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Archive for the ‘General’ Category

NaShoWriMo in Peril?

Well, I think I can safely say that day one of my crazy story plan was a bust.  I have two paragraphs written on a story.  I first conceived of this plan over a month ago, before I finished my novel even.  I figured it would be a good way to keep my writing production up while I’m taking a break from novel writing.

What I didn’t count on was a major depressive episode (I suffer from clinical/unipolar depression) which has meant, among other things, that I’m not sleeping.  For the last three weeks I’ve been getting an average of 1-2 hours of sleep a night, with some 24-36 hour periods without any sleep at all in there.  Some nights I take sleeping meds to get 4-5 hours of sleep in, but they zombify me the day after and leave me mentally and physically useless, so I try to limit how often I use them.  This, sadly, effects my ability to write.  The less sleep I get, the harder it is to focus on things or retain anything in my brain.

It’s very frustrating, because I know that as a writer I’m fully capable of completing this challenge.  I have notes galore on stories I’d like to write, and my novel writing output is generally 2-5k words a day.  But with my brain addled from lack of sleep (plus the other fun side-effects of depression), I’m finding it very hard to run at full capacity on this.

I’m not giving up, however.  I might just revise the goal down to 12-20 stories.  I think with effort and focus and hopefully my antidepressants kicking in soon (they take a couple weeks to really start working, alas), that I can still manage to get a lot done.  So, back to work.  Since I’m not sleeping, I might as well be writing.  Slowly.

Reflections and Going Forward

I’ve now been writing full-time for over a year, technically. I say technically because this time last year, I’d just started graduate school, and it was eating my life while I sat confused and miserable wondering how something that had seemed like such a good idea at the time could go so wrong.  In the end, I determined the program I was in wasn’t a good fit for me.  I gave it a year, and thought about pushing through the final year.  However, I wanted to know if I could actually get a decent amount of writing done without grad school, since my production while in it was pretty poor (about as bad as when I was working 70 hours a week, really).

So I quit.  This summer was full of moving, vacations, family obligations, and Worldcon.  Even so, in the last four months I’ve managed to write two short stories, get all 10 short stories currently on submission polished as best I’m able, and finish a novel.  It’s not been the smoothest going, nor the easiest thing ever.  There are days when the rejections stream in (today there were two more…) and everything I do feels like it’ll never amount to anything at all.  I even start scanning the job listings wondering if anyone will hire someone who has been out of work a year and has two pretty useless degrees (unless you need some Anglo Saxon translated?).

Then something happens to remind me, to nudge me back onto the path.  Some days it’s schadenfreude, I’ll be honest.  I read a forum post, or a workshop story post, or I’m talking to someone, or occasionally see something in a magazine and think “god, that’s stupid/terrible/sad, I’m totally not that clueless/bad/pathetic.”  Some days it’s seeing how far I’ve come, the days when I read over a line or a paragraph and think “hey, that kinda works, what I did there.  I think I understand foreshadowing now!”   Some days it’s other people like my first readers who read my stuff and tell me they like this or that, or that they can really see improvement.  And some days, the best days, it’s the writing itself, when it grabs me by the brains and I race along the story with every piece falling into place like a master level Go game on fast forward.

And looking ahead, I think I can keep going.  I’ve got a novel done, and three people have already finished reading it for me, with two more due to finish in the next week or two.  They’re compiling lots of information and commentary for me to sift through so I can make it the best it can be.  And reading about the market right now, I’m sort of happy I decided to work on this novel, which is a fantasy with pretty strong romantic elements, instead of trying to finish Casimir Hypogean.  Debut science fiction seems like it’s a tough sell right now, so breaking in with a fantasy novel might be easier.  Of course, there’s no way to know if Chwedl will even sell.  But I’m glad I’m making this the first effort the world might see and saving the more complex stuff for later.

Novel project 2 will have to start in a couple months, as soon as Chwedl’s query is out the door to agents.  I’m not sure what to do.  Part of me really wants to finish Casimir Hypogean to polished draft and then do roughs of the other two novels in the series just so I have them done enough that if by some chance the first sells, I won’t be coming back years later and tackling that world cold.  However, while I think the novels have great potential, I think in some ways the steampunk mysteries I want to write might be an easier pitch.  Local alternate history, alchemy, airships, murder, clockwork cats, and quirky characters?  I mean, how can I lose?  The Casimir story is in my head right now, however.  It’s been coalescing for a few years now, ever since I wrote that terrible rough draft.  I’m not sure how the third book ends, but I know how the second one goes, and how the third begins.  I figure by the time I get there, it’ll be clear how it has to go.  The steampunk book will take a lot of research, the Casimir books almost none (and what research there is I can keep doing as I go).

So I have some thinking to do.  Meanwhile, I’ve been researching and doing rough quasi-outlines/notes for stories for my crazy short story month plans.  It’s definitely time to start thinking about the workshop applications too.  I want to apply early this year to all of them, get it out of the way.  In some ways, I’m stressing about it more this year than I was last.  Last year I really wanted to go, but it was mostly because I wanted to work with the people at CW.  This year, I want to go for me.  I think that either the Clarions or Odyssey could help push my writing to the next level.  I’m clearly on the threshold, if my “nice” rejection stack means anything.  I want to get past the personal rejections and make a sale, to write the kinds of stories that editors can’t put down.  I think the workshops could help with this, could help me find out what I need to learn or practice to get closer to where I want to be as a writer.

I’ll likely be posting very boring somewhat daily updates during November about my short story mission.  Stay tuned for the crazy!

Slog Slog Slog (rant ahead)

I think this is one of the parts of kick-starting a writing career that *isn’t* fun.  The novel is grinding along, and the rejections are pouring in for my short work.  Everywhere I turn it seems I hear “this was good but…”  which as all the how-to books and advice out there will tell you is a very good thing ™ and a sign of progress ™.

What they don’t tell you is that almost good enough starts to get really really depressing after the first couple of near-misses.  Yay, my writing is improving.  Yay editors are clearly reading the entirety of my stories before they dash off the rejection note.  Yay, progress!  Head down, keep going.  Right?  Well, sure. Not much else I can do.  But it’s frustrating (and I doubt  any established writer would tell me that it wasn’t frustrating for them in the beginning either, or even still is on occasion).  And who knows how many years of near-missing I’ll have to muddle through?  At Worldcon I met a woman who’s been getting those nice rejections for 11 years without a single sale.  Now, I suppose she could have been lying about the nature of the rejections, and to be fair she only sends out five or six stories a year, but still.  11 years.  Frankly, I just don’t know if I have that kind of fortitude.  I joke about 500 rejections, but can I really hang on without a single sale through 479 more of these?  My spreadsheet that tracks what is out where is starting to look like a mess of black and the word Rejected covers the screen.

On the somewhat plus side, I’m nearly done with the novel.  It’s slow going, my normal cruising speed has been down  to a third because I’m having to carefully pull together two storylines and three POV characters.  And here I thought the ending would be a cakewalk to write.  Nothing is predictable about this process, is it?  Technically I gave myself the deadline of the end of the month, but I’ve got about 15k words left I think.  So it’s not going to be done tomorrow.  By the weekend though, hopefully.  Then I can put it aside and worry about something else for a while.  (And maybe, by the time I’m done I’ll know about my WotF entry? Maybe… though I suppose at this stage no news could be good news.)

Don’t worry. I haven’t been rejected to death yet.  I promised myself ten novels and ten years.  Will I be a ranting crazy person or a catatonic ball by the end? Perhaps.  Or I might be a selling writer.

Only one way to be the latter: Finish this damn novel.

Sometimes it Pours

Woke up at 4am because of the cat.  Stayed awake because I’d been having an awesome dream about being a stowaway on an alien ship that then got attacked by pirates and knew it could be a super cool short story.  Normally when I have a story idea it has to brew for a week or a month or a year.  Apparently all this one wanted was about 4 hours.

Well, it’s a story anyway.  After 7.5 hours of nearly continuous writing, the monstrosity that is “Crawlies” is now complete.  After a “oh god how messy is this” editing pass it stands at 7715 words.  Bleh.  I was aiming for 4000.  Is this what plot does?  Cause baby, this story has plot.  Hell, it’s got everyting. Provided that everything means aliens, pirates, an 11 year old protagonist, bombs, and exploding head jokes.  My research firefox window currently has open windows from wikipedia for oxygen toxicity, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and squid.  Lord save me, there’s even slang.  It was like this character waltzed into my head and wouldn’t shut the hell up.  Of course, she’s 11, she doesn’t shut the hell out anyway.  I wish writing was always this easy.  Even if it doesn’t let me do anything else.

Now that my work day is gone, I’m going to go eat something (sorta forgot to do that in the ‘writer will finish or she gets the hose again’ fog I’ve been in most of today).

In the other kinda of ego-boosting news (no, not the yet again “close but try again” rejection I got today), one of my poetry chapbooks sold at the bookstore COLD.  As in a random stranger who is no relation to me chose my little self-published being sold on commission chapbook all by himself with no arm twisting from my mother and paid COLD DELICIOUS CASH for it.  I feel pretty good about that.  Poetry is hard to sell, and this means that mine was good enough to attract a random human’s interest.  Or you know, so bad he couldn’t resist buying it to chortle at the next wine and schadenfreude party.  I’m going to believe the former.  For my peanut-sized ego’s sake.

Ok, now, to post this monstrous new baby of mine somewhere for critique.  Oh why oh why is it so long?  Curse you baby.

But I love you.  In fact, today (and probably only today), I love writing.  Thank you writing gods.  Now, can I please have a nice compelling dream about how to finish this novel? K thanx.

Oh yeah, and if you think I was kidding about my mother arm twisting people, you should talk to Ken Scholes*.  I’m surprised he made it out of there without a chapbook.  Lucky bastard.  You know you’ve hit a sad sad hole in your social life when your mother has to do your networking for you.  Thanks mom.  28 is just like 8, somedays.  At least she didn’t try to arrange a play date or anything.

(*Ken Scholes is, in fact, as far as my limited mother-twisted arm contact with him has gone, a supremely tolerant and nice guy. Buy his books).

Writing Progress Report and Lists!

Because we know how much the internet loves lists.  Sorry, no bullets.

First, got another nice rejection.  I entered into my tracking sheet and then for fun counted up the number of rejections and looked at how many are form and how many came with a note.  I have 15 rejections so far for short stories.  6 are form letter, 1 is a negative comment, and 8 are ‘positive’ rejections (good writing, well received, send more, that sort of comment).  So the positive rejections out number the negative or form letter ones.  Apparently this is a good thing and a sign of tremendous progress.  I’m just keeping my head down and figuring out where to send what next.  15 down, 485 rejections left to go!

On to the lists!

Things in progress:

Chwedl: 61,000 words so far, but I’ve hit a snag since I realized I needed to go back and add an entire thread of motivation to make the actions of my main char in the events ahead far more plausible.  I aim to have the draft of this done by mid September.

Casimir Hypogean: rewrite is sitting at about 9k I think.  This is what I’ll get to before the end of this year.  I aim to write the two sequels next year as soon as I’m done with the rewrite.  I thought long and hard about bothering to write sequels to an unsold book (conventional wisdom says don’t!), but I think I’m going to ignore that wisdom this time.  I’m unpublished, which means I don’t exactly have deadlines on other things at the moment, plus given an optimistic publishing time-frame, say this book was picked up for publication and then they wanted the sequels written.  It could be anywhere from 3-6 years from finishing the first before I’d even begin a sequel.  That’s too long for me, right now.  I have the story and world firmly in mind and while the first book works fine as a stand-alone, the second two are definitely tied together and I want them to work well as a unit.  Even if I spend another year writing these three books, I’ll still have learned something about writing (and writing a series) whether they sell or not.  So that’s my justification.

Steampunk detective novel:  started doing some research for the setting of the first one.  It’ll likely be a year before I start writing it, but I do love me some research.

Romance novel that has hijacked my brains:  I might start this just to see where it goes.  Series romance is only 70k words generally, so maybe I can tinker with it in my “spare” writing time.  I certainly love to read romances, so maybe I’ll try writing one.  This one involves a girl with a beautiful singing voice and a violent past and of course a handsome composer/violinist, an opera house, and dark secrets.  (No masked men living underneath the opera house, sorry…)

Werewolves in Space: now a novella!  I had the idea at Worldcon to turn this into a novella sort of prequel to a later novel.  I’ve actually cut the werewolf and love story from the plot.  I wasn’t sure this novel ever had enough plot to really sustain 100k words, so I think this will be a good compromise.  Now I just have to keep it under 17k words.

Short stories:  I have so many percolating in my brains at the moment, I’m going to have to write one a week just to clear my plate.  I’m hoping I can revive Monday Short Story Day starting next Monday.  Sampling of stories includes: Rusalka story, ‘glitter kitten’, ‘shrub daughter’, ‘I, vermin’, jellyfish in space, ‘sparks’, time traveling thief, ‘Tesla’s Daughter’, world as we know it ends (telemarketer) story, ‘The insanity of Mr Leads’, ‘Maskmaker’, and Bloodgood’s cat origin mystery story.  My notes make more sense than this list, somewhat.

On the plus side, I now have 9 short stories out making the rounds, which isn’t bad considering back in Feb when I started I only had two.

Time to prioritize and write like a madwoman.  It’s funny, before Worldcon I never considered myself that prolific, but I think I’m right in the middle as far as I can tell from the sampling I got there about other people’s work habits.  The last six weeks have been a total momentum killer, however.  Between Worldcon, Flu, Alaska, and moving, I’ve gotten almost nothing done (1 short story written, 2 revised, only about half a chapter on Chwedl).  Time to get back in the habit of the everyday and get some projects finished.  I’m giving myself a mini-deadline on the Werewolves in Space novella because I’d like to have it done in time for this quarter of WoTF contest.

So that’s the report for August 2009.  We’ll see where I’m at in December or there abouts.

Worldcon Report (of a sort)

and then I’m getting back to writing about writing, I swear *grin*

I got home from Worldcon with the flu, so I’ve been medicated out of my head and curled up with a fever and racking cough this whole last week.  It has especially sucked because one of the good things to come out of Worldcon was that I came home with ideas leaping out of everywhere for all of my current projects and some totally new ones.  I feel like I just lost a week of my life, thanks flu!

One of the things I meant to do right when I got home was give a more in-depth report on Worldcon.  But there are con reports out there and it’s been a week anyway, so I’m just going to mention a few thoughts and highlights.

The workshop was well-run and while I won’t say it was a bucket of fun, I found it informative and helpful.  This was the third time I’ve workshopped Space Bones (and the third form the story has been in), and this workshop liked it the least over all, though I’ve read through comments on the drafts that were handed to me and there are some nice comments that no one bothered to say aloud in the workshop, which is ok but did give the impression that it was universally panned when it wasn’t exactly.  However, I think that this story has reached the point where I need to shelve it or rip its guts out and try something a little different.  I know the story I’m trying to tell.  I read over the comments and my notes and I see that the story I want to tell is getting lost somewhere in this version.  I like this story too much to give up on it, and besides, it got a very near miss with one editor, so it can’t be that far off something *someone* would like to read.  I have some ideas on how to change/fix it, so we’ll see if I can make it work better.  I found the level of crit in the workshop on par with Baen’s, blunt but understandable/helpful on a whole.  Plus it was good to get to talk to people and meet them without having to introduce myself to strangers.  Context is a good thing.

Another highlight of the con was meeting a bunch of  local Portland writers. A bit funny that I haven’t met a single local writer until I went thousands of miles away, but oh well, I’d have to probably leave my house and put up with that whole introducing myself to strangers thing more often.  I have new blogs to follow and hopefully a few local connections for people to chat about writing (or whatever) with.   I also connected with some of the not-local to me writers whose blogs I follow, though that involved a fair bit of stranger talking to, but I held it together, mostly (I think a couple people caught me on the zomg 1am oversocialized talky edge of things, heh…sorry).

Some of the most fun panels I went to were the Odyssey, Clarion, and Anti-workshop panels.  I mention them here because in some ways I’m glad I didn’t get into CW this year (sniff).  I’m much better informed now about what the different workshops entail and what might be the best fit for me.  The Odyssey grads were especially helpful in this, and I think it’s moved to the top of my list for next year (pending what the instructor list for Clarion SD looks like, of course…).  Not that I won’t apply to all three, but I’m thinking of seeing if I can get early acceptance to Odyssey since they do that.  Of course, after my sound rejection from CW, who knows if I’ll get into anything next year, but I’ve been working my ass off to try to improve and getting the “almosts” to prove it.  Hope and Spring and all that.   Oh, funny thing about the Anti-workshop panel and the Clarions panel, they almost ended up being opposites.  The Clarion grads all admonished people to be sure they knew what they were getting themselves into, while the anti-workshop (really, the hey you can do it without a workshop panel) ended up agreeing that it can be really helpful.  Go figure.

This leads up to the strongest message I took away from Worldcon after listening to countless professional writers and editors.  Everyone gets there on their own path.  No ones methods look the same, no one followed some careful formula for success (well, other than work hard and write a good story), no path to publication or agent or finished drafts look the same.  Which was comforting, because sometimes I feel like I’m diving in face first and hoping thats water down there.

Over all, I’m glad I went (flu notwithstanding).  Now, back to real life.  I need to revise my list of things to do and add in the new ideas/plans.  It’s about time for another “things to get written” post, so I’ll work on that for sometime this week.  First, however, I need to reread a few chapters of Chwedl so I know what I was thinking when I quit (has it really been a month since I worked on it? Eek. Momentum loss, anyone?) and then start the writing.  And maybe do something with the stack of hotel stationary I scribbled all over in Montreal.

Worldcon Briefly

This is the Worldcon overview.  I’ll do a panel/workshop/shoutouts post or three in the days following since I’ve just gotten home, had two hours of sleep, and only want to dump a few thoughts before I crash out in front of netflix and my 450 post RSS feed (apparently the internet keeps going even when I’m not staring at it…).

First impressions upon coming home:

The bad:  I got pretty lonely much of the time.  Apparently I’m not one of those people safely split from my significant other for more than 3-4 days at a time.  7 is too many.  Good to know.  We’ll see what those roaming charges on my phone look like (eek).

The first day (Thurs) was the hardest.  I felt like the new kid entering senior year of high school where it feels like everyone else already knows each other and has plans and things.  Part of that is my own damage, since despite being talkative, I’m really quite shy and have trouble inserting myself into (or staying put in) any situation where I  feel remotely awkward.  People were extremely nice on the whole, but in a “good to meet you, moving along now” sort of way rather than a “hey I’ll stop and chat for a while” sort of way.  It was the first day of the con, and much like the first day of school, it felt like everyone was reaffirming acquaintances and catching up.  Great for them, not so much fun for the new kid.

Friday went much better, the workshop helped break some ice and the panels were some of the best of the whole con.  I ended up braving the parties on Friday, which was a mixed bag of awesome and awkward as well.  Anyway, blah blah blah lonely blah blah blah shy blah blah blah awkward etc…  On to the good before my tired brain runs in a circle of whine.

The good:

People were super nice.  I met two agents and had a lovely time chatting with them.  I met lots of people I didn’t know, a handful of people who I stalk follow online, and the panels were on the whole informative and/or entertaining.  I got a couple things signed (spent a day’s worth of food money on books…sigh), had some entertaining conversations, and (I think?) didn’t make a total ass of myself.  I also came home with mad scribblings of ideas for stories, a good notion of how to rip the guts out of Space Bones, and a new appreciation for how far I’ve come as a writer (it was drilled into me this weekend that getting positive editor comments only a few months into subbing things is a *really* good sign and I should probably just STFU on the whole ‘never gonna sell anything evar!’ rant).

Now. I go collapse.  Montreal is *really* far away when they route you through Vancouver and Calgary…

(Oh, and massive gratz to the Hugo winners.  I’m please that most of the people I voted for won.  Though I silently curse that Metatropolis didn’t… grr)

*note to self, next Worldcon, bring more than 90 dollars to feed yourself for 6 days, please.  Saltines and peanutbutter gets old fast.  (Also, check out the free food in the con suite before Sunday next time…)

Last Post til Worldcon!

Well, until after Worldcon really, since I’m not bringing a laptop and most likely won’t be checking the net while I’m there.

Finally got a response  about Delilah.  Great response short of a sale, sigh.  They held the story for over 5 months, but in the end decided that due entirely to the biblical retelling nature of the story they had no spot for it.  Apparently they loved it otherwise though and want to see something else.  *rubs hands together*  Fine! Something else you say? I has something else for you…

Well, I’ll have something else for them after Worldcon.  I’m beyond oh god oh god I’m full of lame panic and into the “I hope all those reservations I made back in Jan still are good” and “where did I put that thing I totally need for the trip” panic.  I made a list, and now I can’t find my list.  I’m made of organized, really.

If anyone wants to catch up with me at Worldcon,  I’ll be the terrified looking one with the short blue and orange hair.

I’ll be taking notes while I’m there and hopefully posting the funny, strange, or useful stuff here afterwards.

Anticipating Anticipation (Worldcon)

I’ve been getting zero writing done due to moving and now to travel plans.  First Alaska, then I’m home for two days and finally off to Worldcon in Montreal.

I’m super nervous about Worldcon.  I know absolutely no one going, I’ll be totally alone.  I’m not so worried about the travel part of it since I survived traveling in Europe by myself no problem.  I’m just not sure what to expect and what will happen while I’m there.  I’m also slightly sad because this will be the longest my husband and I have been apart, pathetic as that sounds (sigh).  I know I’m probably freaking out about nothing and that once I’m there I’ll be fine.  There will be things to do and probably people to talk to.   But I can’t seem to help being a little nervous.  I’d unrealistically hoped to have sold a story or two by now so I’d at least be a SFWA member and have an icebreaker that way, but I likely should have started subbing to markets before Feb of this year if I’d truly wanted that to come about from the real world standpoint.  Oh well.

I’m going to take Kim Stanley Robinson’s advice and just go and enjoy myself (I had the good fortune to be able to talk to him about Worldcon this last Spring).  And bring a notebook.

I also have little simple business/calling cards now.  They’re very basic with name, email, link to this blog etc…  I wasn’t sure what to put as the title part, so I just went with writer and editor.  I’ve actually been paid to edit things professionally (unlike writing fiction so far…sigh) so I figured I should put that on the card.  But since I’m writing full time I added that anyway.   Someday I’ll be able to change that to “Author”.  Someday.

Speaking of that ‘someday’, I have a story into the workshop at Worldcon.  It just came back with a rejection, though again a nice one.  I’m close, I can feel it.  I haven’t gotten a form letter for the last seven or so rejections, however, they are still rejections.   I also have two stories that seem to be in serious contention for publication and are being held for “further consideration” whatever that might actually mean.  I suppose for 6 months of submitting, this is good progress.  It feels slow sometimes and whenever I talk to my family I get frustrated because they don’t seem to understand that a writing career can and likely will take years until it’s paying at all and likely will never pay all our bills, ever.

I don’t know.  I think I’m just at a slump.  Once I get home from Alaska and Worldcon I’ll dig into Chwedl.  I always feel better when I’m writing.  Maybe I’ll take a notebook on the boat in Alaska and do a short story or two.  I’ll have nothing but time, after all.  Time to worry about Worldcon.

News Quickie

Apparently they are doing a workshop at Worldcon.  I sent in two stories, so far I’ve heard they’ll likely have a spot for at least one of them, so we’ll see.  My NorWesCon experience was nice and positive and very helpful.

So I’ll get to be workshopped by some more pros, which is awesome.  Hopefully they can tell me how to get my stories over the “this is really good, but no thanks” hump…