February 2022 Writing Update

Time is rollin’, rollin’, rollin’!

When we last chatted, I’d just started edits on Spider’s Hub (using a new process) and had 2 other projects on the go (an outline for the next novel, and a Jazz Healy short story). Oh yeah, and I’d just created a brand new spreadsheet of wondrous wonder to track all my writing and editing down to the exact word.

Now, almost a month on, I’m still editing Spider’s Hub (more on that soon), and have 5 (!!) other projects in various stages. I hope you’re all holding onto your hats because we’re about to break things down, yo!

First, Spider’s Hub. I’m 75% of the way through the first step of my new editing process, the initial softcopy edit. And so far I’ve trimmed the thing down by 12.5K. A sub-80K manuscript is a distinct possibility. While most of this editing pass has been trimming excess fat (and as you can see, there’s been a lot of that), I’ve also streamlined the story, fixed a few plot issues, and so on. This should mean when I print the hardcopy out there won’t be nearly as much circling of entire pages with a note to ‘strengthen/condense,’ and/or a note (and this seems to be my term when editing) that this is ‘clunky.’ Once I finish this softcopy edit I’ll let the manuscript sit for a week before printing it. For two reasons: to give a tiny bit of distance, and so I can focus on getting my short-story collection ready.

Really, I should have 7 total projects open in my spreadsheet but I haven’t added the short-story collection. I’ve done plenty on it, though. I have a table of contents and, because I r compulsive editor, I’ve been methodically reading through the stories to make sure there’s no glaring issues like missing scenes, etc.

Actually, in so doing I’ve noticed something quite interesting. And this relates to the 6th project I have going, so we’ll talk about that one before the others. Perhaps due to me deciding which stories to include in this collection I got to thinking about a story I trunked 8-9 years ago, and because I wasn’t doing enough writing stuff already decided to pull it out and give it a good going-over. And let me tell you, the perspective 9 years gives on a story! Immediately upon reading through it I saw a lot of areas for improvement. A lot. Funnily enough, when it was out doing the rounds so long ago, it got close at one venue, the rejection I received from them after they held onto it for 6 months telling me that it was a wonderful story and the right publisher would be eager to buy it. The last rejection I got for it was at the other end of the spectrum, however, the comments included from the slush readers quite scathing. While I can’t say exactly, that rejection might’ve been the reason I trunked the story. At that time, writing had already taken a backseat to Other Important Things and I think that while I could see the flaws the readers pointed out I didn’t have the time or energy to put the work in to correct them. Still, I didn’t think it was a terrible tale, which is why I decided to get it back out now.

So, where was I going with this? Oh, that’s right, an interesting thing I’ve noticed while reading through the stories I’ve sold versus this one. The vast majority of the stories in this collection have been previously sold (I say sold rather than published because a couple were sold but never got published, all rights now long reverted back to me). Most of these stories are older, too, than the trunk story. And reading through them, while I’ve picked up on an odd error or possible better word choice, they’ve all flowed along pretty well. None of the editors who bought them required extensive edits on them, either. However, this trunk story, which I at one time thought was good enough to sell, well, it obviously wasn’t.

Anyway, I found that discernable difference between ‘sellable’ and ‘not ready’ interesting. Though it seems like I need lots of years to see it 🀣🀣

Oh, here’s the TOC for the short story collection:

“Dry Ice”
“Pistols at Dawn Amongst the Evergreens”
“Goldar the Unwieldy”
“The Sentigo River Expedition”
“The Coffee Moon Bounty”
“The Sun Sets No Different at the Edge of the Universe”
“A Touch of Heresy”
“Night Terrors”
“Just Add Water”
“Fire Season”
“Orion’s Belt”
“The Lor Majority”

18 stories all up. 2 of the 3 previously unsold stories are Jazz Healy tales written especially for the collection. They are: “The Sentigo River Expedition,” and “The Coffee Moon Bounty.” The remaining unsold story is a sequel to “Orion’s Belt,” titled “The Lor Majority.”

And that brings us back around to the other projects I have going.

The draft of “The Sentigo River Expedition” was completed in January, and currently weighs in at 9.3K. I’ll be starting proper edits on the story soon, and expect it to finish up around 6K. “The Coffee Moon Bounty” draft is 3.4K, and was finished at the very beginning of Feb. I’ll be editing that one immediately after “Sentigo River”. “Sentigo River” is set 5 years before the events of the Reunion Series, while “Coffee Moon” is set in the 6 months between the events of Chak’r’Das and Garbadon Major.

Another story idea bit me in January, and over the course of 5 days “Entangled” was born. It’s 2.8K and I’ll get to editing that after I finish doing the story collection stuff.

I’ve kinda glossed over those short stories pretty quick, haven’t I? But it’s actually been a really long time since I’ve been working on so many at once. And this last 4-week period may have been my most productive yet.

The project that I’ve progressed the least has been the outline for the next novel (plus associated worldbuilding). Because this novel is going to be multi-POV, I’m writing separate outlines for each of the POVs. Which is new for me. At this stage I’m not sure if I’ll write each POV separately and then fit them together or if I’ll write both at once. I tend to be very linear in my drafting style but I’m not sure that will be the best approach here. Anyway, I should just concentrate on finishing the outlines, right?

Oh, I forgot, that trunk story I’m working on. I’ll be putting it up free to read at Simily and on my Buy Me a Coffee page once I feel it’s ready. No timeframe on that, though. And I’ll send it out to my newsletter subscribers, too πŸ˜„

That’s where I’m at, I guess. I need to commission some cover art for my story collection. I want to have that done, along with the internal formatting, by month end so I can make it available for ARC (advance review copy) reading by the beginning of March. Yes, that’s right, I’m putting together an ARC team over on Booksprout. If you’re interested in being on that team, then get their app, search up S.C. Mae, and follow! As per above, I’ll be making the ARC for Dry Ice: A Short Story Collection available early March.

As always, thanks for stopping by and we’ll chat again soon!
S.C. Mae

Writing Update January 2022

So it’s 2022. The year after 2021. In fact, we’re already more than halfway through January. For me, at least, time has travelled different over the last couple years. Faster. Others I’ve spoken to say that for them time during the pandemic has crawled. But not for me. I’m not sure why.

Anyway, this is a place for writing talk, so before I get sidetracked before I’ve even begun, what’s happening writing-wise for S.C. Mae?

Well, last week I finished the first draft of The Votack Rebellion, book 2 in the Lincoln Reilly series. It’s finishing weight was 105,400 words and it’s now resting for a while before I start on edits. Last week I also finished polishing up my short story, Byte Tanzil and the Case of the Neural Mods, and moved it from my ‘In Progress’ folder to my ‘To Sell’ folder. It took about 3 months to get the story from start to out the door. It’s already picked up its first rejection and is out at its second market. I now have 3 short stories winging their way around the spec-fic zine universe. Flights of Fancy has picked up 5 rejections, as has A Question of Returns.

On a side note, if you’re a short fiction writer and are after an easy-to-use piece of software to keep track of your submissions, then check out Sonar3 from Spacejock Software. It’s free, and very awesome.

This week, I’ve started big edits on Spider’s Hub, Lincoln Reilly book 1. I’ve changed things up a bit from my usual process. Generally, my big edit starts with me printing out a hardcopy of the manuscript and going through that hardcopy page by page, identifying what needs work (which is typically almost everything, if I’m being honest πŸ˜…). Then I take my hardcopy notes and apply to the softcopy. This time around, though, I’m starting with a softcopy edit. Then I’ll print out a hardcopy and go page by page, and so on.

There are a couple of reasons for this. My last major edit was Bil’Tross, the final book of the Jazz Healy, Reunion series, and that edit took nearly 6 months. During that period I was learning how to publish books but still, when my plan is to publish 3 books this year, 6 months is, well, long. And while this might sound counter-intuitive, I feel that adding a relatively quick softcopy edit to the beginning of my big edit process will speed things up because a cleaner hardcopy means I should be able to focus primarily on plot rather than how clunky everything reads. Maybe! πŸ˜†

Too, I feel like Spider’s Hub is one of the loosest drafts I’ve written (though I think Votack is even looser, but that’s a problem for another day). So this can only help, in my opinion, mostly for the reasons already stated.

It’ll be interesting to see how long this edit takes me, especially now that I’ve wholeheartedly adopted the Pomodoro Technique. See my last post for more discussion on that topic. Though, that being said, I’d only just discovered pomodoros when I wrote that post, so I guess I can now present some evidence that the technique works for me. Prior to going all pomodoro on Votack, my best week of words was the second week of the draft, where I churned out just over 9500. My average, though, in the 8 weeks before I started pomodoro-ing, was only 6600, and I only surpassed the 9K mark 1 more time. My first week trialing (inconsistently, I might add) the Pomodoro Technique I wrote nearly 8200 words. The next week I started properly applying the technique and I added more than 11.5K to the draft. That even included a day where I didn’t write at all. In fact, from that point until I typed END, I took 2 days off a week, yet I still averaged nearly 11K per 7 days, including a week where I pounded out 13000 words. It took me over 8 weeks to get to 53K, but only a further 4 1/2 to add the next 52+K and finish the draft.

So yeah, the Pomodoro Technique works for me. And not just for novel writing but also for short stories and other creative stuff.

In fact, I’m even using pomodoros to make sure I get some regular reading time in.

Apart from edits on Spider’s Hub, I’m still working on the first Jazz Healy shorty to be included in the short story collection I’ll be releasing soon. That’s still at the draft stage, though I’m confident I’ll finish the draft this month and be well on the way on the second story.

I’m also working on the outline for my next novel. This won’t be a Lincoln Reilly book (I have hazy ideas for the third book but they haven’t coalesced into anything solid yet), or a Jazz Healy universe book (I’ve got lots of solid ideas there but I’m not quite ready to dive full-on into that universe again). It’ll be a multiverse-themed book. Back in 2011 I wrote a piece of flash fiction in a multiverse setting. It didn’t sell, though one of the venues I subbed it to responded that the piece felt more like the opening of a novel than a short story. I fiddled around with it over the next few years, still determined to make it work as a short story before, around 2015, I decided that yes, the idea and story would work much better in a novel. At that point I put it away in my ideas folder with, as I wasn’t seriously writing at the time, no real plan to come back to it. Then in 2019 while browsing through said folder I came across it again and the idea morphed into a series, the first book of which I’m now outlining. I have no name for it yet but I have the overall plot, and a pair of POV characters whose stories I want to tell. I’m kinda leery about writing it at this particular point in time, with Marvel having ripped open the multiverse doors and therefore anything published in the next few years having the potential to be seen as merely jumping on the bandwagon, but the story keeps bugging me and I’m not going to ignore it anymore. So there! 🀣🀣

There’s another piece of writing from way back when that won’t leave me alone, either. Between 2009-2011 I drafted a first-person POV novel that told the story of a bunch of genetically-enhanced and technologically-advanced animals. About when I finished the draft the thing turned into a trilogy in my head and so I started on the second one (well, I wrote the opening scene of the second one). Except that this one focused on another group of animals within this universe and thus felt more natural in third-person. I toyed with the idea of redrafting the first book into third person but at the time that felt too hard so I left it. But like the multiverse idea, this story also keeps bugging me, and I’ve decided to add the redraft to my project list. No timeframe on that one, though.

‘Your project list?’ you ask. ‘Is that a word document saved to your writing folder?’

What a great question and I’m glad you asked. Actually, right now it’s primarily a whiteboard. Each of my active projects is listed, with a timeline beneath showing what stage I’m up to, the completed stages crossed out. Each project has been assigned a different-colored marker.

But wait, there’s more! Very recently, I had to change phones and sadly discovered that the app I used to keep track of my novel writing no longer exists. I poked around looking at other apps but they all seemed to do a lot more than I needed, and while they did have the basic functionality I required they weren’t quite as nice as the App That No Longer Exists. So I decided to go back to a spreadsheet.

Then, after doing up a spreadsheet for Votack, I thought to myself, ‘Hang on, instead of individual spreadsheets for each project, why don’t I create a master spreadsheet to keep track of everything?’ That way, I reasoned, I could accurately track how many words I write (or edit) per day, week, month, perhaps even year, across all my projects, as up until now I’d really only been tracking daily progress on my novels. Because, well, I do be loving stattage, and for some reason find keeping track of stattage to be motivating.

And so the Progress Tracker Master, the spreadsheet to end all spreadsheets, has been born. Actually, it’s really very basic but I love it. In fact, this week I’ve been more excited to enter data into it than I have been to start edits on Spider’s Hub πŸ˜‚. And when a project is finished all I need to do is hide the four columns that relate to it and the data remains intact.

Currently I have 3 projects open in the PTM, though the multiverse project has itself been split into 3 parts (I’m writing separate outlines for each of the POV characters, and I’ve added worldbuilding as a standalone element, too).

Anyway, I am definitely in waffle-mode, so before I completely send you to Boredom Town I’ll sign off. As always, thanks for reading. And again, a massive SHOUT-OUT to all you awesome folk who’ve left ratings or reviews of my books across the various platforms. You all rock very, very much!

Oh, one more thing: Above I mentioned my plan is to release 3 books this year. In previous posts, I said that I wanted to publish a short story collection in March but I’ve decided to push that back to April, to give me a release schedule of April, August, December. A book every 4 months. Feels nice and symmetrical. So that means short story collection in April, Spider’s Hub in August, and The Votack Rebellion in December. In 2023, I hope to be in a position to publish 4 books, which will be a book every 3 months, but that’s a long way away so I should really just focus on the now, right?

Thanks again for stopping by!
S.C. Mae

(In case you were wondering: this post took me 3 pomodoros to draft, and 1 to edit 😁)

Mid-December 2021 Writing Update

So it’s probably time I posted, right? Gah, I am terrible at this blogging thing!

What’s been happening in my writing world, then? Well, all 4 books of the Jazz Healy, Reunion series are out, but you already knew that because they were out last time I posted. I’m still tossing up whether to do hardback copies on Amazon or not. At this stage, ebook and paperback are probably enough.

As far as the Lincoln Reilly books go, I’m over 60K into The Votack Rebellion draft. My planned finish date was 31st December but… yeah… maybe mid-Jan is more feasible. I’ve never written a story with such a large active cast, which is fun, but also challenging, of course. And there are still important characters I haven’t introduced yet… πŸ˜…

I’m partway through the draft of a new Jazz Healy short story, too, set well before the events in the Reunion series. Haven’t worked on it yet this week, though, because I’m currently focused on editing my Byte Tanzil short story. You may recall I mentioned this story in my last post. Byte Tanzil is a former pro spaceball (punnnnny) pitcher with addiction issues who’s turned PI and taken on a case involving an adversary from his playing days. Tentatively titled Byte Tanzil and the Case of the Neural Mods, the first draft clocked in at more than 11K but I want to get it as trim as possible before trying to sell it. 6K would be glorious but we shall see. Usually I don’t print out hardcopies of short stories for editing but due to this one’s length I decided to do so and I might just have to get back into the habit for all my shorties. Hardcopies are certainly part of my editing process for novel-length stuff and I’m not entirely sure why I got out of the habit for shorter stuff. Probably worried about the cost of ink/toner and paper. But the Epson printer I’ve got now does something like 4000 pages to a black ink bottle, and the bottles are cheap. In fact, I’ve had the printer for something like 2 1/2 years and I’m still on the initial inks. Actually, looking at the printer right now it seems I’ve still got about half the black left.

But anyway, as fascinating as that is, you’re not here to learn about my printer. Or maybe you are. That’s all good, no-one’s judging. If you are in the market for a new printer, check out the Epson EcoTank models. Mix that with an eco font on your documents and you could maybe get up to double the pages per ink bottle. I’m not saying you can but maybe?

Back to the writing talk. The plan is to have the Byte Tanzil story out looking for its first home before the end of the month. Then I’ll focus on the Jazz Healy short-in-progress and another Jazz story after that, both to be included in the short story collection I want to release March next year.

Related to writing, I heard about something called the Pomodoro Technique the other day. Now, I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve my focus because it seems the older I get the less able to concentrate… I am… no, that’s not right. It seems the older I get the less I’m able to concentrate. Hmm, that still doesn’t sound right but you get the drift, yeah? So I decided to try it out. And so far I’m loving it! I haven’t gone quite as old-school as recommended in the wiki link above – I’m using the Forest app, for one, because, well, you can get yourself a forest! – but I’m liking the 25 minute intervals followed by 5-10 minute breaks. You’re supposed to do the pomodoros 4 at a time, which would, with breaks, equal about a two-hour set, followed by a 20-30 minute break and starting over. I haven’t quite managed that yet (the best I’ve done without a longer break is 2 pomodoros) but I’m confident I can get there.

And that’s actually the end of a pomodoro right now. So Imma come back to this post in a little bit because after this short break I’ve got other work stuff that needs doing…

…Right, back. Though it’s now tomorrow, which is really today, so what that means is the words before this point were written yesterday and the words I’m writing after this point are from today, which will be yesterday tomorrow, and before you know it we’ll be in 2023.

I don’t have too much more writing stuffs to talk about, though I would like to shout ‘THANK YOU!’ to everybody who has left ratings and reviews for the Reunion series across the various retail and review platforms. You all rock very, very much!

Before I sign off, I want to recommend a book. The Story of China, by Michael Wood. An excellent, immersive historical narrative of China. A must read for any lovers of history. And if you’re not a history lover, well, you should still try the book out because you might become one upon reading it. Bear in mind that this isn’t a book to rush through but it is one to savor. The link above will take you to the Amazon store but you should be able to buy it virtually anywhere, and non-virtually, too, in most physical bookstores.

And finally, while I really like the design of my Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard, I’m also getting kinda frustrated by the fact that it seems to lose bluetooth connectivity/goes to sleep every few minutes, requiring me to jolt the keyboard in some way (usually by picking it up and setting it down quite hard on the desk because a soft tap doesn’t work) to wake it up. I wonder if there’s a wired version with the same design – the keyboard slopes down which I’ve found just amazing for my wrists.

Anyhoo, as always, thanks for stopping by and we’ll talk again soon!

(And if you haven’t read the Reunion series yet, why not? πŸ˜‹ Also, did you know I’ll gift you books 2 & 3, book 1 already being free, if you support me on Buy Me a Coffee)

S.C. Mae