Tipsday: Informal writerly learnings, June 19-25, 2022

Welcome to the final tipsday of June! Fill up on informal writerly learnings for the last time this month.

Sara Farmer lists more of her favourite Sherlock Holmsian mystery series. Then, Abigail K. Perry analyzes the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Angela Yeh explains why all writers should play with poetry. Then Angela unlocks writer’s block sideways. Later in the week, Lewis Jorstad lists five reasons your novel’s premise is a powerful writing tool. DIY MFA

Nathan Bransford provides a novel revision checklist.

How to write a non-fiction book proposal. Reedsy

Matthew Norman explains how his career in advertising helped shape him as a novelist. Dave King: when worlds collide. Kelsey Allagood wants you to let your words grow wild. Then, Deanna Cabinian wonders, when is obsession a good thing? Victoria Strauss warn about the predatory contracts of serial reading/writing apps. Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland helps you understand the new normal world of a story’s resolution. Helping Writers Become Authors

Erica Brosovsky suggests some foreign words we need in English. Otherwords | PBS Storied

Lisa Norman explains why you want people to hate your website. Then, Megan Ganesh promotes diversity and inclusion in writing. Eldred Bird says Chekov’s gun is a double-edged writing sword. Writers in the Storm

Nina Amir reveals how to quickly develop a writing habit. Live, Write, Thrive

Elizabeth Spann Craig points out yet another use for outlines.

Allison K. Williams reveals why agents don’t give feedback—and where to get it instead. Jane Friedman

The curse of creativity. Tale Foundry

Becca Puglisi wants you to go beyond the superficial character talents and skills. Jami Gold

Cheryl Rainfield helps you avoid writing mental health stereotypes. Writers Helping Writers

Tiffany Yates Martin asks, are you writing safe or risking your readers? Fox Print Editorial

Chris Winkle explains how to make your character novel. Then, Oren Ashkenazi says that the three-act structure is a mirage. (!) Very insightful and something that’s been bothering me about most story “structures.” Mythcreants

Workplace dystopias aren’t fiction. They’re here. The Take

Angie Hodapp talks rhetorical story development. Then, Kristin Nelson asks, can a writer set out to write a bestselling novel? Pub Rants

Kristen Lamb explains why we play “follow the reader.”

Terry Nguyen says we need rituals, not routines. Vox

Cassie Josephs: Murderbot is an autistic-coded robot done right. Did I not nail this in my last next chapter update? Oh, yeah. I did. Tor.com

Thank you for spending some time with me. I hope you found something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

Tipsday: Informal writerly learnings, June 5-11, 2022

Monday’s in the rear-view and we’re one day closer to the weekend! Celebrate with some informal writerly learnings.

K.M. Weiland helps us understand the adventure world of a story’s second act. Helping Writers Become Authors

Richelle Lyn explains how to build an online portfolio. Kris Hill: doom, hope, and ten candles. Manuela Williams wonders, what is confessional poetry? Then Ashley Christiano returns with part 2 of her tarot for storytellers series: from tarot spread to novel outline. DIY MFA

Start writing your book. Reedsy

Louise Harnby explains how to use parentheses (round brackets) to convey simultaneity in fiction.

Beth Harvey considers the lure of literary symbolism. Then, Tiffany Yates Martin explains how tension and microtension keep your readers hooked. Kathleen McCleary walks the Camino as a creative reset. Then, Kathryn Craft wonders whether to challenge or concede to copy edits. David Corbett is weaving a life: the three levels of dramatic action. Writer Unboxed

Shaelin explains how she got her literary agent. Shaelin Writes

Penny C. Sansevieri shares four ways non-fiction authors can succeed in the “age of free.” Then, Colleen M. Story shares her top seven places to find people to write great blurbs. Piper Bayard helps you write believable driveway crime: carjacking and kidnapping. Writers in the Storm

Meghan Harvey wonders, is hybrid publishing ethical? Then, Kris Spisak says that if you’re looking for beta readers, turn the question around. Jane Friedman

How ancient mythologies defy the gender binary. Fate & Fabled | PBS Storied

Elizabeth Spann Craig defines who we’re writing for.

The war genre: honor and dishonor in pro-war, anti-war, and kinship stories. The society genre: stories of power and impotence. The status genre: stories of success and failure. Story Grid

Lisa Poisso offers three ways to infuse character voice. Then, Drew Hubbard helps you avoid writing LGBTQ+ stereotypes. Writers Helping Writers

This story is about rabbits, but it will still change your life. Tale Foundry

Nathan Bransford wants you to avoid aimless stage direction.

Tiffany Yates Martin reveals the best character tool you may not be using. Fox Print Editorial

The brainy brunette trope. The Take

Kristen Lamb explains why mastery should matter to authors.

Chris Winkle explains how to make your character sympathetic. Then, Oren Ashkenazi analyzes six important story elements introduced too late. Mythcreants

Danielle Daniel draws on her ancestors’ past in debut novel Daughter of the Deer. CBC’s “the Next Chapter” with Shelagh Rogers

Thank you for taking the time to stop by, and I hope you took away something to support your current work in progress (whatever stage it’s at).

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

The next chapter:  May 2022 update

First of all, yeah, I’m late. Life got the better of me. I even tried to write little bits of this post through the week.  Didn’t work. As Inigo says, “Let me ‘splain. No, there is too much. Let me summarize.” I should probably take those words to heart.

Here we are, halfway through the year. And … what have I accomplished? It doesn’t feel like a lot, though this year has been … kind of awesome. I’m just in a weird place. Is it just imposter syndrome, or am I failing to take the time to recognize and celebrate my wins? I’ll dig in, in a bit.

Before we get to the month in writing, here are your monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until Black, Indigenous, and people of colour lives matter.

I’m still washing my hands, maintaining physical distance, and masking in indoor public spaces, and I encourage you to do the same. Covid and its variants are still out there (that’s what endemic means). People are still being hospitalized and dying, though vaccination and the above public health measures are working to keep numbers relatively low. Protect yourself and the people you love.

I can’t believe that the war in the Ukraine has lasted more than 100 days. I deplore Russia’s continued unprovoked aggression.

And now …

The month in writing

May should have been better, productivity-wise, than April. At work, we got one major project put to bed and things haven’t been so stressful.

Having said that, I only revised 5,711 words of Reality Bomb in May. That’s 29% of my 20,000-word goal. Yes, I’ve hit another stretch where it’s more writing than revision, but damn. It’s disappointing. I’m within 30 pages of the end of the novel (and have been there for … a while), over 120,000 words on the draft, and I have no idea if I’ll meet my goal of another pass before July. It feels like it’s not going to happen, right now.

I really wanted to reduce the manuscript to 110,000 words, but that may not happen, either.

I blogged 5,514 words of my 5,000-word goal, or 110%.

I revised a short story and submitted it. Most of it was cutting, but 60 new words got on the board. I put in the “goal” of revising 100 words, but it was going to be what it was going to be, so that 60% isn’t really reflective.

And I wrote three new poems and submitted them. A fabulous poet friend suggested that I try to commit my autistic journey to poetry, but damn is that hard. I’m not really in a place where I understand it yet.

I had a trifecta of good news early in the month. On the 9th, “The Undine’s Voice,” a story that was accepted last year was published in Polar Borealis 21. On the 10th, Tyche Books began promotions for Pirating Pups, in which “Torvi, Viking Queen” will appear. Cover and TOC announcement went out that day, and pictures of pirate pups have been making the rounds on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Then, on the afternoon of the 10th, I was contacted by a small publisher who’s interested in my poetry collection (!) It was a happy-dancing couple of days 🙂

Filling the well

May 1st to the 7th marked the return of FOLD, the festival of literary diversity. I signed up for the virtual stream and watched most of it after the fact (‘cause work). If you’re interested, replays should be available to watch until June 11th. You can still register and watch if you wish. FOLD has some of the best programming.

I also attended a book club/reading with Xiran Jay Zhao on the 6th, and a reading by Sarah Polley on the 12th.

I attended a staged reading of Kim Fahner’s play, “All the Things I Draw” on Friday the 13th at the Sudbury Theatre Centre. It was great to get out and see something in person again, but it was my first such outing since the pandemic hit and I was a bit overwhelmed.

I attended the retirement party for a co-worker the next day. Shirley and I joke that we’ve been joined at the hip since we started working. We started in the same class, worked in the call centre for six and a half years, were both successful on the same process to move into adjudication, and then became BEAs at the same time. Though I had a few acting positions as a BEC and then moved to the College to become an instructional designer, until the pandemic hit, we’d always worked together and sat in the same area. It was lovely to be able to see Shirley into the next phase of her life.

On the 29th, I went to dine at an actual restaurant (!) with a friend I haven’t seen in forever. It was great catching up.

In the health/self-care arena, I started to see a physiotherapist because of pain in my shoulders. Not wanting it to develop into anything serious or long-term, I asked my doctor for a referral. After a month of weekly visits, I’ve made progress and graduated to bi-weekly appointments. Yay!

May’s therapist appointment will be my last one. For now. We both agreed that I didn’t need her support anymore, though I will continue to attend my support group meetings.

My employer has accepted the discontinuation of my duty to accommodate request, which is a big relief.

It was a good month, all around.

So … this leaves me wondering about my current low mood. I think it’s a combination of lack of progress on RB and having to be more independent again.

Last year, I reached out for help in a number of areas, and I received it. At the time, I needed the support. Now, I need to take responsibility for my wellbeing again, and it’s hard work. Honestly, though, I’ve been doing the work all along. It was just the presence of health care practitioners that made it feel like I wasn’t.

It was nice to be cared for, though. I think I just have to get used to being on my own again. It’ll take a little time. And I have to grieve the end of some productive, supportive relationships.

What I’m watching and reading

Phil and I watched three shows together. The first was Moonknight. I loved it. Phil, not so much. Oscar Isaac did a fabulous job as Mark/Steven/Jake. Tawaret! LOVE! I’m looking forward to what happens next.

Next up was Raising Dion. What a disappointment. I’d hoped that they would have learned some lessons from season one, but all the same problems popped up. Plot holes galore.

Then, we watched Love, Death and Robots, series 3. Bloody violent. It was good but unsettling. And some of it was hard to watch.

On network television, I watched Outlander. I will never not love the show or the books. So, I think expressing an opinion would be disingenuous. I watched some interviews, though, and discovered that the season was cut short due to Catriona Balfe’s pregnancy. But if you read the books and watch the show, it’s a master class in adaptation. You can see the choices made and why they make sense for the medium. I won’t go on. Suffice it to say—loved!

Then, Naomi. In a way, it’s a bit sad that it was cancelled after one season. The show had potential. A young Black female lead, a diverse cast, and an interesting story. Unfortunately, the writers had a habit of playing the same irritating misdirect in several episodes. They’d set things up to make it look like Naomi was doing something irresponsible, go to break, and return with the reveal of a secret plan.

And finally, The Rookie. It’s a consistent show if nothing else. And they do address interesting issues. But I’m still pissed off that they killed Jackson. A “kill your gays” / “the Black character dies first” double suck.

On streaming, I finished watching Arcane. The animation was gorgeous. The story could have been better. Jinx was another female character whose trauma drove her insane and made her incredibly destructive. Kind of tired of the trope.

My non-fiction (kind of) watch of the month was We’re All Gonna Die (Even Jay Baruschel). Amusing. Horrifying. Both!

And … I don’t know how I squeezed them all in, but I watched three movies, too.

The first was The Matrix: Resurrections. Awesome. Very meta.

Then, I watched Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Also awesome. I love a new story in a favourite imaginary world. And Phoebe was autistic-coded!

Finally, I saw The Kingsman. None of the problematic camp that marked the first two films. It was basically a WWI family tragedy/drama. The action scenes couldn’t save it.

I read five books in May.

The first was All Systems Red by Martha Wells. I lurved Murderbot. Who was also autistic-coded. Will read more of this series.

Then, I finished Go Tell the Bees that I am Gone by Diana Gabaldon. Yup, I read the latest book while watching the series 🙂 This is an amazing saga.

Next, I read Wolf’s Bane by Kelley Armstrong. This is the first of her Logan and Kate (the children of her Otherworld werewolves) books. Fun. Ended on a huge cliff hanger. I think the whole story was arbitrarily broken up. Will read more, though.

My non-fiction read was Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski. Even though it wasn’t specifically about autistic burnout, this book is a-MA-zing. It’s written for women and woman-presenting people who suffer from “human giver syndrome.” It’s hilarious and affecting. Highly recommend.

Finally, I read Stormsong by C.L. Polk. Fabulous. I love how this woman’s mind works and it’s no wonder the Kingston Cycle is up for best series at the Hugos.

And that, my friends, was the month in this writer’s life.

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

Tipsday: Informal writerly learnings, April 10-16, 2022

Welcome to tipsday, your opportunity to stock up on informal writerly learnings.

Ann Marie Nieves: book PR & marketing questions answered, part VII. Jim Dempsey wants you to exploit your hero’s flaws. Then, Kathleen McCleary is getting over it. Kathryn Crafts says foreshadowing is a revision skill to love. Later in the week, Desmond Hall drops some more writerly wisdom on us. Writer Unboxed

Shaelin shares seven ways to level up your writing process. Reedsy

K.M. Weiland shares 14 tips for dealing with the passage of time in a story. Helping Writers Become Authors

Lisa Norman introduces us to the magic of World Anvil. Then, Monica Corwin suggests eight ways to stay open to story. Jenny Hansen: the extraordinary blessings of asking for help. Writers in the Storm

Have humans always feared sharks? Monstrum | PBS Storied

Jane explains why so many blogs and newsletters aren’t worth the writer’s effort. Then, Lisa Cooper Ellison explains how to gracefully leave your writing group. Jane Friedman

Sue Coletta: what is rhythmic writing? Emily Young shares six tips for writing compelling action scenes. Writers Helping Writers

Crafting as a magic system. Tale Foundry

Abigail K. Perry poses seven questions to ask about your first chapter. Then, Gabriela Pereira interviews Claire Stanford about character development in literary fiction. Angela Yeh wants you to embrace your inner poet-activist! Then, Lewis Jorstad suggests five secondary character arcs to strengthen your cast. Later in the week, Linda Dahl explains how to inject humor to relive narrative tension. DIY MFA

The Heather trope and why we’re so obsessed with her. The Take

Story beats: the key to line-by-line writing. Morality genre: altruism stories of redemption, punishment, and testing. Performance genre: stories about sports, music, business, and art. Four Core Framework: the foundational elements of storytelling. Story Grid

How to write realistic male characters. Jenna Moreci

Tiffany Yates Martin explains how writers Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke survive. Fox Print Editorial

Chris Winkle says the best characters eat their spinach—and their candy. Illustrated by Bunny. Then, Oren Ashkenazi critiques five inexplicable planets from Star Trek. Mythcreants

The three planes of story and creating causal connections. A very personal literary theory. Shaelin Writes

Kristen Lamb warns that bloated writing makes readers sick.

Nina Munteanu shares example steps for keeping a nature journal.

Anne Delaney examines chronemics and the nonverbal language of time. JSTOR Daily

Thank you for spending some time with me. I hope you took away something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

The next chapter: January 2022 update

Blink and the month disappears. Boggle. I think 2022 is off to a reasonable start, though. More on that in a bit.

First, here are your monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter.

As restriction are once again lifted, it’s even more important that ever to stick with basic preventative measures. Wash your hands, maintain physical distance, wear a mask when you can’t, get double vaccinated if you haven’t, and get your booster. Make sure your children are vaccinated and boosted as soon as they become eligible.

And to the “freedom convoys”—just fuck right the hell off.

The month in writing

Revisions to Reality Bomb continue. Slowly. January was still a bit of a struggle, mostly because of work (more on that in filling the well).

Originally, I thought I might be able to get as much as 10,000 words revised on RB (though I suspected that it was a bit optimistic). Part-way through the month, I adjusted that down to 5,000 words. I still fell a bit short of that, revising 4,945 words, or 99% or my adjusted goal.

I wrote 5,390 words of my 5,000-word blogging goal, or 108%.

I revised and submitted another short story. I had thought that there would be more rework involved, but it turns out I only added about 70 words. The rest was all cutting. It’s an experimental piece for me. I tried out 2nd person POV and included footnotes. We’ll see what the editors think. I’ll let you know in a future update.

So, 70 words revised of a 250-word goal, or 28%.

In other writerly news, another of my short stories was accepted to an anthology that should be published later this year. I’ll share more as announcements are made.

And, a year to the day after I submitted a small sample of my poetry to a small press, I received a request for the full manuscript. I spent a few hours sprucing it up and adding one of my new poems published last year … and sent it.

Again, I’ll have to let you know if anything comes of it in a future update.

I’ve been slowly updating my blog and social media to include what I’ve come to think of as my new branding. Writerly Goodness has become Always Looking Up. This comes, in part, from my sky photos, but I’ve come to understand that everything I write has an undertone of hope. I’m also including the #actuallyautistic hashtag to my site and social media. I have to take some updated pictures, include the covers of my more recent publications in my header image, and other stuff like that, but I’m not stressing it. It’ll happen when it happens.

The other big thing I did in January was submit an application to Your Personal Odyssey, Odyssey’s new one-on-one program. The deadline isn’t until April 1st, but I wanted to get my application in sooner than later. I’ll find out if I’m accepted after that date. Crossing fingers.

Filling the well

In terms of writing events, I attended “The Anxiety Talk” from Jane Friedman, “Hosting Accessible Events” with Amanda Leduc of the FOLD, and “How Self-Editing—and Editors—Help You Perfect your Stories” by Dani Alcorn.

I also signed up for “Introduction to Illustration” with Millie Nice through The Guardian Masterclasses. It was something I wanted to do for myself. I used to draw and sketch a lot but haven’t been able to get back to it despite wanting to. Millie’s class was a lovely kickstart. I haven’t had the time to sketch since, but I anticipate that I’ll take some time to do it in the future.

I had another appointment with my therapist, another support group meeting, and an online writers’ meet up, which was nice.

I was boosted on the 11th! Side effects the same as the prior two vaccinations despite receiving Moderna this time. So, I’m a Pfi-Pfi-Mo.

My accommodation request has progressed. I now have Wednesdays off pending the official agreement. I have an appointment with my doctor to get the accommodation form filled out and then it’s back to my employer for next steps.

Again, this seems to be moving a lot faster than I thought it might and my manager has been supportive.

Feeling gratitude.

Rosy dawn and a wee pillar.

What I’m watching and reading

In January, Phil and I watched a couple of series.

First, we finished watching the last season of The Expanse. The feels! It was a great send off for all of the characters.

Then we watched the most recent season of Titans. All I have to say about it is … come on. It was not good.

We also watched The Eternals. I enjoyed it. It’s not your typical Marvel movie, but I appreciated what Zhao tried to do with it. It was more about the relationships between the eternals than big fight scenes.

I watched a couple of movies on my own.

The first was Free Guy. So. Much. Fun!

And then, I watch Encanto. Lovely, low-key family story. Loved.

In the reading department, I finished ReDawn, the second Skyward Flight novella by Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson. ReDawn picks up where Sunreach left off with the gang on Detritus. [SPOILERS] Minister Kuna has been rescued, but now, the governing council of Detritus is considering an overture from the Superiority.

Alanik, the POV of this novella, returns to her home only to discover that her people are facing the same problem.

In Evershore, the third Skyward Flight novella, the POV character switches to Jorgen. Though he and the rest of Skyward Flight have helped to save Alanik’s people, Detritus has suffered a devastating blow, losing their governing council, including Jorgen’s parents.

As Jorgen works through his grief and tries to secure Detritus against the Superiority, he also has to solve a cytonic mystery. Spensa’s grandmother and their admiral have gone missing. Alanik was able to confirm that they were not killed with the rest of the council, but she can’t find them.

Then, she picks up a Kitsun transmission that they have some of Spensa’s people to return.

Jorgen’s growing cytonic abilities, affected by his grief, prove problematic as he leads Skyward Flight on a rescue mission in the hope of forging another alliance.

I took a break from Skyward Flight, reading Sarah Penner’s The Lost Apothecary. It’s a lovely piece of women’s fiction with a dual timeline. In the present day, Caroline deals with the disintegration of her marriage and the dreams she abandoned for it. Triggered by the discovery of an old vial, she delves into the never-solved apothecary murders.

In the past, Nella, the apothecary who dispenses poisons to help women escape abusive relationships waits to see her next customer.

Then, I read Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis. Katrell can talk to the dead and makes a little money on the side by writing letters that invite ghosts to talk to their living loved ones. She receives a warning that she chooses not to listen to, because she’s in desperate need of money to support her mother and a string of abusive, deadbeat boyfriends. When the current boyfriend kills her dog, Katrell tries to write a letter to him, only to bring him back from the grave.

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

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

Tipsday: Informal writerly learnings, Jan 9-15, 2022

You’ve made it through Monday! Reward yourself with some informal writerly learnings. They’re good for your writerly soul 🙂

Sophie Masson offers her first impressions on book covers. Then, Jim Dempsey considers a fusion of fiction with fact. Juliet Marillier is finding hope in the power of storytelling. Kathryn Craft: determining relevant conflict, or … the curious case of the constipated elephant. Then, David Corbett ponders distraction, focus, silence. Writer Unboxed

Teenage girl makes chaotic life choices. Jill Bearup

Allison K. Williams explains how to get your writing done when New Year’s resolutions don’t work (and they usually don’t). Then, Kayla Kauffman warns, don’t let your characters fall into the daily routine trap. Sharon Oard Warner reveals what can happen when you resolve to write a little every day. Jane Friedman

External conflict vs. internal conflict. Reedsy

K.M. Weiland reflects on the six gifts she gave herself in 2021. Helping Writers Become Authors

Lisa Norman explains whether you’re languishing or flourishing how to recapture your writing mojo. Kathleen Baldwin: who are your readers and why does it matter? Then, Julie Glover wonders what you need to write regularly. Writers in the Storm

The Fates: Greek mythology’s most powerful deities. Fate & Fabled | PBS Storied

Joanna Penn interviews William Kenower: a writer’s guide to the end of self-doubt. The Creative Penn

Sue Coletta explains how to kill your darlings: writers, get a knife. Writers Helping Writers

Nathan Bransford explains how to avoid overcorrecting after receiving feedback.

Why the Madonna-whore complex still reigns. The Take

Manuela Williams shares her must-read books on the craft of poetry. Then, Gabriela Pereira interviews Leslie Vedder about world building and character friendships in a YA fairy tale retelling. Jeanette the Writer explains how to balance fiction writing with writing for pay. Then, Soleah K. Sadge shares five ways a five-pillar foundation can help build your author brand. DIY MFA

The pandemic onscreen is … The Take

Chris Winkle explains how to keep your favourite character from ruining your story. Then, Oren Ashkenazi lists five ways Arcane could have been better. Mythcreants

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

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

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!

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

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

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

Racism and horror | Khadija Mbowe

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

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

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

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

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

Shaelin explains how to write a horror novel. Reedsy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Aug 8-14, 2021

Another week, another batch of informal writerly learnings.

Ann Marie Nieves answers your book PR and marketing questions (part 4). Then, Jim Dempsey wants you to enhance your fantasies with a dose of reality. Kathryn Craft hopes you aim for the “extra” in ordinary. Then, Kathleen McCleary says, sometimes you’re the windshield; sometimes you’re the bug. Gwen Hernandez helps you create a series bible in Scrivener. Later in the week, Dee Willson connects the dots between research, sex, and related remedies. Writer Unboxed

Tim Hickson is killing characters. Hello, Future Me

Lori Freeland is talking location, location, location! Bring your book to life, part 2. Then, Jenny Hansen says, it’s okay to fall down. Eldred Bird contemplates coming out of hibernation. Writers in the Storm

The messy meaning of zombie stories. Like Stories of Old

Janice Hardy says, if you want a tighter point of view, ditch the filter words in your novel. Then, E.J. Wenstrom is creating creatures for speculative worlds. Ann Harth offers a nine-step plotting path to a stronger novel. Fiction University

K.M. Weiland shares three things to know about the ending of a story. Helping Writers Become Authors

Lindsay Ellis shares nine things she wished she knew before publishing her first novel.

Jane Friedman wonders, should MFA programs teach the business of writing? Then, E.J. Wenstrom explains what to know while you write dual point of view. Jane returns to show you how to harness community to build book sales and platform. Jane Friedman

Stefan Emunds examines eight elements that get readers invested in your story. Live, Write, Thrive

Shaelin Bishop explains why she’s a discovery writer. Shaelin Writes

Manuela Williams offers something for your poet’s toolbox: generate ideas and inspiration. Then, Kris Hill promotes worldbuilding using tabletop games. Tori Bovalino: genre-bending and The Devil Makes Three. Later in the week, Sarah R. Clayville shares five bad habits to quit like a champ. DIY MFA

Fire cat or fire cart? The history of Japan’s Kasha. Monstrum | PBS Storied

Marissa Graff says, don’t let excess baggage bring down your character’s plane. Then Angela Ackerman poses problems and solutions for describing a character’s emotions. Writers Helping Writers

Nathan Bransford explains how to come up with good comp titles for your book. Then, Christine Pride walks you through how an editor at a publisher acquires a book. Nathan Bransford

The “asexual” Asian man. The Take

Kellie Doherty introduces us to some of the mythological creatures of Alaska. Fantasy Faction

Chris Winkle: Project Hail Mary shows when flashbacks work, and when they don’t. Mythcreants

Joanna Penn offers a primer on the metaverse for authors and publishing: web 3.0, AR, VR, and the spatial web. The Creative Penn

Souvankham Thammavongsa shares her feelings about winning the Scotiabank Giller Prize. CBC’s The Next Chapter

What to call that weird thing your pet does. Merriam Webster

Megan McCluskey reveals how extortion scams and review bombing trolls turned Goodreads into many authors’ worst nightmare. Time

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

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

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, May 23-29, 2021

Tipsday is here! Fortify yourself for the week with some informal writerly learnings 🙂

Laura Highcove wants you to use your writer’s intuition to solve a problem. Manuela Williams offers you a tool for your poet’s toolbox: line breaks. Later in the week, Ginnye Lynn Cubel helps you write a villain you love. Then, Disha Walia shares five tips to ace the art of retelling. DIY MFA

Janice Hardy helps you make sense of character wants and needs. Fiction University

Princess Weekes considers purity culture and fandom … issa mess. Melina Pendulum

K.M. Weiland looks more closely at the flat archetype of the child in part 16 of her archetypal character arc series. Helping Writers Become Authors

Can we be heroes again? Confronting the banality of modern evil. Like Stories of Old

Tiffany Yates Martin helps you bring your stories to life with nonverbals. Then, Lisa Hall-Wilson shares four ways movement affects deep POV. Writers in the Storm

Then, on Jane Friedman’s blog, Tiffany shows you how to deepen characterization by mining your own reactions. Joe Ponepinto says, don’t tease your reader. Get to the tension and keep it rising. Jane Friedman

Getting feedback from critique partners and beta readers. Reedsy

Gwen Hernandez helps you organize your research notes in Scrivener. Then, Diana Giovinazzo is learning to writer through grief. Heather Webb: being a good literary citizen. Liz Michalski says, right-brained revisers, unite! Writer Unboxed

Nathan Bransford says, don’t start a scene without these four essential elements.

How to write effective description and imagery. Shaelin Writes

Angela Ackerman wants to know if your character has a secret. Writers Helping Writers

Kristine Kathryn Rusch presents part three of her fear-based decision-making series: TV/film.

Chris Winkle lists five common reasons stories screech to a halt. Then, Oren Ashkenazi analyzes five stories that suffer from muddled atmosphere. Mythcreants

Spirited Away – Why work is toxic. The Take

James Whitlock: Netflix’s Sandman has cast Death and a whole lot more of the Dreaming. Gizmodo

Evan Narcisse interviews Ta-Nahesi Coates about saying goodbye to Black Panther. Polygon

William Deresiewicz shares a report: stages of grief (what the pandemic has done to the arts). Harper’s

Emily Wenstrom explains how non-fungible tokens (NFTs) can reward authors and readers. Book Riot

Erin McCarthy introduces us to 56 delightfully unusual words for everyday things. Mental Floss

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

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!