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A Year Ends, What Next?

A roller-coaster year is coming to an end. Lots of positives, a few dumb negatives, lots of excitement, lots of cheering and a few disappointments.

To be fair, the year didn’t really start for me until the third week of March. And that’s because it was in the third week of March that I discovered the Bolthole. And once I navigated to this corner of the internet, then everything just spiraled upwards and it has been a hell of a ride.

Finding the Bolthole has been the single-most positive event of the year because it opened me up to a really big world of exciting possibilities and fantastic opportunities. This is around the time I started blogging as well, so that is a huge plus that happened concurrently. The amount of writing I have done this year, at a guesstimate, is somewhere around 200,000 words. That includes blogging, reviewing, various submissions, my Sons of Corax fanfic, Bolthole comps, and my Nano novel among other things.

Jeff Ambrose, over on his blog here, discussed his goals for 2011 and new goals for 2012. His post is, in part, the inspiration and motivation for this post. He mentions his target word-count for the year, which stands at an impressive 400k words and how close he is to accomplishing that.

So it all got me thinking about what I want to do for myself next year. And I have come up with a few tentative things that I would like to accomplish this coming year.

1. I am going to write a full novel submission for Black Library. For the submission itself they want a 6-page chapter breakdown, a 1000-word synopsis and the first 3 chapters clocking in at at least 10k words. My goal is to write the novel in full. Target count is 85,000 words. This will be my Writing Project 1: In The Emperor We Trust. This was originally going to be a Space Marine Battles novel but I have been reliably told that only stories that are mentioned in existing lore qualify for that brand. So ITEWT will be a regular Space Marine novel.

If I can write a 70k novel in 32 days with 2% planning then I can write an 85k novel with 80% planning over the entire year surely!

Total Goal: 85,000 words

2. I am going to write 3 short stories in full for Stories in the Ether. SITE is an anthology of stories set in various different genres that are generally printed online first and later on for digital print and so on. As you can see here, their guidelines are fairly relaxed and very open-ended, which means you can write about anything and everything as long as you conform to their genres: Sci-fi, Fantasy and Steampunk.

What is awesome about Nevermet Press is that the SITE submissions are open throughout the year! Which means that yes, you can submit throughout the year. It is fantastic news. SITE also doesn’t get long-term exclusive rights to your work so you are free to explore other publishers with your work. The details are over on their SITE page.

I already have a short story in the works that is a spin-off prequel story for my Nano novel. Given that SITE short stories need to be no longer than 15k words, that is a lot of wiggle room. My aim for my 3 stories is to clock in at around 10,000 words each.

Total Goal: 115,000 words

3. I currently have 4 chapters to write for my Sons of Corax fanfic for the Bolthole. The goal, given all the things I want to talk about and have planned out in bits and pieces, is to average about 2800 words between the four of them. The fanfic has been ignored for the last month and a half, primarily because first I had Nano to work on and then later in Dec I have just generally been procrastinating.

Lesson to the wise: Procrastinating is bad. Especially when you are watching movies.

But, I plan to shape up this coming year and keep pumping out the stuff for two main reasons. One is that I really, really like doing it. Two, people just plain like what I have been doing. Just the other day someone on Warseer of all places commented to me that they like what I am doing with LL’s 60k setting. That is a major surprise for me since I posted a few initial chapters on the warseer boards a couple months ago and got zero response.

But that’s just the way the cookie crumbles I suppose. More incentive to write something you already like doing is always good.

Total Goal: 126,200 words

4. Black Library submissions. Another year is rolling round and I have a lot of things I have been doodling on and off since June of this year for future stuff. This includes Project: In The Emperor We Trust. I also have plans for a “series” of shorts and novels that are all linked by a very central event. The series is currently 5 short stories and two novels long. I already submitted one of the short stories this year, and since I have yet to hear word of it I am going to go with the assumption that it was rejected.

So that leaves 4 short stories and 2 novels. I am definitely going to focus on the short stories first. And that is purely because short stories can be churned out faster than a novel. With the submission guidelines wanting somewhere in the region of 2500 words an average per short story pitch, that is roughly 10k words to add to my work for the next year. Not too bad. The novels I will see. I want to focus on my current novel project first before I start messing around with another one. But, I would like to get the pitch requirements done with at least which should somewhere be around the 19k mark for each roughly.

Then I have about 3 more short stories I want to submit this year. One of them is a failed short story pitch that I never quite got around to work out. So this coming year I want to rework the whole thing and definitely get that pitch done with.

For now, that is all for the submissions stage of things.

Total Goal: 181,700 words

5. I seriously need to blog more. I don’t get enough blogging done at the moment, mostly because of procrastinating with regards to doing it. And that is when I kind of really do enjoy blogging. Its a good habit to be into, especially if you are a writer, and most of my writing-inclined friends and pretty much most of the authors I know, do blog a fair bit. So that is ample motivation.

Plus, the more you write, the more you learn. So the target is to do 2 blogposts minimum each month. More it kind of depends. I do have a lot on my plate with regards to handling blogs since I am a part of two review sites and I also am the unofficial in-charge for the Bolthole blog as well. I definitely don’t want to over-work, especially since I do want to focus on my writing this year.

Total Goal: 211,700 words

6. The Founding Fields. More book reviews dammit! As we speak, I have a backlog of about 4-5 reviews that need to be done, and that is only increasing as time passes since I just recently finished reading Anthony Reynolds’s third Word Bearers novel, Dark Creed, and I am in the middle of Gav Thorpe’s first HH novel, Deliverance Lost.

Plus, I have now arranged things with Black Library and I am now on their Advance Reviewer’s list. My first package is going to be the March releases which are Horus Heresy: Know No Fear by Dan Abnett, the Iron Warriors Omnibus by Graham McNeill, Path of the Renegade by Andy Chambers and finally Knight of the Blazing Sun by newcomer Josh Reynolds. So that’s going to be a lot of reading.

But that’s not all of course because I am me.

I also signed for Angry Robot‘s Robot Army as an Advance Reviewer and have requested a couple ARCs from them, Empire State by Adam Christopher and Giant Thief by David Tallerman. As per their guidelines, requesting ARC’s guarantees that I need to do reviews, which is totally fine by me. Adam’s novel particularly has been gaining a lot of steam, not in the least because of its frikkin awesome cover. So that’s more work for moi!

First order of business is to clear out my backlog and then get on with all the other reviews I need to do as I finish with the books and short stories. Given that my reviews are like usually in the 1200-1500 range, I’ll just take 1300 as my average for each review and I plan to do 5 reviews at least each month. That should sufficiently keep me on track with my reading and getting through all the BL ARC’s I will be getting throughout the year.

Fun fact: My latest review, which should go up within the next 12 hours, is for Sarah Cawkwell’s first novella, Accursed Eternity, and it clocks in at a perfect 1800 words, making it the biggest one I have done so far.

You can see all my current reviews for TFF here.

Total Goal: 289,700 words

7. 24FPS. Another of my review sites that I am a part of and that gets sort of neglected, again, because of procrastination. I sincerely intend to change that of course. For this also I have a backlog, that is about 4-6 movies big depending on what I really want to do. Just like with my book reviews, I tend to average roughly 1300 words a review and I intend to publish about 2 reviews a month. Movies are a little more difficult to get a hold of obviously, not to mention the time commitment issue but this shouldn’t be too bad. And it should be quite relaxing too if I take a low-key but regimented approach to this.

All my reviews for 24FPS can be found here.

Total Goal: 320,900 words

8. Raven and Blood. Clocking in at 70,219 words this is my first ever completed novel that fits a zero draft description, meaning it is not yet ready for editorial eyes and has a ton of things wrong with it that need to be fixed. But, I am immensely proud that I got this done. But now this youngling needs to be edited to hell and back. Plus I need to draw up a “pitch” for this that approximates what Black Library requires for their submissions. I know that different editors have different requirements and that Black Library is not going to be interested in this but I think the exercise in itself will be quite a challenge.

Of course, I cannot really guesstimate how much work this novel-editing shindig will involve on the writing front because editing in itself is so open-ended, particularly for someone like me who has no real experience with proper editing but I think I can take care of the basics at least. I aim for a final word count of about 95,000 words plus the pitch document which, excluding the chapters themselves, should be about another 4000 words.

Total Goal: 349,900 words

9. Finally, NaNoWriMo. I intend to enter the “competition” again and churn out another novel. Maybe one of those novel submissions I mentioned earlier or something different. I do have an old novel project, my first proper novel project in fact, that was a sci-fi story that is sort of half-finished. It is really amateurish in its current incarnation so I might just end up reworking the whole thing. But still, I aim to at least meet my accomplishment of this year if not better it. So the target is another 70,000-word novel which I hope to then sit down to edit for 2013.

Total Goal: 419,900 words

So umm, yeah, that’s my writing goals for 2012. Its a lot of writing and I am not even sure at the moment if I will actually be able to do all of it. But I know that I could reach all of them if I just focused my efforts and really cut down on procrastinating. That’s like Enemy Number One for me. I am really getting into the groove of writing, I feel, and I just got to work it all so that apathy doesn’t set in. Get all that down and then I can really get some solid writing done.

So what about you folks? What writing goals do you all have for 2012?

First Drafts-ish

Like I mentioned in Victory, Centrestage, I got the first draft of chapter 1 for Project Salvation done. Since then, as of yesterday afternoon, I also have the first draft of chapter 2 done. It’s all clocked up at just shy of 13k words, and I still need to get started on chapter 3 which is going to be about 6000 words minimum. It will be the first proper combat scene involving lots of shooty-shooty stuff and people dying.

Now, in regards to a short conversation/discussion over at Bolthole, I started thinking if the 13k words I had written so far do indeed count as first drafts. They are definitely works in progress but when I got them done, I definitely crossed a very important stage in the schedule. But self-admittedly I knew there were quite a few areas of improvement that I had already identified and knew would come up as well.

Now, what defines a first draft?

The answer to that, I think, is fairly simple. Mind you, I have not bothered to do any proper research on the interwebs about this because, honestly, there is no need to.

A first draft, for me, is the basics of the entire plot, which in this case refers to the plots of chapters 1 and 2. What are these basics? Well, they would be character introductions, settings the themes, developing the tones of the piece, introducing some sort of conflict, as well as introducing the reader to the locales and what not. Plus the immersion needs to be there.

One of the feedbacks I got so far for a scene in chapter 1 mentioned that my immersion was all over the place. Mostly because I was trying a little too hard to make it fit for new readers to Warhammer 40,000 and veterans alike. So I made some mistakes, which in hindsight appear to be quite basic and frankly, idiotic.

But do I have a first draft as defined by myself? I think I do. I am not a professional writer by any means of course and this would be my first time writing a piece for professional publication, but I definitely have a first draft because I have my basics there.

If you can recognize a beginning, middle, and end with conflict in the sample, then that is a job well done is it not? Granted, just one chapter by itself cannot fulfill that but then the sample proper is supposed to be 3 chapters long. And at the rate I have been going, it is going to clock up at around 19-20k words.

Which is a hell of a lot!

My ‘technique’, if you can call it that, is to get all my basics down first and then go back over the piece and do a few things, in no particular order.

  • Identify areas that need improvement, whether it be dialogue, or narration, or phrases or whatever else is there.
  • Make the improvements.
  • Identify mistakes like names, numbers, locations and so on.
  • Correct the mistakes.
  • Repeat Step 1.

Now, when I sent out my first draft for critiques, I apparently did not do it thoroughly enough and I guess I wasn’t in the proper mindset when I did it. Because when I got some initial feedback and made the necessary edits, I picked up a few glaring mistakes. The kind that make you want to /headdesk.

Quite embarrassing.

So today, and maybe tomorrow, is going to be spent going over chapters 1 and 2 again and again until I am sure I have not made any of these mistakes. The people I send out my stuff to critique are quite busy with their own things and it is embarrassing and ridiculous if they read crap like this.

Sons of Corax The Short

So… I’ve been rigorously working on the short story and as things stand, I am on my third full rewrite, not to mention all the minor changes the whole story has gone through in the last month. The problem isn’t that I don’t have ideas on what to write or a lack of material to draw on… its just that I can’t seem to confine myself to the 1000 word sample text that BL editors are asking for.

Whatever I end up writing seems in no way to fit down that fine line and its getting quite frustrating. I wrote a killer opening scene for the the second draft but it doesn’t capture the essence of the plot that the short story is going to be about. It is what it is, an opening scene. So far all these drafts are getting filed away and in reality I’m ending up with some good stuff that can be potentially useful if I extend the short into a novel.

So I’ve started wondering, is it better to submit a novel in may? Or should I keep it small and submit a short story instead? Rather undecided but as of now I am still sticking with the short story.

Good news is that I emailed the good folks over at BL asking about the submission deadlines and the response was 1-May-2011 to 31-july-2011, so even that is ample time to work things about. Hopefully I can get done in the first couple of weeks so when the submissions approval team gets my work, they are not bored of all the different qualities of fanfic.

Oh and another problematic thing with the project has been to write this really awesome battle deployment scene and while I totally see how it happens in my mind (its like watching a video haha) I am definitely struggling to put it into words.