November Writing Round-Up

Um, wait. It’s December 1?

  • Fifteenth rejection! Such is the business. Also got a rejection for a grant to which I applied, but it included some wonderful positive feedback.
  • Five submissions, three still active.
  • No new short stories. I promised myself I wouldn’t start anything new until after the novel revisions and I stuck with it.
  • NOVEL PROGRESS (everyone’s favorite panic attack) continues well. I made some more great breakthroughs. I’m currently 8 chapters from the end. That could mean a few weeks, a few months, or a few years, depending on how much time I put in.
  • NaNoWriMo went by and I didn’t write a word for it. This is good since I hadn’t finished novel revisions…
  • I went to my writing group’s annual retreat (just for a few hours, really) and it was wonderful as ever. Nothing  like your tribe to keep you sane and productive.
  • I have a tentative schedule for Arisia programming and that makes me very happy. More on that as it happens!
  • I haven’t been reading a lot this month, but I’ve been working, so here’s a STUFF I’VE BEEN DOING segment
    • Calling my Senators/Congressman about issues at the national level. There are, ya know, a few.
    • Calling my state legislators about issues at the state level, from taking a stand against some of the stuff happening at the federal level to bills I’m hoping get reintroduced in the new legislative session. I’ve gotten a really lovely personal call back regarding one issue, and it was great to know that I’d been heard.
    • Calling my city counselors and finding ways to engage with city politics. I live here and I care. Therefore I should be doing more than getting upset when the newspaper reports decisions I don’t like.
    • Donating. To the NoDAPL efforts and in support of the water protectors. To local organizations that matter to my heart. To movements that I believe in.
    • Reading and listening to things that make me mad. I had done this relatively often before, but I think it’s definitely important now. Not knowing another perspective exists excuses nothing.
    • Talking to like-minded friends. Just because there’s an echo doesn’t mean it’s wrong to converse and congregate and share resources.
    • Sending and receiving support from wonderful friends. You guys have helped keep me sane in this crazy time and sending you reassurances has made me stay focused. So thanks.
  • Upcoming Goals
    • Dec 31 Have novel out for critique NO LATER THAN THIS (still doable)
    • Dec 31 Keep at least 3/4 stories on submission at all times
    • Dec 31 Finish 5 pieces (any length) in 2016 (3 down, 2 to go!)
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October Writing Round-Up

I don’t know if you like reading these posts, but it turns out that I like writing them, so you’re going to keep getting them. So what have I been up to in the last month?

  • Tenth rejection! *and the crowd goes wild* Yes, I submitted stories often enough in the last month that I got FIVE more rejections. Crazy stuff. Also, of the five rejections, three were personal. And of the personals, one (at least) is getting framed because it was so nice.
  • Six submissions, three still active! That includes one new story in the mix. And I’m working on finding reprint opportunities for “Taking Care of Business.” This means that I’m already one over my ultimate submission goal for the year!
  • One new short story. I missed the deadline for the Codex Halloween contest but then managed to write something after the Viable Paradise reunion. This means I have 3 works finished this year of the 5 that I’d like. Shooting for at least one more short that has been keeping me thinking and thinking, plus the novel (duh)
  • NOVEL PROGRESS (that’s why you’re here, right?) has been amazing. No, I’m not done. Still plugging away far slower than I’d like when it comes to words/day. BUT. I made some really great revisions that have really  made the Dreaded Middle pick up the pace. And my research reading has helped me along significantly. Can’t say enough about how important it is to be well read going into books like this one.
  • NaNoWriMo is probably off the table for me. I am being very strict with myself that I cannot start another sizeable project without finishing the novel.
  • I got two wonderful nods from my peers. Two short stories (both on submission currently) placed in friendly contests, one run by BSpec and one by Viable Paradise alums. I am honored and encouraged by the responses.
  • Viable Paradise’s reunion, Paradise Regained, was exactly that. I needed that weekend so much and will probably be forever thanking the staff for all the extra work they did to host us.
  • Stuff I Read This Month
    • “Writing Begins with Forgiveness: Why One of the Most Common Pieces of Writing Advice Is Wrong” by Daniel Jose Older. This has been keeping me sane this month. I hope it can do the same for you.
    • About Writing by Samuel R. Delany. Still working through this one and I’ll probably start re-reading it when I hit the last page. He bills it as a book for writers who already know what they’re doing, and I don’t feel pandered to. Nor do I feel like I’m being taught literary lessons at the expense of my love for genre. Nor am I learning lessons from genre at the expense of my love for literature. To Delany, talented writing is always that, no matter what you’re writing about. Huge thanks to the Writing the Other instructors for putting this on my radar.
    • Walking the Clouds edited by Grace L. Dillon. I haven’t finished this, but everything I’ve read has been eye opening and great food for thought. I think of all of the books I’ve used for research, this has helped me the most (more on this when I share some experiences about the writing process). I’d hazard a very broad generalization to say that anyone writing SFF should read this anthology, because I think it can only help widen your perspective and because you can never go wrong when you’re reading good work.
  • Upcoming Goals
    • Nov ?? Finish novel revisions (I’m okay now with this taking the time it needs)
    • Nov 30 Finish NaNoWriMo OR a novella (MAYBE. But only after novel revisions!)
    • Dec 31 Have novel out for critique NO LATER THAN THIS (hopefully much earlier)
    • Dec 31 Keep at least 3/4 stories on submission at all times
    • Dec 31 Finish 5 pieces (any length) in 2016 (3 down, 2 to go!)

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!