My writing in 2013 – and my hopes for 2014

In a moment I’m going to get down to some actual writing – there has to be proper writing on the first day of a new year! But first, a round-up of 2013 and some writing goals/wishes for 2014.

I thought I’d do a list of the writing I’ve done this year. It’s difficult to quantify this stuff, really, because a lot of things are in some stage of unfinishedness, but here’s an estimate:


  • 69 poem drafts (not all of them edited or reworked, and some never will be; many have been submitted, and a few of them have got published too!)
  • 5 flash fiction pieces (4 finished, 1 still in draft phase)
  • 3 stories of <5,000 words (should send a couple of them out; one still needs editing)
  • two novelettes (still need final edits before can be sent out)
  • one failed attempt at reworking my novel Dim Vanities
  • several writing exercises with potential to become more



  • 32 poems
  • 1 flash fiction piece
  • 1 short story
  • –> As you can see, I didn’t submit too many stories in 2013!


So, that’s the numbers. Now for some more words:

What pleased me writing-wise:

  • The writers’ group I’m in – Helsinki Writers’ Group, for people in this area who write in English – has been really great. It’s been amazing to actually share my stuff live with other writers, and to get to talk about writing with people who get it. It’s brilliant to have a group where constructive criticism actually works. I’ve been able to radically improve so many of my pieces from feedback I’ve got from the group. And of course it’s heartening to have people laugh out loud at the funny bits. 🙂 We’ve got a really good, supportive atmosphere, I think. Looking forward to our first meeting of the year this Friday.
  • I wrote a surprising amount considering I was quite stressed out for much of the year and had too much on my plate. Extreme yay!
  • I got some poems published that are very special to me. The fact that ‘Orthography: A Personal History’ is out there makes me especially happy.

What I was disappointed in:

  • As I have mentioned previously, I was disappointed in failing to get a proper edit started for Dim Vanities despite the reasons for my failure being completely understandable.


Now for the 2014 part of this post: the forward-looking, hopeful part. 😀

What are my writing goals for 2014?
My major non-writing goal this year is to apply for a PhD position in my field of English historical linguistics and manuscript studies. However, my freer schedules this spring will hopefully result in more creative writing time too, despite my intended focus on academia. And even if (when!) busyness ensues, writing will always be high on the priority list. Hence, goals – which I may or may not achieve, but it’s better to have some nonetheless, methinks!

Some goals writing-wise (aim high!):

  • Get a story published! I’d like to get more than just my poetry out there, since, you know, I am not exclusively a poet. Achieving this goal – in addition to luck and writing well – means getting more stories (especially shorter ones) edited, finished and actually submitted.
  • Get more poems published.
  • Work on a poetry collection. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now, and I’ve already got a lot of ideas and some preliminary work done.
  • Increase writing output – get back into the groove of writing, preferably every day.
  • Rework Dim Vanities and decide what to do with it (whether to continue editing it smaller-scale, or do a total reboot, or just stick it in the trunk).
  • Improve my plotting skills.
  • Finish more stuff and edit previous work to a submittable point.

I could probably think of tons more goals if I really got to it – there’s always room for improvement and there are plenty of things in my writing that I want to work on. But these are the major goals. I will also work on not stressing out if I don’t manage to fulfil them. With Ye Olde Perfeccionisme, that’s going to be the greatest challenge of all!

Fuzzy but finished

My hands and forearms are tingling and aching a bit; my brain is tired, fuzzy but pleased.

I finally finished the first draft of the short-story-turned-novelette that I mentioned here! Word count: almost 14,000. Ooops. The word count will most likely go down a bit during the editing process, because there’s loose stuff and fluff in this draft (as there always is in my zero/first drafts), but still: definitely a novelette here. I’m going to let it sit for a while – I’ll possibly take in the rest of the first draft to my writing group (in parts, obviously), although I dunno, I may want to tinker with it first. The end is much rougher than the start.

Anyway, I’ve been working on this thing on and off since May, so I’m really glad the first phase is done now. It’s got a beginning, middle and end! Huzzah! I love the feeling of finishing a story – it happens so rarely that it’s always a special event. I’ve got a bad habit of leaving stuff unfinished, especially when it comes to prose. I’m trying to work on changing that habit. A crappy but finished draft is better than a crappy unfinished one!

Tomorrow after work: submitting stuff to various places. It’s been too long since I did a proper batch of submitting, so I’m going to bite the bullet. Will also try to edit a couple of stories that are almost ready for the submission cycle.

A fall and some recs

It’s been rollercoaster weather here, the sun melting the snow, temperatures rising – and then shifting back to winter, the frost snapping its fingers. Last night, 15cm of snow, snow so thick in the air that it looked like a deep fog.

I edited 6-ish pages of novelette yesterday, but apart from that it’s been quiet on the writing front, this past week. I’ve recovered from my ear infection, thank goodness. But right after, another mishap: before the snowfall yesterday, I slipped on the ice outside despite walking carefully. Nothing bad: a slightly bruised arm and thigh. But the fall jolted my body, and today all my chronic-pain muscles have been giving me hell. Grrrr.

Just a couple of recs tonight.

Poetry: I’ve been reading old issues of Stone Telling. Both of the following poems are rather grim, but beautiful: Eliza Victoria’s prose poem Sodom Gomorrah, and Sonya Taaffe’s Persephone in Hel.

(The latter poem reminds me: I wrote a poem related to Persephone earlier this year; I should submit it somewhere…)

And here’s a post by fantasy author Marie Brennan on how to write a long fantasy series. I haven’t yet tried my hand at writing a series, let alone a long series, but I’ve read plenty, so I think I can say that Brennan has several good points. 🙂 Especially relating to pacing and POV characters. Anyway, many of her points can also apply to any complex novel, so it’s useful reading!

Sunday recs: Sf with a dash of fairytale

Happy Sunday, everyone. It’s a grey, mushy one over here, with something unpleasant falling from the sky (ugh, sleet, whyyyy) and the lovely snow turning to slush. I have to go out in a moment, into that mess, but before that – here are some recs again.

First, the fairytale: Houdini’s Sister by Christine Hamm. A lovely prose poem, a praise of fairytale heroines.

Now for the science fiction.

Dysphonia in D Minor by Damien Walters Grintalis. A bittersweet love story about people who sing bridges and buildings into being. I really enjoyed this, especially the structure.

And then, oh, then. Gravity by Erzebet Yellowboy. Earth is covered in ice; a group of people set off towards the sun. This story made me ache so much by the end. Gorgeous, devastating. And such language! Of Mercury: “A dead god has scrawled its name there in a language we have forgotten.” And: “We become Ouroboros in twenty-five days, when the head of our orbit eats its tail.” Brilliant stuff.


I edited 10 pages of an old novelette yesterday and did sundry other useful things. Today’s mostly for social activities. Which is lovely, but oh, I just wish I had more time! I have so many things I want to write – stories, poems, an academic article – but time slips through my grasping fingers and February rushes onwards.

I really need to finish one poem project soon, though, because submissions to Interfictions end on the 28th. Will have to set aside time for that.

Sunday recs

Here are three stories I’ve read and enjoyed recently:

Selkie Stories Are for Losers, by Sofia Samatar: a gorgeous contemporary take on selkies.

The Flying Woman, by Meghan McCarron: a delightful atmosphere, an aching and haunting story.

And Their Lips Rang with the Sun, by Amal El-Mohtar: a lovely, poetic piece, strange in a good way and with a great narrative voice.

All three of these happen to be from Strange Horizons. What can I say? – they publish brilliant stories there.

* * *

And what of my own writing? Well, I just realised that I haven’t written any prose at all yet in 2013 (although I’ve written more than 15 poem drafts), so I should work on that soonish. There is that one novelette that needs to be finished and then edited; and I should edit the snail story. Also, there’s one burgeoning short story idea that I should get out at some point.

As for what’s left of today: I should clean my flat, do the dishes and various other useful household tasks. But earlier today I started a long poem – fragmentary, linguistic and deeply personal – and to be honest, I want to work on that more than I care about my home being spotless. I always care about writing more than cleaning.

But we’ll see. I’m tired enough now that it may be that my brain’s not in the mood for poetry any more. In which case, dishes and hoovering, perhaps some fiddle practice too. But first of all: tea.

Poetry experiment

Am on sick leave today because the wretched remnants of illness still lingered this morning. My New Year’s Eve was spent with a fever; I was so out of it that I was extremely content to be alone, and toasted the new year with a cup of peppermint tea. I’ve been under the weather ever since. But since I feel okay right now (finally, an appetite and less nausea!) I’m hoping that I’ll be fully well again tomorrow.

Anyway. Due to being alone on NYE, I was able to start off the year with a poem. Nice. Wasn’t a good one, but it was good to write.

Today I’ve been trying to get back into a specfic-ish story (well, novelette, really) that I started back in December 2010. It’s got potential, I think. I need to finish the actual plot and then get to editing.

But so far I’ve been too tired and headachy to get into the novelette. Bleh. Instead I decided to do a poem challenge from Joseph Harker’s delightful blog (I’ve been reading through the archives. Damn, that man is a talented poet!).

The basic premise of this particular prompt is to create a little series of “poemlets”, like charms on a bracelet. See the original post for the full instructions. I chose seven of Joseph’s themes (childhood memory/linguistic beauty/keeping a secret/romantic encounter/discovering laughter/life goal/telling the future) and started playing. Here are the extra elements (quoted from his blog post):

first poemlet: mention your birthstone
second poemlet: use a word with three or more syllables
third poemlet: mention your zodiac sign
fourth poemlet: use at least three capital letters (“I” on its own, and the beginnings of lines, do not count)
fifth poemlet: pick a color and use at least two synonyms/varieties/shades of it
sixth poemlet: use as many different kinds of punctuation mark as you can
seventh poemlet: surprise us with something fancy!

Anyway, this is an experiment that I’m unlikely to end up submitting to be published, so I thought I’d share it with my readers. 🙂

[I would’ve wanted the roman numerals to be on the same level as the first line of each charmlet, with the rest of the stanza indented, but apparently that’s beyond my html skills and I’m too tired to figure it out now. So have this version, with the numerals above. /end perfectionism]

* * *


sticky summer, eating watermelon
by the bucketful, the richness
of it, like gobbling down
soft tourmalines

peeling back the centuries
to Caedmon’s hymn
I shiver
at the reconstructed sounds,
the stark vowels
humming down in my throat

Scorpios keep secrets well, they say.
Perhaps I do, although I toss
horoscopes down the drain.
After all, some secrets I kept
for years.

when I first met you,
and You, and YOu, and YOU,
my heart didn’t know
what wonders were ahead
on this winding road
leading downriver

That summer I learnt to laugh again.
The grass seemed greener
than heaven, as I sank down
onto the malachite bed
prepared for me
by nature –
that moss-fingered mother.

Oh – to struggle for it
and grasp it too! No fear
(no fear); just the blossoming woods
of my work: beauty written
down onto each petal…
dare I? dare I?

I could
reach down into my soul,
grasp a surety beyond the shoal
of slippery wishes, and see
my future before me –
if I could,

* * *