Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

I&http://www.sherrydramsey.com/#8217;ve been using the submission planning spreadsheet I talked about here and realized that a couple of tweaks would improve its functionality.

I added a column to enter the word count of your story, and formulae in the &http://www.sherrydramsey.com/#8220;Projected Payment&http://www.sherrydramsey.com/#8221; column, so that now if you enter your word count and the pay rate for a particular market, the spreadsheet will calculate the projected payment for you (because I don&http://www.sherrydramsey.com/#8217;t know about you, but I&http://www.sherrydramsey.com/#8217;m all about doing as little actual math as possible). There&http://www.sherrydramsey.com/#8217;s also now a separate column for flat rate payments.

The instructions page has been amended accordingly.

Here&http://www.sherrydramsey.com/#8217;s the really cool part: if you&http://www.sherrydramsey.com/#8217;ve already started using the older version of the spreadsheet, don&http://www.sherrydramsey.com/#8217;t despair! Open your version and the new version in different windows on your desktop, and simply drag one of the updated sheets from the new version into your old version. It won&http://www.sherrydramsey.com/#8217;t update a sheet you&http://www.sherrydramsey.com/#8217;ve already started, of course, but you can use the new version for any new ones you start. You can take advantage of the new features without having to start a new file.

The new file is now linked below and on the original post&http://www.sherrydramsey.com/#8217;s download page. Happy submission planning!

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

Work on improving my marketing strategies continued this week. There’s a LOT of information and advice out there, and much of it concludes with “see what works for you.” That’s a lot of trial and error, but I guess it’s really the only way. I have worked out the beginnings of a weekly/monthly action list, which just sounds too organized for me. ;)

Not much in the way of word count this week, since my focus was elsewhere. I do have a new story to work on, though, and I figured out some more things about The Chaos Assassin. I also got those two non-fiction ebooks mostly formatted, so I think this weekend I will try to run through them both one last time and maybe get them out the door early next week. I’ve decided I’m happy with the covers. I have a school visit coming up on Monday, but fortunately there’s little prep work involved for that. I do have to finish up the last of my prep for the workshop I’m presenting next weekend. I’m hoping we’ll have some fun talking speculative fiction all day!

This new story idea is really giving me a brain itch, so I think I might have to write it before it drives me crazy. It will be the next installment in the Olympia Investigations series, so I know it will be fun to write. Although it rarely happens, I think I know the throughline of the whole story right off the top, so maybe I’ll be looking at a fast first draft. Here’s hoping!

 

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

The return of the Friday Desk Report! And look at that fabulously almost-symmetrical date.

So, there hasn’t been a Friday Desk Report for a while, mainly because for the past couple of months they all would have read something like, “Tried to work on the novel edits this week in between bouts of feeling utterly depressed with the world. Drowned my sorrows in Guild Wars 2. Also, winter.” I mean, how many times would you want to read that?

But here’s the good news: there’s actually news. I turned in the novel manuscript! I turned in the short story! I edited and submitted another story! So things have really picked up again around the old desk. With luck, it will continue. I have a few new projects pestering me for some attention, and some older ones lined up in the “go back to” queue. Time to open up my year-out project planning spreadsheet and fill in some things for the next few months.

I’ve also been asked to give a WFNS workshop this spring, which is exciting. We’re calling it “Exploring Speculative Fiction,” and I’m looking forward to spending a day talking genre with folks writing and hoping to write specfic stories. So over the next few weeks some of my desk time will be spent putting the workshop together.

I’ve also been busy Saving The World Through Knitting. Well, okay, not *quite* saving the world. But making a small difference. So far I’ve knit ten hats from my yarn stash, which will be sent to an organization that distributes such items to refugees in need. I’m finding it a very useful strategy in coping with stress, distress, and the darkness demons of the winter months. (In the course of this project I’ve also become addicted attached to Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. I expect I’ll be writing some new mysteries this year…)

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

nano2002Yup, today we’re going all the way back to the beginning. This was my first year of NaNoWriMo! And yes, in this picture you can see what I expect is a pretty rare artifact–the 2002 t-shirt.

My first NaNo novel was The Y Plague, a story about a future Earth where the male population has been reduced by a very large percentage. No, I did not write this because I hate men. I wrote it because it was an idea that interested me and I wanted to explore it. Here’s the blurb (from before I really understood how to write a good blurb, but someday I’ll write a better one):

In a future where genetic degradation has reduced the male population to only five percent of the total, fertile males are prized as research subjects and breeding partners. There’s unrest, however, as men begin to resent the bonds of society and start to form their own Freemen colonies. The radical X/Alt group wants to see the end of all research aimed at restoring the male genome, and in Rome, the last male Pope uncovers a secret that will either drive him mad or rock the Catholic Church to its foundations.

I had a one-year-old and a six-year-old when I wrote this novel, so it required getting up early in the morning and staying up late at night. I remember pouring up a glass of juice every night so that in the morning, I just had to stumble out to the fridge and retrieve it, sipping as I made my way to my office. Then I pried open my eyelids and tried to get a few hundred words down before the day started. This strategy worked out very well for me, as I found that by the time I got to write again once the kids were in bed, my brain had been working on the next part all day. I wrote over 2k words nineteen days of the month that year, which I think was pretty consistent.

Looking at my spreadsheet from that year, I see that I passed 50k words on the 25th of November! Wow. I was on fire that year. I finished out the month with 58,337 words, and an outline for the final fourteen chapters of the novel. I kept writing until the 3rd of December and reached 59,029 words, but wrote the outline when I realized that although I hadn’t gotten to THE END, I had to turn my attention to the upcoming holidays. I didn’t want to forget where the novel was heading when I picked it up again in January.

I have never written those last chapters. *headdesk*

However, I pulled this novel out last year and began looking at it. I think it’s good. Better than I remember, actually, and perhaps even more relevant in many ways than it was when I started it. It’s very near the top of my list of things to finish. I think it probably needs a new title, since the “plague” is not really a plague and has happened long before the book begins, but I can deal with that.

One thing I’m doing during this retrospective is considering these unfinished novels, what state they are in, and what they need. From this I’m making a to-do list for 2017, so expect to see some of these titles (or replacement ones) popping up over the next while.

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

My NaNoWriMo Retrospective continues with a look back at 2003. I came, I wrote, I bought the t-shirt. And I wrote “THE END.”

nanoretro2003This was my second year of NaNoWriMo, and the year I wrote the first draft of One’s Aspect to the Sun. I learned a lot about novel-writing that year, including the fact that sometimes characters you intend to kill off in the second chapter just keep hanging around until you realize they’re not ready to die after all. I also found out how fulfilling it is to reach some semblance of an ending and type those two wonderful words.

I wasn’t certain if this was the year I became a Municipal Liaison, but I’ve just gone and checked my email (yes, I’m an email hoarder, I confess), and this was the year I started. So I’m glad to have that figured out, because I’m never sure when filling out the ML form each year. It didn’t occur to me before this to just go and check those old emails, for which I really have no excuse. As I recall, we were a pretty small group that year, and far-flung across the Island, as we still are, although there are definitely more of us participating now. I remember mailing out pins and possibly stickers to a few participants.

Anyway, this is a big year in the retrospective, because the draft I wrote this year became my first published novel (from Tyche Books) in…wait for it…2013. In November, even! Yes, ten whole years after I wrote that first draft. Now, I wasn’t working on it constantly during those ten years (I wrote a lot of other stuff in there, too), but I did write several drafts. I submitted it to the Atlantic Writing Competition (now Nova Writes) and took second place (which one of the organizers assured me meant that the novel was “publishable”), and rewrote it using the feedback I received from the judges. After a couple more rewrites and submissions, it found its home at Tyche. The beautiful cover art is by the talented Ashley Walters. The book was named “Speculative Fiction Book of the Year” by the Book Publishers of Alberta.

Here’s the blurb, which remained pretty much the same from the time I first wrote it in 2003 until the book came out:

When Luta Paixon, captain of the merchant trader Tane Ikai, looked in the mirror, she saw a woman in her thirties–even though she was actually eighty-two. Luta’s only explanation might lie with the mother who had disappeared over sixty years ago. But even if her mother were still alive, it would be no small task to track her down in the vast, wormhole-ridden expanse of Nearspace. With the ruthless PrimeCorp bent on obtaining Luta’s DNA at any cost, her ninety-year-old husband asking for one last favor, and her estranged daughter locking horns with her at every turn, Luta’s search for answers will take her to the farthest reaches of space–and deep inside her own heart.

Looking back at my spreadsheet from this year, I see that I finished November with a word count of 50,715. On the second day, my note says, “A little worried that I don’t know where I’m going,” but by the end of the first week I seem to have settled into a groove and flown straight on till morning. I actually finished on the 27th, averaging 1878 words per day.

Which year will we visit next? Stay tuned!

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_municipalliaison-2-250x250Yes, 2016 marks the 15th year I’m participating in the wonderful creative blast of National Novel Writing Month. I thought it would be fun, as the month progresses, to look back at the things I’ve written, the data I’ve kept, and, even more important, the t-shirts and other nano-merch I’ve acquired over the years. So sit back, pour up a celebratory glass of your favourite liquid for toasting, and enjoy this little trip through time and word counts.

I’m doing this in no particular order, so today I randomly picked 2008 (because that’s the t-shirt I’m wearing today).nanoretro2008This was the 10-year anniversary of NaNoWriMo itself, and the brown baseball-style tee boasts “NaNoWriMo” and a large number “10” on the back. This is one of my all-time fav NaNo t-shirts. That was the year I wrote At the Sign of the Starcase, and yes, that’s STAR CASE, not a typo. This was a middle-grade to young adult story, and I know I wrote it specifically trying to incorporate many of the elements my daughter enjoyed in the books she was reading at the time. Here’s the blurb:

In the five years since Maddie’s father disappeared, she and her family have struggled to go on with some semblance of a normal life. That life is shattered by the arrival of Neb, a vaguely rabbit-like creature who turns up in Maddie’s room one night, pleading for her help in finding a powerful book called the Cyclopedia and telling her that her father is still alive—but trapped in an alternate world. There’s no question that Maddie will try to help Neb and hope that by doing so she’ll be able to rescue her father. But keeping the rest of her family safe grows increasingly difficult once she finds out that there are others from that world who want the Cyclopedia too…and they don’t care what they have to do to get it.

Looking up my tracking spreadsheet from that year, I see that I finished up at 50,699 words. Some selected comments from the daily “notes” section of the spreadsheet: “Still no idea what I’m doing with this story, but at least it’s started,” “I hate that message that says, at this rate, you won’t finish on time,” “bleh,” and on a more positive note, “Woohoo, I’m getting so many great ideas in the last 24 hours!”

Unfortunately, all those great ideas did not lead to a finished first draft of Starcase, and I didn’t get to type “The End,” which is always my ultimate goal during NaNoWriMo. I always get the 50k, but that goal is more elusive. My daughter is no longer a middle grade reader, but I’m sure if I ever finish Starcase she will read it anyway just to be nice.

We launched our first Third Person Press title, Undercurrents, during that November, so I think that contributed to my struggle with this manuscript. However, I still like it and think it has potential, so it remains on my TBF (to-be-finished) list.

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

barneysriverfall

I detest the end of summer, but we do have a beautiful autumn in Nova Scotia.

So far, October has been a super-busy month. Unfortunately, not a lot of that busy-ness has resulted in word metrics to report. In between home improvements, road trips, meetings, family events…sometimes writing does get sidelined.

Oh, I’ve been working, it just hasn’t been the sort of working that translates into a lot of new words. It’s been planning, reading, changing, re-evaluating. A few new words written on a couple of projects, but hardly enough to share the numbers.

However, that’s what the writing life is like, sometimes. It’s not always quantifiable. That hour I spent working out the story thread for a new short story–sure, it looked like I was only doing jigsaw puzzles on the iPad. But there was so much going on behind the scenes while part of my brain focused on looking for patterns in tiny digital pieces; another part focused on looking for different kinds of patterns in that short story project.

lapdeskRemember that “Shoe” cartoon from Jeff MacNelly? I won’t put it here since I don’t have permission, but Google will find it for you. The one about how typists pound keyboards, and writers stare out windows? Yes, that’s what it’s like a lot of the time. I also considered the trajectory for one of the characters in my current novel manuscript while I sewed a new pillow for my lap desk – it was spilling tiny styrofoam beads and also had lost some velcro. It now has a new life and I like it better than before! AND now I can use my laptop more comfortably again, which will help productivity. See how it’s all interconnected?

The continuing education course I’m teaching this month seems to be going swimmingly–I’m enjoying it very much and I think my students are, as well. We’ve covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time, and it’s hard to believe there’s only one class left. And that experience has been inspiring as well. Interacting with other writers and creative people is always rewarding.

And then it will be November. I’m considering being a bit of a NaNo Rebel for National Novel Writing Month this year. I’m thinking of a project I’m going to call “The Finisher.” This will entail finishing the first drafts of several–I have three in mind–NNWM manuscripts that still need final chapters. Still toying with the idea, and it will depend on the state of some deadline projects, but it’s appealing. I do, of course, have new ideas begging to be written this November, but it’s impossible to overstate the importance of finishing things, too. So I’m thinking about it. Stay tuned…

Interesting things from the Internets this week:

Art isn’t free–can we stop pretending it is?

7-Point Plot Structure Story Mapping Template

Creating Mood Worksheet

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

img_6712

Lavender shop in Venice (I’d like to be back there breathing in its soothing scents right now!)

It’s been a purple week around here.

Purple, because that’s the color we’ve been painting my daughter’s room…rich, luxurious purple. The color of royalty, luxury, and the unity of mind, body, and soul.

Which is actually kind of ironic, because rarely do my mind, body, and soul feel so out of sync. Too many things on the to-do list, too many aches and pains (from moving furniture and painting and climbing up to stretch and reach), too much chaos in the house (always the fallout of painting jobs), too many deadlines zooming at me at once. I just made a loooong rapid-entry list in Nirvana, which is part of my current attempt at staying organized and getting everything done. That feels like a step in the right direction, and, whew, it’s Friday…

…and the beginning of a busy family weekend, since it’s Thanksgiving here in Canada. So I guess I’m not getting a whole lot done until Monday.

This week saw the start of a continuing education teaching gig for me, though, which runs throughout October. I have a small but enthusiastic class of students, and we’ll be discussing pathways to publication and all the attendant considerations, best practices, and pitfalls to avoid. Not that I consider myself the last word in any of these things, but I do enjoy sharing what experience and knowledge I’ve gleaned to this point. I think it will be a fun and enjoyable course.

I did finish editing that novella and sent it off to my beta readers. Huzzah! I also sent out my newsletter, but hmmmm, that could have been last week…

And I just looked at my year-out schedule spreadsheet (which plots what I should be working on and when, and which I adapted from Ron Collins), and I realize I’m not irrevocably behind. Not yet. So that’s a bit of a relief. But I need a lot of desk time this coming week, so we’ll see how it goes.

Fellow writers and procrastinators, I wonder if you see yourselves in this article? It goes a little off-track at the end, but it does make sense in a way. I think this might be a good time to re-install Cold Turkey on my computer…and it has nothing to do with Thanksgiving.

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

school-05It’s been a busy few weeks, both at and away from the desk. This week I was out of town for a couple of days doing Writers in the Schools visits, and they were, as usual, wonderful experiences. I had great sessions with elementary, jr. high, and high school students, who were interested, engaged, and willing to participate in the writing exercises we did; they also asked great questions during our Q&A times. They came up with some wonderful story ideas and some even seemed interested in writing them later! I had a lovely lunchtime chat with two Grade 12 students who asked insightful and interesting questions about many aspects of the writing life and business (and I hope I gave them decent answers!). All in all, it was a rewarding (if tiring!) two days. Wow, I don’t know how teachers do it. Much respect.

Work continues apace on the novel draft, slower than I would like but more steadily than I feared at one point. I’m also writing a short story with hopes of meeting a looming deadline. Which looms, and LOOMS…Slowing both of these projects down just a little is an idea for reinvigorating a long-languishing manuscript. This idea insists on knocking on the door of my attention with relentless persistence. I just spent half an hour making notes on it in the hopes that it will be satisfied with that and sit quietly in a corner while I finish up these other things first. Then it can take up as much space in my brain as it wants. But for now I need it to just Wait.

Ideas are seldom so conciliatory, but it’s worth a try.

In the midst of all this I watch in horror as wildfires destroy parts of our country. I might write apocalyptic scenes sometimes, but watching some of the videos of this fire and the wild escapes people have been forced to make from it, my brain is overwhelmed. If you are interested in helping, the Canadian government is currently matching any donations made to the Canadian Red Cross for Fort McMurray relief; the website is here. This is a wonderful first step in the government’s efforts as your donation is immediately doubled. I’ve been so heartened by the endless stream of offers of help and support pouring in from all over the country to help those displaced and devastated. If only the rain would pour with such vigour, the fire would already be out.

Things I researched this week:

  • underwater habitats
  • pressure suits
  • sea monkeys
  • ocean trenches
  • King John’s lost crown jewels

Yes, it’s like a game of “one of these things is not like the others…” ;)

 

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

oldcashregister

Marketing is not my strong suit. I find it difficult to push my self or my work too hard, I don’t like repetitive blast marketing, and I never seem to be able to come up with creative and interesting ways to work in a plug for something while not really making it seem like marketing. However, it seems I’ve been doing a lot of marketing and promotional stuff lately. This week was no different. I spent a fair portion of my desk time working on social media and promotional things. Which is, of course, a good thing. It means I have stuff happening, I’m involved in things–some really cool things, actually, and I’m excited about them. But it’s also not my favorite thing about the writing business.

In between all of that, I did manage to get some writing in–in fact, I had one glorious day on the novel draft where I really made some good progress. It’s still a slow climb, though, and I wish I could recapture some of the momentum that took me through November. At least now I’m writing every day, so the end of the draft draws ever closer. I also finished a draft of one new story and am getting close with another one. Too many projects at once? I don’t think so. Any more would probably be non-productive, but juggling a few is often a good thing for me.

I had a wonderful school visit and met some lovely kids. We had fun coming up with characters and story ideas, and they asked some really great questions. A good day all around.

Oh my, I listened to an audiobook* this week and, although I listened all the way through, the characters really started to annoy me as the book progressed. They were all so perfectly perfect! Everyone good-looking, with fascinating jobs, wonderful relationships, and personalities all sweetness and light. The only cranky person in the story–got murdered. It was fun and light at first, but after a while it was just too much to swallow. I hope my characters are never this perfect. I do tend to write nice people–because that’s who I’d rather spend time with, when all is said and done–but I try not to make them candidates for sainthood.

A habiticalevel33while back, I began using Habitica to try and stay organized and on track. It’s basically a gamification of your to-do list and habits, and I have to say it’s working pretty well for me. Yes, that’s my avatar, now level 33 and riding a freaking red dragon mount!  Apparently I can be organized, I just have to have the right motivation.

If you’re following this blog, you know the things I’ve been promoting of late: the Rogues bundle from Tyche Books, the Middlings bundle from BundleRabbit, and now an upcoming Facebook chat next week with a couple of other Dreaming Robot authors. One good thing about all of these is that they’ve given me more opportunities to experiment with SocialResponseApp, which I’ve been beta-testing. Developed right here in Cape Breton, it’s a very useful and intuitive app for helping schedule your Twitter promos. I like real-time and real interactions on Twitter, but there are some things that I also like to set once and let run for a little while. I find this app perfect for that. If you think this sounds like something you could use, you can sign up for early access here.

In between other things I seem to have a lot of sewing projects in the queue right now. Over the next few weeks I’ll try to share some pics of the finished projects. At least, I hope they’ll be finished. Because right now they’re taking over my sewing room.

*No, I’m not going to tell you what it was.

Photo credit: RebeccaMatthews at morguefile.com

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

Would I write more, or sleep more, if this were my desk?

Would I write more, or sleep more, if this were my desk?

It was a busy week at the desk, although not all of it translated to actual word count. I did, however, finish out the month with my monthly word count goal for this year (15.5k) attained, which is a first for 2016. January was abysmal, February marginally better, but March gets full marks. And about time, too. I dislike being so unproductive and am very glad to have turned things around.

I also wrote journal pages at 750words.com every day of March, for a total of over 25k words. There’s a little bit of overlap between these words and my fiction word count, as sometimes I’ll write fiction there instead of the usual “morning pages,” but not much. Also, they’re not always in the morning, but they serve the same purpose–musing, parsing, reporting, and general brain-cleansing.

This past week I finally, finally sorted out the last of the novel draft fixes necessary to be able to start writing new scenes again. I’m not generally an advocate of stopping in the middle and going back to rewrite, but in this case, it was necessary for two reasons. I’d decided on such extensive changes that I needed to make them in order to see my way clear again, and I also needed to make them to get my head immersed back into the story so I could pick up all the threads and carry on. I’m still not expecting it to be a cake walk to get to “The End,” but I can see as far as my headlights again.

I did a school visit this week and had a lovely time–a presentation about storytellers in the gym for all the grade P-3 students (who were great participants and asked surprisingly astute questions), and then classroom sessions with grades 4 & 5. We all had a good time, I think, which is the very best outcome for school visits. I was struck by the instant hush that descended over the gym when I began to read aloud to the students. It really says something about the power of reading to kids when that many of them just go quiet and listen.

Apart from writing, I sewed a giant fabric d20 this week. It’s not stuffed yet, but I promise to post a picture when it is! I used these patterns and instructions, which were fabulous. You know, in case you find yourself needing to make giant stuffed polyhedral dice. As one sometimes does.

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

Rumsey-nova scotiaWhew! That week went fast, and it was a busy one.

Yes, that’s a map of Nova Scotia on the side, including Cape Breton. We’re in the news so much lately, of course I have to try and capitalize on that. After all, my desk IS in Cape Breton, right? And this report is coming from my desk. So it’s not such a stretch. ;) #capebreton

Most notably this week, I wrote a new short story–in a day. That never happens! My short stories are rarely all that short, and they normally take weeks or more to come into being. But this one just popped into my head and I wrote it. Boom. It also sparked the idea for several more, which are currently rattling around in my brain. Possibly a whole project’s worth. But we’ll have to wait and see what comes of it all. I was also moved to pick up an old, abandoned story and work on it some more. I think I still haven’t solved the main problem that stalled me on that one before, but I’m a lot closer to having it figured out.

I also made some inroads in the novel draft. Finally! It has been a dark two months on that front, and it’s only now that I’m coming out of it that I realize I really was stuck in a bout of the winter blues. Well, let’s call it what it is: seasonal affective disorder. I’m fortunate to get reasonably mild symptoms and to have discovered over the years that I can take steps to alleviate it–most notably, keeping active and spending daily time with a full-spectrum light. However, sometimes it takes me a little while (read, weeks) to clue in to what’s actually going on. Duh. I should set a reminder for myself now, scheduled to pop up next January, that says, “start walking and get out your Ott light!” Anyway, I figured it out eventually and am no longer spending long hours playing Animal Crossing and subsisting on chocolate chips.

Here’s something new happening: this excitement will be dropping around the middle of the month, and I’ve just seen the cover art:Rogues 3D_01Awesome! This looks like a great bundle (put together by Tyche Books) and a smart way to start on some really cool series. I’ll be sharing links and more when it goes live, so stay tuned!

I had a Writers In The Schools visit this week at the local high school and as usual, the kids and teachers were great to work with. Two more scheduled before the school year is up!

Things I researched this week:

  • names for parts of bagpipes
  • Cape Breton fiddle music
  • 19th c. highland dress
  • the birds of Rhiannon
  • Celtic deities

…a definite theme happening there. More on that later…

*Map: Mackinlay’s map of the Province of Nova Scotia, including the island of Cape Breton. – David Rumsey Historical Map Collection

 

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

stack-of-books-images-k4233733Another week when I was not at my desk very much–it was school book fair week here, so I spent a fair bit of time organizing and manning that. We had a good week and will be putting a lot of new books into the library as a result. The other payoff is seeing the students get so excited about books. Not to mention dropping a certain amount of my own money there…but we won’t talk about that.

When I was at my desk, I was getting files ready for a bundle that will drop next month–it includes a new story from what I like to think of as “the Nearspace files.” That is, it’s set in the Nearspace universe, but prior to the novels. So it gives a little glimpse into the history of Nearspace, while telling a story that stands in its own. You might already have found the other Nearspace stories I have here on the site, but this novella is something new. I’ll post all the details here when the bundle is ready to go, but I’ll just say that my story will be in some exciting company! Oh, all right–I’ll give you a sneak peek at the cover, as well:

RamseyWaitingToFlyCover

…do you like it? Probably in next Friday’s report (or sooner!) I’ll tell you what the story’s about.

So between editing the story, tweaking the cover, setting up the ebook formats, and miscellaneous other related tasks…that was the week. Add in meetings on three of the five weeknights, and it’s no wonder this isn’t a long report!

I do have one other piece of news, though, and it’s that One’s Aspect to the Sun will be part of a new Space Opera box set, also coming in March. Again, I’ll post all details and links as I have them. This is going to be a great deal, so you won’t want to miss out on it!

And I think that’s the report.

 

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

perlerbeadtypewriterIt’s been a while since the last Friday Desk Report–mainly because I haven’t been able to be at my desk, so there’s been little to report. However, between medication, time, and the stellar efforts of my wonderful physiotherapist, I’ve been inching my way back. I’m picking up the threads of the novel draft again, and making some progress on a new short story. The novel is certainly the more challenging of the two, since one might visualize it as something like this:

Tangled_leads

instead of something more like this:

loom

but that is what editing is for, right?

Actually, those two pictures make a pretty good summation of the state of life in general and what I’m trying to get back to. All with time, I guess.

I’ve also just joined up for Kobo Writing Life and put The Murder Prophet there. It was available on Kobo before, through Smashwords distribution, but I wanted to explore the opportunities that Writing Life might provide. I’ve heard other authors talk about good experiences with it. I’m not sure of all the ins and outs of it just yet, but I’m sure I’ll learn as I go. I have a few short stories published since To Unimagined Shores came out, so I’m thinking about maybe putting together a small short story pack. Just a notion I’m noodling, so we’ll have to see where it goes.

On the Third Person Press side of things, we’re looking at two manuscripts right now, so although it’s seemed quiet on that front, things are happening behind the scenes. More on that as things develop.

So it’s been a slow and rather painful December and January, but as the daylight hours begin to grow a bit longer, a few minutes at a time, so do things begin to get back to “normal” at the desk. What will it look like by the time spring is actually here? Time will tell.

Away from the desk, I’m doing a sketch-a-day challenge this year to work on my drawing skills. I always say I’m better at colouring than drawing–my forays into coloured pencil art  attest to that–but this year I’d like to get a little better with the sketching. I am calling it sketch-a-day, but am allowing myself some leeway on that. Some days I might just do some colouring or other art, and if I miss a day, I’m allowed to make it up later. Right now I think I’m two drawings behind, but I’ll catch up on those on the weekend. Sometimes the hardest part of the undertaking is deciding what I feel like drawing.

Things I drew (or attempted to draw) this week:

  • flowers from photos on Instagram
  • a lamp in my living room
  • sketch plans for a clockwork rocket
  • a tree in a winter field

Loom image by Ladyheart at morguefile.com

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

old deskWhat? How can it be Friday again already?

Well, let’s see what I have for the desk report this week. I cooked and ate a lot of food over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, and hung out with my family.

I did quite a bit more work on my Nearspace bible in preparation to begin the new novel, and I wrote almost two thousand words of new story notes. While doing some research reading I had a HUGE epiphany about how a lot of things fall into place in this novel, and honestly, when that happens, that’s enough of an accomplishment to make you feel good about the whole week! My brain is now telling me I’m ready to start writing, but I know that’s not true yet. It’s just that my brain gets overexcited about these things sometimes. Calm down. Not long now.

I got a short story rejection and sent out a new submission for that story the same day. Which reminded me of one of my favorite essays from back in the day when Speculations was still a print publication. It was “How Many Times Do You Have To Be Told No?” by James Van Pelt and it made a big impression on me as a new-ish writer (I still have a copy of that issue, so I went and re-read it for fun. It’s just as relevant today as it ever was). The tagline for the article was The sun sets on no rejected manuscript in my house and I have tried hard over the years to make that my creed for submitting stories.

I tweaked my NaNoWriMo guest blog post for Liana Brooks and saw it go live here on Thursday. And I read the page proofs for my story in the upcoming 2016 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide from Dreaming Robot Press. I’m really excited to read all of the stories in this anthology.

And I discovered two new very nice reviews for One’s Aspect to the Sun over on amazon.

Today I’m talking to some elementary school kids about “being a writer” for a career day project, so I did some prep work for that as well. I’m hoping they’ll have some questions to ask me, too!

Some things I looked up on the Internet this week (not necessarily to do with writing):

I’d call that a good week.

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

my-tools-1239864-639x426So I had this idea to write a sort of weekly roundup/review post, and call it the Friday Desk Report. I envision it as sort of a brief review of the week’s projects, word metrics, links, and anything else notable that happened during the week. As much for myself as for anyone else, I suppose, but it could turn out to be interesting.

Will I be able to keep it up? Only the future will tell. Traditionally, I’m not so good with consistency, but it’s possible I’m improving with age. Come on, it’s possible.

So, what do I have to report? This week I did the most sustained new writing I’ve done since my mom passed away at the end of August. Still not a lot of new words, but it felt good to work like that again. I worked on a short story I’m writing about giant monsters who have laid waste to much of the continent and now threaten my protagonist’s small Nova Scotia farm.

I also worked on a book trailer for The Seventh Crow, and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I’m waiting on a couple of images I need to replace some placeholders, and then I’ll be uploading it to share. Should be available sometime next week.

I wrote a book review I’d promised, and drafted a guest blog post I have to turn in by the 15th, so I’m well ahead on that. I also put together a new outline template for Scrivener and began using it to work on The Chaos Assassin, and this morning I sent out a short story submission.

I read far too much on Facebook about the upcoming federal election and decided I need to stop worrying about it and being disappointed in people. It’s far too negative. All I can do now is cast my own vote and encourage others to do so, and hope, hope, hope for better things to come.

NearspaceBibleToday I’m working on my Nearspace series bible, in preparation for NaNoWriMo and the novel I’m planning to work on in November. I already had such a thing but it was NOT well-organized or complete. I found this video from Kami Garcia to be quite inspiring in this regard and look how well it’s coming along!

In other Nearspace news, I also put up another free Nearspace story on this site today, which you can find here. It’s a peek into Nearspace and the first contact story between humans and Lobors, before wormhole travel was possible.

Some cool things from the internet this week:

Okay, I’m impressed. That’s a pretty good report! So back to today’s project…

 

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

No, this is not a post about knitting or weaving…at least, only figuratively.

This week I’ve been struggling to pick up an unfinished manuscript and get it moving forward again. I wrote over 50k words of a second Magica Incognita novel last November, and expected to finish the first draft early this year with an eye to rewriting and editing in the spring, and maybe a publication date this past summer.

Well, due mainly to consuming family issues, nothing beyond projects I had outside commitments for happened from early spring to fall this year. I’m very pleased that I was able to keep all of those commitments…but other projects fell by the wayside.

I’ve said before that the key to a really successful NaNoWriMo draft is getting to “the end.” It doesn’t matter how much work that manuscript will take in revisions and rewrites and adding new subplots and taking it apart and putting it back together again–it’s all easier if you have a finished first draft that has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Well, I didn’t get anywhere near “the end” of The Chaos Assassin. And the intervening ten months or so have effectively blurred the progression of plots and clues and conversations in my mind so that I sat down at my desk this week not really knowing where to start. Reading through the existing manuscript was a good place to start, of course, as well as reviewing all my notes and mind maps. I also made a timeline of the existing events in Aeon Timeline, a program I recently purchased. Seemed like a good way to try it out, and so far, I like it.

But even all of that didn’t get the story back in my head the way it was when I was writing that first draft. I still feel like I’m floundering around with a fistful of plot threads and no clear idea what to do with them.

So I am going to try making an outline.

Yup, me. Making an outline. Weird, right? Not just of what’s already written–I usually do that anyway, after the fact or as I go along, because it’s invaluable for rewrites later. No, I’m going to go further. I’m going to catch up to where I have written and keep going. Plan out the rest of the novel and then write it.

My head’s almost exploding at this point.

Since I’m not an outliner by nature, I decided to get a little help by looking at various outlining methods online. I wasted  spent a fair bit of time perusing articles, charts, worksheets, etc., but in the end came back to one I’d looked at before and that sort of spoke to me: Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet. Actually, an enhanced version of it by Tom Gowan. And a little bit of Dan Wells’ 7-Point Story Structure and a Scrivener version thrown in for good measure. No, I’m not dedicated to following it rigidly–just to using it as a guide to help put the manuscript back into perspective for me and assist me in finding my way forward.

So here we go. If nothing else, it’s colourful and pretty!

BeatSheet

 

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

Paper_StackThe July issue (okay, the first issue!) of my Writing News newsletter is out. I hope to make this a regular feature; this issue includes some news items, reading recommendations, and writing thoughts. I’ve kept it short and sweet and (I hope) interesting.

If you’re not subscribed yet, you can do so from the bottom of any page on this site, or from the top of the right-hand sidebar on most pages. In the future I’ll be running contests, offering writing tips and book reviews, and adding anything else I think might be of interest. I’m also happy to hear from subscribers (or potential subscribers) about what you’d like to see.

The July issue is available to view online at http://t.co/mLaYkI7fST.

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

breaking-ice-1-1407046-mEarlier this year, I wrote about Eleven Reasons to Love Writer’s Block. In this post, I was mainly talking about the situation where we get blocked on a particular project and can’t seem to move forward. But a writer’s “funk” is different. When you’re in a funk, you can’t seem to work on anything writing-related. It all seems too difficult, too big, too overwhelming, and your creativity and inspiration have frozen over like ice on a winter lake.

Now, some of the advice from that earlier post holds true for a funk as well as a block; do something else productive or creative, walk away for a while, exercise, read. Sometimes those things work. But sometimes they lead you into an even deeper rut. The longer you spend away from the writing, the harder it is to return to it.

Breaking out of a writer’s funk usually means getting your brain back into writer mode. And to do that, you often have to prime it with writerly stuff.

1. Read a book about writing. This could be a new title or one of your favourites from your own resource shelf. Reading about writing can shift your thinking back into the familiar writing grooves.

2. Listen to a podcast about writing. Again, either something new or a favourite source of advice. The bonus of a podcast or audiobook is that you can pair it with one of the other block-busters like exercise or housecleaning.

3. Make a list. I’m a great believer in lists and schedules. Write down all the writing-related projects you can’t seem to make yourself tackle. Then choose one that you can finish reasonably quickly and easily and resolve to concentrate only on that one until it’s done. Sometimes a funk comes down to having taken on too much and feeling paralyzed. Being able to finish just one thing might make you better able to tackle the rest.

4. Start small. Write a blog post, Facebook note, or journal entry about how you’re feeling about your writing and what you’re doing to get back on track. Setting down words–any words–can break the ice.

5. Talk it out. Take your problem to your local or online writer friends and ask their advice. Have they ever been in a writer’s funk? How did they break out of it? And do they have advice on solving a particular problem that’s got you stumped?

It takes willpower and desire to break out of a writer’s funk, but I hope some of these ideas will help you get back to that keyboard. Have you experienced a writer’s funk yourself? How did you break out of it?

Photo credit: ivanmarn

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

For a long (LONG) time now, I’ve been looking for the perfect way to track manuscript submissions. I used to keep file folders and enter everything by hand, but it was cumbersome when I wanted to look something up, and the out-of-sight out-of-mind rule would also come into play; I could forget what I had out at any given time.

Then I started looking for a software program that would do the tracking for me, but after many (MANY) hours of searching, I could not find exactly what I wanted. Every one I found was either

  • too simple
  • outdated
  • not customizable enough
  • only online (which I didn’t want)
  • too complex, or
  • too expensive

At one point I thought I’d found a good one, paid for it, and spent hours inputting information. It has worked reasonably well, but has also been software-buggy to the point where I no longer trust it. And there’s a newer version, but I’d have to pay for it again. No, thanks.

Not long ago, I discovered the wonderful flexibility of Scrivener. I used it to re-organize and rewrite a novel, and found it extremely helpful for that. I’ve been doing all my writing in it since then. And the other day I had an idea–could I create a submission tracker with it? It seemed possible that I could, so I set about to try.

And, I love it. It takes full advantage of Scrivener’s Binder and Inspector features, as well as the folder/subfolder/text structure. Once set up, data entry for a given work or submission takes no more time than it would in any database program. And the setup is infinitely customizable–once you start thinking about it, you may find you want a setup that’s somewhat different from mine in the details, and that’s perfectly okay and easy to do. It’s the overall idea I want you to take away from this post. I’m no Scrivener power-user; this idea uses only basic techniques and features.

Ready to give it a try? You should be able to do the initial setup in under half an hour if you are at all familiar with Scrivener. I use Scrivener for Windows, so if you’re on a Mac, things might be slightly different (click any image to see it larger).

1. Open a new Scrivener project, and name it Submission Tracker (or whatever you’d like).

folders2. Create a folder for Manuscripts, and one for Publishers. Inside my Manuscripts folder, I also created a few subfolders: Novels, Short Stories, Reprints, and Sold/Retired. Depending on what you write, you may want to divide up your manuscripts even further; perhaps with subfolders for Non-fiction or Poetry. Your goal is to make it easy to quickly locate any given manuscript, so make whatever subfolders make sense for you. (Think about what you want to be able to see at a glance or find quickly when you open the tracker. Use as few or as many subfolders as you like. You can add new subfolders and move manuscripts into them at any time.)

If you wish, you can divide up the Publishers into subfolders, too–Open, Closed, Temporarily Closed, On Hiatus, etc. You can also simply color-code them with labels. More about that later.

3. Now, inside your Manuscripts folder, create a new text document and name it Template.

In this template, you’re going to set up whatever manuscript information you want to record/track. I’ve decided to keep it simple: Word Count, Genre, and a place for Notes. You don’t need to enter the title of the manuscript here, because in each manuscript document, the title will appear where this one says “MS Template”, just under the formatting bar. If you want to use this as a complete Manuscript record as well as a submission tracker, you could record dates (started, finished, etc.) or whether you wrote the piece for a particular market, how much you were paid if it sold, or any other information you want. This template is completely customizable; include whatever you want on it, but don’t forget the KISS principle. Only include what you really think you’ll use.

Below this general data about the manuscript, add a table for entering submissions (you can add a table easily from the formatting bar or the Format menu). Again, track whatever information you wish. I’ve set mine up with Date Submitted, Publisher/Market, Expected Reply, Reply Date, and Outcome. You could just have a Notes area here instead of a table, but I like things NEAT.MStemplate

4. Now create a template in your Publishers folder as well. I’ve kept mine simple: Contact Person, what the market Accepts, and Notes. (Again, you don’t need to add the name; it will already be at the top of the page). You could add things like pay rates, etc., but to save time, I’ll just include a link to submission guidelines in my notes. In my opinion, this is a better idea because you always want the most up-to-date information on any given market.

In my table I have a spot for Manuscript Submitted, Response, and Response Time. That’s all I really need here, because the Manuscript page itself will have all the other information about a particular submission, and there’s no need for me to input it twice. I do want to be able to link manuscripts with publishers in a search, though, so that’s why the manuscript title is included here. Response times matter to me, so I’ve set it up so I can see at a glance how a publisher rates in that department. Include whatever information you want in your table.PUBtemplate

5. One more bit of setup: labels and status. Turn on your Scrivener Inspector (if it’s not on already–the blue “i” button in the upper right corner), and under the View menu, make sure “Use Label Color In Binder” is selected.labelinbinder

Now set your Labels and colors for Manuscripts. I’ve chosen to mark my manuscripts as either Work in Progress, Revision, Ready to Submit, In Submission, Sold, or Retired. Create as many labels as you want. Use them in conjunction with Status information to further detail works that are in draft stages, with beta readers, need line editing, final proofreading, etc.–it depends only on how detailed you want to get and what you want to track.labels-status

I’ve also created a set of labels and colors for Publishers: Currently Open, Reading Periods (for those that are only open to subs at certain times), and Closed (later I added a few more, as you’ll see in the last image). Again, use what works for you. You may choose not to use any labels for Publishers, or you could use labels (or Status) to identify markets you’ve sold to, ones with the best pay rates or response times, publishers where you have a pending submission–whatever information you want. Each manuscript and publisher data sheet can be assigned both a label and a status, AND sorted into a specific folder, so you have many options. Remember that you can change the label color assignments anytime if you want a new look, and add more labels and statuses if you are inputting data and decide you need more.

6. And now you’re ready to input data. Right-click your Manuscript template and make a duplicate from the menu (don’t enter data into your template! You want to keep that blank, and only enter data into copies of it.). Rename the duplicate with the title of your first manuscript, and fill out the appropriate data about the work, and about a submission, if you have one. Bonus idea: use the synopsis area of the Inspector (the index card) to include a brief–you guessed it–synopsis of the work, publication info, or a tagline, pitch, or keywords if you like. You can also use the Document Notes section to store such information, a longer synopsis, etc. sampleMSIf you want to get EVEN MORE FANCY, you can use Edit>Link to insert a link directly to the manuscript file on your computer here. The link will appear wherever your cursor is located in the document. (NOTE: Later, I talk about storing your tracker project on Dropbox or a similar service; naturally, this link will only work on the computer on which the file is actually stored.)

link

If you entered a submission, leave the manuscripts folder and now go to the Publisher template, make a duplicate, and create a sheet for that publisher. In the table, enter the manuscript you’ve submitted, and set the publisher label and status, or sort it into the proper folder if you’ve decided to use them. Again, you can use the Synopsis area to record anything about the publisher you think is notable. And once you’ve entered a Publisher, you never have to do it again; you’ll just be adding new manuscript submissions to the table after that, or possibly updating the publisher status or information in future. samplePUB

If you’re going to populate the tracker with all your past manuscript and submission data, this could take quite a while. But if you keep at it, you will end up with a nice, comprehensive system. Once you’re caught up, you can simply create a new manuscript file whenever you begin a new work, and add a publisher file whenever you submit somewhere new, in addition to entering each new submission you make.

Another cool thing to note: the Binder also shows you, at a glance, how many manuscripts are in a given folder, and how many publishers you have in your system (the little numbers in grey circles).

Suggestions to get the most out of your Scrivener Submission Tracker:

  • Keep manuscripts that are in submission at the top of your list, and always move the most recently-submitted manuscript to the top, inside the Manuscripts folder. This will provide you with a quick visual clue to manuscripts that have been out for a while (they’ll have been pushed further down the list) and may need a followup note
  • Although Scrivener is not, strictly speaking, a database, you can use the search function to make it mimic one. By searching a particular publisher, for instance, you will see in the Binder all the manuscripts you’ve submitted there. Likewise, when you search a manuscript title, the Binder will display all the markets you’ve sent it to. Use the search function creatively and you’ll be able to locate data quickly. If you can think of data you’d like to be able to search, include it in your templates or labels.
  • Labels are meta-data and included in searches, so if you search the name of any label, for example, Work In Progress, the Binder will display all manuscripts with that label.
  • Move sold or retired manuscripts into the appropriate folder so they aren’t cluttering up your list of active works. You’ll also see your numbers of sales at a glance.
  • Move sold manuscripts that may be eligible to reprint into the Reprints folder so you can find them quickly. If you make Reprints a subfolder of Sold, your number of works sold will remain accurate
  • If you want to get really fancy, create a folder (or just a document) at the top of your Binder for keeping notes about calls for submission, deadlines, story ideas, etc.
  • If you use a cloud storage service like Dropbox or one of the many others, save your project file there. Your data will then be accessible from any computer where you have Scrivener installed.

So what does it look like when populated with some manuscripts and publishers? This is only a start on my data, but I think you get the idea (I think I will also be tweaking all the colors so it’s not quite so…garish!). I’ve highlighted some of the features:final

One more thing: Scrivener’s corkboard view. If you click on any folder (say, Short Stories), and you’ve used Statuses to identify what stage each manuscript has reached in the writing process, you can survey them at a glance on the corkboard:corkboard

I have no doubt that an experienced Scrivener user might come up with improvements or ways to make this system even more useful, but this is working for me. Maybe it will work for you, too!

Please feel free to add comments or suggestions!

 

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