Weekly Cafe update and a little Writing News

Another bunch of links for you. I’m finding it easier to squeeze these kind of posts in between writing and real life.

First, an update on Willow: going slow, but I expected that to happen. I want the first three chapters of this book to really pull readers in, so I’m taking my time to make sure that it’s right. I’m planning to workshop the 1st two chapters at the Wiscon writer’s workshop, so I need to get those done by April 1.

And speaking of Wiscon, yes, I’ll be there, albeit on Friday only, due to some scheduling snafus. But the scheduling looks very good indeed. After the workshop, there will be a Cultural Appropriation 101 class that looks to be very interesting in light of some very interesting discussions that’s been taking place on LiveJournal. (I’m still working on my own thoughts of the matter, but there are a couple of things I still need to do before I set those thoughts into words.) I also plan to go to Odyssey Con April 24-26. Hmm…from writing workshops to geekcons. I’m making my way up the networking ladder.

Other news: “She’s All Light”, the story I poured my heart and soul into for the past year, got Honorable Mention at the 1st Quarter Writers of the Future Contest. I was a little bummed about it, but overall a lot happier over it than I was making finalist at the Oddcon writing contest. It also means that I’m free to send it out, so I’m putting it out on the field. Wish me luck! I’ve already started on a new story for WOTF. I won’t make the 2nd Quarter deadline, seeing that April 1 is already reserved for Willow, but I do plan to take my time so that I can send it in time for the 3rd Quarter, which will be around June.

In other news, one of my favorite podcasts is being put on hiatus. Adventures in SciFi Publishing is not ending—there may be a couple more episodes put out, but it’s not known when it will go back to its regularly scheduled broadcast, if ever. Kudos to Shaun Farrell for putting it all together. I’ll miss his and Sam’s insight on the industry. Mr. Farrell, by the way, also placed as a semi-finalist in this quarter’s WOTF. I bet his was the one that got me knocked down to Honorable Mention. ;-). Mucho, mucho congratulations to him.

In light of that, I’m looking for a new podcast that deals with the fantasy/scifi genre in the writing community. I would love to hear suggestions from any writers out there (and I know you come to the Cafe. I keep needing to refill the coffee machine…)

Back to writing!

Writing Goals for 2009

Yayyy! I get to start off 2009 by setting up my goals again. Hooray!

Just think–around this time last year, I had no clue what the year would be like. My hubby and I had just started working on our house, stripping out the carpet and painting the walls, while we interviewed real estate agents who could best sell our house in the quickest time. In fact, I’m pretty sure–yes–around this date, I sat in what was our office and bemoaned the fact I hated painting, I hated having my life in disarray, I hate home improvement altogether.

Interesting how life can change from year to year.

I’m pretty sure this year would involve another move at some point. But this time, it would be a lot less stressful–at least, that’s what I hope. But this post is not about the fun of moving. This post is what I didn’t get a chance to do around last year–setting up my writing goals for 2009.

Believe it or not, I got a lot more accomplished in 2008 than I thought. Which is a more optimistic way of saying that when 2008 started, I didn’t think I would get anything accomplished at all. I figured by the time we moved to Madison and I adjusted from being a stay-at-home mom to entering the workforce on a part-time basis, I then would be able to figure out how I would do my writing schedule. And indeed, during the first half of the year, there were times when I only were able to work on writing five, maybe ten minutes a day. Sometimes not even that.

But once we got to Madison, things got settled more quickly than I thought. In fact, around July I was able to seriously take a look at where I was in my writing. So let’s bring that up:

Willow: Finish reading by Fall 2008, start edits by Winter 2008.
Well, technically I finished the readthrough on January 5, 2009. But at least I never specified exact months. So as far as I know, I can easily say start edits by Winter 2009. Okay, yes, that’s cheating. But frankly, I don’t care.

Short Stories/Essays/Poetry: Polish 5 stories and submit them. Write 2 essays and submit. Polish 2 poems and submit.
Let me take a look at what I did accomplish in 2008:

I wrote 5 new short stories and 1 poem, ready for revision.
I submitted 3 short stories, one of them being “She’s All Light”.
I had 3 short stories published (all in the beginning of 2008).

I also had a partial recap posted for the Agony Booth. (Southland Tales). So that can be applied towards an essay.

Critiques: Do one a month. Find a writer’s group.
Ha! It’s a miracle I even remain on some on my writer’s lists. However, I not only did I find two writers’ groups, I also joined up with a Wiscon book group.

Contest: I’ll give myself a break. Enter 1 contest, fee or non
“She’s All Light” was sent to the Writers of the Future Contest at the end of September.

Craft: Attend the Wisconsin Literary Festival in October (I don’t know when the Midwest Literary one is–the website seems to be down). Plan to attend Wiscon in 2009.
I attended the Literary Festival, and was somewhat disappointed. They didn’t offer as many writer workshops as I thought. Seeing that it was more of a Book Festival, I’m not all that surprised. Wiscon I’ll talk about it in a bit.

Looking at what I did accomplish in 2008, I’m pretty happy. Granted, it wasn’t that much of a productive year, but I could have done worse.

Looking ahead to 2009, I can tell it’s going to be a novel-heavy year. Weeping of the Willows is ready for its second rewrite. I managed to get it down to 50 chapters, and I want to shoot for a second draft that’s at least 150,000 words. I’m hoping that will cut down the amount of time spent working on it, because I no longer have the luxury of a stay-at-home status to write.

But I still need to get some short stories circulating out among the markets. I happen to be working on one right now, though it’s not for a market per se. I’ve also been seriously thinking about the advice Neil Gaiman gave on the Adventures in SciFi Publishing podcast about writing every day. I’ve been trying it out, and while I don’t always write something new everyday, I have been managing to write out a whole story a week since 2009 started. All right, yes, that means so far I’ve written two new stories, but maybe there’s something to this ‘write every day’ advice.

I’m thinking with all my energies going to Willow, this would be a good time to churn out stories that are relatively short, easy on the word count, and don’t require all that much. Of course, this brings me to my next hurdle, the Writers of the Future Contest. I confess–I’m really having fun writing stories for it. Maybe it’s that Honorable Mention I got the first time I submitted something. I’m curious to know how high I can get. Semi-finalist? Finalist even?

The Contest’s deadlines are quarterly. If I can revise four good stories this year and send them off, what are the odds that I reach the Finalist stage? Don’t know until I try, I suppose. But time is the factor here. Again, I don’t have as much time that I did when I lived in Chicago. I’ll have to budget my time wisely.

So let’s do this:

Willow: Begin 2nd draft in February 2009. See if I can do two chapters a week for completion by Fall 2009.
Short stories: Freewrite a story each week. Revise four stories to send to Writers of the Future. Submit rejects to other markets. (This means that while I’ll be writing more stories, I won’t be submitting as much. A bummer, because I want to get more of my work circulating out there–but I think Willow takes higher precedence, so I don’t mind putting submissions on the back burner. And at least this way, I’m getting something out.)
Essays: Although I’m not going to work on any essays this year, I do want to do a full recap for the Agony Booth since that is so much fun to write for. That would probably happen in latter portion of 2009.
Contests: Focus on submitting a story for each quarter of Writers of the Future.
Critiques: With all the writing I’m doing, my email critters lists have taken a very low priority. Conversely, I’ve been working more with my face-to-face email groups. I’ll have to keep doing that, I guess.
Conferences: There are actually several conferences I’ll be doing this year, but seeing that it’s getting late, I’ll reserve those in my next post.

So there you have it. More writing, most of it concentrated on Willow. If all goes well, who knows? Maybe the beginning of my 2010 goals will be “sending Willow off to publishers & agents…”

Readthrough of Willow Done (or Helllooooo, 2009!)

Well, I’m back! Did you have a good Christmas holiday? I sure did. Lots of rest and relaxation. It was pretty nice.

Oh, by the way. I finished with my readthrough of Willow.

It rocks considering that I didn’t think I’d be done with it until the end of January. Then again, it sucks because I realized I spent more than a year working on it. I started the readthrough back in October 2007, and I officially finished it yesterday, January 5, 2005. That’s a long time to figure out a first draft of my book.

But despite the long time, I am pleased. I took my time to go through each chapter, making notes on how I wanted storylines to go. Sometimes I had to backtrack to previous chapters to see whether things remained consistent. I wrote down a lot of questions that I will need to do research on, and I have a lot of decisions to make, like names and other world-building tasks, that need to be finalized. But the reason for going so slow in my readthrough was that I wanted everything in place, so when I start on my second draft, I can write it straight, knowing what will happen in each scene. It’s basically what Stephen King mentioned in On Writing  (and I really wish I can find that book now–it’s packed up somewhere in our garage; I could really use his advice again. Looks like I’m going to have to go digging this weekend.)

So what does this mean? Well, first of all, I’m giving Willow a little rest while I get some other things out of the way. My plan is to start the second draft work in February, but first of all, I need to know where I stand as far as writing goes. Seeing that it’s a new year, that means new goals, new resolutions. I’ll have that on the Cafe hopefully this week.

But just think–I’m one step closer to actually having Willow finished. Who would’ve thunk it?

Stay tuned. 2009 is going to be one interesting year…

…let’s just hope that it won’t be as interesting as 2008 was. Oy…

LaShawn’s Project Status Update (or working on my 5th final draft…)

So right around yesterday as I recoved from a full day of hanging out at the Circle M farm by cooking roast chicken and cheesy rutabega, a thought occurred to me as I looked out and to my shock saw tiny flakes of snow flying by the window:

Oh crap. November’s coming up isn’t it? That means I gotta spend the whole month focusing on Willow!

Ever since I learned about NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago, I’ve been using the month of November not so much as a month to put my butt in a chair and crank out a 50,000 word novel, but to focus on the novel I already had, Weeping of the Willows. The first year I did it, I cranked out 50,000 words worth of new material for my book. Ironically, a good deal of that material got stripped out in the first reading, but I still think it did me some good.

Last year, I don’t think I participated. Things were crazy for me that month, what with the possibility of selling our house and moving to Madison and all. It’s a miracle I got any writing done at all during that time.

So here it is, a year later. At the moment, I’m still reading through the first draft of Willow. It’s been slow going, partially because I do it at night, when I’m more likely to be tired and ready to blow it off. Partially because I’ve been focusing on my short story She’s All Light. Yes, yes, I know. A few weeks ago, I said that I was working on my final draft and once it was done, I would send it to Writers of the Future. No ifs, ands, or buts. I was done with it.

But then something happened.  As I worked on the final draft, one of the supporting characters, which in previous drafts had been pretty sublime and quiet, did something so unexpected and bizarre, I actually stopped working and backed away from the laptop. It still gives me chills thinking about it; I don’t want to say that it was violent thing she did, but in the framework of the scene, what she did was something that made me–and the other characters–jump. And just like that, it came out of the blue. As I was working on the final draft.

Well, of course, when a character does something that gives you chills, that changes the whole nature of their persona in the story. There’s repucussions. You want to know why the character did it. You want to know how that one single act impacts the story from that point on. And I knew that I couldn’t call it a final draft anymore, because the story had changed. Which means that I need to do some more work on it.

Luckily, we had a writer’s group meeting, so I brought my “final” draft in. Turns out that I don’t have to rewrite the whole story from scratch, which is a great relief. However, the group confirmed what I felt after finishing the ‘final’ draft–the sections I had to change were so strong on their own, it made some other scenes unnecessary. So basically, I need to do some cutting.

Which is fine. My word count for this story had been pretty high, roughly around 12,000 words. Cutting out some scenes will trim it nicely. The hard part will be structuring the story after those cuts. I’ll have to take a couple of weeks to think on how the best way to do that…

And now you see my dilemma? For me to do this, I’ll have to either put aside working on Willow, which is something I don’t want to do, or I’ll just have to continue doing what I’m doing now, which is spend the afternoon working on the story, and the evening working on Willow.

Then again, it’s not like my writing schedule is set in stone. I can be flexible. The WOTF deadline is not until January 1. I don’t necessarily have to wait until November to focus on Willow. I can start doing that…well…today…

So how does this look: this week, I’ll focus exclusively on Willow in both my afternoon and evening writing sessions. Then, next week, start working on the She’s All Light cuts during the evening session. It means I’ll be putting more of my energies on working on Willow still, but in switching the two, it will help me focus on something new at night. At least, that’s the theory. Then, when the story is done and finally out the door, go back to doing Willow twice a day until I’m done with the readthrough. My goal is to start working on actual revisons at the beginning of 2009. (Oh, and what fun that will be…)

I’ve realized that this means that I will have spent the whole of 2008 working on two things: She’s All Light and Willow. Doesn’t make for a productive year, does it? Well, I don’t feel terribly bad. Actually, I have written other stories for fun, and there are several that I want to focus on when I get the chance (I may actually focus on one after I get SAL out the door–it’s a flash, so it should take up much time). But in light of all that’s happened this year, I’m just grateful that I have the chance to write at all.

So thank you for being with me as I sort all this out. All of this will pay off, I promise you when both of these stories get published. Don’t know when, mind you, but I can tell you it will happen.

Status update on Willow

My desk is clean. The whole house is clean. The boy is currently watching Diego. I got some free time on my hands. I could work on a new blog post (all right, I’m writing it now, yes. I know that. But there’s a reason for all this. Bear with me, okay?). But I could also work on some short stories. Since so many got published within the last month, I need to get some new works out there. I could work on some essays–I got some ideas in mind to try to get into Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Or…

I can quit dilly-dallying and start editing Willow.

On the “I should be Writing” podcast a few weeks ago, Mur Lafferty talks about pre-writing writing. It’s doing work on your book like outlining or character sheets, but not actual writing. However, it’s just as important, because it lays the groundwork for your book. Without it, you’re lost, or at least constantly changing your world without any set guidelines. I feel like I haven’t been working on Willow at all, just fiddling around with the storylines. But although it didn’t feel like work, it was very needed work.

Over the past few months, I’ve been writing out all the storylines, both major and supporting, of Willow by character. It felt somewhat convoluted, as I did each plotline according to each character, and in some cases, there was a lot of repetition. But I wanted to see how the storyline looked from each character’s point of view. In some cases, what one character did made me change the storyline of another character. Doing it this way, I was able to see the big picture of the book. It also made me realize that I’ll have to rewrite many, many chapters.

Ah, the fun of being a writer.

As of last Friday, all the storyline plots are done. I still need to organize them in a way that’s easy to read (I’m going to have lots of fun with my Storylines software this week), but I think that I’m done cementing the storyline to how I want it. Which means that, sooner rather than later, it’s time to dive back into the pages of Willow.

I suppose this post can qualify for psyching myself up for it. Although I’ve looked at my book while I worked on the outlines, I haven’t ‘touched’ it per se. Now that the actual plotline groundwork is laid, it’s time to look at the book and figure out how to clean it up to how I want it. I’m still trying to figure out how to do that. I know it will involve a whole lot of notes–it will also involve going through each chapter and figuring out what stays and what goes. I may even need to write new chapters. And which word processor should I do this all in? What I’m using now, RoughDraft, was nice for the first draft, but this will be an extensive rehauling. Should I utilize my Word 2007 for it? Should I look for another writing program? yWriter, for instance? Any writers out there with any ideas?

Hmm…don’t know yet. But I do know this–if I’m going to edit Willow, then now’s the time to do it while my schedule is free. So this is my accountability statement: that starting next Monday, March 17, 2008 I will start my major editing of Willow.

Hey, that’s St. Patrick’s Day! A Day of Green for a Willow book. That’s a nice sign, don’t you think?

Snip, snip here. Snip, snip, there. Trimming the branches of “Willow”

I think I’m going to have to take my Willow Synopsis down.

Last week marked the first edits of Willow…well, if you don’t count the reworking of the first fifteen chapters when I got back into writing it. I officially started my editing by whacking out a supporting character’s plotline. I also started an outline of the main plot and not only saw places that I could easily cut and/or rearrange, but I found a very decent spot where I comfortably end the book.

Granted, that also means that the remaining arc of the story will have to be its own book. Which means that this will definitely not be a trilogy. More of a four book series, which is what I expected. When I first saw my massive word count, I knew there was a good chance that I would have split Willow in two. The question was how to do it so that the first book had an ending that didn’t feel forced or incomplete.

All in all, I have trimmed Willow to a word count of 260,000 words. Much, much better. It’s so much easier to handle. Granted, I’m still working on outlining, so I won’t know what will be in Willow for several weeks, but this gives me a good idea on where I’m heading. In other words, I’m putting away the chainsaw and taking out the hedgeclippers so I can trim Willow to a nice, pretty shape.

Daniel wants breakfast now. Guess that trimming will have to wait until later.

 

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October Scheduling (or time to get down to business…eventually…)

October already, huh?

It amazes me how time simultaneously crawls and speeds. When Kaleidotrope sent me the acceptance note for my story “Click” back in April, I didn’t think I could wait until October for it to be published. And now, here it is, October 1, and it feels a little weird.

It’s not just a new story for me that makes this month eventful. This month was also my start point to start editing Willow again. I’ve been letting it sit on the back burner for just about 2-1/2 months now. I already know what my first step is going to be…and it’s cool that I’m itching to jump into it. But I can’t do that. Not yet.

My schedule, which I had perfected at the beginning of September, has been thrown off a bit. A couple of glitches have occurred–and I stress glitches. They aren’t major crises or anything like that–that has me scrambling to repair them. One of them is the fact that I’m taking more time than I thought with an article I’m writing. I thought I would be done with it in two weeks, tops, but it’s now stretching into a month. Luckily, I’m in the last stages of it, so I’m hoping to be done with it by Friday at the latest. But in doing this article, I had to put other projects on hold. It’s not terribly bad–it’s a good reason why I had blocked off August through September as a time to keep my writing light and easy–but this has ballooned into quite a project. I’ll be glad when it’s over.

Another glitch is that this weekend, October 5-7, is the Midwest Literary Festival taking place in Aurora, IL. There’s going to be a lot of authors there, as well as some wonderful looking workshops. I’ve attended it for two years now…but I won’t be there this year due to a conflict in schedule. I don’t feel bad about missing it–after attending the Midwest Writing Workshop in July, I’m pretty good as far as conferences go for the year. Besides, I think I will get a whole lot more out of the festival next year, when I plan to have Willow ready to pitch to agents. So all of you going to the festival this year, have lots of fun for me, and let me know how it goes.

I’m not going to completely turn my back on networking, though. When I learned that I wouldn’t be able to go to the festival, I decided to try something new and go to an online conference. The Muse Online Writer’s Conference boasts that it’s the only conference of it’s kind, with most of its workshops being down in chat rooms. Registrations are closed right now, but you can go to see what kind of workshops they have. I’ve only participated in a chatroom a couple of weeks ago (I’m not really the type of person who does chatrooms) so this will be a new thing for me. The conference goes from October 8 through 14, which I think is timely because then I can just dive into Willow on the 15th.

So, basically, October is shaping up to be quite a busy month. Stay tuned as I attempt to juggle the days and keep my sanity intact.

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