The next chapter: December 2021 update and year-end review

And, just like that (and, no; never watched SatC; won’t watch AJLT), the second year of the pandemic ends.

2021 was an … interesting year. I’ll get to that in a bit.

Before we get to my December update, my monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter. We need to keep striving to be good allies and keep the critical issues front and centre.

Wash your hands, maintain physical distance, mask in public, get vaccinated (if you haven’t), and get your booster. Delta and omicron won’t be the only variants to emerge. And let’s be clear. The variants are there. They always have been. It’s just that, as we get better at suppressing the ones we know about, the ones we don’t have a chance to surge. Some may be less virulent, or not virulent at all. Some may be less transmissible or not transmissible at all. Some may not even infect humans. But it’s the ones that are more virulent, more transmissible, and infect humans that we have to watch for. This ain’t over yet.

The month in writing

Following the marathon that is NaNoWriMo, I wanted to take a break from revision. I only intended to rest until December 5th, but work got hectic again, and I ended up revising as I could, which meant not much at all.

Originally, I thought I could, based on my performance in November, revise about 20,000 words of Reality Bomb. Unfortunately, I had to amend that goal mid-month and reduced it first to 10,000 words, then 5,000 words, and ultimately 1,000 words. Of that 1,000-word goal, I revised 853 words, or 85%.

Admittedly, I decided to read through the draft to the point where I left off in NaNo, which was about the midpoint of the novel. So that 853 words represents a bunch of cutting and adding that I chose not to get too granular on.

My only writing goal for the month was the blog and of my 3,500-word goal, I wrote 5,422 words, or 155%.

The writing year in review

I started out 2021 by trying something different. I’d finished the last rewrite of RB by the close of 2020 and decided to focus on short fiction and poetry for the first three months of the year.

This worked out well for me. I wrote, revised, and submitted several short stories and poems, earned several rejections, and then had three poems and a short story accepted for future publication in February.

In March, I entered the SciArt Poetry competition and won the community category. I read my poem on Science North’s YouTube channel at the end of March, and the poem would be published later in the year in Sulphur X, Laurentian University’s literary journal.

I also started to revise RB in March based on my returned critiques.

In April, I had another story accepted for future publication, and the last of my poems accepted in 2020 was published.

Revision was not going well, though.

I was somewhat stymied by the critiques I received back in January and February. I couldn’t figure out how to use the feedback to revise my novel. I had thought a couple of months would be long enough for me to figure out a game plan, but, because I had already started on my journey to autism diagnosis, I was thinking about other things.

I had intended to rewrite/revise between 500 and 1,000 words a day on weekdays and a chapter each day on weekends, and thus be finished my next draft sometime in the summer. At that point, I had hoped to move onto Marushka and prepare that draft, on which I’d also received feedback, for next round revisions in November.

I wrote a new opening chapter and revised from there, dividing chapters into smaller chunks. I was still writing in close third (or trying for it). I revised 28,202 words up to about the middle of July, when I hit the point where my protagonist enters another of the many worlds and is trapped inside her other self.

The challenges of having two people in the same physical body and trying to make then both distinct and identifiable in terms of formatting (italics for one, ? for the other?) made it clear that I had to rewrite the draft in first person. Past or present, though? I opted for present despite my failure to nail the POV on an earlier draft. There would still be some difficulties making the story dynamic enough for first person present (my protagonist is disembodied for three quarters of the novel and thus, largely “in her head”), but I decided that it would be the best fit and returned to the beginning.

From the middle of July through to the end of November, I revised 62,996 words, but some of that was reworking my novel map (chapter and scene breakdown), which I counted only in November. I got to the midpoint … and then decided, as I mentioned above, to take a break.

Since, I’ve been rereading the revised draft to date, making a few more additions and deletions, and thinking of a better way to weave in some of the minor characters throughout the novel so they don’t feel like wasted opportunities.

I’ve even been using tarot to help free my intuitive writer. It’s working out surprisingly well.

About the same time I made my fateful POV decision in July, I realized that if I wanted to work on any other big project this year, it would not be Marushka. But, as it turned out, I haven’t had the spoons to finish my work on RB, let alone start on a new novel …

In November, I made the decision to leave DIY MFA as a regular columnist. I’m trying to conserve my energy for what matters most.

I’m going to have to review my other commitments as well.

I haven’t been active in my critique group since summer. I need to reconnect, but I’m struggling.

Onto the statistics!

In terms of word count, I wrote:

  • 10 poems,
  • 4,146 words of short fiction,
  • 58,061 words on Writerly Goodness,
  • 5,623 words on my Speculations column, and
  • 360 words on a side project.

That’s 68,190 words and 10 poems.

I revised:

  • 92,048 words on RB (some several times), and
  • 12,023 words of short fiction.

That’s 104,071 words revised.

Some of these goals I didn’t assign numbers to at the beginning of the year. I didn’t know how much I would write or revise on some projects and so just left them blank in terms of goals. The poetry and short fiction (writing and revision) were in this category and so any work done on those projects was bonus.

If you want to zoom in on the relative percentages of the writing and revision goals I did set out for myself, you’re welcome to do so 🙂

There was also the work on my Ascension series masterdoc (like that term so much better than bible) that I didn’t track in terms of word count. Throughout the year, I wrote out and revised the worldbuiding for my world (cosmology, history, peoples, languages, etc.) and character sketches, and I restructured the first book of the series in outline. I’ve had to work out the calendar of events for the last bit of book one. I had a lot of questions marks on my timeline. I’m working it out.

Eventually, I’ll expand the outlines/maps for each book in the series with scenes and sequels as I rewrite.

Looking forward

I’m going to try to finish my rewrite of RB this year. I’m not setting any hard and fast goals, but I’m hoping to do that by the end of June.

I might decide to work with a book coach or editor at that time. So, I’ll probably spend some time in the spring making initial enquiries.

Then, I’ll probably do with the summer what I did with January to March of last year and focus on short fiction and poetry as a break from novelling. I’ll also use that time to revisit my next novel project (partly written as a very long short story) and prepare to begin drafting in the fall.

I have most of my drafted novels included in my 2022 writing and revision tracker, but I’m not committing to them in any way. They’re just there to remind me that I have a lot of things I can work on, if I so choose.

Filling the well

In December, I didn’t attend any literary events live online. I did sign up for a Tiffany Yates-Martin webinar through Jane Friedman, but I watched the replay, ‘cause work.

My small family (me and Phil, his sister and spouse, our moms) got together to celebrate my mom-in-law’s 80th birthday and then again on Boxing Day for Christmas (it was supposed to be Christmas Day, but freezing rain changed our plans).

And aside from therapy, a support group meeting, massage, and a couple of days of leave, that was it for filling the well in December.

For the first year in … forever, I put up the Christmas tree.

The personal year in review

I started 2021 at a low point, feeling like an imposter at both work and creative pursuits. I was also feeling stuck physically, having slowly yo-yo’ed between 170 and 200 pounds since my early 20s.

It being a pandemic and all, I decided that, instead of going it alone, as was my habit, I’d ask for help.

For mental health support, I reached out to my employer’s EAP. For physical health support, I turned to Noom. By May 10th, I’d been diagnosed as autistic, a timeline that I’ve since come to understand is amazingly quick. By the end of July, I cancelled my Noom account, having surpassed my goal of 170 pounds and achieved 150. I continued to lose weight through August, finally settling at 140 pounds, which I’ve since maintained (even during the holidays!).

It’s the lightest I’ve been in my adult life and I’m feeling physically healthy.

In November, I finally connected with a therapist through the Redpath Centre, which specializes in support for autistics. When I met with her for the first time, my therapist referred me to a support group.

I’m currently working toward getting a workplace accommodation, having experienced autistic burnout as the result of a very stressful acting position and project. I struggled again in December because of a similar situation and I’m trying to find a way to manage my stress levels on an ongoing basis, so I don’t need to take additional time off to recover my head.

It’s been a transformative year with regard to my physical and mental health, and I’m ready to shift my focus back to creative pursuits.

What I’m watching and reading

In December, I watched three movies and finished watching three series. That seems nice and symmetrical, to me 😉

First, I watched Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. I loved it. Yes, it wasn’t really Shang Chi’s story, and there were a few things that stretched credibility, but I really appreciated the homage to Jackie Chan’s movies (many of which I’ve watched over the years) and fighting style. They even had choreographers from Jackie Chan’s team working on the movie. Wong and Morris rock.

Then, I caught John Wick 3: Parabellum. It filled in the series for me. What can I say? Over the top violence is something I enjoy? In the right circumstances, I guess. Didn’t appreciate the uncharacteristic twist that was JW’s dark moment, but the movie made up for it in the end.

Phil and I watched The Suicide Squad on New Years Eve. So much better than the first movie. Harley Quinn is the best character in the DCEU.

I finished watching the final season of Dear White People. Not sure if I liked the framing device (telling the season from the perspective of the characters in the future) or the whole season being focused on the musical review in their last year as Winchester. It was okay. They tied up all the critical stories in the end.

Watched the latest Dr. Who series, said to be Jodie Whittaker’s last. It was a bit confusing at first, but after a couple of episodes, everything came together. I also was the New Year’s special, thinking that it might offer up a clue to the next regeneration. It didn’t. I can’t not love Jodie Who. I’ll be sad to see her leave.

Finally, Phil and I watched the first season of The Wheel of Time. Neither of us have read the books. I really liked it. More than Phil did, I think. He was put off by all the comparisons to Game of Thrones. WoT is its own thing. I appreciated it as such.

Reading-wise, I only finished reading three books in December.

I read Julia Quinn’s The Duke and I (yes, the book that was the basis for the first season of the Bridgerton series). I’ve read romance in the past, but my preference runs to Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, whose books would probably be classified as “bodice rippers.” The book does treat Daphne’s technical rape of Simon more tactfully, but the story itself was less compelling.

Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson have written several novellas in the Skyward Flight series to bridge the gap between books two and three of the series. I read the first of those, Sunreach, which focuses on the secondary character of FM, the rescue of Minister Kuna, and how the rest of the flight back at Detritus deals with the discovery that Spensa’s pet Doomslug, a Taynix, is a cytonic creature capable of powering a hyperdrive. I really liked it and am now on the second novella, Redawn.

I finished off the year with Sarah Hollowell’s A Dark and Starless Forest. It’s a dark book, and thus was a little challenging to get through. It focuses on a remote house in which abandoned child “alchemists” live under the dubious protection of Frank. It’s clear the young alchemists, including Derry, the protagonist, live in fear of Frank, and it soon becomes clear why. But as Derry’s sisters disappear, one by one, she has to find a way to solve the mystery without arousing Frank’s wrath. Despite its darkness, I really liked the book.

Because of general busy-ness and distraction, I only read 55 books of my 65-book goal in 2021.

I’ve reduced this year’s goal to 60 and hope to attain it, but that will depend, in part, on work.

And that was the month (and year!) in this writer’s life.

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

The next chapter: September 2018 update

Happy Thanksgiving, to all my Canadian friends! And happy Columbus Day to all my American ones. To be honest, I don’t know what other celebrations might be taking place this weekend elsewhere in the world. If you have something special to celebrate, I wish you joy. If nothing else, it’s the weekend, and reason enough to celebrate.

Even it it’s a nice, quiet supper with friends and/or family. Aren’t those really the best celebrations? Maybe it’s just introvert me.

I’m celebrating a few things. Torvi turned 1 on September 26. She’s still a handful, but she’s getting better every day (we have to believe that, regardless). Phil’s work troubles are almost at an end. It’s been formally announced, now, so I can say. Phil’s retiring November 30th. There’s going to be an adjustment period, but there it is.

Writing-wise, September saw me writing the last words on Playing with Fire. Finally. I also brushed up the last batch of chapters of Marushka and got them posted for critique. The only other writing I did in the month was to blog.

Here’s how the month looked, production-wise.

SeptProgress

I reviewed 11,852 words of Marushka and got the last chapters posted over the Labour Day long weekend. I kind of fudged my goal at 10k, so ended up with 119% of my “revision” goal. I put revision in quotes, because I didn’t really revise anything. As I wrote above, I reviewed it. Quick pass before I let it out the door, so to speak.

Once again, I set myself the modest writing goal of 5k on PwF. I ended up writing 6,108 words, or 122% of my goal. It’s the most I’ve written since June, so I take heart.

I estimated 2,600 words on the blog and wrote 2,610; so, 100%.

September wasn’t a month for creative events, but for more personal ones. For example, my coworkers arranged our annual Christmas in not-December (it’s been June, July, August, and now September, so far).

In October, I have a few things to get accomplished. In the critique group, I have to finish my critique of one novel and look at a novella. I also have to review the opening of a friend’s novel (not associated with the critique group).

I have another column due this month for DIY MFA. Aside from that, I’m trying to outline Tamisashki for NaNoWriMo. It’s the fifth and final book in my epic fantasy series and I don’t want to put myself in the same situation I was this year—interminable drafting.

The reason I was working on PwF for so long (if you don’t remember, and it’s totally okay if you don’t) is that, aside from my crazy burnout, I didn’t get a chance to finish my outline for the novel before NaNo, and Torvi, arrived. I had the protagonist’s plot line worked out, but the rest of it was all pantsing.

I’ve come to appreciate the preparatory work I do, even if I don’t end up sticking to the outline, and I usually don’t because I’m a creative monkey.

And, of course, there’s the blogging.

This year, I’m thinking of doing a weekly NaNo update post in November, just to keep something going up on the blog. We’ll see how things work out.

And that’s it for the writerly update this month.

Tomorrow, I’m going to post a special, Torvi-oriented blog and then it’s back to work and curation posts.

Thanks for stopping by and seeing what’s been up with me.

Be well until tomorrow.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: June 2016 update

Welcome to July! Half of 2016 is already past 😦

Let’s get right down to business.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is how the month settled out:

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

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

JuneProgress

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Independence Day to all of my American friends!

I’ll be back to work tomorrow.

The Next Chapter

Exposing my essentials with the DIYMFA Launch Team

How’s that for a provocative title? As Geroge Takei would say, oh, myyyyyy!

So here was week 12’s prompt:

QOTW 12: What Are Your Essentials?

You don’t need to own every book in the world, but there are some essentials that every writer should have on his or her shelf. Today, I want to know: What are your essentials? What are your go-to “read like a writer” resources?

content_QOTW-12

Okay, and here I defect to another of my writerly mentors, K.M. Weiland. Kate wrote this post back in 2014: the ten commandments of reading like a writer. I’d start there. But then, I’d grab a paperback of Jane Eyre: Writer’s Digest Annotated Classics. You won’t really be able to get the most out of it with the ebook version.

Kate, in analysing and annotating Jane Eyre for WD, shows you how to read like a writer. And, she gives you worksheets and questions, and—well, let’s just say I learned a lot from this book 🙂 I reviewed it, too.

Another a-MA-zing (and yes, you heard the angels singing on that capitalized MA) resource is her Story Structure Database. In each entry, a different novel or movie is analyzed in terms of story structure. Most entries Kate writes herself, but some are submitted by readers. Treasure trove.

And that, my friends, is all you’ll ever need to help you dissect a story with your big, squishy, writer brain.

Essential writing craft books:

Anything by Donald Maass

Anything by Natalie Goldberg

Anything by Ursula K. Le Guin (she’s written a lot about writing—LURVE!)

All the Nail Your Novel books by Roz Morris

Outlining your Novel and Structuring your Novel, plus both workbooks by K.M. Weiland

Page After Page and Chapter After Chapter by Heather Sellers

Take Joy by Jane Yolen

On Writing by Stephen King

The Right to Write by Julia Cameron

Self-editing for Writers by Browne and King

The Artful Edit by Susan Bell

Sometimes the Magic Works by Terry Brooks

Adventures in the Screen Trade and What Lie did I Tell? More Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman

Story by Robert McKee

I think I’d better stop there. I have to confess to being a writing craft book junkie. It’s half of my informal learning on the subject 🙂

As far as novels and stories that I read . . . egads, I have five shelves full in my office alone. You don’t want to know how many Rubbermaid tubs I have in my basement (cause I don’t have room for them anywhere else). And don’t get me started with ebooks.

In short, I read everything. Most of my reading will be in my chosen genre, but even so, I try to alternate YA and adult fantasy, and different sub-genres of fantasy. I read classics, historical fiction, the occasional mystery and even romance novels. I read literary novels, science fiction, and the occasional horror, though I can’t confess to loving that last. I read thrillers, though I don’t enjoy them as much as some of the other genres I read. I’ll read short stories, but again, they don’t tend to be my favourites, at least so far.

I try to learn something from everything I read.

I also do the nutty and read multiple books at once. I’ll even listen to them on Audible while I walk, or work at something non-noisy, like stripping and refinishing stuff. I usually have to pause for the sanding bits, though 😀

I can’t even list my favourite authors anymore without filling a page.

And since I read so much, I have to be selective about the books I review, because I’d really rather be working on my WIPs. You know, day job and all.

So that’s Mellie’s wild world of reading.

See y’all tomorrow! Have a lovely, warm summer night!

The next chapter: June 2015 update

As expected, with the revisions of Initiate of Stone complete(ish—I’m still getting the final sections from outstanding beta readers), query letter and synopsis written, and the query process started, my productivity is back to normal.

June 2015 progress

The 709 words written in the IoS column represents my third and final (for now) stab at the synopsis.

I’ve already received my first “not for me” response from my first batch of queries. In typical Canadian fashion, I seriously considered writing the agent back and thanking her for such a prompt response. LOL!

You’ll notice on the summary (below) that I’ve now written/revised 110% of my goal on IoS.

On the short fiction front, the story I’d sent out in May was rejected, and the two stories I sent out in June have also been rejected (just found out about the second of those yesterday). I’m persistent, though, and I’ve turned around and sent in another story to the anthology that is still open to submissions.

The one thing I’ve discovered is that, with each rejection, they are getting easier to handle. You get desensitized after a while. It is very much a part of the business of writing, but it’s only experience that takes the sting out of it. I barely blink now. I’m not really sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing . . .

First time rejectees can rarely expect to receive negative feedback with such equanimity.

No story is submitted without some form of revision and/or editing, however.

So, though the short fiction word count was only 20 words, that number represents the revisions on two short stories.

I drafted another 3,890 words on Marushka and expect that I will finish up in July (yay!). I’m at 71% of my goal. I might make 60K on the draft yet 🙂

And now the blog has resumed its place as my primary new word generator at 9,272 words.

My total word count for June is a modest 13,891. It’s pretty much where I figured I’d be, though, so I’m good with that.

June 2015 summary

I’m going to start actively revising, editing, and submitting my short fiction until all of my existing pieces find homes. I haven’t really had any further ideas that fit the short story format and until I do, I’m going to stay focused on my novels.

After I finish up my draft of Marushka, I’m going to return to Gerod and the Lions and finish up that draft. Once GatL is finished, I’m moving on to Apprentice of Wind, the second book in my epic fantasy series. I don’t know how far into that I’ll be when NaNoWriMo rolls around again, but then I’m going to be moving forward with Reality Bomb (working title for my NaNo 2015 project).

My goal in NaNo will be to write more words on the project than I managed last year. Since I will once again be attempting NaNo while working, and I already know I’ll be out of town for a full week in November for training, it’s going to be a tough goal to reach.

I think that will take me through to the end of the year rather nicely 😉

So that’s been my month in writing.

How about all of you? Achieve your goals? Fall short? Acceptances or rejections? One way or the other, it’s all Writerly Goodness. Share yours in the comments 🙂

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