Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

December 22, 2015

The year in narrow, blinkered retrospect

It’s been a big year for all sorts of stuff, but I’m not going to go into it. Instead, this is my obligatory look back at the goals I set at the start of the year. How did I go and what does that suggest for the future?

Short stories

The promise: I said I was going to maintain my stock of short stories available for submission at a steady level of ten, writing a new one whenever I took one out of circulation through either an acceptance or by retiring a story that had exhausted every viable market.

The reality: Definitively a failure in terms of productivity. In fact after writing my goals in February I did not finish a single short story all year, though I tinkered with a story (crappy working title “Unacceptable Losses”) all year and have left it floundering with probably about three hundred words to go for months now. In theory I could finish it tonight. I probably won’t though.

My stock of available stories went down thanks to three acceptances during the year. None of them have come out yet, though I was able to announce that “Seven Excerpts from Season One” will appear in the At the Edge anthology from Paper Road Press next year.

Acceptances are delightful, of course (all were paying markets) and absolutely what I’m striving for, but I did feel I let myself down a bit by not sticking to the plan of writing new material.

Oh, and I did recently receive notification that I placed highly (a “silver highly commended”) in the most recent round of the Writers of the Future contest. Which is not my best ever result but is still in the front-of-the-peloton zone.

silverhmbadge

Novel

The promise: Write a complete 80,000 word manuscript by the end of July without becoming a gibbering wreck.

The reality: Well, the July deadline came and went without great fanfare. Moreover as at the time of writing I have neither finished the manuscript nor reached the 80,000 word mark. But as I have about 500 words to get to the latter and maybe as little as two thousand words to wrap the whole thing up, I’m going to call this a mismatch between realistic scheduling and sustainable momentum rather than an outright failure. As I am now on holidays for a month, I predict I will at least get this one over the line before the end of 2016. Win!

(And is it any good? Well, no, it’s pretty rambly and largely incoherent. I have a mass of notes on what to fix, and it’s a good bet that the editing process will take at least as long as the first draft did, if not much, much longer. But it’s still nice to be within arm’s reach of the first critical milestone).

Community activity

The promise: Be a good treasurer, write a treasurer manual

The reality: Well, the manual is not finished yet and could do with a bit of dedicated attention for a couple of days, but on the whole I have acquitted myself well in this regard. I’ve been a committee member who gets shit done, and the books all balanced at the end of the year. I don’t tend to be a natural organiser or leader, and basically I find trying to get people to do things or get one the same page as each among the most demanding and draining activities I can imagine. But I can make a spreadsheet make sense, and I can make things happen in the background as long I don’t have to wrangle more than one or two people, so I’ll take this one as an accomplishment.

All the same, I will probably retire from my post at the next AGM, because I will feel I’ve done my bit at that time. Ditto with helping on the Conflux organising committee.

Blogging

The promise: Build a new author website so that I can phase this one out.

The reality: This is 90% done. I haven’t launched it yet, but it is live. Feel free to go look for it (it’s not that hard) but if you do happen to stumble across it, don’t bother subscribing to anything. I’m procrastinating on setting up mail accounts and the newsletter software. It will probably happen in the next couple of weeks.  (It’s not remotely fancy BTW. It’s a functional site with boring author information that I can point potential publishers and clients to if necessary). I haven’t yet sat down to work out a clear plan for what to do with the site beyond that, but it will probably revolve around building on my friendships within the writing community. Hit me up if you’re doing a blog tour, I guess.

The other stuff

Collaboration: Did not happen. The novel ate my year completely. I’m still toying with various ideas for projects but this is one area that would demand focus and attention. At the moment I just can’t even make that sort of promise to myself, so it would hardly be fair to drag someone else down.

Serialised fiction: I made a few plans and outlined some projects that would suit a serialised format, but again, haven’t kicked any of them off yet. There’s one in particular that’s burning a hole in the back of my skull, but it will certainly have to take a back seat to all the short stories I’ve spent the year thinking about but not writing.

Shared world: No. Sensing a theme here? Though in fact I am contemplating ideas for contributing to an existing shared world. Nothing has gelled yet on that, but my contribution would just be a short story or two.

Comic script: See collaboration above.

 

That list doesn’t make for pretty reading, but I’m probably being too harsh on myself. This nearly-done draft novel has taken about nine months, which is an improvement over the thirteen months (twice over) that my previous novel attempt sucked up. Pre-plotting has certainly sped up that process, although one of the many lessons I’ve learned about that is that I could certainly stand to do more preparation next time. I’m reluctantly forced to admit that I am a better writer when I have a clear picture of what I’m going to write, and I suspect that a scene-by-scene breakdown would not go at all astray the next time I try this.

I’ll do a proper “Goals for 2016” post at some point in the near future, but I already know I have a couple of clear goals: write a bunch of short stories, edit the novel, and plan its sequels. In the margins I think I’ll build on one of my serial fiction ideas as the fun side project, but I’m cautious about holding myself to any kind of target on that. This writing biz seems to take a lot more time than I ever think it’s going to.

 

Right. I have a icy cup of creaming soda, a Pandora station tuned to 80’s alternative rock, and five thousand words or so to write in the next nine days.

I can do this.

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.

October 17, 2013

The (Delayed) Month of Relentless Positivity

I’m back. It’s been more than a month since my last blog update, in which I hilariously bemoaned my somnolent rate of updating.

Unintentional irony having served its purpose, I’m back, following job upheavals, timely holidays, a convention and a writing deadline. All of which made for a pretty busy month while I’m also battling with a nagging sleep disorder.

(Not that I’m grumbling, mind you. I have been using a CPAP machine for a couple of weeks now and have moved through the unpleasant but typical “wake up in the middle of the night horrified to discover a plastic octopus eating my face” phase of acquaintance. Pretty soon I expect to enter the “feel refreshed after a full night’s sleep” treatment phase, which will be worth all of the creepy cephalod-wrestling dreams).

ANYWAY. We have a tradition here at Lexifabricographer (est. 2012). A little thing I like to call

The Month of Relentless Positivity

in which October, traditionally thought of as the second most boring month of the year (after August, obviously), becomes instead a clarion call for forced cheer and mandatory goodwill. For one shining month of the year, I solemnly undertake to write at least one blog entry a day highlighting something good and pure and wonderful in the world, squeeing with unabashed delight and inviting my (dozen-plus!) readers to join the celebratory revels.

As this entry will go up on the 17th of October, it would not be unreasonable for the judges to disqualify me on a foot fault. I didn’t so much overstep my mark as soar on wings of silk and caffeine far beyond the shackles of  my mark’s gravity well.

I have a solution.

The Month of Relentless Positivity begins today! Starting today, and continuing until at least the 16th of November, I’m putting up a post every day. Every day I will spotlight something cool, something I love, something at which I would like to direct some eyeballs (even if it’s a very small number of mostly disinterested eyeballs).

(I might keep going until the 24th of November, when the Doctor Who 50th anniversary episode screens).

In the meantime, between all that, I plan to resume work on my 75%-ish complete novel, write a couple of properly short stories (less than 2500 words, say), catch up on several months worth of tax work, throw myself into the crazed vortex of the Canberra writing community and generally be, like, super-positive.

Let’s go.

September 9, 2013

Are we doing weekly updates now?

Filed under: administraviata — Tags: , — lexifab @ 2:37 pm

They say that blogging’s dying, killed off by the pithy wit of the tweet and the versatility of the whatever you call a Tumblr entry (a tumble? a tum? neither of those sound right). Looking around at my usual internet haunts, it’s not hard to see some truth in it. Apart from the paid sites, where bloggers are contracted for regular content and paid by the mouseclick, everywhere I look I see less and less didactic rantery, bellicose pontification and general blathering. Arguably that’s not a bad thing. Doesn’t mean I don’t miss it though.

I’m probably just looking in the wrong places. The blogs I’ve followed are all slowing down, presumably as their authors move on to other projects, become busy with the rest of their lives or just lose interest. I expect that there are countless vibrant, witty and informative blogs out there, and the problem is just that I’ve become too lazy and jaded to hunt them out.

(Suggestions are therefore welcome – what’s good out there?)

This blog was probably the most obvious casualty of my sleep disorder. In retrospect it should have been the canary in the coal mine. Around the middle of last year, the frequency of my blogging dropped off to a trickle of book reviews and the last few Lost Season 2 recaps. I think those were happening more out of a self-imposed sense of obligation, rather than for the fun of it.

I honestly have no idea whether I will pick up the pace again, or if I even want to. I like having a blog, I like writing in a kinda-sorta diary-esque format. I make no claim to be much good at it but that’s beside the point for the most part. It’s more about thinking out loud and occasionally having a conversation with a few friends. On the rare occasions it turns into anything more than that, I’m always surprised.

Where was I going with all that? No idea. I’m still thinking about it. Slowly.

March 27, 2013

I didn’t know you were missing

Filed under: administraviata,wordsmithery — Tags: , , , — lexifab @ 7:43 am

In answer to the question that nobody has proposed or probably even entertained, I have been knuckling down on Ms Cole’s Arrangements for the past few weeks. It’s a cold hard slog down in the word-mines. Output is slow, self-imposed deadlines loom and self-doubt nips at the heels like a murderous pack of rabid foxes. There’s not much time in the schedule for diversions, at this point.

To coin a catch-phrase almost guaranteed to enjoy universal adoption, blogging is the first casualty of authorial diligence.

I need to have a working manuscript by July for the critiquing group. I’m aiming to have it finished well before then so that I can revise the earlier chapters, which contain various contradictions and bits where I’ve just put some lazy marker like [insert character description here] into the text. If I have to, I’ll go to the crit circle with a raw draft, but I’d consider it more polite if I at least fix up the obvious errors. For that matter, if I don’t fix the glaring stuff, there’s a chance that the simple mistakes will distract people from detecting the really egregious (logical, structural, character) flaws. From what I’ve seen my group is quite diligent at calling out the deep-seated problems – I have certainly tried to be for my own part – but there’s no call to make it any harder than it already is.

Anyway, things are going to be quiet for a while, at least until I feel like I’m getting ahead of my goals. At the moment I am optimistic that will happen sometime before July.

Oh, and while I am making excuses for a lack of blog productivity, there was that whole thing a couple of weeks ago where the site vanished for several days. (I think maybe two people noticed). At first there was a thought that it was Ukrainian hackerz, but actually it was just miscommunicated security advice from the ISP and whatnot. Nothing to worry about. Your comments are safe.

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