The Recap – April 2018

Bloggos! Where has this year gone? It can’t be May already, can it? That means we’re almost halfway through the year! Nope, nope, nope. This is not okay.

What were April’s Goals?

  • Edit 4 chapters of The Steel Armada
  • Continue submitting short stories
  • Build a backlog of 5 chapters of Sanctuary
  • Keep reading

How’d it go?

  • Edit 4 chapters of The Steel Armada
    • Close! 3.5/4. This project has been a lot harder than I anticipated. I have thoughts I’ll share later this week in my editing-centric post.
  • Continue submitting short stories
    • Done! Both Lifelike and The Cost of Rain are out for submission right now.
  • Build a backlog of 5 chapters of Sanctuary
    • Nope. Didn’t even finish chapter 3. This is both good and bad. Bad, because I need to get this project done and off my plate. Good, because that means my focus was on original content and not fanfic.
  • Keep reading
    • Sure did! I finished twelve titles in April! Ten graphic novels, one audiobook, and three novellas.

Total April Word Count: 10,431

April was mostly me blinking bleary eyes at my ancient MacBook screen and cursing my life. The revisions on The Steel Armada have been… trying at best. I proved my stubbornness to myself, my determination to see a project through. I’m proud of the work I’ve accomplished so far, but it’s time to admit that this book needs more than I’m giving it. More on that later this week.

I’ve submitted two short stories this month, and both are still pending. That’s a good thing. The longer the stories are out, the better my chances. I’ve received two rejections so far this year, one form and one personal. I used the feedback in the personal rejection to tweak The Cost of Rain and look forward to seeing how it does this round. Submitting is nerve-wracking work, but it gets less so the more I do it.

Sanctuary has become something I work on when I have time to spare, which is exactly how it should be. I add a few lines at a time, a paragraph here and there. It’s a fun little escape and a good place to get the writing day started. I still like it, and definitely am committed to finishing it, but it is not my top priority.

Binti-Trilogy-nnedi-okorafor-e1511508509714

I read a lot of graphic novels in April, as well as the Binti novellas. Lots of quick and small stories to get me through the month and pad my reading challenge.

Honorable Mentions?

I posted thirteen blog posts this month. Three book reviews, five goals summaries,  one monthly recap, and four miscellaneous posts. The blog is seeing the most traffic ever, with April getting the most views in a single month in the seven year history of To Write These Words Down…

That feels good. So thank you all for visiting this site and reading along on my adventures in writing!

April was also a month of adventure! Madhu and I attended the OWC Writers Conference, which you can read all about. I learned that she’s a “Walk ‘n’ Talker”, as we went for a walk on the beach and shouted over the wind to discuss our stories. I took risks and networked. I met people, which is like one of my biggest social anxieties so, yeah. I did that.

the audient void no 5The Audient Void published its fifth issue, and opened submissions for issue #6. You can purchase a copy or submit now!

I’m proud of April’s word count. It’s not as stellar as March or even January, but it’s the reflection of solid, difficult work. That makes me happy.

So, Now What?

  • Write 500 words/day for The Steel Armada
  • Write 2 chapters for Sanctuary
  • Continue short story submissions
  • Keep reading

Madhu and I took a walk in a local park this morning to discuss our plans and goals for our manuscripts in the coming months. It was nice. I don’t get outdoors often enough, which was made apparent by my shortness of breath as we climbed a modest hill. And now that the weather is clearing up (maybe), I hope to take more walks.

So, what I’ve been hedging around and still won’t get into too much detail about here, is that I am going to do a complete rewrite of The Steel Armada. It’s what’s best for the book, no matter how much it scares me. The fact that I’m so daunted by the prospect of rewriting is another good reason to do it.

Basically, this was the very first manuscript I ever finished which is amazing in an of itself. But, the story can be so much better, can become so much more, if I take the bones of what I have and build something entirely new out of them.

At least, that’s what I think. That’s what I feel. What I know is that I cannot continue to work on the book the way it is now. There is no light at the end of its tunnel. And I do not want to put all this effort into something that is ultimately a dead end.

So, I’m starting fresh. A lot of material can stay, all of the characters I’ve built will remain, but the world and how they live in it has to change. And for the first time, I’m really excited about those changes.

Again, I’ll really hash out these details in my Editing Check-in post later this week, but I couldn’t really talk about May goals without sharing this decision.

Writing Sanctuary is going to be my treat to myself. If I’m meeting my The Steel Armada goals, then I can work on fanfic where there is much less pressure. Plus, it’s just fun to write. It’s self-indulgent and judgment free. I need a project that doesn’t feel like life and death.

Short story submissions are on track and I will be sure to update the blog as soon as I hear anything. I’ve got a good list of potential markets to submit to after this round, and I plan to write a post about this process later in the month. I also have some new short stories I’m slowly drafting, though I have no plans to work on them at all this month. I want to get Sanctuary and The Steel Armada done before I really focus on any new content.

Reading is still a priority, but I have a nice cushion in my reading challenge, so I’m going to revert back to a more leisurely reading pace and focus more on writing in May than I have this year so far. Expect book reviews to slow down this month.blackfish city

Right now I’m reading Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller, which is super interesting so far. It’s definitely the right book to read while I dig into this rewrite as it has a very similar vibe as what I’d like to have in The Steel Armada.

So, that’s May. It’s daunting. There’s a lot of work to get done, starting today. I have to write 500 words of a new version of a book I wrote in 2013. It sounds scary, but 500 words?

I can do that. Like, super-di-duper quick. 500 words is nothing. Which was my point in making it the goal. What’s 500 words? Pffft.

And if those 500 words go well, suddenly it’s 1000. Or 1500. It grows into something bigger than anticipated, leaving me feeling accomplished and energized to get more work done.

So let’s get to it already!

 

BZ

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Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 17

Blogland,

It’s Monday, which means it’s time to talk about goals!

 

Last Week

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Edit 3 chapters of The Steel Armada
  • Write 500 words of Sanctuary
  • Research more short story markets
  • Review Madhu’s pages

How’d I do?

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Edit 3 chapter of The Steel Armada
    • Nope. 1.5 were done. I have more to say about this in a forthcoming post.
  • Write 500 words of Sanctuary
    • Done. Got a whoppin’ 1,476 on this chapter. Feels good.
  • Research more short story markets
    • Yep. I still haven’t heard back from either Fireside nor Flash Fiction Online, so that’s good. But, I’m ready with a whole list of magazines to submit to if/when the time comes.
  • Review Madhu’s pages
    • Duh-doy. It’s the one thing you know I’ll do!

Weekly Word Count: 5,164

This week was a bit of a struggle, editing-wise. I was also in denial for a lot of that struggle, which really only made things more difficult. Again, I’ll get into the details in  post later on this week. That being said, I did write about 1500 words of rewrites on The Steel Armada this week, so nothing to sneeze at.

I also wrote a nice big chunk of chapter 3 of Sanctuary, about half of it, actually. So that feels super good too. I also accepted some last minute Tumblr prompts, and wrote one of them in one session. At just over 2000 words, that felt really good. It’s not related to anything, just a little Dragon Age oneshot, but it was fun to write.

I’ve done a bit of solid research on short story markets, both pro-rate and semi-pro. I’ve got a list and couple websites bookmarked to use as resources. Once I hear back from the two I’ve submitted to, I’ll probably do a “Submissions check-in” post to talk about all of this.

Now What?

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Write 500 words/day on The Steel Armada
  • Finish chapter 3 of Sanctuary
  • Finish ma-sulevin Tumblr prompt
  • Get halfway through Blackfish Cityblackfish city

So, that looks super straightforward. Five bullet points? And one of them is just reading? Pffffft. Easy peasy! Oh, except I’m going to write at least 3,500 words this week? What? What’s that all about? Well, Madhu and I have challenged one another to daily word count goals on our respective projects. I couldn’t bring myself to agree to her 1k/day, but I can commit to 500 words. So… I’m doing it.

Someone send help! What have I done?

I’ll be back this week with the April Recap and my Editing Check-in. Until then, Bloggos!

 

BZ

Help?

Hiya Blogland,

I don’t have time to write a full book review today, but I’m feeling antsy about things so here I am.

I’ve been re-familiarizing myself with The Steel Armada before I send the first chapter off to my writing friend, and… woof. I didn’t realize I hadn’t actually done any physical edits for draft #3 on that chapter yet. There’s a lot of description and pacing issues, things that need fleshed out or better explained that I just haven’t managed to do yet.

So now the question is, do I hammer that out this weekend before I send it to her, or do I send it as is and wait to get her feedback before I make further changes?

Also, I was really confused about some discrepancies between copies of my manuscript, and so booted up the old Mac to look at the originals… So I’m typing away at Starbucks on my old computer. It’s sort of nostalgic. I have to say I do like this keyboard more; it feels better and more responsive against my fingertips. But, it’s also got about 10 years of wear to make it so… cozy.

Anyway, what should I do? A part of me just wants to dive in and make the changes. But, the rest of me figures I ought to let her see it the way it is and make sure that her feedback matches my own concerns, else I could be making changes for the wrong reasons, or just making the wrong changes.

Let me know what you suggest!

 

BZ

Editing: On Research

Blogland!

It’s been a quiet week spent reading for Book Club. I just finished The Paper Magician last night, but won’t be posting the review until next Thursday, after our meeting. But, at least you have that to look forward to!

What I’ve really been focused on this week is research for The Steel Armada. Now, this is the first time I’ve ever actually done full blown research for a book. I’ve done some quick Googling on the spot to get clarity on an issue or scene, but I’ve never sat down with a text and taken notes and built up details and the world from there.

I had my first study session on Monday. For the first time in a long time, I took the manuscript out into the wild (Governor’s Cup, a local coffee shop downtown) and put in my earbuds to bring the din of espresso machines and conversations down to the comforting bustle of business.

It was a nice hour spent pouring over Sailing Ships. As previously mentioned, that book is a gold mine of info, but it’s actually a little advanced for me. It’s giving me terminology and diagrams, but it doesn’t really explain what the various parts of the ships do. So, I know where the mizzen is a on a ship, but I don’t know what function it serves.

20170223_140140
Dammit, Jim! I’m a writer, not an artist!

So, my research is leading to more research. Which is awesome! I’m taking notes, learning new things, and letting those things further develop the world. And when the world develops so do the characters who live in it.

But, I want to talk a little about research in general, in terms of writing fiction.

Those of us who took any Creative Writing courses have heard the “tried and true” advice spoken with finality: Write What You Know.

…Yeah. About that…

Funny thing for Speculative Fiction authors is that this advice falls flat. I’m writing about a desiccated planet and the small fraction of humanity that survived on a flying armada of steel ships above it. I don’t exactly know what that’s like.

But, I know what it’s like to be a seventeen year old girl falling in love with her best friend. I know what it’s like to lose your father figure. And I know what it’s like to demand more from the people and the world around you.

And anything I don’t know, like the architecture of rigged ships, I can research.

Which is really the most important thing I’ve learned so far. Speculative Fiction authors can still write what they know, they just have to know a lot about a ton of different things. The key to great world building is developing the small details that lend your world credibility. Yes, there’s much in Fantasy and even Science Fiction that is made up of things we can never truly know before we set out to write them. But, I can learn as much as I can about the things that are real, or based on reality.

Do giant sailed ships made of steel fly through the air? No. But, those ships of my creation can follow the look and feel of wooden rigged ships from human history. And the more I know about that, the more realistic I can make the ships of my creation.

Now, I’m not saying I’m going to be an expert of fully rigged ships after this book is finished. And I doubt I’ll ever try my hand at sailing even the smallest of sailed craft. That actually sounds terrifying to me. But, I will be able to name the parts of a ship with clarity and confidence.

Watch out Jeopardy! I’ll wreck that ship category when the time comes!

(See what I did there? Wreck? Ship? Hah!)

 

aeroponics-vs-hydroponics
I have only the slightest idea of what any of this means…

Another big research topic I’ll be doing soon is Aeroponics versus Hydroponics. These people have food, both plant-based and livestock, which means they grow crops. How? What’s their nutrition like? Their livestock’s nutrition? These are questions that need answered.

Not because they’re vital to the plot. They aren’t. At no point does a potentially under-nourished cow play a critical role in freeing this society from its oppressors. But, if I can lay the foundation of my own understanding, I can address any questions that might come up.

For instance, now that I think about it, goats are a far more believable protein source than cows. They’re way more versatile eaters and take up less space, while providing milk, cheese, meat, and hide.

Goats.jpg
Who doesn’t love goats? Look at ’em!

But, if you haven’t noticed by now, the research spiral can be a dangerous thing. I think it’s why I’ve avoided it so far. Because questions only lead to more questions, and I have a tendency to want them all answered.

Let me tell you now, that is not necessary. You don’t have to answer every single question. Because ultimately you just need enough truth to wrinkle out any doubt from your manuscript.

Of course, it’s not a bad thing to do too much research. You just have to recognize when to rein it in and bring your focus back to what really matters: the manuscript.

So, I’m spending a lot of time doing research this round of edits. But, I still feel hopeful about an August finish. I think this round of edits will go by faster because there’s a lot of content creation happening. That’s way more interesting than going through line for line and reworking things.

But, all this content creation means I’ll probably have to do a fourth draft, to clean up the lines I’ve added in order to flesh everything out. Bummer. I still want to have all of that done by August.

I’m going to need an endless supply of coffee and snacks.

 

BZ

 

In Which I Did a Thing…

So, for the first time, in such a long time, I’m posting a “Craft Discussion” post! But first, a confession.

Yesterday, on my ten minute break, a certain famous author with whom I am obsessed tweeted that his literary agent is accepting queries for the first time in years. Several things happened in a very small space of time.

  1. I squealed. I admit it, shamelessly. The opportunity to share my work with one of the best agents in my genre opened up, and I squealed.
  2. Then I read the blog post, outlining the submission requirements. I soon convinced myself that I must write a query letter for Vessels.
  3. I then worked for another two hours, trying not to puke from excitement/nerves.
  4. Then I dashed through the minimum requirements of my homework in order to research and draft my first query letter.

So, I did it. I wrote a query letter for Vessels, which is now going under the title The Steel Armada. I spent the remainder of the evening giddy with the sheer weight of it all. I wrote a query letter! Me! It’s so… professional! And, given the examples I used as a template, and general feedback so far, it’s not a bad query letter.

All that’s left are some tweaks to the hooks, and to slim down my author bio, and I feel good about the letter. But, this agency also wants the first five pages of the manuscript. Initially, this was not a problem. I just finished the first round of edits on the first four chapters, so these pages are pristine and ready to rock.

Then I pasted them into the same space as my letter and read them in the vacuum that would be an email to a person I don’t know from Adam.

And suddenly this new outlook on my novel appeared, and it crushed me. All of the things that my gut said weren’t working became glaring, and stupid omissions. How could I not use such and such words to describe this? This part here doesn’t fit in with the rest. This is awkward. I hate this. Add in the occasional, that’s not bad, and my first five pages were suddenly a daunting workload to be combed over and perfected.

Which leads me to my real conundrum: I cannot, in good conscience, submit The Steel Armada, when I know it still needs so much work. The submission deadline is February 14th, and at first I had myself convinced that I could get most of the manuscript up to snuff by then.

Now…

Now, I’m not so sure.

With school and work, I’m not at all confident that I can make the necessary edits in so short a time. I could get maybe half of it done, and get the other half done while I wait for a response. And really, as much as I know I’m a good writer and that my story is good, it takes ages to get a literary agent. I know I’m not snagging this one right out of the gate. So maybe getting all these tweaks done before someone might ask to see more shouldn’t be such a concern.

But, it feels unfair. If they did ask to see more, I’d only be wasting their time, and shooting myself in the foot. The last thing I want is to present a product that isn’t the best possible representation of my chops as a writer.

So, I’m undecided. I still like the query, and I might just send it as a sort of “Fuck it”. Shrug of the shoulders and a silent plea to the writing gods as I click the intimidating “Send” button. But, I’m hesitant, now that the high of writing the thing has faded.

But, what I really wanted to say is that, if you haven’t written a query letter before, do it! Even if you have no intentions of sending it to anyone anytime soon. Write it. It forces you to boil down your book into the briefest descriptions, and makes you look at your work much more objectively than you might otherwise.

I spent quite a bit of time editing The Steel Armada, and though I knew there was something lacking, it wasn’t until I looked at the novel as a submission that I could hone in on the real problems. Because of this exercise in querying, my novel is going to be that much stronger.

So, in closing, I don’t know if I’ll be querying any agents anytime soon. But I’m glad I took the time to write a query letter and to consider, quite seriously, submitting The Steel Armada. The experience has been most instructive.

If you have experience, thoughts, or advice for my Query Quandary, please feel free to share them!

Anyway, I’ll talk at you all soon. Hopefully Monday, if I can manage to finish Castle in the Air by then. For now, I’m off to do homework, as usual.

 

BZ