Hello blog readers and people visiting this site after meeting me at PNWA 2023!
I am exhausted after PNWA's wonderful conference, so this is the tiny little blog post I can wring from my brain this week. Next week I will talk about if the cost of the conference is worth it to help you decide if it's something you'd like to attend next year. (Or even if a conference more local to you is something you'd like to attend!)
Other upcoming posts I can currently tease:
A review of Throne of Glass from a newbie to Sarah J. Maas: is the hype worth your time?
Lessons from a Classic: Asimov's iRobot
Lessons from my first (and so far only) DNF of 2023
I was also recommended some amazing writing resources at the conference, so I'll be reviewing those as well, including the one I'm most excited for, the Trope Thesaurus by Jennifer Hilt.
Don't forget the Judging More than Just the Cover Book Club podcast is currently reading Fourth Wing. Get ready for my hot takes on the Murder College trope!
See you here next week, readers! If you're here because we met at PNWA give a shout out in the comments!
The annual contest Revise and Resub (aka RevPit) is starting up and the window to enter is coming this week. I'm entering for the second time (first for this novel). One of my problems is that I'm pretty shy on twitter, so I haven't been interacting with the editors much. The other problem is that I usually only see threads many hours after they started and feel weird hopping on. So I thought I'd make a post with some ~vibes~ of my manuscript so if any RevPit editors check out my website, they may see this and get more of a sense of my novel without me having to manage the anxiety of Twitter interactions.
Title: The New Neanderthals
Genre: Adult sci-fi
Cinnamon roll love interest
Fish out of water
Songs that capture a moment/emotion:
Human by Christina Perri
Start a War by Klergy & Valerie Broussard
Confident by Demi Lovato
Look What You Made Me Do by Taylor Swift
You Don't Own Me by Grace
Fight Song by Rachel Platten
Photos from Unsplash
If you're not doing RevPit and/or aren't a RevPit editor, then come back next week when I will have more of my usual content!
If you are doing RevPit, let's discuss in the comments! Have you done it before? Have you been braver on Twitter than I have?
After my successful reading (and only a little successful writing) last year, I'm setting more goals! Of course, I've learned some lessons I'll be applying to my new goals as well.
1) Volume of Reading
In 2023, I won't be keeping track of the number of books I've read, but the number of pages. This is because I got so stressed about needing to finish books last year that I felt guilty choosing long books, and didn't want to DNF a book after investing so much time into it. If I go off of pages read, then I can DNF a book without feeling like I'm letting myself down, and I can pick long books without worrying about needing to read faster. I went back to my data from 2022 to get a baseline and in 2022 I read just over 14,000 pages.
My 2023 goal: Read 15,000 pages
2) Variety of Authors
I liked keeping track of the number of female authors I read, but I found it super easy to hit my goal of >50% of the authors being female. Therefore, I don't think I'll set a goal for this in the up coming year. However, I will keep track, and if it drops below 50%, then it'll be back on my resolutions next year. I just want to see if I naturally meet this mark.
However, I was challenged by my 2022 goal of 50% of the authors being unlike me in some (demographic) way.
My 2023 goal: >50% of the authors will be marginalized in some way
3) Variety of Publishing
One really tough aspect of my goals last year was the 8 indies. Most of them were great, but two were big flops for me. Still, I could just be looking in the wrong places for recommendations, so I'm going to keep at it!
My 2023 goal: Read 9 indie books
4) New Aspects to Track
I want to add a new challenge this year as well, and I've thought about reading award winners/nominees, classics/foundational novels of scifi, or debuts. I'm a little torn, so why not all three?
My 2023 goal: Read 2 foundational scifi novels
My 2023 goal: Read 4 scifi award winners/nominees from the last 2 years (2021-2023)
My 2023 goal: Read 5 debut novels (from 2022 or 2023)
A lot of these will look familiar, but the only way to get published is to keep trying.
This is staying the same, since finding five open agents from my list every month proved to be pretty tough sometimes.
My 2023 goal: Send >5 queries each month until I finish my potential agent list
2) Writing Fresh
I don't care which month I finish the novel in, so long as I finish it. I've been getting great feedback on the first half, which has given me a ton of ideas for the second.
My 2023 goal: Finish the first draft of my current WIP
3) Critique Groups
Tried and true, I'm going to earn my keep in these valuable groups.
My 2023 goal: Continue to attend my critique groups and keep up with the pre-reading (when applicable)
4) Continuous Improvement
I have great opportunities this year for workshops, and I feel like maybe it's even safe enough to go to big conferences again. Hopefully the timing works out.
My 2023 goal: Attend one writing workshop or conference
6) Short Stories
These have never been my focus, but with two short stories published now, I want to keep going. You never know when an agent's reading an anthology or magazine, right?
My 2023 goal: Get one short story selected for publication.
That's about it. I'll check back on this post at the end of next year to see how I did.
Do you have 2023 goals and resolutions for reading or writing? Let's chat in the comments!
A year ago, I posted my 2022 reading and writing resolutions. Now it's time to check in and see how I did.
Goal: Read 45 books
Achieved! I read 45 books exactly and reviewed 23 of them (see links below)
Goal: 8 of those books would be indies
Achieved! I read 8 indies exactly and reviewed 3 of them (see links below)
Goal: Greater than 50% of the books would be written by female authors
Achieved! 66.66% were written either exclusively by women or at least one woman, where multiple authors contributed
Goal: At least 50% of the books would be written by authors who have a marginalized identity.
Achieved! 55.55% were written either exclusively by or including at least one author with at least one marginalized identity
I read a ton of great books this year. It was a good mix of new, old, big hits, and quieter releases. SciFi and Fantasy tied as my most common genres, which is no surprise as those are always my favorites.
Here's my reading list from 2022:
Goal: Have my WIP query ready by February
Achieved! I sent my first round of queries for this project in February 2022.
Goal: Send at least 5 queries per month
11/12 on this one, can't win them all, though some months I sent more than 5.
Goal: Complete the first draft of my next WIP by August 2022
Nope! This one is still under construction.
Goal: Continue attending writing groups whenever possible
Goal: Keep up with this website
Achieved! A couple months were slimmer on content than others, but that's the way it goes sometimes.
I'm still deciding on my 2023 resolutions/goals. Did you achieve your 2022 goals? Did we read any of the same books? Let's discuss in the comments!
I'm so excited to announce that my short story "Please Don't be a Serial Killer" will be published in Nightmare Sky, a night sky themed anthology from Death Knell Press. My story is my first attempt at publishing horror rather than scifi, so I was surprised and thrilled! I will say that there's a lot of humor in my story compared to most horror, so it's still very me.
You may recognize the name Red Lagoe, the editor, as someone who was on my 2021 reads post. She has two anthologies of horror out now, Lucid Screams and Dismal Dreams. She also recently released a stand alone short story, "Black Feathered Fury" and has many shorts published in other anthologies.
Nightmare Sky will be published in January 2023!
Transparency note: I know Red Lagoe in real life, as we have been in the same writing group. She did not see my short story in advance. I did not think submitting to her was a guarantee for inclusion.
Wow June flew by insanely fast with almost no posts! What happened to me? Well, covid happened.
I wear a mask in public, at stores, on transit, at work, etc. But it still got me. And it was no joke! I was very happily vaccinated and boosted already, so it could have been much worse. Especially considering my asthma. I'm on the mend now, though!
Here's what's coming up on the blog:
More book reviews
A publishing announcement
A review of my experience at Futurescapes at Snowbird in August
Thanks for your patience while I coughed my way through June!
Above: The main screen for WriterDuet, the online screenwriting website. I've been very happy with the free version.
Below: Several versions of The Screenwriter's Bible.
Readers of the blog may recall my short story The Undoing of Maggie Jinkowski, which won first place in the short story category at the Hampton Roads Writers Conference in 2019 and was recently included in the Kitsap Writers Group Anthology. I was recently asked if I'd be interested in adapting it into a screenplay format. Not a formal offer to produce it or anything, just gauging interest and seeing how it goes. I decided to give it a shot.
One of the resources recommended to me was WriterDuet, a website which already knows the right formatting for a screenplay and will help guide you in writing it. It made the basics super easy and you can use it for FREE. You can also export your project from the website to Word or a PDF. Highly recommend if you're looking to get your feet wet in screenwriting but worry about getting bogged down in formatting.
Another resource I tried out was the Screenwriter's Bible. It's a big book and has resources for almost any stage of screenwriting you're in. From format to best practices to story telling. It was very helpful in explaining to me how to do some of the more complex strategies I wanted to use, like flashbacks and voice over. There are many editions of this book out there, so don't feel pressure to buy the latest, an older edition will get you started just fine.
Between the site and the book, I have a pretty nice draft of my story that should work in a visual format. The hardest part was translating Maggie's thoughts to something an audience could see or hear. It helped a lot that I'd read some screenplays before, so I was familiar with what the final product needed to look like. Next step: sending the draft to my friend who showed interest and seeing what he has to say!
Wish me luck!
Have you ever adapted a story for the screen? Have you ever written an original screenplay? What resources helped you the most? Let's discuss in the comments!
Grandpa and me. Not in the same time period as the story below, but aren't we just so cute together? Love you, Grandpa!
Photo by someone in my family (Nana? Dad? Mom?) ~1995.
This past weekend, my grandpa died. It’s been a hard week, especially since I haven’t seen him since before the pandemic and so I missed him already. The good news is that he’s no longer suffering from his many medical problems. So today, I want to write about what I consider the most important interaction I had with him.
My grandpa directed a gifted camp that my sister, cousin, and I attended. It was a great program that included not only academic classes but also the arts and sports. My second year of camp, we were in Oberlin, Ohio, at the university campus there. I signed up for a swimming class because even though I’d taken lessons before and understood what to do, I physically couldn’t do it. And since I was eleven, this deficit was getting embarrassing.
The first swim class, the teacher, a man around my grandpa’s age, asked us to write our names on the chalkboard by the pool. I wrote my first name only, but that’s all it took. The teacher said to stop and that he wouldn’t waste time teaching me because I’d never learn to swim. Because I was left handed.
Now, if you’ve ever gone swimming before, you know that you typically use both hands to swim. Maybe professionals consider which hand they stroke with first or something, but otherwise, it’s a very symmetrical sport. So, his comment confused me A LOT.
In fact, I thought he was joking. We all got in the pool and he had us swim down the length of the Olympic size pool and back. Naturally, as a person who cannot swim, I struggled. I barely reached the far side. He ignored me and talked only to the other students. He made it clear he wouldn’t bother with me.
That afternoon during rec hour, I went to my grandpa’s office. I understood that I held a position of privilege. I wasn’t an ordinary camper and that if I made a complaint, I was putting Grandpa in a strange position. Would he side with his granddaughter or would be wonder if I was being dramatic and whiny? I only saw my grandpa about twice a year (Christmas and camp) so I worried he wouldn’t know I wasn’t the exaggerating type.
But now I should mention my other grandpa, who wasn’t there. This one grew up in the 1920s in a farm community in Illinois. He was born left handed, like me and many members of my family. However, in his one-room schoolhouse, his teacher tied his left hand behind his back and then punished him when his right-handed handwriting wasn’t good enough. I’d heard the story many times by this point. I considered the 1920s as deep history, with many problems of the time fixed. But this incident made me wonder if the prejudice against lefties had somehow lasted, a torch of hatred carried within this one last person—my swim teacher.
I told my grandpa, the camp director, what my swim teacher had said. Why he refused to teach me. And that’s when it happened. My grandpa said he believed me. He wanted to fix this. He also made it clear this guy had a contract and even if my grandpa could dismiss him right away, he didn’t have a new teacher to replace him. This guy taught all the sports classes. So Grandpa gave me the choice to switch classes or stay and tell him anything else this guy said or did. Let me reiterate: my grandpa believed an eleven-year-old girl about a man his age, spoke to said girl like she was an adult and laid out all the issues, and then gave that child options about what she wanted to do.
I stayed in the class. I wanted to learn to swim. The TA, who coincidentally ended up marrying my second cousin years later, taught me. And the teacher eventually ignored not just me, spending more time in the sauna than the pool. By the end of camp, many kids complained about him. He refused to teach lefties in the tennis class too. Tennis. Where many champions are famously left handed. The camp flagged him, so they’d never hire him again.
In contrast, a few years later, I reported a youth minister at church for inappropriate comments and the head minister told my concerned parents that I was "just a teenage girl" and "probably made it up for drama." I was later proven right about that youth minster.
I realize how valuable and RARE my experience with Grandpa was at camp. How much it meant that he believed me so easily, so surely. How that belief was bolstered by other complaints. His leadership in that moment taught me that leaders have to make tough decisions and walk fine lines, but transparency and the act of believing are meaningful.
So, thank you, Grandpa, for listening, believing, and teaching me many things. You are missed by so many.
This differed from what I usually post. Hope you don’t mind! Hug your loved ones if the pandemic allows.
My editing experience in a nutshell. Image by Kate via Canva 2022
Since the end of December, I’ve been working on my novel’s edits with the goal of querying in February. The past two weeksI sent each chapter (all 104 of them!) through ProWritingAid. (This isn’t sponsored, but imagine how much more enthusiasm I’d show if it was?) It was a grueling process, mostly because ProWritingAid takes time to load between each button, and each button reveals information to read and analyze.
The logo of ProWritingAid. I've had it for several years now and have no regrets about paying the lifetime fee.
The buttons I used most were style, grammar, overused, sentence length, pronouns, and consistency. Based on the feedback ProWritingAid sent me, I accepted 675 suggestions from the software in the last two weeks. Lordy. Grammar improvements took the forefront with 493 suggestions, and 182 suggestions were style improvements, like removing passive voice and overused words.
This is the tool bar of ProWritingAid. Pronouns, consistency, and other choices are under more reports.
My most overused words (that I culled) were: had/have, could, know/knew, think/thought, and was/were. According to the software, I only overused “just” in two chapters! That’s a huge improvement from my last WIP. I also reworked many sentences to cut down on how many pronouns began sentences. Luckily, I didn’t have many consistency issues or repeated sentence starts. My biggest issue in grammar was comma placement. I’m not surprised.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t blindly accept every suggestion. In fact, I rejected most of them. Incorrect assessments of commas, incorrect assumptions about word choice and spelling, and incorrect identification of passive voice were common suggestions I ignored. This is the other part of why this took so long! If I blindly accepted across the board, my story would be a mess.
The last leg of my editing journey is a final read-through. I’m not letting myself edit anything unless I’m removing words or fixing typos. I’ve gotten it down significantly from where I started, but I’d still love to lose another 4k. We’ll see if that happens.
Have you used editing software in the past? What have you noticed are your editing patterns? Let’s chat in the comments!
To paraphrase the great Taylor Swift: I don't know about you, but I'm feeling '22.
It's 2022 and therefore time to set some annual goals. Hopefully at the end of the year I can circle back and see how I did.
Last year I read 31 books, most of which were in the second half of the year due to my new commute. Since I've still got that job, but I also know I have some time consuming life stuff happening this year, I'm going to aim for 45 books.
I also want to read more indie pubbed books and books by my friends this year. I hope at least 8 books of my 45 will be indies.
As always, I want to read diversely. I'm hoping to read more female authors than male authors, and for at least 50% of the books I read to be written by people who are different from me in terms of race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, or ability.
I am working toward a very short term goal of having my WIP query-ready by February 2022. I got most of my beta feedback in December and have been editing like crazy ever since. I'm getting down to the final polish, so I think this goal is super doable.
Send at least 5 queries every month until the end of the year or until a miracle happens and I get representation. Why only 5? I want to give myself space/time to edit the query if it ends up not working well initially. I may not be able to tell if the query is the problem or if agents are just a little behind within a month, so I'm giving myself some wiggle room here.
Continue writing my new WIP (from NaNo '21) and have a complete first draft by August. I'm giving myself a little leeway here because goals can be great, but I hate the guilt of not meeting them.
Continue attending my writing groups whenever possible. This includes reading ahead of time for the group that does that.
Keep up with this website. I try to post once per week, with some grace given on holidays and periods of other chaos. I love sharing about books I've read, strategies I've tried, and resources I've enjoyed. I hope you like reading about it!
Those are my goals for 2022 and I think they're achievable! Do you have any writing or bookish resolutions this year? Who else will be diving into the querying trenches? Let's discuss in the comments!