriller or…?

I started off getting published as a poet, and won a few short story contests. Now, I’m writing fantasy novels—yes, that was plural—and science fiction short stories. I continue to blog about aspects of the writing life that are important to me.

3. What’s the name of your current project (ok multitaskers, give us your main one)?

Initiate of Stone is my epic fantasy. I’m currently in my last revision (for now—I know there will be much more coming) prior to diving into the query process later this spring. I know, I’ve been saying that forever, haven’t I?

4. What is your favourite detail, sentence or other bit you’ve written lately?

Gah! I have to pick just one? OK. Here’s the opening of a recent short story:

“I wander endless halls, time compressed by shimmering walls, thought slowed by the dance of acrylic and oil over canvas, memory smothered by ephemera. There are only three floors and a block of conjoined buildings, but the halls twist and turn back upon themselves. I can walk for hours staring at the art and collectibles, which change regularly, and then stare at the plastic card in my hand, wondering which of the rooms I’ve passed is mine.”

5. Any obstacles or I-hate-this-chapter moments?

ALL. THE. TIME. I constantly doubt myself. I just keep writing anyway. It’s what we do.

6. What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned lately from your writing?

Last year I experimented with working on multiple projects. I tried different approaches, but have realized that realistically, I can only work on two projects at a time (aside from blogging and writing short stories) and that they have to be at different stages of development. I can draft one novel and revise another, but I can’t draft two novels at the same time. It requires too much of the same kind of creative energy.

7. In what ways do you hope to grow in the next 6 months/year?

I want to become the bionic writer. I want to be faster, stronger . . . 😀 You get the idea.

8. In what ways do writing friends and communities help you do that?

I learn from everything I do and from everyone I meet. You might say I’m addicted.

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Since I didn’t blog this past weekend, I thought I’d get this posted for you.

And Tipsday will be coming up tomorrow. This will be interesting. I haven’t prepared my weekly posts in advance. This might hurt a bit . . .

The next chapter: November 2014 update

So. Just to get it out there, I didn’t meet my NaNo goal this year. Honestly, I thought it was going to be a tall order writing 50k words while working full time.

If you remember my pre-NaNo post, I said that if everything went to hell and I only got 20k words written, that I’d still be happy.

Well, I wrote 28,355 words on my new novel idea and I’m more than happy with that.

NaNoWriMo participant 2014

I didn’t do more than maintenance housework.

I did try to live as normal a life as possible.

I did not abandon my blog, though I was less present on social media.

I had two birthday celebrations, two weeks of training (which always drains introverted Mellie), two weeks of travel, a workshop on publishing, a Christmas party fiasco, and a new critique group meeting to attend.

I’m surprised I got as much done as I did.

I’m still in recovery.

So here, briefly, is what the month looked like.

November's Writing Progress

5,269 words on the blog and 28,355 on the new novel.

33,624 words total for the month.

Whew!

I’ve taken a few days’ respite so far in December (sorry about the time warp, folks), but I’m getting back on that wee writing horsie next week.

As Chuck Wendig says, I gotta finish my shit. As Kristen Lamb says, life rewards finishers.

Specifically, I’m not only going to work further on Marushka, which is another YA urban fantasy/fairy tale re-envisioning, but I’m also going to get back to my other draft-in-progress, Gerod and the Lions, my MG fantasy, and work on a few short stories for upcoming contests and anthology calls.

I’ve written Marushka in Scrivener, my first project using that program. To be honest, while I can see the value of Scrivener, I’m organized enough, and well-versed enough in Word that I’m content to return to it.

Unless, of course, Microsoft does what it’s threatening to do and make Office into a subscription-based service. If that happens, they’ve lost a heretofore faithful customer and I’m jumping ship to Scrivener.

I don’t know why MS has to go and screw up a perfectly good office suite.

I’ve had the pleasure of being on the launch team for a fellow author for the past few months as well. It’s been an interesting process helping Jane Ann McLachlan choose a title for her novel, a cover, reading the ARC, and writing the review for her.

I’ve also gleaned a few things for my toolbox. I knew that one must place one’s review to Amazon.com (as opposed to .ca) but now I know that I should also find other reviews helpful and click that little button on as many of them as possible.

Apparently that’s another little tip: Amazon will give preference and weight to helpful reviews, as opposed to reviews on which the button has not been clicked. Amazon also prefers it if you have purchased the book or ebook through them prior to posting the review. A verified purchase carries more weight again.

Interesting stuff. And here I thought I was helping people out by posting my reviews of their books. Now I know how to help them even more.

And that was my month.

I got a little present in my inbox this past week. See that lovely Excel spreadsheet depicted above? That was created by the wonderful and talented Jamie Raintree. I got her newsletter, and a link to the 2015 version (happy dancing commences).

You need to subscribe to that lovely lady 🙂

I spent most of today cleaning the house after my month of sloth. Phil helped (bless him) by doing the pots in the kitchen and cleaning the bathroom.

Now Mellie has to toddle off to Bedfordshire. She has five submissions to critique for tomorrow’s meeting and Christmas decorations to haul out of storage and place artfully around the house.

You know what? I love my life 🙂

The Next Chapter

Review of The Occasional Diamond Thief by Jane Ann McLachlan

What Amazon says:

On his deathbed, Kia’s father discloses a secret to her alone: a magnificent and unique diamond he has been hiding for years. Fearing he stole it, she too keeps it secret. She learns it comes from the distant colonized planet of Malem, where her father caught the illness that eventually killed him. Now she is even more convinced he stole it, as it is illegal for any off-worlder to possess a Malemese diamond. When 16-yr-old Kia is training to be a translator, she is co-opted by a series of events into travelling as a translator to Malem. Using her skill in languages – and another skill she picked up after her father’s death, the skill of picking locks – she unravels the secret of the mysterious gem and learns what she must do to set things right: return the diamond to its original owner. But how will she find out who that is when no one can know that she, an off-worlder, has a Malemese diamond? And how can she bear to part with this last link to her father?
Kia is quirky, with an ironic sense of humour and a loner. Her sidekick, Agatha, is hopeless in languages and naive to the point of idiocy in Kia’s opinion, but possesses the wisdom and compassion Kia needs.

The Occasional Diamond Thief

My thoughts:

The Occasional Diamond Thief is a fabulous adventure, but it also offers thoughts and feels for readers of all ages.

In The Occasional Diamond Thief, McLachlan’s protagonist, Kia, learns the truth about herself by learning the truth about others.

Kia is the youngest of three children. Her father, a space ship’s captain and merchant, returns from a trip to another planet with the illness that eventually kills him. He is secretive and haunted, but Kia wants his love and approval.

She believes her facility with languages will accomplish this and so learns the difficult Malemese. Unfortunately, hearing the language worsens her father’s condition.

Kia is also at odds with her mother, who is strictly religious and seems to resent Kia’s connection to her husband through the language of Malem. In an attempt to protect both spouse and child, Kia’s mother forbids the speaking of Malemese in the house.

When her father dies, Kia is with him, and he commends to her an incredible diamond. Determined to solve the mystery of the gem, but escape her mother’s oppressive grief, Kia applies to become a translator. Independence is a challenge, and Kia must turn to thievery to support her life as a student.

She gets caught, and as a consequence is sent to Malem as a language teacher for the Select who assisted her in the theft. Once there, Kia must solve the mystery of the diamond, risking her life and that of the Select, uncovering a conspiracy that has its roots in the highest levels of Malemese society.

Kia believes her mother harsh, but learns that she was only trying to protect the ones she loved. Kia believes her father is a thief, but learns that it was his compassion that placed the diamond in his custody. Kia believes the Select and her order, the O.U.B. are attempting to manipulate her, but discovers that they are only trying to make it possible for Kia to right old wrongs. Kia believes the Malemese people to be cold and barbaric, but experiences their capacity to love first hand and fights to free them from a fearful legacy.

McLachlan has created a simple, but compelling universe that doesn’t strain credibility and serves as the perfect backdrop for Kia’s journey. She even weaves in a sweet love interest that proves to have his own secrets. Woven into the overall plot are mystery and thriller elements that will keep readers turning pages.

McLachlan’s novel is reminiscent of Madeline L’engle and Ursula K. LeGuin’s young adult fiction.

My highest recommendation.

My rating:

5 out of 5 stars.

Jane Ann McLachlanAbout the author:

Jane Ann McLachlan is the author of a short story collection, CONNECTIONS, published by Pandora Press, and two textbooks on Professional Ethics, published by Pearson-Prentice Hall. She has a Science Fiction novel, Walls of Wind, on Amazon under her pen name, J.A. McLachlan, and a second science fiction novel, The Occasional Diamond Thief, coming out on Dec. 2, 2014. She is a professor at Conestoga College in Kitchener, and lives with her husband and daughter in Waterloo, Ontario. Her goal is to write and publish the kind of stories you hate to finish reading.

http://www.janeannmclachlan.com/

Character Sketches Part 2: Eoghan MacDubghall

This is a continuation of my character sketches for my work in progress, Ascension, Book 1: Initiate of Stone.

Last week’s was: Character Sketches Part 1: Ferathainn Devlin

How Eoghan began …

Originally, when Ferathainn was named Rain, and went through half a dozen tumultuous life events, Eoghan was a nameless monk who found the blinded and wounded girl and nursed her to health again, weathering a toxic pregnancy and subsequent abortion in the process.  He fell in love with her, but she never saw him before he was called away by the goddess to become her champion/avatar.

Then I gave him the name of Arastian.  At that time, he was a grown man in his late twenties, and there were some cradle-robbing inferences that I wasn’t comfortable with.

Eventually, when I finally researched and chose Ferathainn’s name, I also decided on the Scottish version (or one of them in any case) of Ewen, child of the Yew.  I’m an unapologetic Celtophile!  (Especially after reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.)  He became a character younger than Ferathainn, and his love for her completely unknown to her, because she never regains consciousness while in his care.  I had to put a few more roadblocks in their way.

Now he’s a postulant monk, not even tonsured (achieved by the painful process of plucking, which he dreads) and at risk of being turned out of the Monastery of Aurayene as any time, a particular cruelty in a world where the season that equates to winter is actually a deadly season of storms.  He becomes Auraya’s Kas’Hadden, her hammer of light in another cruel twist.

Eoghan’s brother Callum was to become Kas’Hadden before him, but Yllel, the villain of the novel, conspires to have him executed for heresy before this can happen.  Auraya conserves the remnants on Cal’s spirit at the Well of Souls and when Eoghan reaches her, she forges the Kas’Hadden from Eoghan, incorporating Cal’s qualities, and a few other choice bits.

The goddess has to subdue Eoghan because he has qualities that she does not want in her champion, namely his love for Ferathainn, and basically traps him inside the fleshy prison of her avatar.  So he’s repressed and imprisoned, and it’s painful.  That’s the kind of goddess Auraya can be …

Eoghan’s story line is much more dynamic than Ferathainn’s, an imbalance I am striving to address in my next revision.  He is one of my favourite characters, though.  He has to be: he’s Fer’s love interest 🙂

The Sketch:

Name: Eoghan MacDubghall

Nickname:  none but he becomes the Kas’Hadden

Birth date/place:  14 years ago, Aurayene

Character role:  Secondary protagonist

Age: 14 years

Race: Tellurin (Alban)

Eye colour:  hazel, later blue

Hair colour/style:  Strawberry blonde, wildly curly.  This doesn’t really change.

Build (height/weight):  5’ 4”, slight, not muscular.  When he becomes Kas’Hadden, 8’ + and extremely well-muscled, an Adonis.

Skin tone:  pale and freckled, later golden.

Style of dress:  robes, cassock.  As the Kas’Hadden, hardly anything 🙂

Characteristics/mannerisms: none

Personality traits:  Desperately afraid of everything.  Self effacing to the point of having little personality of his own.

Background:  Born eighteen years the junior of two brothers to a spiritually devout public servant and his wife, Eoghan was largely ignored by his father and never knew his mother who died shortly after giving birth to him.  His father saw Eoghan as the means of his beloved wife’s demise.  His older brother Callum was the favourite, the one on whom all their father’s hopes depended.  Initially Callum hated Eoghan as well, tried to smother the baby, but couldn’t go through with it.  Surprisingly, Eoghan was the means by which Callum was able to heal from the wound of his mother’s death.

Callum became a soldier at a young age and was quickly inducted into the Sanctori but when their father died, Callum took holy orders.  Eoghan came with him as a ward of the Faithful initially, and early signs pointed to him following his brother into the priesthood.  He proved a fair illuminator, but asked too many questions for the comfort of his teachers.

Eoghan has been alternately ignored and protected throughout his life.  He is incredibly naïve and Callum’s execution nearly destroys his faith, but the war coming so swiftly on the heels of Callum’s death, Eoghan has no time to internalize his loss.  Callum was more a father to Eoghan than their biological one.  Eoghan is lost in every sense when Auraya calls upon him.

Ferathainn represents his only chance to find himself and choose what he wants to do with his life.

Internal conflicts: He’s been so ignored/protected/controlled he has no idea who he is or what he wants to do with his life.  When Auraya turns him into the Kas’Hadden, Eoghan finally has the physical power and presence to support his growing internal convictions but is prevented from exercising it on his own behalf.

External conflicts:  Auraya wants to use Eoghan to defeat Yllel and bring her word back to the people of Tellurin.  Yllel wants to destroy him as one of the few beings who could oppose the god’s escape.

Auraya.  To keep the Kas’Hadden compliant, she suppresses Eoghan’s personality.

Ferathainn can’t return Eoghan’s love because of her trauma, besides, he belongs to Auraya and she demands his total devotion.

Dairragh doesn’t trust Eoghan and doesn’t believe in the Kas’Hadden.  He can’t deny how useful the behemoth can be in battle, but isn’t sure what to make of him.

Eoghan attempts to protect Ferathainn from Khaleal, though she proves not to need his protection.

What Eoghan might look like:

I don’t have a drawing of Eoghan.  Sadly, I’m not very good at drawing the male figure.  So pictures will have to do.

When the novel begins, Eoghan is fourteen and hasn’t really hit his first growth spurt yet.  He starts to grow a sparse ‘stache and a few chin hairs that might optimistically be called a beard.  He’s got this unruly bird’s nest of strawberry blonde curls and a plague of freckles.  He’s a skinny, book-fed boy.

Though the hair colour and freckles are absent, I thought of a young Matthew Gray Gubler as a suitable physical analogue.

When he becomes the Kas’Hadden, he’s more like Chris Hemsworth (ala Thor) but has the physical dimensions of the Hulk.

And that is Eoghan.

Next week: Dairragh.

Ta-ta for now, my writerly friends!

What got me going again

Last time on work-in-progress:

In an environment rich in creativity and ideas, I started to write my first novel.  When I left that environment, I abandoned the project … sort of.

The thing is that those two spiral-bound notebooks full of my scribbling, typewritten pages full of corrector tape, and the few scattered dot matrix print-outs, never really left me. The novel was called Rain then, after the main character.  As the title might tell you, my idea started with my protagonist.  The story was hers, and all about her journey.  All the other characters grew out of her story.

Over the next years, I tried refining my opening paragraphs.  I worked on a prologue, and a couple of pivotal scenes.  I wanted scope, breadth, space.  I felt I had to develop my world and my characters kind of got lost in the shuffle.

I enrolled in a creative writing course by correspondence and received my first computer as a part of that deal.  In between writing assignments, I worked at my novel again.  It was in fits and starts though, no dedicated time.  I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with the story and where I wanted it to go.  The name changed to Rayne.  Could that count as progress?

After some soul searching about what I wanted to do with my life, I decided to complete the bachelor’s degree I started at the University of Guelph.  I chose Laurentian University in Sudbury, and felt that focusing on an English degree would be my best bet.  My ambition was to become the best writer I could be.  I’d turn the academic world to my purpose.

My writing improved substantially during my years at LU and workshops like Susanna Kearsley‘s gave me a boost.  So too, did my slew of writing successes: a contest win; a short story written for the premiere issue of Parsec Magazine; a regular column in Llambda (LU’s student newspaper); an article in Slin Roller Magazine.  It never translated into my opus though.

I made another fateful (and ultimately foolish) decision to pursue my education by completing a master’s degree in English literature and creative writing at the University of Windsor.  Though I trotted out my novel (and other novel ideas) there, because my chosen genre was fantasy, my work was disparaged.  After leaving discouraged, and returning to complete my degree with a thesis composed of vaguely literary short stories framed by the shamanic journey, I felt defeated rather than victorious, and couldn’t look at my novel for a long time.

After Windsor, I had some modest success in other creative endeavors: poetry and short stories.  Every once in a while, though, I’d have to pull out the old notes.  Once I got my lap top computer, things took off a little more.

By the time I’d joined the Sudbury Writers’ Guild in 2004, and attended Rosemary Aubert‘s workshop in 2005, I’d closed in on the fifty-page mark (oft-revised and agonized over).  I still wasn’t writing every day though.  I just couldn’t get my butt wedged firmly enough in the chair.  There was always something else that needed to be done first.

Then came Nino Ricci.  One of the SWG had met him and managed to arrange for him to come to Sudbury.  It was to be a weekend of workshopping our stories/novels/poetry.  In the course of the workshop, Nino talked about his own development as a writer, his years at York University, and his own challenges with his thesis advisor.  From that weekend, I learned that perseverance and passion win out.  I also knew that I had a long way to go on my novel, but the only way I could get there would be to write it.

Writing

Writing (Photo credit: J. Paxon Reyes)

Another thing Nino said that settled in was that his first drafts, at least at that time, were written to get his ideas out.  Sometimes the next draft was completely different.  Sometimes, he didn’t even refer to the first.  I’d heard the message many times over the years that first drafts didn’t have to be perfect, or even particularly well-written.  First drafts have to be written, though.  I finally understood.

I started writing every day and was amazed at how easy it was.  I made a commitment, a decision.  I was finally taking control of my creative life.  The initial goal was simply to write.  Once my practice was consistent and the habit ingrained, I aimed for a page a day, then two.

I emailed Nino after the workshop to thank him for the opportunity and to let him know the influence he’d had on my creative life.  Always gracious, Nino wrote back with some kind words of his own.

Even though I had a full time job by this time, I kept at it, and two years later, I’d finished my first draft.

How did you start writing your novel?  Was it a focused effort, or did you struggle?  Did mentors appear to guide you, or were you confronted by guardians at the gates?