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.

January 7, 2015

Late breaking news – not a winner

Filed under: news of the day,wordsmithery — Tags: , , — lexifab @ 10:10 pm

To my not very great surprise, the winners of the Writers of the Future quarter finals have been announced. To save you from clicking on the potentially heartbreaking link, my name is notably absent from the list.

Not to worry. As I noted to a couple of well-wishers today, the momentary disappointment of not getting picked was more than dispelled by the possibility that Tim Powers (one of the listed judges) might have read something I wrote. All right, it seems the odds are better than even that he didn’t like it, but I reiterate: Tim Freaking Powers!

(Also on the list of judges was Nnedi Okorafor, whose alien-invasion-in-Lagos novel Lagoon I read and enjoyed just last week, and a bunch of little-known emerging writers by the names of Silverberg, Niven, Pournelle and Card, who I’m sure will become popular in years to come.)

I didn’t win. Don’t care. I still have a *serious* case of fanboy giddiness.

January 5, 2015

Quarter finalist

I’m rather excited that my story “Mnemo’s Memory” [1] has been selected as a quarter finalist for the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future competition. My name appears in this press release and everything! My gleefully science-ignoring adventurous yarn of airships, steam automatons and an evil villain with an Antarctic lair will be, at the very least, read and critiqued by a luminary of the field. (Seriously, the Big Names associated with WotF are people whose work I’ve been reading across the last thirty years. I am dead-set thrilled that someone like Tim freakin’ Powers or Larry freakin’ Niven might read my work). And that’s before you look at the prize of a week-long intensive writing workshop in Los Angeles with a host of said luminaries, followed by a gala award ceremony to pick the overall winner. Not bad. My friend and CSFG colleague Shauna O’Meara was a finalist in 2013 and blogged about it at length.

Like the quarter-finals at the Olympics, only the top three of eight stories go through to the finals, while everyone else goes back to the drawing board to try again next time. Mind you in this case “next time” is pretty much straight away, since they run these competitions every three months. Anyone who has yet to make three professional sales (defined as a minimum payment of 6c per word) is eligible to enter. That definitely includes me.

Does my little story have the legs to make it all the way to the finals? Eh, I dunno. I’d like to think so, but I’ve written and learned quite a lot since I penned that one over two years ago. I think I could do even better now. Even if it doesn’t make it, I’m still happy. This is a definite signal that I’m moving in the direction I want.

 

[1] …which is a title I have *never once* typed correctly the first time, which is probably a lesson of some sort.

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