Lexifabricographer

July 7, 2014

What I’m working on – July edition

Filed under: wordsmithery,workin for the man — Tags: , , — lexifab @ 10:22 pm

I’m officially looking for work, preferably temporary project work on short-term contracts. To this end I’ve done interviews with job pimps, tightened up my resume, written about thirty cover letters, referees reports and personal profiles, I’ve taken psychological tests [1] and I’ve even taken the soul-destroying, vale-of-tears-walking, misery-inducing, beyond-desperate step of creating a LinkedIn account.

Nothing yet. Okay then.

In the meantime to keep myself from playing video games or binge-watching Breaking Bad and Orphan Black, I’m writing too many things at once. Here’s a list, using super-secret codenames and/or working titles because I am very, very terrible at titles and they are pretty much the last thing I commit to in my writing process:

Wattle Creek Spook Hunters Club Season One is a weird little…um, septych [2] about high schoolers making a ghost hunting Youtube channel, except that it’s turned out a lot weirder than that initial idea. Thanks to my monthly face to face critiquing circle, this one now definitely has a plot. It’s now finished and has been sent off for submission.

Lost Dogs is a creepy horror story about a failed man losing his grip on the social ladder or possibly a redemptive tale about being hunted by a pack of murderous dogs. Probably both. It needs a heavy rewrite, again after the crit group pointed out a few logical flaws and the fact that the protagonist is relentlessly unlikeable. Oops.

Breakdown is about a young man about to strike out on his own and make a life for himself and making the fatal error of allowing his best friend to see him off. I’ve written about half of it and I’m still not sure if I should ditch the pent-up melodrama and rising malevolence in favour of making it more broadly comedic. I’m tending towards the latter, if only because I really don’t attempt humourous writing often enough and i do feel as though it’s something I ought to be better at.

Lighthouse is still in vague outline, but involves a lonely lighthouse keeper, a Government natural historian, ghost sailors and some unusual bones. This one came together in an unusual way, in that I used a writing prompt app on my phone (Story Dice) to generate some images, and then riffed on it until I had the skeleton (ahem) of a story. I’m excited to see whether so artificial a generative process will result in a decent yarn.

The Countess is also just an outline at the moment; a maybe-novella-length story inspired by a great photo of a stern-looking woman in thick Edwardian (I guess) clothing with a falcon on her wrist. Sadly I no longer have the photo – one of my CSFG colleagues brought it along for a talk on using Pinterest for arranging photo references – but the story has moved away from its point of inspiration anyway. It began with a lofty premise about obligation, revenge and abusive exploitation of family but it will likely descend into adventurous escapades, romantic hijinks and possible a touch of political satire if it fits. Oh and there’s a really old, very nasty wizard in it.

Colony Ship (which isn’t even its real working title, but I’m keeping this one to myself for the moment) is a three-book possibly-YA science fiction series about the citizens of a generation ship (a large colony ship that will take hundreds of years and multiple generations to reach its destination) who crash on an uncharted world and need to overcome strict social conditioning to survive. (It’s more action-oriented than that makes it sound). I’ve outlined the first novel (though there’s more work to do there) and will continue to enhance and hone the outline until I either have nothing else on my plate or I decide I’ve had enough of short stories for the time being. My goal with that one is to write the first draft as quickly as possible, which means that I’ll need to have it pretty well worked out before I start.

 

So apart from all that, I’m working my way slowly through a manuscript of Doctor Clam’s (nearly there), continue to work towards my goal of completing at least ten short stories in 2014 [3] and at some point I need to come back and re-outline Miss Coles’ Arrangements and have another go at that. (Two unsatisfactory drafts down, X to go). I would also like to sell some stories and see my name on a printed page somewhere, but eh, that’s something I don;t have any real control over (other than submitting often, which I do).

You? What have you got going on?

 

[1] You may be utterly stunned to learn that I am not leadership material. I do, however, rank off the charts on the “Trusted Right-hand Man” axis.

[2] Is that the word for a single piece made of seven separate parts? No? Well it was either that or make a D&D joke about the Rod of Seven Parts, and frankly I couldn’t see how to keep that one G-rated.

[3] The finished count so far is two, with another two in first draft. I have a secondary goal from now on of writing pieces that are shorter than 6000 words, unless they are designed from the outset as novellas or novellettes.

June 19, 2014

Anthology calls for later reference

Don’t mind this – it’s a list of upcoming anthologies that I may be interested in submitting to. Hey, you might be interested too, what do I know? And if you happen to be aware of any submission calls for upcoming anthologies that you think I might want to have a go at, let me know.

Blurring the Line by Cohesion Press  (horror) – http://cohesionpress.com/submissions/anthologies/ – Max 5000 words; 1 August to 31 October 2014

Hear Me Roar by Ticonderoga Publications (strong women) – http://ticonderogapublications.com/index.php/about-us/submissions/hear-me-roar-anthology – 2500-7500 words; 21 April to 5 November 2014.

The Never Never Land by CSFG Publications (Australian speculative) – http://www.csfg.org.au/2014/02/20/call-for-submissions-the-never-never-land/ – 1000-5000 words; 1 June to 31 August 2014.

The Lane of Unusual Traders by Tiny Owl Workshop (strange shops) - http://thelaneofunusualtraders.com/guidelines/ – Flash fiction up to 500 words, 1 June to 31 July 2014; Short stories up to 3000 words, 1 June to 31 August 2014.

Clam, if you can’t think of something great for that last one I will eat my own face off [1].

 

Update 1:

Midnight Echo 11 by Midnight Echo/AHWA (Sinister) – http://midnightechomagazine.com/submission-guidelines/ – 5000 words maximum; 1 July to 31 October 2014

 

[1] Bloodthirsty spectacle not guaranteed

June 11, 2014

Rejection is progress.

Filed under: wordsmithery,workin for the man — Tags: , , — lexifab @ 11:25 pm

The reality of having to search for a job is starting to sink in, although thankfully not for the usual reasons of starvation and incipient eviction. (Don’t worry, we’re fine on that score).

The slow grind of hunting, writing cover letters, wrestling with sometimes not all that well-designed web forms, finding artistic ways to address selection criteria to disguise the fact you’re using the same example three different ways – and waiting for the flood of impersonal rejections to come flowing back to you. Canberra’s apparently in a hiring slump – go figure – so my expectations are wound down so hard I’m apt to break a spring.

My writing career’s following a similar trajectory, at least at the moment. Today one of my stories was rejected, which is not at all unusual and in the normal course of events would not have been a big deal. It just happened to be a case where I had a lot of faith that that story in particular would hit its mark. Not this time though. I have not received any feedback yet (though I expect I will – the anthology editors have been really positive and encouraging throughout the submission period) so I don’t know whether it was close or whether I was way off base. In a practical sense it doesn’t matter, though I’ll be curious whether the editors perceived flaws that I might have overlooked.

I responded to the disappointment in the only sensible way I can think of, which was to send it straight back out to another market. So it didn’t win its dream home? Tough. There’s probably a home for it somewhere (and if not, I’ll post here for Marco to read – eventually.

Back on the employment thread, I’ve already been rejected for a couple of jobs that would have fit in ideally with my current plans. Assuming that the apprenticeship thing is not viable (as it appears at the moment, though I haven’t given up by any means) then I want to get just enough part-time work to pay the bills while I write and build up my editing skills.

Since today’s fiction rejection demonstrates (to nobody’s surprise) that it’s not quite time to give up having a day job – even if I did give up one specific day job – the next best thing is to keep to the plan and play the long game of plugging away. Short stories, long stories, that novel series I’m still building up a piece at a time. Keeping at it, day after day (or more accurately, night after night) until I have enough pieces in play that something finally clicks into place.

Same with the job applications. Keep sending them out, keep watching them come back either on fire or snuffed out, until eventually one doesn’t.

There’s something about all this that smells suspiciously like it might build character. I hate it when that happens.

 

Oh, but in case it sounds like a had a complete bummer of a day with no redeeming features whatsoever? I went and saw X-Men: Days of Future Past as well. It was terrific, even if they nerfed Kitty Pryde’s role from the original story. Still worth it.

May 14, 2014

Where are the short stories and stuff?

In the comments of the previous entry, Marco asked “Where are the short stories and stuff?”

I thank the Honourable Member for his question and for the opportunity to detail exactly what the Government of Lexifabricogristan is doing to support and enhance the worldwide glut of speculative short fiction of questionable cultural, dramatic and grammatical value.

Ahem. The short stories are churning along. I’ve been holding to my minimum wordcount of 400 new words of fiction per day for…hm, 18 days now. That doesn’t sound like much, I admit, but it’s decent chunk of wordcount that didn’t exist before, so I am more than happy with it. I’ve also been diving deep on critiquing novels and short stories and drafting outlines for various projects so that I always have something new on the boil.

That’s probably not what you were really asking. You were *probably* asking why I haven’t been putting any fiction up here on the blog lately. The answer is that I’m being selfish and greedy (or career-minded, if you prefer the apirational/positive spin). I am working with as much dedication as I can muster towards having a published body of work, so I haven’t posted any new fiction on the website since January last year. Most fiction markets pay for first publication rights, which means that a work of fiction cannot have been published anywhere prior to acceptance. That includes even blogs like this one, with its nigh-subterranean reader numbers.

Anything I finish to an adequate level of polish, I have been submitting to professional and semi-professional short fiction markets – mainly online publications and print anthologies. Typically what happens then is that they sit in slush piles for weeks or months on end, until a commissioning editor reads it and either rejects it (likely) or decides they like it enough to pay me, pending edits (unlikely but possible and highly desired). As soon as a story is rejected – and I should note that rejections from professional short story editors can happen *very* quickly, my personal best being a four-hour wait from ‘hit send’ to ‘no thanks’ – I repackage it with a new cover letter and send it straight back out again to the next market.

Sometimes, though not every time, the rejection will come back with some feedback about why it was not accepted. I always take a look at the feedback, see if I agree with any advice on how to strengthen the story, and then either apply some edits or not. Sometimes the feedback amounts to “this story is not a good fit for our publication”, which is what it is. So far I’ve been lucky enough not to get feedback to the effect that “this is a bunch of unmitigated dog faeces that if published would bankrupt us and ruin lives”, so that’s nice. Either way, unless I feel I’ve run out of places that I could send it, the story goes back out into the wild again to earn its keep. I have yet to hit the limit of potential markets for any particular story; I submitted one story thirteen times before it was accepted somewhere. True story – I was pretty close to giving up on it, in which case I would have posted it here for everyone to read. Sorry about that, I guess.

So what’s my publication hit count? I still have one (1) published story: ‘Imported Goods – Aisle Nine’ in Next. That came out over a year ago. Whee, doesn’t time fly?

I’ve got four stories out in circulation at the moment – one has been accepted pending a space in a publication schedule (that’s the thirteenth-time-lucky one), and the other three are in submission queues (aka ‘slushpiles’). At least one of those is in a second round of reading, which means that at least one person at the publishing entity liked it enough not to reject it outright.

I’ve got two more stories in preparation. One is a first draft awaiting revision, the other is a half-draft. I’ve set myself a goal of finishing at least ten stories this year to what I consider a submittable standard, of which I have so far completed one. Miles to go there.

Apart from Step 1 – Completing the things I start, I have some other goals. The first is that I want to be published in a notable Australian speculative fiction market. Apart from the CSfG anthology (it opens for submissions in a few weeks, but I haven’t come up with an idea yet), there are various spec fic journals (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Aurealis, SQ Magazine) as well as regular anthologies from publishers like Ticonderoga and Fablecroft. I’m loving what Brisbane-based Tiny Owl Workshop are doing at the moment – I’d love to work with them. There are many others.

My second goal is that I want to break into overseas markets that publish stuff I like to read, like Clarkesworld and Beneath Ceaseless Skies (to name just a couple). That’s a little more ambitious, but I’m confident that it’s within reach or almost so.

Either of those goals could happen literally any time now. When it does, and when I’m allowed to say anything because of contracts or whatever, you can bet your favourite phalanges I will trumpet it here and on Twitter and over a beer if you happen to pass within my gravitational vicinity. Damn, but I am looking forward to my next celebratory Beer of Publication.

In the meantime, I wait patiently, I keep writing and I turn out new stories.

May 10, 2014

Tick tick tick

I know this blog looks neglected lately, but that’s just not the case. Why, I delete several hundred spam messages practically every day. (Seriously, what is up with that? Somebody out there in Russian or Lithuania is under the very mistaken impression that I can help them shift metric shitloads of what I presume are knockoffs of brand-name sunglasses, handbags and antidepressants. Boy, have they ever come to the wrong place).

Jobstuff

As I continue to cruise gently towards  graceful exit from the APS, with the first intention to make a complete career change, weird doors have begun to open. On Thursday I went to my first job interview in years (or decades, if you make the reasonable assertion that within-public-service promotion interviews are a different beast). Since it was a job I had absolutely no knowledge of thirty hours earlier, in a field in which I have plenty of experience but almost no emotional investment, for a government department that I have never considered working for, it was a pretty cushy interview.

I think I crushed it – whether I get the job will probably depend more on whether they have money than whether they have interest in my services (although there would be more hoops to jump through to actually land the position). Not feeling that anything important is at stake is a great help in calming interview nerves, that’s for sure. If nothing else, that interview has given me a bit of confidence that I should not feel intimidated by the next one. And the fact that the opportunity emerged unbidden from the ether has given me at least a little confidence that I needn’t be discouraged by early failures, because something will probably come up.

Writingstuff

I’m still ignoring the novel in favour of getting a few short stories under my belt. I finished a strange, literally-episodic little piece about high school ghost hunters last week, and this week I am drafting a story that has been percolating for about three years. I’ve rededicated myself to the idea that a writing streak keeps me at my most productive, that is, making sure that I achieve a minimum word count absolutely every day. The actual minimum I’ve set myself is 400 words, which is usually in the vicinity of an hour’s work and normally not difficult to achieve. Most sessions I crank out a little more than that, and so far on the current streak of 14 days (not counting today) I’m averaging a shade under 700 words. I’m pretty happy with that.

The other thing that I am trying now is writing from outlines. Instead of using a dot-point “this happens, then this happens, then this happens, then explosions, then The End” methods, I am trying a method that I got from listening to the guys at the Self-Publishing Podcast. They call it writing story beats, which involves (at least as I’ve interpreted it) writing the story out in a shorthand summary fashion, noting the plot and setting elements and describing the characters’ emotional arcs, scene by scene. Outlining, in other words, but by telling myself the story rather than trying to develop an architectural design.

The main advantage of this approach is that it helps (far more than a sterile dot-point plan) to identify where the slack or boring bits of the story might be. It makes fixing those much easier than doing a structural edit after the fact – 100 words of outline is a lot easier to fix than two chapters of misconceived fiction. And because it’s a relatively easy commitment to write two or three pages of outline, I don’t feel any anxiety about ideas that aren’t working yet. I can just put them on hold and turn my attention to something else, tinkering with the outline when I get a new idea or figure out a fix to a problem.

So far it’s working. Whenever I sit down for a writing session I can glance at the story beats and know exactly what I have to write. That helps me to cut through my usual procrastination rituals and get straight to writing. Writing the story beats out beforehand satisfies my inclination as a pantser/discovery writer, by letting me explore the idea and tell the story without committing to five or ten or ninety thousand words first. At the same time, a loosely sketched-out outline with which I have told the story to myself leaves plenty of room for discovering the tone and the characters and the smaller nuances of the piece. It seems to hit the right balance for me.

It’s a method I aim to experiment with more. I have a rough idea for a three-novel science fiction adventure that I plan to develop using story beats. Unless I have another idea that jumps the queue in the meantime, I’ll probably make that the next project in the pipeline, starting with developing the characters and figuring out the story beats, and then (if and when I have the energy) seeing how long it takes to turn that into an actual story.

…probably a long time though.

April 8, 2014

Conflux Writers Day and Aurealis Awards

Canberra turned on a typically miserable autumn day last Saturday for the gala social event of the Australian speculative fiction writing calendar, the 2013 Aurealis Awards. Ignoring the constant, unrealised threat of rain from an oppressive overhead blanket of grey, the tribe gathered to honour the year’s best and fairest in the fantasy, science fiction and horror realms.

But before all that, the Conflux organising committee, spearheaded by the implacable Nicole Murphy, assembled an army of inspirational speakers to present the Conflux Writers Day. The CWD was a one-day mini-convention aimed squarely at writers, with short, sharp sessions on everything from genre to craft, marketing to research, social media to scriptwriting to editing and… Well, with three parallel presentation streams for most of the day, it was impossible to get to everything I wanted to see. One thing we all had in common were the four plenary sessions that bookended the day.

Jo Anderton was first, talking about how she turns simple ideas into fantastic worlds and uses those to find characters and stories. I’m a huge fan of her stories in “The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories”, so hearing the specific ideas that inspired several of those stories was terrific. Kaaron Warren was up next, giving the assembled masses a much-needed (in my case at least) kick up the arse about writing when there’s no time to write. “You can’t always change the way you live your life,” she noted, “so change the way you write.” To prove her point that writing can be done in the margins of free time, she made the audience do an exercise – from the index page of a collection of legal cases, we were to select one and write something inspired by the name for two minutes. I don’t know if the exercise worked for anyone else there, but from those two minutes I have the core idea for what should be an amusing little short story.

The first of the afternoon speakers was Ian McHugh, talking about the accumulation of rejection letters as a way of keeping score on your short story writing. “Embrace insanity,” as he put it. “[Submitting short stories] is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.” It’s a sentiment I’ve heard Ian and others endorse before, and it certainly helped me to persist with my weird Twitter(-ish) story. I submitted that one 12 times before it finally found a publisher who wanted it.[1] Ian reckons an acceptance rate of about one submission in ten is typical – your mileage may vary – so he recommends having at least ten stories out for consideration at any time. I’ve personally got a fair way to go to build up my stockpile!

The final speaker was Keri Arthur, on the trials and tribulations of being a New York Times best-selling author. Keri’s talk was primarily about contract negotiations with her publishers, which seems were at times fraught with poor communications if not outright intransigence. Wrangling over advances is a problem a lot of authors might like to have, but it certainly didn’t sound like much of a party. The big take-home message from Keri’s talk was to keep writing. Keri’s written something like thirty books in the last fifteen years, which is…pretty disciplined of her, I would say.

In between the plenary sessions I crammed as much writerly goodness as I could: catching up with out-of-town friends, making a couple of new acquaintances and of course sitting in on the lightning-quick presentations. The standard of presentations was very high – I could have spent easily twice as long with each speaker picking their brains. My personal highlights were probably Cat Sparks’ talk on the alternate history genre and Alan Baxter’s amusing admonitions concerning writers’ use and misuse of social media.

And then it was home for a quick change into something a little smarter for the day’s main event, the Aurealis Awards ceremony. The Aurealis is one of two major annual awards in the Australian speculative fiction filed (the other being the Ditmar Awards, which will be presented at Melbourne’s Continuum convention in June). While the Ditmars are voted on by eligible members of the spec fic community (basically anyone with membership at the current or previous year’s national convention), the Aurealis Awards are judged by panels. Extraordinarily hard-working ones, at that – in the space of a couple of months they read dozens of novels and sometimes more than a hundred short stories to put together their short-lists. I get tired even thinking about the workload.

The evening was MC’d by spec fiction luminaries Sean Williams and Simon Brown. Their hilarious riffs on the Aurealis Awards of what appears to be an extremely exciting future were sadly probably not recorded for posterity. Sorry you missed their routine, it was bloody great.

The Fildenstar (aka Kate Rowe and Ryan Morrison), whose weird speculative lyrics are married up to some beautiful Kate Bush-y/Tori Amos-ish soundscapes, provided several musical interludes. I was mildly disappointed that they didn’t stay onstage for the whole ceremony. I wanted to see them play someone offstage for having too long an acceptance speech. Nobody did, though, so I suppose the point is moot.

And the awards ceremony was – well, it was an awards ceremony. Not as self-congratulatory as the Oscars, not as unnecessarily glam as the Golden Globes and not anywhere near as unremitting awful as the Logies. Presenters read out lists of names and synopses of stories, then awkwardly tore open envelopes and announced winners. There were ties in at least three categories that I remember. The winners are all listed here.

In terms of winners, I was very pleased to see Joanne Anderton have a win in the Best Collection category for “The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories”, which I liked. And my pal Kaaron Warren won for a science fiction short story I’d not heard of from a collection I’ve still not laid my hands on, The Lowest Heaven. All of the winners are listed on the Aurealis Awards homepage.

My only mild disappointment was that I didn’t get to collect a trophy for my pal Andrea Höst for her self-published YA novel “Hunting” (which I thought was jolly good). If I recall correctly that was Andrea’s third shortlist nomination for an Aurealis. It’s only a matter of time until she picks up a gong, I feel sure. Interestingly, this year the winner of the Best Fantasy Novel was also for a self-published book, Mitchell Hogan’s “A Crucible of Souls”. He looked pretty pleased and surprised.

All in all it was a lovely day (and that’s not even mentioning the informal Friday night burritos-and-beer meetup). Cat Sparks has posted up a photo gallery of shots from both the Writers Day and the awards ceremony. Check out the cool mural from the Australian National University’s Great Hall in the first few photos. I suggest you linger on those early picture so that your eye doesn’t stray down the page to where it might accidentally see me. You’ve been warned.

 

[1] I’ll post details on that one when I can. I don’t expect it to be for a while yet.

February 24, 2014

In-betweening

Filed under: news of the day,Uncategorized,wordsmithery,workin for the man — Tags: , , , — lexifab @ 4:22 pm

I’ve been a little quiet lately because things have changed at work. Instead of my previous employment as full-time layabout with literally no responsibilities, I have moved to a new office and team and have started what is effectively a new job (though with nominally the same old tasks). It would be fair to say that the adjustment process is ongoing, not least because I am still waiting on financial advice as to whether I can afford to quit and do something else with my life. I am anxious for a change and ready to move on, but at the same time I’m conscious that if I can’t make the numbers work, I need to stay where I am. The Canberra job market is becoming actively hostile to the archetype of “the Commonwealth public servant found excess to requirements”.

We just bought a new-to-us car: a 2009 Nissan Maxima. Ordinarily that might be a cause for celebration but in this case the imminent self-destruction of our old car forced our hand at a moment when we could have done without a big expense. Which is, I know, the story of everyone’s life. Still, it would be easier to make big, important life decisions without being feeling like our finances are holding a gun to our heads. Well, never mind, moving on.

I’m on the final stretch of my revision of the Sawl novel. I’ve given myself until the end of the month to get to The End, though in practise I might also give myself until the end of the weekend as well. At that point it still own’t be done, nor even close to it. I have structural problems all over the place (too many exposition scenes, too much slow introspection, not enough setup for action scenes, too much information withheld until the last third of the book, and at least one major character who dies in entirely the wrong place in the narrative, to name most of the big issues). Once I’m finished the draft I will put it away again for a month or so, to work on a couple of short stories and to flesh out an outline for the next longer project. then – I promise myself – it’ll be back to Nyssa and Rachel for a manuscript cleanup, for however long *that* takes.

I won’t say this book is taking forever but I will say that I look forward to refining my process.

February 6, 2014

Update: The Barossa, Shakespeare and writing

It’s another day at work with nothing to do while my job and I continue to be ground to a fine powder by the Machinery of Government arrangements. I’ve stood in front of glaciers that get along at a quicker clip than these bloody processes. So apologies to any Australian taxpayers out there, but this one’s on your dollar.

Fiona and I spend the Invasion Day long weekend in the Barossa Valley, north of Adelaide, touring about the vineyards and generally ignoring the rest of the world unless it pertained to a small selection of sporting events. As a side note, the Tour Down Under is quite the popular topic in South Australia around this time of the year. Luckily we arrived the day after the race had moved on from the Barossa itself.

The Barossa, it turns out, wasn’t particulary our favourite wine district to visit – that was probably the Margaret River in Western australia, although bits of New Zealand and Tasmania give it a run for its money. In fairness to the Barossa though, we were visiting just after one heatwave and just before another one, in the middle of one of the hottest summers anyone there can remember. So it was looking a bit dry and sorry for itself – excluding all the rich, well-watered grape vines, of course.

It did turn out, no surpise, that the Barossa is a good place to pick up some quality plonk though. Shiraz is the local speciality, with rieslings popular in the nearby Eden Valley. All very good, but we also picked up some excellent roses and…why am I even telling you this? If you come over to my place we can drink some. Otherwise I don’t have the wine vocabulary to describe what we drank, and if you wanted to read about wine you’d go and get James Halliday’s latest, probably.

(Actually if you do want to read about wine I can recommend The Wine Wankers blog, which is not at all up itself and has meta-tags like “humorous wine images” and “horse piss”)

One of the highlights of the trip was seeing The Essential Theatre Company’s touring production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Seppeltsfield Winery. It’s a very entertaining interpretation of one of the more fun Shakespeare plays, especially over a few glasses of red. They’re touring about the country (to vineyards, chiefly) for the next few months – check the itinerary and if you happen to be in their vicinity I can highly recommend it. Their Puck alone is worth the price of admission (as should always be the case with Midsummer…). Oh, if you’re in the Canberra region they will be at Flint in the Vines at Shaw Estate this coming weekend (Saturday 8 February) – you probably just about have time to get tickets!

On the writing front, I am closing in on my target of completing my novel manuscript by the end of February as planned. My writing streak of 400+ words is at 35 unbroken days now, and I’m averaging about 520 words a day. When I’m done, I am going to have to return to the drawing board again and review the structure of the novel – the start is too slow, the plot spends a lot of time up some blind alleys and too much of the action is delayed until late in the book. But the meat is there, so all I need to do is trim fat and rearrange some of the bones. Whether that results in fatal trauma to the story remains to be seen.

Yesterday I slapped another couple of scenes onto the short story I’m working on, which means that I think it’s done. I’ll put it away and work on something else for a week or so, then dig it out and see whether it still flows as it’s meant to. If I’m happy then, off it goes for submission somewhere.

In the meantime I’m working on a short story for this excellent little project – Unfettered by Tiny Owl Workshop – which will be an anthology of short stories inspired by a collection of beautiful, quirky illustrations by Terry Whidborne. Some lovely stuff there, and I am trying to work up a concept for each illustration before I decide which one I’ll write (I may write more than one).

And last of all, I’ve received notice that my first short story (or rather, the first one I ever submitted for publication anywhere, which spent some 14 months looking for a publisher) will be going to contract in the next week or so. So I might actually be able to use this blog to Announce a Thing! Not yet, but soon, maybe!

January 16, 2014

Goals for 2014

Filed under: news of the day,wordsmithery — Tags: , , , — lexifab @ 4:38 pm

The Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild (CSfG) gathered last night for its first 2014 meeting. After we finished discussing the upcoming business of the year [1], we got on to the discussing of setting our writing goals for the year.

Honestly, I wasn’t going to do it. I had every intention skipping the whole New Year’s resolution thing. Instead of making a collection of half-baked promises that I am in the habit of failing to deliver on, surely it would be better to just knuckle down and produce whatever I could.

Then yesterday I read this essay on what is happening to someone who procrastinates a lot. Someone like me. I have to say I found the essay so eerily descriptive of my state of mind (especially the stuff about the dark playground and self-reinforcing cycles of shame) that I almost couldn’t finish reading it. Which was nuts of me, but there you are.

I highly recommend that essay, whether or not you’re a procrastinator. Someone who is will find it full of useful observations on what you’re doing to yourself and what you can do about it. People who are not procrastinators will learn that it’s completely understandable but utterly useless to offer the advice “Just sit down and do it”.

Anyway, when I accepted that part of the strategy for fixing the procrastination problem is to set tangible goals broken down by simple, specific steps, I realised that I kind of need the goals to keep me honest.

So, long story short, my writing goals for the year are:

1: finish the current draft of my novel manuscript by the end of February. If I keep to my 400+ words a day writing streak, that should mean I will produce at least 14,000 more words by the 28th of February, which *should* be about what I need to wrap up the draft.

2: write 10 short stories to publishable quality, one a month for the remaining months of the year. In theory that one should be a doddle, in that it usually doesn’t take me that long to write a story once I start. The risk will come in stories that blow out beyond what I am picturing as my standard length of 4000 – 6000 words. I am giving myself leeway to redefine this goal if it turns out that everything I want to write this year is really a novella rather than a short. I won’t know until I start though.

3: submit short stories at least 25 times. At the normal rate of submission/consideration/rejection-or-acceptance, this is about the right rate. By the end of the year I should have a good stockpile of stories, such that even if a few of them are accepted (which I hope they will, obviously), I should have enough coming in and going out again to meet this target.

4: I also have some additional non-specific goals about getting my work into various I-consider-them-prestigious Australian genre short story markets, like a Ticonderoga anthology or Cosmos Magazine. Small steps though.

So there it is. I’ll be pretty happy if I meet these goals, and very happy to exceed them. I anticipate the rest of my life getting in the way of my going far beyond expectations, especially if I have a radical career change soon. But writing is something that can keep me grounded and sane, so it gets a high priority.

Did you crack and set yourself goals?

 

[1] Which didn’t take long, but by the way included the informal notification that the editorial team for the next CSfG anthology has been finalised. If you happen to be someone who might want to make a short story keep your eyes open for the announcement of the theme and the call for submissions. [2]

[2] Also: Conflux, our local speculative fiction convention, will take place over the October long weekend this year. Which is a bit of a problem for me, seeing as that’s the time of year of my wedding anniversary. Since I was at a convention around that time last year, the anniversary had probably better win in 2014…

January 9, 2014

Brief update on the novel

Filed under: wordsmithery — Tags: , — lexifab @ 10:25 am

Streak is at 7 days, and I’ve added about 400 words to the manuscript, taking this draft past the 80,000 mark (I now estimate it will be over 110,000 words in draft, with about 25,000 or so needed to be hacked out later).

I know wordcount reports come across as either tedious boasts or desperate pleas for attention and encouragement (so, you know, sorry for that). The important bit for me is that I think I’ve got the sense of the story back and, more importantly, the desire to tell it. It’s still wretched writing with far too much exposition, flat dialogue and a complete absence of interesting action, but at least it’s getting out. The rest is fixable.

What are you up to?

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