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.

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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.

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.

Blast from the past: Writing advice from Sara aged 13

I was randomly browsing a couple of my old diaries last night, and came across a rather interesting entry from when I was 13. In it I angst profusely about how my stories are shit: my plots are shit because I don’t plan them in advance, my sentences sound terrible, I’ll never write anything decent! But at the very end of the entry I give some surprisingly sage advice to myself: just keep writing something even if it’s shit. Yes good, 13-year-old self!

Anyway, the entry includes some more writing advice from 13-year-old Sara, so I thought I’d share it with you for the lulz! It was originally written in Finnish – I used to write my diary more in Finnish; these days it’s almost entirely in English, interestingly – so this is a translation. But I’ve kept the original capitalisation and excessive punctuation for your reading pleasure. ;)

***

SARA’S WRITING ADVICE, AGED 13:

If you don’t have a proper plot, you don’t have anything. And a proper plot won’t happen unless you have a proper main character and bad guy. The main character MUST NOT be blah and boring – but somehow special. And they DON’T NEED TO BE perfect or anything, but they have to have FLAWS AND BAD HABITS AND PREJUDICES!!!!! [drawing of three angry-looking skulls]

And the bad guy – they’re REALLY IMPORTANT. They have to be really merciless, but not stupid and PATHETIC! They have to feel REAL and sensible too!!

And the plot has to make at least some sort of sense and must be COMPLEX and above all INTERESTING!!!!! And especially the beginning needs to be good, otherwise the reader’s interest will stop right there…

AND THE TEXT HAS TO FEEL ALIVE!!!!! You have to carry the reader with you and the text has to sound GOOD…

So there’s the basic guidelines à la Sara.

***

13-year-old me definitely loved her exclamation marks times five, huh? :D This is very much navel-gazing, but I think it’s fascinating that even when I was that young, I was analysing my own writing (even if from an angsty “IT’LL NEVER BE GOOD WAAAAH” perspective). And from the perspective of potential reader response, too! I also note in the same entry that inspiration needs to be fed for it to keep going, which is actually surprising, considering that when I was younger I basically believed in the magical sort of “strikes you like lightning” inspiration and not so much the “bum in chair, fingers on keyboard” practical approach.

My diaries also include some rather adorably effusive descriptions of how awesome writing is. This is from the entry quoted above:

“At its best writing is like a drug… a LOVELY drug you get addicted to… when you’re writing a SUPER GOOD story, you’re dancing on the clouds and go to amazing places and drink from the chalice of the gods…”

A purple-prose way of putting it, sure, but I still agree. At its best, writing is magic.

Writing music, writing dance

Do you have things that you constantly try to capture in writing, but only rarely succeed, and if so, only partially?

I have several – well, everyone probably does – but the two that I struggle the most to capture are music and dance. I’m deeply into the contemporary Finnish folk music and dance scene; there’s some strange magic in the fiddle harmonies and subtle rhythms, and in the ability to find the perfect dance steps for the tunes. I’d want to be able to write this into my fiction and poems.

So many times, I’ve tried to capture a certain feeling in writing – that feeling I get when I’m dancing, when there’s a group of folk musicians playing, when there’s a perfect trinity of connection between my body&soul, my dance partner, and the music weaving between us. I’ve tried both in English and Finnish. One time this spring I got pretty close, in a Finnish poem. There’s always something missing, though. But that’s part of writing, I suppose – always striving for some unattainable goal.

I’m always trying to capture elusive beasts in words. Intensely physical experiences like dance or the emotions caused by music are perhaps among the hardest things to express in such a different medium. But I always have to keep trying. With every attempt, I may capture even a shred of the moment. Perhaps one day those shreds, as poems and stories, will form a broken mosaic expressing what the experience of dance, of the deep tear-wrenching joy of music is like for me.

Camp Nanowrimo success

Long time no post (not even Sunday recs – sorry about that). This month has been ridic busy. So much work, so many other things I’ve been taking care of… I think I haven’t even mentioned that I decided to do Camp Nanowrimo this month. Anyway, I did! :D

Because of all the busy and the stress, I had times when I thought I’d just give up on my Camp Nanowrimo goal of writing 10,000 words for the novel (let’s call it Beast). Well, last weekend I finally came up with some things that turned the plot around and made me excited for the project (yay!). Yesterday I finally had time to actually knuckle down to writing some scenes. Unfortunately, I was feeling exhausted and a bit flu-ish, so it was all rather painful… but I managed a lot of words. And today, I sprinted 4,851 words, bringing my word count total beyond 10k! Including worldbuilding notes and such – but that was within my parameters for Camp Nano. Around 7k is actual novel text, anyway. Written in two days.

So: MUCH CAMP NANOWRIMO SUCCESS. Also: I love Scrivener. I bought it at last, and it’s working out so well. Am thinking of trying it out for PhD stuff too.

Now I can just keep on improving the outline for Beast and writing more scenes. Note to self: it’s allowed to be zero-draft level text even if this novel is based on a previous novel draft of mine. After all, a lot of things are different both plot- and character-wise.

In addition to continuing Beast, I have a few stories I want to write and submit for various things. And May will be super busy PhD-wise. I’ll have to be mindful of self-care as well: I don’t want to collapse just because I’m doing too many interesting things.

Still, writing-busy on top of work-busy is worth it, after all – because sometimes there are moments like today, when writing makes me lose all sense of time and the words hurtle out. When I want to write even when my ears are blocked and ringing, when my body is aching for rest.

But now I’ll go and engage in some self-care. To sleep, perchance to dream!

Writing, submitting and perseverance

Tonight I’m feeling inspired by Rose Lemberg’s great essay (originally published as tweets) on perseverance and the editorial process.

Rose talks about the importance of not self-rejecting your work, and of daring to submit, and re-submit to a publication that’s rejected your work before. The whole essay is very much worth a read for any (aspiring or published) writer! Especially if you (like me) suffer from some form of perfectionism and self-doubt.

It was such a huge leap for me to start submitting my poems in 2012. I’ve been writing (both prose and poetry) since forever, and my poetic voice has been getting stronger since 2009, but it took me so long to dare to submit my work. I was really afraid of rejection, of not being “good enough”. And those first rejections really hurt. I hadn’t developed a tougher skin yet; I felt like the magazines I submitted to were rejecting my whole self, all of my writing forever, &c. &c.

As time’s gone by, it’s got easier. I still feel a sting when I get a rejection, especially if it’s been a long time since an acceptance. But I understand better now that rejections a) are just one person’s (editor’s) opinion, b) can happen for any number of reasons, c) do not mean I’m a terrible writer. I’ve learnt to feel happy about personalised rejections, and the ones that actually give a snippet of feedback on my work make me feel good. I try to believe the editors when they say “please submit to us again”.

It’s been harder with stories. Quantity-wise, I produce far less of them than poems, which flow out at a much quicker pace. Story rejections still sting more, and make me doubt my skills (“oh noes I am the WORST AT PLOTTING FOREVER”). But how will those skills develop if I don’t keep writing and submitting? They won’t. So I have to keep trying.

Because after all, my perseverance so far has got me a long way from where I was three years ago. I’ve been published in a lot of amazing magazines – and I still feel giddy when I think that my story is going to be in An Alphabet of Embers. I just have to keep on daring, even when I feel afraid.

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!

Whan that Aprill…

033I’m not participating in NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) in any official way, but I have set myself a writing goal for April: to write something new every day, whether it’s poetry or prose. Shitty or good, three words or three thousand – it doesn’t matter, as long as I write something.

The first three days, it’s been poetry. I’ve opened up something in myself again – poetry feels easy as breathing right now. It’s not always good poetry, of course not; but then again, not every breath you take is amazing. Sometimes you don’t breathe deep enough, sometimes you inhale someone’s cigarette smoke. But every breath means you’re alive.

Same with poetry (and other writing too): in first/zero drafts, there will be shitty lines, unfortunate word choices, ideas that just don’t work. Some of the problems can be eliminated when editing, and sometimes a poem just isn’t meant to go further than the initial word-blargh. But it’s all writing, and that makes it valuable. When I write, when I’m all a-flutter with word-wonder, it’s worth all the stilted sentences and unviable ideas, as long as I keep on going. All that is gold does not glitter in the first draft!

I’m going to share today’s poem here because it’s just a silly little thing, born out of my frustration at the changeable weather. It’s also a homage to those two famous April poets: Geoffrey Chaucer and T.S. Eliot. April invariably makes me start quoting The Canterbury Tales and The Waste Land to myself. :)

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Fool April

April, you old trickster
pouring rain-sleet-snow
long after we thought
we were done with all that –
no shoures soote these!
You batter us with change,
teasing us with dreams
of sun-warmth and spring

and then, cackling,
you pelt us with winter’s
foulest leftover scraps.
Cruellest month, indeed.

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