Con, Course, and Con Again

It’s been a busy, non-stop, couple of months, which is why it’s taken this long for me to finally post about Can-Con.
Can-Con was, as always, fantastic. First up, were the workshops. I took Creating Underwater Worlds for SF&F with Nina Munteaneau, with lots of threads to chase for potential story leads. Then was Mythic Worlds with Derek Newman-Stille, where we created our own gods (I made a modern trickster god of the internet and may share that later), partnered up to create pantheons and battles between our gods.
This year I was only on one panel: unarmed combat for dummies. I got to hang out with SM, Eric and Kris and chat about different fighting styles to help writers describe fight scenes. It can be a difficult balance to achieve, sharing some of the cool things we do in martial arts without getting too caught up in the mechanics, but we received some great feedback from people who enjoyed.
Going into Can-Con, it seemed a little strange only having one panel, but being fully entrenched in the planning committee for the first time this year I was glad to have a lighter load. It also meant that I didn’t get to attend as many of the awesome panels as I would have liked. Sadly the encore of Mark Robinson’s Extreme Weather Smackdown was canceled so he could go chase a tornado (figures). I did get to attend a fantastic panel on humour with locals Marie Bilodeau and Jay Odjick, plus agent guest of honour, Sam Morgan. Other highlights were meeting and hearing from a few other members of The Ed Greenwood Group and hanging out with Sam.
I also designed the RPG name badges and boss monsters that were a new feature this year. (I’ll go more into that in another post.)  Derek Newman-Stille became our secret boss monster, sharing hints of twitter about his identity. Less than ten people figured out he was the secret boss to challenge him to a battle.
The day after Can-Con ended I started a short fiction writing class run by C.S. Friedman, because I’m crazy. I was more worn out from Can-Con this year than I expected, so starting the course the next day was a little rough. But I loved Friedman’s Coldfire Trilogy so I didn’t want to miss out the chance to take a class with her. The class was great. I’ll admit, it was a little strange though, submitting each week’s progress in a short story and getting feedback as you write. I’m definitely not used to that after getting it ingrained into me to finish the draft before you start editing. The feedback from Friedman and the other classmates was great though and it helped to catch a couple of things early on in the story and with our scene list (not a complete outline, just the major scenes) and adjust direction right away. It’s also encouraging to hear that people are enjoying your work in progress and urging you to finish it so they can read the rest. The wrapped up my story and the class last weekend and this weekend finished editing from Friedman’s and my classmates; notes.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies staff photo

And just before the final week of the writing course, the Can-Con crew, Derek, Marie, Brandon and I, drove down to the World Fantasy Convention (Oct 27-30) in Columbus Ohio. This was my second year attending. I took a pretty laid back approach to the con, mostly hanging out and meeting people in the bar and attending a couple of readings. I got to chat with my editor-in-chief Scott H Andrews and Dominik Parisien and get to know them both a bit better. I attended fantastic readings from Jerome Stuart, CSE Cooney (who won a World Fantasy Award this year for Bone Swans), and Tina Connolly, and got to meet them. I also met editors Jonathan Oliver (Solaris) and David Thomas Moore (Abaddon Books), and, upon David describing a project he had worked on, tell him about Monstrous Little Voices, an anthology of stories set in Shakespeare’s fantastical world featuring my friend Kate Heartfield, only to then learn that he was the editor and that was the project he was talking about. Potentially embarassing? Maybe. But he was delighted to discover he had fans and we geeked out about Chaucer and my Canterbury Tales tattoo, so all was well. editor of Monstruous Little Voices, an anthology set in Shakespeare’s fantastic world and which featured Ottawa’s own Kate Heartfield. And there was of course collecting autographs at the launch party for Into the Starlit Wood, which I’ve been dying to read since I heard about it at last year’s WFC.

Like I said, a little non-stop for the past couple of months, but at last I have a breather (ha!)… and now get to turn my attention back to my novel for The Ed Greenwood Group and start editing it. No rest for the wicked.

January Recap

January was a very busy start to the year, but all round filled with awesome. I finished my story for the Second Contacts anthology and submitted it a couple days before the deadline, in spite of some fears about getting it done on time. Originally my home had been to finish drafting it around the end of November (it was my only focus for “NaNo” for what little I engaged in that), then the aim was to finish draft one before the Christmas holidays. That didn’t happen either, nor did I finish drafting before the end of the Christmas holidays. Sometimes stories just don’t click when you want them to. I stalled out on it around the climax and knew the ending it was heading towards was going to be crap. So instead of finishing it just for the sake of finishing it, I reviewed the 3/4 story I had penned hunting out weaknesses and issues and scheming their fixes. The holidays were not nearly as productive as I’d hoped, but it seems the rest and relaxation paid off. The small tweaks to early scenes in the story culminated in a larger direction shift. By the time I hit the climax on the second try I was on a roll, pieces were falling together, and I drafted 1,700 words in one day (not a common occurrence outside of hardcore NaNoing) just because I knew where the story was going and was excited to get it written. I didn’t have time to put this one before the Narwhals for a full critique as I would have liked, but fortunately Derek was kind enough to offer a quick critique.

The creative writing workshop with Amal has been a blast so far. We’ve been reading short stories and discussing different elements of fiction (character, narrative voice, world-building, etc), as well as doing writing exercises. Writing exercises are the best homework.

And the storytelling show, Twisted Tales, with Marie last week was fantastic. Both of my stories were original pieces that I had actually drafted a couple years ago and then just been sitting on. They both stretched into new territory for me (for told stories at least). One was the darkest story I have ever told and got some very satisfying ewwws from the audience. The other was the most comedic story I’ve done, a satirical fairy tale, and drew out lots of laughs. It’s always great when an audience is so openly responsive to stories (they can be reserved sometimes); though perhaps after the dark and sad stories of the first set they were well primed for the relief of a good laugh. No one believed me when I said that I was going to give them something lighter after the first story.

As for February, things calm down a little, sorta, maybe not really. No storytelling shows are lined up until Marie and I reprise Twisted Tales in June at the West End Well. I’m just starting to draft a new short story for a submission deadline on April 1, switching from sci-fi to fantasy. And around mid-month I submit a short story to the workshop to be critiqued in class. Full speed ahead!

The Writecation

So, I actually meant to write a post when the writecation started and another right when it ended. See how well that worked? I am going to blame that on being so caught up in the writecation and the immense productivity that ensued, for indeed, productivity did ensue.

My goal was to spend my two weeks off going from draft 2 to 3, on paper. I actually managed to print off the story Thursday night before the writecation started and dive straight in. Wohoo! (Most impressive about that though is that it didn’t take 3 days for my little home printer to print the whole thing.)

And… goal achieved! Every morning I started writing at 7 am with Derek, waved him off to work and kept on trucking. Around 9:30 or so our usual Bridgehead starts to get noisy, and I’d have finally finished off cold tea (yes I am a mutant and can drink it cold, didn’t you know I was weird). So usually around 10 I’d pack up, stroll the couple of blocks over to the main library and get back to work. The stretch was nice. I actually managed to get through the whole novel on paper in about a week. So I spent the second week of the writecation transcribing all the edits and new scenes.

The one downside to an awesomely productive writecation? Not wanting to go back to the day job after. I could really get into this writing full-time idea, but I also really like having a roof over my head and food in my stomach so that won’t be happening anytime soon. Unless I will the lottery.

August & writecation: total success. I printed off the story again (thanks to a little assistance from Staples rather than babysitting my printer for an hour) last Friday and am now journeying to Draft 4.

And I also spent a little time playing with hot molten glass during my vacation:

cup 1 cup 2 oil lamp ornament 1 ornament 2pendants

Editing Challenge Check-in: Update on the insanity

So, 50 hours of editing in 30 days? Ya, it’s a lot. It’s crazy. I easily spent more than 50 hours writing during NaNoWriMo, but there’s a difference. For months before last NaNo I was telling people that I wouldn’t even exist for that month. *poof* Nicole, gone from the face of the planet. I lived, ate, slept and breathed NaNo for those 30 days. This month…. not so much. I didn’t get any time in on the first weekend, and hardly any this past weekend. So I’m a bit behind now. But that doesn’t matter. There’s still a chance, in theory at least, that I will catch up and still reach that goal of 50 hours by the end. That doesn’t matter either. The point of it all is that I am dedicating a significant amount of time to editing my novel. Whatever the numbers, I’m doing that, so it counts as a win.

It got off to a slow start. I had not looked at my novel since I finished it in November. Six months. Getting some space from the first draft is important before moving over into editing. Six months is maybe a little too long. It was a challenge to shift from short fiction into novel mode. I started to question the sanity of this already insane challenge. But slow and steady wins the race, and this challenge is all about injecting some much needed reflection and quality into my offering to the NaNo god that is Quantity.

The first step: taking stock of what’s there. I created a spreadsheet with a short description of every scene in my novel and made notes about what needs to be trashed, reworked or “What the hell was I thinking?” It raised a lot of questions, like is anything happening in this scene, is it moving the plot forward, where is the tension, and how do I add all of these things? Tough questions in daunting numbers. Good questions. There’s a lot of work to be done and it will be a while before I will let some beta-readers set eyes on this story. For a moment, the amount of work to be done was overwhelming. But those questions also unveiled the potential to make this story so much better. That’s exciting. And the ideas start rolling in.

The past few days have involved a lot of rethinking and re-plotting. I’ve been going through the scenes in that spreadsheet and trying to answer those questions. There’s a character to add, scenes to cut, others to write and characters to kill. (I can see the influence hanging around with Marie has had.) No spoilers about who though! Soon it’ll be time to shift gears again and start putting all these new ideas and changes onto paper… computer… we’re not counting the 30 some pages of notes on all these changes and options.

On we go.

Let the Insanity Begin

She’s alive! And back! Life has been manic. ComicCon one weekend, CanGames the next and then attempting to recover and take care of all the normal life stuff and holy crap where did May go? So basically, an average month in the life of me. lol.

And June may be slightly quieter but no less insane. My friend and I have decided to take on the challenge of doing 50 hours of editing on our NaNo novels over the month of June. I haven’t touched mine since NaNoWriMo ended, though I have some notes about things that I need work on in it, thanks largely to an editing workshop hosted by Derek and Marie back in February. I hope to have this novel edited sufficiently to pass it on to some first readers come the end of this year, so not having done any editing yet this challenge will make a dent in that work.

Other than that, more submissions, more rejections. I have a couple more stories drafted, inching towards my other goal for this year: to finish 6 short stories and beginning submitting them. I completed 4 short stories last year (including critiques and much editing).