What to Expect When…

…You’re Reading the Undiscovered Author

Last week I posted for the first time literally in four years, and I mentioned that I would be blogging again more regularly as a means of staying honest about my writing progress as I try to get back into my groove and really focus myself on my lifelong goal of becoming a professional author.

So, what does that mean in real terms for the blog? How often will I be posting, and what will I be posting?

For starters: I plan to post regularly once a month. Other odd posts may creep in here or there, but the plan is once, early in the new month to report on the previous month’s writing activity. I haven’t thought out yet how much detail I’ll share – probably just the total wordcount, maybe the actual number of days in which I actually sat down to write, that sort of things.

I’ll probably test how I feel about sharing snippets of what happened in my life during that month as well. But I’ll do my best to keep it all short and sweet. Realistically, I want to save most of my writing mojo for whatever fiction I’m working on at the time – right now that’s still my code-named “Book of M” project.

As a sample, here’s a quick recap of my writing activity in 2019:

  • Total Wordcount: 11,448 Words Written
  • Writing Days: 23 Days
  • Average Wordcount Per Writing Day: 498

Not super-productive by any means. 2020 WILL BE DIFFERENT.


The Writing Rules & Rewards

I also want to be clear about my approach to writing – the “rules” I’ll try to follow, as it were. Writing is intended to take priority over a lot of ways that I could spend my time… but not over every activity.

Accordingly: activities with my wife and family – including playing board games, and rarely also including watching movies or TV with them – will always take a higher priority. Writing, on the other hand, takes priority over just watching TV.

There’s an exception to the above, however: every let’s say 5,000 words I complete in my current project, I am allowed to reward myself by watching an episode – one! – of some of the shows I’d like to watch: catching up on The Mandalorian and Stranger Things, for instance, or checking out Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance and The Witcher. Yeah, fact is I don’t actually watch a lot of TV on my own, so I’m way behind on all of these shows that everyone else has already seen… What usually happens, instead, is that I end up vegging out while my wife has one of her shows on – sometimes a show that I enjoy, but sometimes a show that I watch for no better reason than because it’s on. The latter: that’s the kind of thing I want to cut out going forward.


Long story short: 2020 is going to be the year of ME. I’m going to do big things this year, and make major progress on “The Book of M“, on which I’m rapidly approach what I believe to be the halfway point. I’m so excited to be diving back into this story and this world, and I can’t wait to write the scenes that come next – scenes that I’ve been anticipating writing for the better part of the last decade!

Whatever you have planned for the year to come: I wish you good-luck, too! Let’s make it a year to remember!

Getting Back in the Saddle, New Year's Resolutions (and Other Cliched Metaphors)

Have you ever been away from doing something for so long that doing it again sounds difficult?  Where you’re not even sure if you still can do whatever it is?  Where the prospect of even trying it is actually frightening?

Yeah.

Blogging is that way. Seriously: it’s been literally four years since I last posted here. Basically, it’s just easier not to blog. And yet, here I am, after what feels like forever, dusting this old thing off and actively thinking about regular blogging again. But blogging is not what I’m here to talk about today.

For me, sitting down to write – to really write, to write the fiction I crave to write, that I must write – after a roughly 13-week hiatus brought on by a million-and-one reasons (some good, some bad, but all unfortunately valid) is sometimes one of those scary things.  Sure, like I said, I have reasons.  Many of those reasons I am powerless to alter.  (We could argue the point, I suppose, but I’m also not here to talk about the reasons writers don’t write.)  It doesn’t matter.  Whatever the reasons, they are standing in the way between me and engaging in an activity that is fundamental to who I am.  (I’m not me if I’m not writing.)

(Apparently I’m also not me if I’m not making parenthetical asides.  I jest.  I can totally stop making parenthetical asides anytime I want.  Parenthetical asides aren’t the boss of me.)

I don’t have a magic bullet answer for this.  (This isn’t a writing advice blog.)

I guess… If the opportunity to write presents itself, whatever valid but usually insurmountable reasons I don’t often get to write there are, then I should shut up, put my but in the chair, hands on the keyboard and just, you know, write.


So I have a lot of lofty goals for 2020: get in shape, lose weight, exercise more, eat healthy. The standard list. And I don’t mean to give these short shrift – I hope I can actualize those things in my life. But my true goals live elsewhere: in my heart and soul, I am a writer.

In respect to that, I need 2020 to be the year I start taking my career as a writer seriously. You read that right: my career.

No, I haven’t garnered any publications in the years I’ve been away from this blog. But here’s the thing: I’ve long considered myself to be an aspiring author. Except there’s one thing that’s lacking: I haven’t acted as though I’m seriously pursuing this as an actual career. It’s always just been this little hobby of mine.

On the plus side, treating it like a hobby has insulated me from most of my own self-criticism when it comes to lack of writing. No big deal, I reasoned, It’s just a hobby, and I have other priorities, like my actual career, and my family, and being a homeowner. Sometimes I just don’t have time to write and that’s okay. Well, those things aren’t going anywhere. I’m still a father, still a homeowner, still a corporate desk jockey. So I still have priorities which will often supersede my writing. And when those things are done, I’m still going to need days where I just have a little downtime, when I’m not working.

But I’m changing my perspective. I’m also a writer. And that means I write. That means that when I have have the bandwidth, when I’m presented a choice between spending my “free time” vegging on the couch watching TV, or writing, I will (more often than not) choose writing.

It’s not going to be easy. Those other priorities will mean that sometimes I can’t choose to write. Sometimes, I’ll have a choice, for instance, between playing a boardgame with my wife and writing – and I’m going to choose to play the boardgame, because time with my wife having fun is a priority for me. (Have I mentioned that I’ve gotten the itch to start designing more own boardgames? Yeah. I actually have a prototype game design that I’ve printed up [it’s terrible, mind you, but I made it]. Maybe more on that later.) Sometimes, I’ll have the choice between TV and writing, and I’ll choose TV because I have a deficit of mental energy. These aren’t inherently bad things, obviously.

My point is: sometimes I won’t write when I have the time, and that’s okay. Recently, however, I’ve just gotten used to not writing. It’s literally been months since I added any real words to my novel. And diving back in is daunting, because I have to reorient myself to what was going on, reread the last five or ten pages, and as often as not that takes up all of whatever free time to write I had. Inertia sets in, and I just don’t even think about it.

That’s not an excuse. And starting now, in 2020, that’s not happening anymore.


What does this mean for my blog?

I’m going to start updating here again. Mostly just to keep myself honest about my writing. How much did I write this month? What did I write about? What did I do if I chose not to write? That sort of thing. Maybe, occasionally, I’ll geek out over something or other.

I’m not going to try to stay abreast of the industry, or comment on ongoing trends in SF&F literature. I’m not going to offer writing advice. There are other sites and blogs that do these things and better than I could ever hope to. Realistically – I’m still learning the ropes same as the rest of you.

If, however, you’re interested in me as a writer, if you’re interested in my writing: then you’ve come to the write place. Err… right place.

Welcome (back) to the Undiscovered Author.

~Sincerely,

Stephen A. Watkins


Header image from: https://pixnio.com/fauna-animals/horses/field-horse-macro-saddle-animal

I Wrote Some Things!

Hey, look at that progress bar!  Over there, to the right —————–>

(Okay, no, no, wait.  Over to the right and scroll down just a teensy weensy bit.  There.  There red line.  Do you see it now?)

I hadn’t updated it in a while.  But look what it says, now.  I’m past the one-quarter mark on “Book of M”.  I’ve actually written stuff this year.

Still, of course, a long, long, long way to go, considering I officially began work on the first draft over three years ago.  (I first recorded a wordcount update on the first draft of Book of M in early March of 2012 – and that only after another year spent in outlining and worldbuilding.)

In total this year, I’ve written some 12,800 words in “Book of M”.  If my current rate continues for the remainder of the year, I should be able to finish an additional 9,000 words by the end of the year.  If that holds true, and I top out over 57,000 words complete on Book of M, of which some 38%, or slightly over a third of the total wordcount for the book will have been written in 2015.

All of which means, basically, if you crunch the numbers and do the math that at my current rate of development it should only take me… let’s see… {divide by this… carry the one… multiply that here… }

Yes… that’s it.  It should only take me another… 6 and a half years to finish writing the first draft of this book.

Why did I run those numbers?  I think I was happier not knowing how much more I had to go…

Night of the Living Blog

It’s been quiet around here, hasn’t it?  Almost dead quiet.

Zombie Apocalypse by Pascal

Zombie Apocalypse?

 

Don’t worry, I’m fine.  I wasn’t eaten by zombies.

(All 1.7 of you who read my blog, and were worried that I hadn’t updated in months, can breathe a sigh of relief.  Oh, who’m I kidding?  I can read the stats; the only real traffic I’m getting is from mixed-up Google searches.)

I just haven’t had much time for blogging lately, between work and life, including my ongoing project to be a good husband and father, and a responsible home-owner.  I’ve also sort of rediscovered the time-sink that is television.  I still limit my TV watching, but there are a handful of shows I’m actually following. I have had writing time this year, but when that time has come along I’ve strongly, very strongly, preferred spending that time writing fiction over blogging. I’ve written better than twice us much fiction this year so far as I did last year at this time.  So that’s good.  All of the fiction for this year so far has been on my Book of M novel project.  I’m over 42,000 words total on the novel to date.  So I feel good about that.

I never got around to expounding on my goals for the year.  Just didn’t have time to go in depth on them.  Suffice to say, I have reading goals (which I’m not worried about beating, because I’ve done great in meeting my reading goals for the past several years), and I have writing goals.  If I meet my writing goals for the year, the novel will be brushing up against 60,000-ish words, unless I take time out for another short story or two.  Right now I’m focused on the novel.

If I’m able to, I’ll try to start dropping a line every week or two to share my recent wordcount.  I probably won’t have any commentary or anything interesting to say about it.  Just “hey, I wrote x words this week”.  If even more time allows, I have ambitions of writing a couple more thinky-interesting F&SF-topical pieces or somesuch this year, but those ambitions are moderated by a continued strong preference for fiction-writing over blogging.

See you around the blogosphere!


Image Source: “Zombie Apocalypse” by Pascal (CC0 Public Domain)

A Mathematical Theorem

Math homework in place of writing...

Math homework in place of writing…

I’ve been writing off-and-on, recently.  Fiction writing, I mean, not so much blog-writing.  (Which is why updates here are still sparse.)

But the past few days, in the process of attempting to write, I think I’ve happened upon a fundamental mathematical property, quite by accident.

Which is:

Simulated (Fictional Account of) Airship Combat + Abundant Internet Resources on Related Subjects + Sufficiently Nerdy Author Who Once Had a Strong Head for Mathematics = Trigonometry

Seriously… I’ve spent at least as much time calculating angles (in a three-dimensional space, no less), relative velocities, and similar such mathematical minutiae associated with two entirely imaginary airships engaged in combat as I have in adding new wordcount to the fictional work in question.  And yet… despite that… my current productivity rate, in terms of fiction writing output, is at least as good as anything I did last year, on average.

Speaking of which… if I get a chance, I haven’t talked about my 2014-in-review or my 2015 goal posts as yet.  It’s not that I’m not interested in tackling those subjects… it’s just that, given a limited amount of time in which to write and given the choice between writing introspective blog-posts or writing new fiction (or, as it happens, doing some math in support of writing fiction), I’m likely to choose the latter at the moment.

As for the math? I consider that a form of research.  Crunch numbers to give me a reasonable sense of verisimilitude.

 


Image Source: “Who needs Pythagoras’ theorem? by Duncan Hull, CC-NC-SA

 

Another Story Submitted

This one, “Story of V”, has officially been submitted to the “Writers of the Future” contest.  While I’ve expressed my concerns about this contest in the past, it still remains, I believe, one of the best (and certainly one of the most financially lucrative) options for a pre-pro author to pursue.

So there it is.  Story of V is in the Q4 2014 running for WotF.  Wish me luck?

Submission Update: “Story of K”

Rejected!

Rejected!

I got back a response on my submission of the story code-named “Story of K” this week.  The response wasn’t too much of a surprise.  The market in question was apparently flooded in submissions, and my story didn’t quite pass muster.

The rejection notice read mostly like boilerplate.  I realize there’s no point in playing the “Rejectomancy” game.  Seeing as there was nothing specific or personal in the rejection (a remark that the rejection does not reflect on the quality of the work, a comment on the volume of submissions versus number of acceptance slots, and an encouragement to continue submitting to said market), I can only conclude that the relevant market didn’t like the story.  Did they hate it?  Who knows?  Was it high on the list of considerations? Impossible to say, but rather unlikely.  Put off because the story was based on a flash-length work/draft first published on this blog? Possibly the tipping point on the rejection side of the accounts, or possibly entirely irrelevant if the story wasn’t good enough for that to make much of a difference.

Either way, I’m not hurt over it.  While the rejection was boilerplate, it read as professional and considerate.  While I thought my story was very good, and professional-quality prose, I’m not surprised over the rejection: I’d assume going in that it’s going to take me a long time, and a lot of submissions, for the dice come up in my favor.  Because the way I figure it, once your work passes a certain quality threshold (and assuming this story did, in fact, pass that threshold), with the extremely large number of aspiring authors competing against the large number of established authors already out there, from the aspirant’s perspective  it’s basically a game of chance as to which aspiring author makes the cut in any given submission.

I’m also not likely to be one to “celebrate” my rejections.  I don’t view a rejection as being “one step closer to an acceptance”.  All a rejection really means is that I submitted something, and it wasn’t accepted.  Rejections aren’t milestones on the writing career path.  They’re road blocks and detour signs.  The celebration-worthy events, in my opinion, are the occasions of submissions and acceptances.

Next steps, besides finishing up my revision of “Story of V” as I find the time, is to research additional markets and see if there’s any possible alternate homes for “Story of K”.  If nothing else, as I work my way down the lists, I’m relatively confident (hopeful?) I can eventually place this story at the very least at a semi-pro market.

In the meantime, I’ll be keeping an eye on this market.  I don’t have any immediate plans to submit again to it, but that’s because I don’t have anything submission-worthy that I feel fits with this market.  Should that ever occur, it’s not at all unlikely that I’ll submit again.


Image source: “Rejected” by Sean MacEntee, CC-BY

 

Post Script Process Analysis: “Story of K Final Draft”

Editing by David Silver

Time to slash and burn…

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been working on another short story project.  I started on it roughly near the beginning of August when I ran across an F&SF market listing (which specific market I will not presently disclose) that immediately sparked my imagination.  The code-named “Story of K” wasn’t a story I’d intended to write.  But here we are: I’ve written the thing, it’s done, and it’s been submitted (barely by the market’s deadline).  So that means it’s time for me to do another Post Script Process Analysis.

This time, I’ll be looking at the whole process of writing this one, from start to final draft – which is something I can do since that process was completely contained within a single month.  As with “Story of V”, whose final draft I still need to get to, this story was based on a flash-length piece of fiction that I’d posted on this site back a couple years ago when I was participating in a weekly flash fiction writing exercise.  When I encountered the aforementioned market and read the theme and requirements, this particular flash piece immediately leapt to my mind: I felt it resonated strongly with the desired theme of the market.  Of course, however, said flash piece was really more of a vignette than a full-fledged story, and if I was going to try to submit this to an actual, paying market, I was going to need to delve into it more deeply.

Going in, I was concerned that the fact this was based on a “published” story on my own blog would render the heavily revised story inadmissible.  I decided to go ahead with the new story, even knowing that this possibility was out there.  If the story were rejected because it’s based on an existing, previously-published story, what’s the worst that could happen?  It gets rejected.  That’s the most probable fate, anyway, statistically speaking.  Time will now tell whether the story’s ultimate fate is acceptance or rejection – and if the latter, there’s little chance I’ll ever actually know if the cause of rejection was the pre-existing version available here.  So, not gonna sweat it.

That decision made, here’s how the writing actually went down. Continue reading

Writing Update: New Projects and Wishing for a Rapid-Response Critique

...More (virtual) red ink...

…More (virtual) red ink…

If you visit my blog more than once every other week or so (my blog stats do not convince me that there are more than maybe a few of you who do, if any), then you may have noticed some activity on the blog’s sidebar; namely: a new project in the Writing Project Progress Update block.

The new project is code-titled “Story of K”, and I’m writing it for a specific market.  (On spec, of course. I wasn’t invited to submit anything. As such, my expectations for it’s future at said market are at a realistically low level; which is not to say I’m not excited and hopeful.)  The market for which I’m writing it has a hard upper-limit of 6,000 words for submissions.  My personal goal was to keep it under 5,000 words.  I overshot both, with a finished first draft of 7,500 words – which I completed in about two weeks.

I actually managed to trim that to 6,400 words on my first edit pass for the second draft.  I’m reading through it again already and I’ve trimmed it further still.

But… as we speak, I still have another 200 words to cut to get it under 6,000 words.  Each consecutive word to cut gets harder and harder to find.

The deadline for this market is the end of August – that is to say, days away.

If there are any of you out there still reading this – and possessed of sufficient bandwidth over the next couple days – who might have a desire to read and critique a story with a very short turn-around, I’d be most grateful.  That’s my fantasy, anyway.  I don’t actually expect any of you out there to have the time to sign on… especially as I’m still in a “can’t make any promises” state about offering return critiques.

So that’s what’s going on.  Naturally, because of this, forward movement on the novel has taken a temporary back-seat.  Likely after I”m done with this I’ll return to revising my other short-story project so I can try to do something with that, too.  Then back to the novel.  For now: the looming question is will I get this downsized enough in time? Stay tuned.


 

Image Source: “Editing” by Nic McPhee CC-BY-SA (additional photo edits by myself)

2014: Mid(ish) Year Review

Well… that middle-of-the-year point has come and passed, and that means it’s time for me to take a look back at the first half of 2014, and measure myself up to what I’d hoped to accomplish for the year.  Public accountability and all that.  So I’ll go through my 2014 goals one-by-one and say a word or two on them.  Feel free to, you know, move along until I post something of actual interest to you, but hey, I wouldn’t mind you sticking around and commenting at the end to help keep all of us honest!

 

2014 Goals

1) Read at least 400,000 words worth of fiction in the first half of 2014: This was a goal well-met, which wasn’t surprising, but was a welcome milestone.  I can’t be sure of the exact number of words I read through July 1st, because I hadn’t recorded an updated on the progress of the novel I was reading at the time for several weeks, but I believe it was somewhere in the neighborhood 600,000 words to 630,000 words.  Not too shabby.  If I set the goal of reading 400,000 words in the second half of the year, I’ll surpass 1,000,000 words of fiction read in 2014 easily.  So, that’s what I’m going with.  One Million: here we come.

(Click on down to read the rest of the goals…)

Continue reading