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

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

Let’s start with December, shall we?

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

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

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

December 2014 writing progress

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

What about 2014?

It was a good year, I think.

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

The highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 2014, I have written:

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

2014 Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s ahead for 2015?

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will map and reverse engineer AoW and probably Marushka.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you shortly 🙂

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: November 2014 update

So. Just to get it out there, I didn’t meet my NaNo goal this year. Honestly, I thought it was going to be a tall order writing 50k words while working full time.

If you remember my pre-NaNo post, I said that if everything went to hell and I only got 20k words written, that I’d still be happy.

Well, I wrote 28,355 words on my new novel idea and I’m more than happy with that.

NaNoWriMo participant 2014

I didn’t do more than maintenance housework.

I did try to live as normal a life as possible.

I did not abandon my blog, though I was less present on social media.

I had two birthday celebrations, two weeks of training (which always drains introverted Mellie), two weeks of travel, a workshop on publishing, a Christmas party fiasco, and a new critique group meeting to attend.

I’m surprised I got as much done as I did.

I’m still in recovery.

So here, briefly, is what the month looked like.

November's Writing Progress

5,269 words on the blog and 28,355 on the new novel.

33,624 words total for the month.

Whew!

I’ve taken a few days’ respite so far in December (sorry about the time warp, folks), but I’m getting back on that wee writing horsie next week.

As Chuck Wendig says, I gotta finish my shit. As Kristen Lamb says, life rewards finishers.

Specifically, I’m not only going to work further on Marushka, which is another YA urban fantasy/fairy tale re-envisioning, but I’m also going to get back to my other draft-in-progress, Gerod and the Lions, my MG fantasy, and work on a few short stories for upcoming contests and anthology calls.

I’ve written Marushka in Scrivener, my first project using that program. To be honest, while I can see the value of Scrivener, I’m organized enough, and well-versed enough in Word that I’m content to return to it.

Unless, of course, Microsoft does what it’s threatening to do and make Office into a subscription-based service. If that happens, they’ve lost a heretofore faithful customer and I’m jumping ship to Scrivener.

I don’t know why MS has to go and screw up a perfectly good office suite.

I’ve had the pleasure of being on the launch team for a fellow author for the past few months as well. It’s been an interesting process helping Jane Ann McLachlan choose a title for her novel, a cover, reading the ARC, and writing the review for her.

I’ve also gleaned a few things for my toolbox. I knew that one must place one’s review to Amazon.com (as opposed to .ca) but now I know that I should also find other reviews helpful and click that little button on as many of them as possible.

Apparently that’s another little tip: Amazon will give preference and weight to helpful reviews, as opposed to reviews on which the button has not been clicked. Amazon also prefers it if you have purchased the book or ebook through them prior to posting the review. A verified purchase carries more weight again.

Interesting stuff. And here I thought I was helping people out by posting my reviews of their books. Now I know how to help them even more.

And that was my month.

I got a little present in my inbox this past week. See that lovely Excel spreadsheet depicted above? That was created by the wonderful and talented Jamie Raintree. I got her newsletter, and a link to the 2015 version (happy dancing commences).

You need to subscribe to that lovely lady 🙂

I spent most of today cleaning the house after my month of sloth. Phil helped (bless him) by doing the pots in the kitchen and cleaning the bathroom.

Now Mellie has to toddle off to Bedfordshire. She has five submissions to critique for tomorrow’s meeting and Christmas decorations to haul out of storage and place artfully around the house.

You know what? I love my life 🙂

The Next Chapter

Why do I write and how do I stay motivated?

The question that Bob Clary of Webeducator.com posed to me was this: We’re wondering how other writers who write more for pleasure for than for financial gain stay motivated.

  • What were your goals when you started writing?

I started writing in grade three, at the age of seven, after having been inspired by the storybooks created by the grade five class. In particular, the story created by Siobhan Riddell, of a knight who fought a dragon to rescue a princess, made me want to write something like that. I sent my first submission to CBC’s Pencil Box, a show that dramatized the stories of its young viewers, that same month.

I didn’t have goals when I started writing. Nothing so formal. I wanted to write something that could make someone else feel the way Siobhan’s story made me feel.

  • What are your goals now?

The same. More or less.

Now, however, I have read thousands of books by hundreds of authors.

I have been published as a poet. This is not something one does for money. Especially in Canada. A “bestseller” in poetry in Canada is 500 copies. In most cases, you’re lucky to break even. Many journals pay in subscriptions. Many anthologies pay in copies.

I have won prizes in short story contests, five to date, the prize money ranging from $50 to $150. This is also not a way to earn a living as a writer, but it is a way to get published.

As of this year, I have had three professional sales, all for science fiction short stories. Even with professional rates, though, it’s hard to make a living this way. I’d have to publish a story every working day of the year to make a living wage.

I have now written three novels and am working on two more. None of these have been published. Someday, they will be, if not by a traditional publishing contract and deal, then by self-publishing. I am struck with the thought at how few people in North America actually live by their writing alone if they write fiction.

Non-fiction, journalism, and technical writing all pay better. If anyone wanted to write in order to make a living doing it, I’d recommend any, or a combination, of those fields.

Not that it’s impossible, but it is challenging and it takes a kind of bravery I have to admit I lack. I will not thrust responsibility for my care and upkeep onto my spouse. I cannot let our debts go unpaid.

Having said all of that, I still intend to make a living by my writing one day. There are conditions, namely, that all our outstanding debts must be paid off, I must make enough by writing to replace my current income, or we must become incredibly lucky and win the lottery 😛

  • What pays the bills now?

I am a corporate trainer working 37.5 hours a week.

  • Assuming writing doesn’t pay the bills, what motivates you to keep writing?

That wonderful storybook from grade three. All the books I’ve since read. The ideas that I keep getting that just won’t leave me alone. The fact that my writing is my solace, my entertainment, my therapy, my passion, my calling, and one day, my legacy, keeps me typing, scribbling, and learning about my craft.

Though I started writing young, I have always struggled, and until about nine years ago, I didn’t write every day. I’ve had some very damaging experiences that have led me to distrust my talent and my skill, but the desire to write has never left me.

I can’t not write. I have often said that I will write until age and infirmity (it’s going to take both of them—I ain’t going down without a fight) rob me of the capacity.

Siobhan’s storybook has never left me either, and I can’t fulfill that childhood desire to give readers the thoughts and feels unless I publish more of my writing.

  • What advice would you give young authors hoping to make a career out of writing?

Read. Read everything. Read in your genre. Read outside your genre. Read non-fiction. Read the classics. Read crappy books. Read books that make you cry or cheer or race to the end (and stalk watch the author’s web site until the next book is out).

Write. The only way to become a better writer is to write and to finish what you write and then to start writing something else. Lather, rinse, repeat. Never stop.

Study the craft. Take workshops. Go to conferences. Read every writing craft book you can borrow from the library or afford to buy. Subscribe to blogs and newsletters. Love learning and be open. I got an MFA, but they’re not for everyone. You can often do more and or better without. Be savvy. Do your research. Trust your gut.

Be willing to work. Work your butt off. Work your fingers to the bone. If you love what you do, the work—well it won’t be easy, but it will be a burden you can bear with a glad heart, because you know that this is what you were born to do.

Invest in yourself. Join professional associations in your genre. Find the money to pay for freelance editing. Get into a critique group. Learn about the publishing industry. Hone your query or book proposal until it is perfect.

Never give up. Persistence pays.


 

You can see how Roger Sakowski and Janie Sullivan responded to these questions on the Webeducator blogAnd here are a few other authors who have participated:

Muse-inks

The Next Chapter: September 2014 update

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

September was an interesting month.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September's writing progress

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

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

So that was my month in writing.

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

The Next Chapter

Further thoughts on uncertainty

I guess I was a little over the top last week. Several of you reached out to me in concern, and I thank you, every one, but I’m okay. Really.

Writing is one of the principle ways I address feelings of anxiety and depression when they arise. It’s very much like I wrote last week, I pin my thoughts and feelings to the page. Once they’re there, I can gain perspective in a way that I can’t when talking to family and friends.

Phil, love him as I do, like most partners, tries to offer solutions. I have to find these for myself. My mom and other family can only commiserate, really, and after a while, repeating the same story over and over again to friends only serves to intensify my negative feelings.

Let me tell you, that beast does not need to be fed.

A few things happened at work in the last week that helped a bit.

  1. The project I was working on finally worked out.
    I’ve been struggling with this thing for weeks.
    Short version: I’ve been making some screen videos. The recording was okay once I had some dedicated time to write my scripts and work out my storyboard. I’ve had to learn how to use a new video editing program (thank you Lynda.com), edit the videos (again, no sweat), and export the final product. This is where my lack of experience in formal video editing has come back to bite me in the ass.
    I tried format after format, but either the audio was choppy, the program required add-ons that I cannot install, or I ended up with a monster file. How monster? A seven minute video was over 5GB. Whaaaaat? That’s like a whole movie!
    In any case, I finally got most of my problems resolved.
  2. I’m no longer going to be travelling for training. Generally, I don’t mind it, but this would have been three weeks away from home. Mellie is a happy camper.
  3. I managed to negotiate my self-funded leave. This, too, is a boon, but this weekend, I’ve been thinking that I might defer it until the spring.
    Yes, I’m a bit toasty around the edges, but I’m not burned out yet. The summer’s break from training and monitoring has been a balm. My trips to Ad Astra, Can Write, and When Words Collide have fed my creative side, and I think I can move into the fall refreshed.
    There’s some truth to the saying that a change is as good as a rest.
    Plus, it will be nice to resume my full salary for a portion of the year. The way I had to rearrange my leave around training and monitoring means that I also didn’t get the time I wanted off. I had wanted the last week of October and the month of November so I could do NaNo again this year. It’s going to be most of October and just a week in November.
    Spring might be a better time.

Otherwise, work is still up in the air, but things will sort themselves out eventually. They always do. I just have to pull myself back into the here and now, appreciate each day for what it is, and take it as it comes. Projecting too far into the future is not a good thing.

At home, we’re still in a holding pattern, waiting for reports to get to the city engineers regarding the rerouting of our gas line (currently naked) and the removal of the rock in our front yard/building of the retaining wall.

Creatively, it’s been a low month.

I’ll write about this a bit more in my month-end update, but I’ve been in a state of collapse since my return from Calgary.

It’s not writer’s block. My well is topped up. It’s just my creative brain’s reaction to going all out for so long. I had a bit of a stumble back in the spring, but then I jumped right back on the writing bandwagon with a vengeance. It was a great few months of writing, but I think writer me wanted a holiday.

It’s the joys of writing with a day job. There just aren’t enough hours in the day and I’m getting old enough that working two jobs is a bit much for me. I think I’m going to work a day of rest into my schedule.

And now the new television season is about to begin. I hate to say it, but I’m a bit of a TV junkie. I watch, as I read, for story. There are a number of new shows I want to check out. I’m getting increasingly picky, though.

Last year, I worked out a great system with my lap top. I’ll see if it continues to work this year.

That’s it until next week, when I’ll get into The Next Chapter update.

What’s going on in your lives, lately? Just drop me a line in the comments and let me know.

Muse-inks

The next chapter: June 2014 update

Hey all!

I must say that June was a blockbuster month for me.

It started with the publication of my science fiction short story “The Broken Places” being published in Bastion Science Fiction Magazine. Still so excited about that.

I attended June’s @M2the5th Twitter chat with Roz Morris, focusing on her Nail Your Novel series. I’m learning quite a bit from these, and though we cancelled July’s because, Independence Day, we’ll be getting back to our monthly schedule in August.

A comment on last month’s update had me a little concerned about what my readers might be taking away from these posts. It seems May’s update was taken as a warning about social media. If the warning was timely and helpful, great, but it’s not the message I hoped to convey.

I have now finished reading my ARC of K.M. Weiland’s forthcoming Jane Eyre: Writer’s Digest Annotated Classics. I’ll be posting a review later in the month, so stay tuned for that.

The adjustable desk is working out very well, and I’m now standing for longer between rests. At work, I read a post from a learning and development blogger in which he discussed his experience with his standing desk, which he described as continual fidgeting.

He uses a kitchen stool to take a periodic break from standing and has discovered that he can’t write while standing (!) Thankfully, that hasn’t been my experience.

CanWrite! 2014 was a great time, as usual. I’ve been blogging the panels, sessions, and workshops I’ve attended on a weekly basis.

Another piece of exciting writerly news arrived when I returned home from the conference: another speculative short story, “On the Ferry,” made it into the top ten in the When Words Collide writing contest.

This means I’ll appear in their chapbook anthology, In Places Between, though I’ll have to wait until the conference to find out if I’ve placed. Still. Squee-worthy.

Last month, I had a blogging disruption around the arrival of my desk and spent most of my non-blogging writing time working through Initiate of Stone, all of that work in long hand. Though I completed a lot of work on IoS, I wasn’t able to capture a word count from it.

In last month’s update, I mentioned I would be getting back to countable writing.

June's writing progress

June’s total word count: 18,471!!!!!

13,425 of those words were on my blog, but 5,046 were written in Gerod and the Lions. I set myself a goal of 5k for the month on that project, and I made it. The draft is now just over 10k words and I’ll have a workable draft by the end of the year 😀

I only just started working on Figments (my NaNo project from last year) as I had worked on IoS last month. In all fairness, I have a little more to do with Figments than I had to do on IoS.

First, I’m mapping it. This is something I picked up from reading Donald Maass’s The Breakout Novelist. For each chapter, I list the title, page count, word count, the first and last lines (both hooks, one to draw the reader into the chapter and the other to propel the reader onward), the purpose of the chapter, in story terms, the internal and external conflicts, and finally, what changes for the story, and for the POV character as a result of the chapter.

These are actually from several separate exercises in Maass’s workbook, but I’ve cobbled them together to create my map. These are like index cards and I can rearrange them as needed when I work on the structure of the story. I can see where I might have to divide longer chapters, and fairly easily pick out plot points, pinch points, reversals, etc.

Once I get the mapping done, I’ll fiddle with Figments’s structure and tighten things up, work through a beat sheet ala Roz Morris, and finally reverse engineer the plot with Victoria Mixon’s holographic structure.

June has taught me that I can’t draft one project and then work by hand on another project simultaneously. I’m going to try alternating and see how that goes.

And that is all the Writerly Goodness I have for you tonight.

How are your works-in-progress coming, my friends?

Coming up this month: An interview with author and editor Mat Del Papa on his new anthology Creepy Capreol, I take another shot at the writing process blog hop, the review of Katie’s book, more CanWrite! reportage, and a couple of poems with creation stories.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: May 2014 update

This is going to be a short update.

May's Word Count

All of the new words I produced this month were from blogging (7503), even though I didn’t blog for a whole week because of chaos. It was good chaos, but nonetheless.

I worked on revisions for the short story I submitted to Bastion Science Fiction Magazine, “The Broken Places,” at the beginning of the month, but that was actually trimming and, just for sanity’s sake, I’m not counting negative words.

By the way, the story is now in the June issue, available online here: Bastion Science Fiction Magazine. You can also get a single issue through Amazon, a subscription through Weightless Books, or just donate to a cool publication.

*Hint, hint. Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink.* Bastion is also a great place to submit if you’re into that speculative fiction stuff 🙂

Needless to say, there is much happy dancing on Marttila Drive.

The biggest part of the non-blogging writing work I did was on Initiate of Stone. I executed my plan of going through and eliminating the one character, giving all her important bits and pieces to other characters, and making notes for the revisions. I also went through my novel in reverse order, using Victoria Mixon’s holographic structure.

This is a technique she recommends in her Art and Craft of Story, and after Roz Morris posted that she’s had to draft her scenes out of order for her latest WIP, Ever Rest, even working backwards, I had to give it a try.

It’s a very interesting technique, and allows you to make sure that plot events and foreshadowing are in their proper places. It’s great for consistency too. I caught a few things that I hadn’t taken into account writing forward.

In other news, my adjustable desk is working out great. If you haven’t been following, the arrival of the desk and the necessity of reorganizing my office to suit it was one of the reasons for my blogging vacation. I can stand for an hour and a bit before I have to sit down for a rest. I’m training myself up.

I’ve also purchase a summer membership for the yoga studio I’ve joined, and I’m hoping that the desk and the yoga will help me stave off future back issues.

Totally unrelated to writing, Phil and I had to purchase a new clothes washer this past week. Our’s was pooched. While at the store, Phil decided he also wanted an upright freezer. He was getting tired of losing stuff at the bottom of the chest freezer we had.

So that’s a chunk of change down the drain.

I tried to write a couple of non-speculative pieces this month, and my interest just wasn’t there. I had ideas, certainly, but the one contest required me to write from a prompt, which I’m not overly keen on. I couldn’t find one that really helped me get anywhere. The other would have been a non-fiction piece, or perhaps creative non-fiction, but again, the idea just couldn’t sustain me.

Sad but true. I guess I’m way beyond the SF/F pale. There are worse places to be. Trust me 🙂

Two opportunities came my way this month that I have to share.

The first kind of blew me away. K.M. Weiland emailed me and asked me to read and review her new book, The Writers Digest Annotated Jane Eyre. Of course I said yes! I love Jane Eyre and have read the book a couple of times. Plus, I’m really attracted to the way Katie analyzes a piece of fiction. It didn’t hurt that she said she respected my opinion (head inflating, unattractively).

So far, it’s great, and I’m learning a lot about how to read as a writer.

It’ll be out July 19th. Watch for it.

The second opportunity came in another email, this one from someone I’d recently started following on Twitter. A Rewording Life, is Sheryl Gordon’s project in honour of her mother, and all those afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.

She’s recruiting logophiles and creative, wordy people of all stripes to contribute a sentence to her book. I did, and my word was psychopomp 🙂 A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Alzheimer’s research. Check out her site. Follow her on Twitter @ARewordingLife.

And here I thought this was going to be a short post 😛 I am a wordy girl!

This month, I’m moving on to work on my other two completed (more or less) drafts as I did with IoS this month. The Canadian Authors Association’s CanWrite! Conference will be June 18-22, 2014. I hope to bring back lots of Writerly Goodness from that event.

I’m going to try to get back into the fiction writing swing of things. Most of my ideas these days are trending novel length, though. Maybe I’ll just finish the draft of Gerod and the Lions before starting another new project. That sounds like a plan.

How are your projects going, my writerly friends?

The Next Chapter

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz March 23-29, 2014

Thoughty ThursdayIt’s an eclectic collection this week. A bit imagistic, an iota of cute, a tad astronomical, a titch creative, a little kindness to yourself and others, and a couple of really awesome musical covers.

Enjoy!

The hidden meanings of logos.
http://www.buzzfeed.com/video/dimitri/change-the-way-you-look-at-logos

The top photos of 2013:
http://dailynewsdig.com/top-photographers-photos/

There was another cool post about surreal places that really exist, but the link seems to be corrupted 😦

If you want to take better pictures, start with these five design elements:
http://photofocus.com/2014/03/26/5-design-elements-for-better-pictures/

They had me at sleep.
http://blog.bufferapp.com/creativity-methods-more-ideas

What a neuroscientist says about the benefits of meditation.
http://www.trulybuddha.com/how-meditation-changes-your-brain-a-neuroscientist-explains/

Defining bullying.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/signe-whitson/bullying_b_2188819.html

Things to stop doing to yourself. Just stop.
http://www.lifebuzz.com/just-stop/

How to keep quiet and carry a big telescope. #scienceiscool
http://www.wired.com/2014/03/secret-bicep-inflation/

Pet shaming. Because hilarious.
http://blazepress.com/2014/03/35-hilarious-pet-confessions/

What a dachshund did the first time it was allowed on the bed.
http://blog.petflow.com/a-tiny-puppy-was-allowed-on-the-bed-for-the-first-time-look-what-he-did/

Musical discovery of the week, thanks to new Twitter friend, Mark Hanson.

Two cellists rock cover of ACDC’s “Thunderstruck.”
http://www.sharedots.com/2-men-with-their-cellos-produce-most-incredible-song-cover-ever-this-will-blow-your-mind-122.html

And that, my friends, is all I shared.

The next chapter: March 2014 update

The Next ChapterToday was, indeed, a glorious new day. This morning, the sun was shining, the high for the day was predicted to be above zero degrees Celsius (it turned out to be plus six), and Phil made me breakfast—wakey, wakey, eggs and bacey!

Unfortunately, around noon, I threw my back out. Note to self: do not try to dead-lift the over-full laundry basket.

Still, I went out and bought a new pair of sandals (yes, I’m that optimistic—there was much meltage today), spent a Chapters gift card on books, and stocked up on Atlas Mountain Rose, my spring Body Shop scent. My back regretted it, but I went.

Because this month was “heck month,” I did not get as much writing done as I would have liked, and by the time the second week rolled around, I knew I wasn’t going to stick to my schedule.

Truth be told, I’d been feeling a certain tension having to leave one project for another before I’d gotten what I thought needed to be done all along. I used that tension to good effect, however, because when I did return to the project in February, that tension propelled me into the project more quickly.

In March, though, it wasn’t working for me.

Week one was for Apprentice of Wind, the second book of my Ascension series and what I’d been doing so far was cobbling together the pieces I excised from Initiate of Stone with what I had already written for AoW, cutting the scenes and chapters I’d determined I didn’t want to use, and going through to write in the consistencies I’d established in IoS.

I was itching just to get everything together in one document and formatted, though, so I could print it out and read it through, making edit notes as I went. I quickly saw that some chapters would have to be completely rewritten.

In week two, I did move onto Figments, and I did continue to work on editing the draft, but again, at the end of the week, I hadn’t quite finished refining the climax and denouement the way I wanted it.

So in week three, when I had my time off, I finished both compiling and printing out AoW and finishing off Figments. I’ll be printing out the latter tonight 🙂
This past week, I’ve only started reading through AoW and making notes. I haven’t touched Gerod and the Lions at all (though I did work on a scene at Brian Henry’s workshop and counted my handwritten words), and I just finished off the work on the short story I submitted to Bastion at the beginning of the month, but haven’t worked on any short fiction since.

I also have a play I’m working through for a friend, and I haven’t gotten nearly as far through that as I’d like either, but I hope things flow more smoothly this month.

My plan for the coming month will be to focus on AoW and Figments, as well as finishing off my review of the play.

What am I going to do with my novels? I am going to read both of them through and make notes. I’m going to use two approaches to guide me.

The first is Roz Morris’s Nail Your Novel. Without having read her method before, I realize that I’ve kind of found my own way to it. Part of her method is to write out cards for bits and pieces of the story. These cards can then be shuffled and rearranged as required in the process of redrafting.

On these cards are the short form notes for what changes for the plot, the world and the character, first and last lines, that kind of thing.

I’d actually done something like with IoS. Years ago, I’d read Donald Maass’s books on writing, and in one of the workbooks, there were several exercises that I grouped into one document I called a map. For each scene, or chapter, I needed to list the first and last lines, the purpose of the piece, the internal and external conflicts for the point of view character, and what changed for the plot and the character as a result of what occurred in the piece.

So I’ve got some of this done already. For AoW. I’ll have to do the same for Figments.
The other thing I’m going to do is start analyzing both novels in terms of Victoria Mixon’s holographic structure. I tried to explain this technique to someone recently, and really, you have to read Mixon’s Art and Craft of Story to understand it, which I’ll encourage you to do.

Suffice it to say that Mixon takes the three act structure and divides it into six component parts. Each of the six parts then has its own six components. Thus, holographic structure.
I have some work ahead of me 😉

Onto the month’s progress report.

I have to make a correction, first. I discovered an error in the way I had the spreadsheet set up.

January’s word count total is actually 11,532. February’s should be 9,789.

March’s is 10,673.

March wordcount

How that breaks down:

The blog is once again the lion’s share at 8,193. Next is Figments at 1,380, then short fiction at 455, then AoW at 333, and finally, GatL at 312 words.

So that, my friends, is my month in writing.

I will be taking a trip next weekend, to attend Ad Astra, one of the bigger Canadian SF/F conventions in Toronto. This will be my first year going, but well-known authors like Patricia Briggs and Steven Erikson will be there, as well as Canadian names in the genre like Julie Czerneda and Marie Bilodeau. I’m hoping to make some new connections, or at least some in person ones (I’ve been following Julie and Marie online for years).

The weekend after, I just remembered, I will be attending Renny De Groot’s book launch for Family Business.

Yes, there will be more Writerly Goodness coming your way in April.

I’m off to watch Cosmos with Phil now.

Catch you all on Tipsday!

Feeling old

March will be a busy month for me. I was out of town this past week for training, and will be heading out again tomorrow and for the last week of March.

Though I was happy to have the opportunity to pilot the training I worked on for most of February, I noticed something while I was away last week.

I was exhausted.

I didn’t have the energy to write in the evenings. I didn’t sleep well.

I know a lot of trainers who travel frequently, and many of them take sleeping pills. I can’t. I tried at one point, but couldn’t take the side effects. I’m not fond of the side effects of most medications, but that’s another story.

I used to really enjoy the opportunity to travel for training. I’d get my work done during the day, go out with class members or co-facilitators in the evenings, and still manage a decent day’s writing.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed that I just can’t do it anymore. I can only pack so much into a day. Or an evening.

Last night, my mother-in-law commented how the circles under my eyes look so much more pronounced than usual.

Feeling old, with the grey hair, wrinkles, and dark circles to prove it :P

Feeling old, with the grey hair, wrinkles, and dark circles to prove it 😛

It’s a family trait, but I do look more bruised when I’m tired.

I’ve never been one to have those traumatic, age-related realizations that others have.

  • At 20: I’m not a kid anymore.
  • At 25: I’m a quarter century old!
  • At 30: My baby-making days are numbered (for women only).
  • At 40: I’ve lived half my life at this point, and what have I to show for it?

I’ve not hit the big five oh yet, so I can’t go any further than that, but I’ve never felt any of that age angst that friends have reported. And mostly, it is women. At least, I rarely hear of a man complaining about his age.

Aches and pains, yes. Age angst, no.

I’ve always felt young, relatively speaking. I may have felt fat, or prematurely winded because of smoking, but neither of those are age-specific complaints.

This past year, however, I have been feeling increasingly old. O.L.D.

It’s interesting more than distressing, but it’s also inconvenient. I need to write. It’s not an option anymore, and when I can’t write, I feel legitimately crappy. If I can’t write because I’m feeling crappy to begin with, that only makes me feel worse.

This can result in a negative spiral that leads to burn out and depression. I know those two feelings. I need to manage them carefully.

I just have to remind myself that I am enough, that I’ve done enough this day, and that it’s been a good day, because in most cases, it’s true.

We can only do what we can do. We can get back on the horse the next day and rock it.

How about you, my writerly friends? It doesn’t have to be age, but life has this habit of happening while we’re making other plans. Are there things over which you have no control that complicate your life? How do you cope?

Please share.