Camp Nanowrimo in April

I’ve been too exhausted to post much, again. But luckily, not too exhausted to write. The novel has progressed!

I decided to do Camp Nanowrimo in April to get revision done more efficiently. I set myself a 30-hour goal – thirty hours of revision during the month. Not much, but I figured it was better to set myself a realistic goal. And, lo and behold, it was an achievable goal – I did a bit more than 30h of revision in April. I got a lot done in those hours, too: my third draft of BoBH is now very close to done.

It’s far too long – around 125,000 words. I added a lot in revisions, oops… (The original Nanowrimo draft – too short for a novel, a mere skeleton of a book – was around 50k. That’s pretty much where I was a year ago, word count wise.) Anyway, I need to cut around 25k before I can start sending it out. So, draft 4 will involve lots of cutting; I hope to reach that stage soon.

Scrivener has continued to be amazing for revision. Such a good tool for me. I don’t use nearly all of the cool things the software could do, but it’s working for me. Revision has been less overwhelming because I can organise stuff into smaller, manageable chunks.

The biggest thing with regard to revision working out has actually been scheduling. Since I started the third draft, I’d mostly been working on revisions in the evening, since evening writing usually works for me. But for revising a novel – turns out, not so much. Apparently I can write zero/first drafts just fine in the evenings / at night, but revision requires a fresh brain not encumbered by decision-making fatigue.

So, since mid-April, I’ve been getting up a little bit earlier (just a bit, luckily, certainly nowhere near the crack of dawn – I have flexible schedules because of my PhD job) and writing for around an hour each morning. I am really not a morning person, but this approach has been working for me at this stage of BoBH. Once I’ve got past the inital argh of it being morning, my brain is in a more intuitive, alert stage, ideal for coming up with solutions to knotty revision problems. Far better than trying to puzzle out those solutions in the evening after a day’s worth of creative academic work.

Also, working on the novel a bit before biking to my office for PhD work has actually been great for my PhD as well: my brain is more active after creative writing, so this arrangement has benefited both types of work. I’m immensely grateful that I can arrange my work schedules like this!

Posted in discussion, nanowrimo, novelling, personal babble, revision | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Sunvault ToC & Flash Fiction Online antho

Two nice things to start off the week:

1) The Sunvault anthology ToC is out! I’m incredibly honoured to be among such fabulous writers. I’m really looking forward to this antho.

2) My story “Creation” is included in Flash Fiction Online 2016 Anthology Volume II: Fantasy. Yay! (You can get it here on Amazon.)

I wish I had more energy/time for writing and submitting new stories and poems, but alas, it’s challenging with my PhD and all. Also, I’m still concentrating my creative energy on novel revisions. I’m getting to the point where the bigger things have been fixed and it’ll soon be time for just adding smaller details / checking for consistency. And then for actually reading through the whole thing for voice and language. Not that much to go before it’ll be a finished third draft.

My work on it feels so inadequate, so slow – but I’m trying to be gentle to myself. I’m gaining more energy as the sunlight increases (spring equinox today! hurrah!), but I’m still recuperating from anxiety and exhaustion so I’m making every effort not to beat myself up over not “doing enough”. I’m working on the novel, even if it’s far slower than I’d like. That’s the main thing. Slow and steady, slow and steady.

Posted in announcement, flash fiction, personal babble, poetry | Tagged , , , , ,

Story news! “Don’t Look a Wish Horse in the Mouth”

My weird Helsinki story “Don’t Look a Wish Horse in the Mouth” will appear in Cosmos Pen, the English-language special issue of the Finnish SFF magazine Kosmoskynä. The issue is going to appear around Worldcon. \o/

I’m so happy to have found this story a home. It’s received positive feedback from a few venues but been rejected; but I think Cosmos Pen, with its theme “Travel Guide to Finnish Weird”, is actually perfect for this odd little story. I don’t often write stuff that could be classified as “Finnish Weird”, but this one definitely qualifies. I’ll have more to say about the story itself when it comes out!

Posted in finnish, publication, short stories | Tagged , , ,

On gentle stories

The wonderful Rose Lemberg posted a Twitter thread last night on gentle, quiet SFF stories. Read the whole thread! Rose mentioned my writing (among others’) as an example of such stories, which makes me feel very fuzzy inside. Oh – let me tell you, reading these tweets after having just woken up (a long workday ahead, a bare five hours of sleep behind me), I couldn’t help but cry happytears:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

People can love my work because of the quiet gentleness, the kindness. In the haze of anxiety I’ve recently been wandering through, I really needed to hear this reaffirmation. Of course, I myself love reading this kind of fiction (among other kinds of stories! We need all kinds!). So why should it be so strange that someone else might like those features in my writing? Still, I sometimes/often feel a niggling doubt: maybe I should write more adventuresome stories? With more fighting in them? More CONFLICT? (Note: I have also written adventuresome stuff with some fighting. I’ve written grim(ish) stuff. It’s just not my main modus operandi.)

Yes, I worry that my stories aren’t exciting enough or don’t grab the reader enough, that they should be somehow different.

But really, the notion that all stories should follow similar (Western) patterns of conflict, for instance, is just monotonous. There is a place for gentleness, too. One of my main interests in writing fiction is writing evocative text, paying attention to language. I love describing beauty, in its myriad forms. I love letting my prose sing with poetry. I often like to do this by giving language and beauty front stage. So perhaps that results in a non-exciting plot? Well, but if I’ve captured what elfsong sounds like echoing through an ancient forest – is that not an achievement too? If I’ve captured two long-estranged friends’ moment of reconnection, is that not an achievement? Surely SFF is ideal for moments of wonder and gentle beauty like that?

In the future I will try to stop myself if I feel like dissing my fiction’s gentleness or “slowness”. I’m currently working on final revisions for a quiet, f/f Beauty and the Beast novel. Quiet magic, discovery, a realm within a city. I will keep working on this novel and then I will send it out, because it’s a story worth telling. A gentle story of love and hope. Not without conflict, but it’s about as far from grimdark as you can get.

Gentle fiction is my shield against darkness. When I get terror and dystopia and violence enough just by checking Twitter or a news site (Finnish political news is pretty awful, although not nearly as horrifying as the news from the US), I want to remind myself of the beauty and kindness that lives in people. Warm hugs. Selfless acts. Language shivering with meaning. Friendship, love, eucatastrophe, joy.

Especially in times like these, gentle fiction is important. There’s a quiet power in it. Kind, gentle fiction reminds us that people can be good. Reminds us that the world can be wondrous and that there is hope. Always hope.

Posted in discussion, novelling, personal babble | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

“The Queen, After” in Through the Gate!

A little belatedly here on the blog (world news has been causing me a lot of anxiety and it’s been difficult to get things done) – but still giving me joy – my first poetry publication of the year:

The Queen, After” in Through the Gate.

This tiny poem has dreams and foxes in it. I wrote it back in 2013: the first couple of lines in March, the rest in August of that year. I’m very happy that this piece finally found a home!

Posted in Uncategorized

2016 in review

What a year. It’s been a shitshow for the world, and my own country too: Finland’s current government is awful and seems to oppose pretty much all the things I hold important. The past autumn ended up being difficult for me on a personal level, too. Haven’t been that anxious and close to burnout for an age. I’m glad I weathered it, though, and a week’s holiday has given me back some energy and hope. Still, on the whole 2016 has been pretty horrible.

Yet: on the writing front, things have been good for me. Very good, in fact. Thinking about 2016 gives me a weird dissonance: on one hand, terrible things have happened worldwide and bad things have happened to people I care about. On the other, in 2016 my first pro publications came out – making me eligible for the Campbell Award – and I revised a novel.

***

Here were my writing goals for 2016 (from this post):

  • Submit more stuff, both prose and poetry! Try to submit something at least once a month.
  • Get more stories + poems published (in pro markets if possible).
  • Revise the ms and submit poetry collection for publication.
  • Start gathering poems together for a speculative poetry collection.
  • Increase writing output – get back into the groove of writing, preferably every day, even if it’s just a short poem or writing exercise.
  • Revise The Beast of Briarwood Hall and (possibly! maybe! yikes!) submit the ms to agents.
  • Have fun with writing and remember the joy of it even amidst PhD stress.

How did I do with them, then?

  • Welp. I did not manage to submit something at least once a month, alas. PhD and busytimes sap energy. Only 17 poetry subs (most including more than one poem), and 5 acceptances. 26 short story subs, and 2 acceptances. So – I didn’t manage to submit as much as I wanted to, but I kept submitting, if sporadically, throughout the year.
  • I got more stuff published – and as mentioned, in pro markets too. A wonderful thing. All my short story publications were in pro magazines. (See below for my 2016 pubs.)
  • I basically did nothing for my almost-finished poetry collection. Siiiiigh. Searching for potential publishers was too overwhelming amid my busyness.
  • I did not gather poems together for a spec poetry collection – see above, apparently this was not the year for poetry collections.
  • I don’t know if I increased my overall writing output. I have not been writing every day. However: I’ve been writing through thick and thin. Not consistently, but I’ve kept writing despite the demands of my PhD dayjob and everything else clamouring for attention.
  • The thing I’m proudest of this year: I revised The Beast of Briarwood Hall. I did not get to the point of submitting the ms, since it still needs final revisions. But I took the novel from a skeletal first draft to an actual novel, draft 2. I got immensely helpful comments from beta readers. I’m currently working on draft 3.
  • Writing has been an escape for me this year, reminding me of its importance in the dark times.

***
My 2016 publications are all included in my award eligibility post, but let’s recap them here for the sake of completionism:

POEMS (5)
02/2016 “Village Woman” in the Winter 2016 issue of Goblin Fruit.
03/2016 “Witch’s Lens” in Polu Texni.
06/2016 “After Selling Your Soul to the Trickster God” in Issue 59 of Abyss & Apex.
09/2016 “Taboo” in Strange Horizons. (Podcast version here.)
09/2016 “Bird People” in Volume 1, Issue 4 of Remixt.

FICTION (2 short stories, 1 flash)
07/2016 “The City Beneath the Sea” in the anthology An Alphabet of Embers, edited by Rose Lemberg. Short story.
07/2016 “Water, Birch, and Blood” in Strange Horizons, the special issue Our Queer Planet. Short story. (Podcast version here.)
08/2016 “Creation” in the August 2016 issue of Flash Fiction Online. Flash fiction.

I’m really proud of everything that I’ve had published this year. Poems and stories written with all my heart in them.

***

My writing goals for 2017:

  • Finish revising novel; get everything in shape for submission and start submitting it to literary agents.
  • Get back to the poetry collection thing; revise the collection, try to get the ms in shape and submitted.
  • Write more short stories.
  • Get back into the poetry habit.
  • Submit more poetry and stories.
  • Look over previous Nanowrimo novels, make plans for the potentials (rework as novel / condense into novella or novelette).
  • Have fun with writing. Play with it too.
  • Don’t compare yourself to other writers in the bad way. We all have different paths.

Those might be somewhat manageable goals. (I have a hard time proposing manageable goals for myself.) I hope that 2017 will be less awful than 2016, world-wise; although it’s possible we’re actually headed for darker times. But then again – those are precisely the times when we need art most. So I will do my utmost to keep arting in 2017, to write stories and poems with hope at their heart.

Happy new year, Dear Reader. May 2017 treat you with compassion and mercy.

Posted in discussion, year in review | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Award Eligibility 2016

Award nomination season is upon us and I’ve had things published this year that I’m really proud of. I’d be honoured if anyone were to consider my work for nomination. I am also in my first year of elibigility for the Campbell Award.

So, with less self-deprecation than in the past couple of years, here are my award-eligible works for 2016:

Short story:

(eligible for the Hugos, Nebulas and World Fantasy)

“The City Beneath the Sea” (c. 1,100 words)
     Published in the anthology An Alphabet of Embers, edited by Rose Lemberg. This is a story on the borders of dream and waking. “They say it appears when the stars shift up right, shuffle into a straight line in their slow dance. And here we are, waiting.”

“Water, Birch, and Blood” (c. 4,100 words)
     Published in Strange Horizons, the special issue Our Queer Planet. This was inspired by summers spent in Finnish summer cottages, and wondering what happens to the children who save magical worlds and get sent back home. “Crows, their granite grey and black wings beating victory into the air, the flash of an unknown face like a fir tree–”

“Creation” (c. 1,000 words)
     Published in the August 2016 issue of Flash Fiction Online. Faerie is grim, but hope can be born even amid despair. “When the Queen of Faerie orders you to do something, you don’t refuse.”

(I’m very proud of all three stories, but especially since An Alphabet of Embers is not freely available, I’d like to recommend “Water, Birch, and Blood”.)

Poetry (short poem):

(eligible for the Rhysling Award)

Posted in announcement, flash fiction, poetry, short stories | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Poetry sales!

I’ve been lacking in the blog posting again: November’s swallowed me up a bit with PhD writing and working on the novel. (Which progresses, although far slower than I’d like. General exhaustion is catching up with me, it seems. But I’m plodding along even if I’ve no energy for sprinting!)

I’ve had little extra energy for sending out poetry or short fiction this autumn (because of work + novel). That saddens me, but well, I can’t do it all. Much though I’d want to.

So, it’s extra awesome that a couple of days ago, I got news of a poetry sale despite not having sent stuff out recently. My poem “The Queen, After” will be appearing in Through the Gate. Yay! This will be my second poem published in TtG (a wonderful magazine).

Also, another poetry sale that I feel embarrassed for not having mentioned before (lack of energy has been a real problem): I sold my Helsinki-set poem “Sunharvest Triptych” to the upcoming solarpunk anthology Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk & Eco-Speculation, edited by Phoebe Wagner and Brontë Wieland. I’m very happy to be among the contributors for this anthology! It’s a really cool project.

(I feel sad that I’ve also lacked the energy for doing my Sunday recs. I’ve recced the occasional short story or poem on Twitter, but I’d like to get back to writing my mini-reviews too.)

Posted in novelling, personal babble, poetry, publication | Tagged , , ,

Novel revision: My process so far

I’ve been meaning to write this post for ages, and I feel a bit frustrated that I didn’t manage to do it earlier. It would’ve been more interesting to get posts from various stages of the revision process. I’ve kept a project diary of sorts in my notebooks, but it’s not the same as a post that draws things together. Better late than never, though!

This autumn has been far busier than I expected. I’ve been up to my eyelashes in PhD and related work, and there’s been travel and such things. Considering how much stuff I’ve had on my plate, I feel pleased and rather astonished that I’ve managed to get my novel this far in the past three months. I wish I could’ve been even more efficient, but alas, work takes precedence and self-care is important too. Still, I’ve managed to be stubborn and obsessed enough, and to love this book enough to work on it even in the midst of exhaustion.

But so. What has my process been with this novel?

Early history

BoBH is a novel whose original version was my first Nanowrimo novel, Dim Vanities, in 2008 (so long ago!). Similar concepts, similar relationships – but Dim Vanities was a completely different work from what BoBH is now. Anyway, BoBH has its roots in that first novel. I worked on Dim Vanities on and off (mostly off), till I decided to give it another go during Camp Nanowrimo in 2015. I changed the setting from our world to a secondary world, inspired by 17th-century Europe. I changed the main characters’ genders. I did a lot of worldbuilding. The project didn’t really take off during Camp, but in October 2015 I decided to give the project one final chance. I took my worldbuilding and ideas from Camp, came up with a plot skeleton based on the original Dim Vanities – and I wrote a completely new novel based on that. BoBH came alive during Nano and I loved writing it so much; it’s also the cleanest Nano draft I’ve ever written (and I’ve written quite a few Nano drafts).

After Nanowrimo 2015

I gave the draft to a friend to read; she gave me hope that it could actually become something, because she loved that 50k first draft so much. During 2016, I’ve basically been thinking about BoBH for much of the time. In January, I brought the first two chapters to my writing group and got feedback from them. I read through the first draft (printed out) at the start of the year, making copious notes. I tried starting intensive revisions during Camp Nanowrimo 2016, making use of Scrivener (of which more in a moment), but I was so swamped by stress and work that I didn’t get very far. Then, in July, I got back to it again. I made a revision plan and got quite a lot done in July; but it was only at the end of the month that I had a breakthrough. I had a brainstorming session with the friend who’d read the first draft. With her help, I got so many aspects of the magic and world sorted out that I felt I could start actual revisions. And thus started my two-month writing frenzy.

Flesh onto the bones

From August to early October, I added a little over 50,000 words to the original (50k) draft. An intensive revision, with so much added because in the Nanowrimo draft, I was interested in getting the basic story down but knew I didn’t have time to get everything in. The novel transformed so much during this time: gained flesh, gained life. I was working on it pretty much all my free time. I slept too little all the time, but I’d become obsessed and had so many of those glorious moments where the writing flows and magic happens. It was all rather amazing. Difficult, exhausting, but wondrous too. I’ve never written that much outside Nanowrimo before.

My tools

Scrivener has been essential for this project. In April I exported my novel draft into Scrivener and divided it into scenes. I hadn’t used Scrivener before so there was a bit of a learning curve, but I could immediately see it was going to be useful. I love this software so much. I don’t think it would work for me for first drafts, but for revisions, Scrivener is amazing. I love being able to divide things into scenes, because it makes it so much easier to look at the overall structure of the novel. Also, the colour-coding helps me feel I’m getting stuff done: taking a scene from “to-do” to “first draft” to “revised” was really fulfilling. Scrivener is just so great for me.

Another tool I use is far more old-fashioned: notebooks dedicated to this project, using a nice-to-write-with black pen. Simple but effective. When I get stuck, it often helps to write about my issues by hand. Handwriting really helps me focus and find solutions. I should perhaps find more efficient ways to organise my notebooks – because now, for instance, I have to go through them all and type up the essential things so that I can find them easier – but in a way I like the organic, all-in-one approach for notebooks.

***

Where am I now, revision-wise? Well. I just read through the second draft that I sent to beta readers around 10 October (I printed it out because it’s easier for me to read through that way). I took a couple of weeks’ break from the novel after sending it to readers – which I think was a good idea, because now I was able to read it with a little more detachment. Next up, I’m going to check all the comments from my awesome beta readers, and to draw up a revision plan based on them and my own revision thoughts.

I’m not doing Nanowrimo this year, which feels really weird. Instead, my goals for November are to finish the third draft revision of BoBH; to research literary agents; and to write my query letter and prepare for submissions. Scary things! I’ve never brought a novel to this stage before, although I’ve written many a novel draft and revised one of them further. It’s exhilarating to have made it this far.

I haven’t managed much in the way of poetry or short stories in the past couple of months. But I think BoBH is a project worth concentrating on.

Posted in discussion, nanowrimo, novelling, personal babble | Tagged , , , , ,

Sunday recs: Issue 10 of inkscrawl

Longlong time no recs. I’ve been wandering the fields of exhaustion; the novel project is still ongoing, and I’ve got far too many other things heaped on my plate as well (work, of course, is the main thing). The novel progresses; but I’m annoyed at myself for being slower with it than I expected, annoyed that I haven’t been posting about it. I promise there will be a post at some point, hopefully when I’ve sent it off to beta readers (which I’m hoping to do in around a week). I have a lot to say about what the past two months (! it has not felt like that long!) of revision have been like. But no time now, since I have to be off to bed.

But I’ve got time for a brief rec, because I just read all of the latest issue of inkscrawl and loved it: a long, multifaceted issue with an amazing collection of poems. Bogi Takács has really done wonders with this!

So, I recommend reading all of Issue 10! I especially enjoyed the first section, “shout / gnaw / skitter / thrash / fly”. But all the poems are great and this was a wonderfully well curated issue, becoming more than the sum of its parts.

Posted in linkage, novelling, personal babble | Tagged , ,