Post-con feels

I should’ve written this post a week ago but I was waiting for the exhaustion to ebb a little. Well, it hasn’t ebbed, just increased (my summer of Too Many Things has continued), so I guess I’m doing this now. Here we go: a Worldcon retrospective, written by a drop-down-tired Sara. (Partially compiled from my Facebook entries re the con.)

Worldcon! Worldcon was amazing. It was everything I’d hoped for and I can’t even fathom how that’s possible.

It would have been less awesome without the wondrous Uppsala conference, though. I made friends in Uppsala who it was great to hang out at Worldcon with. <3 I also met many more awesome people at Worldcon, some of them people I've known on Twitter for a while, some of them new peeps. I'm a bit stunned I got to hang out with so many amazing writerpeople. It was also lovely to catch up with old friends and people I know from corners of the internet other than Twitter!

I listened to a lot of great panels – some of them were too 101 level for me, but many of them useful and fun, too. I made SO MANY NOTES. My current bullet journal, begun at the start of August, is half full of them.

Also, as a particularly noteworthy programme item: the SFF poetry open mic on Wednesday, organised by my awesome friend Brandon O'Brien, was a wonderful thing. So many people sharing speculative poetry, some of them for the first time! Wondrous.

***

I'm happy with how my own programme items went.

1) The polyamory in fiction panel on Thursday was great: a big audience, and it was cool to give lots of recs and discuss the pitfalls and how-tos of writing poly relationships in SFF. This was my first panel ever and so I'm especially glad it went well!

2) Also on Thursday, the speculative poetry panel – it was absolutely amazing. I did all right as moderator – wasn't too badly nervous, even, once it was happening – and my panelists were just brilliant. Mari Ness, Arkady Martine, Julia Rios – such great conversation! It was basically a giant squeefest on why speculative poetry is wonderful, what's going on in the field, and how marginalised creators are among the driving forces in it. I'm so happy I proposed this panel for Worldcon. Much joy and so much inspiration to write and submit more speculative poetry! All-female, all-queer panel btw.

3) At Sunday's drabble panel (Why Do Finns Love Their Drabbles), there weren't that many people in the audience, but it was lots of fun nonetheless. It was pretty amazing to be on a panel with Johanna Sinisalo! And great fun to discuss drabbles and microfiction, and the problems with translating such short stuff. (I wrote a drabble for the panel and translated it into Finnish – will post both versions soon!)

***

The queues were not fun (queuecon/jonocon :D), and there were some glitches in communication and such, but overall I was really happy with how the con went from a visitor's and programme participant's POV. It was especially cool to get to watch the Hugo Award ceremony live!

The downsides: the post-con exhaustion. I've had a hard time getting back into normal life again. I mean: The first two weeks of August were such an overflow of SFF community and thinking about stories, about the beauty of words. I felt so bereft last week; still do, to an extent. But also rejuvenated, excited, so ready to continue the final revisions for my novel.

Most importantly, perhaps: I feel like I belong in the SFF community. Truly belong, both in the international and the Finnish communities. It feels really amazing.

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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!

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:

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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.

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.

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.

An Alphabet of Embers is out!

An Alphabet of Embers cover art by Galen Dara

An Alphabet of Embers cover art by Galen Dara

An Alphabet of Embers is now out in print form! Yaaay!

I’ve read AoE as an e-ARC, and while I am obviously biased, I’m also just stunned by how awesome this anthology is. The wonderful Rose Lemberg and the editorial team have done such a great job in arranging these strange tales, like a variety of luminous beads on a string.

And the art! The cover art, by Galen Dara, really captures the tone of the anthology with its eerieness and luminosity. And the interior art by Likhain! Aaah, I can’t wait to get my print contributor copy so that I can savour Likhain’s art bigger than it was on my ereader screen. She is one of my favourite contemporary artists.

From my dream diary

From my dream diary

I’m very proud of my contribution to the anthology, “The City Beneath the Sea”. This small story has a rather unusual origin (for me): it was actually a dream I had. Not all of it, of course – but I did dream the basic form of the story on 19 January 2013 (the pic above is from my dream diary). I added characters, an ending and made things more grounded – but it’s rather remarkable that the core elements were all there in the dream. Thanks, subconscious! I ended up writing the story in one day, in autumn 2014, inspired to check out my dream diary by the call for submissions for AoE. “The City Beneath the Sea” is one of those rare stories that flowed quick and easy from start to finish.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have other pro fiction sales since, but AoE was my first, and what a wonderful place for a first sale! I highly recommend this anthology – the quality and breadth of stories is wonderful.

Recharging

Long time no post. It’s been a ridiculously busy year so far, and sadly, due to the mountain of work, I haven’t been writing nearly as much as I’d like. I joined Camp Nanowrimo with the intent to get lots of my novel revised, but alas, I’ve had to conserve energy for self-care and such. I think Camp Nano would have worked if I’d been producing a zero draft, but revision requires a whole other level of abstract thought and above all, decisions.

But I have been doing a little bit of revision – so the project of revising the novel I (re)wrote last November has been started, at least. I’ve imported the draft into Scrivener, made notes and pondered things quite a lot even if I haven’t got very far. I mostly have questions instead of answers at this point! But it’s a start. I’m trying to think positive instead of feeling horribly disappointed in myself. But really, April has been ridic. I’m trying to think more along the lines of “I deserve a medal for not utterly collapsing so far in 2016”, so I shouldn’t beat myself up for not managing to do epic amounts of novel revision at the same time as a trillion other things.

Luckily, many of the busy things that have eaten up my time and energy this semester have now wound down. And now, I’m taking a four-day holiday before plunging into funded PhD work (yay!). I really need a break, even if it’s short!

I spent this morning reading some of Becky Chambers’ A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (around 80 pages in, it has utterly charmed me! I hope the rest is as good!). My main plan for today (and the rest of the holiday, really) is to write. Actual writing! Yaaay! I just did a writing exercise – five hand-written pages describing a fictional wine – and now for novel revision, because hey, every little helps. I also have a few short stories I could work on. And perhaps could jog my brain into poem mode too?

So my idea of the best thing to do on a holiday is to write. :D It’s (mostly) not like work, I swear! Having had so little energy to write has sucked. Lack of writing has been gnawing at me like it always does: I feel bad when I don’t write, I feel like something’s missing. But now, four days to basically just write fiction is making me feel so excited! Writing is one of my favourite things to do even though I am gearing up more towards the pro side of it so it’s less of a simple hobby than it used to be. So this totally counts as relaxing as long as I’m having fun, right? Other plans: lots of sleep, some fun socialising, and a lot of reading. I hope this tiny holiday manages to get my brain out of stress mode for a bit!

2015 in review

Last day of the year; I’m still going to do some writing (on an ooold tale that I just can’t bear to abandon yet); then off to a New Year’s thing if I have the energy.

Anyway, time for my now-traditional writing-related year in review thing.

My writing goals for 2015 (from this post):

  1. Get more stories published.
  2. Get more poems published.
  3. Revise the ms and submit poetry collection for publication.
  4. Start gathering poems together for a speculative poetry collection.
  5. Increase writing output – get back into the groove of writing, preferably every day, even if it’s just a short poem or writing exercise.
  6. Continue to write more in Finnish. It’s been so great to tap into that part of my writing brain this year, so I want to continue experimenting in my other native language too.
  7. Rewrite Dim Vanities entirely. Do this with the help of a proper outline.
  8. Improve my plotting skills.
  9. Finish more stuff and edit previous work to a submittable point.
  10. Submit more stuff, both prose and poetry! Try to submit something at least once a month.

Uh, that’s quite a lot of goals. No wonder I didn’t complete all of them. :D Well, that was mostly because of PhD/work-related stress and lack of energy/time. Especially the past autumn has been, quite frankly, rather horrendous because I’ve been juggling so many things and only just managed to keep from bursting apart with stress. But so, how did I do with these goals?

1) I totally got more stories published! Yay! Not in pro magazines, perhaps, but nonetheless I got four stories published. I’m especially proud of “Moss”.

2) I got more poems published too, although less than I’d have wanted, alas. But I’m especially happy with my sales to inkscrawl. And with the cute origami chapbook Watching the City.

3) Wellll I failed at revising my poetry collection and submitting it. Sigh. I’ve been putting it off because of busyness for ages – and I was going to work on it now in December, at latest – but nope. Too much stress –> it’s really hard to revise such a thing.

4) I actually forgot I even had this goal of gathering poems for a spec collection, probably because I wasn’t making headway with my other collection either. Anyway, um, this is totally a good goal and I should pursue it next year.

5) I don’t think I’ve actually increased my writing output – 2014 was pretty good for writing lots. This year has been so busyyyy that I haven’t written as much as I’d have wanted. However, I have finished more short stories than in 2014, so that’s something. (Haven’t sold too many of them, but still.) Definitely didn’t manage to write every day except during Nanowrimo. This is defo something to work on – the routines of writing.

6) I wrote more in Finnish! Yaassss! Poetry as well as some prose. This is a big deal for me and I’m very pleased that one of my Finnish stories (first draft written in late 2014, though) got published.

7) I REWROTE DIM VANITIES (now with a different working title: The Beast of Briarwood Hall). This is one of my biggest writing achievements of 2015. During Camp Nanowrimo and then Nanowrimo proper, I rewrote the novel that keeps haunting me – and the version I have now feels like it could actually work. Like I only have to revise instead of majorly rewrite. And I did it with more outlining than I’ve ever used before. I feel so happy about this. I’m planning on starting the revision in January and am really looking forward to it!

8) Improving plotting skills – hmmmm such a vague goal. I have written more short stories, and thought extensively about plot wrt the novel rewrite, though, so I suppose I have improved a bit?

9) I finished some short stories – and finished the zero draft of the novel. So yeahhh. And I’ve been working on finishing some previous stories that I’ve left to languish on my harddrive.

10) I submitted stuff, yes, but not nearly as often as once a month, alas. The silliest was submitting so little poetry – I have oodles of the stuff lying around, but didn’t submit much. Work-busyness can mostly be blamed for this. It’s hard to muster energy for submitting stuff when you’re tired. However! I have submitted more short stories than ever this year. Lots of rejections, naturally. But I have compared to previous years, I’ve submitted so many short stories. Yay for that.

***

To remind myself that I did indeed publish stuff, here’s all my publications in 2015:

POEMS (7 + the 6 in the origami chapbook):
03/2015 “Palimpsest” in Issue 216 of Snakeskin.
04/2015 “Pomeranian”, “Lauttasaari Bridge”, and “Human Nature” in Issue 217 (April Short Poems) of Snakeskin.
04/2015 “The World in Springtime” in The Stare’s Nest.
06/2015 “Betweening” in Issue 8 of inkscrawl.
07/2015 Watching the City, a micro-collection of six poems from the Origami Poetry Project. Print it out and fold it into a tiny book!
12/2015 “Storm-yarn” in Issue 9 of inkscrawl.

PROSE (4 stories):
03/2015 “The Ruin” in Issue 21 of Luna Station Quarterly. Short story.
06/2015 “Moss” in Issue 26 of Silver Blade Magazine. Novelette. (TW: implied incest)
09/2015 “Memory” in The Flash Fiction Press. Flash fiction.
12/2015 “Vierain silmin” (‘With Strange Eyes’) in the Finnish speculative ezine Usva. Short story. I recommend downloading the PDF, it’s got pretty pictures and nice formatting. (in Finnish)

***

Also, I joined Twitter. :D It’s been a wonderful way to keep up with the writing community and I’ve met some great people! Procrastination galore, of course, but Twitter has really helped me connect with other writers.

***

Soooo what about the new year? Here are (some of) my writing goals for 2016:

  • 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.

There. Tried to make those somewhat more concrete than last year’s. You will notice a lot of stuff got carried over, too. PhD and other workstress has been making it harder to concentrate on the bigger goals. But I need to write – writing makes me happy in a way nothing else does – so I need to work on finding the mental space and energy and time to write even as I’m working on my PhD. Here’s hoping I manage, and that 2016 is less stressful than 2015!

I wish you a wonderful new year, dear readers. May the writing force be with you!

Nanowrimo epic win!

No Sunday recs today – I’m too wiped out by a) finishing up a (not great) draft of an academic article in the morning, and b) writing around 5,000 words of my novel and thus WINNING NANOWRIMO YAAAY. This counts as an epic win because not only did I get over 50k, I wrapped up the whole story, too.

113 pages, 17 chapters. LibreOffice says I’ve got 51,565 words, the Nanowrimo website says 51,871. But whatever the precise wordcount – it means Nanowrimo success, and I actually finished this novel draft too, typed “the end” and all. Feeling dazed but very pleased. This is the most coherent Nanowrimo draft I’ve ever managed! A lot of that is thanks to the fact that I was using a lot of elements from the old version of the novel – but in the end, this novel is very distinctly its own thing.

I think I’m getting a bit better at plotting too, which is encouraging. I tried many different tactics for plotting before Nano, but in the end something like the “tent pole” method worked best (see this excellent post by Chuck Wendig). I figured out the most essential plot points – both external and internal – before Nano and especially after the first week, when I stopped to plan things out properly. Then, as I wrote, I figured out the stuff that needed to come in between those plot points, and by the end was outlining chapters in even more detail. This method worked for this draft, at least!

Oh yeah, how weird was it to actually divide the novel into chapters during Nano? REALLY WEIRD. But it seemed to work for this draft, surprisingly enough.

I think that with some editing (well, plenty) this might become Something. And that makes me very happy. I’m so glad I didn’t abandon this old idea – which was what I was on the verge of doing at the end of October. I’m so glad I managed to have enough energy to write every day (or very nearly every day) during a month that has mostly been horrendously busy, and dark, and stressful.

Nanowrimo saved my November.

Nanowrimo time!

Sooo it’s 1 November, and obviously that means NANOWRIMO. I’m swamped with PhD and translation/language check work, but despite that, I’m doing Nano again. Since 2008, I’ve only not done it for one year (2013), so I guess I’m a bit hooked. :D

Nano is just a great way to get a writing project done despite busyness. The group support of the Nano site just really helps me get stuff done. There’s something about that word count bar…

Yep. This year I’m sort of continuing what I did during Camp Nanowrimo in April: rewriting an old novel (…originally my first Nanowrimo novel, in 2008, ooops) that really couldn’t survive in its old form. The plan is for this to be the last time I rewrite this thing. If this attempt doesn’t work, I’ll just trunk the thing.

But based on how quickly I got my word count for today done, I suspect this might even work! Changing from 3rd to 1st person was probably a good choice. Now to get the final plot nailed down as much as I can, to make writing during busydays easier – and then some more writing, because really, it’s been ages since I wrote this much and I’d forgotten how much fun it is.