March in Summary

This month was terrible for writing.  Terrible.  Good things happened (like getting accepted to Clarion) but in general, I failed it hard.  The high point besides Clarion is that I’m selling more and more ebooks every month.

Here are my pathetic stats:

Words written: 21,648

Stories sold: 0

Stories finished: 1 (and a few starts)

Novels finished: 0 (almost one! Soon!)

E-books money earned: 42.86 (almost double last month, yay!)

New e-book projects finished and released: 1

So that’s that for the month. April will be better.  I have three romance novellas to write, a handful of short stories to finish, and a week-long intensive workshop on Character Voice to attend (that’s going to kick my butt, but everyone who has taken it says that it pushed their fiction to a whole new level and that’s what I’m always looking to do).

February Wrap-up

Short month, went quickly.

I started, deleted, started again, and didn’t finish a novel this month. But I’ve solved how to finish it and now need to start over one final time. This annoying process underlined how important having the right point of view in a book really is (the POV issues were what was stalling me out in the middle, thankfully I figured that out before giving up forever).

Words written this month: approximately 72,000
Words discarded/deleted this month: about 34,000 (this number will GO AWAY next month. Seriously going to stop doing that. Seriously)
Ebook earnings: 22.75 (just slightly less than last month, yay!)

For March, I’ve got two novels to go up as e-pub. I need to get on the POD/Createspace thing and learn how to do that and get print copies out. I’m also going to start the sequel to a book while working on the SF novel (now that POV issues are solved). I’m behind on the Write one/Sub one challenge, so I’m going to try to get seven or eight stories done this month as well to catch up. And I’d like to finish one of the romance novellas. I’m debating on waiting until all eight are done to start putting them up, but we’ll see. I might wait until I have three or four, then start putting them up every couple weeks.

Meanwhile, today I’m going to be approving copy edits and generally taking it easy. Just got back from an amazing week of workshops and really need a little brain break before I start writing for the week.

Gotta Know When to Fold’em

To date this month, I’ve written just under 60,000 words.  Most of that was on my SF novel project.  However, nothing seemed to be coming together with the novel and I kept throwing out whole scenes and chapters and starting again and again trying to make the plot gel.  I kept doing this until the fun was gone and all I could do is sit and write and then delete and try again and hate every second of it.

So I’m sort of quitting that novel for now.  Not forever.  Just for now.  It’s a complex plot, more involved with more POVs and more threads than I’ve ever tried to write before.  Which is a good thing, since I think it’s healthy to stretch my writing muscles and make myself deal with something I’m weaker on like complicated plotting.  But beating myself up about it not coming together wasn’t helping anything.

It’s really hard for me to admit I need to take a step back from this project.  I follow Heinlein’s Rules, after all.  Rule 2 is “finish what you write”.  When stepping away from this, I had to ask myself honestly if I wanted to put it down for now because that’s the healthy thing to do? Or am I just walking away because this is difficult?  It’s one thing to set something down and let it percolate a little more.  It’s another to start forming a habit of dropping a project the moment it gets rocky.  I don’t want to form a habit of not finishing things, because nothing will kill a writing career faster than not finishing, except maybe not starting.  (If I don’t start, I can’t finish, if I don’t finish, I can’t submit, if I don’t submit, I can’t sell…see?)

So I’m making a compromise with myself.  I’m stepping back from this novel.  I’m still going to keep up my writing streak and go for my necessary 3,000 words a day and a short story on weekends (the numbers I need to hit my annual goals).  And I’m designating Mondays as the day to work on this novel (minimum one page/250 words).  If I have to just write it scene by scene and take 40 weeks to finish, I’ll finish.  Meanwhile, the rest of the days will be devoted to other projects that I feel more comfortable with.  I figure that this is a good compromise.  I’m not quitting this novel entirely, but I’m giving myself breathing room on it while hopefully continuing to develop my skills enough that the sort of complicated plot I want to construct here will become an easier thing for me.  I’m tired of second guessing myself and deleting words and basically letting my critical voice eat away at me.  I’m a better writer than that and I should know better.

So that’s what’s up with me right now.  I’m turning to short stories while I get a couple of novels formatted for e-publishing and then I’ll be back to novel writing in March (working on a fantasy novel with a nice straightforward quest/romance plot and only one or two POVs, thank god).

I’ve fallen behind on the Write 1/Sub 1 challenge by 3 short stories, so I intend to catch up this week and next.  Also next week I have two workshops back to back, so I think that will help recharge my batteries and be really interesting and amazing as always (but especially with the changes in the industry right now… being around multiple professional writers for an entire week is going to be very, very educational).

Clarion Redux

For all my musing and thinkings earlier this year about whether or not to apply to Clarion, I went ahead and did it.  I’m not sure I’ll be able to afford to go unless they give me scholarship money, but that’s a problem to deal with AFTER I get in at all.  I figure that if I want it enough (and I wouldn’t have applied if I didn’t) that I’ll find a way to beg, borrow, or steal to get there.

As for my earlier fears of Clarion slowing me down too much, well, I’ve sorted out that issue as well.  I’ve figured out that if I’m consistent in my writing, I only need about 2-3 hours a day to write.  I’m sure that even with all the distractions of being at Clarion, I should be able to find 2-3 hours to get things done (after all, my classmates will have to be doing stories and critiques and such as well).  So I think I could still keep up my production rates and get the work done while hopefully enjoying the socialization and networking and learning that Clarion provides.

So we’ll see.  I don’t know if my writing is good enough to get me in.  I picked two of my favorite stories for the application.  Hopefully that’s enough.  I imagine with the line-up of instructors this year that they’ll get tons of applications and they can only take 18.  But it’s out of my hands now.

As for non-Clarion workshops, I’m going to make it to at least three this next spring and to Reno for World Con this summer.  While writing and practicing are good, learning and expanding my network are important also.  It’s a struggle sometimes to figure out the monies for this stuff, but this is my career and I figure investing in my future is probably a wise thing.  I’ve definitely grown as a writer and a person this year because of the workshops and conventions and I want to continue that growth.

Clarifying Myself, Again

Wow, I didn’t realize that my musings on whether or not to apply to Clarion/Clarion West would stir up the pot so much. Heh.  I guess it’s like writing anything, you never know when something will strike a chord or a nerve.  (Some of this post is also in response to some private conversations, so don’t think I’m necessarily replying here to any one person, I’m not).

So, to clarify, because clearly some misunderstandings about what/why I’m debating applying/going.

First, for the people who’ve just found this blog and haven’t read any of my older posts where I try to explain my process/speed/goals etc… I recommend this post.  And again the caveat, everything I say here applies only to me.  It might resonate with others, but I’m just talking about my experiences, my thoughts, and my writing life as it applies to myself.

My last post was just me wondering about Clarion and if it is what I need right now in my writing life.  That was it.  I asked for experiences/thoughts from those who had gone (or even just applied, I’m always happy to hear other people’s reasons for things) so that I could figure out for myself what I want to do.  I would never apply to Clarion without planning what might happen if I got in, that’s just silly to me.  One, it would be a waste of the application fee if I decided not to go and got in, and two, it would be poor planning in general (it’s six weeks! Even self-employed as I am, taking six weeks off/away from home isn’t simple).  So if I do apply, you’d better believe I’ll have sorted out how to afford it and if I want to go or not.  Hence my wondering aloud about whether it is what I need right now (or really, almost a year from now).

And, frankly, I don’t think that Clarion is for everyone.  It isn’t just a matter of being able to do the work (one story a week? Read the goals/speed post. I’m really not worried about the work load).  I’ve talked to a double handful of people who’ve been through one of the Clarions now and while some rave about it, some don’t.   And I don’t know if it is right for me. That’s all I’m debating.  No value judgments here, just personal musings.

My reservations about applying/going: one, the round-robin critique style.  I’ve done it, lots.  I don’t really enjoy it anymore.  I think, personally, that it is too easy to get hung up on minor things because you are “critiquing” and therefore have to find something wrong, and I think it is easy for a writer (especially a beginning writer) to try to take everyone’s suggestions and possibly re-write their story into mush.  This has been my experience with round-robin style.  Feedback is good (I have a couple groups of first readers, whom I treasure and love (when I don’t want to kill them) and should probably bake cookies for more often).  Too much feedback just for the sake of having to say something, not so good.  I’ve also got my editing cycle down to a science that works for me.  It’s a quick cycle, and while I learn from feedback, I don’t re-write in the traditional sense anymore. Ever.  If a story is so broken that I’d have to do a major edit, I start over.  I’m a learn by doing sort, and doing for me is writing, not rewriting.

Second, six weeks is a huge time commitment.  It’s also something I’d have to plan my writing goals around.  I don’t write nearly as consistently when I’m not in my home space, so I’d have to try to adjust for that.  I’m also an introvert, and social situations drain me, so that is also something for me to consider. While I’d be getting a story a week done at the least, as I said in my last post, I’d be experimenting a lot (after all, isn’t that what workshops are about? Stretching yourself?) and don’t know how much of that writing would be in the “do over” category.  Next year my plan is to write four novels for e-books and four for traditional submission.  Losing six weeks means a bit of a time crunch.  It’s doable, but I’m lazy, remember? So I’d definitely need to plan (and being an introvert, honestly I’d probably lose more like eight weeks- the one before Clarion and the one after on recovery).  Clarion/CW’s focus is on short fiction, and while I’m still writing some short fiction (goal is to keep 40-50 shorts out at a time, writing to replace the ones that sell), I’ve transitioned to novels because my goal is to make a living and novels are good for that (and I like writing them).

So yeah, those are my current thoughts.  I know that I’d learn a lot and meet many interesting people if I applied/went.  I don’t doubt that for many people, Clarion/CW is a great stepping stone in their writer journey and that the experience is amazing.  These are things I’m considering and weighing against my other thoughts.  Basically, it boils down to this:

Do I want to go to Clarion or Clarion West? Yes.  Can I afford to go money-wise? Maybe (I could figure it out).  Can I afford to go time-wise? Maybe (again, I could figure it out).  Do I need to go in order to have a career as a writer? No.  Is Clarion/CW the best use of my time and resources for my writing/career goals right now in my life? I don’t know.  And that final question is all I’m trying to answer here.

Hopefully that clarifies things.

Now, to put down the blog (and Starcraft 2), and go finish this novel.

O Munde, hodie aliquid vincam!

Clarion Musings

So, first… my sale. I have sold “No Spaceships Go” to Daily SF, a brand new magazine that will apparently start publishing later this summer/fall. So go subscribe now, because besides my story, it looks like they have lined up some top authors (including fellow PDX writer and Hugo winner David D. Levine).  I’m pretty excited.  More details whenever I get them.

Also, in other internet news, both Clarion and Clarion West have posted instructor lists for 2011.  And wow, they are impressive (okay, when aren’t they? seriously. Sigh).  Clarion list is here.  Clarion West list is here.

As always, I kinda want to go to Clarion (either Clarion) because writing with both my potential classmates and under the tutelage of professionals such as those listed above would be freaking awesome.  I’ve only applied once to Clarion West, and was form rejected.  Which doesn’t shock me, it was my first submission to anywhere, ever. (Feb 4th 2009, for those of us ie me keeping track).  And frankly, I mostly applied because I really wanted to meet Elizabeth Bear whose work and work ethic I super admire.  Probably good I didn’t get in, since I don’t know how I would have survived.

I almost applied to Clarion last year, but decided I couldn’t afford it and took a couple of Dean Wesley Smith’s workshops instead (which, for the sake of honesty, I almost didn’t get in to.  While there’s no formal audition like for the Clarions, Dean isn’t a guy who pulls his punches and if he thinks someone isn’t ready, he’ll say so.  I’m not sure I was ready, but I am grateful. *grin*).  And between discovering those workshops, reading Dean’s motivation posts (and Kristine Rusch’s posts on freelancing), and deciding to truly follow Heinlein’s Rules for Writers, I pretty much completely revolutionized how I was going about getting to my goal of making a living at writing fiction.

So… Clarions.  Should I apply? On the one hand, I imagine I’d have a blast and learn a ton.  On the other, can I get in? Or afford to go if I did? And, strangely enough, can I afford to take 6 weeks out of my writing schedule to focus on workshop stuffs?  I know they write a story a week at the workshops, but frankly, for me, that’s really not an issue, even with additional work like reading on top of it I’m pretty sure I could keep that pace without blinking.  But could I keep up my novel/novella/shorts schedule during Clarion/CW if I got in?

I don’t know. I don’t actually write nearly as well, especially on longer works, when I don’t have the comfort and stability of my home schedule and daily routines.  I can make myself get some work done, but not with the focus I have at home.  And I’m sure that between hanging out with fellow writers, doing the workshop stuffs, and the various functions and parties etc… I’d be pretty socially drained and low energy, which is not a productive state for me.

So if a) I did get in and b) could afford to go, then the question I’d have to consider would be is it worth losing potentially an entire novel’s worth of writing production?  I realize I’d come out of the workshop with six short stories, though as to publishable state I can’t say.  I hope that if I went I’d be really pushing myself in terms of how I’m writing and what I’m writing about, which might render whatever I write as a do-over, but workshops should be about risk in my opinion.  No point going to learn something and not really pushing yourself to stretch out of comfort zones.

So yeah, that’s basically what’s going on in my head now.  The line-ups for teachers looks very awesome, but between money and time lost, I just don’t know if the workshop would be worth it at this point.

Things to think about.  Fortunately, I have time.  I probably won’t make final decision until Feb 2011.  By then, if I’m remotely on target, I’ll have five novels being shopped to trad. publishers, book one of my e-book series out, and at least 40 shorts circulating (unless editors buy more/all of them..nudge nudge universe).  So I’ll see where I’m at.

Anyone else thinking about applying? Anyone who reads this been to one of the Clarions? What were your experiences?

(And, of course, there is always Odyssey as well, which I’ve heard lovely things about from both the woman who runs it and writers who have attended.  So much to consider. Meep.)

Hope Has a Flavor

Last week was filled with disappointment and rejections. No news for me on the second quarter of the WotF contest yet, which means I’m HM or worse for the fourth time (looks like the finalists have been notified). Got a form letter rejection from one place that had held a story for final consideration, heard back about another (rejected as well, though very nicely). Oh well, back into the mail they go. For now.

And yet, I feel good. I went to a workshop on how to pitch ideas and write blurbs this weekend and got my mental ass kicked… and I still feel good. Hopeful even. Happy. Why? Because I sat and listened to a bunch of professional writers discussing this interesting new publishing world (and the interesting old publishing world) and I have to say, these are damn exciting times to be starting a writing business in. I came home with new skills, new ideas, and the germs of exciting plans that will be revealed soon (and more on that sekrit project I keep mentioning).

I’m thrilled to be a part of this stuff. There is so much for me to learn, and things are changing all the time. It’s awesome to attend Dean’s workshops and be surrounded by pros living and doing the things I’m working on doing. I feel more like a professional myself these days, growing all the time.

So yeah, I’m exhausted and excited and my brain’s full of stuff I need to sit down and really process. I’ll work on that and hopefully get some more comprehensive posts out about my plans and my latest writing adventures.

It’s a good time to be a writer.

Grind Grind Grind

After elation of making a sale, I’m back to grinding away.  Rejections keep trickling in, though some have been very nice.  I’m trying not to get too down about having so many nice rejections.  I know it’s a good sign, I just wish I knew what I could do to push the stories over the edge of “good” and into “sold”.  I’m hoping that the workshop I’m attending in Feb will help shed some light on how to do this.   I plan to work my ass off at the workshop, and to try to absorb everything I can, and be as open minded as I can.

I’m more nervous in some ways about the novel workshop.  I’m almost done on the editing pass of “A Heart in Sun and Shadow” and have been riding the rollercoaster of “this is good” and “zomg, how did I write something this bad?”  I really have no idea if it is any good at all.

The hardest part of the editing has been the fact that my brain has moved on.  I am no longer living and breathing this world.  My mind is out of Cymru and running around the mountain kingdom in “Sindra’s Storm” (which still refuses to be outlined).  So the few parts I added to might not really work with the whole.  I’m not sure.  I guess I’ll find out in Feb, for it will be interesting to see if anyone can even tell where I added things.  I didn’t end up adding as much as I at first thought I might, and I’ve cut a few things, so the novel is still quite short and will likely top out around 87,500 words.  The final 50 pages should be quick to finish.  Just a few tweaks of some scenes, and of course the copy/paste of the proper spelling of my main character’s name.  The first half took so much longer because I hadn’t started bothering to use proper dialog punctuation yet.  Never. Doing. That. Again.  From now on, I am not going to be lazy on the first draft.  Nor will I EVER take 8 months off in the middle of a novel. Ever. Again.

So that’s my project for today.  Then next week I’m going to finish the three short stories I’ve started, finish the novella, and then get it out the door for Q2 WOTF.  Then, then it’s time to write “Sindra’s Storm”.  For better or for worse, outline or no outline.

On a side note, I should really look up a market for the erotic non-speculative story I’m part way done with.  Yay for trying things totally outside my comfort zone.  Now, if only it will sell.  Sigh.

Revisions and Worries

Started revising Chwedl.  Turned the first chapter into the prologue that it is, and began the slow and painful process of cleaning up the prose and fixing my terrible dialog punctuation.  I’ve had nearly two months break from this novel, and I still can’t look at it objectively.  It’s probably not as terrible as I think it is.  Probably.  Also, I really need a real title for the book.  The best so far I can come up with is something like “The Hounds of Llynwg” or just “Cwn” (welsh for “hounds”).  Both of which aren’t terribly catchy and still probably too “oh god, book full of unpronounceable names ahead” flashing.  Of course, this book is full of welsh names.  Word spellcheck hates it, with a passion (actually, active spellcheck packed up and went home about 50k words into the novel).  I’ve doomed myself to doing something with this book, however, by signing up for a workshop which involves editing the first 50 or so pages, writing a proposal/query to a real editor, and then mailing the damn thing.  I’m not panicking. Yet.

I also seem to have sent out all my stories on submission, leaving myself nothing to send in for the first quarter Writers of the Future contest.  Oops.  So I have about 20 days to write something and get it in the mail.  I have about four short story ideas brewing that should be ready for the page when I find a moment, as well as a novella.  I’d like to get the novella done and submit that for WotF, but with the holidays and my novel revisions, I’m not holding my breath.

My third novel project is started, but I have no outline or concrete plot yet.  I do have a working title “One and Many”.  Not catchy, I know. I suck at titles.  I need to inject myself with essence of Elizabeth Bear (don’t ask me what that might be) because she has the best titles all the time and I could really use her brain about now.  Or I could just call it “fat fantasy with maps”, which is what it is.  I’m aiming for less than 110k words.  I also want it done by the time I go to the workshops in Feb.

The next novel project was supposed to be the Casimir Hypogean trilogy redrafting, but that’s now pushed back to at least March, and probably back more since my brain has been half-hijacked by a vampire novel.  Yeah, fricken vampires.  And no, not sparkly ones.  Abusive, control freak, obsessive, scary ones.  So we’ll see.  I’m not writing that novel without an outline though, so it better shape up.  One seat-of-pants novel is enough for the year. Seriously.  I love me my outlines.

I’m also taking a short story workshop.  And quaking in fear about that, too.  I know it’ll be good for me, but I worry about not being any good, not being able to deliver a story at all, and other stupid fears that hopefully will get out of my system before Feb.

So that’s what’s up with me.  Now, back to the novel.  Maybe in a hundred pages or so I’ll start liking it. Maybe.

Full of Fail

So between real life fun like car accidents, new car shopping, and illness (mmm colds are so much fun, really), I’ve gotten just about nothing done writing-wise.  I think I’m going to just write November off as a lost month, though I suppose two short stories isn’t the worst outcome.  I’m working on another one, but the science part of it is tripping me up.  I’m not a hard sci/fi writer, but this story really wants to be a hard sci/fi story.  I solved one problem, theoretically, now I have to figure out how to solve one other sciencey issue and then maybe I can write the damn story.

I’m looking ahead at workshops and WoTF submissions.  I have a novella planned that is supposed to be my first quarter submission, but if I don’t get it written in the next couple weeks, I’ll have to do something else, since I need a week or two break between writing and editing things.

The bad news is that with the car stuff, I might not be applying to any of the big three workshops this year.  We had to clean out our funds to replace the car about a year sooner than we were planning to (it was a very old car, so we were going to replace it, but not for a year when our savings had been built up for it).  So the money that was getting put away for the workshops has been used on a car.  That’s life though, sometimes it doesn’t go according to plan.

I might sign up for one of Dean Wesley Smith’s weekend workshops instead.  They’d be easy enough to get to and I’ve heard good things about them.  Mostly I’m looking around for ways to really take my writing to the next level.  I’m getting plenty of “positive” rejections, which tells me that while my writing is good, something might be missing.  I want to figure out how to push past the “good but no thanks” stage and get to the “here’s your check” stage.  I know it’s not a perfect science and that even famous writers get rejections, but I want to get at least my first sale someday.  I need a little push, I think.  Something.

For now I’ve been reading books on fiction editing and selling a novel.  Gearing up to revise my novel and get my submission package ready to go to my chosen agents.  I’ve got a top 5 list put together, so hopefully by January I’ll be ready to go on that.  First though comes the hard part, the actual revising of something that is many thousands of words long.  I’ll just tackle it the same way I wrote it; one page at a time.  One page at a time.