Low Arc to appear in The Jim Baen Memorial Award: The First Decade

jbmassc-coverMy story “Low Arc”, which won the 2014 Jim Baen Memorial Award, will appear among other winning and place-getting stories in a new volume due this autumn.

The Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest is an annual award, run as an association between the National Space Society, and Baen Books. Winners attend the International Space Development Conference, including an awards dinner for the presentation.

The contest is administrated by Nebula Award Nominee William Ledbetter. He’s edited this volume. Thanks Bill.

The contest asks contestants to “write a short story of no more than 8,000 words, that shows the near future (no more than about 50-60 years out) of manned space exploration”. My own story is an adventure piece, set on the moon in the near future. One of the times where I’ve gone for hard sci-fi.

This is my first pro anthology appearance, and I’m honoured to be among such company.

“A Better Sense of Direction” by Mjke Wood
“Letting Go” by David Walton
“Cathedral” by Mike Barretta
“Space Hero” by Patrick Lundrigan
“That Undiscovered Country” by Nancy Fulda
“Taking the High Road” by R.P.L. Johnson
“The Lamplighter Legacy” by Patrick O’Sullivan
“Low Arc” by Sean Monaghan
“We Fly” by K.B. Rylander
“Dear Ammi” by Aimee Ogden
“Citizen-Astronaut” by David D. Levine
“Gemini XVII” by Brad R. Torgersen
“Scramble” by Martin L. Shoemaker
“Balance” by Marina J. Lostetter
“To Lose the Stars” by Jennifer Brozek
“Cylinders” by Ronald D Ferguson

The cover is by the esteemed Bob Eggleton. Bob published a thumbnail of the cover minus the text on facebook, which is kind of cool.

jbmassc cover without text

A different kind of a year.

So my number of external publications is slowing. Down to a few factors.

First: I’m focusing on novels, so I’ll be writing fewer short stories and novellas. I may write a short story or two between bursts of novels. Inclination will be a big determinant on that 🙂

Second: I have a trip coming up later in the year. Six weeks. Latin America. I can’t guarantee my access to the internet to manage submissions and the business as a whole. So I’m putting submissions on hold from now through until I return. No sense in frustrating editors if by chance they want my story and they can’t get hold of me.

Third: I’m pursuing professional sales only. You would think that that’s an obvious strategy, but for many years I’ve undervalued my writing. That’s not to say that I’m not proud of my publications, or ungrateful to those editors who’ve honored me with publication.

Naturally this assumes that editors will take my stories. I have had numerous professional publications, and I generally get positive personal rejections from most for stories that don’t make the cut. Making it cut is always a long shot. I recall reading that Clarkesworld receives around 1000 submissions a month, all angling for one of five places in the magazine.

So, all that said, if I’m not here announcing more frequently, it’s because I have less to announce.

Naturally, I will be writing just as much 🙂

books 2017c.jpg

At the risk of getting myself in trouble, some NaNoWriMo thoughts for writers

National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo – is a celebration of writing, described on the website as “a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing”. The idea is to write a whole novel during November.

nanowrimologo.jpg

I think NaNoWriMo is a wonderful thing. It gets people writing. Gives focus and milestones and goals. Fabulous.

One little niggle though, and I may be wrong, so feel free to shout me down. It seems to me that participants are encouraged to write fast and sloppy. Get the words down and come back and fix them later.

As if ‘fast’ and ‘sloppy’ are irrevocably linked.

I’m not convinced that’s the best approach.

For a time I tutored in a university creative writing programme. I hold a Masters of Philosophy in creative writing. As part of my job I even run writing workshops for children. I’m not sure any of that really qualifies me to give NaNoWriMo advice (or any writing advice for that matter).

Nor have I ever participated in NaNoWriMo.

So, my thoughts are really just the opinion of a relative layman.

That said, I have written a novel in a month. It just happened to be June of this year, rather than November. I’ve written several other novels this year, mostly though, taking more than a month (forty days seems to be my around-about duration).

So, if I think ‘fast’ and ‘sloppy’ is not the best approach, what do I think?

Why not write fast and the best you possibly can? Those two can go hand in hand. Really, that’s how I strive to write. I can’t say if my writing’s any good or not (that’s up to the readers), but whenever I sit down to write, I don’t go sloppy. I write the best I can. Sometimes it works, sometimes not, but I’m always working to write the best I can.

I think if you write sloppy, that might be how you’re training yourself to write. I doubt that Venus Williams plays sloppy when she’s practising. I hope the guys who put a new roof on my house didn’t hammer sloppy. I don’t do a sloppy job on my taxes and come back to fix it later.

Write the best you can. Every time you go write. Even if you’re aiming to write a novel in a month.

So, that’s my two cents on NaNoWriMo. Have a great month. Write a great novel. And as you write, do the best you can.

Final entry into the Writers of the Future Contest

I have made my final entry into the Writers of the Future Contest. For the last five years I’ve entered every quarter, but with my forthcoming story in January’s issue of  Asimovs, my eligibility comes to an end.

WOTF-FINALIST-#31Writers of the Future is perhaps the premier writing contest for non-professional speculative writers.

I’ve been a finalist, and I’ve had straight rejections. My tally over more than twenty entries also includes numerous honorable mentions, a silver honorable mention and three semi-finalist placings. So often feeling so close.

I felt a bit sad clicking ‘submit’ with my final entry. This thing is over. I have numerous friends who’ve won the competition and been published in the anthology. I would have liked to join them (well, I still have this one last shot, right?).

Flipside: I feel elated. I wouldn’t be losing eligibility if I hadn’t been having success with my writing. And I wouldn’t be having success if I hadn’t been tenacious. Taking those non-winning stories (and other stories) and sending them to other markets. Writing and learning and sending off and writing some more.

Now of course, I have my sights on some other prizes and awards. Aim high.

 

Starting a new novel

After finishing my draft of Guest House Izarra, I wrote a few short stories (well, one crept up over 11,000 words). I’ve done that through the year – finished a novel draft and spent a week or so on stories before firing up on a new novel.

Lost Ark

So, with those stories aside and awaiting attention before submitting, I’ve started on a new novel. After a few days writing I’m about 3000 words into it and having fun. It’s not the novel I expected to be writing. It’s not part of any series (though it may be come a new series – like I needed yet another series to manage). It’s got a life of its own.

I started out with the title Lost Ark, but as I thought about that I figure that’s a pretty well-used title already, so I’ll come up with something else. I’ve made a quick placeholder cover (with a quick placeholder title – unlikely that will be the final title). Graced with another wonderful image from Innovari/Luca Oleastri.

All going well I might get this though all its drafts and out sometime in the first quarter of 2017.

Midway through the month, midway through the novel

Somehow I’ve managed to maintain momentum with my target of writing a novel in June. As I mentioned earlier my novels seem to come in at around 60,000 words. So far through June, with 15 of 30 writing days completed Guest House Izarra stands at 33,194 words. So I’m running about ten percent ahead.
Guest House Izarra draft thumbnail borderHow’s the writing itself?  Well, I’m happy with progress. Feel like I’m going in the right direction. Don’t feel like there’s much that will need to be cut. So far.

We’ll see. I feel like I have a few thousand words ‘in the bank’, so to speak. With the last couple of days writing, cycling back through the previous days’ work, I wonder if this will be a shorter book anyway.

Either that or much longer. It might have to continue to July if that’s where the story goes. I don’t want to arbitrarily force it shorter just to finish within the month.

I’m glad to have a draft mock-up draft of the cover in place. Nice similar look to Arlchip Burnout. It still needs a tagline or something else at the top I think. I’ll have to track down art that’ll work for the other books too. With this one, the background is by Antaltiberiualexandru, and the figure by Algol. Kind of shows the book just about perfectly.

Glitches? Well, I had hoped to get finished with formatting my earlier novel Athena Setting for release already. Somehow though, when I imported the original document into the formatting software I dropped out all the italics. And it wasn’t until I’d just about completed formatting-page breaks, chapter headings, bookmarks and so on-that I realized. So now I’m in the process of working through to put all the italics back in. Sheesh. Starting to think it might have been easier to re-import and do all that other formatting over again.

Anyway, that’s slowing other aspects down. Still focusing on getting a couple of thousand words down every day.

I’ll see how the rest of the month goes.

Measuring the challenge – daily word counts

In my last post I talked about my plans to write a novel in June. One of my Karnish River Navigations series (which only has one book out so far, but more coming soon).

My novels usually come in around 60,000 words (a couple of exceptions there – The Cly is The Cly front cover thumbaround 90,000, but I got a bit carried away with that one. A theme for another post). With 30 days in June, that means hitting 2000 words a day. Through May I managed over 1900 a day, but I had a few days off work for focused writing. Usually I’m aiming for a 1500 word daily average through any given month.

I thought I’d update quickly with my last few days. I had Sunday at Au Contraire, the New Zealand Science Fiction Conference (again, a post for another time), so was busy on Sunday, but had Monday morning at the hotel, simply writing with few distractions.

Friday June 3rd – 2015 words
Saturday June 4th – 2150 words
Sunday June 5th – 2073 words (squeaked in there – up late writing after the SJV awards)
Monday June 6th – 3110 words -yay!

Cumulative total: 13980 (including 2478 and 2154 words from the 1st and 2nd). Feel like I’m on track. Some of those words are bound to end up deleted, I’m sure, so it’s good to be ahead.

My June challenge: write a novel

Arlchip Burnout cover 10 small

Well, at the risk of making a fool of myself, I’m going to attempt writing a novel in June. And update with my word count as I go.

Now, I’ve written novels fast before – as little as forty days. But thirty days? That’ll be something new.

I know about NaNoWriMo. I know plenty of people take that challenge successfully. Right now I figure why wait until November?

Also, my plan is to write good copy. No sloppy writing to be fixed-up later. I want it as clean as possible so there’ll be minimal revision needed.

The novel I’m attempting is another in my Karnish River Navigations series. There’s just one book, Arlchip Burnout, available at the moment. I have the second and third written already and in the process of first readers and copyediting and so on at the moment. I hope to have the second book, Canal Days, available in a couple of months, followed by the as-yet-untitled third book a month or so after. The fourth, Guest House Izarra (working title), upon which I’m now embarking perhaps soon after that. If I can get it written and knocked into shape those might be October, November and December releases (notice how I let myself off the hook a bit there?).

As I work on this new novel, I’ll update periodically (weekly?) here with wordcounts.

Writing Guest House Izarra:
Wednesday June 1st: 2478 words
Thursday June 2nd: 2154 words

10,000 words and counting for April

honeydew

As I think I’ve mentioned elsewhere in my mutterings, I make sure to write every day. I also have a word-count target every day. The target gets flexible: I’m aiming for a half million words of fiction for the year, which spreads out to around 1373 words per day (it’s a leap year, that spreads it even thinner).

So far I’m ahead of my target. Well ahead, in fact (169,000 completed, averaging around 1725 words a day). I did have some days with no other commitments and wrote over 5000 words on each of those, so that’s helped bolster the tally. Fewest words on a day was February 10th with just 503 words. Don’t recall what got in the way that day.

It’s great having my momentum up – I recommend it, in fact. Already in April I’ve gone over 1500 words each day, with a high of 1815. That high was the day I finished a novella and started in on a new novel. 10,000 words for the first six days of April. Pretty good for me. Best of all I’m having fun.

2014 in review

2014 in review

2014 has been kind to me. I’ve acheived a couple of lifelong goals: having a story published in Asimov’s Science Fiction, and winning a writing competition – The Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest.

I also wrote more than ever before. In 2012 I first took on measuring my output and writing every day. That year I managed around 507,000 words. 2013, still writing everyday, I hit 519,000. Last year I also made sure I only submitted stories to paying markets (that’s a long story for another time).

This year my current count is over 566,000 words and I might even hit 590,000. As well as the two pro “sales”, I sold numerous stories to semi-pro markets (some of these publishers have been very supportive as I’ve developed my writing: I have a soft-spot for them). The second half of the year has seen a slow-down on acceptances, but I keep writing new stories.

As well as numerous short stories and collections published indie, I managed to get out The Deluge, the sequel to The Tunnel in my Hidden Dome universe. Current writing plans have the third book The Eye out next year.

Speaking of next year: more focus on novels; more focus on getting things to publication; still writing every day; still learning about craft; more learning about business; less goofing off – I might have to give up a block of time to the new Tomb Raider game due out in 2015, but writing will still happen :-).

Overall a pretty good year (actually, an astoundingly good year). It’s given me a lot of energy to push on and feel confident I’m on the right course.