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)

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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!

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2014 in review

On 1 January I made a post about my writing in 2013 and my hopes for 2014. I like looking back on the past year at its end, so here we go again.

My writing goals for 2014 were (slightly abridged):

  1. Get a story published!
  2. Get more poems published.
  3. Work on a poetry collection.
  4. Increase writing output – get back into the groove of writing, preferably every day.
  5. Rework Dim Vanities and decide what to do with it (whether to continue editing it smaller-scale, or do a total reboot, or just stick it in the trunk).
  6. Improve my plotting skills.
  7. Finish more stuff and edit previous work to a submittable point.

So, how did I do?

1) I exceeded my goal of getting one story published – I now have three stories out and two forthcoming. I am really proud and happy about this.

2) I got more poems published – nine of them. And to some highly awesome magazines, too. Yay!

3) I haven’t got the poetry collection into a submittable shape yet, but it exists! and it’s looking pretty good. Finishing it up and submitting to potential publishers is one of my goals for (early) 2015.

4) I haven’t managed to write fiction or poetry every day (except during Nanowrimo), but I have increased my writing output, I think. But this is something to work on – writing something creative every day even if it’s just an exercise.

5) Haven’t had the energy to start reworking Dim Vanities or do anything too much with it. However, a couple of weeks ago I got a flash of feeling that made me decide something: DV needs a radical rewrite. It might still not be publishable even after that rewrite, but I’ve got to give this novel one more chance. I still love so many aspects of it – I just need to rewrite the plot and give the characters higher stakes and more emotion. This is, therefore, a project for 2015. (Camp Nanowrimo, perhaps?)

6) I haven’t worked systematically on improving my plotting skills. I’ve been writing more stories, which I think helps, but plotting is definitely still something that I need to work on.

7) I have been trying to finish more things that I start! And I’ve managed to edit at least some first drafts of stories into a submittable point (and sold a couple of them, too – “Chrysopoeia” and “The Ruin”).

***

As for more concrete evidence of my writing in 2014, here’s a list of my publications this year:

POETRY (9 poems)
02/14 “Ninety-Eight” and “City of Stones” in Issue #33 of Chantarelle’s Notebook.
02/14 “Helsinki Love Song” in Wild Violet Magazine.
05/14 “The Alchemist’s Lover” in the “Alchemies” issue of CSHS.
06/14 “Looking-Glass Lover” in Issue #28 of Niteblade, “Looking-Glass Lover” (after my poem).
06/14 “Shrug Charm” in the Spring 2014 issue of Goblin Fruit.
11/14 “Kuura (extract from a Finnish-English dictionary)” in Issue 11 of Stone Telling.
11/14 “Sorrow-stone” in the “Summer Is Dead” issue of Goblin Fruit.
12/14 “Raw Honey” in Strange Horizons. Listen to me reading the poem in the SH December Poetry Podcast.

PROSE (3 stories)
07/14 “Wind Chimes” in 365 tomorrows. Flash fiction.
10/14 “Chrysopoeia” in Issue 9 (Fall 2014) of Quantum Fairy Tales. Short story.
12/14 “Munankuorikehto” (‘Egg-Shell Cradle’) in issue 3/2014 of Spin, the quarterly magazine of the Turku Science Fiction Society (TSFS). The magazine can be ordered from the TSFS webpage. Flash fiction. (in Finnish)

Oh, and rejections? There were many. It’s especially heartening to see some poem or story published that has previously been rejected (many times, even). I don’t really post about my rejections, but of course they happen. A lot. Way more than acceptances. I’ve learned how to deal with them pretty well – I usually don’t take them too personally any more, although getting a rejection is always a disappointment of course.

In addition to this published stuff, I also wrote oodles of poem drafts (I really can’t be bothered to count, there’s so many), several writing exercises with potential for more, one Nanowrimo novel (crapola zero draft, but with definite potential), and some short stories. Oh, and I edited two 10k+ novelettes. NOT BAD.

***

Now, what about the coming year? Here are some writing goals for 2015 (many of them, as you can see, carrying over from last year):

  • Get more stories published.
  • Get more poems published.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Rewrite Dim Vanities entirely. Do this with the help of a proper outline.
  • Improve my plotting skills.
  • Finish more stuff and edit previous work to a submittable point.
  • Submit more stuff, both prose and poetry! Try to submit something at least once a month.

In general, I’m really pleased with how much I’ve written this year and how I’ve improved as a writer. So far it’s been easy for my PhD work to coexist with my writing life – I really hope that state of affairs will continue! And I think it will, if I just make good use of my time.

***

In conclusion: Dear readers, I wish all of you joy and fun writing times in this coming year!

Nanowrimo: Failure

What a discouraging title!

But it’s true.

I set out with the goal of starting the second draft of Dim Vanities. Then, as November started shitting on me, I thought I’d at least get the 33 chapters read through and commented on.

Well. That totally didn’t happen. I’ll admit it: there were more days in November when I didn’t work on DV than when I actually went through any chapters.

I have read through and commented on chapters 1-14. Not even halfway through.

I stopped visiting the Nanowrimo site because I got sad that I wasn’t working on a new novel and getting words done. (Let’s face it, “word count: 0” just looks bad.) But on the other hand, I was profoundly glad that I’d decided not to do Nano properly. Because hey, if I couldn’t even get my novel read through and preliminary comments written, I was definitely not in the right place to write 50,000 words.

Sure, if I’d just pushed myself, I could have done more. But this time, I had a more stressful November than ever before. I’ve slept too little, worked too much, cried too much, worried about the future too much. So I think it’s good that I didn’t push myself with writing. There’s a time and place for prioritising writing, and this time it wasn’t November. (I did get a few poems written, though, but that’s different.) If I’d pushed myself, I might have collapsed. And quite frankly, there’s no time for a collapse before my Christmas holiday.

Sometimes you just can’t get stuff done. This is a very difficult thing for me to admit, because my perfectionist tendencies still often equate “didn’t get stuff done” with “bad person”, even though I’ve been trying to work through this and eradicate such thoughts.

Lesson learned? It’s possible for me to fail and yet not be devastated by it. Next year, perhaps, I can do Nanowrimo “properly” again and start afresh, not weighed down by the expectations of five years’ winning in a row.

I will continue editing DV: slowly, with other projects in between. I’m feeling insecure about this novel, too, so I think I need to be careful with it. At some point I might need to smash the whole thing and rewrite it entirely, but I’m not ready for that yet. So, for now, I’ll just keep plodding on.

Poetry sale: Wild Violet Magazine

I’m happy to announce that my poem ‘Helsinki Love Song’ has been accepted for publication in Wild Violet. I’ll post a link when the poem is published!

It was great to get some good poetry news, because I’ve been bogged down with work and an insidious stress that chooses, at inopportune moments, to make everything feel overwhelming. In other words, haven’t really had the mental energy for writing – although I did write a couple of new poems on Saturday.

But my editing work with Dim Vanities has progressed very little: thus the total lack of Nanowrimo posts. I feel bad about that, but I’m trying to put things into perspective. If you try to do five billion things at once and most of them just have to be done, the things that don’t have an immediate deadline will inevitably get put on hold.

Nanowrimo: This feels different

It’s really weird not to be writing a feverish 50K this November. But I still think it’s a good decision to forgo a new zero draft this year – there’s so much work to do with Dim Vanities. Also, I’ve had a bit of a cold and am insanely tired, so yeah. Being merciful to myself and setting lower goals is a good thing. From previous years, I know I can do Nanowrimo ‘properly’ even when stressed out; so I don’t have anything to prove to myself in that sense.

So, what have I been doing, then? Well, during the weekend I worked on my story goals, organised my notes, and made a couple of spreadsheets to track my editing progress and my chapter outlines. I also started out simply going through the first draft, making comments and highlighting terrible words/sentences. I’ve done 8 chapters out of 31. The going is slow – editing is way slower than actual writing. But I’m trudging along, at least, despite my lingering cold and aching neck.

I’ve read a lot of advice on how to edit a novel, but I think it’s one of those things you learn best by just doing it. I have no idea if Dim Vanities will ever be good enough to even consider sending out somewhere, but in the meantime, this is an excellent exercise. I’m experimenting, finding out techniques that work for me.

Who knows, this might even become a coherent, not-totally-plot-holey novel when I’m done.

Nanowrimo: Preparing for the editing process

Firstly, let’s reveal the working title of the novel I’ll be editing this Nanowrimo: Dim Vanities. The name is from Edgar Allan Poe’s poem ‘Tamerlane’:

Dim, vanities of dreams by night —
And dimmer nothings which were real —
(Shadows — and a more shadowy light!)

Dim Vanities is the name I randomly came up with while Nano-prepping in 2008, and it’s stuck. The title will most probably change eventually once I think of a better one. Yes, there are shadows in my novel, but it’s still not the most relevant or awesome title.

*

Anyway! Back to business (i.e. more babbling)!

The stats:
DIM VANITIES
word count: ~134,000
chapters: 31

Yesterday I read a 15-page chapter-by-chapter synopsis of Dim Vanities that I’d written last year when I was editing the messy zero draft into a somewhat coherent first draft. The plot still needs some tightening to make it more coherent – there’s some weird magicky stuff that I worry is too vague. Will have to work on that. But mostly, the synopsis seemed decent. I tinkered a lot with the plot last year, so I hope there won’t be a need for too many major changes now.

I’ll really have to work on making the characters alive and their relationships believable, though.

*

I’ve been preparing for this editing process by reading a lot of posts on editing, and doing a lot of thinking with regard to what my strategy will be.

I just read this entertaining post on editing a novel by Chuck Wendig. Some sound advice there! Such as:

Writing is editing. Editing is writing.

Writing is rewriting. And rewriting. And rewriting.

So damn true. Good thing I actually like editing… Although I have to say that tackling a whole novel is overwhelming. But hey, this is how we learn: by digging into it and getting shit done.

*

Lastly: good luck to everyone doing Nanowrimo the traditional 50K way! *waves pom-poms*

Poetry in Polu Texni: Beauty Remembers

Excellent news for this June Monday: my poem ‘Beauty Remembers’ is now online at Polu Texni.

Read it here!

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Since the poem was inspired by the tale of Beauty and the Beast, I think this is the time to wax lyrical about how much that fairy tale has inspired and continues to inspire me.

I was first exposed to the fairy tale through the Disney movie. I was five years old when it came out, and it was the first film I ever went to see at a cinema. I remember me and my friend had to sit perched high on the seats to be able to see the screen. We were mesmerised.

It was a magical – and, I think, formative – experience. The Disney version of Beauty and the Beast has stayed with me all these years. I’m not ashamed to admit that I still love it. As a geeky brown-haired bookworm, I identified with Belle from the start. It was fabulous to have an animated character who also liked to read and who dreamt of adventures in the great wide somewhere. I still get shivers in the scene where Belle explores the forbidden west wing of the castle – the music, the animation, ah, such magic!

Later, I found the original fairy tale and loved it too. I was also drawn to other tales of animal transformation and love – The Black Bull of Norroway is a fantastic example, with its powerful female hero climbing the glass mountain to get to her love. And I’m a total sucker for retellings or adaptations of Beauty and the Beast or similar tales. Even if I think the adaptations/retellings are horrible, I’ll enjoy some part of them because hey, it’s Beauty and the Beast!

Naturally, the theme crops up in my own writing, too. Most notably, recently, in the novel I started during Nano 2008 and finished the first draft of last autumn. (The novel that I should edit properly sometime…) Anyway, it’s inspired by Beauty and the Beast, and is set in a strange city and a realm within that city.

While I was revising that novel last August, I was so caught up in the beauty/beast theme that this poem popped out, too. I’m really happy that ‘Beauty Remembers’ is available online now for all to read.

New things at the year’s end

I hope everyone has had a lovely relaxing holiday! I had a nice time: plenty of alone time combined with family. Alone time was spent eating leisurely breakfasts and writing my Finnish short story.

…My short story which I’ve now sent off to the competition! I’m so pleased that I managed to get a story written in Finnish, and that I submitted it to the competition. Never done such a thing in Finnish before! I suspect it won’t be a winning story, but finishing it was a personal win, so I’m happy even now. Perhaps I’ll be less scared of embracing Finnish as an additional fictional language in the future. :)

I’m going to take this opportunity to wish all my readers a very happy New Year! Going to be interesting to see what 2013 brings with it. 2012 has been a full year, what with writing and finishing my MA thesis; graduating; being unemployed; finishing a proper novel draft; Nanowrimo; getting a job; and most pleasingly, getting some of my poetry published.

Here’s to a new year of writing!

FINISHED FIRST DRAFT

IT’S CAPSLOCK TIME.

I just finished the official first draft of DV. *FIREWORKS*

It is rough, especially towards the end when I started having serious lack-of-time problems; it’s a first draft. But for the first time ever, I have revised a novel. I now have a novel-length narrative (279 1,5-spaced pages in Open Office; 13,2587 words according to yWriter) that is actually coherent enough to show people, in theory. HOLY CARP.

And I finished it with three days to spare before Nanowrimo, too! With the power of sheer pig-headedness and love for my story. It’s been a crazy writing week (getting most of my words before this weekend written in 20-min bouts on the train to my temp job), with word counts occasionally rising far above e.g. the Nano daily word count of 1667 words. Today, yWriter tells me, I have added 4248 words. Hard to believe I could actually have written that much today, but then again, the clock tells me that I’ve been working around 5,5h.

Erm. Yes. Um.

I did it. *blink* Now DV will be laid to rest till December or so. And this coming Thursday, on to new writing challenges with this year’s Nanowrimo!

On being a stubborn fool

Apologies for the lack of updates this month! I’ve mostly just been plodding along with my novel revision. And then I, previously unemployed and with plenty of time on my hands, was suddenly inundated by a strange event: getting a job. Well, two jobs, in fact. One of them a two-week temp gig (next week is the second week), and the other a longer thing.

I am extremely relieved and pleased to be employed, but it does put a bit of a damper on writing. :P So, what with working all day long last week, and having plenty of evening activities, I’ve fallen behind on my novel revision schedule. Am currently starting chapter 18, when I should actually already be at chapter 20. There are 31 chapters in DV, and my goal was to revise a chapter per day in order to get the novel revised by Oct 31st.

Why this deadline, you say? Well, because of Nanowrimo, of course! I love Nanowrimo, have participated since 2008, and will cry bitter tears if I don’t get to participate this year. I want to finish my novel revision so that I can start a whole new novel on Nov 1st.

Is this foolish? OF COURSE IT IS. Even more foolish now that I’m lagging behind on revision and have lots of other things to do as well, oh, and getting-better but still chronic neck/shoulder/back issues. But curses, I want to meet my deadline! I want to start Nanowrimo on Nov 1st, with a fresh (and almost completely unplanned) novel to explore. I want DV to get at least a month or two to simmer before I go back to it.

So, I am a stubborn fool. I know it; but I want to meet my own deadline, dangnabbit. My dad lent me a mini laptop, so now I can write on the train to and from work next week. I’ll try to be as efficient as I can with the revision. And try not to panic when I consider that the final 10 chapters of DV contain far too many scenes that are currently just outlines in yWriter, not even drafts. The quality of this draft will certainly deteriorate towards the end. OH WELL.

This stubborn fool will now try to acquire her much-needed lunch, and then will be off to a friend’s birthday party. Writing is important, but I also want to treasure my loved ones.