Saturday, January 31, 2015

Persistence (Update 1.31.15)

This week I finished another round of revisions on the newest "little novella that wouldn't quit" and polished the synopses for a potential pitch from "kind of okay" to "OMG! EPIC!". (At least that's how it felt this morning when I finished three cups of coffee and the last half of the synopsis for book three.)

With this project, I succeeded, once again, in setting deadlines I didn't meet and turning a fairly simple plot idea into a complex and emotional little book that makes me *SQUEEE* a little when I read through it. Really, you'd think I'd start to expect this by now, but it still startles me. Probably some phase in the "growing as a writer" process; I continually anticipate I'm writing average genre work and then manage to surprise myself. (I'm less surprised when I remember when I wrote my first (and absolutely average) genre novella 21 years ago when I was fifteen. Given a few starts and stops due to college and work, I haven't stopped working at it since. So, maybe it's about time I start showing some sign of being, you know, good at what I'm doing.)

This week also marked a rather horrible round of self-doubt. The specific details don't really matter. Suffice to say it was because writer reasons*. And because this project has taken significantly more rounds of revision than the last. (The Summer Project aka The Spider Thief Novel, consisted of one rough draft and one polishing round to fill in a few blank spots. And writing the synopses. Then it was done. This one is currently on draft number five. Four of which have been written since November. But still. Five! Why isn't this easier, right?)

The point being, it's easy to get discouraged and forget that every project is different. Easy to forget that this writing thing really is hard. No matter how fun it may seem. Even if you do get to drink whole pots of coffee and sit around in yoga pants all day except for when you have to put on real clothes so you can get more coffee from that fancy grocery store. Easy to forget that with any creative endeavor there is some grain of I-do-this-because-I-love-it buried deep under all the other reasons and motivators.

Approaching writing like work has been a large part of why I've accomplished as much as I have. It's enabled me to remove my "self" from the stories I write. Which in turn has made me more honest in how I write because I don't link dislike or judgement of the work to dislike or judgement of me. It's also enabled me to learn how to set goals and work through rough spots even if I'm not feeling the vodka-addled pinch of my muse**. Because part of this work IS work and the art can always come later.

But, when things get rough I persist because I love writing. Even on the days when I really suck at it. Even on the days when I THINK I really suck at it. Even on the days when a rejection rolls in.

I persist because I love it.
And because coffee.
And love. 
*Writer reasons may include, but are not limited to, the following:
The wind was from the East.
I didn't have enough coffee.
I had too much coffee.
Something on TV made me angry.
I read something that was so good, I wanted to burn everything I'd ever written.
I read something so bad, I wanted to write All The Words just to show that fiction is not a waste of time.
Someone who should be supportive said something unsupportive about my work.
The story I was working on did not flow like water and I thought "I must be doing something wrong."
The story I was working on did flow like water and I thought "I must be doing something wrong."
I remembered thinking I was brilliant in college and wondered why I'm not already well-known and successful.
Thought a sentence my cat typed into my laptop with his ass made more sense than the chapter I'd just spent a week on.
Assorted craziness.
Unavailability of chocolate in the house.

** This should not be interpreted to mean that vodka is my muse.
My muse however, tends to sit in the corner chainsmoking and trying to find his way to the bottom of a bottle of vodka while periodically slurring "Just finish the damn book." And then he passes out.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014: Another Year Gone

This past year I accomplished a number of things. Among them:

I found a fantastic literary agent.
I wrote approximately 280k words on various novels/novellas; including heavy revisions to The Steampunk Novel, finishing/revising The Spider Thief and The Assassin King, and finishing/revising The Super-Secret Project. (The rest of the words written were on Old Guard - a space opera, and Thingbreaker - a magicpunk novel. But neither of them have reached a "finished" state yet.)
I attended my first ever convention and met a bunch of really awesome folks.

Acquiring an agent and writing/finishing a new novel were both big milestones for me.
The first is a big step toward finding a publisher for my novels (in all their genre-rich glory) and means I can spend more time writing. (Compared to 2013 which was a pretty slow year for me, I was super-productive. Mostly because I was not wading through the query trenches and could actually spend my time putting words on the page rather than researching potential agents.)
The second was proof that I could move on to the next thing after having spent a lot of time in the previous years working through all the flailing mess that is writing a first novel. (To be fair, I wrote some other stuff during that time too, including the first steaming pile that is now the in-progress draft of Thingbreaker.)

A few things I didn't do this year:
Write/sell more short stories.
Finish a third novel this fall. (That was what I meant to do with Old Guard, but a sudden move + family drama + H1N1 = only part of that book got written.)
Sell one of the novels.

The latter is something I've been wrestling with the past few weeks. The holidays are a difficult time for me anyway and it was a perfect opportunity for doubt to sneak in and tell me I'm not good enough to do this writing thing on a permanent basis. If I were, the agent would have had no trouble finding a home for my novels. If I were, wouldn't I be making more money at it?

And, here's the thing, I would really like to already have book contracts and a nice advance on any of the things I wrote this year. But I have to remember that the life of an author is a marathon, not a sprint. Not only does the business move slowly, but it's a long-distance proposition. One book doesn't make a career, even if it should happen to sell immediately.

Right now I am building a body of work. Unpublished? Yes. But that can (and will) change at any time.
In the meantime, I am writing - which is something I love - and telling stories that scare me in the best possible way. It's not time to give up, it's time to push forward.

So here's to the New Year and the opportunity every day brings.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Short Fiction in 2014

I've not had a lot published this year, but as the SF/F awards season starts to gear up, I thought I would share what I've had published this year.

Vessels for Destruction - Nature Magazine: Futures (Feb 6, 2014)

The Collections Agent - Stupefying Stories (Feb 14, 2014) [Now as an ebook reprint]

The Spider Thief and the Sorcerer - Crowded Magazine (May 15, 2014)

Legacy - Beast Within 4: Gears & Growls (October 31, 2014)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Momentum (11.13.14)

For several years I've been a bit of a NaNoWriMo rebel, taking the month as an added incentive to revise existing projects rather than tackle new ones. It's not because I don't like working on new material, but there are priorities to consider.

Last year I was working on revisions to the Steampunk Novel. This year I started the month finishing up a novella I'd started in September. (Finished on Monday at 34k! Woot!) Now I'm focusing on the first draft of a new novel I'm hoping to finish before Christmas.

I've always found that moving between projects is a little challenging. Usually there's a period of down time in which I try and figure out what to work on next. (Like every other writer under the sun, my list of possible projects is ridiculous. I could write for years just finishing up all the ideas I have today.) There's also a shift in creative energy as I transition between that final dig to finish something up to the wilder and (usually) more optimistic period of figuring out what exactly I'm doing with the new project. And, any time I'm not writing every day it's always harder to pick it back up again (the same as it is with breaking and reestablishing any routine).

This time I knew what I wanted to work on and I was fairly settled into a writing routine; the biggest challenge would be finding the energy to start a new project right on the heels of the last.

But this time, I had a plan. On November 1st, I started working on the new project before I had finished the last one. I didn't write a lot or every day (I had a novella to finish, after all), but I dipped my toes into the new project and let myself start getting a feel for the characters before it was the only thing on my plate.

It was interesting. I've worked multiple projects before, but not with as much... intention, I think is the best way to describe it. This time the goal was to get comfortable with the Space Opera before I finished up the SuperSecretProject. It wasn't to get an arseload of words on the page. My one purpose was to introduce myself to the characters.

Boy, what an introduction. I had a plot in mind and I noodled around sketching out the opening and, as I did, I started to see things about my MC. I started to see things about the way she interacted with the secondary characters and how they interacted with her. And before I knew it I had 12k words and a surprisingly clear vision for the book.

It's still a hot mess, because it's in that stage where every novel is a hot mess. (You know that stage, when the plot still has a few holes and subplots are just a scene or two here and there.) But I do seem to have taken the momentum from the last project (the SuperSecretProject) and transferred it to the new one. Which is kind of amazing considering how different the two are. (Like night and day.)

But there you go. Words on the page, every day. And that's always a good thing.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ups and Downs (Update 11.5.14)

It's November and that means that the NaNoWriMo hashtag is trending on Twitter and writers of every stripe are hunkered down working on banging out a minimum of 1667 words a day.

Of course, for some November is an awkward month to try and hit 50k in 30 days. The end of the month has the opening of the holiday season. For folks in school there are exams and the impending end of the year crush of papers and projects. But, many of us take up the challenge even knowing that we won't likely make the goal because life. 

I first participated in the National Novel Writing Month in 2008. It was a spur of the moment thing. Although I had heard of NaNo before, I had always missed it by a few weeks (or been months too early). As it was, I thought I had missed it again and was delighted to realize it was NOT in October but November. I had a rough plot and no idea how to write something that long, but I plunged in anyway and produced the really awful first draft of what would eventually take shape as the Steampunk Novel and I wrote more than 50k words in the space of a month. It was a huge achievement.

The following year I did it again. (That year produced the really awful first draft of what is slowly taking shape as the Magicpunk Novel.) And I haven't repeated it since. 

The first year I failed to meet the NaNo goal (2010) I was pretty bummed. I couldn't figure out what had gone wrong. Had I lost my mojo? Maybe I was running out of good ideas. Maybe I had plateaued. Or I was only destined to write two books ever. (And lousy ones at that.) 

After I wallowed for a bit, I had a revelation. Nothing had gone wrong. I hadn't lost my motivation or my mojo or run out of ideas. It was just a different year and different circumstances and although I had written a lot, I hadn't written as much as the previous years because life. 

I have been thinking about that again these past few weeks. I had a soft deadline to turn in a project mid-October. I got very close and then ran out of steam. 

Of course, I also went through a major move with my family that consumed more time and energy than I thought I had to spend. I also turned in major revisions on a novel in January. And wrote a different novel and revised it over the spring and summer. Then started the SuperSecret novella in September. 

I was being productive and writing even with a very tight schedule and plenty of life difficulties in the mix. (Seven weeks without running water, four rounds of bronchitis in six months, and multiple court dates being just a small part of the life stress I've faced this year.) Failing to meet a self-imposed deadline was disappointing, but it didn't signal Failure. It was life. 

So, as I tackle another November and another novel project I can only remind myself that everyone has ups and downs. And there are times when you have to make that deadline (and I've done that a few times too), but you cannot blame yourself for all the things that happen because life. You can only buckle down and try. 

Some days this just means turning on the computer and hammering out a single line between eating dinner and putting the six year old to bed. Some days this means ignoring the urge to watch crappy TV and instead beat out a few chapters on that project you aren't certain is any good at all. 

But whether life is grabbing you by the short and curlies or everything is coming up roses, you can only buckle down and try. And, at the end of most days, you will have words. Some better than others, but the bad ones can always be fixed. 

As long as you try.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Publication and Wordage (Update 10.31.14)

First, a little publication news. I have a story available on QuarterReads. It's neat little site that has a collection of short fiction, each story is available to read for the low price of twenty-five cents. Mine can be found here: Call-Center

You can expect some of my other short stuff to be available there before too long. Once I get a chance to submit it and everything. 

Also, as I announced last week, Beast Within 4: Gears and Growls is available today! It contains my short story "Legacy" as part of an anthology of stories examining shapeshifters in a steampunk world, edited by Jennifer Brozek. You can purchase a copy here: Beast Within 4: Gears and Growls

This is one of my first stories actually published in print so I'm even more excited than usual about it's release. (And it's a really cool story. And I got to share the ToC with Ken Liu and Folly Blaine.) 

In writing news, I am still working to finish up the SuperSecretProject before NaNoWriMo begins. (Not that it's going to happen, but you know, words is words.) I am very close to the end and it's killer. And disturbing. I love this little book so much it's hard not to talk about it in more detail, but I can't because reasons. 

Once the SuperSecretProject is done (by which I mean the first draft is safely in the hands of The Agent for further review), I will be starting on a new project for the duration of the year. The goal is to knock out a bunch of it during the National Novel Writing Month. Not so much because I have to participate in NaNo, but it is a good excuse to stay on target with the daily wordcount. 

The new project is a Space Opera with a complex set of character that are simply terrifying me because I am very much afraid I will screw them up. But, my best stories tend to be those I fear I won't do justice to. So, come tomorrow, I will be running full tilt into the writing breach to try and finish my third project this year. Or, at least, get a good start on it before January. 

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Busy (10.22.14)

There's been a long silence here. Between this time last month and now, there's been a lot of real life chaos that has made updating the blog a minor priority.

Good news: Things are finally settling down somewhat. 
And, I'm nearly finished with the Super-Secret Project I've been working on. This means I'll have finished two new books this year and I'm set to start a third in November. (Space Opera of appropriately epic proportions and emotional complexity that I'm still trying to wrap my head around.)

AND, The Beast Within 4: Gears and Growls is scheduled to come out on October 31st. Just in time for Halloween. And check out this amazing cover! 

This anthology not only contains stories by Ken Liu and Folly Blaine, but also my own - Legacy. It's a dark little thing full of weird tech, skin-changers and voodoo. I'm so excited it's finally going to be available; links to buy will go up once they're live. 

In the meantime, more words are on the horizon. As always.