The next chapter: May 2017 update

Hey, all you wonderful writerly types!

May was a great month. I completed the Writing the Other course with K. Tempest Bradford and Nisi Shawl and I attended Story Masters in Toronto with Christopher Vogler, James Scott Bell, and Donald Maass.

Writing and revision-wise, I zipped through revisions on Apprentice of Wind, and identified some structural issues that I need to tackle before the next revision. Specifically, there are a few places in which I’m covering the same event from three perspectives. There’s too much overlap, so I’ll have to see about rewriting these sections to that the forward momentum doesn’t stall, and yet the critical events are still covered. Sections may have to be moved around, too.

It’s a bit of a brain-twisty problem, which is why I probably wrote it the way I did to begin with. I couldn’t see any other way at the time. It’s only my second revision, though, so I still have time to work out the kinks.

Darlings may have to be sacrificed (!) I do, however, keep versions of all my revisions, so nothing’s ever really lost. It’s a security blanket kind of thing. It’s easier to let go if you know it still exists somewhere 🙂

I’m closing in on 110K with this novel, so it’s a much more manageable beast. Initiate of Stone remains around 130K 😦 In my defence, it used to be 150K. I’ve made great progress.

I’m working on a new piece of short fiction, which, while the progress on the writing and revision tracker doesn’t look like much, I’m really enjoying. Thus the leisurely. The deadline was extended 🙂

MayProgress

This is how the month looks, by the numbers:

99,248 words revised on AoW of my 60,000 goal, or 165% of my goal.

2,000 words written on short fiction of my 2,500 goal*, or 80% of goal.

7,457 words written on this blog of my 5,800 word goal, or 129% of my goal.

*I amended my monthly goal after I took the screenshot from 5,000 to 2,500 because I realized I didn’t have a word goal for short fiction for June.

So that’s 9,457 words written and 99,248 words revised.

I’m once more going to juggle goals for the next few months. There are some projects pushing to the fore, so I’m going to tackle them sooner rather than later.

I’m going to finish the new story and then revise another. Aaaand I hope to get them both submitted on deadline 🙂

I’m moving on to revisions on Wavedancer (yes, I just finished the draft in February) and because I’m ahead of the game, I’m going to tackle revisions on Reality Bomb as well. We’ll see how things go.

With RB, I’ve had some time to work through, mentally at least, what I need to do to conquer the issues with this novel. I also chatted some things through with my science advisor (Phil) and he gave me an awesome idea that is going to add a lot to the novel as well as solving some plot issues.

And, of course, I’ll be continuing to blog.

June is going to be a busy month, though.

Next weekend, I’m volunteering at the Sudbury Writers’ Guild book table at Graphic-Con. I’ll be bringing some of my poetry books with me, in the event someone wants to take a walk on the wild side.

On the weekend of the 17th, I’m participating in a poetry walk downtown. This is a follow up event to the Sudbury Street Poetry Project. We’ll be touring downtown and stopping at each business or organization that agreed to post our poems, read and chat as we go, and then end up at the Fromagerie so that all the poets whose work is posted outside the downtown core can read as well.

On the weekend of the 24th, I’m heading down to CanWrite! 2017 (in the Toronto area the last weekend in June? Come on out! Day rates available.). Because of my big plans later in the summer, I’ve had to conserve my leave and so I’m heading down Friday night, volunteering through the day on Saturday, attend the AGM Sunday morning, and then heading home. It’ll be a whirlwind.

On the home front, a cool spring has meant that outdoor stuff has been delayed. Finally, though, the (pin) cherry blossom festival has yielded to lilacs and the honeysuckle will be in bloom shortly. In the meantime, I’ve cut some lilacs to scent up the joint 🙂

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Phil built our new steps and he’s constructing raised garden beds for my mom.

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I’ve weeded the main garden bed and we received a delivery of aged manure from Phil’s brother-in-law. The gardens should be ready for planting in a week or so, depending on weather. The rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, and herbs are going wild, though, so we’re happy enough with that.

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And we have a bin for the rest of the renovation waste that didn’t get hauled off last year. So we’ll be able to access more of the yard. Yay!

BBQ tonight, so I have to get going and clean off the table for burgers and salad 🙂

See ya on Tipsday, people!

Until then, be well, be kind, and stay strong.

Love ya!

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: December 2016 update and year in review

My goodness, here we are in 2017 (!) and now it’s time for me to take stock of my year. Did I accomplish what I hoped to at the beginning of the year?

We’ll get back to that in a few.

First, I have to sum up (‘cause there is too much—I live by PB references) December 2016.

I knew when I decided to tackle Wavedancer, the third book in my epic fantasy series, for NaNoWriMo 2016 that I wouldn’t even come close to finishing the draft (it is EPIC fantasy, after all) in November. I was, however, foolish enough to think, initially, at least, that I’d write another 50k words in December and finish the draft by the end of the year.

I should have known better.

This is the fourth year I’ve done NaNo, and my third win. Each year, I enter December in a fog, still half-living in the world of my novel. I work a day job. There’s no way I could keep up the NaNo pace for another whole month.

Accordingly, I adjusted my expectations to 500 words a day and, though there were two days I didn’t write at all and a few assorted low-count days in the mix, there were also five days in which I wrote over a thousand words, so it all came out in the wash.

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To be more specific, of the 15,500 word goal for the month, I wrote 18,859 words, exceeding my goal by 3,359 words 🙂

Blogging 5,610 words brought my writing total for the month to 21,600 words.

Not 50k, but not bad at all 🙂

Back to my year-end review.

2016 was the first year that Jamie Raintree incorporated separate columns and totals for revision in her Writing Tracker, now called the Writing & Revision Tracker.

Though I’ve looked back at 2015’s and 2014’s trackers, the totals were skewed because in 2014, I didn’t track my revisions, and in 2015, I was tracking my revisions at one counted word for every two words revised. So there’s no real point in trying to compare.

What I set out to do at the beginning of 2016 was to go through all of my written novels to date and start to revise.

I’m happy to say that I accomplished this goal, but things didn’t go quite as I’d hoped. They never do. Quite.

For most of the novels, it was more of a getting reacquainted with the stories and the characters. I didn’t do a lot of revising, but now that I have the lay of the land, so to speak, the next passes will all be more in-depth.

I already mentioned that, having revised my goals post-NaNo, I did write two thirds of Wavedancer. To be specific, I wrote 71,157 words between November and December, and I will continue in that vein until the draft is done in my estimation.

I continued to query Initiate of Stone, but finally got it through my thick skull that it’s not the best project to use when trying to get a deal. So I’m changing gears and going to prepare another project for querying this year. We’ll see how it goes.

How did all this shape up as far as numbers went?

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Of my 138,100 word writing goal, between all projects, I wrote 169,288 words, or 123%. Considering all the revision I was doing, that’s a lovely total.

With respect to revision, I managed 359,114 words of my 375,000 goal, or about 96%.

Some things happened in the year that I didn’t plan on, however.

Though it didn’t happen until July, I wrote a new piece of short fiction. I hadn’t expected that with my focus on the novels. It was a good surprise 🙂

January through March, I participated in the first offering of the Story Genius course created by Jennie Nash and the story genius herself, Lisa Cron. It was something unexpected, but I couldn’t let the opportunity pass. I had to try to make space for the course in my overall plan for the year and ended up making some poor decisions that didn’t serve me well.

While my experience in the course wasn’t, overall, a positive one, I still love the Story Genius method (and book—go get it!) and I would recommend it highly to anyone who can devote 100% of their time to the work. You will reap the benefits.

I just learned, in the most ego-wrenching way possible, that I cannot learn on someone else’s schedule. Especially while I’m working full time. I also made the decision to use Apprentice of Wind, the second in my epic fantasy series, as the project for my work in the course. Story Genius, in the form I took it, was not intended for novels that are already drafted, or for books other than the first in a series. I understand that strategies and approaches for projects of this type have been developed since.

These issues were entirely of my own creation and should not cast any doubt on the excellence of the course, of Lisa or Jennie, or of their dedicated team of editors.

I signed up for K.M. Weiland’s Character Arcs course through the Digital Freedom Academy. It’s entirely self-paced and Kate has loaded her usual extras into the course materials. Her Creating Character Arcs book also came out in the fall, and I definitely recommend both. I am a fangirl, though.

In August, I signed up for another Nelson Literary Agency course on the first five pages. NLA courses are excellence sources of feedback from professional agents who know what makes a successful submission.

At the end of September, I enrolled in a Mary Robinette Kowal Short Fiction Intensive. Blew my mind.

Finally, as far as courses go, I signed up for a course by Kristen Lamb on writing query letters and synopses.

I also tried my hand at #PitchWars for the first time with Reality Bomb, and while I didn’t make the extremely competitive cut, I did have a positive experience thanks to the team who considered my proposal, Michael Mammay and Dan Koboldt. It’s quite an eye-opener, and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to test the waters with one of their novels.

It was a lot of fun and another pleasant surprise.

As far as conferences and conventions, I attended Ad Astra, The Canadian Writers’ Summit, and my very first WorldCon last year.

I was also pleased to participate as a panellist at Wordstock Sudbury 2016.

And I had two stories published in the Sudbury Writers’ Guild anthology, Sudbury Ink, which launched in November.

Complicating all that, Phil had some significant health issues to deal with at the beginning of the year (now resolved), and, from August through to November, he renovated our living room after work and on the weekends.

We’re still waiting for the last pieces of furniture to be delivered, and he’ll be working on building wall-to-wall bookshelves, as the weather allows (he’s working in the unheated garage) throughout the winter. Pictures will be forthcoming in a future post.

Looking at all of that written out, I accomplished a helluva lot last year.

I think I’m going to have to ease back a bit in 2017, work smarter instead of harder.

Yeah, that’s the ticket.

What are my plans for 2017?

Well, you know I’m not one for resolutions. I have goals that I work steadily toward and amend as required.

First, I’ve nabbed my copy of Jamie Raintree’s 2017 Writing & Revision tracker. I’m setting up the projects in series this year, and will identify different novels in my Ascension series with different colours so I’ll be able to distinguish them and extract the numbers I need to feed my production geek.

I’ll continue to finish drafting Wavedancer, as I mentioned (way) above. At my current rate, I should be finished by the end of February.

Once drafting is done, I’m going to return to revising. I should be able to get through all of the novels in the course of the year. Again, as I mentioned above, I intend these revisions to be more in depth and to address some of the structural issues, as I see them, in the stories.

I’m going to be working with a coach to get Reality Bomb reworked. It’s something else I’m trying in my quest to improve my craft. My hope is that I’ll be able to query RB later this year.

With the short fiction surprise last year, I’ve actually had another idea I want to work on, and some other ideas for revising a couple of my other stories to improve them. Accordingly, I’ve made some room for these projects in my plan.

For NaNoWriMo, I’m going to tackle the fourth novel in the epic fantasy series, tentatively titled Playing with Fire.

I may also have a new, semi-regular writing gig to tell you about. I don’t want to let the cat out of the proverbial bag yet, but if it materializes, you can be sure I’ll let you know all the tasty deets I can 🙂

I’ve already signed up for the Story Masters Workshop in May. Donald Maass, James Scott Bell, and Christopher Vogler are coming to Toronto. This is a squee-worthy score, in my books. It was another opportunity I couldn’t let pass.

When I heard that the No Excuses cruise was going to be in Europe this year and timed to immediately precede WorldCon in Helsinki, I was seriously considering signing up. Unfortunately some non-writerly priorities make both the cruise and WorldCon impractical. Mellie haz a sad.

In fact, I may not attend any conferences or conventions at all this year. We’ll see how things shape up.

The reason for this dialling back is that Phil, who’s in his 50’s now, wants to proceed with renovations to the kitchen and bathroom this year. Though he will continue to do as much of the work himself as he can, these two projects will require a significant financial investment. And we haven’t paid off the living room renovation yet.

We also want to get another puppy. This will depend on whether my employer sorts out their payroll issues and I can apply for another self-funded leave. I will need the time to train our new dependent, furry quadruped. Again, deets will be forthcoming as I can share them.

On that front, if the payroll issues at work are sorted, I’ll finally see my acting pay from mid-February to the end of September last year, less about a thousand dollars outstanding from my last self-funded leave.

We’ve heard that union negotiations have resulted in an offer, the terms of which look reasonable. If we vote to ratify the new contract, it will mean about two and a half years of retro pay and a signing bonus, again, dependent on when the payroll issues can be sorted.

Our car loan should be paid off in late spring, as well, and so, between it all, we’ll have a little extra money to use to pay down our debts.

Phil got a promotion and raise last year from his employer, so we figure this will be the year to finish the renovations.

As you can see, this is going to be a different kind of year, but I’m hopeful that everything will work out.

Besides, come the end of February, it will be the Chinese Year of the Rooster (I’m a rooster!) and I think the powers that be might finally be aligning in my favour 😉

Here’s to a fabulous and productive 2017 for everyone.

Love and light and loads of good words to you all!

The Next Chapter

Renovation MADNESS

Before I dive in, I have to let you know that Phil has been very good about not involving me in the actual destruction, or the reconstruction. I know nothing of ‘lectrics (as Phil calls them). I’ve just tried to keep the house clean and keep up with the weekly business of laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, and that kind of thing.

Because of Phil’s various health issues, this is going to be a slow reno. We’re going at Phil’s pace, which is largely on the weekends. But . . . because he’s been feeling so good lately, as a result of the medications he’s on and the changes we’ve made in diet/lifestyle, he felt good enough to tackle the project in the first place.

He chose the living room/dining room area of our small house because it would be a relatively easy reno. Strip it all down, clean up the ‘lectrics, insulate, vapour barrier, drywall, mudding and sanding, floor sanding and refinishing, and painting/finishing details.

The bedroom took about two weeks of solid work, and he had the closet to deal with.

He expected to be done before the end of October, thus making my leave with income averaging and a new puppy a possibility.

But things never go as planned, especially with a house as old as ours.

In a way, it’s good that the pay issues at work caused me to reconsider my leave. It may work out better, even though I was really looking forward to a new little squirmer. It will be that much sweeter when we can.

The ‘lectrics turned into a massive undertaking. When we had previously tackled my office and the bedroom, the ‘lectrics were fairly simple. Phil just removed all the old stuff and ran new wiring.

The living room . . . not so simple.

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It begins.

The room is directly above the panel, and Phil saw right away that he couldn’t leave things the way they were.

There were hidden junction boxes, as many as five wires snaking through a single hole, and three generations of wiring dating back to the original build sometime in the 1940’s. All of this is not up to current building code.

So, Phil patiently turned off the power, traced the wiring through the ceiling, basement, and sometimes the walls, removed the old crap, and replaced/rerouted the wiring efficiently and cleanly. Not all of it, though. There were several places where it looks like additions to the house were built over/around the existing wiring. Phil would not have been able to get at it without removing the siding and original wood from the outside of the house.

He wasn’t about to do that.

As it was, he had to cut holes in the kitchen and side entry to track down and replace some of the old wiring. These will be patched up temporarily pending renovation of those areas.

The pictures:

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Demo done (kind of).

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View from the kitchen (today).

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A fresh start.

I’m not going to show you the devastation in the other areas of the house, the problematic wiring, or the piles of old wiring (currently waiting at the end of the driveway for the second delivery of a bin and removal).

Things should be more straightforward from here on out.

I’ll offer further updates later in the year.

Have another short post coming up. Stay tuned.

Sundog snippets: In the midst of chaos

I may be on a leave and relaxing may be on the agenda, but the rest of the city won’t cooperate 😦

I live on a busy street corner to begin with.

TheHicksAcross Marttila Dr. from me, my neighbours are renovating.  Their second floor is completely redone, and they’ve added a sunroom out the back.  Truthfully, it was a top to bottom gut and has been underway since June or July.

The site is quiet now, but there has been equipment and noise and all sorts of stuff happening.

Across Regent St., the city is not only resurfacing Bouchard and Southview streets, but is Bouchardalso replacing all the sewer and water on the way.  20 foot holes have been appearing and disappearing all along.  Since this is one of the routes I walk Nuala along, it’s a bit inconvenient.

Also, the supplies and equipment are stored along the side of Regent, further down, and the gravel, sand, and crusher dust they need to prepare for the resurfacing has been piled into an empty lot off Arnold St., about a block away.  Dump trucks and back-hoes are constantly moving between the lot and Bouchard.

This infrastructure improvement is scheduled to move on to Regent in the spring.  Already they’ve been upgrading the hydro and routing the power for the streetlights when they move them.

AutumnwoodSuitesCatty-corner to us is the retirement residence, The Breezes.  Well it used to be called The Breezes and was a motel at one point, but the corporation renovated.  After a few years, the corporation renovated again, building a four-storey addition that was actually bigger than the original motel.

After two years of construction, it’s now Autumnwood Suites, and they are refinishing the old motel so that it matches the new addition.  This too, is in its final stages.

OneoftwonewaptsBehind Autumnwood is an apartment complex (three of them) which is now constructing two new apartment buildings.

A block north, my old elementary school, MacLeod, is being rebuilt.MacLeod

A block south, blasting is occurring to clear the ground for another mini-mall.

I’m really feeling like I want to move.  It’s just too much chaos.

Sundog snippet

The first draft

Last time on Work in progress: I finally found a way to wedge my butt in the chair!

I wrote through, just like Nino said.

In the years previous, I’d tried a number of different tactics: outlining, character sketches, plotlines for the major characters, world building, timeline, research.  None of it got me writing … like writing.

I’d always heard that if you want to write, then write.  I’d even said it to students.  It’s true, but you have to be ready to see the truth, to accept it fully, and live it.  After years of struggling with my inner critic, informed as it was with all of my weaknesses and doubts, all my past experiences … I finally got it.  I finally wrote.

I’d never gotten past the first hundred pages before.  They were written and rewritten many times, but I’d never gotten past them.  This time, I tried a new strategy: ctrl-g 🙂  I’d note the page I stopped on, and went right to it the next day.  Starting from the beginning every day merely trapped me in an endless loop of editing.  Another authorial truism: the work is never finished, only abandoned.  The first draft isn’t the time to tweak and fine-tune, it’s the time to get the words out.

By September of 2008, I’d written my way to 1000 pages.  It was scary, and exhilarating.  Then it was called Initiate of Wind.  As a reward, I treated myself to a writing workshop with Sue Harrison at the W.O.W Retreat in Bruce Mines.  Loved it, loved it, loved it!  Watch Authorial name dropping for my post on the lovely Sue 🙂

I’d started out writing the novel as I’d intended, changing point of view in sections, cycling between the major characters.  Then, some of the plot points started to change as I wrote.  New sections wanted to be included.  New characters.  Toward the end, I was working on fumes and dropped all the fancy stuff.  The last three chapters were written in the same p.o.v.  I just got the words out.  All of them, good or bad, were out.

That year, I went as "The Sander" for Hallowe'en

My refractory period was the renovation of my office.  Five weeks of nothing but physical work: demolition, insulation, vapor barrier, mudding, sanding, painting, floor refinishing, and furnishing.

At the end of it, I had a room of my own.  An office.  A place to write.  I think that helped me to keep at the writing too, but by then, I’d been writing every day for two years, so I guess the office was a kind of reward too.

A room with a view, no less

Then it was back to real life, back to work, and back to writing.

What I learned: Write.  The first draft is no place for revision.  Write.  Commit to your relationship with your creativity, and you will go back to it, every day.  Write.  Just write.

Have you completed the first draft of a novel?  What did it teach you and how did you feel?  What did you do to reward yourself/celebrate?