Sunday, April 03, 2016

Quarterly Report: 2016 Q1

At the beginning of the year I made several pledges that like all writers involved, essentially reading and writing more. Today, amid all of the requirements of life I will briefly reflect on how the year has gone so far.

On my writing:
The overarching goal for the year was to commit to do something creative every day: whether writing or art, or the maintenance of my meager publishing presence. To accomplish this I decided that at the end of my work day, at the moment when I had fulfilled my contractual hours, I would drop whatever teaching-related activity I was engaged in and concentrate of my writing. This year I have sixth-period prep, which for you non-teachers means that the last period of the day I have no students in class, and I grade and plan and do the countless other things that my teaching career requires from 2:07 to 3:00; my wife, also a teacher, though at a different school across town, leaves to pick me up for the commute home around 3:35, getting to my school somewhere between 3:45 to 4. So from 3 to 3:40 on weekdays I put on some writing music, and put in work. Sometimes, if possible, I will write a bit more when I get home, or if I have some extra time in the morning before students arrive I can get down a few lines, but the afternoons are where the most words get on paper. I shoot for a page a day, figuring my average written page is 250 words. Then Saturdays I type the week's writing, file the manuscript pages, fill out a planner; log to gauge the week's productivity, and do other stuff like submit short stories to lit mags. Sundays I have generally taken off.

That's the plan at least, here is how it went:

January was primarily involved with short works: revising and updating, researching lit mags and making submissions. I worked on 8 short works, writing 3318 words, and made 25 submissions. On my daily log, only 2 of January's 31 days have "Nothing" as an entry. Even though I have a daily average goal of 250 words a day, and the 3318 words weren't even half of 7750 word monthly goal, I still felt like I had made a productive start to the year.

February saw me finishing the last short story revision, and returning to my novels. I have three novels-in-progress, with The Two Loves of Ugly Doug getting most of my attention with 5828 words, followed by Diary of a Sad Man, which I renamed Education, getting 1044; adding 952 words from my last short story addition, and I got a 7824 total, beating my February goal of 7250 words. I made 13 submissions to lit mags. On my daily log, only 2 of February's 29 days have "Nothing" as an entry

March started strong, then tanked when I first got hit by a vicious flu that sapped all mental processes along with my energy (seriously, for about three days my sole desire was to sit on the couch and stare off into space until I could go to sleep-though with it also being 3rd quarter finals that week, I only got to stay home and do that for one day), and then went on a spring break trip with the family. Over the first three weeks of March I got 5421 words into The Two Loves of Ugly Doug and 220 into Education, and then nothing for the last fifteen days of the months, going 5641 words into my 7750 goal. I made 1 short story submission.

Going forward next quarter my writing goal is to get at least 20000 more words into The Two Loves of Ugly Doug. I would be thrilled to finish the first draft of the novel before summer vacation, when my family is planning an epic cross-country road-trip through half of June and July, but that's a long-shot. I'm feeling that the first draft will be between 120000 and 140000 words, and since right now the manuscript is at 94070 I'll have to be well above my quotas to get close. Here's hoping though.
Short work-wise I have nothing new in the pipes, so it's just finding new mags to submit to so that every story is out soliciting at least three mags at a time - with the exception of a couple non-simultaneous submission white whales I'm going after.

On my reading:
I haven't done nearly as much reading as I had hoped I would. As per my Medium personal essay/pledgey thing I am only reading non-white male straight cis authors this year. As usual, the majority of reading came through audiobooks, where I started with Megan Abbot's Fever, and then started reading post-apocalyptic books from female authors, reading Edan Lupeki's California (which I didn't really like), and Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven, (which I really liked); then on my family's spring break trip when we had over 2000 miles of driving I cheated on my pledge as we listened to Andy Weir's The Martian, (which was entertaining as hell). I also read a bunch of Roxane Gay's essays from Bad Feminist, but I find I can't follow them very well on audio, so I'll have to pick up a physical book sometime to finish. Next up is Octavia Butler's Kindred.

As for physical you-can-hold-them-in-your-hands books I finished Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner (took a while to get into, but ended well), and then started on Jeffrey Hannan's Hugo SF (really enjoying so far), the first in a series of books I will read by homosexual writers. Trying to maximize as much writing time as I can, I am sacrificing reading time, but with my kids all in sports now I am getting more reading in at practices, between track heats and baseball/softball innings. The plan is to finish Hugo SF, and get at least 2 other books in before Summer break.

And I think that's all I've got for now. I'll check in again in early summer to let you know how everything has gone in quarter two.

And now I'm wishing I had a cool ending word like Stan Lee's Excelsior!...

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