My Week in Words

Here’s a bit about what I’ve been up to in the last week. Just to keep me honest.

I’ve managed to write every day for the last week! That’s pretty amazing considering the fact that I haven’t done that since I found out I was pregnant.

Progress on the novel in progress is still slow, but I’ve pulled two 1,000-word days and I’m pretty happy about that. With some work tomorrow and this weekend, I’ll likely hit my goal of 1 chapter per week.

My current short story–Victorian monster gone steampunk…with a twist–went out for a fourth round of critique and I think I finally have a better idea of what to do with it. Keep an eye out for more reports of submissions!

I also finished a secret side project this week. **EDIT: Announcement and reveal forthcoming!  I published a guest blog on writing more realistic hikes over on Dan Koboldt’s Science in Sci-Fi, Fact in Fantasy series! Thanks, Dan!**

Now that I’m also back in the saddle at work, I get to work on other people’s books, too.

This week I started working on a memoir and ran into my first instance where 3×5 cards will be a Godsend. I think careful attention to structure–what is revealed and when, especially–is as important with this project as it is with any good piece of fiction.

A few choice tweets from this week:

Writers and bloggers: if you write something that an editor thinks is worth being published, you are worth being paid for it. Period. @wilw

[in nature]
[birds chirp]
[wind rustles the leaves]
[sunlight glimers off the lake]


God save us from middle aged men who tell the young people (who they do not manage) what their true priorities should be. @gilldaniels

Some nights I awaken, heart pounding, mind cobwebbed w/ memory of vague creeping things, & can only whisper: “The horror… the horror…” #VP19 @jgstewart

(That hash tag references Viable Paradise. If you’re a SFF writer and unfamiliar, check it out.)

Finding the Time, Making the Space

If you’ve been following me anywhere, you know that I’m a new mom and that my maternity leave ends next Monday. I’m nervous for so many reasons: am I going to be able to get to the train in time, how is ELF going to handle other people Victoria and ELF (at 3 months)watching her, how are other people going to handle ELF? But there are plenty of reasons to look forward to going back, including reestablishing my writing routine.

Back in the day (you know, in 2014, before morning sickness, “pregnant narcolepsy,” and then 24/7 newborn care), I was writing my novel at my favorite bakery on weekends and in snippets between things during the week, mainly on the 45-minute train ride in and out of Boston and during my lunch hour. At first, I wasn’t very productive, but I did manage some highly effective sprints in places you wouldn’t think were conducive to getting things done. I trained myself pretty well.

Now that my weekends with ELF will be pretty sacred, it’s going to be harder to leave the house for uninterrupted writing time, so my time on the train and at lunch will be more important than ever. I’ve been anxious about this throughout my leave because I have very little uninterrupted time at home.

But yesterday, I stumbled on a Codex thread by Dawn Bonanno that covered this very subject. One big asset that Dawn posted: a link to Odyssey Podcasts #85 and #86 featuring Alex Hughes‘s 2015 Odyssey lecture on productivity. Listening to both was a great reminder that I was doing it right last year and the novel draft was proof of that. Now, it’s time get back to it.

Since the question of when I’ll write is pretty much answered, I need to make sure I’ve given myself the mental space to write again. I liked Alex’s reminder that this kind of process should be like a Couch-to-5k for writers. I do need to retrain myself and I need to do it in a way that is both healthy and effective. So here’s my plan between now and the end of the year:

  • Beginning (first week, maybe first few weeks):
    • Be prepared to write at any time.
    • Go cold turkey on distractions (internet, social media, etc.).
    • Give myself positive reinforcement if I attempt every day and every opportunity. NO GUILT ALLOWED.
  • Middle:
    • Once I’m getting something on paper, establish a few realistic word coals.
    • Allow only minimal distractions (e.g., research okay if necessary)
    • Give myself positive reinforcement if I attempt every day and every opportunity. NO GUILT ALLOWED
  • End:
    • Increase word count goals. It’d be great to get back to a 1k/1h pace, but I’ll get there when I get there
    • Allow only minimal distractions (e.g., research okay if necessary)
    • Give myself positive reinforcement if I avoid distractions and attempt every day and every opportunity. NO GUILT ALLOWED.

I’m hoping that, with this plan, I’ll average about a chapter a week (rewritten and/or revised), putting me at a few chapters from a complete draft by Christmas. The great news: I’ve got some vacation time in there and a BSpec retreat (1 day of writing with the group). Not all of that free time will be able to go to writing, but I’ll make some opportunities for myself and make the most of them.

But there are tons of pitfalls along the way, too. It’s possible that I’ll be too exhausted. It’s possible that I’ll be too burnt out. Its possible that I’ll have to change some idea of how this all works together. But I’ll only fail if I don’t try, if I let TV and the internet and low priority things worm their way to the top. (Read: don’t expect daily blog posts haha.)

I hope that thirty or so years from now, ELF looks back at this point in my life as an inspiration to find the time and make the space for her goals and passions. And I hope I can prove to myself, more than anyone, that I’ve got what it takes to finish this book and get it out there!

The Legendarium

I tweeted/Facebook posted about this yesterday and wanted to give it some context beyond a few characters.

In searching for some context for the in-world writing I’ve been doing to help spark new content for my novel, I stumbled upon a word I should probably know well. “Legendarium” is not a new word: it has always been a term for a collecction of legends and was used by Tolkien to describe the writing that formed the backbone of his Middle Earth canon–a backbone readers wouldn’t see in-full until long after his passing.

I’m composing my legendarium right in Scrivener, alongside Draft 2 of my novel. If it were real (in the corporeal sense), this collection would have to be in a box and would include several individual volumes and who-knows-what-kind of curiosities. If you were to read it over my shoulder, however, you’d see stories, scenes, and a whole host of fictionalized content from newspaper articles to timelines. I’m hoping it’ll be a creative way to catalog my research and really bring this alternate 1869 to life.

And because you’re being kind enough to read, here’s my legendarium’s  current TOC (remember that this is all fictional):

  • The Book of Proof, a leatherbound journal, dated 1853, gathering evidence to contextualize strange and otherwise unexplained occurrences in the human world
  • Ferroequinology, “Chapter 4”, a timeline of the development of trains and the building of the Transcontinental Railroad
  • a collection of correspondence between the late Joseph North, professor of natural history and botany at Dartmouth College, and his colleagues in New England and abroad.
  • Local Rhyme, a small collection of nursery rhymes collected from the families of New Hampshire’s North Country, published in 1845
  • the US Congressional Record, 1840 to 1849.

I know, I know: I’m a total geek.

Hello, World!

And so begins the first post of this new site. So far I love the template, but this may quickly move to a different host. Stay tuned there!

I’m still on maternity leave for another 3.5 days (sob), so my time is being split between my novel in progress and ELF. As for the writing portion, I’ve been working on a legendarium for the novel. I’ve run into many worldbuilding pitfalls, and I think having the extra text will help me better navigate these holes in the main narrative.