My 2021 Writing Year

I started my 2021 writing planner* a little late last year and the first entry, on January 21st, says “hold email from Diabolical Plots!”

It was a good start to the year.


3 stories published:

The PILGRIM’s Guide to Mars is my first pro sale. That was my main goal for 2021 and I couldn’t be happier about it. (2022 goal: 2 more)

At least 15 submissions (but I think my tracking is a little off), two of them were novellas.

Volunteered at 4 SFF conventions

  • Rainbow Space Magic (March) (I was on the organizing committee, as well as taking care of the tech side of things)
  • Nebulas (June)
  • FIYAHCON (September)
  • Worldcon (December)

I took a number of classes and workshops, but there two more substantial ones that were incredibly helpful, a novella accountability class with Kate Heartfield and a short story workshop with Cat Rambo.

Accountability mechanisms! (Or at least, that’s how they function for me!)

I became an associate member of SFWA with the pro sale to Diabolical Plots and also joined Codex.

And I became a First Reader for Diabolical Plots and have gone through two submission periods so far. 

I also managed to post regularly here for a few months anyway. I tailed off in December, too burnt out for one more thing. I’m still trying to figure out what is a schedule that works for me, because I do like writing about what I’m doing, for my own sake even if no one else is overly interested.

And I started 2022 by submitting a story that I worked on, in fits and starts, throughout 2021, as it went through several titles and a few different critique/workshop groups. (It also varied in length from around 3000 words to almost 9000, settling at submission at 6698.) Fingers crossed & all, but I have a list of other markets for if/when it is rejected.

(*Because I love stationery: My planner for 2021 was a Midori MD 1 day / 1 page diary. There was a lot I liked about it, particularly that the pages were not pre-dated, but had space for the date to be written in. I also liked that there were two ribbon markers. The paper is, as one would expect, of very nice quality. The shadow of writing on the previous page was only faintly visible at worse (and I use fountain pens). For writing purposes, the monthly calendars (in the front of the book) were not particularly useful to me.)

Another week of Nanowrimo (& more)

This week, I thought I would write not just about Nanowrimo, but what I’ve been doing more generally writing-wise as well, mostly because my Nano project is coming along as planned.

Last week, on Friday, I attended a really interesting panel, Imagined (Lunar) Communities: Hope, Habitation, and Humanity, moderated by Smaran Dayal with Manish Melwani, Malka Older, and Fabio Fernandes. The structure was particularly notable, the panelists had received a prompt and each wrote a short piece about an imagined lunar habitat that they read. Then the discussion that followed incorporated aspects of what they had written, how they had approached the subject, etc. (A more detailed description is avialable on the Eventbrite page (, click details.)

Throughout the week I worked more on my “maybe it’s a long short story/maybe it’s a short novellette”, Dispersed. The word count has been bouncing around between about 7200 and 8000 as I work on it. But I’ve also addressed what I (and others in workshop) had identified as problem areas. In particular, there were a few weak spots nagging at me that required more explanation, a few new scenes, a change of gender for one character, and one whole new character.

I’m pleased with how it is progressing. I’m hopeful I’ll have it ready for submission in mid-December.

Nanowrimo-wise, I completed the outlines for the four novellas (or novel parts or whatever they are). They came together widly easily, I think because of all the previous work I’ve done on this world.

I also did some worldbuilding/brainstorming on various areas: general and some more specific thoughts on characters (including issues around who leaves Earth on the ship), what Earth is like at the beginning of the story, day to day life on the ship, and ideas around colonization/exploration/adventure in the context of the story world.

Additionally, I reviewed the stories I was working on earlier in the month and extracted those story ideas that might work as stories separate from this story world/universe/whatever we might call it.

And I also started putting together a review of what I’ve done writing-wise in the past year and plans for next year. I’ll post those here in the next couple of weeks.

What I’m reading, listening to, and watching

I’ve been watching The Handmaid’s Tale (finally). It has been a long time since I read the book, but I’m enjoying the series quite a lot. I like that so many of the characters are given solid backstories in the form of flashbacks.  

And I do appreciate watching something that already has several seasons (looking at you, Squid Game, with your nine measly episodes).

I’m reading Jeff VanderMeer’s Hummingbird Salamander very slowly, but it is really interesting and the writing is just so wonderful. (The slowness is totally on me and general tiredness.)

And I started listening to the audiobook of Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest book, The Ministry of the Future, after hearing multiple people (in different contexts) recommend Kim Stanley Robinson in the last week. I have read some of Robinson’s past work (like the Mars trilogy), but it’s been a while. I enjoy the broad scope approach that Robinson takes (different points of view in different locations; lots of ‘this is how the world is’ explanation). It wouldn’t work in all cases, but it really grounds the story in a very relatable world. 

That’s all for now.

Nanowrimo 2021, week 2-ish

Let’s review where I was last time I posted…

I had decided that most of the stories I was working on for my Nano-rebel project wouldn’t work as standalones (there are some that will, but more on that later).

And the more I thought about my idea for extracting material for encyclopedia-type entries (and began working on it), the more I was unsatisfied with it. It isn’t that I don’t want to do it (or won’t necessarily), but it felt insufficient to what I was trying to do with the ideas that I had.

But this past week, I finished expanding the 15 little stories I was working on, which involved a lot of worldbuilding and stream of consciousness writing that generated a lot of random ideas. So they total over 30 000 words now.

I also did a couple of days of narrative-less writing on a couple of elements of the universe/whatever it is and one day re-planning everything once that was all done.

(As an aside, this is why I find being a Nano rebel tricky. Give me 1667 words a day and I can do that. I have done it a bunch ot times. But having to constantly fiddle with the plan is something else entirely.

Because it isn’t just about changing what I’m doing — that happens all the time in my writing — but it is also figuring out how to track what I’m doing in a Nano-friendly way.)

As I worked on the 15 proto-story ideas, I was struck by a few things.

One was that, in part because they were spaced out over a really (really) long time period and also because there was a lot of big picture worldbuilding, there was way too much telling.

Additionally, the stories themselves, although they showed little snippets of daily life, weren’t driven by much of a narrative.  Again, the details contributed more to worldbuilding than anything else. There wasn’t much in the way of tension or conflict, however defined.

As if that weren’t enough, the stories didn’t really hang together well, either. There were too few characters (most of them focused on the same two characters, with two others in some of the stories) and, again because of the very long time period covered, there were a lot of gaps and questionable timelines.

So. New idea! (Which is kind of bonkers, given that I keep saying I want to write more, shorter work…)

I think it makes more sense to group the ideas and themes into four novellas (not really long ones, all in the 20 000 word range).

Each book/novella/whatever will reveal a little bit more about the world than the previous book did. Each one opens things up a little more and provides more background, which addresses issues that were raised in the previous book, but also ends up raising further issues that are addressed in the next book.

And, yeah, also they go backwards in time, sort of. The first one is the novella I have already finished and is out looking for a home. Then, book 2 ends before the beginning of book 1 and book 3 ends right before the beginning of book 2 and so on.

So in each book you think you understand the people who are in it (particularly in a collective sense), but then in the next book you pull back one step further back into the past and realize you do not (or at least, not entirely), and this repeats.

This may or may not make sense to anyone but me right now. Hopefully, it will make sense to others once they’re done.

My plan for the rest of the month is to outline those four novellas (because why not) and do further worldbuilding. I have rough outlines of two of the four done already. I’ve spent so much time thinking about this world that once I started considering things it in this way, a lot came together rather quickly.

And the one other thing I’ll do is go through the stories I have to extract ideas that would work as standalone stories completely separate from this project. I noted a couple as I was working on them, ideas that are good but won’t fit well with my new plan.

So that’s all for now. I’ll also need to figure out a plan for writing these things, but that’s for December.

Take care.