Archive for category New Year

2015 – In Review (the short version)

Time is…fleeting, and as there are still just over 26 hours left in 2015 [at the time I’m writing this], there are still things from the past year that I am pondering, and am not quite ready to commit to pixels. Or, at least, not quite ready to commit to heavy amounts of typing – yet.

As a brief recap, however, here are a few of the highlights that I plan on elaborating on in a later post, after we’ve crossed fully into 2016.

January – I was awarded my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction
March & May – Kids got older
Somewhere in there, I began an affair with Audiobooks
Summer – A whirlwind trip back to Seton Hill (this time with Mary Catherine along). And Chuck Wendig.*
July – I committed to a new writing project.
September – Signed up for Paradise Lost 6 (2016) Writing Workshop
November – I got older
December – Kool-Aid consumption – I upgraded to El Capitan (from Mountain Lion).

Specifically speaking to the writing component for a moment, this has been a year of discovery…of taking stock of myself, of what I want to accomplish, what stories I want to tell, and how I can best go about committing story…

Like I said at the beginning – borrowing from RHPS – time is fleeting. When I looked at the solid list of ideas that I’ve been tinkering with (stand-alones, planned trilogy arcs, potential series characters [small arcs with potential for more adventures]), there are at least 30 books. 30! So there has been a lot of focus on how I can maximize my opportunities for story development and getting words down.

That focus – on implementing and refining my process – will play a large part in my plans for 2016. Because words matter…stories matter. And I have stories to tell…

* Wendig was the guest speaker for the Summer 2015 Residency, so I was able to meet him, briefly, during his books signing after his night session.

Leave a comment

Recapping: 2013 – Goals & Resolutions

Now that we have crossed into 2014, let’s take a look back at what I had hoped to accomplish this past year.

I had mentioned last year that, “Instead of “Resolutions” I’m going to invoke “Goals”… I think I was already leaning that way last year, but I think “Resolution” suggests something to complete. Some of the things on my mind are more about progressing towards… not necessarily completing.”

1) Improve my consistency… working on time management, my BIC/WOP (Butt in Chair/Words on [the] Page), and my general productivity.
This saw improvement, mostly later in the year. I did some experimenting (which I’ve been meaning to detail here properly), and found some tricks that work for me that I intend to incorporate from the top of the year. That experimentation worked well enough to get me across the finish line for a (very rough) first draft of the thesis, which is a plus.

2) Work on improving my fitness & reducing my weight. I have a 10 month old. The day job is sedentary. Writing is likewise a generally sedentary thing. Improving the physical aspect should lend itself to keeping up with my son, as well being conducive for slinging ink. And slinging ink then improves # 1 above.
Meh…I shaved a few pounds (I now float between the 210-215 range, where at VP a year ago I was claiming 225 for the sake of accommodations for the Cessna).

3) Continue reading – another post to follow, since I have a challenge to discuss… [The point of that other post: See how close to reading 100 books in a year I could get.]
I managed 24 complete reads (3 of which were re-reads), as well as significant portions of a handful of others.

4) Make progress on some domestic projects that have been idle for far too long… photo scans, cleaning out the garage, etc.
Results have been mixed, but will be of primary concern the first few months of 2014 with two more kids on the way.

In short, lay some new foundations.


Leave a comment

2013 – Goals (Reading, Expanded)

It has often been said that writers read. It’s the understood rule of anyone that aspires to publication, or to improvement of craft. For the past few years I’ve been keeping a running list of what I have been reading, both for my own memory, but also for those that might be interested in discovering new books or see what might be influencing the imagination.

My average has been 30-ish books in a year. Considering that I am reading around living a life, a full-time job, and trying to write my own novel, I would say that’s not a terrible amount. It’s probably higher than the average books per year for someone my age, but I don’t have any concrete numbers that would either refute or support the idea. I have friends that read a lot more than I do, some less.

But I like reading. And I want to read more. If I could puree the pages and mainline the words to get the same effect, I would give it a try. It doesn’t work that way, but what if…?

Which is why I decided to try something this year. While I will still be reading (and maintaining a similar goal of 30+ new books read through the year), I wondered how high can I get? Nicholas Sparks said once that he reads about 100 books per year (or, did at the time of that interview). Can I make it to 100? How close can I get?

The picture above is my revised stack for 2013 with most of my “prioritized” reading materials to be chosen from. Note I said “most.” There are also quite a few ebooks that I have intention of reading that are, obviously, not pictured.

So that’s the challenge I mentioned the other day. Anything you have on your reading agenda?

Leave a comment

2013 – Goals & Resolutions

I mentioned the other day about how my 2012 Resolutions settled out. While I still like the list approach, and I do have a sketched out list of things – both professional and personal – I’m going to steal something from Scalzi here.

Instead of “Resolutions” I’m going to invoke “Goals”… I think I was already leaning that way last year, but I think “Resolution” suggests something to complete. Some of the things on my mind are more about progressing towards… not necessarily completing.

1) Improve my consistency… working on time management, my BIC/WOP (Butt in Chair/Words on [the] Page), and my general productivity.*

2) Work on improving my fitness & reducing my weight. I have a 10 month old. The day job is sedentary. Writing is likewise a generally sedentary thing. Improving the physical aspect should lend itself to keeping up with my son, as well being conducive for slinging ink. And slinging ink then improves # 1 above.

3) Continue reading – another post to follow, since I have a challenge to discuss…

4) Make progress on some domestic projects that have been idle for far too long… photo scans, cleaning out the garage, etc.

In short, lay some new foundations.

* Balance is a key thing, and the biggest thing I have struggled with for years, even before Mary Catherine. Last summer, after getting accepted to both Glasgow and Seton Hill I entered a brief mental funk trying to figure out which way to go. I got second, third and fourth opinions. I even had someone do a tarot card reading, to get yet another perspective (or, to get out of my own headspace and think a little differently). One of the results of the reading was helping me do some self-reflection and realization of just how out of whack my time management can get. Something I then started working on late in the year, but with shortcomings in consistency as my fall term wore on.

Leave a comment

2012 The Year in Review (Part 1: Resolutions)

So, to remind everyone of where we started from, here’s the original list I posted last January, with color commentary on the outcomes below each point.

What I can do:
1) (a) Write. The daily routine (250-500 words per day – on a project).
I’ve had higher goals in the past, but then when things got down to it, there were days that wouldn’t hit mark, and days that would sail clear over. Writing by hand (as I’ve been deciding to do for longer, more creative pieces), this means writing about one to two pages a day. Not necessarily a lot, but considering books are measured in pages, it’s not too bad of an idea. Besides. I will likely write a lot more, depending on how many projects I’m looking at, and that doesn’t even take into account any blog posts, or “non-project productive” things (emails) I might write.

1) (b) Write multiple things.
This isn’t to say “have a dozen projects going at once” (although I might, to some degree), but to write different types of things. To paraphrase the Book of Scalzi: Non-fiction/technical/editorial pieces may not be romantic, but they can pay pretty well, and there’s a lot more places for them. And those types of pieces are more likely to help pay bills while the fiction is still making the rounds.

1) (c) Marketing and sending submissions out.
A writer cannot be published if they do not send anything out.

A general response to all of the above: A mixed bag. I was inconsistent when looking at daily word counts, and sunk a lot of time (early in the year) to finalizing and submitting Graduate School applications, as well as some scholarship applications back in September. WIth those applications came some essays, and with the first semester of the MFA program came “reader response” sorts of things – brief essays that are more like mini-blog posts of a sort. In the same breath, I can say I’ve logged over 20k words for what is intended to be my MFA thesis novel (mostly revised existing work I had done years ago, but I DID retype everything – as well as added close to 8k words that were original to this effort). I did also write an original short story (closer to Flash Fiction) out of what has been labeled “The Horror of Thursday” from my Viable Paradise experience.

2) Get weight down… The ultimate goal will be to get to between 175-185 (target), but for now the idea is to get into (and stick with) a fitness routine, using some of the things that I’ve learned over the past year. For future reference, I’m starting the year between 215-220.

Meh… still about the same, which, considering the day job is 99.9% sedentary I think that maintaining is only slightly on the “victory” side… not a good thing for long term considerations, but at least it’s better than the opposite.

3) Read 30-40 “new” books.
I’ve got a slew of holdovers from my stack that I assembled in 2011, including both new purchases and gifts from throughout the year. While I would really like to clear this one by at least double, volume of other activities may continue to keep the numbers modest.

Close, but not quite. The official count was 29 for the year, but there were two that I cleared the halfway point in December, and a third that was underway, but didn’t quite finish. But that falls into the “average” range for my past few years.

What I am hoping for:
1) (a) Writing output: Projects can be unruly, and what may start out as a good idea for a short grows longer with each synapse that fires. Novel ideas may only work as a sub-plot. In the past, I have listed specific content generation goals which, for someone still starting out and figuring out my own balance, has proven the axiom that my eyes were bigger than my stomach. I hope to complete at least two stories (short, novella or novel – however they grow), with at least six stories “thought through” (brainstormed, outlined, etc). Depending on how the school applications go, the specific working stories may already be determined.

1) (b) Publications/Presentations/Conferences: I am planning on applying for two writer’s workshops this year, in addition to the pending applications for graduate school. I will also consider submitting for other presentations and conferences, but those are lower on my priority list until at least after June (which means, any proposals will likely be for 2013 events).

See the above response regarding 1a… As for B… As I mentioned above, I applied and was accepted to Viable Paradise. The other workshop I was considering applying to would have been Clarion West, but dates conflicted with the Residency schedule for the MFA program I was accepted to. Since the MFA program is a low-residency one, that means no change in employment. However, that also means having to be frugal with any days out of work (to cover the time I am away at the residencies), so any plans for conference presentations any great distance from the home turf is out of the question (shame… I was considering some topics for the IAFA conference in March, which features Neil Gaiman as a GOH).

But most of all, I hope I can help to fulfill Neil Gaiman’s New Year’s wish:

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.
So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever.
So the most important hope for this coming year, is that I make a lot of mistakes – ones that I can learn from, grow through, and will ultimately improve me in ways both expected and not.  And I hope the same for you.
Yes, I would say I made several mistakes… things that I could have (and probably should have) done better… some of which I will address another time.

Leave a comment

On 2009 Resolutions

It is time for a quick recap of the 2009 list of resolutions (which will be followed up shortly by the 2010 list in a second post…

1) Get weight down to between 175-185 (target). Didn’t happen, exactly. I did manage to shave off about ten pounds before the holidays hit, I was still a longway from the target goal. But some is better than none, and gives me a good place to start.

2) Read 26-30 “new” books. Holy crap, is the best phrase that comes to mind. 44 books. Even if you drop off the one reread (for a class), I still managed a helluva lot of reading, across a pretty wide range of works (from academic, to various forms of fiction, both short story collections & novels, and some writerly advice books). Epic win is another phrase that come to mind.

3) (a) Write. The daily routine (500-1000 words per day), with the year’s target being at least: 2 books (50k+ words), 6 short stories/novellas, 2 scripts (long form), and 2 scripts (1 act/short form). Lofty goals, but no dice. I do have two books at almost half-done, and a few other projects that were worked with, butnothing “complete” in the sense I was looking for.

3) (b) Marketing and sending submissions out. I started the process, and made some short story submissions. Meager volume of works out, but I broke the (mental) ice, and began solicitation. I even scored a Finalist spot in a writing contest! A modest first step, but room for a lot of growth in 2010.

4) Train for the local Biathlon (to be held 5 April 09 – 3 mile run, and 15 mile ride). Nope, darn it.

5) Get “A”s in my classes. Done.

6) Finish cleaning out at the old house. Um, close but not quite. There’s still a lot of stuff that is in the attic that will need to be hauled away, and will need weather that is somewhere in a more comfortable range (neither freezing, nor roasting) before I try to clear the rest out.

7) Travel – like last year, 1-2 “good” trips, just me and MC, with a few weekend jaunts free of any familial obligations. A weekend trip to Myrtle Beach, and a week in the Carribean. Call it done!

8) Christmas shopping done by early November. Success, actually. Most of our shopping (for other people) was done by early November, and we were able to handle shopping for each other without a lot of the extra stress in the weeks before Christmas.

9) Send out birthday and anniversary cards, etc. in a timely manner. Also done, er…. sort of. Thank you cards were pretty much on the ball, and most birthday stuff, butthere were a few that probably slipped through the cracks.

10) Work on the photography skills… [Which means, actually, taking a lot of pictures, and carrying a camera around on some of the expeditions… or plan “photo trips”…] Sort of done, with some side credits. I played quite a bit with my phone’s camera (at concerts, etc.), and took quite a few pictures on our Carribean trip. Got a new camera for Christmas, and am readingthrough some stuff to be able to start getting some pretty nice shots. Definitely on the agenda for 2010 to try a variety of things.

11) Process the Netflix queue – watch 100 movies from the queue. Not quite. Made it the the 1/4 mark before the end of the year hit.

12) Work on my Wii Fit age (which, I suppose, goes with # 1). And I have not gotten on the Fit recently… which translates into a severe fail on my part.

All told, not too bad for the year. Not a glowing, star-studded success, but featuring a lot of areas that saw significant steps towards some level of acheivement. Which is part of the point. I think resolutions should be something to create a challenge, so completion carries some sense of accomplishment. And it’s the challenge that keeps things interesting along the way.

Leave a comment

Happy New Year!

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a week late here, but I’ve been so busy around the house the past week and getting ready for the new semester that I’m only now getting back to the blog.

I hope the holiday season was good to you, and not too difficult to get out in the swarms of shoppers. More to come soon, on the 2009 recap, 2010 projections, and other writerly goodness.

Until then, again, Happy 2010!

1 Comment