Turning the page – 2016 writing goals

Towards the end of January last year, I posted a note of my writing goals for the year. I declined to review the year that had just been because it had been a particularly difficult one.

I’m not going to dwell on 2015, either, because I want to keep my focus firmly forwards. Still, there’s no point setting targets unless you review how close you came to meeting them.

How did I do?

I didn’t manage having something out to market at all times. Not quite. The process of moving from draft to fully polished piece is still taking longer than I’d like, but that’s fine. I was super close.

I didn’t manage to complete to first draft one short story for every month of the year, but I came closer than I have any previous year, with 6 completed shorts, one novella and one novelette. In terms of non-hypergraphia, stuff I might be able to use word count, I’m calling that target met.

I didn’t get much further with either of my novel projects in terms of words on the page, so I’m out for a duck. It doesn’t mean I didn’t do any work on them, though, and that work will stand me in good stead this year.

I didn’t update my blogs as often as I intended. Although I did up the frequency considerably here, my other blog languished in the doldrums.

That said, we did buy and move into a new house in April, a house that needs considerable renovation, and the dayjob has been inconsiderately demanding (joke — in the current climate, I’m damn lucky to have it). With those two factors running interference, I don’t feel too bad about not fully meeting these targets. The work I have produced this year has been variable, but it includes some material of which I am extremely proud and hope will find a good home someday.

Let’s not forget I made two thrilling sales, to Apex Magazine and Clockwork Phoenix 5. Both of these are dream markets, and I still can’t quite believe it. My story at Apex, She Gave Her Heart, He Took Her Marrow, was podcasted, produced by Lisa Shininger. This was the first time I’ve ever heard one of my stories read aloud by someone else, and it’s a strange but exciting experience.

What’s on the cards for 2016?

More of the same, with a few tweaks.

  1. Have something out to market at all times.
    I’ll repeat this goal this year, but I hope this becomes such a fact of life it will no longer be a goal but a state of being.
  2. Complete to first draft at least one short-form story for every month of the year.
  3. Get to grips with flash.
    I’m lumping these together because I’m hoping number 3 will help me achieve number 2. Last year my target was derailed by the hypergraphia’s tendency to go into this weird state of WORDSSSSS, OH YES WORDSES MOAR OM NOM NOM WOOOOORRRRDSSSSESSSSS AWWW YISS MOAR MOAR WORDSES.
  4. Write every day.
    I shot myself in the foot on this one last year by trying too hard to domesticate the hypergraphia. I tried this thing where, if I wasn’t writing something useful, I wouldn’t write at all, thinking that might channel the urge more usefully. PRO-TIP: this does not work. All it does is make the whole process more difficult. If writing means scribbling stuff I can’t use, or sticking pictures into a commonplace and adding labels, that’s fine. It’s all part of the process. To use a triathlon metaphor, I won’t necessarily be squatting or doing deadlifts in a race, but these exercises help build strength, and stronger means more speed and endurance. Just because it’s not something immediately and directly useful doesn’t mean it is worthless.
  5. Finish a novel project.
    I have two on my target list at the moment, of the three in progress, but by the end of the month I shall have settled on one of them and will be making a hard push to complete this year. I already have a strong idea of which one it will be.
  6. Take more classes.
    I don’t think it’s coincidence that I made my first two pro sales on the back of taking almost every class Cat Rambo has to offer. I’m already signed up for Lit Techniques 2, so this will get me off to a good start.
  7. Have another go at poetry.
    I’d like to be a lot better at poetry than I am. Avoiding it won’t change that.

Most of all, I think 2015 gave me a better grip on what I’m good at, on the themes that make the difference between a story that will work eventually, and a story that’s more likely to end up either trunked or ripped into tiny pieces for total reconstruction, and that means a fresh eye for older stories still looking for a home. That’s my main goal for the coming year: put that insight to work.

The Old Man of the Woods
The Old Man of the Woods says, “Your job is to create a space in which it is possible for others to see things differently.”

How about you? Any goals you’d like to share?

Share this:

Best of Apex Magazine Vol. 1

This is me on a sea-kayaking trip last year with Frood at Portknockie, in which we were ably guided by Sam Weir of Kayak Scotland:

Sea Kayaking at Portknockie

One of the best weekends ever.

That grin on my face is a result of being encouraged into doing things I had no idea I was able to do with the experience I had, and coming out the other side with vastly increased confidence and a burning desire to get out there, do more and go further, and have even more fun in the process.

Now you have a good idea of what my face looked like when I found out that my story She Gave Her Heart, He Took Her Marrow has been selected by Jason Sizemore and Lesley Connor for Best of Apex Volume 1. There might have been some jumping around squealing, too.

Just a bit.

To help fund the project, the Apex team is holding a raffle for a place on Carrie Cuinn’s Editing for Writers workshop, worth $100. The course is 4 weeks long, and should be a goodie.

“Editing 101” – AKA “Editing for Writers”. Identifying parts of a story, tenses and perspectives, narrative arcs, and other elements that are potentially affected by the editing process. Definitions, editing marks, using (and creating) style sheets, important style manuals, levels of editing, and fact-checking. The basics of copyediting: concepts and skills necessary for line editing (also called copyediting), relying mainly on the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed; editing vs. proofreading; tips for spotting tricky errors. The basics of developmental editing: what it is and isn’t, including the specifics of developmental editing in fiction. We’ll also cover rates, and working with clients, including querying about edits, maintaining an author’s voice, and related services.

As you may already know, Carrie published my story What The Water Gave Her in the Dagan Books anthology Fish, which was a huge deal for me. Carrie is putting herself through school at the moment, supporting herself with her freelance author and editor work, while raising her young son. This is a great opportunity to buy a chance to take what promises to be a great course for the sum of $3, which is less than a pint of beer or a large coffee at Haymarket’s AMT. Apex will split what they get from the raffle 50/50 with Carrie. Buying a ticket will help support both Apex and Carrie, and put you in with a chance of winning the top prize. Other prizes on offer include print copies of Women and Other Constructs by Carrie Cuinn, Starve Better by Nick Mamatas, To Each Their Darkness by Gary A. Braunbeck, and For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher by Jason Sizemore.

Go on. You know you want to.

Share this:

Sale! It’s a happy place

The last couple of months have been HECTIC. Work has been super-busy, I’ve been struggling to find time for editing and writing, and we’re moving house. I’ve had almost no time for physical exercise, which always makes me cranky, and at times the effort of trying to deal with it all while remaining suitably optimistic when in company has been almost beyond this introvert.

I have a friend whose favourite method of reassurance when things are weighing me down is to say, “A lot can change in a couple of years.” He’s right of course. As if I needed proof, I received some amazing news last week.

My short story She Gave Her Heart, He Took Her Marrow was bought by Jason Sizemore for Apex Magazine. This piece means a lot to me, and it would be an understatement to say I’m chuffed to bits. Selling a story to Apex is like nine Christmases and birthdays all rolled into one.

I’d be remiss not to mention the various people whose stellar feedback helped along the way, including Cat Rambo and the other students on last year’s Advanced Workshop, my fellow Orbiter 6 members and, of course, that ragtag bunch of talented reprobates who form the Altered Symmetry crit group.

The pillbox

Yesterday, Frood and I went to the beach to say goodbye to the pillbox. I’ve been taking pictures of the pillbox every now and then since we moved here, recording the changing shape of the dune around and behind it. We’re moving south of the city at the end of the week, so it’s unlikely I will be a regular visitor from now on. I wanted to take one last look, and it was such a beautiful day.

Here’s my happy place. Standing on the beach, toes in the sand, dreaming of other worlds and the words I need to tell them.

happyplace

Share this:

BristolCon and Looking Landwards

It’s only a couple of weeks until BristolCon, where I’ll be helping to launch Looking Landwards, the NewCon Press anthology containing my story When Shepherds Dream of Electric Sheep. As I’m still in the early days of my writing career, when every sale feels like a miracle, I’m a little over-excited. There aren’t many conventions in the UK compared to the busy American schedule, and I live so far north I’ve only been to one thus far.

Here’s the official publicity for the book. I’m sharing a ToC with some amazing people. Last week — despite a possibly fractured, and definitely painful wrist — I signed a ridiculous number of sheets of paper for the limited edition hardcover. I can’t wait to see this book and read the other stories.

Looking Landwards Cover

With the impending crises of climate change, scarcity of water, dwindling energy reserves and spiraling global populations, the effective management of our land and the food it produces has never been more relevant. Established in 1938 by a small group of far-seeing and enthusiastic engineers and agriculturalists, the Institution of Agricultural Engineers provides a professional nexus for the scientists, technologists, engineers, and managers working in the many and varied forms of land-based industry.

In 1988 the IAgrE marked its 50th anniversary with a publication that considered the changing face of farming and agricultural engineering over the previous half century. In 2013, to mark their 75th anniversary, they have chosen to commission a book that looks forward at what the future might hold. To help them achieve this, they approached NewCon Press.

Looking Landwards represents NewCon Press’ first ever open submissions anthology. We have been overwhelmed by the response, receiving submissions not only from within the UK but also from the USA, Australia, mainland Europe, Africa, and Asia; from professional writers and would-be writers, from scientists and engineers who are actively involved in dealing with the book’s themes to people who have simply been inspired by them. Looking Landwards features the very best of these stories. Twenty-three works of science fiction and speculation that dare to look to the future and examine what lies ahead for farming, for agricultural engineering and for all of us.

Contents:

  1. Introduction by Andy Newbold and Chris Whetnall of the IAgrE
  2. The Blossom Project – M Frost
  3. Contraband – Terry Martin
  4. When Shepherds Dream of Electric Sheep – Sam Fleming
  5. Inversion Centre – Darren Goossens
  6. Ode to an Earthworm – Gareth D Jones
  7. A Touch of Frost – Renee Stern
  8. The World Coyote Made – Jetse de Vries
  9. Earthen – Alicia Cole
  10. Soul Food – Kim Lakin-Smith
  11. Charlie’s Ant – Adrian Tchaikovsky
  12. Cellular Level – J E Bryant
  13. My Oasis Tower – Holly Ice
  14. Throw Back – Gill Shutt
  15. Mary on the Edge – Steven Pirie
  16. Landward – Den Patrick
  17. Long Indeed Do We Live… – Storm Constantine
  18. Tractor Time – Kate Wilson
  19. Veggie Moon – Neal Wooten
  20. Wheat – Kevin Burke
  21. Blight – Dev Agarwal
  22. Black Shuck – Henry Gee
  23. A Season – Rebecca J. Payne
  24. The Last Star – Nigel Edwards
  25. About the Authors

 

Released 28th October 2013, Looking Landwards will be published as:

A5 paperback (ISBN 978-1-907069-59-8) Price: £11.99 (UK), $20.99 (USA)
A numbered, limited edition hardback, each copy signed by all the contributing authors(ISBN: 978-1-907069-58-1) Price: £29.99

To find out more about the Institution of Agricultural Engineers and their work, visit them at: http://www.iagre.org/about/about.

Share this: