Friday Desk Report – May 4, 2018

It’s Star Wars day, so May the 4th be with you! I’m wearing my Rebel Snoopy t-shirt as I write this, so rest assured, the Force is strong in my office today.

Camp NaNoWriMo finished up on Monday of this week, and although I had to rock out more than 5k words on the last day to make my goal on time, I did it! I wrote an entire new middle-grade science fiction novel during April, which was pretty cool since I didn’t even have the idea until a few days into the month. Now it’s complete and in editing, so expect to hear lots more about that really soon! Although I claim to like the flexibility and reduced pressure of Camp NaNo, I still couldn’t allow myself to *not* reach the goal I’d set. Guess I have to work on that…or maybe not, since it meant I finished the book.

I took a day off writing once I typed “The End” on that novel, and spent it trying to clean up the house, which of course had suffered a great deal of neglect during April. I managed to put away some winter stuff and clean up the kitchen and bathroom, so I guess that was a good start? The rest will follow as it follows.

I made a spiffy animated version of the new cover for [intlink id=”2560″ type=”page”]The Murder Prophet[/intlink], which I began revealing this week. The animation doesn’t seem to be showing up here, sadly (because it’s really cool!), but you might catch it on Facebook or Twitter. Or I might get it working yet…but I mustn’t get distracted from the editing I want to get done today. I let myself have some play time to create it, but I mustn’t go on tweaking it forever. That way lies…not getting anything else done.

In word metrics, I wrote about 42k words in April, spread over two novels and some non-fiction. That was almost twice as much as the first three months of the year combined, so I’m pleased with that. My goal for this month is to come close to April’s count across two other projects. I guess I’ll report on that at the beginning of June!

The Olympia Investigations specials are still on, so[intlink id=”3865″ type=”page”] if you haven’t grabbed the free story or the sale, or the new release yet, what are you waiting for?[/intlink] (Oh yeah, I made this cool splash graphic today, too. Maybe too much play time?)




2017 in Review: Words

Well, this is what it all comes down to for a writer, isn’t it? How much did you write?

In January of last year, I began using Jamie Raintree’s Writing and Revision Tracker, which is a wonderful tool–as long as you remember to use it. Which is where I usually fail, when it comes to any number of time management/organization/tracking tools. So in order to write this post, I had to do some backtracking, some figuring, some fill-in-the blanks…and I’m still not sure what I might be missing. However, the final numbers seem reasonable to me.

Writing: 108, 883 words

Revision: 80,692

The writing count doesn’t include blog posts, presentations, articles, newsletters–basically nothing in the non-fiction realm. This is just short stories and novels. I’m reasonably pleased with this number. The revision number reflects the fact that there are different ways to track revision–words or pages covered, time spent, etc.–and mine is actually a combination of word and time goals. So, kind of meaningless as a total with no context, I guess. Maybe it’s more useful to know that all of my revision goals ended between 80-107% complete.

So, using these numbers as a base, I’ve set some goals in my new tracker for 2018. Will I reveal them in detail? Will I merely hint and leave you in suspense?

I guess that’s for the next post…

Friday Desk Report – Oct. 9/15

my-tools-1239864-639x426So I had this idea to write a sort of weekly roundup/review post, and call it the Friday Desk Report. I envision it as sort of a brief review of the week’s projects, word metrics, links, and anything else notable that happened during the week. As much for myself as for anyone else, I suppose, but it could turn out to be interesting.

Will I be able to keep it up? Only the future will tell. Traditionally, I’m not so good with consistency, but it’s possible I’m improving with age. Come on, it’s possible.

So, what do I have to report? This week I did the most sustained new writing I’ve done since my mom passed away at the end of August. Still not a lot of new words, but it felt good to work like that again. I worked on a short story I’m writing about giant monsters who have laid waste to much of the continent and now threaten my protagonist’s small Nova Scotia farm.

I also worked on a book trailer for The Seventh Crow, and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I’m waiting on a couple of images I need to replace some placeholders, and then I’ll be uploading it to share. Should be available sometime next week.

I wrote a book review I’d promised, and drafted a guest blog post I have to turn in by the 15th, so I’m well ahead on that. I also put together a new outline template for Scrivener and began using it to work on The Chaos Assassin, and this morning I sent out a short story submission.

I read far too much on Facebook about the upcoming federal election and decided I need to stop worrying about it and being disappointed in people. It’s far too negative. All I can do now is cast my own vote and encourage others to do so, and hope, hope, hope for better things to come.

NearspaceBibleToday I’m working on my Nearspace series bible, in preparation for NaNoWriMo and the novel I’m planning to work on in November. I already had such a thing but it was NOT well-organized or complete. I found this video from Kami Garcia to be quite inspiring in this regard and look how well it’s coming along!

In other Nearspace news, I also put up another free Nearspace story on this site today, which you can find here. It’s a peek into Nearspace and the first contact story between humans and Lobors, before wormhole travel was possible.

Some cool things from the internet this week:

Okay, I’m impressed. That’s a pretty good report! So back to today’s project…


15k Short Fiction Writing Challenge

Back in January, I threw out a challenge to my Quillian colleagues: write 15k words of new short fiction by the end of June. It could break down any way at all–one 15k story, three 5k stories, fifteen 1k flash stories–any combination was acceptable. The only stipulation was that they had to be new words (revising old stories would not count) and it had to be short fiction (not work on novel-length projects).

I came up with this challenge for a couple of reasons. Although we hear a lot about the “death” of short fiction, I think there’s a lot of life in the form yet. Newer writers can finish short stories much more easily and quickly than long projects, which in turn provides something to edit, workshop, and get feedback on. Short stories provide a great introduction to one’s writing and can be offered freely on websites or sold as .99 ebooks as promotional material.

Still, a lot of writers feel they aren’t doing “real” work unless they’re writing novels. Perhaps this is in part that some writers don’t particularly care to read short stories, either. For myself, I really enjoy short fiction, so maybe I’m just partial to it.

At any rate, I threw out the challenge. I think the first to reach the mark was fellow Quillian Chuck Heintzelman who, unknown to me, had already set himself a short fiction writing goal for the year: 50 new short stories. Whoa. I was blown away by the audacity of that goal, secretly struggling as I was with the question of how many new short stories I should challenge myself to write in the year–3, or 5? I felt suitably dismayed, and secretly promised myself to write 5, although that is strictly off the record, you hear? So far I’ve finished one and have three others in various stages of completion. But I still have six months!

Ahem. So anyway, Chuck hit the 15k in short order (and is still writing, of course; you can find a lot of his stories on his website. And you should!) I’ve been trundling along, and yesterday, I hit the goal! Which is good, because, you know, it would have been pretty sad if I’d been the one to throw out the challenge and then proceeded to fail.

I’ll be polling other members of the group at the next couple of meetings to see how they’re doing, and encourage them along to the finish line. At the end of June, I’ll post links for the other challenge-meeters here.

Photo: me. It’s the magnetic poetry on the side of my fridge. And I think the ‘beautiful spine’ poem is by my daughter.

Fourth Time’s the Charm?

I’ve been trying to write a new story for an anthology for months now. In fact, I’ve tried three stories–bouncing back and forth between ideas without really settling in to any one of them. Well, that’s not really true. I tried to make two half-written stories fit the theme I was looking for, ditched both of those ideas, thought about a new idea but didn’t start it, got a fourth idea and wrote a few pages before getting stuck…and now I’m back to the other idea.

This time, I think it’s going to stick. I’m still not sure exactly where the story is going–or rather, I know where it’s going, but not precisely how it’s going to get there. However, I’m over 2k into it now in just a couple of writing sessions, so I feel hopeful that this will be the one.

Organization Quest 2011 (Part 2)

After getting my submissions in order, I decided that the next thing I had to organize better was my time. This is a big issue for me as I have a lot of family demands on my time that I don’t really have complete control over, and I need to be flexible. However, I also need a sort of guide to come back to, so that I know what I’m supposed to be doing when time presents itself.

I started looking for organizer programs, then realized that I already had one on my computer that I use every day, just not to its fullest capacity. My mail program, Outlook, which also has a built-in calendar, with the ability to schedule repeating tasks and appointments, reminders, etc. Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees. It was right in front of me the whole time.

So I spent an afternoon deciding how much time I had in the run of a week, and how I should apportion it. Other writers dealing with the same time issues might find this useful, so here’s what I did. First, I made a list of all the things, writing and writing-career-related, that require some of my time. Then I thought about how much time each one of them requires if I were addressing it on a weekly basis. For instance, publishing The Scriptorium. If I worked on it a bit at a time, instead of frantically trying to put together an issue in a day when the deadline hits, how much time would it take per week? How much time should I spend on the business aspects of writing? How much on Third Person Press? And so on.

Then I filled in a weekly calendar with all my non-negotiable time committments, and looked at what was left. Working back and forth this way, changing things around, and thinking about what times of day are better for me to do what sorts of tasks, I filled in the time slots. This gave me a baseline calender or schedule. It may change as I apply it to the real world, but it’s a starting point. Color-coding the chunks of time also lets me get an overview of how I’m spending the time.

I also made a second calendar, on which I can add one-time events or appointments. I can overlay this calender with my baseline calender to see a week at a glance and know what’s coming up that will interfere with my baseline schedule, and decide if I need to move things around just for the coming week.

I am just beginning to put it into practice, but so far it’s working well. If you’re having trouble fitting writing into your schedule, you may want to try this kind of strategy and see if it helps you apportion your time more productively. Although I’m using Outlook, find a calendar program that suits the way you like to work, and whose appearance and functionality you like. You’ll be a lot more likely to use it consistently if you do.

Hello, 2011

This is the promised “writing goals” post. I’ve sorted my plans for the year into short-term, medium-term, and long-term. I think I will also print them out and put them up on my bulletin board, because the fact that I habitually have to hunt around at the end of the year to find the last year’s goals makes me think I’m not using them to the greatest advantage.

Short-term (within the next one to two months)
1. Finish anthology story
2. Organize submission history/tracking
3. Submit Murder Prophet to second market

Medium-term (within the next six months)
1. Get short story submissions moving again (and keep them moving)
2. Revise and complete last year’s NaNo novel

Long-Term (by the end of the year)
1. Write five new short stories
2. Get another novel ms into submission

Besides all these things, I will be doing more school visits, regular critiquing for my SL writer’s group, and in the first part of the year, acting as a first reader for a writing competition, so I don’t think there’s any worry that I won’t have enough to do.

*Photo courtesy of rdragan79

Goodbye, 2010

Yes, it’s been a while. The end of 2010 flew past without even giving me a chance to properly say goodbye here. But it’s not too late.  I’m pretty sure I had made some writing goals for 2010…(digs around a bit and comes up with a dusty list)…yep, here they are:

1. Plan more structured writing time, if not daily then most days. Most of
the time I do a lot of procrastinating before I actually get down to
writing, and I know that’s a bad habit.

Result: I did get into a better writing schedule for at least part of the year.  I can’t give myself full marks for this one, but I made some progress.

2. Log my writing time for at least a month, so that I have an idea of how
much time I actually spend on writing.

Result: I kept these logs for a while, and decided that I did not spend nearly enough time actually writing, and too much time on writing-related-but-not-really-writing things.  However, I didn’t *fix* that problem as well as I might have.

1. By the end of January, finish the last pass of the novel edit that is
almost done, and get it to my first reader.

Result: Completed this goal, but it was in July, not January.

2. By the end of February, finish the two (or three?) short stories I have

Result: Sadly, I can’t remember precisely what stories I was talking about here, so I don’t know if I did it or not.  I’m thinking not.

3. Get some more stories back into submission.

Result: Again, I did make some subs, but did not complete this goal as fully as I would have liked.

1. By the end of the year, complete the novel I started this past NaNoWriMo
and get it submitted.

Result: Did not do this, but wrote the second half of this story during NaNoWriMo 2010.

2. Complete the second anthology Third Person Press is working on, with a
projected release date of October 1st, 2010.

Result: Full marks for this one.  We completed the anthology and released it on schedule.

I’ve already made some decisions on writing goals for 2011, but I haven’t put them into short, medium, and long-term form.  I’m going to think about that some more and include the new goals in my next post.

Aside from actual goals, I also had three short stories published in 2010 and got a third novel into submission, did some great school visits, gave some classes and readings in Second Life, and, I think, grew as a writer and editor.  So all in all I’d have to say it was a good writing year.

Numbers and Sand Castles

If you follow this blog at all, you’ll probably have noticed how v e r y s l o w l y the “percentage complete” number on my progress bar for The Murder Prophet seems to change. I’ve been working on a complete edit of this novel since early in the year (maybe even late last year?) and although I keep thinking I’m approaching the end, it sometimes (often!) disappears out of sight over the horizon again.

This is because rewriting and editing are messy jobs. You might think first draft writing is messy–and you’d be correct about that. First draft writing is like starting with a big pile of wet sand and trying to build something out of it. But if you’re lucky, at least you keep building up. The sand castle grows, takes shape, forms and reforms and sprouts turrets and towers, gets a moat and a defensive wall and doors and windows and finally a flag on the top. It may still be rough around the edges and missing some bits and your hands are still covered with sand, but it’s standing and you can point to it and say I made that.

The rewriting and editing parts of the job are the really messy parts. You have to scrutinize your castle and evaluate its foundations. You may have to lift it to put a basement under it, and hope that all the jostling doesn’t cause it to come crashing down. Some of those turrets have to be torn off and rebuilt, or scrapped and replaced with gables or a hipped roof instead. The moat’s too wide or too shallow, the wall needs doors and a portcullis, and you may have put the wrong flag at the top. In the end, your castle will be bigger, stronger, and more defensible. But the remodeling job is huge.

This is one of the admitted problems you can run into with NaNoWriMo novels. Unless they’re well-planned (and many–or most–of mine are not, and this one was especially not), it’s very easy for the story to run away with the writer. Or maybe the writer’s brain runs away with the story. At any rate, if your building plans are sketchy or non-existent, you usually end up with a castle that needs more than the usual amount of renovation. Sometimes whole rooms are left out. Passages lead nowhere. It might even be on the wrong plot of land. And these are the problems that you don’t even know are there until you start exploring the place with a flashlight and a magnifying glass, taking notes about everything that is wrong. The exploring and note-taking take a long time, and the fixing usually even more.

Which is why it’s so difficult to predict how long such a rewrite/edit will actually take. In the case of this novel, I was down to the last sixty-odd pages of type-ins, when I realized that I had forgotten to address a rather major issue relating to the actual world/setting of the novel and the characters in it. I’m glad that I thought of it on my own instead of having one of my first readers hand it back to me with a note saying “but what about ?” However, it pushes that elusive end-of-the-project goal a little further out of reach again.

I’ll get there. The four thousand words that I’ve added so far have improved the novel immensely, and with luck I’ll continue to make it better. But I hesitate to change that “85%” complete to “90%” just yet.

Well, maybe I can make it “86%.” Just to feel like I’m making progress.

*The great sandcastle photo is by remoran

Revision Paranoia

Photobucket I’ve come to the point in this revision where I’m hearing voices in my head.

They’re saying things like, “This novel stinks,” and “It’s brilliant but not marketable,” and “It has more holes than last year’s socks,” and “This is a big waste of time you could be spending on other things.” In other words, it’s getting to be hard work, and my brain doesn’t want to do it any more.

Which is not to say that any or all of these things are not true. They could be. But I’ve come to the conclusion, through my own writing and by reading what other writers say about their experience, that I am not the best judge of that at this time. My job right now is to finish the thing, and show it to someone else–probably several someone elses–before I even start to think about it solely on its merits.

And before I can do that, I have to finish it. So off I go.