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 🙂

20170603_194134

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

steps

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.

gardenpreprhubeast2017

raspberriesbin

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

Advertisements

Story Masters: May 11-14, 2017

This lovely workshop came to my attention last year through Jenny Madore, a writer friend. It was put together by Lorin Oberweger and Free Expressions. Jenny sent me a notice last spring, yes, that was waaaay back in March of 2016, with the notification and a special early-bird discount.

The notification? Christopher Vogler, James Scott Bell, and Donald Maass would be coming to Toronto to present their Story Masters workshop. Needless to say, I registered on the spot.

Fast forward to May 10, 2017, and I was on my way to the Crowne Plaza Airport and excited to learn from these three masters of story.

Day one: Christopher Vogler

ChristopherVoglerI’ve read The Writer’s Journey (and Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, Murdock’s The Heroine’s Journey and The Hero’s Daughter, as well as watching Campbell’s series with Bill Moyer, The Power of Myth), and I was looking forward to meeting Christopher Vogler in person.

One thing I’d forgotten, having read his book years ago, was that Vogler is a screenwriter. He’s been working with the hero’s journey for forty years, since his film school days.

Highlights of the presentation:

  • A knowledge of structure will help you see the bones of a story.
  • The map is not the journey.
  • Get all five senses on the page – Ray Bradbury.
  • They won’t remember your words but they’ll remember how you made them feel – Maya Angelou.
  • Economy of language.
  • Make invisible things visible.
  • Use dissonance.
  • Theme – boil it down to one word.
  • The chakra system can be used to orient where your story comes from. There’s a parallel between the chakras and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
  • Vogler’s rule – the story’s good if two or more organs are leaking fluids. Visceral, but accurate (blood, sweat, tears, vomit, pee—from fear or laughter, and, erm, sexual fluids—it’s true; a well-written sex scene gets the juices flowing, doesn’t it?).
  • A story should be focused, “in alignment with the grid,” a term from dance.
  • How your protagonist/main character enters the story is critical. Classically, protagonist means the first person to struggle. Now, that’s your hero or main character.
  • A story should evoke catharsis. The classical definition of catharsis was vomiting. Now it’s an emotional cleansing.
  • How stories work: want vs. need. Want is generally external or physical. Need is internal or emotional. There are two story questions, one inner and one outer. It creates suspense. There’s always a price.
  • Every world/milieu is polarized. The hero brings synthesis.

Vogler also showed us a number of movie clips to illustrate the 12 stages of the hero’s journey, discussed the two founders of screenwriting, Aristotle and Syd Field, three-act structure and how the hero’s journey works with it, storytelling aesthetics, and his own meeting with Campbell.

Day two: James Scott Bell

I’ve read some of Bell’s writing craft books and followed his collective/blog – Kill Zone. Again, I was looking forward to meeting JamesScottBellsomeone I’d only ever known as a virtual presence.

  • A writer needs to have an edge. What is it? Unforgettable writing. Seductive believability.
  • Write from the middle. The mirror moment. What’s happening to the character at that moment is what the story’s about.
  • The mirror moment can focus on one of two things: 1) Who am I? What have I become? What will I become? [emotional/spiritual struggle] Or, 2) I’m going to die. [Physical] The death can be metaphorical. Both result in the transformation of your character.
  • Once you know what your story’s about, you have your focus, your theme.
  • Pre-story psychology. Does your character have a moral flaw to overcome? Do they change or get their comeuppance? Is your character ordinary? What circumstances force the character to change?
  • Short fiction is about a shattering moment rather than a mirror moment.
  • Bell’s golden triangle: pre-story psychology leads to the mirror moment, which leads to the transformation. It can be applied in an individual novel, or over the course of the series, or both.
  • The shadow story – what’s happening elsewhere?
  • Keep a story journal to keep track.
  • Great characters jump off the page. They’re unpredictable, burning, wounded, complex, resourceful, courageous, noble.
  • Bell’s corollary to Vogler’s rule: you must have a fluid fight inside your character.
  • Ways to develop character: 1) The closet search – what’s the skeleton? 2) Throwing the chair (out the window) – why do they do it? 3) Best day/worst day. 4) What tattoo do they have, where, and why? Or, why would they never get a tattoo? 5) what would they do or think about in jail?
  • Opposition character: you must know what they yearn for, why they deserve it, and then make your closing argument (convince the reader).
  • Cut the boring parts, or, make them interesting.
  • Fear is a continuum. It raises the stakes. Fear of the known. Fear of the unknown.
  • Scene structure: every scene must have an objective, obstacles, and an outcome [yes, but/no, and].
  • SUES = something unexpected in every scene.
  • Every scene has a reaction: time for thought, perception, emotion, backflash (short remembrance), or flashback (full scene – use sparingly).
  • Dialogue: every character has an agenda. If those agendas are conflicting, even better. Dialogue creates conflict/tension, subtext, sets the tone for the scene, and sets the tone for the characters. Specific concerns: vocabulary, expressions, syntax. They should vary between characters. Dialogue should be unpredictable and compressed. Dialogue should reveal character webs, backstory, and theme.
  • Tools: Orchestration, transactional analysis (Google it), curve the language.

Bell, also from a screenwriting background, showed us clips from Casablanca and Now, Voyager and cited a number of novels (ranging from Gone with the Wind to The Hunger Games) to illustrate his points, linked to Vogler’s hero’s journey, and set us up for Donald Maass’s presentation on the next day.

Day three: Donald Maass

DonaldMaassI think Donald Maass was the story master I was most excited to meet. I’ve bought and read all of his books (except The Emotional Craft of Fiction, which I bought at the event), and I’ve read and shared all of his Writer Unboxed contributions.

I’m such a fan that when I met him in the elevator, I blurted out, “I’m here to see you!” like a total fangirl.

He paused. “Do I know you? You look familiar …”

“We’ve never met in person, but you may have seen me online—the white hair’s distinctive. I share all of your posts. I’m a big fan.” And then, mercifully, we reached the lobby and debarked. I was completely mortified, certain Maass thought I was a stalker.

It reminded me of a recent post by my friend, Kim, who said she becomes so distracted in the presence of a writer that she says the most inappropriate things. Happens to me all the time.

For those of you who haven’t been to a Donald Maass presentation, it’s a bit different from what you might expect. He presents a topic, speaks briefly, and then, he begins to ask questions. The questions are intended to guide you into the heart of your characters, your scenes, your story.

It’s very meditative, very zen. And totally effective.

Unfortunately, after a few hours, the brain stops working and you just write down the questions for future review and examination. At least, that’s what happened to my brain.

I just wanted to give you a flavour of Maass’s style.

Openings

  • Too many novel openings are written objectively despite the prevalence of first and close third person narration.
  • Where does the story truly begin?
  • Story does not equal plot.
  • What’s different and how does your protagonist know things will never be the same? What symbolizes this? What do they do differently? What needs to be explained? What expertise does your protagonist have? What do they know that the reader needs to know? How does the trouble come? Why?

Voice

  • Writers adopt a voice that suits the genre, but not the story.
  • What happens? What’s unique to the setting? What anchors you? What wakes you up to your reality? What’s unique to the character? Name, role/occupation, what task/goal/purpose do they think they have? What’s on the “to do” list of your character?
  • [We then did an exercise in which we rewrote the beginning of our works in progress with three different voices: ironic, academic, and spiritual.]
  • The inner life of the character is the true story.
  • Plot does not equal story.

Emotion

  • You have to write with emotion about emotion in a way that deeply engages readers.
  • What makes you angry?
  • Your protagonist feels a new emotion. Pause. Slow things down. Go deeper. How does that change your protagonist? What will they never do again? What will they never feel again? What will they never feel the same way about again?
  • How do you create the sense of an evolving human being rather than someone to whom stuff happens?
  • Does your character have flaws?
  • My Writer Unboxed colleague Lisa Cron wrote a book called Story Genius that I highly recommend. She states every character has a misbelief that shapes their story. What is your character’s misbelief? Who will be hurt because of their misbelief? What does the character get wrong? What do they believe that will cost them dearly? Who will walk away from them because of the misbelief? What will they lose? What can they do that shows they’ve changed? Is it big? Symbolic? What’s the secret they’ve never told anyone? Is your protagonist concealing something from someone else?
  • What’s the character’s origin story?

Other facets of novel construction

  • Summary. Lorin Oberweger posted on Writer Unboxed about this. When should you use it?
  • Scene structure. Things have changed by the end of the scene. Subvert expectations. Show the inner shift in the novel. Scenes must change either the plot or the character.
  • Enhancing the story world. What’s the environment? What does your protagonist see that no one else sees? What does your antagonist see? Is there a class structure? How does that play out with your characters? What historical events have shaped the world? What are the political structures? What is just not done? Is there a code of honour? How do you make a deal? How do you pay respect?
  • Telling and showing. Both have value.

What do readers want?

  • They want an emotional experience. They want to engage with your protagonist. They want a satisfying payoff. They want aesthetic value. They want a challenge. They want to figure it out. They want a feeling of success.
  • Readers have their own journey.

Third level emotion

  • Pick a pivotal scene in your novel. What is the character feeling? What else are they feeling (cancel out any similar emotions)? And again, what else (that is like neither of the first two)?
  • Use the third emotion you identify to frame the character in the scene. It seems counterintuitive, but it’s very effective. Readers use cognitive evaluation.

Mythic roles (archetypes)

  • What fairy tale character is your protagonist most like? Shakespearean? Biblical? Greek or Roman mythos? Indigenous or other cultural figure? Urban legend?
  • What symbology have you built around your character?

The four things your story must do

  • The macro level: structure/plot/character arc.
  • Scene level: structure and goals.
  • Microtension: every page, every line. Court cognitive dissonance.
  • Subvert reader expectations.

The big event

  • Think of the event that changes everything for your protagonist and the story world. What causes people to think it’s never going to happen? Think of three reasons why. How do we know it will happen? Think of three reasons.
  • Take out foreshadowing. Include misdirection. Manipulate expectations.
  • Choose a secondary character who is good. Invent a way to create doubt. Cast suspicion.
  • Make the reader wait for the payoff. What are three reasons it might be the wrong thing for your protagonist to do? Build a case for doing something different.
  • Every story has a moral map. Point the reader down the path. What makes a reader care even when nothing is happening? Hope. What is good? What can be saved?

StoryMasters

Day four was an analysis of To Kill a Mockingbird in which all three story masters brought their individual strengths to bear.

My brain was mush by the end, but I brought a lot of awesome back with me and twice as many pages of notes as what I’ve shared with you here.

RobertJSawyerOther writerly goodness: I met Jenny Madore in person, saw writer friends Jeanette Winsor and Sue Reynolds, and hung out with Robert J. Sawyer for a bit. It was comforting to know that someone I consider a story master in his own right is still learning 🙂

I had a fabulous time and suggest you check out the Free Expressions web site if you’re interested in attending one of their workshops.

As always, my friends, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

Muse-inks

The next chapter: April 2017 update

Greetings, writerly friends 🙂

Yes, it’s that time of the month again—no, not that time—it’s time for my next chapter update. Yay (flailing Kermit arms)!

Ok, maybe that’s a little too enthusiastic.

That’s what spring does to me, though.

Even though we haven’t had a particularly warm spring up here, the fact that there are more hours of sunlight each day really helps me find my energy.

And what do I do with that energy? I overcommit. That’s what I do.

What does that look like in 2017? Let’s see …

  • work full time;
  • write as much as I can, evenings and weekends;
  • produce the monthly Sudbury Writers’ Guild newsletter;
  • serve on the Canadian Authors Association Program Committee (and various sub-committees); and
  • sign up for Writing the Other with Nisi Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford (yay—it’s awesome, but I can’t keep up with the assignments and so feel crap about it).

Truly, though Writing the Other is one of the bit of writerly awesome to happen this past month. It continues through to the middle of May, so I’ll save the deets for a future weekend wrap-up post. Suffice it to say for now, though, that I would recommend the course to anyone.

A second is my continued semi-regular SF&F column with DIY MFA, Speculations. As I mentioned last week, I’ll be posting to share those columns on the blog. The next one should be coming up Tuesday, and it’s a dreamy one, so stay tuned 🙂

A third bit of awesome was that I participated in was the Sudbury Poetry Project. April was National Poetry Month, after all. When Kim Fahner, Sudbury’s Poet Laureate put out the call, I wrote a new poem and submitted it.

thiswintersky

“this winter sky” was inspired by what has been a particularly gloomy winter here in Northern Ontario. I believe that almost everyone who lives in the northern hemisphere experiences some degree of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and those of us predisposed to depression tend to feel the effects of SAD more than others.

More than, that, though, the poem is about the hope that blossoms when one recovers, or learns to live with, mental illness. This is why I was honoured to have the poem posted outside the Northern Initiative for Social Action (NISA) which is a safe place where survivors of mental illness and consumers of mental health services can gather, learn, and heal.

And now, onto the writing progress report 🙂

April was a decent month. I finished my latest revision of Initiate of Stone. Unfortunately, it only reduced the overall word count of the novel by a few thousand words 😦 I was, however, after a short respite, move on to Apprentice of Wind.

I also revised two short stories for submission to a contest and an open anthology call. We’ll let you know how that goes in the future.

All the new writing in April was once again on this blog.

AprilProgress

Here’s how the numbers break down:

  • 79,078 words revised on the Ascension series, or 113% of my 70k goal.
  • 4,105 words of short fiction revised, or 164% of my 2,500 goal (makes up for not revising any short fiction in the last two months).
  • 6,098 words written on the blog, or 92% of my 6,600 goal.

That’s a total of 83,183 words revised and 6,098 words written. That’s not counting my column for DIY MFA, which I really don’t have a place for on the tracking sheet.

What’s up next: I’m going to continue work on revising AoW, which I don’t anticipate will be finished until next month. Revision will yield (I hope) to writing with respect to short fiction. We’ll see how everyone likes the new plan for the blog.

Next week, I’m heading down to Story Masters in Toronto, with Donald Maass, James Scott Bell, and Christopher Vogler, but that, of course, means that there will be no post next weekend. I’ll have another wrap-up post to share on this lovely event later in the month.

And then we’ll see. This writer’s life is never boring, that’s for sure.

Until next I blog, be well, be kind, and stay stong, because this winter sky will always yield to the light.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: February 2017 update

And here we are at the beginning of a new month.

It’s been a month of big decisions and rearranging goals and priorities.

First, the good news.

After discussing the issue at length with Phil and Mom and some of my writer friends, I’ve made the decision to go to WorldCon 75 in Helsinki, Finland … and I’ve registered for the Writing Excuses cruise that immediately precedes it!

You can’t see me right now, but I’m so excited and nervous (it will be my first time to Europe) I’m vibrating on a higher level. I might be worn out before August even gets here.

Though travel arrangements are still in flux, and we haven’t even gotten to leave requests at work (which is always a concern), I’ve made the leap. I’m confident the net will appear.

I’ve also joined the DIYMFA team as a semi-regular genre columnist. My genre? Fantasy and science fiction, of course 🙂 This is another squee-worthy achievement and I hope I can live up to the DIYMFA brand.

Finally, I’m on the program committee of the Canadian Authors Association.

Add that to my newsletter-er gig with the Sudbury Writers’ Guild, and ye olde day job, and my schedule is getting pretty full.

Writing-wise, I’ve finished drafting Wavedancer and am now moving on to the mapping.

This is a bit of a change for me. In the past, I’ve left the mapping for my first revision pass, but I want to keep the novel fresh in my mind as I map this time. What’s happened in the past is that the first revision pass has ended up being primarily about the mapping because I’m reading to refamiliarlize myself with the story. Not much actual revision happens.

By mapping it out before I let the draft rest, I hope to be able to dive into more substantial structural issues with the first true revision. We’ll see how this tweak to my process works out. So far, I’m liking it, because I’m making notes for the revision and cutting extraneous stuff as I go. It’s so much easier when the story is still fresh in my mind.

I had hoped to make a mentoring connection to work on Reality Bomb, but this has not come to pass. There are some significant issues with the story and the science that mean research and rethinking. So I’m going to let that project simmer for a while longer while I conduct the requisite research and return to it later in the year with more objectivity.

I missed the first anthology call I’d identified for the year. I’d have had to write a new story for it and while an idea did eventually pop into my head, it was too late to execute. I’ve now identified several contests, magazines, and anthology calls that I’d like to try for, and I’ll see if I can’t organize myself to meet some of them at least.

Here’s how the numbers worked out:

Drafting Wavedancer – goal 14,000 words – actual 13,191 words

Blogging – goal 5,600 words – actual 4360 words

While I had planned to write a piece of short fiction, it didn’t work out because reasons.

Total writing goal for February: 19,600 words

Actual words written: 17,551

februaryprogress

Wavedancer worked out pretty much as I expected it would. The total draft is just over 100K words. I was able to wrap it up earlier than I thought, though, thanks to a number of days in January and February in which I wrote more than my daily goal of 500 words.

I don’t mind not having blogged so much. While I want to continue to curate and create useful content, I don’t want it to become a chore or to take over my creative time.

For the foreseeable, I’m going to be researching for RB, mapping Wavedancer, and working, yet again, on a brand new opening chapter for Initiate of Stone in preparation for another revision pass on that novel.

This time, I’m writing the first chapter out by hand and except for the major events, I’m going to abandon all past versions. We’ll see if this works. I’ve been too bound to what I’ve written and it doesn’t work. My unsuccessful queries and various first page/first 50 page critiques have all led me to this conclusion.

Actually, the conclusion was always there. I was just ignoring it. Delusional Mellie is delusional.

So there may not be a lot of actual words counted for the first part of March because it’s too labour and time intensive to capture hand-written work.

I’m also going to revise a piece of short fiction for a contest. It’s another problematic piece that may require a return to the drawing board.

Long story short, all this experimentation and process tweakage has meant a substantial reorganization of my writing goals for the year. I’ve shuffled and we’ll see how things go.

In other aspects of this writer’s life, the sun is finally coming out. Literally. It’s been a dull and gloomy winter up here in northern Ontario and, as a result, a lot of us are experiencing more-than-usual levels of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). I’m feeling better than I have in a long time and I thank Sol.

I’ve also been experiencing persistent health issues due to being a woman of a certain age. I think that, too, is working itself out. Finally. I still have a referral to a specialist this month and I’m going to keep it. I still want to explore my options in the hope of maintaining my recovered health.

Phil’s doing well, and is still planning to tackle further renovations this year. Exactly when these might happen is up for discussion, but, as he often reminds me, he’s not getting any younger.

It looks like problems with the pay system at work are not going to be resolved in time for me to consider a self-funded leave in the spring. So I’ll defer it, and puppy plans, until the fall (again).

But I have a lot of good stuff to look forward to in the meantime: Story Masters in May with Donald Maass, James Scott Bell, and Christopher Vogler, a possible workshop with Gail Anderson-Dargatz or CanWrite! in June, and Writing Excuses and WorldCon in August.

And, of course, lots of writing in between.

Next week, I’ll be resuming WorldCon 2016 reportage. This should continue on the weekends until sometime in April and then I’ll have a bit of a break until my next workshop, conference, or convention. I might fill it up with some series discoveries or movie madness posts.

Until next I blog, be kind, be strong, and be well.

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.

decemberprogress

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?

yearend

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

The next chapter: April 2016 update

April was a steady month of revision. I made it to the two thirds mark in Marushka by the time I left for Ad Astra.

Drafting with Scrivener, as I mentioned before, has resulted in more, but shorter, chapters. It’s meant a more casual pace.

Though I missed a few days of revision for the convention, I made up for it by doubling up for a few days upon my return. I should be on track to finish up with this first run through of Marushka by the Victoria Day long weekend (May 21-23).

Then, I’m moving on to the first run though on Reality Bomb 🙂

I’ll probably need a couple more passes for each work in progress before I’m ready to send them out for editing . . . And I have my eye on a couple of people for that. We’ll see how that progresses, but probably not until next year.

AprilProgress1

Total words revised for April: 37,478, just a hair under 100% of my goal

Total words written (for this blog): 10,498, 187% of my goal (!)

I sent out more queries, and received more thank you but no thank you rejections.

Work on the Sudbury Writers’ Guild anthology, which the guild wants to release in time for the next Wordstock Sudbury in the fall, progresses. We want to have the content and cover ready for June. I have two speculative short stories in the anthology (yay, me!).

There are some more opportunities coming up for short fiction, so I’ll try to get something together for those deadlines.

In June, I’ll be heading to the Canadian Writers’ Summit (June 17-19) and . . . my leave for WorldCon has been approved. W00t! So I’ll be heading down to Kansas City in August (17-21). That’s one of the things I have to do now: book my flight. And check with my buddy. She’s moved recently, so I want to make sure she’s still available for visitations. It will be my first WorldCon, so I’m very excited.

I got an early start on next year’s writing events by registering for Story Masters, May 11-14, 2017. Christopher Vogler (The Writer’s Journey), James Scott Bell (author of LOTS of writing craft books, member of The Kill Zone), and Donald Maass (agent to the literary stars, Writer Unboxed member, and author of numerous publishing and writing craft books). Four days of workshops. Yum!

And that’s all that’s new in this writer’s life.

See you Tipsday!

The Next Chapter