Novelling posts

2016 Retrospective: the year of struggle

‘Nuff said.
(Picture by Nicholas Javed Photography)

2016 is in the rear-view mirror now, so it’s time to see how I lined up with the things I aimed to achieve in that year. As you may guess from the title, the tl:dr version is: not well.

Editing

Goal: edit Carnifex.
Result: done and done! It’s a great book and available to buy right now! So happy I could be a part of this project.

Goal: get Everyday Heroes moving.
Result: partial success. The editing on my plate moved on a ways, but the anthology as a whole has languished. This needs a huge kick up the arse.

Goal: finish off the new editions of the Apocalypse Blog.
Result: got through Book 2; Book 3 is still outstanding.

Writing

Goal: finish small projects. Specifically: Boomflowers and the Vampire Victim Support Group.
Result: progress made but not published. Boomflowers is coming along nicely, and only needs a few more pieces written to get to the end. I haven’t released any updates to this, as I’m waiting for it to be finished before I do that. VVSG is languishing, mostly due to a couple of troublesome pieces that I need to beat with a stick (ie: rejig until they work).

Goal: more Detachable Penis fun.
Result: I got a cover for Part 2! But managed to drag my feet in actually releasing the next book, so it’s not out yet. This is one of those things where I just need to get my head down and sort it out.

Goal: get Starwalker Book 5 moving.
Result: no movement yet. That’s hard to write, but it’s the truth.

Writing was hard for me in 2016. I tried a few different things, but the truth was, I was burnt out and needed the break. Recognising that was an important step, because sometimes you’ve got to stop pushing, start listening to yourself, and try to figure out the best way forward. Sometimes, that means taking a step back.

Clearing the mental decks was essential for me. I’ve had to assess and reassess my capabilities a few times in the past year, try to work out what’s achievable, and then push forward with some new plans. Taking that step back and taking a break was important, and so was figuring out how and when to start moving again.

The good news is that I’ve come out of that ‘break’ now. I put my NaNoWriMo time to good use (see below) and revitalised a languishing project: Vampire Electric. It’s in its second draft, up to the final stages (well past where the first draft got to), and galloping on towards the approximate 200k I think it’ll be before I get to the end of the story. I’m getting back into the habit of writing every day, and enjoying it!

So, I’m happy to report that the year ended on a positive note. Despite not getting to all the things I meant to, after some readjustment of plans, I’m finally making progress.

Writers’ Asylum

Goal: plan it, write it, do it.
Result: done, done, and done! This one was loads of fun, and I had lots of good reactions from those who took part. Some good learnings to carry forward to the next one.

NaNoWriMo

Goal: plan it, do it, achieve wordcount.
Result: done, done, and done!

I had a great NaNo this year, and it was a turning-point for me in the struggle that has been my writing life. I’ve written about how it was actually pretty easy for me to hit the big 50k this year, and the good news is that I’m still writing. Even the break I took over the Christmas/New Year period hasn’t interrupted it much: this week, I’m back writing again, and feeling enthused for the story. It’s a great feeling.

As far as the events go, I’ve written about it here on the blog, but I think we can chalk it up as a success. I had a couple of awesome co-MLs to work with, we tried some new stuff (which I hadn’t originally intended to do, but was so worth it!), learned a few things, and had a great time.

Other Stuff

Goal: streamline home stuff.
Result: same old same old. I had planned to move house, downsize, and simplify things, but that hasn’t happened yet. I won’t go into details, but some other things came up and staying where I was turned out to be the easiest and least costly option. It’s all a work in progress, I guess.

 

Overall, 2016 was a struggle for me. Most of it didn’t go how I’d hoped, I learned a few things, and managed to pull myself out of the bog of uninspiration. By the end, I managed to get myself back to writing again, so the year ended on a high note, which is something to be grateful for.

Now is the time to look forward. To tuck those learnings under my cap, adjust expectations, and try to come up with goals that are realistic but also challenging. And then: get shit done.

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • More pls (0)
Share

NaNoWriMo 2016: Decascriptum

NaNoWriMo: writers unite!

NaNoWriMo: writers unite!

(Decascriptum is a totally made-up word, meaning roughly ‘ten writing’.)

I meant to post here long before today. For months, posts and parts of posts have been on the tip of my brain, or even my fingers, but they’ve never made it all the way through to the ‘publish’ button.

But here I am, trying again.

This year hasn’t gone the way I’d hoped. Writing continues to be a struggle, though I’ve managed some fits and starts along the way. I’ve chipped away at some small things, flexed some weary writer’s muscles, limbered up for something bigger, longer, more ambitious. But I haven’t quit managed to click back into that stride and really write.

It’s nearly November, which means that it’s almost National Novel Writing Month again, which means that my life is being increasingly eaten up by the novelling phenomenon. This, right here, is a kick I need. Is it the kick I need? A good question that I can’t answer yet.

I’ve got two lovely, new co-MLs (Municipal Liaisons) to help me with the organisation side of things, as well as wonderfully supportive friends who offer their hands in a less official capacity. I am utterly blessed by all of them!

We’ve tried a couple of new things already this year: a Pre-NaNo Planning Day, and a Digital Goodie Bag. Both of them went so amazingly well that I can’t wait to build on them next year. (More on them soon! Also, I created a bunch of writing prompts for the Planning Day, and I’ll be sharing them here soon, too.)

Our Kick-off Party is tomorrow, back in its usual home of being a BBQ in the park. It’s going to be nuts and totally exhausting, and I can’t wait. So many people to meet and so many awesome things to give away.

And next week, the writing begins. I’ve decided to return to my steampunk novel, Vampire Electric, in what will be my third NaNoWriMo focussed on it. My goal this year will be to drive on towards the end of the story (it’s 100,000 words already and only about halfway through, so no promises!). I’ve got a clear idea of where it needs to go and the rough path it should take, and I’ve read the existing material to get back up to speed and in the mood.

My fingers are itching to get started. But no, I’ve created the ‘NaNo 2016’ folder in my Scrivener project, and it will remain virginal until the 1st November.

In the meantime, I’m getting my other writing muscles loosened up. Posting here, and starting a new, writing-centric blog over on Inkspired that I’m calling (at least for now) The Right Write. It’s not going to replace this blog; rather, it’s going to wind up being something of an echo, and for the more writing advice-centric posts, I’ll be cross-posting between them. Blogging on Inkspired is a new thing and I’m looking forward to helping test it out! So far, all I’ve done is introduce myself. Lots more to come.

Don’t worry, I won’t let all that distract me from Actual Fiction Writing(tm). It’s NaNoWriMo, after all: wordcount is all.

Way back in 2008, my second attempt at NaNo inspired me to start a web serial, because I fell in love with the enthusiasm and momentum of it. Now, in 2016, I’m hoping that my tenth (!!) NaNo can help return me to that momentum and creative excitement.

Wish me luck and, most of all, words!

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • More pls (0)
Share

The state of ME

(Picture by JD Hancock, via Flickr)

(Picture by JD Hancock, via Flickr)

I’ve been quiet for a little while now. Here, on the Starwalker website, pretty much all over my writing spaces online.

Last year, I took a hiatus from Starwalker. I wanted to have a break, a little holiday from the writing, and to catch up on some of the other stuff on my plate. I wanted to come back refreshed and rejuvenated, and dive back into my textual adventures.

That was the plan. It hasn’t quite worked out the way I thought it would.

As much as I hate to admit it (and as much as I dislike going on about it), my health is mostly to blame. The exhaustion is worse than usual, and worse than ever before. I’m lining things up to investigate medical treatments/investigations (and the money to pay for it, hopefully). Getting back on my feet – literally and figuratively – is a work in progress.

That aside, I think I was also burnt out on writing. I was mentally and creatively exhausted. I very much needed a break to address that, to clear out the clutter and stress, and clear the mental decks a bit.

I didn’t realise just how much I needed the hiatus until I was trying to get back into writing. Then I was looking at the blank page and it all seemed so hard. I was lacking my usual creative spark, the inspiration that makes words itch on my fingertips until I let them out. It wasn’t just Starwalker: writing anything (creative) was hard work.

I know better than to try to force it. That leads to bad writing and frustration, and I know myself well enough to know that what I needed was a longer, more thorough break. Not just a short recharge with writing on the horizon: a chance to breathe without a deadline coming at me.

I’m not complaining about the deadlines of serial writing in any way. Usually, that kind of pressure works for me: it’s one of the reasons I like writing web serials, because it pushes me in ways that are good for my writing. Usually. There are times that it doesn’t work, though. Like now.

It took me a while to come around to the realisation that I was burnt out. I don’t like to give up easily, but I realised that that’s what I needed to do. Give myself a break. Be okay with taking more time than I’d said.

At the same time, I’m apologetic towards my readers. I hate to break promises and shift expectations, and I’m sorry for doing that. I’m immensely grateful for my readers’ understanding: their messages have been nothing but supportive, and I can’t thank them enough for that.

Please know that I haven’t forgotten you. I haven’t been distracted by something shiny, or grown bored with the story. I guess five years was longer than I realised to be doing something as involved as writing the same story, week to week (with some breaks between books). It was more intensive than I truly recognised, until I lifted my head to catch my breath.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been burnt out with my writing. The other time was after my uni degree: three years doing nothing but reading and writing left me drained of almost all creativity and desire to write. (My degree was English Literature with Creative Writing.) I learned a lot of useful stuff – much of which I still use to this day, both in my day job and in my creative writing pursuits – but I needed a break from the intensity and pressure of it afterwards. I wound up not writing anything original or independent for several years.

It was during this period that I did a lot of freeform, text-based roleplaying, which scratched the creative itch without the weight of being truly my own writing. I had a ball with the RP and don’t regret it in the least. I learned a great deal about characterisation, development, and storytelling in those years, and picked up many tools that have helped me write my own work in the years that came after. I met many wonderful people, was exposed to many different writing styles, and I cherish the things I learned and gained in those circles.

At that point in my life, it was what I needed. Not just a break from original writing, but also a chance to explore and develop myself (on reflection, I came out of uni without a good idea of what my voice really was, in terms of writing; I didn’t find it until some time later).

Now, my needs are different, though a break is ultimately what I need. It has stretched out far longer than I had intended, and I am determined not to let it drag on any longer than necessary. It certainly won’t be the roughly 7 years’ break that I took before – nothing like that.

Some of you may be aware that I’ve been turning my creative energies to another outlet lately: namely, crocheting blankets and hats and little stuffed toys. I want to state clearly here: this is not a distraction from my writing. It’s scratching the creative itch for me right now (and I’m developing a good range of items in my Etsy store, just for the hell of it), but it isn’t taking up time when I could be writing. The truth is, if I tried to write right now, it wouldn’t work.

The crocheting fills in other gaps for me. I do it largely during times I wouldn’t normally write anyway: for example, when I’m resting on the couch in front of the TV. It’s mostly a reaction to feeling unproductive and useless: with as sick as I’ve been lately, I’ve been forced to spend more time resting, and I’ve been less able to do useful things like cleaning and cooking. I despise feeling useless. And while resting might seem like a good time to sit and type, writing is beyond what my brain is capable of at that point. I simply don’t have the mental energy for it (this has, sadly, been a large part of the problem when trying to get back to writing), and trying can be really counterproductive when I’m trying to get some energy back.

So, something I can quietly work away at while I’m sitting down, something that doesn’t require a huge amount of brain involvement (though deciphering some of the patterns can be a trick, and occasionally maths is hard), is roughly perfect.

The fact that I’m making geeky things, and making geeky gifts for friends, is a bonus. Selling them is even better! (It isn’t a free hobby, sadly.)

Also, shh, don’t tell anyone, but I might be working my way towards creating a certain toy soon. I’ll have to make up the pattern myself, and I’ve got a few materials to work out, but I’m slowly making my way towards a starting point.

What does it all mean? When will I be writing again? Those are hard questions. It’s a work in progress and I’m pushing it forward. I think I’ve turned a corner, because I’m feeling more able to consider getting back to writing now; it feels less like an energy drain that I can’t handle. I’m not ready to jump into writing just yet but I am feeling like I can get on the road to get there.

Right now, I’m clawing back to a point where I can get back into the rhythm of writing (anything) again. The stories still itch, quieter than usual, but they’re there. There are characters I want to put through the wringer so I can see them come out the other side; there are tales I want to share.

And there are posts that I want to get up on this blog. This one is the first thing I’ve written on the train for a while. My daily commute is my usual writing time, and it’s nice to have the mental energy and focus after a day at work to write something up, even if it’s a blog post.

So, I’m going to spend a bit of time getting back into the rhythm of writing every day. Start small, and with non-fiction (for example, with these posts), as that’s usually less taxing than something creative. I need to get my discipline back in order. I need to get back into the habit of expressing myself, here on this blog and out in the world.

Watch this space. I’m still here. I’m on my way back.

I miss you, too.

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (3)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (1)
  • More pls (1)
Share

2015 in retrospect

Sometimes when the tide is rising, you just gotta keep walking (Picture: credit unknown)

Sometimes when the tide is rising, you just gotta keep walking
(Picture: credit unknown)

2015 was, in all, a pretty low year for me. It involved a lot of struggling, fighting with my health, stress with the day job, and trying to get back to a project that wasn’t playing ball.

But is that all that is worth talking about?

Thinking back over what I had hoped to achieve this year, let’s see how the tally really goes.

Life Stuff

I had aimed to mostly stay in my job and keep my head above water. I wound up changing my job, but I’m in the lucky position of still having one, and continuing to be able to support me and my family. While it’s a struggle and a source of stress (though less now than it was in the middle of the year), I am immensely grateful for it.

I didn’t get to all of the house reorganisation that I wanted to, but I have some plans around that, which I’ll be talking about in an upcoming post.

My health continues to suck, much of which is related to the aforementioned work stress. I also wound up having to have a root canal this year (yay!), which sucked up much of my medical needs budget. More saving (and dental work) required. Joy.

Writing

The new-look Apocalypse Blog Book 1

The new-look Apocalypse Blog Book 1

So, with all that going on, how did the writing thing go?

First of all, and most importantly, Starwalker Book 4 is complete. This, of everything, was the biggest achievement of 2015, and I can’t be delighted enough with it.

Book 4 was a rocky ride, took a wrong turn or two, but I got it back on track and to the end I wanted it to have. It is the culmination of 5 years of work, which produced over 400,000 words that I shared with the world. I have a wonderful readership, for whom I am eternally grateful. Even now, months into a hiatus that I hadn’t intended to take this long, they offer me support. I am a lucky writer.

I’ve talked at length on this blog about my struggles and ponderings around Starwalker, so I won’t go over it again. Let’s just say that the hiatus lasted longer than expected and didn’t quite go to plan. That’s okay. Plans must change when they meet reality.

As for other projects, there has been limited movement:

  • Vampire Electric was put on the back burner this year when I decided to dedicate this year’s NaNoWriMo to Starwalker instead.
  • Work has started on the new editions of the Apocalypse Blog ebooks. I’m about a third of the way through.
  • Vampire Victim Support Group got a short boost when I was investigating Inkspired, a serial-friendly publishing forum. It languished a bit in the latter part of the year.
  • Boomflowers is a new project, also on Inkspired, which suffered the same languishing fate.
  • Splinter Soul poked its head up during NaNoWriMo and is starting to take shape in the shadows.
  • I experimented with writing and releasing a comedy erotica story. It isn’t selling great yet, but I’m working towards the next installment and hope to bulk up the numbers once I can call it a series. This was great fun to write and something of a departure for me. Always nice to try something different!
  • Other projects fell by the wayside and remain on my list.

In less fictional realms, I’ve been better with updating this blog and keeping it going. I’ve been expanding the scope by adding author interviews and book reviews, and I hope to do more of the same going forward.

The other big thing I did in 2015 was to get an anthology project in motion (with some friends and colleagues; it wasn’t all me). We’re in the depths of editing at the moment, after stalling over the NaNoWriMo/holiday period.

Writing Events and Community

Look! It's a tiny writing dragon! (Picture by jrrhack)

Look! It’s a tiny writing dragon!
(Picture by jrrhack)

In 2015, I organised and ran the usual events. The Creative Writing Group is still going strong, and recently I have started to record our meetings (these will go up online as soon as I figure out how and where). Attendance continues to be healthy to all of the events, with the usual tides of newcomers joining and others drifting away.

I am ever grateful for the lack of drama in my writing community.

I spread my monthly events out in 2015, instead of having them on the same weekend, and that is working well. It spreads the cost and effort, which helps everyone out, I think.

The Writers’ Asylum went well and I tried a slightly different format that turned out to work well. Learnings will be carried forward to this year’s, which is mostly written already (I’m so organised! Hey, it happens sometimes.).

We tried some new stuff with the NaNoWriMo events this year, with some mixed results. They all went well on the whole, though, and I’m happy that we’re continuing to head in the right direction. I have awesome people around me, so it’s all worth it.

So, all in all, it wasn’t a terrible year. Things were achieved. Other things weren’t. It’s hard to see the positive when the fatigue is heavy (like it is right now), but laying it all out like this helps.

I have some ideas for 2016 and how to make it better than what has come before. More on that coming soon. In the meantime, hope your reflections and resolutions are going well.

Goodbye, 2015. I don’t think I’ll miss you!

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (1)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • More pls (0)
Share

Retrospective: the year that was 2014

The awesome writing balcony! Magic happens here. And cats.

The awesome writing balcony! Magic happens here. And cats.

Hard to believe that it’s already 2015. Sheesh! So much has happened, and yet, not anywhere as much as I had hoped.

2014 was a frustrating year for me. Struggles with my health meant struggles with everything else… but let’s take an honest look at what I accomplished last year, compared to what I set out to do.

I have been so grateful for the support and help of my family, friends, and readers this year. They have helped me achieve the house stuff, sent me well-wishes, and supported me when I was flagging. I don’t ask for help often or easily – I’m a very independent person – and I’ve needed a lot of it over the past year. Thanks to everyone who has been there, including those of you who I only talk to through a screen. Your words, your time, and your attention are always appreciated.

Home/life stuff:

  • Day job – it continues, it’s going well, and I’m still utterly grateful for it. 🙂
  • Big house change-around – not complete yet, but I’ve got the main parts tidied up and working. In 2014, I finally got a whole bunch of my comic book art framed and up on the walls, and I set up an awesome writing balcony for myself. Love that balcony, it’s wonderful. Still a bunch of work to go to ‘finish’ the change-around, though.
  • Beating my health with a stick – it has been more like the other way around. Bah. 🙁

Writing stuff:

  • Starwalker Book 4 didn’t quite go to plan. Due to health stuff, there were more delays and interruptions than I like, enough that I was frustrating myself. Late in the year, thanks to a few factors (I haven’t written a post about this yet, have I? I should do that), the fourth chapter took a bit of a turn down a dark alley, and proceeded to drag its feet, sucking and slurping along until I put a pin in it. I took a break from it for about six weeks, and I really needed that time to get my head straight and come back to the story fresh. The fourth book has had a little bit of retconning done and is now back on track, humming along on a much better path.
  • Other Starwalker stuff – hasn’t really happened, mostly because Book 4 took much longer than expected, especially with the break and reset of a section. Nope, haven’t edited any of it, or done any more shorts yet.
  • Vampire Electric – the second draft is coming along nicely! It was my NaNo project for 2014, and it is currently sitting at about 100,000 words. Disturbingly, I’m only about halfway through the story. It’s going to be a long one! I’m pleased with how it’s going, though, and looking forward to getting back to it at some point.
  • Other projects – all pretty much on hold. With my health as it is, I just haven’t had the mental bandwidth to deal with multiple projects at the same time. Writing a web serial means that I have to have my attention pretty much glued to Starwalker the whole time. I don’t consider this a bad thing – I still love to write Starwalker – but it is a restriction. I did a little poking around on the edges of a couple of projects, planning a few things out, but nothing substantial. Yet.
  • This blog – I didn’t have any particular goals around this, but updates have been spotty at best. I really should do better. I have a whole list of things I want to write about but just didn’t get to.

Writing community stuff:

  • My Creative Writing Group is still going strong! We had a lot of fun over the last year, and the turnout continues to be strong. They’re a wonderful bunch of people and I learn a lot with them.
  • I tried something a little different with the Writers’ Asylum this year. It went well! Some changes were made due to feedback from the previous year and they seemed to work well. I got some more feedback and I have a plan to try for the next one. Ideas are in motion.
  • NaNoWriMo went well. I wrote loads, and events were big and crazy, and we spent a weekend on an island again. There were a couple of things that didn’t go so well – a couple of issues with people, which is always a danger when dealing with a big, diverse group, and our TGIO party got rained off – but nothing we couldn’t work around or get past. We tried a couple of new things, and learned some stuff we’ll put into practice next year. On the whole, a successful month.

2014 was pretty hard on me, but looking at it this way, I think I achieved more than I give myself credit for. I think it’s because I had to fight harder than usual to get things done, and I champ at my own restrictions because I demand more from myself than what I’m currently capable of.

I think the most disappointing thing in the whole year was having Starwalker wander off-track and having to retcon to pull it back into line. That upset me, because I try to be better than that. I try not to let the pressures in the rest of my life bleed into my writing, and I failed.

On the other hand, the thing I am most grateful for is the support I got when I took that hiatus and took the time to get my head straight. I often say how wonderful my readership is, and this is just another example of how much they do for me, and how much they mean to me. There was not a single complaint, even when they admitted that they weren’t enjoying the story so much since it started to slide. There was support and encouragement, and understanding. They are what I like to call ‘awesome humans’, and I’m proud to have them as my readers.

I’m also proud that I stood up and took action when the story was going wrong. It took a while for me to admit to myself that I was in a place I couldn’t write my way out of, but once I had, I didn’t hide it. It’s not easy to put your hand up and admit you made a mistake, especially to the people you want to have adore and trust you. So, yes, it sucks that I got into that position and I’ll be doing my damnedest to never be there again. But I think I handled it well – or at least I didn’t suck at it – and it came good in the end.

Perhaps that’s the best thing I can take away from 2014: there were many battles in it, but I got through them and out the other side. I have learned things, and grown, and I’m still pleased to be who I am. Onwards! Into a shiny new year and all the promise that it holds.

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • More pls (0)
Share

Time pressure

It feels a lot like this. (Picture by Lisa Brewster)

It feels a lot like this.
(Picture by Lisa Brewster)

So many projects, so little time. I’ve talked a lot on this blog about how much I struggle with my health and fatigue (or at least, it seems that way to me). I work full time to support myself, too, so my available time to write is pretty restricted.

My project list is so long these days. I put the Works in Progress page up recently, and I’m still thinking of things that I should put on there. It’s a page that will be updated pretty frequently, I think.

It’s natural that I get frustrated by the restrictions in my life. I am brimful of stories and struggling to be able to get them down and share them. I have pieces of my heart I’m ready to give away but no hands to hold them in. Not enough spoons to carve them out with.

Okay, that metaphor might have got away from me there. But you get what I mean.

There’s something that happens to me when I feel this way for a length of time. The things I really want to do pile up and up, and I’m constantly tipping them back against the wall: not yet, not yet, wait your turn. I’ll get to you. Just hold on there.

At some point, that pile gets too high. The sheer volume of things I want to do but can’t becomes too much, and it topples. I’m right in there, standing underneath, and I give up and join in, tearing chunks out of the middle and strewing them around. Fine. Fine.

In my head, something shifts. In my chest, something gives way. I say ‘yes, I feel crappy all the time, and I have all these restrictions on me, and it sucks. And you know what? It’s not good enough. I’m sick of missing out on my own life. I want to do *this* and *this* and this other thing over here. And I’m damned well going to do them anyway.’ My brain is suddenly active, alive with urgency and ideas that are usually so far out of my reach.

Outwardly, I have a productive spurt. I write on this blog again, blurt out a stream of things that have been backing up for some time, and wind up scheduling them over days or weeks to spread them out. I clean my house. I sort papers that have been sitting in a messy pile for months. I throw stuff out that I’ve been meaning to get to. I plan out a chunk of a new project. I write shorts. I do some of those things that have been towering over me, blotting out sight of what progress I might be making with everything I’m missing out on.

Chronic fatigue is a tricky thing. Sometimes this is enough to pull me up for some time – weeks, months maybe. Sometimes it only lasts a short time before my energy dwindles again, maybe a weekend if I’m lucky.

That’s sort of where I am right now, on the up-kick of a productive spurt. I’m not sure how long it will last. It feels more forced than usual, driven by more determination than it has been in the past. I’ve been lower for longer lately, and I’m trying to pull myself up out of it.

Part of it is most likely prompted by some help I’m getting at home, and right now, I’ll eke the most out of every opportunity that I can get. If a door is open an inch, I’ll do my damnedest to kick it wide, or even a foot wider. Every little helps.

Right now, I’m feeling really positive. My day job is going well. Starwalker is a bit of a challenge (which I might talk about in another blog post), but I got last week’s post out on time and that’s a victory in my book. My writing group is going well. I spent last weekend hanging out with writer friends, writing. The Writer’s Retreat is coming along nicely. Now the pressure is off at home, I can spare the mental energy for looking into health options.

And I’m getting lots of ideas for stories. Some existing projects, as well as a whole new one.

I have figured out why Vampire Electric wasn’t gelling as smoothly as it should be for me: the villain is too off-screen and away from the action for too much of the story. I need to go back and rethink how he weaves in with the rest of the story and drives it forward. I’m planning to continue work on the second draft of the novel for this year’s NaNoWriMo project, and now I’m in a good position to fix it up when I do that.

I’m getting more clarity on some of the shorts I have on my list for Starwalker. I know roughly what I want to do for each character, but some are clearer than others.

I have an idea for a second VVSG vignette. It niggles at me.

The assassin-centric novel I wrote a few years ago is starting to itch again, too. I have a fairly good idea about how I want the rewrite to go, and how I might start to shift it into the Starwalker universe. With some more background work, I might even be able to work in the Fall of Earth, but that would be a sequel (or even two or three books down the track in that particular series).
More and more often, I’m finding that my stories come out as a series. Not serials, necessarily, but standalone novels seem to get bored in my brain and start breeding. Like dustbunnies (or plotbunnies). If I keep turning the idea over in my hands, I seem to realise there are three or four plots in there, not just one. So many books to write!

For example, Tales from the Screw Loose is now probably a trilogy, and much bigger than just a robot brothel (once I get down into the depths of the second, and definitely in the third, book). Again, the events in Starwalker are pushing this into a larger story (and I think it’s a lot better for it, mostly because straight erotica really isn’t my thing). Sexual politics, the automation of industry, the impact of refugees, entitlement, rebellion…

And then there’s the new story. It’s shiny and novel, and the more my brain picks at it, the more interesting stuff falls out. It’s called Splinter Soul, and the basic premise is that, some time ago, someone broke the world in a fundamental way. Souls are infinite and managed to survive being split when the planet fractured, and now people walk around with only splinters of the souls they should have. There’s magic involved, based around how much of their soul a person has managed to rejoin and what form they are most powerful in, so it’s in a person’s interest to try to find all the splinters of who they really are. The splinters are other creatures, some of them mundane, some of them fantastical. They might also be other people, and there might be dragons. There’s a role for reincarnation to play here, but I’m still figuring out the mechanics of that.

It’s still mostly a world right now, a setting with lots of fun pieces to play with. I’m having fun working it all out, and the mists of a story are forming in the background. I think, for once, I’ll have the antagonist before I have the protagonist nailed down. Maybe I’ll wind up making the villain the protagonist… now, there’s an idea. Ooo.

Just writing out those two paragraphs has given me two or three new ideas I can work in. It is unfolding.

This is how the mind of a writer goes. Right now, mine is firing on… maybe not all cylinders, but let’s call it five out of six (instead of the usual two or three).

I have to be careful not to push too hard. Not to throw too many balls into the air, lest they all fall down. I have to pace myself, at least a little, try to keep things reasonable. I don’t want to push myself into some kind of collapse.
But I do want to push. I want to enjoy this. I have so many toys and I mean to play with them. I want to make the most of this up-swing in productivity while it lasts.

There’ll be a price at some point. I’m borrowing spoons. But hell, I’m going to make it worth it.

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • More pls (0)
Share

What am I up to?

Look! It’s a tiny writing dragon! (Picture by jrrhack)

In an effort to be more proactive about self-promotion, I’ve been thinking about the resources available on this site and upgrading them.

Truly, what I should do is build a new author website and move all this content over there. I already have the domain (melanieedmonds.com), but getting it built is going to be a chunk of work. I’ll need to hire an artist to do the banners I want (I already know what I want to do there). I’ll probably need to learn some more CSS to make it look the way I want, too (or hire someone to do that, and that’s beyond me at the moment, too!).

Rather than hang around and wait for ‘one day’ when I might get to all that, I decided to go ahead and build out this site. At least the content will be easy to transpose, should I get the full author website sorted.

Hence, we now have a handy My Writing section here on this site. What is it? Go take a look, lazy!

…I’m kidding; of course I’ll tell you. It lists the stories I’ve done that you can access right now, with links to my ebooks on every store they’re available as well as the original websites. I’ll be working to expand the links available as I find my way into different stores, libraries, and subscription services.

Under that, the Works in Progress page lists, predictably, the things I’m working on at the moment. I’m hoping to keep this up-to-date as I work through stuff (I change projects so infrequently that it shouldn’t fall behind too often).

You may also note that stuff I’m not actively working on is listed on that latter page, too. This is stuff that I have in the works and mean to get to… sometime. Some of it’s old, some of it’s new, some of it I have talked about before to varying degrees. Most of it is ticking over in my brain in some capacity or other.

Maybe these pages will be a kick up the arse for me to get moving with some of this stuff. Fingers crossed, right?

What do you think? Is this worth doing? Of interest?

Got any comments about the projects that are listed there? Suggestions? Requests? Reactions? I’d love to hear them!

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • More pls (0)
Share

Looking Forward: 2014

Aim for the sky! One rung at a time. (Picture by Mykl Roventine)

Aim for the sky! One rung at a time.
(Picture by Mykl Roventine)

We’re already a couple of weeks into 2014, but it’s not too late to set goals! Let’s see what I’ve got on my list for this year.

I should perhaps add a caveat that I’m going to be a bit more conservative than I was last year. Struggles with my health and energy levels are forcing me to be a bit more realistic, as goals I know I can’t reach just depress and discourage me. If I go above and beyond, then fantastic. But this is what I’ll be happy with achieving. Maybe a little more. I like to aim high, even if I’m pulling my focus in slightly.

Home / Work

Might as well get this stuff out of the way! My goals here involve:

  • Keeping up with the day job as I am currently. It’s going well, I’m always learning new stuff, and it enables me to do all of those other things that make me happy. I’m lucky enough to have a good group of people around me, too, and I’m thankful for that.
  • Finishing up the big change-around at home. The first phase of this is done, and it’s going great. There’s still some tidy-up work to do and the next phase to knock over before I’ll be content with how things are. This will make things easier for me at home, releasing more time and energy for other things.
  • Beating my health with a stick until it behaves. Worth a try, right?

Writing

Starwalker

Ah, the beloved web serial. Book 4 is well underway and I’m aiming to finish this particular story arc (and book) this year. Will there be a Book 5? At this stage, I’m honestly not sure – there are a couple of places the story could go after the end of the current trials, but I don’t have any set plans for that yet.

It’s also possible that it’s time to put a pin in that particular project and move on to one of the others on my list. Do I have much more story left to tell there? Would it benefit from a break? All good questions, and no doubt I’ll be asking them right up until it’s time to make a decision. Which will probably be around the end of Book 4, whenever that happens.

Could that be the end of Starwalker? Unlikely. It just might change from its current pattern.

Here’s what I have in mind for this year’s tasks:

  • Finish Book 4. Unless it extends beyond the end of this year, but right now that’s not looking likely.
  • Edit Book 1. A light edit is partially done; I’m looking to finish the edit off and tidy it up for potential submission to publishers.
  • Do more shorts. Elliott’s one is fighting me, but I’m determined to defeat his story and release it into the wild. I have a list of others to do, too, and aim to get to some more of them as well.
  • Look at publication options. By the end of the year, I’d like to have sorted out my options and decided what I want to do. The Kickstarter is still a possibility.

Vampire Electric

I’m loving how the second draft of this story is coming out. This year, I’d like to continue with the second draft and see if I can get closer to finishing it. It’s falling into 3 parts and the first part is almost done. One more NaNo should give me the second part, at least. Hopefully I’ll be able to work on it a bit more than that, but that will depend on other commitments (and potentially whether Starwalker is still running as a serial).

I’m also considering putting this up as a serialised novel, once the second draft is done. Effectively, I’d be serialising the third draft, as all I’d be doing is editing and posting. However, considering how much more there is to write in the second draft, I have no idea if I’ll even start this in 2014.

It’s entirely possible that I have already bought the domain for such a serialisation, however. Ahem.

Tales from the Screw Loose

Recently, I had a little squee moment when my brain stumbled over the missing piece for this story. I finally have everything I need to start writing this one! Except for time and opportunity, of course.

I’m not sure yet whether I’ll write this one as a serial, or as a background project to be serialised later (like I’m considering with Vampire Electric). I’m pretty sure that I will serialise it somehow. A lot will depend on Starwalker and whether I keep that going as a serial, as that will dictate my capability for writing another fresh, off-the-cuff serial. (Trying to write two serials at the same time would be a recipe for disaster for me. Let’s keep things realistic!)

I’d like to get all of the groundwork laid for this story this year. Maybe even start the first draft (or set of posts). A lot will depend on how the two projects above are going!

Apocalypse Blog

Ahh, the good old Apocalypse Blog. I’ve got new covers and fresh edits to apply. I mean to sort these out! Get the books all redone and shiny, and publish them on all the outlets I can get my e-fingers on. I’ll also be changing up the pricing structure to reflect the latest trends. I’d like to rejuvenate the sales for my beloved trilogy and see my graphs go back up again. That would be lovely.

I’m still getting requests for a fourth book on this series. Which I love! I’m so happy that people are enjoying it. I don’t have any fixed plans for a fourth book, but I have notes lying around for some shorts. No promises at this point, but if an idea from this world bites strongly enough, I’ll write it.

Anthologies

Last year, I wrote a couple of shorts for anthologies. This year, I hope to see them published, but that depends on the projects in question. Watch this space!

I’m also looking at putting together my own anthology this year. I’ve got a few themes in mind to choose from, and the kernels of ideas for stories. Still working out details, but I’m aiming to have one released (to the public! to buy and read!) this year. This will be a collaboration effort, rather than an anthology of my work – I’ll be writing one story for it, maybe, and editing, collating, and typesetting the whole thing for release. I have a couple of friends I’ll be working with on this, so it’s not just me.

This is a first for me. I’m not sure how it’ll all go, but I’m sure it’ll be interesting to find out! Need to polish up my ability to write short stories. Also need to figure out more of the back end side of doing a project like this.

I love learning new things.

Writing Community

I adore my local writing community, and that I get to help shape it. I have no intention of stopping, because of all the wonderful help, support, and encouragement I get from the awesome people around me.

Creative Writing Group

Into its sixth year now and still going strong. This year, we have a new time-slot to experiment with, later in the evening, and it’ll be interesting to see how that goes. I took a poll of the subjects that the group wanted to talk about at the end of last year, and I’m curious to see how that list works out. I have a few topics to research so we can talk about them, and that’s all good.

Writers’ Asylum

This was an experiment last year and went so well that I’m doing another one. Preparation for this is going well (I got the prompts written recently), and I’ll be lining this up for April soon. Watch this space!

NaNoWriMo

Can’t go without mentioning this. I fully intend to resume my Municipal Liaison mantle for the 8th year, and we’ll be having fun with the usual events. Plus, there are plans for a new-style Kick-off Party and another Writer’s Retreat. The ball for the Retreat will probably start rolling soon (organising an event this big has to be done well in advance). I’m looking forward to the awesomeness already.

Is that everything? I think that’s everything.

Oh, except that a friend and I have been sorting out setting up an editing service. It’s a way for us to do what we love and raise some money in the process. I’m both eager to get going on this and reeling at the thought. Right now, it’s on a pause until I can get stuff at home more settled. Then I’ll be able to give it the attention and devotion it deserves.

More on this in (hopefully) the near future. For now, I have a set of goals before me. So enough talking about it: let’s get going. Onwards, my friends!

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • More pls (0)
Share

2013: A Retrospective

2013. It was a bit of a rollercoaster. I can’t believe I’m a week into 2014 and I’m only just getting to this.

I just pulled up my goals post from the beginning of 2013, and wow. The year went so differently to what I had planned. But I guess life would be boring if it was all that easy to plot out, right?

Let’s break it down a bit and see what I managed to achieve and what fell by the wayside.

Work

This one went pretty much as I had hoped. It has been a busy year with occasional bouts of stress, but for the most part it has been secure and steady. Thanks, workplace.

Home Stuff

This is a big part of what changed for me this year. The financial stuff has settled down and that’s a layer of stress that has lifted off me. Score one for me!

However, my folks were both called away several months ago, and they’re currently on the other side of the world. Nothing to worry about: they’re staying with my brother for a while and playing with the grandkids. All good! We share a house, so I’m currently housesitting and catsitting and generally taking care of everything at this end for them. Which, to be clear, I don’t mind in the least, but it is an extra overhead that I didn’t have before.

What I didn’t expect was just how much those little things would impact everything else. I’ve lived on my own before, looked after a house (and its associated furry inhabitants) by myself before, but this time around it’s different. I’m struggling way more than I ever have before. I think my health is just so much worse now and that’s making it difficult for me to keep up. In truth, I haven’t been coping well, and I’ve had to call in friends to help out when my energy reserves just failed me.

In struggling to keep up with things at home, everything else has been impacted. This is because my priorities have to be:

  1. Work, so I can pay to eat and live
  2. Home stuff, so I eat and live
  3. Writing, so I can breathe and be me.

For the latter months of 2013, I spent some time trying to figure out how to make things work at home. It has involved shuffling some things around (not moving house, but moving a lot of stuff around inside the house; this is a work in progress, but it’s getting there); paying someone to pick up the things I don’t have energy for, like the cleaning; and toying with the idea of getting in a lodger. The lodger idea has slipped into the background for now, and I have a few ideas for improvements to help things go more easily for me at home, but it’s getting better. Slowly and surely!

It has been a big change for me. I hadn’t realised just how much I had become used to sharing a house (and all its associated work) with my folks, and how much I relied on their help and input on a day-to-day basis. I’m so grateful for my friends and all the help they’ve given me as I’ve been working to adjust and cope; I would be in such a mess now if it wasn’t for them.

Health

Yeah, it’s crappy. The CFS has been getting worse for a while and I’m struggling along on empty all the time now. I’m budgeting my time and activities more frugally than I’ve ever had to before. For those familiar with the spoons theory, I have fewer spoons to play with these days.

I’ve had a little bit of progress. The tests I had towards the beginning of the year highlighted about three separate issues that I needed to deal with. Things are improving there, slowly. Sadly, these are all digestion-related, and while my tummy is happier these days (most of the time), it hasn’t led to an improvement in energy levels.

The CFS is an ongoing battle. It forces me to prioritise things very strictly, and getting on top of things at home has been more important than chasing the unicorn of a successful CFS treatment. It might sound counter-intuitive, but I needed to get the immediate concerns sorted out so that I have the leeway to tackle the longer-running problems like CFS. I don’t have the mental or emotional energy to handle both at once.

As the home stuff gets sorted, I hope to get time to devote attention to my shitty health. In the meantime, I plough on.

Writing

Here’s the really interesting stuff. The short version of this post is that it hasn’t gone anywhere near as far as I had hoped. But let’s break it down a bit.

StarwalkerStarry

The web serial is still going strong! It’s into its fourth book now and heading swiftly towards its fourth birthday. Hard to believe I’ve been writing it for that long! My readers continue to be a delight and a wonderfully supportive blanket. They have been so understanding about the posts I’ve had to miss because I was simply too sick to make it (and I’ve done it far more than I’m comfortable with). I’m so grateful for them. I still love the story and even though it’s getting harder to keep up, I have every intention of pushing on and trying hard.

I talked about making the first trilogy into ebooks. Maybe running a Kickstarter campaign and having a whole plan – I actually got as far as writing out the plan. This has largely been skittled by the issues above; my priority is keeping the web serial posts going, and work on editing the first book is very much a background task now.

As for the shorts, I have a pile of ideas brimming but little to no time to get them down. The fourth one of the series is almost written, but it’s fighting me and I’ve been letting it rest so I can come back at it fresh. Not much progress here.

Vampire Electric

(Picture from scienceblogs.com)

(Picture from scienceblogs.com)

I had hoped to finish the first draft. What I wound up doing this year was quite different: I have abandoned the first draft about 70% complete, and started over. It was my NaNoWriMo 2013 project, and I used November to start fresh on the second draft of this story. I knew a lot of the things I wanted to fix or do better or differently, and I think it worked. It’s coming out much stronger now, though I’m only about a third of the way in. On the plus side, I have a good idea of how it’s going to end now, and I still can’t wait to write it.

Tales from the Screw Loose

I aimed to get all the prep done for this. I wound up doing a load of planning during my NaNo prep, so I’ve actually achieved this! There are still a couple of key things that I’m still figuring out to tie it all together, so it’s not quite ready to start writing, but it’s ticking over in the back of my brain. Soon, my pretties, soon.

Apocalypse Blog

Not as much progress here as I’d like. My sales dived into the toilet and I’ve been working to kick them back up again, to no avail. This is mostly because I haven’t got to the point where I could put my work into the public domain and actually do said kicking. On the plus side, I have fresh edit feedback on the ebooks and a set of shiny new covers all ready to go. I just need to put them all together into ebooks again and re-release them.

Anthologies

I haven’t been entirely idle this year! I joined in on a couple of anthologies that were being put together through a group on Goodreads. I have written my stories and sent them through, but both projects have foundered since then (not due to my involvement, I promise!). One of them is back up and running now, and I have hope that it will see the light of day in the next year. Fingers crossed for the other one.

Community and Events

2013-ML-Facebook-ProfileI’m still heavily involved in my local writing community. NaNoWriMo is still a big event for me, full of events to organise and run, and explains why this blog went so chillingly silent after 1st November rolled around. We did a bigger and better than ever Retreat, lots of write-ins, and lots of fun was had. Plus I got nearly 50,000 words of that second Vampire Electric draft done, which makes me happy.

The Creative Writing Group is still going strong. Five years old and still rolling. This makes me insanely happy. Lots of interest and enthusiasm from old and new faces alike, so definitely nothing to complain about here.

I also did an experiment this year by holding the first Writers’ Asylum. Why do I call it the first? Because it got such good feedback that I think it was a great success and I’ll be doing another one. However, they take so much work to set up that I’m not rushing it: right now, it looks like it’ll be one per year. Otherwise I’d never get my own writing done!

Overall…

It has been a hell of a year. I haven’t achieved anything like as much as I had hoped. But I’m still here, I’m still moving forward, and I’m grateful for all those things that have gone well. It’s harder than it used to be, but I’m still writing. I still have ideas clogging up my brain and popping out of the woodwork when I least expect it.

I know it’s a bit late for new year’s resolutions (and I never really do them anyway), but I’ll do a 2014 goal-setting post soon. It helps to see it all laid out; I like plans. Here’s hoping that 2014 is the year that I manage to stick to more of what I aim to do!

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (1)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • More pls (0)
Share

Running up to NaNoWriMo 2013

Best. Nails. Ever. (mine)

Best. Nails. Ever. (mine)

It’s almost here. I can’t believe it’s almost November.

As you may know, it’s National Novel Writing Month in a few days, and I’ll be trying to write 50,000 words in a month again. It’s my seventh year and I can’t break the pattern! I’m also MLing this year, which means organising loads of events, including a weekend away on a tropical island for around 30 writers.

Always good to know what your goals is

Always good to know what your goals is

Yes, I’m crazy. Luckily, I have help this year from a couple of fellow nutty writers, and they’re doing a wonderful job of lightening the burden of organising stuff. (No, they won’t help with the 50,000 words; they have their own novels to write and I’m not eager to share that part of NaNo!)

So, other than getting the events all lined up and good to go, what else have I been up to in preparation for my annual Month of Madness?

Let’s see:

  • Getting my nails done, all themely. Because these things are important.
  • Putting party bags together to give away to writers. Because we’re all secretly 5 years old. (Okay, in many cases, not so secretly. Some of us are shameless.)
  • Putting hipster PDA/lanyard packs together with report cards, so that writers can collect stickers through NaNo when they achieve goals. (See point above for reasoning. Writers love stickers.)
  • Getting piles of prizes ready for various competitions.
  • Planning out two projects, because I’m having a decision-making disorder.
  • Getting the next month’s strategy for my team at work all lined up and ready, because I’m taking a lot of November off.
  • Tying up loose ends at work so I can be away for the next couple of weeks.
  • Trying not to panic.
  • Attempting to figure out if I’m taking a hiatus from Starwalker or going to keep writing it while I’m novelling.
  • Remembering to feed the cats.
So many planning cards! (Vampire Electric)

So many planning cards! (Vampire Electric)
Caution: spoilers!

A couple of weekends ago, we had an awesome Planning Day for our NaNo peeps. I took along a pile of notecards and wrote a load of colour-coded goodness. Both of my proposed projects are now fleshed out, and planned about as much as I plan anything I write. After I got back home, I diligently stuck the notecards up onto their respective pinboards, so now I have pretty planning boards for the stories.

If only I was sure about which one to write! I think I’m leaning towards Vampire Electric at this point, though it’s entirely possible that I’ll wind up bouncing to Screw Loose if the steampunk doesn’t flow or work the way I want it to. Yes, I know it’s rebelling, but I’d rather write words I know will be useful than bang my head against a story that’s just not working.

Yet more planning cards! (Tales from the Screw Loose)

Yet more planning cards! (Tales from the Screw Loose)
Caution: spoilers!

I had semi-planned to take a break from Starwalker and go on a month-long hiatus. However, it’s not that long since I had a break (when Book 3 ended), and I don’t think it’ll be a huge drain to keep the posts going over the month. My readers have been awesomely patient with me while I’ve been sick and I’d like to reward them by maintaining their usual weekly service of posts. Also, I can count the posts I write in November towards my total.

Last Sunday, we had our Kick-off Party for NaNo; a BBQ in the park where we can get together, give away loads of stuff, get excited about NaNo, talk about our novels, and meet fellow crazy people. It was great! The weather was perfect (not too hot for a change, and it didn’t rain on us at all), and there was a good mix of familiar faces and new people to welcome into our fold.

Happy planning boards. But which one to choose?

Happy planning boards. But which one to choose?

This week, we have a drinks meetup on the 31st October. I expect there’ll be lots of ‘ahh, I can’t believe it’s the 1st tomorrow’, ‘I have no idea what to write!’, ‘I can’t wait to get writing’, and ‘is that a costume or do you always dress like that?’ It’s going to be a blast. Looking forward to it!

I’m currently reading over the first draft of Vampire Electric, to get myself in the mood for picking it up again. It’s reminding me of how much I like the milieu and the characters, and I’m already starting to pick out the bits I want to redo heavily in the rewrite. I plan to start over from scratch, and it’s good to have a clear idea of what I want it to be.

This time last week, I was drained and weary, and trying not to fret about being ready in time. This week, I’m getting enthused about the writing and more comfortable with how prepared we are for the events. There’s just the logistics for the Retreat to sort out, and then we’re good.

I’m getting there. Soon, there will be novelling. And on top of it all, I’m having fun with an awesome group of people. I love my region. Luckiest ML and writer ever.

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (1)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • More pls (0)
Share