Where’d the time go?
I had a lot of goals for December. Let’s take a look at those before I check in on 2015:
Finish another draft on my WiPand send it to my first readers. Draft a new chapter for my collaboration with Sandra Wickham.
- Revise a short story.
Get those fallow short stories back out the door. Outline the next novel I want to write (that’s right. I’m going to try outlining, folks). Organize a bunch of story links I’ve saved in my email on to Pinterest boards. Clean/reorganize my office.
So I got another draft in on my WiP, primarily focusing on the final third, but I’m still not ready to let others see it, so I didn’t get it to my first readers (who, to be fair, were pretty busy with family and Star Wars: The Force Awakens in December).
I sent off my chapter for the collaborative novel, got the next one back from Sandra, and nearly finished a second chapter. It just needs a bit of tidying up.
I didn’t revise an old short story, which was my intention, but I did draft and revise a new Thunder Road holiday story for the website. I did one pass on the older story, but the end required more substantial rewrites than I’d remembered, so it’ll be a while yet before it’s out on submission.
There weren’t a lot of short story markets open to submissions in December, leastwise, not markets that applied to the stories I had available to send out, but I got a few back out the door, and collected a couple rejections and one new sale.
Outlining is still a relatively new thing for me, but I hammered out the major details and sent a pitch in. If I get the okay to proceed, this’ll be the big project for 2016.
I’d forgotten how many story links and articles I’d saved in my email! I worked on this a little bit every day of my holidays, and I still barely feel like I’ve made any headway. Maybe if this had been one of my only goals for December it might’ve happened. But progress was made. And…in scouring my draft folder, I found a couple of short stories that I’d started drafting years ago and had gotten buried and forgotten. I thought I’d lost the files.
I managed to tidy up the office, but not reorganize it. The kind of top down rebuild I want to do on my work space just isn’t going to happen until a couple other rooms in the house get some attention and some of the clutter gets cleared. But it’s better than it was.
How’d I do in 2015?
Finish Too Far Gone. Attend at least one SF&F convention in a city that I’ve never been to.
- Revise at least one of the four drafted novel manuscripts I’ve been letting lie fallow until it is in submission shape and then send it out.
Be more diligent about keeping my short fiction on submission. Get those old stories polished and out the door (which I think will also help the goal above from getting lost in the shuffle) Write and submit at least two new short stories. Write a script for a secret comic project with Samantha Beiko. Say no to more “author” stuff and yes to more “writing” stuff. Keep better track of my daily word count output.
Pretty good! Better than last year, I think. The big one, obviously, was finishing Too Far Gone. It had to be done, I had a contract, a release date, but as Ted Callan is fond of saying: shit happens. I’m glad that none of the shit that came up in my life over 2015 stopped me from hitting this particular goal.
I attended the World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs, New York, which was a blast mostly due to the company I kept. Saratoga Springs is a pretty town, and the weather was great while I was there, but I have no real desire to return. Unfortunately World Fantasy 2016 is in Columbus (a city I’ve already visited, AND it conflicts with C4) and I don’t think I’ll be attending it this time around.
I came pretty close to getting one of those other novels out the door, early 2016 it’ll be making the rounds for sure.
I was definitely more diligent in keeping my short stories on submission over the course of the year than I had been in 2014. More is a bit loaded though, and not exactly the best measuring stick. The early part of 2015 was little different than most of 2014, I’d occasionally remember to update my submission spread sheet, but it was only after I started making “keep short stories on submission” a part of my monthly goals that anything happened. I might just need to make that a placeholder goal for every month.
I revised three old stories last year and put them out on submission: A Thunder Road ‘verse one with a new protagonist, a Mennonite-flavoured magical realism story, and a Lovecraftian sword & sorcery story. The Lovecraftian story ended up in Shared World the book that GMB Chomichuk and I put together for C4 with help from James Gillespie, Samantha Beiko, and Silvia Moreno-Garcia. As for new stories, my superhero story “Midnight Man versus Doctor Death” was accepted for Tesseracts Nineteen: Superhero Universe and I sold a second one to another anthology that I can’t quite talk about yet.
I finished my script for my secret comic project with Samantha Beiko a while back, she’s been busy with weddings and freelancing and moving so nothing else to report about it yet.
I definitely said no to more “author” stuff. I had a few opportunities come my way that I passed on so that I could concentrate on Too Far Gone, unfortunate, as some of them would’ve been a nice payday. I’ll have to find a way to balance the two, as I use my writing income to go to conventions and take research trips so the more I make, the more I get to do.
Jamie Todd Rubin made this spread sheet to track a year of writing, which I’ve been using for 2015:
Here’s what a year of writing looks like:
I did find it useful, especially the colour-coded tiers. Getting close to the next tier was usually enough to keep me writing a little bit longer, or to try and steal another moment later in the day. It’s still hard to infer a lot from the sheet, as much of the year was spent revising old projects, and I was inserting words into Too Far Gone and my WiP.
Some thoughts: Sunday was my biggest writing day of the week, and Saturday and Monday fought all year for the lowest total. Monday makes a bit of sense to me, it used to be my evening shift at work. I was doing the majority of my writing on breaks and lunches at work for the first three-quarters of the year and the way I used those breaks was different on evenings, meaning I had roughly half the writing time. Saturday’s totals aren’t surprising. It’s a day off, but one that often got eaten up by convention trips, gaming, or errands.
Over the year, my average ended up in the 500 words per day range. Best day was 4090 words (that was in the rush to finish Too Far Gone by deadline), worst day was a lowly 10 words, but having the chart and an empty field waiting to be filled in meant I made the time to at least write a new sentence even when I was sick or traveling. Round about week 39 was when I started my new routine of writing before work instead of on my breaks, and it made a pretty significant difference, so I’ll definitely keep that up. I’m not sure I’ll carry the chart forward this year, at least not in the same way. I’m starting a writing journal, and scribbling down all the things I do on a given day, both business-related, and creatively. Last year I felt at times I was writing just to make a word count and not to move projects forward. I’ll still keep track of my word count for the year, but I want to see more of those words be out on submission in 2016.
Which leads me to my next set of goals:
- Systematic finishing of the short stories I’ve started writing but not finished. I would like to get at least six new stories out the door this year.
- Draft, revise, and submit an entirely new novel.
- Complete first draft on An Excuse for Wolves.
- Revise 2015 WiP for submission to agents and editors.
- Keep my short fiction out on submission.
- Edit one of my fallow novel first drafts.
- Participate in NaNoWriMo
What’s going to be systematic about finishing of my short stories? What I had in mind is this: Take the story I deem closest to submission, and polish it until I am ready to submit it. Then take the story I deem closest to having a completed first draft and finish that draft. Rinse and repeat. Too many stories have sat fallow in “almost ready” status and too many others have sat with a first five pages written, and no ending.
Goal two is a biggy. I technically haven’t done this yet. My first, unpublished novel took me two years to draft, and maybe another year of tinkering before I’d let anyone outside of my writing group look at it. Thunder Road took nine months to draft, and it was just over a year before I had it out the door and on submission. Tombstone Blues was a bit of a different case. The first draft was done in two furious months, hot on the heels of Thunder Road. I did one round of edits on Tombstone Blues with a first reader, and then let it lie fallow while I revised and tried to sell Thunder Road. Maybe, total work on that book was under a year, but I can’t be sure. Too Far Gone has some scenes that date back to the drafting of Thunder Road and Tombstone Blues, but even discounting those, it was over a year before I had a first draft for that book. I’ve drafted three other novels in and around the Thunder Road trilogy, but one of them never made it past a first edit round, one took four years of revisions, off and on between Thunder Road work, and it’s just about ready to send out. My most recently drafted novel hasn’t seen a revision yet.
I’ve been working on a collaborative novel with my friend Sandra Wickham that we jokingly dubbed An Excuse for Wolves even before we’d decided what we were going to write about (Now we jokingly call it An Excuse for Whiskey). It’s been a bit of a learning experience playing with someone else creatively, Sandra being a plotter, and me being a pantser, as well as trying to fit the book in around our other writing commitments. We’ve set a first draft deadline of early May–when Sandra’s festival Creative Ink takes place. I think we’re on track for that.
My 2015 WiP needs another draft, and then it’s off to my first readers. Once it comes back, I’ll give it one last round of edits and then start querying. Which means I have to dust off all the notes I made about querying back when Thunder Road was new.
Keeping the short fiction on submission was a month to month goal in the second half of 2015 and it worked well enough, so I’ll probably do the same thing in 2016.
Stretch goals are a thing on Kickstarter, so I’m including them in my monthly and yearly goal posts. We’ll see how it goes. I was going to just add the stretch goals to the list, but I think I’ve got enough on the 2016 plate without them. But…if I make it that far down the list, I’ll take another run at editing an old manuscript, and if I get that done by November, I’ll draft a new book for National Novel Writing Month.
Here’s what I hope to accomplish in January:
- Get my WiP done and out to my first readers so I can stop thinking about it and concentrate on other stuff.
- Finish and submit a short story I’ve been noodling on for an anthology.
- Finish my next chapter in An Excuse for Whiskey.
- Finish editing that short story from December and get it out on submission.
- Get my short stories back out on submission.