January Writing Round-Up

New year, new round-up format!

WHAT WORKED
I spent so much time reading this month! Ten books. TEN. That’s a full third of my goal this year! I’m going to feel so well-read by the time I get to my Boskone panels. This is totally all due to manuscript avoidance, but HEY. I. Read. Good. Books. That’s a win all on its own.

I’ve been enjoying the annual Weekend Warrior contest on Codex. One week of the 5-flashes-in-5-weeks contest. I think two of the ones I’ve written this year are good enough to go somewhere. The others will be great trunked seeds for something later on. Who knows what this (final) weekend will bring!

I wrote a story mid-week and it flew from my fingers fully formed. It was great and I can’t wait to get comments back so I can shine it up pretty and submit it to the market I wrote it for.
WHERE I STRUGGLED
Life. Is life ever not a struggle? I’ve been dealing with existential dread on every level: politics, novel querying, novel drafting, short story submissions, and on and on and on. I’ve got a couple of coping mechanisms that work just enough, but I need to not play manuscript avoidance forever. Time to get the butt in the chair.

Words on the page. I really wanted about double my goal for this month, but I’ll take what I got. It was my most productive month since last May when I was drafting my novella, so frustrated or not, it was an objectively good month. Now I just need to tell my head that.
BY THE NUMBERS

  • Words written: 16,167/200,000 (on track!!!)
  • New works (goal: 12 new shorter works submitted in 2018):
    • Started: 6
    • Drafted: 5
    • Revised: 0
    • Submitted: 0
  • Books read: 10/30 (see above)

 

September Writing Round-up

It’s been quite a month! I’m not even sure where it went, but I can say that I got some good work done.

  • Fifth rejection! If rejected short stories tell you anything good about a writer, they are, at the very least, proof that the writer is submitting. Can’t publish if you don’t submit; can’t submit without facing rejection. So I got my fifth-ever rejection from a short story market today. Time to throw a rejection party!
  • Three submissions. No, not three new stories, but three opportunities taken. I got my SFish piece out the door, put “Taking Care of Business” out for a potential reprint opportunity, and sent the third story to a new market. I might be able to log 10 submissions this year, depending on the turn-around on the existing submissions and how many more shorts are in my immediate future. It’s not exactly a square in Career Bingo, but it’s close.
  • One new short story in progress. A Halloween-y story for a friendly contest on Codex. Trying out second-world fantasy in short form. The big question: can I get it done by next weekend and keep it under the required 5k? We’ll see.
  • NOVEL PROGRESS. Okay, seriously. It’s been slow, but there. I pushed through a few chapters, struggled, pushed through, struggled. And then I needed to get the SFish piece out the door and had some freelance stuff come up. You know, life. So here’s the goal: I will finish the novel revision by Oct 31. There, I said it. Expect a Halloween update from me with good news on that front.
  • I also had the exciting opportunity to put my name in as a potential panelist to two local SFF conventions, Arisia and Boskone. I filled out my participant surveys for both and will hear back about whether they think I’m a good fit for this year’s panel selection or not. I’m thrilled to give this a go. In addition, I suggested a workshop for GrubStreet’s Muse and the Marketplace conference in May. So next year there might be a great deal of public speaking to do. And if you know me, you know this is a good thing.
  • Some Stuff I Read this Month (last month I did a “Stuff I Read on the Internet” section, but this month was more about fiction online and offline, so…)
    • The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin. My review on Goodreads says it all: SO. RUSTING. GOOD.
    • Saga, Vol. 1. Everyone said I needed to read this and everyone was right. Can’t wait to get my hands on the next one!
    • “A Ladies’ Guide to Collecting Mermaid Love Songs” (Daily Science Fiction) by Aimee Picci, one of my very talented Viable Paradise XVIII classmates.
    • There was more but these things floated to the surface for me when drafting this
  • Upcoming Goals
    • Oct 8 Finish/submit story for Codex Halloween contest
    • Oct 12-14 Attend Paradise Regained (VP reunion!)
    • Oct 31 Finish novel revisions
    • Nov 30 Finish NaNoWriMo OR a novella
    • Dec 31 Submit 10 times in 2016
    • Dec 31 Finish 5 pieces (any length) in 2016

August Writing Round-Up

In the first of what I hope will be a series, here’s a look at my writing life in the last month and resources I’ve found particularly helpful.

  • Short story sold! Is there anyone on the internet who doesn’t know that I sold my first short story this month? Check out Sword & Steam Short Stories‘ full TOC and marvel at what looks to be a really cool anthology. Add it to your Goodreads shelf and then pre-order a copy!
  • Two new shorts written:
    • one a [redacted]-punk story I submitted to both my writing group’s contest (anonymous, hence the redaction) and to a magazine.
    • one near-future sci-fi that got written in all of three hours; it caught me off guard I’m excited about it
  • Novel progress! Yes I promise I’m still working on it. I’m making some really solid headway on this revision and am enthused.
  •  Grant application sent. I applied for a Sustainable Arts Foundation grant, which go to artists who are also parents. Long shot? Yes. But what about writing isn’t  long shot? If you’re a parent and an artist, apply. Deadline is tomorrow!
  • I was honored to be a Sentient Squid Scholarship recipient which afforded me the opportunity to take two excellent Writing the Other classes:
    • The Writing the Other Weekend Intensive: A weekend-long online course–taught live by Nisi Shawl and K Tempest Bradford–focusing on writing in an educated and sensitive manner about people who don’t look or live like you. We looked at specific categories through which people are othered (e.g., race, gender/sexuality, and class) and also craft issues (e.g., dialogue and worldbuilding) that can create problematic fiction if done wrong or really brilliant fiction if done right. I particularly loved the exercises, which have already made me think about my work differently (see “Novel progress!” and one of the short stories mentioned above).
    • Writing Native American Characters Master Class: This two-hour class was packed with information, but it topic is deep enough to fill two days or two years or two lifetimes. The estimable Debbie Reese gave us a 101-level overview of issues in Native American communities–especially as they are often presented in fiction. Even thought I’ve been dutifully researching issues that would have been at the forefront of my Abenaki and Métis characters’ lives, Debbie’s lecture gave me more questions to ask. I have books to read, listening to do, and some hard thinking about everything from half-mentioned details to important plot points.
    • General thoughts: Based on my experiences, I highly recommend the Writing the Other classes. The instructors are great. The alumni group is great. And the information you get is invaluable. We’re all always learning, and this is a safe and carefully crafted space in which to further the skill of writing others without othering.
  • Stuff I Read on the Internet

Why I Won’t NaNo…But Maybe You Should

Happy November! Happy NaNoWriMo!

And to anticipate your next question: no, I’m not participating this year.

Don’t get me wrong though:

  • I will be writing
  • I will be setting goals and pushing myself to hit them
  • A novel will be involved

NaNo just isn’t for me this year. I said this last year and even tried to get “Revise Your Novel Month” to catch on (maybe it was the ReviYoNoMo hashtag haha). And I yet here I am: not much deeper into the revision than I was last November.

I have to give myself a break on that front: last November, despite my best efforts, I was fighting writer fatigue after Viable Paradise XVIII, trying to do too much at work, and struggling to find a way “in” to this new draft. I thought that being strict, revising under a time limit and with word counts, and making my process transparent would all force me through the struggling and I’d finish the month tired but victorious.

That might work when you’re drafting a novel, but it didn’t work for my revision.

What I’ve been finding is that all the thinking I’ve been doing around writing is really important at this stage. Those moments in the car when, between verses of the lullaby du jour, I put two pieces of my magic system together and discover a new way to plot myself out of a corner. Those moments when my research between writing sessions turns up something amazing (and often true) for my timeline. Even writing these posts. And then, when I sit down to revise/rewrite, I do so with such enormous intention and clear vision that words flow freely.

But the only thing that would count for NaNoWriMo would be the word count.

Last year, when I was failing myself at ReviYoNoMo, I realized there was actually a good reason revisions aren’t “legal” in the NaNo world. The process is so vastly different for me. The metrics can’t cross so easily. Going fast is actually inadvisable.

I do think, though, that NaNo would be just the thing for a lot of people. In 2012, I finished on November 30, and realized that I’d proven something really important to myself. It’d been years since I’d written, much less written frequently and with any sort of discipline. NaNo helped me do that. NaNo forced me to find the times in between that are now my sacred writing spaces. I used NaNo to show Mike how serious I was getting about my writing. And NaNo turned off my internal editor and freed up my mind to just go for it. All of these things made it possible to start my current novel in fall 2013, and all of these things made it possible to finish it the next summer.

If you’re looking to prove your mettle on a brand-spanking new manuscript, need the accountability, and love a challenge, do NaNo. It’ll be worth it.

If you need your internal editor to be a sober participant in your revising process, leave NaNo alone this year. Take the best parts of the NaNo process–the right parts for you–and root for the writers.

Good luck this month, whichever you choose!

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!