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While I was writing the other posts, I had some ideas that didn't fit anywhere else so here they are in the final post in the series.

Talk to Other Students
On a taught MA there would be other students to talk to, and online courses often have associated forums. You could join a local writing group or, if looking for something more specific to your interests, there are plenty of free online writing groups and forums based round specific genres. There are also organisations you could join and use to meet and network with like-minded writers, such as SCWBI for children's writers, although many of these aren't free and some have requirements like qualifying sales.

Set Yourself Homework
Although you'll probably have a main project, you might decide to start it after some initial reading or want some shorter exercises for a change of pace. There are many books out there that offer creative writing exercises, without having to get bogged down. Some I've seen recommended are Steering the Craft by Ursula LeGuin, Now Write! edited by Sherry Ellis, and The Creative Writing Coursebook edited by Julia Bell and Paul Magrs (full disclosure - I haven't tried these, although I do own all three).

Be Flexible
Life happens. You might find yourself faced with illness or moving house, and that can throw the best made plans into chaos. The beauty of setting your own timescales is you can park the study if needs be - without losing thousands of pounds in tuition fees! There's nothing to stop you shifting the emphasis onto reading for a month, or making notes for your project, or extending your timeline by an extra six weeks. There's nothing to stop you deciding you've made a wrong turn, and you don't want to write a short story collection retelling Bible stories from the point of view of rabbits after all. The important thing is to keep moving forward with your goals, however you can.
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It's that time of year again, when everybody posts up what they've been up to for the last twelve months.

I haven't been keeping track of words, but here's the basics:
Submissions: 20 (4 still pending)
Sales: 1

So it's not been a great year, since last year I had 68 submissions and 7 sales. However, at least part of this is because of the way Real Life has shaken out. At the beginning of the year I was going through the final stages of training in my new job, so I took March off writing to just read. Then in April we decided to start looking for a house. The looking, and the buying, and the moving, pretty much swallowed the next four months. Then I moved internally at work (same job, different department), which meant a whole readjustment to being back on the phones and shifts. Things didn't really settle down again until September.

I don't really have an excuse for why I've been so rubbish from September onwards, other than that by this point I was just tired. I didn't even particularly enjoy Swanwick Writers' Summer School this time around, between the terrible food and lack of mental energy to deal two hundred other people. Not having much in the way of real holiday all year didn't help (most of it was spent packing, or moving house).

Things I have written this year:
Stories: 3.5 new (one needs typing up and the end finalising), 2 completely rewritten
Poems: 7 (5 new, 2 complete rewrites)
Miscellaneous: a few bits of random non-fiction (not all of it finished) and blog posts. I've also purged my files and deleted a lot of old work, or dragged it back into the light to be reworked.

It's better than nothing, and I wouldn't say the year's been a complete waste as I've made up for a lack of writing by doing a lot more reading and rediscovering video games - so far I've restarted Dungeon Keeper 2, Final Fantasy 7, and Dragon Age: Inquisition.

We're getting on for evening here. I probably won't get much more done in the way of writing this year, although there are a couple of submissions I'd like to get out the door. I'm making plans for next year's writing, including looking at ways of keeping better organised. Next year (tomorrow!) I have some writing samples to finish up, and I want to get that .5 of a story finished off. I'm also working my way through the rewrites mentioned above, and also thinking of giving either Reunion or Stigma a poke to see if there's anything salvageable. It's been a long time since I worked on either of those.

Onwards.
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Since it's Christmas Eve, and I doubt anyone's feeling too serious, I've dragged the Pulp-O-Mizer out from the archives. Merry Christmas!

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For today, something to play with - free online "magnetic" poetry!
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Ever wondered where a word comes from? Here's a handy Online Etymology Dictionary so you can look it up.
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This one's for poets - a free course at edX, The Art of Poetry. It's an archived course, which mean there isn't a class community, but does mean it can be done at your own pace.
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Today, a final podcast (or two) - I Should be Writing, which is aimed at beginners, and  I Should be Writing: Ditch Diggers, about the business of writing.
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A final gift idea, since there's only a week to go. The Creative Writing Coursebook is based on the University of East Anglia's creative writing courses, and is suitable for beginners and more advanced writers.
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Probably more useful to literary writers and poets than spec fic writers, the Poets and Writers Submission Calendar has handy links to competitions and awards.
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Today, we have an article for plotters, 21 Plot shapes and the Pros and Cons of Each over at InterGalactic Medicine Show.
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Here's another audio site, Tabletop Audio, ostensibly for role plays but would also be good background for writing to. This one has less Hogwarts, but does have locations such as a 1920s speakeasy, a royal salon, and a city under siege.
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For today, another gift idea: 642 Things To Write About. There's also a young writer's edition. Enough prompts to keep anyone going all year!
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Another one for more established writers tody - or at least those with a back catalogue. Prolific reprinter Deborah Walker's blog post on selling reprints - Part One and Part Two.
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I was originally going to post about this first, but then it occurred to me that how long you need is likely to depend on what the subject matter is. Investigating all the myriad subgenres of speculative fiction is likely to take longer than if you're only interested in Steampunk.

There are three way you could go about picking a deadline.
1. Decide how long you want to spend on it, and pick your books and areas of study to fit the time available. It's all too easy to look at a genre from outside, or even one you're familiar with, and see so much to learn that it leads to being overwhelmed and choice paralysis. It's also easy to decide to do All The Things, make a reading list and to do pile that will take the rest of your life, and then make yourself miserable failing to do it. Setting yourself a deadline should help with this.
2. Decide on what you want to get done and set a timescale based on it. This is the NaNoWriMo approach - "I will write 50k in 30 days!" If you know you want to write a 70k novel and read X number of books, you can plan around how many words you can write and books you can read to figure out how long it should take.
3. Decide on what you want to do, but leave it open-ended. This is actually not an approach I'd recommend. Time is finite but procrastination is infinite. Picking an end date means that choices have to be made about where this thing is going, rather than just planning it forever and never actually starting. Or finishing.

The important thing is to work with the free time you have - a writer with a full time job and three kids is likely to have less free time than one with no kids and/or no full time job. Some days it's just not possible to write, because of work, family, or general life commitments. That's fine. Goals need to be realistic, and if it's not realistic for you to write every day, then don't. What's important is to make the space for writing every day, so if you can't write do something else - read, listen to a podcast, whatever. Just make it related to your goal.

There are several well-known events in the writing calendar that can fit in with your timeline. The obvious one is NaNoWriMo in November, but there's also Camp NaNoWriMo, a "virtual writer's retreat" that runs in April and July. Also running in April and November is the Poem a Day Challenge where a poetry prompt is posted every day for a month. There's also Story a Day in May, which does the same thing with short story prompts (although to be honest some of them seem more like exercises).

I've been posting these every two weeks, but it's actually Christmas Day two weeks today so I'm going to leave it three weeks until the next one of these.
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Since some of the previous links have been for those relatively far along in their writing, this one's for beginners. FutureLearn has a free online course, Start Writing Fiction, starting on 9th January.
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Today, a podcast. The Odyssey Podcast, which is made up of 10-15 minute extracts from guest speakers at the Odyssey Writing Workshop.
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There probably isn't a speculative fiction writer out there who isn't already aware of Doug Smith's Foreign Markets List - but just in case one stumbles across this - go forth and submit reprints across the world!
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Today's entry is a website I love, because it's full of weird and wonderful things that show that sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction - http://www.atlasobscura.com/.

August 2017

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