Reading, Rejection, Writing, Year in Review

My Writing 2015: A Review

OK, so here we go at last–my year’s writing in review. I really like these posts, because whenever I start the research for this, I’m pretty glum, thinking that I haven’t really done “all that much” or “all that well” for the year. I mean, I could’ve done so much more if it hadn’t been for x or y, and I expected to get so much more accomplished on project z. I usually feel pretty much like an abysmal failure.

And then, I run the numbers, and begin to cheer up. You can’t argue with the stats (well, you can, but you’d look pretty foolish).

In 2015, I made about 51 submissions. From those, I garnered:

  • 5 acceptances, including my first reprint! (wheeeeee!)
  • 1 “no response” (boo! market closed)
  • 1 withdrawal
  • 3 still pending
  • 12 personal rejections (a couple very complimentary)

Then I looked back at last year’s stats and saw “54 rejections, 23 personal, 6 acceptances, 4 pending.” Hmm, less writing than last year? That’s not good, right?

But it is good. Because this year I also finished the first draft of the novel I didn’t finish the year before, and began figuring out what was broken on it and how to fix it (a major chore, since it’s my first really completed novel). On top of that, I planned and wrote a novella and have detailed outlines for the next two in the series, which I hope to self-publish in 2016. So in effect, I’ve finished 2 novels this year, and planned a couple more, in addition to all those short stories submitted. See, this is looking pretty impressive now, isn’t it? 🙂

My 2015 goals were to:

  • finish the novel (check)
  • revise novel via outline (check)
  • write at least 12 new stories to submission stage (check)
  • do concept ideation and outlines for novella series (and double-check, since I exceeded this by writing the first draft and started editing it before the year was out! Go me!)

See why all this is cheering? I didn’t do badly at all, did I? I really love the stories I wrote, and the markets I was published in. I came pretty darn close to a couple more sales at really awesome markets, and am gratified and amazed by that (especially when I see the quality of the stories that did get accepted!), and I continue to be supported by the conviviality and community of both the Codex Writers’ Group and my VP 17 cohort, as well as some lovely people here on this blog. Having good peeps to see you through the tough times=gold.

Thus I come to the end of this posting, cheered and fortified to continue onwards in my writing, and questing towards publication “glory.” (Um, yeah, whatever. I just want to keep improving, keep trying new things, and maybe see some tangible signs of success here and there.)

For the new year (which, yes, is already getting a bit long in the tooth, I know), may all your nouns and verbs agree, and may none of your participles dangle! Happy reading and writing and carrying on with good living!

 

goals, publication

And Now for that Good News…

Remember back a few posts, when I mentioned I had good news I was eager to share? Now I can tell you: I have sold my first reprint! “Amma’s Wishes,” which was published last year in Sword & Sorceress 29, will become a podcast at PodCastle!

Have you heard of the writer’s career bingo sheet? I stole this from another writer (with her permission, of course) because it’s such an awesome idea. Basically, there are only so many things you can control about writing. Having goals to get published at a certain market, or to make so many sales per year, or whatever, are completely out of my control. I can only control the fact that I write.

Nonetheless, certain events and sales are still markers of a sort, milestones of success on a long, hard road, and should be celebrated. It helps keep my chin up when things go slow: “See? You’ve gotten all those accomplishments. You can do this,” I tell myself. So, the bingo card. You take a spreadsheet page (or a sheet of paper) and divide it into squares. In each square goes something your heart goes pit-a-pat over the thought of: selling to a favorite market or editor, an award nomination, so many new sales in a year, whatever. When you achieve that milestone, you change the background from white to whatever shiny, happy color you like.

Back to this sale. It is very much a big deal, since it fills in TWO bingo squares for me–both Reprint, and a sale to one of the ‘Pods (PodCastle, EscapePod, PseudoPod). And it becomes my first two-fer, which isn’t a square, but maybe it should have been??

I don’t know the date of publication yet, but you can be sure I’ll let you know. I hope you’ll give it a listen.

Personal Life, Viable Paradise, Writing

Dasher’s Birthday

DashDay15

Yesterday we celebrated Dasher’s birthday. He’s now unofficially (since we have no idea of his actual birth date) one year old, and no longer a puppy. Don’t tell him that, though. He still acts crazy and playful as the day we brought him home.

How did we celebrate? With a ball at the field and plenty of water to cool off with, a canine cupcake, a long walk with both his people, and lots and lots of playing. He slept really, really well–both in the afternoon and all night long! 🙂

Today it’s back to the same old routine–morning walk, then Mary writes while Dasher bounces a toy into her leg until she tosses it.  Uh-huh, so conducive to writing–NOT! Eventually he gives up and naps, and I get some actual words on the page. I’m writing on the novel, and editing up a couple short stories, bouncing between one project and another as my brain hits various walls. So far, it’s working.

Last week I wrote out the final steps of the outline for my novel. You know, those last few bits, how that confrontation will play out, exactly, and the final acts as well. How does the novel say “goodbye” to the reader, what is the final scene, the last line, the last glimpse. It felt strange to write that, even in “outline” form. It was a combination of wonderful, liberating, and unsettling. As much as I’ve groused about this becoming the novel that will not end, I can see the ending clearly, and I’m…feeling a little nostalgic about it. Ye-eah, how crazy is that?

Friday I got to help a fellow VP 17er play with her novel, trouble-shooting the outline in a couple areas to find plausible ways through the plot. It was a whole lotta fun to throw trouble at someone else’s characters, to make it as hard as possible for them, and to make journeying through the plot believable without being too easy, or without other ripple-effect changes swaying it off-course. It also opened my eyes to how to do that to my own, dear characters–pretend they’re not mine and have at it!

Which is another reason that, if you haven’t already, you should be considering applying to Viable Paradise Writer’s Workshop.  The most-reduced applications are through March 31st, but you can apply until the June 15th deadline, for this fall’s weeklong workshop.

That’s about all the news here. Writing is happening. Stay warm if you’re in the snowy northlands. Why not write a story set in the tropics to warm up?

Links, Personal Life, signal boosting

A Link for Charity

If it’s not bad enough that my pup needed surgery, Wednesday night Dasher had a seizure, during which he ripped out the interior sutures that basically hold his patella in place (it’s really holding his ligaments, which hold the patella, but I’m simplifying for brevity). Needless to say, I haven’t been getting much sleep, what with worrying about the dog, and waiting for “the next” seizure to come. Which never may happen…but I can’t be sure. //stress//

And still, life is better for me than for some. Publisher Steven Saus (of Alliteration Ink!) has a friend and fellow writer who, although his human family survived, lost everything–including pets–in a fire. There is a crowd funding project running through Feb 2 to give these people a leg up. Steven has put together an ebook anthology as a thank-you to any who donate, and I’m happy to announce that my story, “Worthy” will be included in the anthology, now titled Life After Ashes.

It looks like a wonderful lineup of authors, and the cause is a good one. Donate if you can, and if you have $25, you’ll get the words of over 50 authors (most much better writers than I am) to thank you. Head over to Tilt to see their fundraiser. And thanks.

Travel, World Fantasy Con, Writing

World Fantasy Con 2014

I am recovered at last (more or less) from my journey to the World Fantasy Con in Arlington, Virginia and ready to tell you all about it. So settle in with your tea.

Hubby and I arrived on Thursday afternoon. He planned to do the DC tourist thing, while I spent my time socializing and attending events. I met up with my VP 17 tribe, and met in person some of the people I see on the Codex online group. Also, I attended a gathering of the people who took Mary Robinette Kowal’s classes, and met IRL some of those who where in my class last year. It was so amazing to see these all people in the flesh instead of in a tiny still photo or a webcam image on your screen. And to have conversations with them in real time.

I went to a few panels each day, as well as attending the opening ceremonies, ice cream social, and part of the awards ceremony (had to leave to catch my flight home). Let me tell you, there are some amazing people in the spec fic field, and listening to them debate and ponder and discuss topics is lots of fun. And sometimes very educational. Also, these people are nice. Really nice. Toastmaster Mary Robinette Kowal is so pleasant and easy to speak with. GoH Chelsea Yarbro Quinn has the most amazing, high-wattage smile–it seemed to light up the area around her. SFWA president Steven Gould is very down-to-earth and congenial. I could go on and on, naming those you’ve heard of as well as those that perhaps you haven’t, but you get the picture. It was a whole lot of fun.

So this was a very different WFC for me in two ways: 1) spouse accompaniment, and 2) I know folks to socialize with! This latter bit was the most awesome thing (not that spouse isn’t awesome, but he already knows that–that’s why he’s “spouse,” of course!). I’ve been to two WFC previously (Toronto and Columbus, OH), and this was my favorite simply by virtue of knowing people there.

OK, that might sound simplistic, but really it only reiterates something I’ve thought all along, something that is difficult for some and easy for others. That is that your “tribe” or the social community of writers that you belong to can make all the difference. They can  support you when times are tough, cheer with you when things are great, offer advice and knowledge. And you help them, too. It’s a two-way street. Go read this blog post (I’ve linked to it before) by Kameron Hurley. If you don’t have time for that, just read this small bit:

“One of the most powerful things I ever did for my career, and my continued sanity, was to get to know other writers facing the same challenges. Social networks like Twitter and Facebook, supplemented with the occasional convention, have connected me with incredible people willing to share their own fraught publishing journeys. What stunned me more than anything else is how each of us thought our experiences were entirely unique, when it turned out we shared many of the same fears and frustrations.

“What will keep me writing far longer than I expected is not, necessarily, my passion, my talent, or the romantic story of how stringing together words will help me transcend the mortal plane. No, the deeper I get into the publishing game, the more I realize that what will keep me going when everything crumbles around me is the incredible support, advice, and commiseration I’ve gotten from other writers.”

So, my takeaway from WFC is that if you are a writer, hie thee to a writing community–in person, online, both–whatever works for you. Find somewhere and some people with whom you feel comfortable and wiggle down into the muck. Make yourself a home. You’ll never regret it.

Moving, Personal Life, What I'm Reading, Writing

Failure, Success, and Keeping On with Keeping On

I’ve been busy lately: battling health issues, traveling, dealing with house hunting/moving, and yes, even writing. So I’m sorry to have let the blog here slip, but, well, something had to give. It was this or what little remains of my sanity, and, well, hubby dearest is rather fond of my rare moments of sanity.

That said, I’ve got things on my mind (uh-hunh, and when don’t I?) and I’d like to share them. First off, Hugo voting. Wow. There are some amazing contenders for these awards. The artist categories are blowing me away. I’m reading the Novellas now, and again, just…wow. I hope to come back to this later, but let me encourage you to read some of the nominees in any category.

And now, a thing that’s been preying upon my mind for some time, bothering me. When I started thinking about writing seriously, I–like many others–read books on learning the craft of writing. I wanted guidance. A helping hand pointing the right way, and barring the wrong way. I found some of that, and am grateful for it.

But I also got ambivalent about trying to write, even afraid to try, when I read, over and over, the advice that goes something like: Writing is tough, so if you can walk away, if you don’t have a burning need to write, just don’t. Do something else, anything else, instead.

Well, I thought. I don’t have a burning need to write. Not really. If I learned I had 6 months to live, I’d quite writing in a heartbeat. Honestly, I would. That said, I do love writing. I enjoy the written word, and always have. But I value living my life more, and I think that, for me, this is the right way to go about things. And so the newbie writer in my wondered: Does this make me a bad choice for a writer then? Should I just give up now? After all, so many writers say just that.

Fortunately, I am (as my grandpa would say) full of piss and vinegar. The surest way to make sure I do something is to tell me not to, to tell me that I’ll fail and therefore shouldn’t even try. That kinda makes me mad, and contrary. So, I kept at it, writing even when, deeply depressed by rejections, I remembered those words and wondered if they were really right, that I’d never make it since I didn’t burn with the need.

Just recently, I’ve read two separate posts on just this topic, and both have made me cheer, and punch the air. Yeah! So there! that little voice inside me cheered. And, Yes! I’m not alone in this feeling.

Let me give you these links. First is a post from Josh Vogt. It’s a sideways look at the subject, but one that really resonated with me. What is success? Does it only come in one size: writing full time for a living? Or can I make it something else? Read his post and see.

The second hits the target squarely in the eye. (I have to thank Philip De Parto of the Writers of the Weird for bring this  one to my attention.) It’s a Locus Online posting from the incredible Kameron Hurley titled “Busting Down the Romantic Myth of Writing Fiction, and Mitigating Author Burnout.” Here, she comments on “not having the passion” vs “having the passion” and what that truly means in everyday terms. And she makes a surprising, and yet vindicating, conclusion. If you’re wavering, wondering if “this writing thing” is for you anymore, you may want to read this. Pronto.

 

goals, Moving, Writing

A New Way to Motivate through the Move

2014-Participant-Vertical-BannerThis move is really starting to stink, in a big, messy, triplets-with-diarrhea kind of way. It’s really screwed up my June novel-writing plan; I’m writing more than 1000-words a day right now, trying to play catch-up, but in no way will it work. I’m too far behind. (sigh)

That said, my “plan” held room for slop at the end, so I’m not totally freaked out by this. Not yet, at least. It’s just…frustrating. And the move itself hasn’t even happened. Isn’t even fully planned and dated and ready to roll yet. (Really, let’s just not go there–it’s that bad, that hair-ripping-out-maddening, and completely out of my control.)

So, /breathes/ here is my motivation plan: I’ve joined up with Camp NaNoWriMo.

Unlike the normal NaNoWriMo, during Camp NaNoWriMo, your goals are your own. This sounded great to me. At the urging of a VP cohort, I joined into a private cabin, where my cabinmates and I will spur one another along to meet our individual goals for the month of July. My current goal is to somehow manage to meet my “25,000 words in July” goal that I’d made before the move became “The Move that Ate My Life.” I hope that by August 1st, I’ll have good news to report on the writing front.

There’s still time for you to join Camp Nano. Check out the link if you’re interested. And don’t forget the bug spray!

Writing

The Morass in the Middle

So, here’s the thing: writing a novel? It takes time. Shiny, new things wink and glitter, while your “graceful idea” metamorphoses into sludge between your brain and the page. You drag yourself to the altar of Novel, sacrificing yet another day to the Unending Drudgery story that’s eating your life.

Does that mean it’s a bad novel idea? Should you just pack it in and start over, fresh? Maybe pick up one of those shiny short story ideas flirting from the shadows instead?

Not necessarily. It may just mean that you’ve hit the Swamp in the Middle of the Novel. I’ve been assured it’s “a thing,” this bogged-down sensation where you think you’ll never be done. I’ve been assured that the only way to overcome it is to stride on through it. In other words, keep on writing.

I’ve just found the edges of this Swamp inside my novel. Fortunately, early planning has my way mapped out for me, so I have a trail of crumbs (or, in this case, Scrivener’s 3″ x 5″ cards) to follow, preventing me from wandering in circles. All I have to do is write the scene that I’ve put onto that card. Then the next one, and the next. See? It all works, I tell myself. And reading over the flow of those cards, it does. So I have faith, and just keep writing.

T-shirt found at Buzzy Multi-media that sums it up!
T-shirt found at Buzzy Multi-media that sums it up! While there, read some fiction, too!

Today, I found this T-shirt over at Buzzy Multimedia. It pretty much sums it up, and it made me laugh out loud. I mean, how perfect is this? Looking at this, I’ve just hit Step 5: “I’m still writing my book.” Looks like the real fun is still to come :-/

Oddly enough, I’m still jazzed about the story, and about the characters. I think that just knowing “The Swamp” exists, that it sucks in the most dedicated novelists, is helping me to stay motivated, and that keeps me writing my way out of the middle. To paraphrase: All who wander are not lost; some are just writing a novel.

Also, knowing that revision is a thing that exists for a reason–wow! That’s another huge relief. I’m not trying to make this “perfect” the first time. I’m just trying to get through it, you know? Perfection–or my attempt at it–can come in later drafts.

If you have experience getting through the Swamp, I’d love to hear it in comments. If you’re there in Swampland, keep going. We’ll come out on the other side, and have a first draft of a novel to show for our work. And how awesome will that be?