Thursday, November 29, 2012

November Goal Wrap-Up

Toward the end of each month, I review how I did at meeting my goals for the month. November was not a shining example of goal-meeting for me. Here's how it played out.

1) Keep my Daily Writing Chain going. - Yes and no. I didn't announce any sort of hiatus for Philcon prior to heading to the convention and there was probably at least one day in there where I could have gotten writing done and wasn't actually at the convention and still didn't write. So I'm semi-considering the chain "broken" but I did write a big "PHILCON" across those days on my calendar so I guess I'm semi-not-considering it broken as well.
2) Write and submit one brand-new story. - Done.
3) Revise and submit one story from my backlog. - Done.
4) Finish a draft of my story for the Codex Novella contest. -Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. No. The good news: the contest doesn't end until December 10th. The bad news: at my current pace I'll be done by December 10th. 2013.
5) Enjoy myself at PhilCon. - Done.

You know, looking at it like this, it really doesn't look too bad. Only one true "swing-and-a-miss." But that was on in some ways the most substantial goal. However, I think the real reason I felt less-than-accomplished this month is because I didn't actually finish goals 2 and 3 until this evening. I spent pretty much all month with "Well, I enjoyed Philcon!" as my "What I unambiguously accomplished from my goals" list. And I think that led to my sense of being way off the mark.

Regardless, November is basically done and I'm moving on to December. I've got new goals for that month and I'm hoping to have a solid performance on them and pave the way for a great 2013.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Story Sale: "The Barber and the Count" to Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Some very good news in my inbox today. Beneath Ceaseless Skies has accepted my short story "The Barber and the Count" for future publication.

This is good news for a whole host of reasons. First off, Beneath Ceaseless Skies! This is a very exciting market to be appearing in. Second of all, I really like this story. (Okay, I know... I like almost all of my stories. But this would be among my favorites if someone forced me to rank my stories.) Third, there's a little backstory to this story. My wife occasionally cuts my hair and one night this summer she was doing just that. As I was sitting there, relaxing, the idea for this story came to me. As soon as the haircut was complete I hurried to the computer and wrote up its first draft. Fourth, this sale is my third qualifying sale for full Active membership into SFWA. Which means that not only will I be able to nominate for the Nebulas, but I'll be able to vote on them as well.

I feel very fortunate to have had such a phenomenal year with writing. I've had about 25 short story sales including the three SFWA-qualifying sales and several others at professional rates. I'm getting to do something I love and having some measure of success at it. What could be better?

Finally, thanks to Brenda Stokes Barron and Alex Shvartsman for critiquing "The Barber and the Count" and helping me make it better!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Story Sale: "In the Paint" to Arcane II

My flash horror story "In the Paint" has been accepted by the Arcane II anthology. I'm always fond of being able to tell a little interesting "story-behind-the-story" and this is one of mine which was inspired, in a way, by one of my children.

Our living room, before it was recently repainted, had a pattern of markings on one wall which looked like a scary face to one of our sons. His repeated insistence that it was a monster led me to dream up this story.

Arcane II will have both an electronic edition and a print edition. I'm pleased that my little collection of physical books and magazines with my stories in them will have a new addition early next year.

My Goals for December

As I do every month, I'm documenting my goals for the month of December here. Thursday I'll review my progress for November. As I mentioned yesterday, it's not going to be the most impressive set of results.

But for today, I'm looking forward. My December goals are:

1) Keep my Daily Writing Chain going. - This goal shows up every month.
2) Write and submit four new stories. - I'm doing a mini-Write 1/Sub 1 weekly like I did last December. My goal will be to have a new story out the door every Friday in December.
3) Revise and submit one story from my backlog. - Still chipping away at the backlog.
4) Finalize my 2013 goals. - Rather straightforward.

You'll notice this is a very pared-down goal list compared to some from prior months. There are a couple of reasons for this, but the main one is that since I've been struggling a bit to reach some of my goals, I want to make sure that I'm focusing on the things which are of the highest priority to me. Right now, my writing identity (both in terms of how I believe other writers/readers see me and my own internal writing identity) is that of a short fiction writer, mostly in the science fiction and fantasy genres. All of the goals above either help me reinforce that identity or relate to defining future goals, which makes them valuable in my mind.

I'm hoping that I can have a solid 4-for-4 performance on these goals. While I'm perfectly fine with not reaching all of my goals every month and with giving myself some slack, I think it's time to rein things in a bit and go for a clear "win" of a month.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday Links: November 25, 2012 Edition

I'll be posting my December goal list tomorrow and November goal results Thursday. The results aren't going to look terribly impressive, I'm afraid as November has not been the most productive month for me.  Being out of town for nearly an entire week did more to disrupt my schedule than I had realized it would. Couple that with a major holiday and some other family members traveling during the month and I've struggled to get as much done as I would like. But as I've commented before, a bad month or two here or there isn't going to be a huge obstacle in the grand scheme of things for a potentially decades-long writing "career."

On the plus side, I feel very good about the time I spent at Philcon and visiting writing friends before and after the convention. I also feel good about the fact that I've been able to pick back up with writing even after having taken some days explicitly away from doing actual writing. Having not taken a single day away from writing for over a year, I had a bit of (perhaps irrational) concern that I would have trouble getting back into a routine. So far, so good.

Only a couple of links for this holiday week along with a link to my own one blog post from this week:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Award Season Begins

There are two major groups of awards in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres: the Hugos and the Nebulas. The Hugos are given out every year at Worldcon (in late-Summer) and voted on by members of the World Science Fiction Society (or, put more in other words, by people who are either attendees or supporting members of that Worldcon). The Nebulas are voted on by Active members of the Science Fiction Writers of America and given out at a SFWA banquet in mid-Spring.

I don't know if I'll be attending Worldcon this coming year and I'm unlikely to buy a supporting membership to vote on the Hugos. Since I'm not currently an Active member of SFWA (having only two of the three required qualifying sales of short fiction) I don't know if I'll be voting on the Nebulas or not.

What I can definitely do for this years awards, as an Associate member of SFWA, is submit nominations for the Nebulas. I am actively interested in reading short fiction which qualifies for nomination for the 2012 Nebula Awards. If you would like to propose titles which I should look into reading between now and when nominations close, please feel free to put them in a comment below. Depending on how many suggestions I get, I may or may not get to read absolutely all of them. Short stories and novelettes will be more likely to get my time than novellas. If the story was published in a free-to-read manner online, providing the address of the story will definitely make it easier for me to access the story and make me happy. I will be maintaining a page listing stories I found notable as I go through my reading.

Finally, there is a single story of my own which I would like to point readers toward as they consider their nominations for Short Story awards. "Scraps" was published in October at Daily Science Fiction. It is both my personal favorite of my short stories and the one which has received the most praise from others.
"Kelly signs for possession of the fireproof box and wonders what her mother had felt the need to protect. No jewelry, that all would have been hocked years ago--cigarette money. Back when they still talked, Kelly always told her mom the cigarettes would kill her.

She hadn't imagined it happening so suddenly.

She is tired from the overnight drive and stares at the only legacy left to her. Of course there's no key. It seems a perfect coda to her mother's life, until the helpful officer tells her how easy it is to pop the lock.

She thanks him and leaves the station, carrying what had been transformed from a little mystery into something mundane. Just another problem with a half-assed solution."
Those are the opening four paragraphs of Scraps. It is relatively-short, approximately 1600 words, so I hope you will consider going to Daily Science Fiction and reading the rest, whether you are reading for short story nominations for awards or not. Thank you!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday Links: November 18, 2012 Edition

Sixty percent of the way through November and Thanksgiving is just days away. Since I just took a blogging hiatus in the past ten days for Philcon, I'm not going to take an extended hiatus for Thanksgiving. However, I will forgo a post on Thanksgiving itself. So, the only post between this one and next week's Sunday Links will be one on Monday.

While plenty of writers are deep into writing a first draft of a novel for NaNoWriMo, I'm tentatively re-exploring last year's NaNo project, both by re-reading it myself and getting feedback from a reader. This is both exciting ("Yay! It's no longer just sitting gathering electronic dust on my hard drive!") and a bit daunting ("Ugh! It's kind of a mess with little bits and pieces hanging off here and there which need either fully integrated or lopped off."). I think the only way it's going to turn into something truly readable is for me to re-outline it. Large chunks will end up getting completely rewritten, I'm sure. On the bright side, as I was reading it there were moments here and there where I thought to myself: "Hey, that works rather well!" So, even though it was written by someone newly back to writing who had never written a novel before, there's that, I suppose.

If you're doing NaNo this year, I hope that you're enjoying yourself. I'm glad I'm not doing it again this year, but I think I may plan on having a novel-length project ready to tackle during November 2013.

For now, here are this week's writing-related links as well as a link to my own blog post from this week:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Philcon Trip Report

Early, early, early last Thursday I left home on the start of five VERY full days of travel and socializing. I drove to Pittsburgh and then took Amtrak to New York City where I met up with Alex Shvartsman. Alex was a great host and guide to restaurants in South Brooklyn where we ate twice with fellow writer Anatoly Belilovsky.

Friday we headed off to Philadelphia for Philcon and we were there through Sunday. Then it was back to Brooklyn for the evening and a reverse trip via Subway, Amtrak, and car to Columbus on Monday. As I write this, it's very early on Thursday and I still feel like I'm recovering a bit from the trip.

Monday, November 5, 2012

2013 Goal #3: Complete Four Novelettes or Novellas

I'm going to be working out my 2013 goals publicly here on my blog over the next couple of months. Note that all of these posts will be considered "First Draft" goals, subject to being modified, enhanced, shrunk, contorted, folded, spindled, mutilated, or even out-and-out obliterated at my own future whim. These goals are also being presented simply in the order that I decide upon them. So Goal #1 isn't any more important than Goal #5 (or whatever). I probably will reorder the goals in order of importance when I go to wrap this all together in a final set of 2013 goals.
2013 Writing Goal #3: Write and Submit At Least Four Novelettes or Novellas to Pro-Rate Publications 

I mentioned in an earlier goal post that I wanted to find a way to encourage myself to stretch out more into the longer forms of short fiction. This is the goal I have decided upon toward that end. Let’s look at each piece of the goal:

  • Write and Submit - That means new stories, not taking the few stories of this length I already have and gussying them up.
  • At Least Four - One per calendar quarter; both an eminently-reasonable pace and one that will, if met, give me a nice chunk of longer stories to get out on submission.
  • Novelettes or Novellas - Speaks for itself.
  • to Pro-Rate Publications - I added this because I want to push myself to write strong, general-interest stories at this length. What I don’t want to do is look for, say, token-paying anthologies looking for stories of this length and target them specifically. On the one hand, that might give me a better chance of making a sale, but on the other hand, if I’m going to start working in these longer forms more I want to aim high right off the bat. That will involve working with other writers on critiques, etc.

Though it might not seem like it, I expect this to be a fairly challenging goal for myself to meet. I could, of course, meet it by just churning out something mediocre and sending it out the door but I have no intention of using a cheat like that to meet this goal. After all, I'd only be cheating myself!

Why do I think this will be difficult? There are two main reasons: One, I don't have much experience plotting for these story lengths and, two, I don't have much experience revising them either. Both of those will make this a more difficult goal boat in terms of doing the actual work and in getting into the right mental state for it. I know that this is something I can do; but it will definitely force me outside of my 1,000-5,000 word comfort zone.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday Links: November 4, 2012 Edition

I hope that people who are doing NaNoWriMo this year are off to a good start. Even if you're not, don't fret too much; there's a lot of November left to write in and it's not too hard to catch up from a few slow days.

Meanwhile, a quick blogging update. I'll be attending Philcon next weekend (If you're there, please feel free to say "hello"!) so I'm going to take a short blogging hiatus. I'll have a post on Monday 11/5 but then won't run anything scheduled again until Thursday 11/15. I'll most likely put up a trip report from Philcon sometime before the 15th and I'll also report on any interesting news, but otherwise things will be quiet around the blog during that week and a half.

Below are this week's writing-related links as well as links to my own blog posts from this week.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

2013 Goal #2: Submit 36 Short Works for the First Time

I'm going to be working out my 2013 goals publicly here on my blog over the next couple of months. Note that all of these posts will be considered "First Draft" goals, subject to being modified, enhanced, shrunk, contorted, folded, spindled, mutilated, or even out-and-out obliterated at my own future whim. These goals are also being presented simply in the order that I decide upon them. So Goal #1 isn't any more important than Goal #5 (or whatever). I probably will reorder the goals in order of importance when I go to wrap this all together in a final set of 2013 goals.
2013 Writing Goal #2: Submit 36 Short Works for the First Time

As I've talked about in an earlier post, short fiction is my favorite thing to write. It's also what I've put the most energy so far into developing a certain level of proficiency with.

To continue driving myself forward with development as a short fiction writer, one of my goals for 2012 will be to submit 36 short works (anything from short-shorts to novellas) during the year. This works out nicely to three a month or, if you want to think of it differently, about one every 10 days.

I resisted going with a goal of 52 (which would be a true Write 1/Sub 1 pace) because one of the other goals I'm going to have for this year -- which I haven't quite formulated yet -- will involve working at stretching out into longer short stories, novelettes, and novellas. I've done very little work so far at those lengths and would like to develop more comfort with them. I realize that, in a way, this may seem to contradict what I had said earlier. But, at least from a marketing perspective in the traditional publishing world, there is a fairly clear dividing line between novels and Everything Shorter Than Novels. And I expect the vast majority of my stories will still be firmly in the Short Story length, but in an attempt to try to help give myself a bit more time for each story, I'm going with the slightly-less-ambitious 36 story goal.

Notice also that I mentioned submitting the stories. That means if I write a story and then don't polish it and get it out the door, it doesn't count. On the flip side, if I'm able to take a story which I wrote this year (or even last year) and haven't previously gotten out the door and make it submission-worthy, then that story would count for this metric.

I expect to have more goals specifically around short fiction but I am still working on formulating those. And this one, I suspect, will end up being the Big Goal for the year. Because for now I consider myself to be a short fiction writer and this goal drives me to write and submit short fiction. Convenient, isn't that?

As far as how I will approach this goal, I don't expect it to involve any real new routines. I've worked at this pace since I started writing again in mid-2011 and, if anything, I might have more time for fiction writing if I pare back my blog time. So, this goal might not be a huge stretch for me, but at the same time it would also represent a significant amount of productivity, assuming I do indeed meet the goal.