2020 Update #6

At the start of the year, I set myself a series of goals for my writing year. You can find them here: https://jamesrowlandwriter.wordpress.com/2020/01/05/2020-a-year-of-goals/ – One such goal was to do a weekly update measuring myself against the goals so as to provide myself with some self-imposed oversight. 

Update #6

I’ve been waiting for a week like this, a week to really test my commitment to keeping up a steady stream of time dedicated to writing. This week has been busy at work and there were a few days where I came home and simply didn’t want to write. And, uh, I did not. However, I have compensated by also having three really good writing sessions this week. So, where does that leave me:

  • I have written 3,089 words this week. An improvement on last week, which now takes me up to 5,401 words for the month. This means I’m on course for the 10,000 words a month goal. I also have half a draft for a trio of poems on paper, which haven’t gone toward this week’s word count, so I’ve got a bit of a banker for next week.
  • I also continued with my quasi-Creative Consultant role for a friend of mine who is creating a DnD-esque game for his own worldbuilding project. While it has taken up a fair chunk of writing time, it’s been very fun and creative work, such as just coming up with as many larger as life characters as I can.
  • I also finished the first draft of my fourth short story of the year. So, as long as I edit it by the end of the month, that means for two months running I’ll have hit my stretch goal of having two completed stories in a month. So even if the actual word count outputs could be more impressive, I’m really happy that by the end of February it looks like I’ll have four good, polished short stories to send out to places.

Next week, I’m saying to myself that it’s novel-writing time. I’m probably going to fail horribly, but I’d love to be here next week to say that I’ve done another 5,000 words of the novel, which would really take me into the home stretch of this damn thing. I have no other short stories planned yet, so if I am writing next week, it’ll have to be the novel.

Saying that, I’m also planning to start outlining a magical whonduit short story…

2020 Update #5

At the start of the year, I set myself a series of goals for my writing year. You can find them here: https://jamesrowlandwriter.wordpress.com/2020/01/05/2020-a-year-of-goals/ – One such goal was to do a weekly update measuring myself against the goals so as to provide myself with some self-imposed oversight. 

Update #5

A new month and the goals are all restarted. This week has been really diverse in what I’ve been working on. I’ve been editing a first draft into a finished story, I started a new short story, I’ve been helping a friend plot a campaign for a homebrew tabletop game set in his own worldbuilding project, and I’ve written an honest to god sonnet for a poetry competition. Lots of different creative muscles working there.

So, to keep track:

  • I’ve written 2,312 words this week. Not the most impressive of word counts, but essentially the first half of the week was dedicated to editing and helping a friend, and today has been concerned with a sonnet, which is a lot of time for few words. So, basically 2,000 words for Friday and Saturday, which isn’t too bad. I will have to pick up the speed, though, to make good progress for my monthly targets.
  • I’ve also finished editing my third short story of the year, Non Angeli Sed Aliēnī. It’s a bit of a weird one, mixing in medieval history, science fiction and outright comedy. I’m very pleased with how it turned out, though. This technically means I’ve met one target of having a finished story a month in the first week, which is nice.
  • No progress on the novel – I think the plan will be that once I’ve finished the current short story I’m working on, the rest of February is going to be reserved for the novel. At the moment, I have no obvious short story idea waiting in the wings – so it might be good to try and finish the novel, while also getting my thoughts around what March-July might look like short fiction wise.
  • I’m writing poetry this month for a competition and I’m having a blast. I wrote an actual structured poem with rhyme and metre for the first time in years (usually I am very much free verse) so that was an interesting experience – although the sonnet did dissolve at the end to ensure I continue to stay away from traditional poetry.

So, a productive week, but next week needs to be a bit better on actual quantifiable output. Hopefully I’ll have the first draft of this story completed by then. We’ll see.

2020 Update #4 – End of January

At the start of the year, I set myself a series of goals for my writing year. You can find them here: https://jamesrowlandwriter.wordpress.com/2020/01/05/2020-a-year-of-goals/ – One such goal was to do a weekly update measuring myself against the goals so as to provide myself with some self-imposed oversight. 

Update #4 – End of January

January has finally drawn to an end. It’s felt like a long time, hasn’t it?

The end of the month lets me get the first good look at my progress compared to my targets. So, let’s dive straight in:

  • Write 10,000 words a month – for January, I wrote 12,907 words. So, one large tick for me. I’d like to get more into a routine (this has been a theme for all these updates), but I’m not going to turn down writing 13,000 words a month in whatever way I can do it.
  • To finish a short story each month – yes! I finished final drafts for two stories. One, The Cauldron of Metamorphose will now start getting sent out to places. The second one, The Stall of Memory (clearly a theme going on for these titles) has been submitted to a competition.
  • Write 20,000 words a month and two short stories a month – these were stretch goals. I hit one and I failed on the other. I was very close to three completed stories, since I have a finished first draft for a third story that just needs to be edited. So, I’m very pleased. I would like to get closer to 20,000 for February, though, if I can.
  • Blog weekly about how my writing is going – haven’t missed a weekly update yet! I do think these have a useful purpose in being a bit more formal about my writing and keeping track of my writing.

The other two targets are concerned with my novel and they aren’t really applicable right now.

So, I’m calling this a successful January. I didn’t start writing until around the 5th, and the last couple of weeks have slowed down a bit writing-wise, so I think there’s some solid room for improvement, but I’m focussing on the positives for the first month.

For February, I’m shifting my plans slightly. I want to finish editing the story I’ve got a first draft for and I want to write a short story revolving around King Henry VIII and a rebellion of shadows. But once those two things are done, I plan to tack back to the novel for at least a couple of weeks to try and get close to the finish line.

We’ll see how that goes…

2020 Update #3

At the start of the year, I set myself a series of goals for my writing year. You can find them here: https://jamesrowlandwriter.wordpress.com/2020/01/05/2020-a-year-of-goals/ – One such goal was to do a weekly update measuring myself against the goals so as to provide myself with some self-imposed oversight. 

Update #3

This week it’s been a bit different for me writing-wise. There has been very little movement on the word count level. Instead, I’ve been focusing on editing what I’ve already written this month. It’s a good reminder for me, early on, to not just focus on the numbers. I have also been making an effort to sit down and read more too. I noticed that I hadn’t been reading as much, with writing time eating in on reading time, and I always think if you want to write well, you have to read widely. So I’ve been making sure to spend some time just enjoying reading a book.

So, with just under a week to go in January, here’s where I am:

  • I only wrote 1,270 fresh words this week. This does take me to 10,191 words for the month, though, and past my 10,000 words a month goal. So I’m very pleased to clear that threshold.
  • I have also finished editing my first short story of the year, The Cauldron of Metamorphose. It is set on the island of Staffa off the coast of Scotland and is concerned with the banishment of a witch. So, it’s time to start sending this out to places. Exciting! Incredibly annoyed that Neil Gaiman has already used The Truth is a Cave… as a title, though.
  • I also finished the first draft of my second short story of the year. So I’ll be editing that one this week.
  • Finally, I very tentatively dipped a toe back into the novel by finishing off the chapter I had been writing back in December. I’m pleased that it wasn’t too difficult to jump back into the style and voice.

It’s nice to be in the position that regardless of what I do in this next week, I have already achieve my first set of goals for the month. I think this added requirement to write these updates also might be helping. Maybe. It’s possible I only wrote the novel-bit just to give myself more to talk about here – which, you know, take motivation however you can get it, right?

2020 Update #2

At the start of the year, I set myself a series of goals for my writing year. You can find them here: https://jamesrowlandwriter.wordpress.com/2020/01/05/2020-a-year-of-goals/ – One such goal was to do a weekly update measuring myself against the goals so as to provide myself with some self-imposed oversight. 

Update #2

Another week gone and I’m still reasonably pleased with my writing effort for 2020 so far. Again, I note there’s a distinct lack of a regular routine in my writing, which is a little bit of a worry. However, at the moment it’s being made up by a discipline to sitting down and writing at random times. I don’t know how I feel about that. I’m going to take it as a positive while also keeping one eye on trying to set aside regular time to write and create a habit.

So, midday through this Sunday, here is where I’m at:

  • I’ve written 4,133 words for the week. This puts my total for January at 8,921 words. With still just under two weeks to go, I am obviously very well placed to cross the first goal of 10,000 words for the month. I think 20,000 might be a reach (especially with some editing to do soon), but I’m very pleased with where I’m at.
  • I have almost finished a first draft for a second short story this month. I expect to finish it either today or tomorrow. I’ve enjoyed writing this one a lot, and with a bit of polish, I’m planning to submit this to Unidentified Funny Objects in April. So, it’s nice to have given myself a lot of time to edit this!
  • I’ve also spent a couple of hours with a friend plotting out a D&D campaign in his own fantasy world. I don’t play D&D myself, but it was a lot of fun to brainstorm ideas out for plots and sessions. It also helped me consider how different events in a plot might interact with each other to tell the cohesive whole. I shall be giving myself the title of Creative Consultant going forward for this game.

Next week, the numerical output might not look too rosy, but it’s because I’m planning to edit the two short stories I’ve got first drafts for. This means by the end of January I’ll have two finished stories, which will meet one of my stretch goals and make the month a really good result. It is possible that in between editing these stories, I’ll put some time aside for novel writing as well. We’ll see.

Until next time.

2020 Update #1

At the start of the year, I set myself a series of goals for my writing year. You can find them here: https://jamesrowlandwriter.wordpress.com/2020/01/05/2020-a-year-of-goals/ – One such goal was to do a weekly update measuring myself against the goals so as to provide myself with some self-imposed oversight. 

Update #1

We’re twelve days into January. On the whole, I’m pretty pleased with how I’ve gone writing-wise even if the numbers might not look impressive themselves. This is due to two things. First, I didn’t really start writing until the 5th. The first four days I was still in full holiday mode. Secondly, I have been a judge for a writing competition in my own little writing group. This has taken up a fair bit of time, and I have read around 20 stories and written around 5,000 words of feedback. However, the experience is always valuable because I get to read some interesting stories while also just thinking about the craft of writing and how I should improve myself as well.

Anyway, at the point of Update #1, this is where I’m at:

  • I’ve written 4,788 words so far this month. This means even with a slow start and working as a judge for this writing competition, I’m well-set to kick on and reach my initial goal of 10,000 words for the month. 20,000 words might be pushing it, but we’ll see how it goes.
  • I have finished the first draft for a short story. At the moment, I don’t think it’s my best work. However, I’m really pleased to have a completed story drafted. I’m going to leave it for a week and then come back to edit it. I’m therefore well set for having one fully completed story by the end of the month.
  • I wrote a poem! I have spent the last few years writing very political based poems for my Twitter project. However, before then, I basically wrote these weird, surreal type poems (basically stealing inspiration from a good friend of mine). We were chatting about our old poems and we both then went off and wrote one in the same style that we used to. I had a lot of fun and actually really enjoy the finished product.
  • I received a story acceptance! Absolutely thrilled to have a sale for a story so early in the year. More details on this later.
  • No work done on the novel. However, I don’t intend to this month. It’s likely next month when I dive back into it.

I’m pleased with the above. Hopefully, this is a good base to keep the year ticking along. One thing I haven’t done is manage to write in a regular routine, which is maybe something to work on. However, what I am pleased with is that when I get some spare time, as opposed to wasting time online or playing a video game, I have instead taken myself off to the study and got some writing done. I’m really happy with that and I hope it continues.

See you this time next weel.

Nomination Time! – Sir Julius Vogel Awards 2020

I can’t quite bring myself to write an eligibility post for awards like the Hugos yet, however in New Zealand, we have the Sir Julius Vogel Awards for science fiction and fantasy. It’s nominating season right now, and I have some work I’m proud of, which is also eligible to be nominated. “Inheritance”, published in Aurealis #124 is one of my favourite stories ever and it was also featured in Tangent Online’s Recommended Reading list for 2019. I’m also very proud of “Proof of Concept” in NewMyths #49.

If you enjoyed these stories as well and think they’re deserving of recognition, please feel free to nominate them for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards at the following link (anyone from around the world can nominate):

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfTIK1YJi6GBXX0lZobwDIsm8ZoB49dJSBgFAwp2hQ_-AaGdw/viewform

It doesn’t take long, but to help you out, I’ve collected the information you need below:

Title of Work: Inheritance

Author: James Rowland

Category: Best Short Story

Publisher: Aurealis / Chimera Publications

Other Information: Aurealis #124

 

Title of Work: Proof of Concept

Author: James Rowland

Category: Best Short Story

Publisher: New Myths Publishing

Other Information: New Myths #49

 

I am also eligible (for probably two more years I think?) for Best New Talent. If you are minded to nominate me for that, I am incredibly touched and grateful.

If you know my email address, feel free to add it as Contact Information in the form when nominating for anything. I just don’t want to publicly throw it up here and it’s fine if you don’t add it, I think.

Finally, if you want to nominate me for one of my other stories this year – please, feel free to do so! I just picked the two above because I thought they were personally my best. I am more than happy for you to disagree with me.

Thanks!

James

Fiction in 2019 #6 – Proof of Concept

There was nothing unusual about the postcard. It waited on my doormat, nestled within a bill and some junk mail. On the front of it was a photo of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, the sleek, flowing curves bathed in moonlight by the river. I smiled. I didn’t have a choice. It was like a painter receiving a postcard of The Starry Night or Water Lilies, a nudge to the soul, a reminder of what they longed to be able to create. Scrawled across the back, an inked afterthought, letters curved together to say: Even now, made me think of you. Hope you’re doing well. Erin x. My finger traced the words. There was nothing unusual about the postcard.

Except Erin didn’t exist.

***

A trap street is an amazing idea. Mapmakers, if they want to protect their copyright, historically have added “trap streets” to their maps to ensnare any would-be nefarious copiers. How it works is that the mapmaker would add a fake or incorrect street to their map. If someone else then subsequently copied their work, they also copied the trap street. It would be impossible to explain how you independently came up with the same fictional street as someone else, and therefore it neatly shows that you have copied the original mapmaker’s work.

The question at the root of Proof of Concept is: what if you had trap people to serve the same purpose?

From that one single idea, I found the story unfolding in front of me. It evolved to also consider the nature of reality and hit a theme for me of whether it really matters what is real and what is not, as long as you live your life. I’m thrilled that this story found a home in Issue #49 of NewMyths and I urge you to check out the entire issue here (it’s free to read!): https://sites.google.com/a/newmyths.com/nmwebsite/past-issues/2019/issue-49

And this brings to an end my series of stories published in 2019. I hope you found something you enjoyed, and I hope you continue to read my work going into 2020!

2020 – A Year of Goals

Art doesn’t just happen. You can’t just wait for inspiration to take hold. You’ve got to work at it. You’ve got to hustle. You’ve got to sit down and write/paint/compose/etc even when you’re tired and you don’t really want to.

When I think about this fact, I usually think I do pretty well at this. After all, I managed NaNoWriMo last year and I churned out just under a dozen stories. I pat myself on the back. But actually, there’s a whole lot of room for improvement. I’m comparing myself to previous versions of, well, me. And past me wasn’t the published, professional writer I want to be. I need to compare myself to actual authors and if I do that, the comparison isn’t quite so flattering. There are still weeks where I may not end up writing a thing.

So, this year, I’m setting myself a series of goals to push me to become more regular and routine in my writing. These are “input” goals to get me writing rather than “output” goals, such as having stories being published. I have no control over output goals. I’m only going to judge myself on what I can actually control. Also, I’m setting these goals at a realistic level since I do work full-time as well as writing fiction.

I’ve decided to put these goals up here in an optimistic attempt to spur me on knowing that people can judge me if I don’t make them.

2020 WRITING GOALS

1) Write 10,000 words a month – I consider this a non-negotiable target. Even if I’m having an awful month, even if I’m really busy at work or I’m sick, I have to write 10,000 words a month. I did 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo. 10,000 should be easy (famous last words). And if I achieve this, it’ll be 120,000+ words for the year, which will be around 20,000 more than I achieved in 2019.

2) To finish a short story each month – and by this, I mean an actual edited, finished short story. I don’t mean just a first draft. I want to end up with at least a dozen publishable stories in my catalogue to send out to places.

3) Write 20,000 words a month and two short stories a month – this is a “stretch goal”. I know that they’ll likely be some months, possible including January, where I don’t reach this. Life does happen. I’ll still have to hit 10,000 words and one story even if life does happen, but I won’t beat myself up too much for missing this. However, at the start of each month, I’ll be going into it thinking that this third goal is what I’ve got to achieve.

4) Finish a first draft of In Search of Solomon by April 2020 – Last year, including during NaNoWriMo, I have worked on a very weird and uncatgorisable novel called In Search of Solomon. I’ll need to develop an elevator pitch for it, but at the moment I guess I’d have to go with: what if P.G Wodehouse/Terry Pratchett wrote an inverted satire of King Solomon’s Mines, but also Europe is ruled by eldritch horrors. Anyway, I’m 70,000 words in and reaching the climax. I want to have the first draft finished by April 2020, so that I can…

5) Have a final draft of In Search of Solomon by December 2020 – In Search of Solomon is currently a very rough piece of work. It’s going to need at least two rounds of edit. I hope to have a final draft by the end of the year, though.

6) Blog weekly about how my writing is going – yes, I’m going to attempt to police my own progress this year by posting a short blog each Sunday setting out what I’ve done in that week. If I haven’t done anything, then I’m going to have to admit that and try to justify it. Maybe public shaming will work?

See you next Sunday then!

Fiction in 2019 #5 – The Glassblower’s Peace

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Tomaso da Guda chose to remember only one thing about his father: he had too many sons. The proper amount was three. With three able-bodied men, a man could plant his seed into the most important areas of Venetian life. The eldest would be trained to go into government. The next would receive some patronage from a rich merchant and be given a berth on his most profitable ship. The youngest would be given to the clergy; it was important to have a direct route into Heaven. Tomaso da Guda knew all this because his father told him these simple truths on his deathbed. Tomaso was his fourth son. He was left to float rudderless through the canals of the city.

From this inheritance, Tomaso chose the most strictly regulated routine he could think of: the army. No one pointed out to him that in times of perpetual peace, the army wasn’t particularly well-drilled. Being a soldier mostly meant spending your afternoons moving from bar to bar, trading illusions and downing alcohol to fuel the next round of more outrageous stories. Tomaso didn’t care much for the storytelling, instead choosing the quiet, dark corners that existed in every establishment. Still, he was paid well for his drinking. It gave him a modest house and the potential to spin modesty into respectability.

At the very least, he was doing better than his older brothers. The eldest had disappeared into the bowels of some prison after seeking to ban the use of magic within the city’s borders. The youngest had drowned. Even in a city like Venice, priests never learned to swim. The deepest cut was his second brother vanishing somewhere north of Egypt, along with the rest of his crew mates. As children, the two of them had banded together against the world and ran through so many cobblestoned streets that they went through shoes twice as fast as anyone else. Now Tomaso was alone, his parents dead, his brothers gone. There was no aunt or uncle to offer an understanding nod and laugh through tales of family joy, no cousin to lend a sympathetic ear. There was no one. In a way, his father was right. He had too many sons and the spare was left to soldier on alone.

***

‘The Glassblower’s Peace’ was originally published in 2018 in Issue #114 of Aurealis and is possibly one of my best stories so far. I know it’s possibly my wife’s favourite. It ventures into the heart of an alternative history, where Venice enjoys a prosperous peace under the protection of a magical glassblower. Now, though, cracks are emerging and a young private of the Venetian army might be the only to save the floating city from invasion. If you enjoyed Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell then I would hope you’d find a lot to like in ‘The Glassblower’s Peace’.

The reason why it’s appearing in this list of 2019 stories is that it was picked to join an incredible line-up of short stories written by New Zealand writers in Year’s Best Aotearoa New Zealand Science Fiction & Fantasy: Volume I. While I obviously have a vested interest in this book, I think what Paper Road Press and editor, Marie Hodgkinson, are doing with the Year’s Best series (Vol 2 due next year) is fantastic. The short fiction world is a disjointed old one. You get work published in various different places, with little overlap, and often stories can get lost in the churn. However, with Year’s Best, some stories have been salvaged from this fate and given an opportunity to extend their moment in the sun.

I’m thrilled that ‘The Glassblower’s Peace’ is one of those stories. It is fantastic to actually have this story out there in paperback as well.

So, I highly recommend that if you’re interested in what New Zealand speculative fiction writers have been creating recently, you check out Year’s Best Aotearoa New Zealand Science Fiction & Fantasy: Volume I. There’s a lot of great work in this collection, book ended by two incredible stories from Octavia Cade and Andi Buchanan. Find out more, or simply just buy a copy straight away, here:

Year’s Best Aotearoa New Zealand Science Fiction & Fantasy: Volume I