The next chapter: January 2015 update

Technically, I could have written this post last Saturday, but I was still writing into the evening and I count everything up until go to sleep on the last day of the month. As is often the case, better late than never, right?

January 2015 progress

As you can see, I’ve continued to work on Marushka, the project I started for NaNoWriMo 2014. I had indicated in last month’s next chapter post that I wanted to work away at finishing my first draft of Marushka (total goal 75k words) and figured I’d manage this at about 5k words a month.

Well colour me blown away, I wrote almost 10k new words in January alone (!)

I continued to blog, but have stuck to my weekly curation posts and posting on Saturdays. I like this amount of output and time dedicated to the blog. It’s reasonable.

I also restarted my final pass on Initiate of Stone. It’s interesting. Back in December (I think), I shared a post in Tipsday by another writer who uses Jamie Raintree’s Excel worksheet. He had some excellent suggestions for tracking revisions.

One of them was that two words of revision = one word on the worksheet. I’ve implemented this, but in a way, it feels like cheating. In any given chapter I revise, I might, at most, change 500 words.

For example, I one chapter I revised, I cut out a page and a half to two pages of a battle scene that was a little long in the tooth, plus a few words here and there, tightening things up, etc. The chapter was over 3,800 words, however, and so when I entered my 1,950 words in the IoS column for that day’s revisions, it felt to me like I hadn’t done the work to earn that entry.

I’m still struggling with the idea, but revisions and editing are their own beasts. There has to be some way I can recognize the effort without artificially inflating my word count. I think the two-for-one word scheme is the closest I can come to doing that for now. We’ll see how that works out as the year progresses.

I also revised one short story for submission to an anthology call.

Totals for January:

  • IoS: 7,789 words
  • Marushka: 9,462 words 😀
  • Short stories: 34 words
  • Blog: 8,432 words
  • Grand total: 25,717 words (17,928 without IoS revisions)

Even without considering my revisions, it’s one of my best months outside November since I started tracking my word count. I’m amazed.

Progress summary as of Feb 7

This is something new that Jamie added to the 2015 worksheet that was not in last year’s: a place to put goals and track overall progress. I think it’s cool.

With IoS, I halved the total current word count of the last draft and entered that number as my goal in the drafting progress table (as per the two-for-one word scheme). This table pulls data from the monthly sheets, so I kind of had to do that in order for the table to make any sense.

I did the same thing for Apprentice of Wind and Figments. I do intend to proceed to those revisions after I’ve settled IoS. Because Marushka and Gerod and the Lions are still in the drafting process, I subtracted the word count as of the end of 2014 from my goal word count and entered that in the table.

I intend to write a few new short stories this year in addition to revising my existing ones for submission, so I figured 5k would be a good number of new words to aim for. NaNo is and always will be 50k.

Seeing how many words went into my blog last year, I thought 100k would be a good, round number to aim for there.

There is also a separate table for tracking revisions, specifically, this in pages. This table does not pull data from the monthly sheets. So I’ve entered the number of pages revised and the total number of pages manually. I’ll only be tracking IoS, AoW, and Figments in this way.

Because the table pulls data from the monthly sheets, the following progress reflects everything I’ve done up until today, not including this blog post.

  • IoS: 10,145 words/72 pages, or 16% of goal
  • Marushka: 10,522 of 40,192 or 26% of goal
  • Short stories: 46 words, or 1% of goal 😛
  • Blog: 9,078 words, or 9% of goal

That’s pretty awesome.

In other writerly news

January saw the publication of “Downtime,” the short story On Spec purchased back in 2013. And, yes, I’m going to put that sexy Skeksis in your way again. As they say in one of my associations, I’m chuffed.

On Spec Fall 2014

Days afterward, I received a rejection of another short story, which, despite my best efforts, took the wind out of my sails. I know I should cultivate rhino-skin, but I’ve tried and I don’t think the goal possible. For me. At this time.

I missed one deadline for a special speculative issue of another magazine. It kind of blew right past me.

I did get my story submitted to Tesseracts 19, and I’ll be waiting on tenterhooks to see if this time will be the charm. I’ve been submitting to the anthology since 14, and I keep trying.

It’s what you have to do as a writer, keep writing, and keep trying.

And otherwise

Work has been a bit of a grind and it does not show signs of slowing up. For February, anyway.

I signed up for a five-session yoga class, and finished the last one this past Thursday. I enjoy yoga, but not the expense, or the time it takes from my already hectic life. So this is the only treat I’ve given my poor old body for now. I may well join up for the summer, if they offer the discounted membership again.

But life is good, overall. I’m making greater progress toward my goals that I thought I would, especially with the work hell.

Today, after I post this lovely thing, I’m progressing to IoS revisions, more Marushka, and perhaps working on one of those brand new short stories I told you about. Plus, the new season of Bitten (based on Kelley Armstrong’s series of novels) starts tonight, and I may fit in an episode or two of Log Horizon.

Tomorrow, another meeting of my writing/critique circle will take place, and I’ll be writing some more.

I’ll say it again. Life is good.

And so the chapter closes. See you next month!

The Next Chapter

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Something awesome and dreaming up new story ideas . . . literally

Earlier in the week, a friend of mine posted to Facebook that he’d received his copy of the Fall 2014 issue of On Spec—with my short story, “Downtime,” in it!

On Spec Fall 2014

Woohoo! See—that’s my actual name on the cover!

Further, my friend (also an SF writer, incidentally) said he liked it 😀

Heck, my mom was enthusiastic about it. You would expect that, but my mom would tell me if she didn’t like it.

I brought one of my precious copies with me to work, and my coworkers said they’d have to buy copies and get me to sign.

I have yet to convince Phil to read it. He will or he won’t and I’m cool with that. I’m just curious to see what Mr. Science makes of my science fiction-y self. To be honest, he hasn’t read anything I’ve written, and he’s only heard my poetry because he was kind of obligated to be at the book launch.

Of course, I read my “love” poems, the ones he’d inspired, and that embarrassed him. Maybe that’s why he’s so gun shy of my fiction . . . Trust me, dear, my fiction is not based in real life to any recognizable extent.

In any case, to any of you who live in Canada and are interested in seeing my story, you should be able to find it at your local Chapters, or your local indie shop.

For those of you outside of Canada, please visit On Spec’s web site to find out how you might be able to get your wee mitts on some of the best SF&F in Canada.

If you like speculative fiction, you might consider a subscription.

Gettin’ dreamy with it

For those of you who haven’t been following me for very long, one of my main answers to the question, where do you get your ideas? is, from my dreams, of course.

Although it doesn’t happen very often now that I’m an adult with a full time job and stress (tends to mess up my sleep), I dream in story. There are ususally one or two really good ones a year, but I’ll dream partly formed stories an additional four to six times a year.

I’m not going to tell you the content of my dream, per se, except that it’s a new adult science fiction romance (didn’t see that coming, did you—I didn’t see it coming) and the working title would be The Reality Bomb.

I’ll probably slot it in for 2015’s NaNoWriMo and let things ruminate for most of the year.

That’s what happened with Marushka. Though her story is a YA urban fantasy/fairy tale retelling, I dreamed her up January 1, 2014. TRB was a dream of January 4, 2015.

There was another dream, which I’ll call Bright and Far Away that was a space opera story with military elements, but that one didn’t grab me as firmly as either Marushka or TRB.

So dreams coming true. It’s a theme.

Tomorrow, I’ll be wooing my soul (more on that in a future post) and Tuesday, I’ll be delivering a workshop. This is a good time for creative Mellie.

How have your creative lives been going?

The Next Chapter: December 2014 update and a year in the writerly life

Janus has two heads so he can look back and ahead. Plus, you really can’t make meaningful progress unless you take some time to reflect on your accomplishments and understand where your journey has brought you to this point.

Let’s start with December, shall we?

In the wake of NaNoWriMo, I needed a wee respite from the purely creative writing. I kept up with my regular blog posts and caught up on a few things that happened in November that I had set aside posting about because of the aforementioned NaNo.

I returned to Marushka after a few days, though, because the force is strong in this one 😉 Also, I have to finish my shit (Wendigism).

Toward the end of the month, though, I wanted to get another short fiction submission revised and sent.

December 2014 writing progress

So at the end of the month, I’d written a total of 15,167 words, 8,812 of them on the blog, 6,234 on Marushka, and 121 on the short story.

What about 2014?

It was a good year, I think.

Since it was the first year I tracked my writerly output, I really have nothing to compare it to, but I know I’ve written more words in this year than I did in 2013 or any year before that.

The highlights:

“The Broken Places” was published in Bastion Science Fiction Magazine in its June issue.

“On the Ferry” won second place in the In Places Between contest.

“Downtime” will be in the fall 2014 issue of On Spec Magazine. The issue hasn’t come out yet (long story short—please subscribe or support them on their Patreon page), but I’m still pleased as punch.

I have writerly income to report on my tax return for the second year in a row!

I’ve put “The Broken Places” and “Downtime” in the short story category in the Auroras. It’s my first year doing this kind of thing, so we’ll see how it goes.

Overall, I submitted six short stories for publication. This is fewer than in past years, but given my greater focus on my larger projects, I’m happy with this.

I attended Ad Astra, CanWrite!, and When Words Collide conferences, and workshops by Brian Henry and The Humber School for Writers.

In 2014, I have written:

  • 110,361 words on this blog
  • 34,589 words on Marushka
  • 21,464 words on Gerod and the Lions
  • 3,521 words of short fiction
  • 3,161 words on Apprentice of Wind
  • 2,384 words on Figments
  • Total: 175,480

2014 Summary

That’s a fuckload of words. Sorry. I felt the profanity appropriate.

Plus, I mapped out and reverse engineered both IoS and Figments, and revised some of IoS.

I am still eternally grateful to Jamie Raintree for her wonderful Excel spreadsheet. This year’s has enough project slots that I don’t have to modify it 🙂 Also, it appears to have a way to track drafting and revisions. I’m excited to see how it works out.

For the second year in a row, the most popular posts on my blog have been those I wrote back in 2012. Dress for Success has been consistently popular. I didn’t think a post about writing in my pyjamas would have been so compelling. Go figure.

Eight Metaphors for Persistence . . . is also a heavily viewed post. I appreciate that a bit more because it was the first post on this iteration of the blog and spoke to how I picked up the pieces after being hacked.

Still, I would like to see some of my book reviews, or conference reportage posts, rank higher.

My overall views on the blog went down from last year. In 2013 I filled the Sydney Opera House five times. In 2014 I only filled it four times.

I take all this with a grain of salt, however, as the number of my followers through WordPress has only grown and at 373, I’m closing in on 400 followers. That’s not bad for three years of blogging when I don’t have a book to sell.

Those who receive my posts via email, or who can read them through WordPress may not be counted because they haven’t actually visited the site.

Personally, as long as you’re enjoying what you read, I’m good. I’m a fan of the slow build.

What’s ahead for 2015?

I’ve you’ve read me for any length of time, you’ll know I don’t go in for resolutions. I set goals and manage my projects on an ongoing basis, sometimes re-evaluating and adjusting my goals to account for the dreaded scope creep 🙂

That’s all stuff I learned from the project management I have to do for work. It’s also similar to the dreaded underwear creep (damnit, not another wedgie).

In all seriousness, I intend to revise and submit several more short stories throughout the year. I also intend to write a few new ones.

I intend to finish my first drafts of Marushka (goal length approximately 76,000 words) and GatL (goal length approximately 50,000 words). I can manage this at a pace of about 5,000 words a month. I’ll finish Marushka first, because it’s where my head is at the moment, and then return to work on GatL afterward.

I will revise IoS and finally (FINALLY) start querying. This is so long overdue, I can’t even. Can’t. Even.

I will move onto revisions of Figments once I start querying IoS.

I will map and reverse engineer AoW and probably Marushka.

I don’t think I’ll be able to manage much more than that for the bulk of the year.

I will again engage in the NaNoWriMo Challenge, even though I will be working through the month of November. I was very pleased with the 2014 results, even though it wasn’t a “win,” per se.

For financial reasons, I’m going to stay close to home this year with conferences and conventions. Most likely Ad Astra and Can-Con.

My big expense, professional development-wise, will be a writing retreat in the summer (if I can swing the leave from work—summer’s a peak time and it’s always a big deal), also local.

I’m facilitating my first writing workshop in years in February. You know I’ll be blogging that one 🙂

And the rest will be based on opportunities as they come my way.

I like preparing my Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday curation posts on the weekend for easier distribution (and more writing time) through the week.

Aside from that, the bloggage will come out of my writerly life, as it usually does.

I have one more post to go before the night is over.

See you shortly 🙂

The Next Chapter

The Next Chapter: September 2014 update

So here we are at the beginning of October, my favourite month, not in least because Samhain (Hallowe’en) was my hatch-day (and yes, I’ve heard them all and would proudly claim to be witch, werewolf, vampire, or anything else you’d care to call me).

September was an interesting month.

I made further progress on Gerod and the Lions. Total word count on the project is 21,423 words, just over half-way for an MG novel, which this is supposed to be. I’m no longer on track to finish by the end of the year for reasons I’ll tell you about shortly, but I figure I’ll be done the first draft in January or February of 2015. Not bad.

I finished mapping and reverse engineering Figments (finally!). One thing I’ve learned from this project is that reverse engineering is tough.

When I worked backward through my plot for Initiate of Stone earlier this year, I was working with a seventh draft. I’d already completed a lot of the structural reorganization that reverse engineering might have indicated was necessary. Though I fine tuned a lot of foreshadowing and really tightened things up, there wasn’t a lot of tearing apart and putting back together.

With Figments, there was. Figments is a first draft, a NaNoWriMo first draft, at that. I’m not ashamed to admit that I lost my way a few times. I ended up listing events in reverse chronological order and then reorganizing them into Victoria Mixon’s holographic structure. In made my head spin.

Another thing I’ve decided is that I’ll head back to the computer for my mapping. It’s just a lot easier than rewriting everything out by hand. The reverse engineering, though, has to be done by hand. It really puts you in a different headspace.

Having accomplished the Figments mapping and reverse engineering, I’ve moved onto Apprentice of Wind. That will take me a while to get a handle on as well. It might as well be a first draft, though I went as far as draft four with IoS and AoW as one honkin’ monster of a novel 😛 I have subsequently changed enough in IoS and cut up parts of AoW that it really is like starting from scratch.

The other thing I started on this month is reworking IoS. I still have betas outstanding, but my writer’s head had to go there. I haven’t gotten very far, just a few chapters, but I think it’s going well. I have enough distance from the novel that I’m seeing a lot of things more clearly than I had before.

This isn’t to say that the outstanding betas work over the last year and a bit has been for nought. I still want to see what you recommend. I’m not above going back and changing even more. I just had to get at it.

I can finally tell you about my mysterious short(-ish) story tale. I had submitted it to Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine in response to a special call out by C.C. Finlay in the first part of August.

I received word on September 21st that he wasn’t taken with the story (though it was a very nice rejection—thank you!). So, I promptly revised to try and fix what may have been the dear thing’s flaws and sent it off to Writers of the Future.

In reviewing my previous submissions to that contest, I realized that my honourable mention from 2011 was for the same story that I eventually revised and submitted to On Spec: “Downtime,” which should be out in the fall 2014 issue (I’m still so excited about that).

Can’t wait to get my paws on my contributor’s issue. Sorry, drooling there a bit.

Other On Spec news: they won an Aurora Award! W00t! Congratz! So pleased for them. Chuffed even.

Also, Bastion Science Fiction Magazine, the online publication that accepted “The Broken Places” back in June, has become an Amazon bestseller. More W00t! and Gratz! to the good people at Bastion.

Though I decided not to move forward with my self-funded leave this fall, I’ve decided that I still want to attempt to do NaNoWriMo again this year. Yes. That’s while working the day job. Yup. I’m certifiable.

I had considered taking a blogging holiday for a month, and it may come to that if I can’t manage my time and get the words down, but I’d prefer to keep to three posts a week: Tipsday, Thoughty Thursday, and my WWC2014 reportage.

In the last month, you may have noticed that I haven’t posted a lot on Sundays. I’ve found that to be a wonderful gift for the writing side of things. This weekend is an exception. You’ll find out later in my second post of this particular Sunday.

The other thing I’ve tried in the last couple of weeks is to prepare my Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday posts on Sunday and just post them on the appropriate weekday. I think between giving myself Sundays, prepping the weekday posts, and then focusing on my NaNo project to the exclusion of most other creative endeavours for the month, I’ll be able to hack it.

Of course, November will be the acid test. I’m also heading down to Toronto for a couple of days for a Humber School for Writers workshop on November 6 and 7. I just can’t help myself. I have to try.

I’ve already been doing some research on my idea and I’ll be working on a rough outline and further research this month. It’s the strength of this idea that has convinced me to make this crazy NaNoWriMo commitment.

I’ve also joined Jane Ann McLachlan’s street team I’ll talk a bit more about street teams in a future post. Her next novel, a YA science fiction, will be coming out soon. Much excitement there!

So, here’s how September’s numbers worked out:

September's writing progress

A total of 13, 218 words. Modest, but reasonable.

7,921 on the blog, 5203 on GatL, and a scant 94 on my longish short story (that was after removing and rearranging several hundred, but I never count negative words).

So that was my month in writing.

How have your projects been shaping up? Please share in the comments. I love hearing about your yummy, yummy words.

The Next Chapter

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Aug 3-9, 2014

Anne R. Allen explores the good and bad of critique groups.

What’s the most important relationship in your story? K.M. Weiland explores how focusing on this aspect of your story could improve it.

Then Katie continued her blog tour on Janice Hardy’s Fiction University, on finding your character’s breaking point.

And then she continued the tour on Procrastiwriter with, What Jane Eyre can teach us about mind-blowing heroines.

Opening lines (and scenes) are some of the most difficult to write. K.M. Weiland has some suggestions for you in her post about Most Common Writing Mistakes: Boring opening lines. Podcast link included.

SF author Veronica Sicoe writes about opening line madness. See, everyone struggles.

MJ Bush guests on Writers Helping Writers (Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi) on the problem of overly self-aware protagonists.

Then she posted about inner conflict on WritingGeekery.

Casting your novel may seem like frivolous fun, but Fantasy Faction offers five ways it can help improve your story.

Stuck on a scene? Janice Hardy gamifies the work of sorting through scene outcomes on Fiction University.

QueryQuagmire (on Tumblr) offers ten things writers should keep in mind before diving into revisions.

Porter Anderson shares Hugh Howey’s ten counterintuitive tips for self-publishers on Publishing Perspectives.

The Canada Council has denied operational funding to On Spec. Susan MacGregor, On Spec editor and author, explains the situation and offers some options to help. On Spec is a Canadian institution in speculative fiction, and the quality of their fiction, editing, and production, is excellent.

I know this first hand. My SF short story “Downtime” will be appearing in the fall 2014 issue, and Barb Galler-Smith, the editor with whom I worked, was very professional. That the magazine is excellent is not just my opinion, though. On Spec is an award nominated, and award winning publication.

Their Patreon account has now been set up. Go to the On Spec web site for more information.

Why Fifty Shades of Grey has bondage all wrong. Tickld.

Forgotten Dr. Seuss stories and other news from Poets & Writers.

Mashable offers up their list of 22 summer reads.

Ten SF novels that will make you more passionate about science, from io9.

Ursula K. LeGuin talks to Michael Cunningham about genre, gender, and broadening fiction on ElectricLit.

Billy Collins shares two dog poems in this brief TED talk.

 

Wow! That’s a lot of Writerly Goodness.

Enjoy, folks 🙂

Tipsday

The next chapter: February 2014 update

The Next ChapterGreetings writerly peeps!

As I mentioned yesterday, this winter has gotten me a bit down, and as a result I have not written as much as I would have liked to this month. There were some nights that I didn’t manage to write anything at all.

With the increasing light, however, I’ve started to feel better and I’ve gotten back on that horse.

So here’s what February looked like for me as a writer.

February 2014 tracking

As with last month, I continued working on a project each week, plus blogging on the weekends. I don’t think I’ve stayed with the strategy long enough for significant results, either negative or positive, yet, so I will stick with it for the foreseeable.

Once more, I wrote the most words for my blog, 6303 to be exact. I’m still good with this. Most of my projects are revision at the moment and new words are sometimes hard to come by, particularly when you end up cutting scads of words rather than writing more.

Also, I attended WANAcon last weekend and, as Kristen Lamb said in her Blogging for Writers session, blogging teaches you to ship. That means you learn to pump out quality material on a schedule. It teaches discipline. I’ll have a bit more on the blog later in this post.

The next highest total was for my short stories at 1835 words. I have finished working with On Spec editor Barb Galler-Smith of the final revisions for my story “Downtime” and they have been submitted to the magazine. At this stage, we’re looking at the fall 2014 issue, most likely, but I should be getting confirmation on that in the future.

I also finished revising another short story for submission to Bastion Magazine, which I sent off yesterday. There’s nothing that feels quite as good as that combination of finishing and submitting.

In other short story news, I was once again rejected by Writers of the Future. I’m still waiting on tenterhooks to hear about my submissions to Tesseracts 18. I’ve been trying to get into that anthology for years.

Next up is the Northwestern Ontario Writers’ Workshop contest in which I will be submitting another speculative fiction piece. The judge for the category is Robert J. Sawyer (!) I’m bloody excited about that one too.

After short stories was my MG fantasy, Gerod and the Lions, with 1296 words. Last month, I pushed past what I had previously written and it’s all new words from here on out. Though I have a rough outline, the writing is proving a little daunting at this stage.

I’m blaming it on my winter funk.

Figments, my YA urban, came in next at 308 words, and Apprentice of Wind rounded things out with a scant 47. Both of these projects are of the revision category and most of the work I’m doing on AoW is structural and cut-work. With Figments, I’m filling in some of the gaps.

My Figments week was the week I had missed the most evenings of writing (3). It was also the week I started writing a course for work and it took me a while to learn how to conserve some of my writerly energies for my personal creative endeavours.

My total word-count for the month was 7954. I’m still pleased with that, even though it’s a lower total than January’s. If all of this year’s writing was focused on a single project, I’d be a third of the way to a finished draft. I don’t think that’s too shabby for a writer with a day job.

I still haven’t heard back from all of my beta readers, so I haven’t dug into the next round of revisions on Initiate of Stone at this point.

In other writerly news, I’ve reserved my accommodations for all of the conferences I’m attending this year. I’ll wait a bit before booking my flight for When Words Collide in August. I’m still struggling to pay down my Visa from Surrey and this year’s conference registration fees.

I have done some research and have identified 50 agents that I can start querying. I’m also watching Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents site and Brian’s Henry’s Quick Brown Fox for agent news. I have a free year on Writer’s Market online to cash in and will also be using that tool to amend my list.

I’m going to wait until I get IoS revised one more time before I start into that process in earnest. By then, I should have a much more solid draft of AoW to work with, be mostly finished Figments, and well into GatL.

I have assessed my life and skill set and have decided to aim for a traditional deal first. If that does not materialize, I’m going to move on to self-publishing, but I will do so reluctantly. Perhaps if I wasn’t working full time it would be a better possibility, but right now I’m doing all I can just to write.

I have become involved in the M2the5th Google Plus community, however. I blogged about my first outing as Twitterview host last weekend. My next event will be with Roz Morris on Saturday March 29 at 2 pm EDST.

As a lead up to the Twitterview, March has been declared Roz Morris month on M2the5th. Please join us to read and share our thoughts on Roz’s blog, books, and general brilliance (more details available in the community).

As I mentioned in my post on the conference, WANAcon was great. It got me thinking in all kinds of ways. A lot of it centered on my web site/blog.

I’ve been thinking about a site revamp for more than a year now and I just can’t get around to taking action on it. I’ve been slowly reviewing my past blog posts, but because I’m on WordPress.com, I just can find a free template that’s any better than the one I have now.

I’ve decided that I’m not going to make the move to self-hosted WordPress until I have made more progress toward publication. Though I received my first comment on my CV this past week, and it was complimentary, I don’t think my accomplishments to date are sufficient to impress an agent or publisher in this day and state of the publishing industry.

When I do make the transition, however, I’m going to invest in a designer and an author-focused hosting service.

Finally, I’m considering expanding my blogging schedule again. I’m thinking of including a couple of curation posts. Tuesday Tipsday will focus on writer’s resources and blog posts that I’ve discovered through the week. Thoughty Thursday will feature articles that don’t directly relate to writing, but that might provide some interesting research or blog-fodder for others.

My thinking is that curation posts based on my activities elsewhere in social media will be fairly simple to pull together and may provide some added benefits for those of you who do not follow me elsewhere.

Please see the poll at the end of this post if you think these additional curation posts would be worthwhile for you.

Coming up on Writerly Goodness: I’m going to be piloting the course I wrote this coming week. You know I’ll be blogging that 🙂 March will also see Brian Henry return to Sudbury for another workshop. I always get something worthwhile out of Brian’s sessions.

The next chapter: January 2014 update

The Next ChapterFor those of you who may not remember, I decided to try out some new programs and templates for my writing this year.

So far, Scrivener and OneNote haven’t seen a lot of action.

I think that if I start a brand new project from scratch, I’ll give Scrivener a proper try. Having attempted to import several different writing projects, I wasn’t very impressed with the result. I’d still have to do a lot of work just to organize the piece of writing (break down the sections and chapters, format it the way I want, etc.).

Since I’m writing around a day job, those are precious hours I could be spending writing rather than figuring out how to import and configure my existing work.

Right now, Evernote is seeing more action than OneNote, so far as researching and organizing my short story submissions, etc.. The Webclipper tool is too convenient not to use.

The third tool that I investigated was an Excel spreadsheet that Jamie Raintree shared with her readers in December.

With a minimum of tweaking, this tool has proved TEH AWESOME for me.

I became aware of the joys of word count when I participated in NaNoWriMo last year. The simple thrill of meeting a daily goal quickly became addictive.

I’ve also been following Dean Wesley Smith’s Writing in Public reporting. That man can pump out the words!

My results are not so impressive when compared to his, as you’ll see in a bit, but just having a record of the accomplishment feeds back into my motivation. It’s a positive energy cycle 🙂

Another thing I decided to try this year was working on several projects, more or less simultaneously. In the past, I’ve been focusing on one WIP and writing short stories and my blog on the side.

This year, I’m working on the second book of my epic fantasy series, the YA Urban I drafted for NaNo, and the MG fantasy I worked on this time last year while waiting for my content edit. Plus stories and blog. Plus revisions on Initiate of Stone when all my beta readers report back.

Eep!

When it came time to implement my strategy, I just couldn’t see taking the few hours of writing time I have each night and dividing them amongst my projects. I’m good at rapidly changing focus between projects (what most people call multitasking), but not that good.

So I decided to try an experiment.

I focused on one project each week, plus the blog on weekends.

I’m not certain yet whether my experiment has been successful or not. So I’m going to continue in this vein until the experiment proves itself a worthy strategy, or it ceases to work for me. In the latter case, I’ll modify and try again.

Here’s what I’ve discovered so far

I write the most new words in a month for my blog. For January, I wrote 7114 words of Writerly Goodness. Flerkin’ shnit!

Apprentice of Wind clocks in next with 2781 new words written.

Then Gerod and the Lions with 821, my short stories with 609, and finally Figments with 207.

That’s 10,923 for the month. Holy kung pow chicken, Batman!

Keep in mind that these are new words I’m counting. AoW and Figments are already drafted, and I’m mostly realigning and writing in the holes on both of those. GatL had two chapters written, and after revamping them, I’ve gotten into fresh writing with that project. Even with the short stories, the work has been largely revision.

I’m working with the magazine’s editor to bring “Downtime” up to snuff for On Spec, and reworking one of my stories from last year for a submission deadline in February with Bastion.

January's results

January’s results

I’m not setting any hard and fast writing goals each day. I might be setting myself up for failure that way. I’m just seeing what I actually do without putting any pressure on myself.

Still, it’s interesting to see what I’ve been able to accomplish in a month of “normal” writing.

How have your writing projects been going?

My progress on the Just Write Challenge (and some other writing stuff)

I signed up for Kasie Whitener’s Just Write Challenge in December of last year (I think).  The goal was to write 13 original short stories in the year.

Later, Kasie amended the rules a bit to include revised stories.

The goal was to have everything ready to submit in the fall.  Well, I’ve been submitting my stories all along.  I don’t think that disqualifies me, but I just wanted to come clean.

Here is my progress review:

New/original fiction

  1. Nothing’s Perfect – flash fiction – posted to my blog for one of Chuck Wendig’s challenges – January 2013.  No acceptance or rejection carried with the challenge.
  2. Beneath the Foundations – short story – completed and submitted to Innsmouth Free Press Sword and Mythos anthology, February 2013. Subsequently rejected.
  3. Molly Finder – short story – completed and submitted to In Places Between, April 2013.  Subsequently rejected.
  4. The Broken Places – short story – completed and submitted to Fearful Symmetries anthology, May 2013.  Subsequently rejected.  I can now say that I’ve been rejected by the likes of Ellen Datlow.  Not sure whether that’s a good or a bad thing 😉

Revised fiction

I’m so glad that Kasie changed her expectations, because, whew, I kind of petered out after June 😦

  1. Downtime – short story, revised and submitted to On Spec, January 2013.  Accepted! (2014 schedule)
  2. A Terrible Thing – short story, revised and submitted to Tesseracts 17, February 2013.  Subsequently rejected.
  3. The Gabriel – short story (approaching novella), revised and submitted to Writers of the Future, March 2013.  Subsequently rejected.
  4. Cicadas – short story, revised and submitted to the Rannu Fund Prize, June 2013.  Outcome unknown at this time.
  5. Night Traffic – flash fiction, revised and submitted to Mouse Tales Press, July 2013.  Accepted! (October 2013)
  6. Killing with Kindness – flash fiction, revised and submitted to Gigantic Worlds anthology, July 2013.  Subsequently rejected.

So, with 4 new and 6 revised, I’m up to 10 stories written or revised and submitted, yielding 3 acceptances, 5 rejections, 1 neutral, and 1 outstanding response. That’s not bad.

Previous year’s submissions

Submissions last year resulted in acceptances of my poetry to The Atomy (July 2013) and Enhance (March 2013), the inclusion of a creative non-fiction piece in Spooky Sudbury (October 2013), and the acceptance of one of my photos, also to Enhance (January 2014).

Poetry

My poetry has also been accepted by Sulphur (date of publication as yet unknown).  This was the only poetry submission I have made this year.

WIP

I have finished what I thought was going to be my last revision of Initiate of Stone before querying, but I’m still quite a bit over the maximum word length generally considered by agents and editors in my genre.

As my goal is to obtain representation and a traditional deal (if I can), I’m parsing again, but am 3/4 the way through that process as well.  I may need one more go-though to trim those last few thousand words, though.  I’m getting to the point that it seems naked!

Once that’s done, it’s beta time*, preparation of my synopsis and query, sending to interested parties from a pitch conference last fall, and the slow agony of the querying process.

Other writing goals

I’m going to be attending the Surrey International Writers’ Conference this year and entering their fiction contest.  It will likely be a revised story.

There is another contest in early September for which I will likely revise something.

If I’m able to get a self-funded leave (this is a work thing—lots of stuff happening, or not, on that front, but I’m saving it up until I have a better idea of my fate), I will be revamping my blog and moving to self-hosted WordPress (eek!).

Once my current WIP is into the querying stage, and until I hear from my betas, I will return to Gerod and the Lions, my MG fantasy, just for something different.  I’m going to be on the lookout for more anthologies and interesting calls to see if I can get some more original fiction written.  Again, this may depend on whether I get my self-funded leave or not.

Once GatL is drafted, I’ll return to my Ascension series, either revising IoS based on beta/other recommendations, or moving on to Apprentice of Wind.

That’s all I have on the go or in the plan for now.

What have you been up to recently?  Have you joined any challenges?  How is it going?  Working on a novel?  Short stories?  Poetry? Creative or other non-fiction?  I’d love to hear about your creative adventures!

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*I have several people in mind, but if you are interested in epic fantasy with a female protagonist, drop me a line at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com.

The next chapter: July 2013 update

Just a few words here about my writing life of late.

I am continuing to revise Initiate of Stone, but at least once a week, I can’t seem to get to it after all my other responsibilities.  Then sometimes I make a choice.  This past Tuesday, for example, I chose to go to North Bay rather than taming my daily dose of the intewebz or write.  Though it was well worth it, I still felt odd not writing.

It’s an addiction now.  Healthy, but an addiction nonetheless 😉

Acceptances

Since my last update, I’ve received some good news.  The Atomy picked up two of my poems, Enhance will be accepting one of my photographs (wow!), and most recently, Sulphur will be accepting three of my poems for its next issue.

I received my contract from On Spec and am waiting to hear from their content editor on next steps (still so excited about this!).

I’ve submitted a couple of flash fiction pieces, but they’re both fairly recent stories and may need to mature (read, to be edited) before they find a home.

Writers of the Future wasn’t fond of “The Gabriel” but I have yet to recieve my personalized response.

Still waiting to hear about a few short story submissions from April, May, and June.

Oh, and I almost forgot.  I submitted the first bit of a story to Erin Brady too, and I’m curious to find out what will come of that 🙂

Just as I was linking those publications, above, I noticed that Enhance has a call out for that flashy fiction stuff!  Go see!

Conferences

This year’s CanWrite! was a success.  I certainly hope everyone got a lot of good information out of my CanWrite! blog posts.

Since I’m now a member of the program committee, which includes responsibility for the conference and the CAA literary awards, I’ll probably have some news forthcoming about next year’s conference in the future.  Watch this space 🙂

I’ve had to make a decision about When Worlds Collide in Calgary.  Though I would love to go and the line up looks great (Patricia Briggs, Robert J. Sawyer, and Angela Ackerman will be among the guests), I just can’t afford it.

The conference fee is reasonable in the extreme, but it’s the air fare and accommodation that make the event costly.  Domestic flights are quite expensive. I had my eye set on Surrey this year, so I think I’m going to stick with that conference and go to WWC next year.  I only have enough Avion points to take 2 trips anyway and one is already spoken for (a friend’s pre-wedding party) so there you have it 🙂

There’s a writing contest associated with Surrey too, so I’ll probably aim to submit something for that as well.

It’s good to keep the creative opportunities lined up and ready to rock.

Writerly Goodness

What’s everyone working on these days?  I’d love to hear from you about your creative projects!

The Next Chapter: Progress by inches (and bounds)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about my progress, or lack thereof, on my writing.

Initiate of Stone

I’ve been struggling to rewrite my first chapter.  I’ve now made progress, after writing, and rewriting it several times.  I really had to go back and decide what it was necessary to accomplish in my opening chapter.

A short list:

  • Introduce my protagonist – Ferathainn, or Fer, is fifteen, and her coming of age is in two moons, at the next goddess festival, Sestaya.  She wants to become an Agrothe mage, and will be the first girl to do so in a very long time, but she chafes under the tutelage of her master, Aeldred.  Fer has been studying from the moment she wakes to the moment she sleeps (except festival days) with Master Aeldred for 12 turnings of the sun through the seasons, but it’s all been mundane. He’s forbidden her from using her innate talent, to speak with the spirits, or souls, of animals, plants, elements, and perhaps even people, like he controls who the spirits speak to …  Fer desperately wants to be initiated so she can start using her talent and learning “real” magick.  She knows she’s capable of more than what Master Aeldred permits her to do.  The process is long and demanding, though, and she will have to make sacrifices.  She loves Leaf, the eleph finiris, or song master, and will marry him on Sestaya as well.  She sees her astara, or soul-lights, in his eyes, something that only the eleph are supposed to see.  She’s not so sure about children, though they seem to be the natural consequence of marriage.  She’s just been so long separated from other girls her age by her studies that she wants something that everyone else takes for granted.  Fer worries that love, marriage, and family will be the sacrifices that she will have to make to become a mage.  She’s determined to have at least love in addition to the solitary life of a mage.
  • The “normal” world – Hartsgrove, Fer’s village, is a “free town” and the eleph and people of Tellurin live side-by-side in relative peace.  It’s an agrarian village that sends tributes to the surrounding, larger, towns and cities to show fealty and secure support in times of need.  The predominant religion is worship of the Goddess Auraya, creatrix of Tellurin.  Every year the season of Vedranya brings deadly storms to besiege the land.  This has been the way of things since the Cataclysm, two centuries before, changed the face of Tellurin and reduced much of Tellurin civilization to rubble.  Fer lives in a small, but sturdy cottage, with her mother and father, Selene and Devlin, a seer and a bard respectively, and her younger half-sister, Aislinn.  She has never left Hartsgrove.
  • Hook the reader – What’s the root cause of Fer’s resentment of her master, the man who could grant her wish to become a mage?  Why does he want to keep her from using her talent?
  • Ask a question (that needs to be answered by the end of the novel) – What is the secret Master Aeldred feared so much he magickally bound Fer’s friends and family to silence?
  • Foreshadow the inciting event – An earth elemental, or nomi, tells Fer the secret is a potentially deadly one though it cannot more than hint at the nature of the secret; she must be strong to face the trials to come.

So I’m slowly working my way through the list without dumping too much backstory or world building on the reader.  Beginnings, why are you so hard?

Some links about beginnings:

On a whim, I’ve signed up for Margie Lawson’s course, A Deep Editing Guide to Making Your Openings Pop, starting May 6, 2013.  She focuses on psycho-linguistic and rhetorical techniques to improve your writing.  My undergrad was focused on rhetoric and I love psychology, linguistics, and brain science, so this looks like it’s right up my alley.  Will let you know how it goes.

I might do the crazy and send my beginning (when I’m more or less happy with it) to Ray Rhamey’s Flogging the Quill to see if it passes his test.  Stay tuned.

Short Stories and poetry

Well, so far, I’ve kept up with Kasie Whitener’s Just Write short story challenge.  I’ve written a completely new short story for each of January, February, and March.  I’m a little behind in April, and may opt for flash fiction to make up the short fall.

The short story that I revised and sent to On Spec in January has been accepted (!)  I am very (like !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) excited about this, even though I know that it won’t be in print until sometime next year.  I’m looking forward to working with their editorial team to whip “Downtime” into shape.

“Beneath the Foundations (original story #2),” my attempt at medieval Cthulian for Sword and Mythos was rejected.

“A Terrible Thing” was rejected by the editors of Tesseracts 17.

It’s too early to have heard back from either Writers of the Future, to whom I sent “The Gabriel,” or In Places Between, to which I submitted “Molly Finder (original short story #3).”

There wasn’t room for my poem “peregrine” on the League of Canadian Poets National Poetry Month blog, but I have subsequently submitted that poem plus two more, “contain you” and “infant crawls,” to Sulphur.

From last year’s submissions, I learned that my submission to Mark Leslie’s Spooky Sudbury will be included in the publication, and my poem, “north of thule” was included in the fabulous Sopphey Vance’s Enhance no. 11.  It’s been a good month (and a bit) for happy dancing!

I’m going to work on something flashy this week to round out April’s short story quota, and set to work on another original for May in hopes of garnering some attention in the Rannu Fund competition.May Submit-o-rama Choice

I’ve joined Khara House’s May submit-o-rama and have committed to 1 submission per week in the Choose Your Own Challenge category.  Rannu will make up only one of those, so I’ll have to get my arse moving on identifying other submission opportunities (!)

Critiquing

Actually finished the BIG critique for my online group and am working on a review of the first 100 pages of another online critique buddy.

Have only three people left to critique for the Sudbury Writers’ Guild before I’m caught up with them.  We’re trying to get our stories and poetry together for an anthology.  I put forward “A Terrible Thing” and “Old Crow,” another short story of mine that was rejected by Tyche Books last year (Masked Mosaic anthology).  It looks like “Old Crow” might be salvageable as a short story, but that “A Terrible Thing,” as editors have said—and I’ve thought—in the past, is really a novel in the making.

Conferences

A local effort, Wordstock, will be happening June 7 and 8 at the Sudbury Theatre Centre.  This is the first year for the event, and the organizers are hoping to build on what they hope to be this year’s success.  The SWG has a block of time for readings.

I’ve registered for the Canadian Authors Association CanWrite! conference in Orillia, June 12-16, and booked my room in the Orillia campus of Lakehead University.

I’m still waffling about When Worlds Collide August 9-11.  The registration fee is reasonable in the extreme, but I still have to bear the cost of the flight and accommodation.

One reason I’m waffling is because I want to go to the Surrey International Writers’ Conference this year (Oct 25-27).  Domestic flights are sooooo expensive.  Right now, a return to either Calgary or Vancouver for the conference dates is showing as over $1000.  It may be an either/or kind of thing for me.  Or I might just cash in my Avion or Aeroplan points for one or the other flight.  That’s an idea!  Thanks for letting me suss that one out online 😛

I think that’s all the conferencing I can take for this year.  Next year, I hope to add some fancons like Ad Astra.  We’ll see how the financial situation sits.  And my various air rewards plan balances 🙂

Other stuff

Taxes done and refund received 🙂

Am still putting off the decision to move to WordPress.org.  I think I just need some dedicated time to devote to research and reflection.

Hope all is well with you and your writing lives.

I’d love to hear from you about your latest literary adventures!

Tonight’s viewing line-up: Doctor Who and Orphan Black!

Tomorrow, I’ll share my thoughts on happiness and how my experiences have influenced my writing in the final instalment of a life sentence with mortal punctuation.