Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Jan 3-9, 2021

Welcome to tipsday, your chance to top up on informal writerly learnings.

Janice Hardy shares an easy fix for tighter point of view. Hint: nix those filter words! Fiction University

Greer Macallister offers the gift of critique. How to by way of how not to … Sarah Penner encourages you to rethink resolutions and habits as writers in 2021. Donald Maass: the real vs. the unreal. Nancy Johnson compiles this list of published authors sharing wisdom from their debut journeys. David Corbett: what now, storyteller? Writer Unboxed

The female assassin trope, explained. The Take

K.M. Weiland shares seven lessons learned in 2020. Helping Writers Become Authors

Karen DeBonis shares her writing goal for 2021: let go to love more (AKA, how I stopped worrying and learned to love editing). Janice Hardy offers a different approach to writing success this year (i.e. how dumping self-imposed deadlines can increase productivity). Julie Glover: how much of our real life shows up in our fiction? Writers in the Storm

Emily Zarka introduces us to the Kasogonagá: Sky Deity and Absolute Cutie. Monstrum | PBS Storied

Nathan Bransford explains how to set meaningful goals.

Colleen M. Story explains why writers should take more risks this year. Writers Helping Writers

Victoria R. Girmonde: worldview and the MG/YA genre. Story Grid

The wicked stepmother trope, explained. The Take

Sara Farmer interviews Elizabeth Little. Then, Gabriela Pereira wonders, where do we go from here? DIY MFA

Joe Bunting offers definitions and examples of the six shapes of stores. The Write Practice

Oren Ashkenazi analyzes five popular stories with conflicts that are too difficult. Mythcreants

Ron Friedman: rotating spacecraft and artificial gravity. Sci and Sci-fi

Clair Armitstead provides the 31-day literary diet for January 2021. Sure, we’re half-way through the month already, but who says you have to finish it all in January? Be a rebel. Start now and continue your literary snacking into February! The Guardian

Jesse Wente is reframing Indigenous stories in joy. CBC’s Ideas

Why should you read Toni Morrison’s “Beloved”? – Yen Pham TED-Ed

Kritika Agrawal shares seven fascinating facts about Octavia Butler. Mental Floss

Thank you for visiting, and I hope you took away something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

The next chapter: July 2020 update

Another month has passed. July was eventful and not in the all the ways I expected.

And yes, this post is late. A week and a day late. You’ll understand.

Black lives matter. Indigenous lives matter. All lives cannot matter until all Black and Indigenous lives matter. This is a fundamental truth.

The lives of all BIPOC, LGBTQ2A+, disabled, neuro-atypical, and all other racialized or marginalized people matter. We all need to listen, learn, and do better.

That is all.

Pandemic life

So. 24 new confirmed cases of covid-19 have occurred in Sudbury over the last couple of weeks, most of them in people under 30. While there hasn’t been any confirmed written report on the topic, the rumours are that a group of young people went down to a huge party in southern Ontario and brought the virus back with them. Police have also reported breaking up a couple of large parties within the city.

Some people are blaming covid exhaustion. Indeed, it’s taxing for people who haven’t been able to engage in any of their pre-covid social activities, but going from isolation to parties that exceed the safe gathering limits? Travelling to do so? Not smart.

The worrisome part of it all is that we now have community spread in our area and health officials haven’t been able to determine where some of the newly infected might have been exposed.

It’s a drop in the bucket with respect to covid cases nationwide, and we’re faring so much better than other areas of the country. Overall, Canada is doing better than some countries and worse than others. Considering that we had, in total, 68 cases and 2 deaths up until this new rash of infections, though, I think that we may be heading for a second wave. Those 24 new cases represent a 35% bump for our relatively small city. It’s not necessarily going to happen the same way everywhere, but even extrapolating a 15% increase elsewhere means a lot of new infections.

I’m still worried about what’s going to happen when kids return to school. The “plan” we have in Ontario is missing a lot of key details. I think now is not the time to experiment. “Let’s wait and see” is not an acceptable strategy.

Wear your masks, people. Stay safe. Keep your distance when you can. Gather in safe numbers and watch out for your friends and family.

My situation remains status quo with the one key excitement of being invited to write an exam for an internal position I applied for pre-covid. As the position is one that I am very interested in (in many ways, it’s my dream job), I confirmed my participation and awaited next steps.

It turned out the exam was to be written over the course of a week, well, six and a half days, most of which would be while I was working my substantive job. So, evenings and on the weekend, which in this case was the Civic Holiday long weekend.

Then, due to a technical issue, the exam materials, which I was to have received Monday morning, were not issued until that night, but they were sent to my work email (which, admittedly, I had requested because of the technical issue). This means I didn’t even see the email until the next morning when I logged in to my remote desktop. The due date was extended, but only considering the time of issue, not when I would have, in fact, received it. So, I lost any time I could have devoted to the exam on Monday and the due date was now the morning of the Civic Holiday.

It was a lot of work. By Friday, I’d only managed to devote about three or four hours a day to the exam. I determined that I would submit the exam on Sunday night, rather than work through the night to submit the exam in the morning. I know my limits. Going without sleep is not something I can do without consequence. I planned accordingly. I devoted eight hours to the exam on Saturday and 12 on Sunday and I still didn’t have the time to do all I’d wanted to do.

For better or worse, I submitted the exam at 11:57 pm on Sunday.

Because I was catching up on all the work I hadn’t done during the exam week, I didn’t get around to writing this update until today.

The month in writing

Once again, I failed to finish my rewrite of Reality Bomb. I’m closer, but I’m not done yet and the draft is over 108k words. Once I do bring the story to a conclusion, more or less, I’m going to be going over it again and cutting like mad. I have to tighten it up and make sure that the overall story has continuity. I want to reduce the draft to 90k if I can. I’ll settle for 100k, but I want a trim beast to present to my critique group.

I also critiqued a draft for one of my group members.

JulyProgress

I set another modest goal of 5,000 words and wrote 6,628 words, or 133% of my goal.

I blogged 5,448 words of my 3,750-word goal, or 145%.

I planned to write 8,750 words and actually wrote 12,076 words. That’s 138% of my goal.

Filling the well

On July 1st, I attended an online workshop with Roz Morris on backstory, offered through Jane Friedman. Love Roz 🙂

On the 11th, I attended the WXR virtual reunion and the taping of their annual “cruise” portions of the Writing Excuses podcast. The cruise is cancelled this year, and this was a great compensatory virtual get-together.

I also attended the virtual launch of Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Relentless Moon on July 14th. It was fun. The Lady Astronauts Club showed up in period-appropriate/IAC costume, MRK was dressed as her protagonist, Nicole Wargin, and they framed the experience as an orientation session for new lunar colonists at the IAC. There was a lecture on orbital mechanics, a lander simulation (which I managed on the fourth try), and several other entertaining activities. I’ve since received my copy of the novel and an IAC Artemis Base badge.

On July 20th, I attended a virtual lecture by Ibram X. Kendi on how to be an anti-racist broadcast by Prince George’s County Memorial Library System.

Finally, on July 24th, I attended a session on Mythology and Speculative Literature that was sponsored by The Carl Brandon Society. Vida Cruz, Piper J. Drake, Kate Elliot, Rebecca Roanhorse, and Shveta Thakrar discussed the mythological inspiration for their work, problematic or clichéd uses of myth, and other mythic goodness.

A couple of friends from out of town were visiting family and came over for an evening, which we spent on the backyard patio, appropriately distanced. These visits are always too short.

What I’m watching and reading

Phil and I watched all of Penny Dreadful. Though we enjoyed the first two seasons, the third left us scratching our heads. Ethan was taken back to America and Sir Malcolm, recruited by Kaetenay, travelled from Africa to rescue him. Ethan temporarily goes dark side before the resolution to his troubles brings him abruptly back to the light. Then, Kaetenay has a vision that sends them back to London to help Vanessa …

… who has been languishing, abandoned by all her supposed friends and family. At Dr. Lyle’s suggestion, she enters into therapy with Dr. Seward, who looks identical to her witch mentor from the previous season’s flashbacks. She makes progress through hypnosis and ventures out into the world again with Dr. Sweet, who is, in fact, Dracula (dun, dun, dun!).

Frankenstein teams up with an old colleague, Dr. Jeckyll in a subplot that doesn’t really go anywhere.

The creature reunites with his family, only to discover that his wife wants him to take their dying son to Frankenstein for resurrection.

Brona recruits the fallen women of the city and trains them to become her army with Dorian’s help. Her goal: to liberate women everywhere from the power and cruelty of men. Sadly, Dorian bores of the game and delivers Brona into Frankenstein’s hands, where both creator and creation have inexplicable changes of heart. He refuses to use the serum he and Jeckyll developed to tame Brona, and Brona, once freed, knowing that Dorian delivered her into Frankenstein’s captivity, decides not to take her revenge on either of them. She returns to Dorian’s manor and, seeing her disciple dead on the floor at Dorian’s hands, simply leaves. Brona delivers an empowering speech that’s supposed to leave Dorian devastated, but it doesn’t.

Meanwhile, a new friend enters Vanessa’s life, Catriona Hartdegen. Cat knows a lot about vampires and Dracula in particular and together, they figure out that Dr. Sweet is Dracula. Vanessa goes to confront him, intending to defeat him, but—again, inexplicably—decides instead to surrender to him. Darkness and chaos descend upon London.

Ethan, Sir Malcolm, and Kaetenay, newly arrived, team up with Dr. Seward and Cat to save Vanessa. Dracula tells Vanessa that her former friends are coming, and she intimates that she will welcome the opportunity to slay them all. When the battle is joined, however, Vanessa is no where to be seen. Everyone fights valiantly, but it looks like the tide is turning in Dracula’s favour. Ethan breaks away and finds Vanessa isolated in a room where she merely begs him to kill her, which, after some weeping and moaning, he does.

And that was it. I know the series was cancelled while they were in the middle of filming this last season, but in an attempt to compress the story, the writers were unable to set up the appropriate character development that would make the last few episodes feel earned (where have we seen that before, eh, GoT?). Instead, we have uncharacteristic actions/decisions by nearly every character, lose ends, and a lot of lost opportunities. It would have been better if they had changed course and written and ending that made sense, even if it wasn’t the ending they had been writing toward for the whole series.

On TV, I watched the most recent season of The Good Witch. It’s candy and fluff, but sometimes you need a little candy and fluff.

I finally finished Orange is the New Black. They had to do some fancy tap dancing to get everything rolled up and they did leave some loose ends. I’m glad Piper decided to stick with Alex, but I think I would have been just as happy if she’d gone on to have her own life. It was the other stories, Taystee’s, Original Cindy’s, and Gloria’s stories in particular, that grabbed me. Blanca got a happy ending. Pennsatucky’s end was tragic. Maritza and Shani’s deportations were senseless. Aleida and Daya just continued the cycle of violence. Suzanne was left hanging, much as Red and Lorna were. I know it was supposed to be a commentary on the incarceration system, but aside from being largely depressing, I was left with a solid meh.

I watched The Crown’s latest season and it was interesting, but it wasn’t edge-of-your-seat viewing.

13 Reasons, season 3 definitely had me on the edge of my seat, but I kept asking myself why. Why even write a second season? The first season covered Asher’s book and did so well. They just delve deeper and deeper into trauma and its aftereffects to the point that in season four, it’s just painful to watch. That may have more to do with my trauma than anything else, but there you are.

I finished the 2018-19 season of Riverdale, which was already out there (juvenile prison fight rings, a criminal empire based on a D&D analogue, and an organ-harvesting cult) and am trying to catch up on the 2019-20 season.

And I finally finished the 2018-19 season of The Flash. Solid meh. But proceeding with the 2019-20 season, anyway.

Reading-wise, I only have four offerings.

I finished Jenn Lyons’ The Ruin of Kings. I liked it. I wish I could rate a book three and a half stars, but I gave it four. Lyons did play with structure in an admirable way. The book overall is presented as a report to the current empress (a very long report, might I say) and the annotations that appear throughout are not distracting, as you might think, and they do add to the content of the story. Once I learned who the empress was, I had trouble understanding how most of the annotations were necessary and that returned them to the category of authorial intrusion, however.

The first part of the book is told by two narrators, prisoner and jailer (kind of like Black Panther, Red Wolf) but the jailer is a shape-shifter named Talon who has the ability to absorb the memories of the people they imitate. Or come into contact with? Or consume? Really, the process isn’t well-explained. Talon and Khirin (the prisoner/protagonist) use a stone, handed back and forth. It’s a clever conceit that allows Lyons to present other POVs than Talon’s and Khirin’s, by virtue of Talon’s abilities.

Not only that, but Khirin starts telling his story from the point of his enslavement. Talon complains and goes back further, to the point they believe in the true beginning of the story. So, we have a narrative frame within a narrative frame and dual timelines that intersect and the end of part one. That’s another structural oddity. Part two is maybe a fifth of the book.

There was nothing wrong with the story itself and the structural gymnastics were definitely novel, but it made me wonder if Lyons had presented the story chronologically, without the frames and the annotations, if I would have thought differently about the book.

Then, I read The Queen of Katwe. I was hesitant, because the author is a white man (Tim Crothers), but it’s a non-fiction book using a lot of interviews and correspondence and thus presents the book in the words of the people involved. The book was, by turns, depressing and uplifting, but there was no real resolution. It’s an incomplete biography that leaves the reader wondering if Phiona ever achieved her dream of becoming a grandmaster. Wikipedia indicates she holds the title of candidate women’s master, but that’s as far as she got.

Kij Johnson’s The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe was interesting. Rather than starting in this world and entering one of dream, Johnson flips the concept. Vellitt has always lived in the dream world and must travel into our world to recover the favourite granddaughter of one of the gods, who, if he wakes to find his favourite missing, will destroy half the dreamlands. The one thing I wasn’t comfortable with was that the real-world dreamers who travel to the dream world are always men, powerful and ageless. When Vellitt finally reaches our world, she is instantly transformed, has an identity and all the knowledge she might ever need or have gained from living a life in this world, though. Maybe Johnson’s statement is more subtle. Maybe women are the only true dreamers, living lives simultaneously in the dream world and in this? It’s thought-provoking, to be sure.

Finally, I read Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation. What kind of country would America have been if the civil war was interrupted by a plague of zombies? Ireland calls them shamblers and, in her novel they basically make time stand still. In some respects. The protagonist, Jane is biracial, though her skin is not light. She’s at a school for “attendants,” Black girls who are trained to fight shamblers and protect wealthy white women. It’s the best she can hope for in a world in which slavery and indenture still exist and people of colour (Black and American Indian) are seen as biologically inferior. Ireland examines the racism of the world she’s created through the lens of her “finishing school,” the viral shamblers (one plotline involves the development of a vaccine), and the white supremacists who attempt to create their own isolated empire in the midst of the chaos.

Each chapter begins with an excerpt from a letter that Jane has written to her mother and later, after she learns that her correspondence has been intercepted and she comes into possession of them, her mother’s letters to Jane. It’s a good book, but I kept wanting a little more and there were some events that seemed to resolve in the favour of plot convenience rather than where they seemed to be heading. I’ve already nabbed the next in the series, though.

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

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

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: September 2018 update

Happy Thanksgiving, to all my Canadian friends! And happy Columbus Day to all my American ones. To be honest, I don’t know what other celebrations might be taking place this weekend elsewhere in the world. If you have something special to celebrate, I wish you joy. If nothing else, it’s the weekend, and reason enough to celebrate.

Even it it’s a nice, quiet supper with friends and/or family. Aren’t those really the best celebrations? Maybe it’s just introvert me.

I’m celebrating a few things. Torvi turned 1 on September 26. She’s still a handful, but she’s getting better every day (we have to believe that, regardless). Phil’s work troubles are almost at an end. It’s been formally announced, now, so I can say. Phil’s retiring November 30th. There’s going to be an adjustment period, but there it is.

Writing-wise, September saw me writing the last words on Playing with Fire. Finally. I also brushed up the last batch of chapters of Marushka and got them posted for critique. The only other writing I did in the month was to blog.

Here’s how the month looked, production-wise.

SeptProgress

I reviewed 11,852 words of Marushka and got the last chapters posted over the Labour Day long weekend. I kind of fudged my goal at 10k, so ended up with 119% of my “revision” goal. I put revision in quotes, because I didn’t really revise anything. As I wrote above, I reviewed it. Quick pass before I let it out the door, so to speak.

Once again, I set myself the modest writing goal of 5k on PwF. I ended up writing 6,108 words, or 122% of my goal. It’s the most I’ve written since June, so I take heart.

I estimated 2,600 words on the blog and wrote 2,610; so, 100%.

September wasn’t a month for creative events, but for more personal ones. For example, my coworkers arranged our annual Christmas in not-December (it’s been June, July, August, and now September, so far).

In October, I have a few things to get accomplished. In the critique group, I have to finish my critique of one novel and look at a novella. I also have to review the opening of a friend’s novel (not associated with the critique group).

I have another column due this month for DIY MFA. Aside from that, I’m trying to outline Tamisashki for NaNoWriMo. It’s the fifth and final book in my epic fantasy series and I don’t want to put myself in the same situation I was this year—interminable drafting.

The reason I was working on PwF for so long (if you don’t remember, and it’s totally okay if you don’t) is that, aside from my crazy burnout, I didn’t get a chance to finish my outline for the novel before NaNo, and Torvi, arrived. I had the protagonist’s plot line worked out, but the rest of it was all pantsing.

I’ve come to appreciate the preparatory work I do, even if I don’t end up sticking to the outline, and I usually don’t because I’m a creative monkey.

And, of course, there’s the blogging.

This year, I’m thinking of doing a weekly NaNo update post in November, just to keep something going up on the blog. We’ll see how things work out.

And that’s it for the writerly update this month.

Tomorrow, I’m going to post a special, Torvi-oriented blog and then it’s back to work and curation posts.

Thanks for stopping by and seeing what’s been up with me.

Be well until tomorrow.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: February 2018 update

February was a short month. Even so, it seemed to fly by.

As I’ve mentioned in my weekly posts, I’m continuing to struggle. Rather, after February 10th, I stopped struggling and recognized the critical fact that I can’t do it all. I can’t work full time, come home and take care of the dog full time, and fit in blogging, newslettering, column writing and still have room left for my WIP (not to mention the rest of my life).

It sucks that, for now, I’ve decided that it’s the WIP that has to go. But, honestly, when I stopped writing, I was just too exhausted to even think about it. A couple of weeks in, my thoughts started to gravitate toward Playing with Fire again, and I see that as a good sign. I’m still going to let it sit for a while longer, to see if the other, more chaotic aspects of my life sort themselves out.

I think I have to simplify my life rather than complicating it.

FebruaryProgress

Not unsurprisingly, I only hit 24% of my 15,000-word writing goal on PwF.

I met my 5,600-word goal for the blog, came in at 72% of my goal for my DIY MFA column, and 140% of my 4,000-word goal for the SWG newsletter.

Overall, that works out to 60% of my writing goal for the month.

I realized, belatedly, that I’d put in short fiction goals for January and February that I didn’t even look at. Again, I didn’t have the energy or attention.

I’m going to wait until the end of March to see how I’ll be moving the goal posts.

In other news

It hasn’t rained/melted significantly since Phil made his initial repairs in the basement, so he hasn’t been able to test them. The spring forecast predicts a warmer than normal March with more rain and snow. Until we can be sure the problem is fixed, the basement is verboten to Torvi, which is sad.

Phil continues to struggle at work. More problems crop up. He deals with them to the best of his ability, but his employer’s solution will still be some time in the implementation. In the meantime, Phil returns home utterly spent and frustrated, and largely unable to deal with anything else.

My training duties at work are done for the time being, but I still have next week’s learning event to travel to and ongoing coaching and mentoring responsibilities. And there are still problems with our pay system which will mean at least one, and likely several, small to negligible pay periods in my future. I’m waiting for that shoe to drop, too.

Post-ablation life is kind of weird, but I’ve been told that ye olde pipes can sputter for three to six months, off and on, before my body finally settles into its new normal. Metaphorical fingers still crossed.

And now, I’m catching a cold 😦

Torvi will be spayed this month, as well as get chipped, and receive her final vaccination (rabies). After that, Phil and I are formally Torvi’s humans and I can feel more confident about taking her on longer walks, to places where she’ll meet other dogs, and to obedience training.

We really need the obedience training.

Honestly, Torvi’s not any more of a devil than any of our other dogs. She’s just so big, she’s super-strong, she doesn’t know her own strength, and her puppy enthusiasm can result in injury.

Here she is, napping with Phil. It’s a good thing we have a king-sized bed. She likes to streeeeetch out 🙂

We’ll see what the next month brings.

Until Tuesday, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

The Next Chapter