1 March

Meant to do this yesterday, but I didn’t.

We’re away to pick up the keys for the new house in an hour or so. Thankfully it’s not far away and, because our current landlord insisted on on a full months notice from the next rental period (first landlord I’ve ever had do that), we have this house until April 9th.

That’ll give us time to do a bit of decorating in the new house, empty this one, and do the fiddly touch up jobs that will be required. And the keys do not go back until the 9th.

So with all that going on I finished 2341 words shy for my February target. Still, it was a successful month in other aspects. I completed and submitted 2 flash stories, completed and submitted an article to a magazine touting for occasional columnists, and finished draft one of a story.

Hopefully I’ll remember to jot some stuff down before next month.

*Addendum

Well, we have keys for the new house. Later I will even be doing some writing in it – I’ve got a delivery coming, so will sit sans internet, and write.

There are a couple of other bits that could have been dealt with earlier, but I was a bit brain dead. The M.E. does that. Sometimes it’s like trying to drive in torrential rain with the windscreen wipers on slow, periodic flashes of clarity but a lot of blur, and moving very slowly for fear of accident.

I’m mid-way through an OT course for help with the ME. A good chunk of the info is not new, and not very relevant to someone who doesn’t live by themselves. But one of the things discussed last week was goal setting. Now I already do this, indeed have written goals for my writing for the year, including on total writing, and submissions. One of those written goals was to attend a Convention.

I’ve wanted to do this for a while, but have always made an excuse to not follow through. That’s more to do with my Aspergers than anything else. But I have signed up for EdgeLit6 in Derby on Saturday July 15. I’m a little excited. Ticket is paid for, hotel is paid for. Now all I need to do is go.

On the writing projects front I have two entries to submit to Afrocentric’s anthology calls. The first one, for Afromyth, is written, though it’s the roughest first draft I have ever produced. The second, for Afrosteam, is underway, but already I’m having to trim the scope to have fighting chance of staying within the word limit.

The anthology guidance for Twisted Earth 2 & 3 are out, and I’ve looked through them, and the Twisted Earth bible, and I’m re-reading the first anthology (love my Kindle Unlimited). There are at least three different ideas percolating, I just need to settle on one.

Lastly my almost local buddy G V Anderson mentioned in her recent post that there is a Novella Challenge starting April 1. I’ve thrown my hat into the ring. Right now I intend to go with a short story that has been languishing in the unfinished folder because of its attempts to mutate into a longer piece, but I’m also tempted to do something new that would be a final story in an alt-timeline civil war series, or the middle of three stories in my non-earth steampunk-ish world. I’ve got a month, I may do something else entirely.

31 January

How’s your January been?

I’m going to stay firmly on writing and health.

I started the month by putting together a spreadsheet which allows me to tabulate Submissions – both currently out, and what was sent monthly – and word count. I set myself the target of 5 submissions per month, and an average of 500 words per day. And I joined a 12-in-12 group, where the commitment is to write and submit a new story each month.

How did that go in January?

13 submissions

15,781 words written

I have 11 stories awaiting response, 2 that have been passed for further consideration, and received 7 rejections. I also have one story where I submitted the wrong file, and need to resubmit.

One story was completed, and submitted.

All in all that is a pretty successful month activity wise for a hobby writer. Which is important for me to remember. This is not my job. I’m fortunate (If a family suit of ill health ranging from Ehlers-Danlos through autism to epilepsy can be described as such) that I have the time to do as much as I do, and hopefully by the time I do need to be working again, I may have a pipeline of paying work.

Its also not bad considering I’ve had First Aid training, been to London twice (500 mile round trip) and my chronic fatigue is going through an extra bad spell.

Let me tell you about my new story. It’s called In Eldad’s Well, and is a weird western. A man returns to a town where he killed a man, and it’s deserted. He bunks down and wakes up to find it non-deserted. The town is suffering from the action of nearby ranchers, who happen to be centaurs. That’s all I’m saying at this point. But it was fun to write.

I also had three stories looked at by Charlie Finlay (it’s a perk of First Reading for SF&F). Wow, talk about helpful. One of the stories (A sword & sorcery blast that may be the first of a series) I completed in December. I’d had comment from a beta reader that the opening section didn’t work for them. I did look at it, and indeed tweaked it, but it does things that are important for the later story. Charlie gave solid suggestions on what to consider, and why. In explaining that he also provided tools that I can use in future stories.

And that is January.

Next month I’m aiming for the 5 submissions, average 500 words per day, 1 new story written and submitted. I also intend to create a spreadsheet of markets. I already use duotrope, but I need something that works in the way I do.

I’m also considering aiming to complete the writing portion of my target in the first 15-20 days (I managed 7 days of 1000+ words, that gave me over half the months total) and use the rest for re-writes. But we’ll need to see how that goes.

January 11th

I’ve had a lovely Occupation Therapist here for the last hour discussing my ME. I now get to partake in a seven week workshop on the issue (only 2 hours per week). That’s the most I’ve discussed my diagnosis since it was diagnosed in the middle of last year. The asperger part of me is dreading these group sessions, the writer part of me is excited.

Talking of writing, I’ve been doing some. There’s a flash piece for a CODEX competition, and a longer story I’m working on for a call by Afrocentric for their Afromyth anthology call. I submitted to the Afrofuture anthology and my story is on hold with them until the call is closed and final decisions on inclusion are made. I was also invited to submit to the Afromyth and Afrosteam calls.

This was most heartening. The story on hold is about a Nigerian-American woman in a round the world yacht race (time travel & whaling ships also appear). The anthologist is, coincidentally, a Nigerian-American woman. To have written a story she’s decided to hold for final consideration makes me immensely proud. It means I, to a worthwhile degree, have managed to write a character other than myself. I hope it wasn’t a one-time deal.

In other writing related news I’ve set up spreadsheets to track my writing and submissions for the year, and set myself goals for both. I’m currently tracking for submissions, and about 1700 words down on writing, though the ME has been bad and the concomitant brain fog has combined with self-doubt and starting-a-new-project fear to slow things down. I think I’m seeing a form for the Afromyth story, I’m currently trying to wrestle the idea into shape, and hopefully this will shift the logjam.

One of the ways I’m doing this is by using a writing formula. That sounds kind of dry and boring, but it seems to help. I first used it on a story that is currently finished, and being studiously ignored for a month or so. Under a provisional title of Stormville and the Coup (sword & sorcery in a Conanesque manner) the story started with an opening paragraph written about eighteen months ago, and then forgotten about. When I re-read the fragment I really liked it, but wasn’t sure what to do with it so on a piece of paper I wrote:

Introduction

1st reversal

small victory

2nd reversal

denouement

twist

Then in each section I wrote a rough idea for what should happen. The finished story does not follow that plan exactly, indeed the nature of the MC changed from the start of writing to the finish to the extent that I had to do a re-write to consolidate her. But the main thing is this gave the story a structure for me to follow and, I think, I’ll be using it more. One thing I found is this gave me a story of about 10k words, and could easily have been more. I think a 5-7k story will need a tweaked version.

Now, time to go make Cornish Pasties with my daughter.

28th October

An auspicious day.

I pressed publish on my first collection of US state stories. Eleven obsessed over pieces of me presented to the world to be generally ignored (though ideally I’d like about 250,000 paying readers 😀 ).

These United States – Volume I will shortly be available on pretty much every major reading platform.

Naturally, there was a typo in the blurb (now corrected – thanks, Cheryl), and I’m sure I’ll have missed some in the text. Ho, as they say, hum.

Now I expected to be full of cheer and bravado on this, but all I have is trepidation and doubt. I was ready to press publish a couple of days ago, and couldn’t do it. I needed the time to reflect on what it means for me. This all makes it sound like I’m laying claim to deep meaningful work of immense importance in exploring the human condition, while one of the stories is about alien invasion, and another is about spies. But that doesn’t mean the stories don’t mean something to me. They represent hours of research, writing, editing, proofreading, and formatting. One of these stories was the catalyst for a recent relocation.

What I’m saying is, these are part of me. My worry is not about whether they are read, nor is it trepidation of poor or non-existent reviews. It is worry about letting them go instead of holding them close and continuing to gnaw them, like a troll with a femur in a dark hole.

We’ve been having a clearcut at home recently, moving out things which are liked, beloved even, but not used or useful in this house. There is an element of catharsis in such action and I hope to get the same from putting these eleven stories out there. It’s time to do new research, think new thoughts, explore new states, write new words. Volume I has been three or four years in the making. My aim for Volume II is four to six months (I have 3 stories ready).

Publishing has been done with Pronoun. What a joy! Getting a hang of the formatting interface would have been easier had I read the friendly tuition guides up front, but that’s on me. Everything has been provided. I really love the fact that the release will be done across Amazon, Apple IBooks, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and Kobo. Whatever your device, you can get my book!

I look forward to building a nice virtual bookshelf of published works over the coming years.

Next up will be a collection of my SF stories, but there’s still a chunk of editing work to do there, so it might be December before that’s ready.

Lastly, if you would be willing to provide a review (good or bad, just the truth) then hit me up for an advance copy.

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10th October

Not much to report.

My Chronic Fatigue has been bad this week. Holding a coherent thought in place has been a struggle.

One thing I have realized is how many unfinished projects I have. This need addressed, so I’m trying to do that. Sort the wheat from the chaff, the stories that do have solid underpinning from these that are just a collection of words arranged into some pretty sentences.

The intention is to produce a list, and then work through that in a methodical way.

October 3rd

Last year I started a short story with a working title of Epecuén. The name is that of a town in Argentina which was flooded out of existence in the mid-eighties. In my head the story is a tale of magical-realism, the town is sacrificed to save the nation. The details of this were hazy, but it felt like a good hook to work with. After about four and a half thousand words I was running in to walls and couldn’t find a way through, under, or over. I set it aside.

At the weekend I re-opened the file and read through it. I love the writing. It is sweet, and emotional, at least I think so. I have aspergers, emotion isn’t an easy reach for me and I’ve been fighting with adding it in for a couple of years now. Reading back Epecuén was a valediction of the work I’ve been doing. And I realized why the story was blocked for me. What I have written – about one-third of the final tale I reckon – is actually a sweet coming of age story. No magic anywhere in sight.

Now I have a problem. Do I continue with it as is, which is very much not my œuvre, or go back to the initial idea. I really can’t figure it out yet.

And as I’m not writing enough at the moment, I’m not rushing it it.

That’s not saying I’m not writing, or editing, or submitting. I am. This week I submitted a new story to one of my top target markets. The final edit made me really happy. I go to places that are uncomfortable in both subject and execution, and I’m happy with the way it has come out. I’ll see what comes with the submission.

Now, I need some help.

I have another story I love. It’s about an elf, and a vampire, and a murder. It’s set in snowy Nebraska, and there’s not a human in the world. Think Jessica Fletcher, as an elf, solves her first small town mystery. But can I get anyone to sniff at it? No. Where do I send it?

I’ll leave that here. It’s early October. I hope to write again in a few days.

 

27th September

Time for the monthly update.

I need to change the monthly update.

Really, it needs to be more frequent, but I’m not sure it’ll happen.

I had a great holiday this month, 2 weeks right next to the beach, swimming in the sea every day, shooting the breeze with family and friends, reading, & writing. Now I’m having a clear-out at home, and putting a bunch of stuff on eBay & Gumtree & the like.

On the writing front I had a disaster yesterday. My son has a 2 hour class twice a week about 20 miles away. Just far enough to justify staying and waiting  instead of driving back and forth. On Thursday I found a terrific coffee shop and spent two hour writing. It was some of the most beautiful prose I’ve ever written, lyrical, soulful, honest. I worked on it some more over the weekend and had about 2k words.

I didn’t save it.

Not sure how, I thought Scrivener kept the last item for you. But I’m not blaming Scrivener, it’s my bad.

It threw me somewhat when I sat to write in the same coffee shop yesterday.

grrrrrr

However, I wrote. The story is back up to the same place plot wise, but 900 words shorter. Wouldn’t you know it, it’s all the really soul revealing stuff that’s gone. Some of it I just don’t remember, other parts I don’t see how they belonged in the story. I’ll need to find somewhere else for them to go.

On the upside, the first part of the story has already received a ‘kill your darlings’ edit. Silver linings, silver linings.

On other writing related things, I joined a group for people who self publish, and it kind of worries me. Some writers are putting out an enormous amount of words at incredible speed. I’m wary of reading any of it because it’s either terrific, and my confidence can’t take that right now, or it’s poor, and I don’t want to read that.

I’m definitely going to SP some things, but I can’t see me doing it at the rate many in the group are. For a start my first drafts are always stinky slimy things, with massive amounts of typos and huge plot holes.

And with that, I’m away to take my multi-vitamins, beetroot tablets, & anti-depressants.

 

30th August

So, no regular updates during the month.

I’ve re-written and edited 16k worth of my novella. I now have a good handle on what else I need to write, and how.

I’ve also done a whole bunch of First Reading at F&SF. What a joy this gig is.

On Thursday (1st Sept) I’m away on holiday for 2 weeks. A long drive to the north of Scotland. I’m going to do a lot of swimming, a lot of sauna-ing, play some Firefly tabletop, and write a bunch.

So my guess is, I’ll update this about the same time next month.

16th June

Why have I lapsed into monthly posts?

Because I feel I’m just repeating myself.

Writing’s hard; I’m getting better; repeat.

And I am getting better, as several acceptance in 2016 attest. But there’s still more to learn.

I am an incremental learner. Each advance builds on the last, and I find it impossible to go back and retro-fit stories which is a shame, it means there are trunked tales that are solid in conception, but poor in execution.

To aid advancement I’m always trying to learn. Currently I’m taking Cat Rambo‘s Advanced Workshop. I did the initial class about 18-months ago and found it hugely beneficial. Something I forgot, before signing up for this one, was the effect of time zones. I’m not sure what time the class is for Cat, but for me it’s 0100-0300h. The net effect is ensuring, as the only male in this class, that I don’t take up too much space. I’m so tired by the time it starts I require 3-4 times as normal to think about what has been said, and then extra time to formulate a response (this last bit is irony – I work really hard on not being a ‘Me Man, Listen’ type of person, sometimes I even achieve it).

I really enjoy the way Cat takes a class. There is a freeness to it which allows for discussions to move into areas that may have been unanticipated. Her anecdotes and name dropping are light and purposeful. When discussing class submitted stories Cat always looks to be positive and upbuilding in her comments, but she does not shy away from pointing out weaknesses and areas of concern.

I definitely recommend considering one of Cat’s classes and, if being awake in the middle of the night is really not your thing, then have a look at her on-demand offerings.

One of the recurring themes in writing, or more accurately in becoming a published writer, is persistence. You read, and are told of, writers who submitted and submitted and submitted, facing rejection after rejection. This is a truism.To rack up the rejects that allow  for an acceptance I have been running on a program of averaging one submission per week, and always having at least ten stories out for submission. This has been a useful tool to ensure I don’t hide away from submitting work based on rejections (or critiques – more on that below). Currently I am on my lower limit of ten stories out, and a few of those are very near the point where they’ll drop off one way or another. So I must put a couple out to make sure I have a cushion.

On the matter of critiques. Over the past few months I’ve had a few from people who have read stories and then made suggestions which, I can only assume, are based on how they would tackle the story, instead of considering the story before them. One went so far as to posit that it would be better to delve into who a secondary character didn’t want to return to his hometown after war had ended. That I dealt with it in two lines (not wanting the stultifying family life, or a return to the seminary), that this was a secondary character, and that this was a short adventure story seemed to have bypassed the reader. I was most frustrated, and it took effort not to respond (remember, no matter how poor the crit a sincere ‘Thanks for your time and effort’ is the standard response. Maybe different if you pay for it, and feel it misses the point, but otherwise just smile and wave).

This has made me think about my critiquing methods. I’m an editor by crit nature (because it’s easy to see how to make other peoples work better). I’ll make suggestions on lines, paragraphs, and ideas. What I need to ensure is that I provide reasons for my suggestions, and that they do not fundamentally alter the story under consideration.

Thus ends this month’s maundering.

 

 

May 15th

I’ve written a big chunk of words this month. I like that.

I’ve had feedback on several stories over the past month. That’s good. I’ve not enjoyed it.

Writing is solitary, it is a matter of ego. Mine is suffering at the moment.

I can’t get the mechanics correct. It’s a problem of converting an idea into a story that drags people along.

Ho Hum

Time to level up.

Oh, and my glandular fever is playing merry hell, so I feel physically crap, and mentally everything is foggy.