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

The next chapter: October and NaNoWriMo 2016 update

I’m baaaa-aack!

Didja miss me?

Let’s just get right to the good stuff.

October

As was the case with September and August before it, October was a month in which I was focused on non-word-count-y stuff.

I finished off my read through and note-taking on Apprentice of Wind and the rest of the time I was making notes in preparation for tackling Wavedancer (book three of the epic fantasy series) as this year’s NaNoWriMo project.

I knew that I’d likely be writing the novel into the New Year. 50k is only half the length of any epic worthy of the name 😉

I had some trepidation, however, as I knew I’d be out of town, training for the day job for the first week of November, and I had Wordstock Sudbury upon my return, the launch of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild anthology, Sudbury Ink, the weekend following, and my own, belated birthday celebration the weekend after that.

And I was only able to use two days of vacation leave in November. Otherwise, I was working.

I fully expected a repeat of 2014, during which I was also working. That year, I didn’t even crack 30k, but I went on to finish the draft over the next months.

So, zero words revised in October, but, amazingly, that still puts me at 96% of my revision goal for the year. Yup. I’m just that awesome 😉

And I have my work cut out for me with regard to some additional amendments to Initiate of Stone (one more run through, methinks), as well as a whole slew of revision notes for AoW. As the series arc progresses, I get further insights into what I’ve already written. It’s all good.

I think, more than anything, it was good to immerse myself in the world and characters of the story. It put me in a good place, mentally, to tackle Wavedancer.

As for the writing done in October, all 7,939 words of it were written on this blog.

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NaNoWriMo 2016

I’m a traditionalist. I work on a new novel each NaNo challenge and, this time, I was tackling a work I knew I wouldn’t complete in November, even if I could achieve the word count necessary for a NaNo win.

As I mentioned, above, I had my doubts I’d even manage that.

As a result, I made some decisions, one of which was, with the exception of the curation posts I had prepared for the first week of November (960 words between the two of them), I wasn’t going to blog.

Working around professional and personal commitments, I fought for my writing time.

Here’s how things shaped up:

While I was out of town, I didn’t even manage a thousand words a day, and I didn’t write one word on the day of Wordstock Sudbury. I was out, manning the book table, participating in a panel on commercial genre fiction (specifically SF&F), attending a book launch, and reading my poetry. It was a full day.

I started to gain ground on the weekend, though, and though there were still a number of days on which I didn’t achieve the average 1,667 words, there were more days on which I wrote 2,000 or more.nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_winner

And . . . drum roll please . . . I reached November 30 with 52,298 words written.

Flailing Kermit arms! Yaaaaaaaa!

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I also don’t hate what I’ve written, not even during those hard slogging early days. That is, in itself, a triumph 😀

I continue to draft at a more reasonable pace. I’m aiming for 500 words a day, and so far (a whole three days in) I’m exceeding that goal.

Other stuff

I received a very kind rejection for one of the short stories I’d submitted to an anthology call earlier in the year.

Phil finished the renovations on the living room. We’re now, very slowly, cleaning up the house and purchasing our new furniture.

My love isn’t getting any younger, and had decided that next year (after a winter of building bookshelves and stocking them) he’s going to renovate the kitchen, bathroom, and side entry.

I’m happy to report that Phil and I are in good health.

The regular blogging schedule will resume, starting with this post. Tipsday and thoughty Thursday will also be returning. Next week, I’ll be moving on with the next session I took notes on at WorldCon.

I tried a new system for my curation posts in October, leading up to NaNo, that I’m going to return to.

In the past, I spent several hours every Sunday, reviewing my social media shares for the week and linking them with a brief framing sentence in my curation drafts in Word. Then, on the day, I’d copy the text into WordPress, format the links, add the picture, post, and then share to my social media accounts.

I’ll still have to do that this week, but now, I’ll be working smarter, not harder.

Every day, I’m going to spend a little time reviewing my posts of the day and copying them into the curation draft in Word. Then, on Sunday, I copy the text into WP, format, add the pictures, and schedule the posts, so that all I have to do on the day of is share it to my various social media accounts.

Much easier.

If I weren’t so paranoid about hackage and losing work, I might choose to draft right in WordPress, but once bitten, and all that 😉

I just thought I’d share in the event that this might make sense for you.

Next month: It will be another double update. I’ll be reviewing December’s progress and 2016 as a whole (goals and other gorgeous stuff). W00t!

Have yourselves a wonderful week.

Until Tipsday!

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: September 2016 update

Another month has passed and I don’t know where it went. Yes, September was a short month, but I spent most of it focusing on Initiate of Stone and Apprentice of Wind, working long hand, in my journal and on scrap paper, so none of it was spreadsheet-worthy.

So all I have to show for it is my month of blogging, 9,151 words, 158% of my goal.

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Surprisingly, even with two months of no revision, I’m still at 96% of my revision goal for the year. Yeah, I was kind of a beast January through July 🙂

This is to say that I’m making great progress, fine tuning my epic fantasy series. This month, if I finish a second round of revisions on AoW (which means I will be able to show some actual revision progress on my Writing and Revision Tracker*), I have some solid planning in place for the third novel in the series, which has a new working title—Wavedancer.

I should be well-placed to rock NaNoWriMo 2016. I must temper expectations by letting you know that I’ll once more be out of town, training, for the first few days of November (1st through 4th), and, I’ll be participating in Wordstock Sudbury 2016 ** the weekend following, November 5th.

I can’t guarantee a “win” this year, but, as I’ve said in the past, any words I write in the month of November are words that didn’t exist before. It’ll be a win, for me, regardless. I already expected to be drafting into December, in any case, because, epic 🙂

Querying has been temporarily suspended while I rework the first chapter, query letter, and synopsis for IoS.

Something that’s been very helpful is K.M. Weiland’s Character Arcs Course on the Digital Freedom Academy. I’m working through at my own pace. LURVE!

I’m also reading Kate’s Structuring Your Novel, and an ARC of her forthcoming Structuring Your Character Arcs. All of it is serving to, with my memories of the original blog/vlog/pocast posts that became the basis of these books and her course, ingrain Kate’s techniques in my long-term memory.

So helpful.

I can’t even.

Finally, I’m trying to find an editor/mentor with whom I can work, long-term, to develop my drafts into finished products. I will, of course, let you know how that goes.

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In September, I also attended a couple of writerly events. The first was 100,000 Poets for Change in North Bay, Sept 22. I went on a poetic road trip with my friend and Sudbury Poet Laureate, Kim Fahner 🙂

Then, last night, I took a friend to the launch of Danielle Daniel’s memoir, The Dependent. Latitude 46, the publisher, put on a lovely event in the catering space at Verdiccio’s. There was music, food, and a reading by Danielle. And, of course, I bought her book 🙂thedependentlaunch2

It’s so nice to be able to support local arts and artists.

Today, despite it being Culture Days weekend here in Sudbury, and chock full of events, I had to retreat.

September also marked the first meeting of the 2016-17 Sudbury Writers’ Guild season, and it was anthology-palooza. We’re hoping to have Sudbury Ink, which features two of my speculative stories, printed in time for Wordstock.

The anthology is a promotional tool for the Guild and just shows the variety of the talent within the SWG. Having said that, it does have an ISBN and will be a formal, self-published, writing credit.

We hope to have a launch event, aside from Wordstock, later in the year. I’ll keep you posted 🙂

Although I attempted to gather my C.V. together for a Canada Council Works in Progress Grant, I realized the significant gaps in it. I haven’t kept track of the workshops I’ve attended, organized, or delivered. I haven’t kept track of the readings I’ve done. I have some forensic investigation of my writerly exploits to complete before December, when the Ontario Arts Council Northern Writers grant application is due.

I just couldn’t get my shit together for the CC app. It’s due today. Next year, the CC will be moving to a new funding model, so I might have a better chance then, in any case.

I’m also looking forward to how my writing life will take shape in coming years.

In past years, I was focused on writing in preference to everything else. I have six novels to show for it, but only one was even close to complete. This year, I focused on revision, but was only able to do a basic run-through of each novel, get the lay of the land, so to speak, and make notes for more in-depth revisions in the future.

I want to plan out a reasonable pattern which will balance writing and revising and hopefully allow me to get something to market.

The basic idea, for now, is to focus on in-depth revision on one project from January through to March, draft a new novel, April and May, revise another novel June through August, focus on NaNo prep and other projects (short fiction?) in September and October, participate in NaNo in November, and finally finish whatever might be outstanding from the NaNo project in December and prep for my next in-depth revision.

It may be ambitious, but my plans are always subject to change, given life 😉

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

Next week, I’ll get on with session reportage from WorldCon.

*Jamie Raintree, the creator of the Writing and Revision Tracker I use (and have used for years), is busy preparing the 2017 version. Watch this space for news on when the 2017 tracker is ready for order! Seriously, it’s worth it.

**Wordstock Sudbury 2016 will take place from November 3-5, 2017. Though I’ll be out of town training for the Thursday and Friday events, I will be manning the Indie Bookstore for a while on Saturday, and then participating in the commercial genre fiction panel in the afternoon! There will also be an opportunity to read at the open mic Saturday night. I’ll let you know more as the schedule is firmed up.

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.

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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

The next chapter: January 2016 update

First, a note about the non-writing parts of my life

Well, the new year has gotten off to a bit of a shaky start, not with respect to my writing and revision goals, but with respect to other stuff.

In the last week of December, Phil got sick enough he had to go see a doctor. He hadn’t been in a very long time and in the process of diagnosing the illness he went to see the doctor for in the first place, the doctor diagnosed him with two other, fairly serious, illnesses. Three for the price of one. Yay?

I won’t go into the details, because it’s not my story to tell, but he’s on several medications, we’ve had to change our diet (not significantly, but still), and we’ll have to commit to several more lifestyle changes in the coming months. It’s going to be a good thing, ultimately, but I’m a creature of habit. Change is stressful.

Phil’s been told not to tackle everything at once, and so we’re dealing with things one issue, and one day, at a time.

I’ve gotten a cold for the first time in about three years. Since I don’t get them often, I tend to get doozies. I’m also in the process of seeing whether I’m anaemic or not, and my gall bladder is acting up.

I guess this is my reaction to the stress of everything else.

Which includes learning that I’ve been screened out of the consultant process at work. We’ve had a general information session, because many of the over three hundred people who applied were screened out, but I’m still getting an informal discussion of the specific reasons I was screened out. That happens Tuesday.

I’ve really been trying not to get upset. Work is work and I’ve tried to prioritize my creative work over the day job, but having been successful in the last three processes and had four acting assignments in as many years, I can’t help but feel that I’ve been kicked in the teeth. They still have testing and interviews to go, and if the eventual pool ends up being as small at I suspect it will be, there will be another process in the future. I have to question the point of putting myself through the wringer again, though.

My current acting assignment ends next Friday and at that point, so far as I know, I’m heading back to the training and advice & guidance team, but everyone keeps saying that I’m not going back and even managers aren’t including me in the training plan and no one is telling me anything. I’m kind of suffering from mushroom syndrome.

I’m trying to be Zen, but I’m not very good at that, in all honesty. I am a lot more laid back than some people, but I internalize a lot. Hence, the illen.

Now, onto the Writerly Goodness 🙂

I took some time over the holidays to plan out my writing year. Using Jamie Raintree’s amazing new Writing and Revision Tracker, I set writing and revision goals for the year, and for each month.

As I mentioned in my last Next chapter update, 2016 will be the year of revision. As I return to the querying process with Initiate of Stone, I realize I want to have some of my other five finished novels revised and edited and ready to go so that I can keep working toward my dream of a traditional deal.

What I did was to add up the current word totals of all my drafts and divided them up according to what I figure will be my productive months. I also estimated what my blogging totals would be per month and add in my NaNo 2016 writing goals.

What that worked out to was 37,550 words of revision each month (except November and December), between five and seven thousand words of blogging each month (except November), and 50k words drafted in November and December (NaNo this year will be book three of the Ascension series I figure it will take me two months to complete the draft).

So this is what January looked like.

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And I even took a few days off (!)

The month started with a couple of days devoted to reading through my draft of Apprentice of Wind, and then I set to. I’ll probably have the first run through done within the next couple of weeks, and then I’m probably going to go through it at least one more time.

So at 9,274 words, I wrote 141% of my writing goal and at 69,774 words, I almost doubled my revision goal (186%).

I also revised and sent out two short stories, and heard that another short story is still under consideration from a submission last year. So that’s awesome.

I also sent out IoS packages to open submission periods for a couple of publishers. As of the end of last year, the three Canadian small publishers I’d pitched last fall had either declined or failed to respond.

We’ll see where all of that gets me.

Other excitement

I’ve attended a few events this past month. The first was Last Stop at the Sudbury Theatre Centre, in which a couple of writer friends had their plays in progress workshopped in front of a live audience (us). It was awesome.

Then, I attended a Skype workshop with Barbara Kyle through the Sudbury Writers’ Guild on adding magic and verve to your first thirty pages. Barbara is an excellent presenter and so knowledgeable about her craft. It’s a pleasure to learn from her.

Finally, I attended a lecture by singer/songwriter Steven Page at Laurentian University on ending the stigma around mental illness. He sang a couple of songs from his new album and discussed his struggles with mental illness.

I’m also currently enrolled in two online courses.

First, I couldn’t resist signing up for Story Genius with Lisa Cron and Jennie Nash. It’s based on Lisa’s new book (of the same name) and is eight weeks long. I’m working on my week four submission this weekend. It’s hard (like, it hurts my poor, tender head hard), especially negotiating the day job and health issues Phil and I are facing right now, but I can see how it’s going to improve my ability to write a novel that will hook readers and keep them reading.

Second, I signed up for Jamie Raintree’s Design a writing career you love workshop. I’m trying to keep one foot in the business side of things. Jamie’s an excellent instructor and I always enjoy her courses.

I’ve booked my hotel for both Ad Astra in April and WorldCon in August and am still waiting for the registration information for The Canadian Writers’ Summit to emerge.

So, I guess it’s no wonder I’m under the weather at the moment.

By and large, though, I love my life. The creative part of it anyway 😉

Next week, the CanCon 2015 reportage continues.

Hope your creative endeavours are moving full steam ahead and that you’re all well on your ways to meeting your goals. Feel free to share your trials and triumphs in the comments below.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: March 2015 update

Last month, I wrote about how I was reprioritizing my life because I’d made the realization that pouring all my creative energy into the day-job was not making me happy. It wasn’t getting me any closer to my goals as a writer, either.

I started March out, work-wise, by applying for my self-funded leave and putting in my vacation requests for the first two quarters of the 2015-16 fiscal (to the end of September). I started expressing my opinion (which, of course, did me no favours, professionally) and reframing my experience with the perspective my wee revelation had provided me.

A series of serendipitous learning opportunities came my way, many of them concerned with following one’s dreams, or finding one’s calling. Funny how these things happen when we really need them to.

As I write this post, I’m listening to Michael Hyatt’s podcast on the Disciplined Pursuit of Less. This month’s newsletter from Katie Weiland included a piece on her “spring cleaning” of her subscriptions and social media. She was doing this to reclaim writing time from potentially wasteful or distracting electronic practices.

Having said all that, I was burned out by the time March rolled around. Last fall, when I had originally intended to take my self-funded leave but decided to defer it, I said that I was a little toasty around the edges, but that I’d probably be able to hold out until the spring.

That was before this acting consultancy.

Truthfully, I was burnt before the end of January. Part-way through February, I stopped revising Initiate of Stone and then I stopped drafting Marushka.

With IoS, I had to shift back into drafting mode to rewrite a chapter that was completely altered by my decision to remove a character from the novel. I was blocked, essentially, as I tried to write around the hole I’d decided to make in my plot. I didn’t stop writing per se, but I was having trouble finding my way out of the maze.

I made several abortive attempts to redraft the chapter in Word (which I didn’t count), but ultimately found that drafting by hand (which I also do not count) was much more effective. Once I had the chapter mapped and pieces of it written out, I was able to regain my momentum and complete the new chapter in Word.

Shifting gears with IoS meant that I didn’t have the drafting mojo going for Marushka. By looking at my spreadsheets, I can see clearly that when I stopped revising IoS, about a week later, I stopped drafting Marushka. Once I got back on track with IoS (the word counts recorded in red), again, about a week later, I was able to pick up with the drafting of Marushka again.

So, clearly, while it is possible for me to work on multiple projects at once, I definitely have to be working on them in different phases (drafting vs. revising). I’ve also realized that with the exception of the blog and some short stories, that the limit of my focus with regard to multiple novel-length projects is two.

Interestingly enough, I’m getting close to the end of drafting Marushka. I’ll be short of my 75k goal for the draft, but I’m okay with that. So far what seems to be my evolving pattern is to draft short, rewrite long, and revise/edit to goal length. Will let you know if this new piece of my process puzzle proves to be effective in the long run.

After my staggered, two-week disruptions in IoS and Marushka respectively, I got back on track for the rest of the month.

Judging for the Friends of the Merril contest continues. Originally, when I was notified that my story made the long-list, I was also advised that judging would be complete by March 31st. On March 31st, a post was released on the site indicating that deliberations continued.

I have a 25% chance of placing. The delay is a little nerve-wracking, but I’m trying to remain positive. It means I have some tough competition, but that we’re all in the same quality boat.

I also spiffed up three short stories, including the one I submitted to the FotM contest, and sent them off for consideration in the Sudbury Writers’ Guild anthology.

I’d wanted to revise my longer short story for submission to a magazine, but didn’t have the energy or focus to spare.

I did, however, submit my short story “The Broken Places,” which was published in Bastion last year, for consideration in the Imaginarium anthology. It’s a year’s best anthology put out by ChiZine Publications. It’s a long shot, but I can’t win if I don’t play 😉 So sayeth the lottery gods.

Now, at the beginning of April, and with a long weekend to enjoy, I’ve decided that I’m taking a breather. I’m still burnt, and trying to work all day and then come home and write all night is making things worse.

I have a writing sample to prepare for my workshop with Julie Czerneda and Ad Astra next weekend. So . . . I’m being evil and burning through Avatar on Netflix 🙂

This past week, I walked home from work. Once. I’m still sore. Mellie is out of shape. So I’m going to get back on track with regard to that. My goal is to walk home from work three evenings a week. It’s about five kilometres and takes about an hour. I have a number of books on Audible ready for the purpose.

There are a couple of anthologies that I’d like to write stories for in April, but I’m not sure if I’m going to manage them. My main goal is to complete this round of revision on IoS and my draft of Marushka. Anything else is gravy. Not saying that I’m purposefully disregarding these anthologies; I like gravy, but I’m also aware of my limitations, now more than ever.

Once that’s done, I’m going to shift gears again with IoS and get into query mode and I’ll then be completing my draft of Gerod and the Lions.

Those are my goals for the intermediate future.

Now to take a look at my progress for the month:

March Writing Progress

IoS Revisions (remember these are half counts, except for the new chapter in red, which were all new words): 11,901 words. Compare this with 11,851 in February, and 7,789 in January. I’m at the 50% mark of the novel.

Bloggage: 7,200 words. This has held more or less steady with 6,676 words in February and 8,432 words in January. I’m at 23% of my annual goal, which is more or less where I expected to be for March (one quarter through the year).

Drafting Marushka: 4,520 words in March; 3,859 in February; and my blow-me-away 9,462 in January. I’m at 44% of my drafting goal. I might make 60% by the time the story is finished.

Short stories: 90 words in March; 1,206 in February; and 34 in January. I’m at 27% of my goal for the year which is good.

Totals: 23,711 for March; 23,592 for February; 25,717 for January.

March Summary

So there we are.

Progress is, as ever, being made.

Now, season 3 of Avatar is calling, and Bitten this evening.

Have a lovely Easter, everyone.

See you on Tipdsay!

The Next Chapter

The Next Chapter: February 2015 update

As you may have been able to surmise from recent weekend posts, February was a rough month for me. March is gearing up to be another such, but, the good news? Apparently, work misery doesn’t affect my creative life 😉

February 2015 Progress

Revisions of Initiate of Stone overtook drafting of Marushka, quantity wise. Blogging dropped a bit, and short fiction increased as I got back on that horse after my rejections in January.

I submitted a fantasy piece to the Friends of the Merril contest and I’m pleased to announce that I made the long list. I can’t disclose the name of the piece at this time because the judging is blind and I don’t want to prejudice the judges one way or the other. For those of you who may be in on the secret, please don’t let the cat out of the bag for the same reasons, please and thank you. Judging should be complete by the end of March. I hope to have more good news to share.

January was my best-ever month, productivity-wise, at 25,717 words, but, amazingly, February wasn’t far behind with 23,592 words between all active projects.

Revisions of IoS clocked in at 11,851 words (and remember revised totals are halved), Marushka at 3,859 words (this was the speed at which I expected the drafting to go—last month was a surprise), and short stories at 1,206 words. The blog’s share of the total word count was 6,676.

Year to Date Summary

As you can see by the summary tab, I’m 33% toward my goal of revising IoS, 31% toward my drafting goal for Marushka, 25% of my goal for short stories, and 16% of the way to my annual blog word count goal. It’s nice to see those bar graphs growing as I progress.

What’s up for March?

I’ll be submitting three stories to the Sudbury Writers’ Guild anthology, and revising another piece of short fiction for another market.

There are a couple of anthologies I’d like to submit to in April, and so I’m going to start drafting those. Both anthologies are themed, and I don’t have anything suitable in my current oeuvre.

I’m going to continue revising IoS. So far, I’m quite pleased with my progress. I’ve hit a point, though, where I have to start rewriting chunks of the novel because I’m writing out one of the characters. It’s a little more challenging than I expected, switching into drafting mode in the middle of revisions. In fact, it’s kind of stumped me this first week of March. I had to resort to writing by hand to get back into the groove.

I’m going to continue drafting Marushka. Though my goal is for a 75k draft, I’m thinking that I’ll land somewhere between 50 and 60k. There’s a lot of fleshing out that has to happen. I may overshoot my 75k goal when I do flesh things out, and then I’ll have to edit back down. This seems to be the way things go for me (so far).

Blogging will be blogging and I don’t anticipate a huge change in that department at this time.

I have registered for Ad Astra (April 10-12) and a Master Class with Julie Czerneda, booked my hotel, and put in for my leave from work around the weekend. This is a goody-goody-gumdrops event for me and I’ll be doing the reportage thing again 🙂 It’s only a month away! Eeeee!

That’s it on writerly progress until next month.

Next up, I’m going to be posting about anime and manga, and a writer friend has inspired me to write a post on my literary mothers. Should prove to be interesting. I hope you’ll all think so 😀

The Next Chapter

Reprioritizing

This week, I had an epiphany. The tension has been building for some time and, really, it should have happened years ago, but I had to come to this place in my life to be able to wrap my head around it fully.

Now that I’ve come to a decision, though, I feel stupid for not having realized this sooner.

I’m a writer (duh).

What, you say? I thought you figured that one out already. Yes. I had. But it’s one thing to know something and another to become it, to take action to make your dreams reality.

Let me ‘splain.

C’mon, people, by now you should realize that everything’s a story with me 😉

Back when I was still a wounded creative (oh, poor me), even though I’d been published as a poet, and completed my MA in English Literature and Creative Writing, I couldn’t establish a regular writing practice. I knew that I wanted to be a writer, but I couldn’t find my way there.

I’d been working contract jobs interspersed with employment insurance claims and then I started working for my current employer. At last, I had a job that could pay the bills. The hand-to-mouth existence ceased.

I finally started to sort out my damage, got into therapy, went on antidepressants. I did a few other things to help myself health-wise, and then, thanks to a writing workshop arranged by the Sudbury Writers’ Guild, I found my way to the page.

I drafted my first novel, went to more workshops and conferences, read my way though one writing craft book after another, and joined professional associations.

At work, I was successful in an assessment process, and, after a relatively short period of time, another.

I started this blog and began to work on creating a “platform.”

By this time, I was in my late 30’s and I was under the impression that I could do everything. I could be awesome in my day job, my personal life, and in my creative life.

The truth? You can only run on all cylinders all the time for so long before you need a tune up.

I thought that taking the occasional self-funded leave would be enough, but each time I returned to work, exhaustion crept up on me more and more quickly.

I hit forty and travelling for training started to become less enjoyable. I applied for process after process, getting screened out of most of them, and eventually landed an acting consultant position that drove me a little crazy. I got my training certification.

Then the certification program ceased and I wondered what I had spent all that time and effort on.

Our internal college is undergoing a transformation of its own, by the way, and may be losing more than just the training certification program.

Creatively, I started working on other novels and started to get my short fiction published again.

And now, I’m in another acting consultant position.

I’ve just spent a week in Toronto, training. Introvert me was so drained, I had nothing left for the page.

That was when it hit me.

I’m spending my energy on the wrong thing.

Last year, I wrote about how my creative life was feeding me in a far more meaningful way than my work life. Dan Blank, from whom I learned a lot about platform, made particular note of that statement. He saw it was the light that would eventually become a revelation. As usual, I was a little slow on the uptake.

I’d just returned to my substantive position as an advisor with the training unit and my employer was in the midst of a business transformation process. On the heels of that, they engaged in a massive hiring process that required a lot of training for the newly hired employees.

Retirements at the executive level caused another kind of upheaval and only eight months after getting our manager back from an extended leave, we lost her to a management shuffle. Nearly everyone was moving around; nearly everyone was acting in one capacity or another. There was no stability.

We’re still in chaos. I think that’s supposed to be the new normal, but I don’t deal well with that much upheaval.

I had just decided that I would be happy not getting another acting consultant position, because there were geographical restrictions and I was not willing to move. My friends in the pool were being offered indeterminate positions and I was happy for them.

Then this position came up.

I think the same thing has happened at work that happened back when I was finishing my BA.

At that time, I was moving into a good place creatively. I was starting to get published. I thought I needed the validation of an MA, though.

So, I put myself through hell and though I got the damned degree, it’s still one of my biggest regrets.

Now, I think I need the continuing validation of promotions. I don’t. I so don’t.

What I need is to settle in as advisor for the rest of my career, however long that may be. No more special projects that either get abandoned or taken over by other departments. No more assessment processes that have nothing to do with the jobs they result in. No more acting positions in which I fail to the degree that the lessons learned are no longer within my grasp.

More than that, I don’t want to travel anymore. It simply drains me too much. I’m even considering a parallel move into quality monitoring, which would not involve training or travel, though I would be willing to help out with training in my office, if my new manager would be agreeable.

I’m planning on another self-funded leave this year, but after I’ve paid that off, I’m considering part-time work as well. My work/life/creative balance has been off for so long I can’t see how screwed up things have gotten.

This is not to say that I’m going to coast, or dog it, for the rest of my career. I don’t think that would be possible. It’s just not in me to purposefully do a poor, or inadequate, job. I’m a perfectionist, after all.

I just don’t want a day job that depletes me to the point that I can’t do what it is that I’ve been put on this spinning orb to do.

I still have to work for a few years yet to make sure our remaining debts are paid off, but once we’re in a good place, financially, I intend to make an early retirement of it and get on with the business of the rest of my life.

I’m a writer and the day job is a means to that end. I have to keep my priorities straight. I can’t afford to be putting good energy after bad.

I just have to make it through the remainder of my current acting assignment with my sanity intact first.

Wish me luck?

Muse-inks

Sundog snippet: Writerly events and an update on the construction

Kim FahnerOn Thursday, I went to see my friend Kim Fahner read her poetry at the Open Studio Showcase. Along with Kim were all three of Sudbury’s Poet Laureates, past and present (Roger Nash, Daniel Aubin, and Tom Leduc). Richard Van Camp was MC and storyteller for the evening.

A couple of people signed up for the open mic and added some much needed estrogen to the line up 🙂

The theme of the evening was Identity.

Today, I took a trip out to our Chapter’s to visit with Mat Del Papa and Lisa Coleman-Brown, who were selling and signing copies of Creepy Capreol. While there, I met with fellow Sudbury Writers’ Guild members Renny De Groot, Scott Overton, and Irene Golas.

Mat and Lisa

I an odd turn of events, a gentleman asked the table to watch his collie, fittingly named Lassie, while he dodged over to Kelsey’s for lunch.

. . .

In destruction construction news, the blasting is over, the rubble is cleared, and they’ve torn up all the old paving on our driveway.

SatOct18b

I think they need to move the storm drain and reconstruct the curb before they get the retaining wall started. The hold up with the driveway appears to be the mass of clay around the water shut off valves, which must, of course, be excavated and replaced with proper fill (otherwise, they’ll just have to redo things next year when the frost heaves all that clay again).

Nu is doing well. Phil and I are getting used to the VetPen, but I won’t have further news until Nu has her next glucose curve on the 30th.

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print, people.

See you all on Tipsday!

Sundog snippet

Six questions with Mat Del Papa

Mat is a writerly friend and a past-president of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild. He’s published two collections of stories loosely based on the history of the railway in Capreol, and now, he has become an editor, assembling fact and fiction to create Creepy Capreol, a collection of supernatural tales about his hometown.


 

Welcome to Writerly Goodness, Mat!

WG: What inspired the Creepy Capreol project, and how did it evolve?

MDP: The inspiration came from Spooky Sudbury. Mark Leslie and Jenny Jelen put together a great book and I was fortunate enough to be involved in a small way. That got me thinking about doing something more scary than my usual. Seeing the phenomenal success they had combined with the unexpected discovery of two other stories about Capreol in Spooky Sudbury to give me another push. Mark provided the final impetus. We’d been joking, via email, about the various weirdness in Capreol (the river’s burned twice and the fire hall three times — for a example) and he said something like “You should write a book.” I forget who came up with the title, him or me, but it clicked.

WG: How did you go about recruiting your writers and artist? How smoothly did that process go for you?

MDP: I recruited the writers I thought would the best fit first — current and former Capreol residents who already write genre-type stories. Steve Vernon was on top of that list. Born and raised in Capreol he’s had a great deal of success writing horror. Next came Jason Shayer, another Capreol boy who’s gone on to bigger things. Both were happy to contribute and their inclusion gave me the confidence to move forward (until they signed onboard I was more or less toying with the idea — getting two published authors was the final push).

It would have been a thin book though if I hadn’t approached a few members of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild. Betty Guenette wrote about her uncle from Milnet (a ghost town just north of Capreol) and gave me a second story set in Sellwood (another nearby ghost town). Lisa Coleman-Brown had impressed me with her ability to write gross fiction and she delivered another stomach-churner for Creepy Capreol.

The artist proved easiest of all. Robert Michelutti lives in Capreol and volunteers at the local train museum (the Northern Ontario Railroad Museum and Heritage Centre). I’ve had dealings with the museum before (they sell my previous books in their gift shop) and so had an “in” with Bob. I sent him some samples stories and he sent me some sample art — they proved a great fit.

WG: Once you had the writers lined up and their stories in hand, it would have been time for editing. What did you learn from wearing the editorial hat that you may not have known as a writer?

MDP: Editing is hard. Everyone knows that. What I didn’t realize was how many little details there were. Things you have to keep track of at all times. It’s like juggling — only you’re dealing with people and their creations! Getting the best work sometimes meant stepping on toes. I found a hundred ways to say, politely, “Try again. You can do better.” The amazing thing is . . . the various contributors did do better, every time, revising until we both were happy. No doubt they came to curse my very name, but the final product proved the efforts (and swearwords!) weren’t in vain.

WG: Did you do the layout work yourself as well? How was it organizing text and images for publication?

MDP: I did just about everything — that’s the only way to keep costs reasonable. Luckily there are plenty of quality programs and templates available. It probably took me ten times as long as a professional, but in the end everything came together.

The hardest part was balancing the content. I agonized over the order, trying to compliment each story with the one before and after.

WG: What is it like to create a project like this and have a hand in it from start to finish?

MDP: Satisfying . . . and frustrating. I enjoyed 99% of the process. But that last 1% had me almost tearing my hair out. I can live with the odd technical glitch. It’s my own stupid mistakes that gall. Luckily I’ve done the whole self-publishing thing three times before and have learned from most of my mistakes.

Having contributors was a new experience. One I found both difficult and exhilarating. Their enthusiasm pushed me through some rough patches, but waiting on others to revise (in some cases four or five times before getting it right) was a challenge. The fact that I’m not the best time manager meant that the last few weeks were a tight crunch. Still, for all the struggles, the final product turned out better than I could have hoped.

WG: What’s coming up for Creepy Capreol?

MDP: First comes the official launch. I always hold a book-signing/launch as part of the Capreol Days festivities (held on the August long weekend). This summer is no different. I’ll be in downtown Capreol on Saturday, August 2nd with a table of books — Creepy Capreol will be selling at a special holiday price of $14.00 — and encourage anyone interested to come out. There’s music, barbeques, a sidewalk sale — last year had horse rides, kids games, an animal exhibit — and more.

After that I hope to hit Valley East Days in early September. It’s another fun weekend, full of music, food, and entertainment.

The book should be available on Amazon in the fall. Kobo, Kindle, and iBookstore versions are coming soon. And I hope to have it in Chapters Sudbury location for October.

Thank you for taking the time to tell us a little about Creepy Capreol and your journey to publication.


 

About the book:Creepy Capreol
Creepy Capreol
Chilling Tales from a Railroad Town

Introduction by Mark Leslie.
Illustrations by Robert Michelutti.

The book consists of two parts:

Non-Fiction

That Darn Sock Monkey — How a stuffed sock monkey traumatized my youth.
Bigfoot Lives! — A look at the Capreol connection to the famed creature; with references to fact, legend, and some personal observations.
Help! My Wheelchair Is Trying To Kill Me — Humorous take on the many times I’ve almost been killed by my wheelchair. Mostly true, some exaggeration for effect.
Vigilante Justice: Capreol Style — An account of Frederick Chase Capreol’s many failings and lone stellar success. It is mostly factual, but with some humour.
The Mystery Of Capreol’s Mass Grave — Fact-based article that refutes the commonly held belief that between 30 and 80 people are buried in a mass grave.
The Wreck At Drocourt — A poem by Ida Quackenbush and her son George. Originally written approximately 1930.
Ghost Town Trilogy — Loose histories of three local ghost towns.

Fiction

Rolling Stock — Steve Vernon
Set in Capreol’s railyard the story revolves around one man’s late-night encounter with the supernatural.
Not The Basement! — Lisa Coleman-Brown
An overworked PSW is filling in for a co-worker when she discovers a disturbing secret.
The Likely Story — Paul Mandziuk
A literary mystery; it features a vicious murder in a bookstore — with a novel twist.
This Old Man — Betty Guenette
The bond between nephew and uncle are tested as more than age and isolation separate the two.
The One That Got Away — Matthew Del Papa
A northern Ontario fish story as told by the bait dealer who saw it all happening.
Dual Ghost Towns — Betty Guenette
Ghost towns aren’t always empty. Two sisters find this out in traumatizing fashion on a visit to Sellwood.
Stagnant Waters — Jason Shayer
Exploring abandoned buildings reveals something unexpected … and evil.