Still. Again.

So there's a tweet, making its way around my timeline this morning. It's this: "Sci-fi & fantasy have been a white boys genre for too long. Have some favorite women writers you want to share?"

Which. Fine. I will be generous. I will take this at face value, take this as someone who is genuinely trying to broaden their own reading, and who is using their platform to bring writers to other people's attention. Both of these things are good.

But also. Come on. We are are here, we women writers of sci fi and fantasy. We are not fucking unicorns.

I mean: Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Twilight. Maybe you've heard of them? Written by women.

But also: Kelly Link, Alice Sola Kim, Cassandra Clare, Maggie Stiefvater, Nicola Griffith, Maria Dahvana Headley, Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, Sofia Samatar, Aliette de Bodard, NK Jemisin, Susanna Clarke, Ursula K Le Guin, Monica Byrne, Sarah McCarry, Madeleine L'Engle, Erin Bow, Mary Rickert, Holly Black, Gwenda Bond, Genevieve Valentine, Diana Wynne Jones, Kate Elliott, Helen Oyeyemi, Erin Morgenstern, Alyssa Wong, Amal El-Mohtar, Kameron Hurley, VE Schwab, Zen Cho, Ilana C. Myer, Fran Wilde, Alwyn Hamilton, Nnedi Okorafor, Cat Valente, Seanan McGuire, Sabaa Tahir, Madeleine Ashby, Elizabeth Bear, Roshani Chokshi, Renee Adieh, Maureen Johnson, Sarah Rees Brennan, Sarah J. Maas, Leigh Bardugo, Robin Hobb, Margaret Atwood, Malinda Lo, Cindy Pon, and that is off the top of my head. I know there are more - I know I've read more.

I am here for making efforts to diversify reading. And yes, sometimes it does take a conscious effort to realize that we're not reading enough women, or people of color, or works in translation, or whatever else. Thinking about what we read - and what we miss - is a good thing to do.

And I understand how clickbait questions work - and lo, I have responded myself, with this ranty little blog. 

But the thing is, raising the question implies that we're still invisible. It's not forward progress. It's stopping, once again, and saying "where are these people?" instead of showing all the ways we're already here, that we've been here, that we will be. "Who are they?" is no longer the right question to ask, if it even ever was. (Mary Shelley.)

A few things, recently loved

Some short fiction:

This great story from Sarah McCarry, "Nights in the Forest." It is a sharp-edged knife of a story.This is also my regular reminder that Sarah is a brilliant writer of all things, and you should read all of her books, beginning with All Our Pretty Songs.

Ken Liu's recently published collection, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories. Truly one of the best collections I've ever read - the stories, already great on their own, are placed in dialogue here, and become something even greater.

Helen Oyeyemi's collection, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours. I'm currently reading this. It's interlocking stories, full of keys. All of the marvelous weirdness of her work distilled, and I am loving it.

Some non-fiction:

Adrienne Mayor's The Amazons. Another that I'm currently reading - smart history, thorough research, and presented in a way that's engaging and entertaining, without oversimplifying things.

Jessa Crispin's The Creative Tarot. I'm very much a beginner when it comes to learning about the tarot, but I picked this up because I love process books - books where artists of any sort talk about creativity. I'm finding this fascinating.

Marking time

I turned in a book to my agent and editor on Friday. It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, done. There will be an edit letter and feedback and revisions and possibly more substantive edits and then also copy edits and all of the pieces that go into making a book done. But it is out of my hands for now, and what I feel, more than anything, is relief.

It felt like I had been working on this book forever. That wasn't the case, of course, but even owing for dramatic exaggeration, I was shocked to look back in my email and realize that I'd gotten the go-ahead based on draft chapters and a thing that masqueraded as a proposal from my editor in early August. It felt much longer.

It felt, as I said, like forever. I cannot actually tell you how many times it was that I threw out and rewrote the first 25K words. It was a large number, large enough that it has fled my mind. I really didn't get my feet under me in this book until November, and writing that long without feeling like I knew what I was doing felt, frankly, awful. Worse still, I felt like I had to clutch that feeling close, to keep it as a festering secret, because it was a thing too bad to tell anyone.

I began to wonder if writing Roses and Rot was somehow a fluke, that maybe I really was only capable of writing one book. I had very specifically tried to make choices in this second, new book, that were different - that were more complicated, less familiar, because I wanted to push myself, to stretch and grow as a writer, and I then, when the writing was so hard, when I doubted all the time, began to wonder if maybe there really was only a small skill set that I was capable of.

I'm being purposefully cagey here. I'm not looking for reassurance or compliments - on the bad days, I wouldn't have believed you anyway, and now, it's done. It's in. It's not perfect, but - in the rereading and rereading I did on my last passes - I saw the things I wanted to see. And it will be different still, by the time you see it. I think of the changes made in Roses and Rot, from the version that sold to the version coming out next month, and how much better the book is because of them.

Part of me still clings to the mirage of perfection. That I will write something perfectly the first time. That what is in my head will appear in the true and best form of the story, and then that story will burst fully formed onto the page. Part of me still measures myself against that, and looks at the stack of notebooks and drafts a full six inches high on the ground that turned themselves into this book I just turned in calculates, in inches, the places where I almost gave up.

So I am marking time, and reminding myself that it was hard, and that I didn't give up. That I wrote, and I made a book out of those stacks of paper. That I did this before, and can do it again.

Now open for editing clients

Are you a writer who is looking for professional feedback on your manuscript? Do you have a novel that you need help revising before you query agents, self-publish, or submit it to a publisher's open call? Maybe you've just finished a draft, and you know things need work, but you're not sure where, or you're worried that there's nothing there and you're wasting your time. Maybe you have some short fiction that you'd like help polishing. Whatever it is, any length, any genre, middle grade and up, I have openings for clients.

Here's who I am: I have approximately 40 professional short fiction sales, and I just sold a short fiction collection to Saga Press. My work has been performed on NPR, included in year’s best and best of anthologies, and has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award and the WSFA Small Press Award. My novella with Maria Dahvana Headley, The End of the Sentence, was chosen as one of NPR’s Best Books of 2014. I am a graduate of Clarion at UCSD, and am represented by Brianne Johnson at Writers House. My debut novel, Roses and Rot, will be out from Saga Press in May of this year. Additionally, I have a Ph.D. in English Literature, and have taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels at the University of Minnesota, and Stonybrook University. I have also taught an Intro to Writing SFF course with LitReactor, and I've been working with writers on a one on one basis for about three years now.

In other words, I have experience, both as a writer, and in helping other people make their writing better.

Here's what I do: I edit for content - so, this is not copy-editing, or line-editing, or the kind of thing where you have someone read over your manuscript for typos. In fact, unless I can't understand it, I'm going to leave your sentence-level prose alone. What I will do is offer you feedback on character, plot, theme, overall story - the big pieces of your project. I'll also be sure to include feedback on any specific questions that you have. 


What you need: A completed* manuscript. This can be anywhere from your just-finished draft to something that you think is polished enough to start querying agents with - I offer different levels of feedback based on what you think you need to revise or rewrite, and we'll talk about those options before agreeing to work together. While I primarily write SFF, I'm happy to work with writers in any genre. I've worked with people who have self-published, and with people who have successfully pursued traditional publishing. You do not need any previous publications or credentials - I am happy to work with writers at any career stage, whether this is the first book you've finished or the 10th. I really mean this - there are always people who worry that they need writing credits, or to send me a writing sample, or to edit their manuscript again before I see it, and that's just not the case. I'm not here to judge your writing, I'm here to help you find ways to make it stronger. 

*What I mean by "completed" - look, if you have a missing scene here or there, or a couple of parts that are just sketched out, that's fine. But if all you have is your first three chapters and then your final two, I'm probably not your best option.

If you think you're interested: Contact me at KatWithSword@gmail.com. We'll talk about exactly what you're looking for, my rates, and the turnaround time for your manuscript. Please note that these last two are based on manuscript length, so if you know your approximate word count, that will help me give you a quote. I'm happy to answer any questions.

Book sale - A Cathedral of Myth and Bone

I am absolutely delighted that I have sold a short fiction collection to my editor, Joe Monti, at Saga. It will be called A Cathedral of Myth and Bone and is scheduled to come out in Spring 2018.

I am really thrilled about this. Cathedral will be a selected collection, themed around the ideas of myth and hagiography. It will have some previously published pieces, and some that are original to the collection. One of those original pieces will be a novella called "Once, Future" that's a modern day version of the Arthurian legend. If you know me at all, you'll know how excited I was to write this.

I am also very happy because this collection marks my fourth book sold. I'm not quite sure how that happened - it still seems a bit surreal. But I'm so happy, and I can't wait for you to read it.

Openings for editing clients

Are you a writer who is looking for professional feedback on your manuscript? Do you have a novel that you need help revising before you query agents, self-publish, or submit it to a publisher's open call? Maybe you're still in the drafting stage, and you know things need work, but you're not sure where, or you're worried that there's nothing there and you're wasting your time. Maybe you have some short fiction that you'd like help polishing. Whatever it is, any length, any genre, I have openings for clients.

Here's who I am: I have approximately 40 professional short fiction sales. My work has been performed on NPR, included in year’s best and best of anthologies, and has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award and the WSFA Small Press Award. My novella with Maria Dahvana Headley, The End of the Sentence, was chosen as one of NPR’s Best Books of 2014. I am a graduate of Clarion at UCSD, and am represented by Brianne Johnson at Writers House. My debut novel, Roses and Rot, will be out from Saga Press in May of this year. Additionally, I have a Ph.D. in English Literature, and have taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels at the University of Minnesota, and Stonybrook University. I have also taught an Intro to Writing SFF course with LitReactor, and I've been working with writers on a one on one basis for about three years now.

In other words, I have experience, both as a writer, and in helping other people make their writing better.

Here's what I do: I edit for content - so, this is not copy-editing, or line-editing, or the kind of thing where you have someone read over your manuscript for typos. In fact, unless I can't understand it, I'm going to leave your sentence-level prose alone. What I will do is offer you feedback on character, plot, theme, overall story - the big pieces of your project. I'll also be sure to include feedback on any specific questions that you have. 


What you need: A completed* manuscript. This can be anywhere from your just-finished draft to something that you think is polished enough to start querying with - I offer different levels of feedback based on what you think you need to revise or rewrite. While I primarily write SFF, I'm happy to work with writers in any genre. I've worked with people who have self-published, and with people who have successfully pursued traditional publishing. You do not need any previous publications or credentials - I am happy to work with writers at any career stage, whether this is the first book you've finished or the 10th. I really mean this - there are always people who worry that they need writing credits, or to send me a writing sample, or to edit their manuscript again before I see it, and that's just not the case. I'm not here to judge your writing, I'm here to help you find ways to make it stronger. 

*What I mean by "completed" - look, if you have a missing scene here or there, or a couple of parts that are just sketched out, that's fine. But if all you have is your first three chapters and then your final two, I'm probably not your best option.

If you think you're interested: Contact me at KatWithSword@gmail.com. We'll talk about exactly what you're looking for, my rates, and the turnaround time for your manuscript. Please note that these last two are based on manuscript length, so if you know your approximate word count, that will help me give you a quote. I'm happy to answer any questions.

Things I published in 2015

2015 was a difficult year for me, writing-wise, and the end of December left me feeling vaguely disappointed. So this post is as much for me - to remind myself that I did publish work that I was proud of - as it is for anyone who is looking for things to read, or for potential awards consideration.

All of my 2015 work was short stories:

"Returned" - Nightmare

"Translatio Corporis" - Uncanny

"The Universe, Sung in Stars" - Lightspeed

"A User's Guide to Increments of Time" - F&SF

"Those Are Pearls" - Guillotine Fantastique

As always, if you are considering nominating anything I wrote for an award, I respectfully request that you also consider the editor who helped me make the final product what it is, and the venue that published it.

Here is a list of some of the books I loved in 2015.

I am behind on my short fiction reading for the year, but a few pieces that have really stuck in my head are Usman Malik's novella, "The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn," Alyssa Wong's short story, "Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers" and Genevieve Valentine's short story, "Given the Advantage of the Blade."

Are you looking for an editor? I'm here to help

Happy 2016, and welcome back to the world of writing. Do you have a novel that you need help revising before you query agents, self-publish, or submit it to a publisher's open call for manuscripts? Maybe you're still in the drafting stage, and you know things need work, but you're not sure where. Maybe you have some short fiction that you'd like help polishing. Whatever it is, any length, any genre, I have openings for clients.

Here's who I am: I have over 30 professional short fiction sales. My work has been performed on NPR, included in year’s best and best of anthologies, and has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award and the WSFA Small Press Award. My novella with Maria Dahvana Headley, The End of the Sentence, was chosen as one of NPR’s Best Books of 2014. I am a graduate of Clarion at UCSD, and am represented by Brianne Johnson at Writers House. My debut novel, Roses and Rot, will be out from Saga Press in June of this year. Additionally, I have a Ph.D. in English Literature, and have taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels at the University of Minnesota, and Stonybrook University. I have also taught an Intro to Writing SFF course with LitReactor.

In other words, I have experience, both as a writer, and in helping other people make their writing better.

Here's what I do: I edit for content - so, this is not copy-editing, or line-editing, or the kind of thing where you have someone read over your manuscript for typos. In fact, unless I can't understand it, I'm going to leave your sentence-level prose alone. What I will do is offer you feedback on character, plot, theme, overall story - the big pieces of your project. I'll also be sure to include feedback on any specific questions that you have. 


What you need: A completed manuscript. This can be anywhere from your just-finished draft to something that you think is polished enough to start querying with - I offer different levels of feedback based on what you think you need to revise or rewrite. While I primarily write SFF, I'm happy to work with writers in any genre. I've worked with people who have self-published, and with people who have successfully pursued traditional publishing. You do not need any previous publications or credentials - I am happy to work with writers at any career stage, whether this is the first book you've finished or the 10th. I really mean this - there are always people who worry that they need writing credits, or to send me a writing sample, or to edit their manuscript again before I see it, and that's just not the case. I'm not here to judge your writing, I'm here to help you find ways to make it stronger. 

If you think you're interested: Contact me at KatWithSword@gmail.com. We'll talk about exactly what you're looking for, my rates, and the turnaround time for your manuscript. Please note that these last two are based on manuscript length, so if you know your approximate word count, that will help me give you a quote. I'm happy to answer any questions.

Some books I loved this year, 2015 edition

Okay. So, this isn't meant to be a best of list, or anything numbered or specific or anything like that. Probably I will forget some! Almost certainly, in fact! But I am at the point of my own NewBook where if I ask my brain to work that hard on anything else, it will poof like smoke in my head, and leak out of my ears.

But! I read a lot of books this year. And I loved many of them! And it is a time of year when gifts are given, and maybe you want to give someone you love a book. Or give yourself a book, because you love yourself. So here we go:

Some excellent debut novels: Updraft by Fran Wilde. Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myer. Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho. The Daughters by Adrienne Celt. All of these books are lovely, and so well-written that I have debut-author envy. Some will make you laugh. Some will break your heart. All will make you glad you read them.

Some great nonfiction: H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. Hammer Head by Nina MacLaughlin. The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. All smart books. All books that opened up new spaces in my brain. The first two in particular I have pretty much raved about to anyone I can convince to listen.

Some books that were just damn good reads: Persona by Genevieve Valentine. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab. The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow.Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman. Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn. I mean, who doesn't like a damn good read?

Some amazing books written by good friends: Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley. Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente. About a Girl by Sarah McCarry. Sometimes you get to read something in draft, and you think, yes. Yes, this is good. And then you read the finished version, and you think, Hot Damn, you beautiful genius, you did it! And yes, yes they did.

Manuscript editing services

Maybe you just finished your NaNo novel. (Hey, congratulations!) Maybe you've just finished a draft of a manuscript you've been working on for much longer than a month. (Hey, congratulations!) If you have a manuscript that you want a new set of eyes on, some professional assistance before you query agents, submit it to a publisher's open call, or publish it yourself, I can help you.

Here's who I am: I have over 30 professional short fiction sales. My work has been performed on NPR, included in year’s best and best of anthologies, and has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award and the WSFA Small Press Award. My novella with Maria Dahvana Headley, The End of the Sentence, was chosen as one of NPR’s Best Books of 2014. I am a graduate of Clarion at UCSD, and am represented by Brianne Johnson at Writers House. My debut novel, Roses and Rot, will be out from Saga Press in 2016. Additionally, I have a Ph.D. in English Literature, and have taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels at the University of Minnesota, and Stonybrook University. I have also taught an Intro to Writing SFF course with LitReactor.

In other words, I have experience, both as a writer, and in helping other people make their writing better.

Here's what I do: I edit for content - so, this is not copy-editing, or line-editing, or the kind of thing where you have someone read over your manuscript for typos. In fact, unless I can't understand it, I'm going to leave your sentence-level prose alone. What I will do is offer you feedback on character, plot, theme, overall story, that sort of thing. I'll also be sure to include feedback on any specific questions that you have. 


What you need: A completed manuscript. This can be anywhere from your just-finished NaNo draft to something that you think is polished enough to start querying with. While I primarily write SFF, I'm happy to work with writers in any genre. I've worked with people who have self-published, and with people who have successfully pursued traditional publishing. You do not need any previous publications or credentials - I am happy to work with writers at any career stage, whether this is the first book you've finished or the 10th. I really mean this - there are always people who worry that they need writing credits, or to send me a writing sample, or to edit their manuscript again before I see it, and that's just not the case. I'm not here to judge your writing, I'm here to help you find ways to make it stronger. 


Edited to add: Yes, I do also work with short fiction. Please include your wordcount when you get in touch.

Also: The holidays are coming up. Maybe you're not a writer, but you know one, and you'd like to give them an edit as a gift. I'm happy to talk to you about that.

If you think you're interested: Contact me at KatWithSword@gmail.com. We'll talk about exactly what you're looking for, my rates, and the turnaround time for your manuscript. Please note that these last two are based on manuscript length, so if you know your approximate word count, that will help me give you a quote. I'm happy to answer any questions.

Final NaNo thoughts

I know, I know. It's not the end of November yet. Neither have I "won" NaNo, with 50K words added to the wordcount of my NewBook.

But I'm officially wrapping up the posts now, because I've gotten what I wanted out of the month - forward momentum on the NewBook, with a sense (finally!) that I know where it's going and I know what I need to do to get there. Plus also, more words written on it, and better ones. Plus even more also, I have gotten my feet back under me, short-fiction wise - this month I've written, cleaned up, polished and submitted stories again, some from nothing, some from previous drafts that my brain hadn't been ready to wrangle with before.

I'm not sure how much sitting down and telling myself that this was the month to do this helped. I didn't keep a tight record of my wordcount, so I can't say what it would have been like to "officially" see that meter move (or not). My guess is, knowing myself, and knowing the way I felt at the beginning of the month in particular, having a low wordcount day could have really messed with my head. But I also know there were days when I kept writing, just because I wanted to hit that next round number of words in the file.

Basically, I feel much more like a functional writer again than I did at the beginning of the month, and that, for me, is a huge win.

Guillotine Fantastique

Just look at this.

Completely beautiful, right? And available today, for those of you who enjoy tiny heartbreaks of fiction, handbound into a chapbook. You can find all the ordering information here.

If you've never read Sofia's work before, well, here is an excellent chance to change that. I will warn you now that you will then want to read her entire back catalogue - she's a brilliant flame in the field.

Here, taken from her blog, is an except from "Meet Me in Iram":

I remember when I was a kid, on long car trips, I’d imagine a giant saw was attached to my side of the car. The saw could cut through anything. It sliced fences, it sliced trees. The fences gave a swift groan and exposed the hollow insides of their poles. The trees went snick and fell over with juicy ease, the tops of the stumps left gleaming moist and pale, like a wound before the blood comes. I was leveling the whole country from my seat in the back of the car. I don’t know why it gave me so much pleasure. 

Here's a bit from "Those Are Pearls," which is about curses, and sisters, and seeing things.

There are rituals. Traditions. A curse, once broken, breaks easier a second time. Death becomes one hundred years of sleep, becomes one thousand and one nights telling stories. We know what our curses are when we see them, and we know their undoing.


But there is a catch. We may know how to break curses, but they knew how to bind us in the first place.

I'm so pleased to be part of this project, and I can't wait for you to read these stories.

NaNo update; openings for clients

So, we're halfway through November. If you're writing right now, whether for NaNo, or for project finish your draft, or you're trying to write 1000 words this month just because, whatever it is, I hope things are going well for you.

I am still making forward progress on my draft-finishing. The scenes are still small and bare, but there are more of them every day, so I am happy. I also got a short story into draft yesterday, and I am pretty excited about this. I am trying to let myself remember to celebrate the small victories at the same time that I keep my eyes on my larger goals. 

I also wanted to take a moment and let people know that I am open for editing clients, both now, and for your NaNo projects. 

Here's the basic information:

Here's who I am: I have over 30 professional short fiction sales. My work has been performed on NPR, included in year’s best and best of anthologies, and has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award and the WSFA Small Press Award. My novella with Maria Dahvana Headley, The End of the Sentence, was chosen as one of NPR’s Best Books of 2014. I am a graduate of Clarion at UCSD, and am represented by Brianne Johnson at Writers House. My debut novel, Roses and Rot, will be out from Saga Press in 2016. Additionally, I have a Ph.D. in English Literature, and have taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels at the University of Minnesota, and Stonybrook University. I have also taught an Intro to Writing SFF course with LitReactor.

In other words, I have experience, both as a writer, and in helping other people make their writing better.

Here's what I do: I help you edit for content - so, this is not copy-editing, or line-editing, or the kind of thing where you have someone read over your manuscript for typos. In fact, unless I can't understand it, I'm going to leave your sentence-level prose alone. What I will do is offer you feedback on character, plot, theme, overall story, that sort of thing. I'll also be sure to include feedback on any specific questions that you have. 


What you need: A completed manuscript. This can be anywhere from your hot mess of a NaNo draft to something that you think is polished enough to start querying with. While I primarily write SFF, I'm happy to work with writers in any genre. I've worked with people who have self published, and with people who have successfully pursued traditional publishing. You do not need any previous publications or credentials - I am happy to work with writers at any career stage. I really mean this - there are always people who worry that they need writing credits, or to send me a writing sample, or to edit their manuscript again before I see it, and that's just not the case. I'm not here to judge your writing, I'm here to help you find ways to make it stronger. 

If you think you're interested: Contact me at KatWithSword@gmail.com. We'll talk about exactly what you're looking for, my rates, and the turnaround time for your manuscript. Please note that these last two are based on manuscript length, so if you know your approximate word count, that will help me answer your questions. I'm happy to answer any questions.

Non-stop

I mean, I'm not the only one with "How do you write like you're running out of time?" playing on a closed loop in their head right now, right?

The thing about something like NaNo is that even if you don't hit the 50K wordcount that signals winning by the end of the month, you've still got more words than you started with. More words is good! (looks at grammar of preceding sentence, shrugs, moves on.)

I have stopped considering my relative wordcount. I am pretty sure that defeats some of the purpose of NaNo, but here's why. I'm not necessarily looking for more words - though I'll have that, too, at the end of this - I'm looking for more story. I need to get the events of the book closer to the end of the book. Because of that, I have spent the past few days writing a lot of scenes very very fast.

Objectively considered, theses scenes are mostly crap right now. They're all telling instead of showing, or all dialogue. Almost none of them have any setting to speak of. There are no subtleties of character, no efforts at including theme. 90% of what I'm writing right now is me writing towards plot beats.

I could go back. I could fill these scenes out, and get my wordcount, no problem. I am one of those writers whose drafts always grow in revision under normal circumstances, and the way I'm writing now is even barer, more stripped down, than normal. But if I went back and filled out those scenes, I'd be losing the forward momentum on this book even if my wordcount said otherwise.

And I hate leaving those scenes like that! The only way I can turn off the part of my brain that says, "You know, these are really not quite" is to keep a list of notes - scenes that I need to add in earlier to make what happens later make sense, and emotional beats I need to hit, and also maybe some setting, somewhere, anywhere. If I have that list of notes, then I can trust that I'll fix it in post, and I can keep writing.

My goal for this month is to get to the end of the draft. The only way I can do that is to not look back.

State of the writer: when you can't write

Here is the latest in my ongoing series of posts about finishing my novel draft this month in a somewhat NaNo-like fashion. Previous posts can be found by checking the archives for November.

The first thing I want to do is call your attention to this post from Mary Robinette Kowal, "Sometimes Writers Block Is Really Depression." It's a good post. Go read it. I'll still be here when you get back.

Okay.

I don't have depression, but I do know what it's like to have mental illness get in the way of my writing. I have anxiety. It's been officially part of my medical profile for about three years now - I see a doctor, I take medication. I have made some behavior and lifestyle changes. All of these things help; none of them are magic cures.

(I am turning off comments on this post, but please, if your kind and helpful instinct is to email or tweet me with hints as to how I can manage my anxiety, know that I appreciate your thoughts, but I am asking you to refrain.)

It took me a while to get help. I wish I had done so earlier, but anxiety is a jerk, and wouldn't let me. It wasn't until I literally couldn't write - because the idea of starting something and getting it wrong filled me with such terror that I couldn't open my notebook, even though I had deadlines and editors waiting on things, even though I had bills to pay, and if I didn't write, I wouldn't be able to pay them - that I finally was able to ask for the help I needed.

Mary is right - sometimes there are story-based reasons for writers block. Sometimes, you get the don't wannas, and you have to ask yourself seriously how much writing, or writing this particular project means to you. But sometimes, there are days that you can't write. Sometimes there are days that you can't write, even though you want and need to be writing that day. Sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes circumstances out of your control get in the way.

It can be really hard when that happens. First, there's your own feeling of disappointment or grumpiness at not hitting your goal. But there can be the outside pressure hearing that real writers write, that professionals don't have time to get blocked, that you should be writing every day, of the feeling that everyone else is succeeding faster. Hearing those things - even the parts of them that may be good advice, or worth considering, or standards to motivate yourself against on a good day - well, they can be less than useless on a bad one.

I'm a person who is generally happier when I am writing on a schedule. I have wordcount or pagecount or project goals. I make lists. I do this everyday. Not - anymore - because I believe I have to do these things to be a Real Writer, but because I have learned that this is the way I work best.

I have also learned that there are some days that - even though I have tried, even though I have put my butt in the chair at the appointed time, and turned off the internet, and tried all the tricks to jumpstart things - that I am not going to make those goals. (Please see yesterday's post on my current wordcount.) I've learned that beating myself up over this isn't helpful. I try, on those days, very hard to allow myself to see the things I did accomplish, and then to let go of the ways that I fell short, so that I can keep moving forward.

It's really easy to be cruel to yourself when you fall short of your goals. Try and take care of yourself, too.

State of the Kat, draft-finishing month

I'm not sure exactly what it is about this particular draft that has me inspired to fire up the blog and note its progress, but here I go anyway.

(Previous entry here.)

The short answer is, my wordcount isn't where I would like it to be right now.

The more complicated and better answer is, while I wish that I had more words on the page (in the computer, in this stack of scribbled-upon print outs that is large enough to have terrified the cat when she knocked it over the other day), I am actually okay with where my progress is right now. I have forward motion on the draft again, and I can see where things are going, at least for right now, and those are the two biggest things that had been giving me difficulty. I am taking this as a win - because it is - and I am not beating myself up over lack of wordcount, because I cannot change what has happened on the days that have already passed.

It is a really drafty draft. Even the first three chapters, which I had gotten into good enough shape at one point to send to my editor as a proof of concept (this book, while not under deadline, is under contract, and I wanted to be sure that he would want it) now have new scenes and new people in. At least three times today, I had to stop and say "It's only a draft, you can fix it later" out loud to myself. I am better at trusting myself to fix things later, but that doesn't mean it's easy - I can hear my internal editor, following along just a few sentences behind me, reminding me that this scene would be better if it were more active, that I still haven't established a sufficient motivation for this character's behavior, that the end of the scene still needs another beat to close it out, and why don't I just sit here and twist my brain around it until I know exactly what that is?

My wordcount isn't where I would like it to be, but I am writing, and the book is moving. This is a win. If you are writing right now, I hope your wordcount is where you want it to be. But if it isn't, look for the progress you've made. Because you have made some. Give yourself the win. And keep going.

Some thoughts on writing and rules

I used to be a big jerk about National Novel Writing Month.

I didn't really think about it one way or another until I started writing seriously, but then, I was Very Grumpy about it. Real writers wrote all the time! Often in daily wordcounts that were more than the NaNo requirement! And 50K words isn't a novel anyway! NaNo was clearly not for real writers. I was very snarky about it. 

I want to be clear that I no longer feel like this.

Here's the thing. I like rules. They give me a lot of comfort. If there are rules, then I can follow them, and I can know I am doing The Right Thing.

When I was just starting out as a writer, I had almost no confidence that I was Doing It Right. So I looked for rules. I read process books and writers' blogs and anything I could get my hands on that would tell me how to do it. I made rules for myself - stringent ones, ones that some of my favorite writers followed, and ones that I put together on my own - so that I could have something to cling to that made me feel like maybe I was a real writer. (Imagine a tiny trademark symbol there.)

And I didn't cut myself any slack, because I didn't trust myself with it. Which meant that when I talked about writing, oh, say, on a blog (maybe this one even) (probably) I was rigid. Prescriptive. Sometimes probably a jerk.

I was, even though I didn't realize it at the time, sort of being a jerk to myself, too. By making all those rules (some of which I needed then, to help learn habits and discipline, some of which are still useful to me now), I gave myself a million tiny ways to be afraid of not doing the right thing. To fail. To let the brain goblins in on a bad day.

And, in a way, to be unhelpful to other writers. I mean, I've pretty much come to feel that there are few absolute rules in this business. Do what you need to do to get the words on the page, and know that that might change from story to story, from book to book. But I remember what it's like to see the people in the field that I looked up to talking about how they write, and I remember measuring my process against theirs, and making myself feel lacking because mine was different. Not rigorous enough. Not professional.

Which is some kind of bullshit, I tell you what. Because at the end of the day, I don't need to make anyone else's process work in order to write a book, and neither do you. We just need to figure out what works for us. For this scene. For this project. For today.

I was talking to a friend this weekend about a novel draft I've been bashing my head against, and I said that I thought the biggest change in my process since I started writing was that I trust myself to fix things now. I am not one of those writers who generates clean first drafts. Mine are hot messes, shitty first drafts. I wind up rewriting and throwing out A LOT. But I am a good reviser. And no one needs to see those hot messes of words except me.

I'm not officially doing NaNo this month, but I've got about 50K left in this zero draft to write, and so my goal is to push my way through it, and get to the end of that first bad draft by the end of November. Because that's what I need to do right now. Because that's what works for today. Because the only thing that matters is what gets the words on the page.


Openings for editing clients

I am reopening to editing clients. I have both immediate and future openings for clients with novella-length or longer manuscripts - in other words, your project would be at least 20K words. If this sounds like something you might be interested in, here is some more information:

Here's who I am: I have approximately 30 professional short fiction sales. My work has been performed on NPR, included in a year’s best and a best of anthology, and has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award and the WSFA Small Press Award. My novella with Maria Dahvana Headley, The End of the Sentence, was chosen as one of NPR’s Best Books of 2014. I am a graduate of Clarion at UCSD, and am represented by Brianne Johnson at Writers House. My debut novel, Roses and Rot, will be out from Saga Press in 2016. Additionally, I have a Ph.D. in English Literature, and have taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels at the University of Minnesota, and Stonybrook University. I have also taught an Intro to Writing SFF course with LitReactor.

Here's what I do: I help you edit for content - so, this is not copy-editing, or line-editing, or the kind of thing where you have someone read over your manuscript for typos. In fact, unless I can't understand it, I'm going to leave your sentence-level prose alone. What I will do is offer you feedback on character, plot, theme, overall story, that sort of thing. I'll also be sure to include feedback on any specific questions that you have.

What you need: A completed manuscript. This can be anywhere from your hot mess of a NaNo draft to something that you think is polished enough to start querying with. While I primarily write SFF, I'm happy to work with writers in any genre. You do not need any previous publications or credentials - I am happy to work with writers at any career stage. I really mean this - there are always people who worry that they need writing credits, or to send me a writing sample, or to edit their manuscript again before I see it, and that's just not the case. I'm not here to judge your writing, I'm here to help you find ways to make it stronger.

If you think you're interested: Contact me at KatWithSword@gmail.com. We'll talk about exactly what you're looking for, my rates, and the turnaround time for your manuscript. I'm happy to answer any questions.

August opening to manuscript clients

I have a few openings for editing clients who are able to deliver their manuscripts in August. The number of openings will be based on when in August people are able to send in their manuscripts, the type of editing that they are looking for, and manuscript length. Please note: I am only accepting clients with novella-length or longer manuscripts in this window, so at least 20K words. If this sounds like something you might be interested in, here is some more information:

Here's who I am: I have approximately 30 professional short fiction sales. My work has been performed on NPR, included in a year’s best and a best of anthology, and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award. My novella with Maria Dahvana Headley, The End of the Sentence, was chosen as one of NPR’s Best Books of 2014. I am a graduate of Clarion at UCSD, and am represented by Brianne Johnson at Writers House. My debut novel, Roses and Rot, will be out from Saga Press in 2016. Additionally, I have a Ph.D. in English Literature, and have taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels at the University of Minnesota, and Stonybrook University. I have also taught an Intro to Writing SFF course with LitReactor.

Here's what I do: I help you edit for content - so, this is not copy editing, or line editing, or the kind of thing where you have someone read over your manuscript for typos. In fact, unless I can't understand it, I'm going to leave your sentence-level prose alone. What I will do is offer you feedback on character, plot, theme, overall story, that sort of thing. I'll also be sure to include feedback on any specific questions that you have. 

What you need: A completed manuscript. This can be anywhere from your hot mess of a NaNo draft to something that you think is polished enough to start querying with. I'm not here to judge, I'm here to help you make things better. While I primarily write SFF, I'm happy to work with writers in any genre. You do not need any previous publications or credentials - I am happy to work with writers at any career stage.

If you think you're interested: Contact me at KatWithSword@gmail.com. We'll talk about exactly what you're looking for, my rates, and the turnaround time for your manuscript. I'm happy to answer any questions.

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway: An Uncanny Review

Back when Uncanny Magazine had its Kickstarter, some excellent human helped support the magazine by sponsoring a blog post of their choice. That excellent human selected a book review of Nick Harkaway's novel, Angelmaker. After a long and patient wait on their part, I am writing this review in fulfillment of that support. Thank you, excellent human!

And now, the review.

So, the first thing that I need to tell you is something of a spoiler. I know, I know. You are now rolling your eyes and thinking to yourself, Kat, you do not understand how this review business works, but let me assure you, this is needful information.

Let me explain. Angelmaker, a book that I love, and loved again as I reread it for this review, is the first thing I read after my beloved dog, Sam I Am the pug, died. Part of the reason that I chose Angelmaker as this book - aside from the bits where many many people whose opinions I respected told me it was wonderful - was that one of the characters in the book is Bastion. Bastion is a very elderly pug, with only one tooth left in his mouth, and he is completely blind. Sam I Am had most of his teeth, and some of his vision, but he, too, was a very elderly pug. And let me tell you, Bastion is perfect, both as pug, and as book character. (So perfect, in fact, that I sent Mr. Harkaway a collection of weepy, heartbrokenly grateful messages on twitter immediately upon finishing Angelmaker, to which he responded with great kindness. He is an excellent man; buy all his books.)

Here's the spoilery bit: Bastion lives.

I really really needed to know that part, the first time I read this book.

Not everybody in Angelmaker does. Which I suppose is to be expected in a thriller populated by mad scientists, evil fiends, a vast and sundry assortment of the criminal element, some completely bonkers monks, lawyers, and Edie Banister.

Edie Banister is the 90 year old lady spy who belongs to Bastion. Just imagine James Bond, as played by Maggie Smith. That's Edie. (Actually, someone please make an Angelmaker movie where Maggie Smith is Edie, because that would be perfect.) I fell in love with her somewhere around page 50. Lots of people fall in love with Edie. She's that sort of lady.

Her story wraps itself around that of Joe Spork, who repairs clocks, and is the son of one of the most notorious gangsters in London. And at first, it's hard to see how the stories connect. At first, it looks like Harkaway is simply pulling all of the cool stuff he knows out of his brain, and throwing it on the page to see what sticks. But you keep reading, because it is really cool stuff. And there are people like Edie Banister in these pages.

And then you realize how the pieces start to fit. And then you realize, the pieces all fit, that Harkaway is writing a beautiful, elegant clockwork, as beautiful and strange and glorious as anything else in these pages. You are reading a book where someone can say "Never mind, never mind, let's get to the part where we smite the unrighteous. I've brought my most alarming teeth!" and you smile and grin and wish you had some alarming teeth, because you'd like to go along and smite the unrighteous, too.

Angelmaker is a brilliant book - brilliant both in terms of flash, and of intelligence. It is full of tremendous, complicated, interesting characters. It will break your heart, and make you think, and make you cheer. And the dog lives.

I highly recommend it.