January was a fairly productive month. Although I didn’t write as many blog posts as I had intended, I did get a lot of work done on The Way North. I read through it entirely three times, thoroughly revising it and re-writing several rough spots. I know that parts of it need a lot of work yet, but I feel that it’s really starting to take shape. Even more importantly, I was able to find three beta readers for it and one critique partner. (Thanks so much to all of you!) I was worried about this part, but every single person who I emailed about this was interested in reading it. I’m also really happy to have a critique partner, who will be sending me her manuscript to critique in return. Although I’m delighted to have some fresh eyes reading over my work and providing feedback, I’m also really looking forward to gaining experience in critiquing someone else’s writing – which may help me to look at my own more critically (because sometimes we can only see our own mistakes after we have seen someone else make them first).
I have also been continuing the project I began last year of working with writing exercises. I think that often we just get used to writing in a certain way, but working with exercises and writing prompts can encourage us to try different techniques and expand our abilities. For several months now I’ve been working through the exercises in In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop by Steve Kowit, which is a book that I highly recommend if you’re interested in writing poetry. It’s like taking an entire course in poetry writing. His descriptions and exercises are clearly written and understandable. I never really understood poetic meter before, but now after working with Kowit’s exercises I find myself listening for meter in every line of poetry I read. I was also working with the exercises in What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter, but for some reason I found most of the exercises in that book very unhelpful, so I ended up skipping over most of them just to get done with it. I think this book is targeted more towards writers who haven’t done much writing before and need help just getting started. One book that I am eager to start working through is Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew by Ursula K. Le Guin. Not only is Le Guin my favourite writer, but also this book has a focus on the craft of writing that I think will be very helpful to me.
What Didn’t Get Done
One thing that I wanted to do in January was write more short stories, but I underestimated the amount of time that revising The Way North would take, so I ended up not really having time for that. I also find short stories very difficult to write. I’m fairly good at starting them and setting up an interesting situation with interesting characters, but then I struggle to finish them.
I also wanted to have the revisions of The Way North completely finished by the end of the month, but that didn’t happen either. I do have a good excuse though: everyone in our house, including me, got sick with a cold or the flu at the end of the month, which just made everything come to a halt for several days. I still have a cold, but I think I’m improving, and it should only take me a day or two to finish the revisions now.
I’m looking forward to taking a break from The Way North in February while it’s out with my beta readers. Hopefully that should give me more time to work on writing short stories and poetry, and maybe even start writing the first draft of my next novel. I didn’t think I would start writing my next novel so soon, but those ideas in the back of my head are just begging to be written down. I also want to blog more, leave more comments on other blogs, build my Facebook page, and spend more time working in my sketchbook and art journal.
So . . . what did you do in January? What are you looking forward to doing in February?