Clarion West Write-a-thon 2021

Breanne Boland

June 7, 2021 - July 31, 2021

Breanne Boland is writing fantasy this summer.

My Writing Goals

During the Write-a-thon, I'll keep writing at least a thousand words per day, with the stretch goal of finishing a first draft of the fantasy novel I'm working on. I'll update daily (here or on Twitter, whichever makes sense), and I'll include a sentence I like if it's not too precious to the plot.

The real goal is a thousand words a day, but life sometimes happens, so my overall goal is 42,000 new words.

All donations support Clarion West workshops and outreach programs. If you are even a casual fan of speculative fiction, you have probably enjoyed the work of a writer who has benefited from Clarion West's work.

P.S. If you donate, I'll send you an excerpt of at least ten pages at the end of all this. Digital or hardcopy in some kind of zine form, whichever pleases you.

Other things I've written

You can see pieces about travel or, more recently, pieces about thinking about travel from the safety of my couch at Deviation Obligatoire.

If you like blog posts about tech and technical conference presentations, head to my professional site.

I've also just started a monthly newsletter about writing called Optional but Encouraged.

Writing Progress

July 31

Here we are!!! And I'm done! 1,653 words, for 97,917. "Time is less a straight line than layers of sedimentary rock, all pushing down on each other." And that's it for the first draft! I finished up a bunch of little note sections tonight, and I wrote down what I know needs to happen in the second draft. But I'm done! And so many fun things with timelines and juxtaposition to come in draft two... in a while. Thanks for bobbing along with me on this project. It's been a great six weeks.

July 30

Oh my goodness, we're almost there. 1,100 words, for 96,825. "Nostalgia is poison. Just let it be known that I’m aware of that." I'm actually going to finish this draft tomorrow. I have one more section to finish and then need to do a scan for anything I still want to put in this draft. Whatever it is, it'll be done tomorrow. Whew.

July 29

1,061 words, for 95,725. "For some, I’ll care for your land is as loving as it comes." Another tough day of writing. Almost there, though.

July 28

1,035 words, for 94,664. "The warm water in my hair, the skilled hands at my flesh in Pen’s bed." I slept badly last night and had a very full day - generally good, but still - and words came sooooo slowly. But I did it. Tomorrow, with more sleep and time, I'll determine if maybe, just maybe I'm done with this draft.

July 27

1,143 words, for 93,629. "A torch made the sliver of wall I could see through the slot in the door flicker and dance in warm colors." The second issue of the writing newsletter is out.

July 26

1,435 words, for 92,489. "There was something to their voice I didn’t like, like they’d witnessed a compassionate person talking and were trying, profanely, to mimic it." I finished The Love Study last night, which did interesting things both in keeping with typical rom-com novels while also subverting other tropes. I also have a Deviation Obligatoire post coming out later today, and the second dispatch of my writing newsletter goes out tomorrow.

July 25

1,223 words, for 92,083. "I can take petty cruelties if it’s in trade for survival." A long, very warm, very sweaty day of outdoor theater and roaming around, and it was physically tough enough that I thought I might come home and find my mind defensively blanking, but it didn't, which was kind of it. Must've been that two liters of ice water I drank with dinner as a bribe. I can't tell for sure yet, but I may be working on the last section of the first draft. After I finish it, I'm going to read through all my notes, make sure I've hit everything I wanted to in this first bout of writing, and... possibly declare draft one done, thus hitting my second of my three goals for the Write-a-thon.

I also did a little research tonight on a different project: I walked around the Upper West Side looking for a character's apartment building. The one I've had in my head is influenced heavily by Astoria and by an Airbnb apartment I stayed in in the UWS in 2018, and I wanted to ground it in reality. It is wonderful and weird and wonderful to walk into the real version of something based on reality but colored deeply by imagination over the last fourteen months. I can't wait to do more of that on this trip.

July 24

2,082 words, for 90,850. "I chose the gentler exploitation." I finished The House in the Cerulean Sea last night (staying up until past three to get to the end, whew) and now am onto The Love Study by Kris Ripper.

July 23

1,337 words, for 88,770. "I could see him doing the math on his own risks of traveling with me: me as I was, me as the person who’d just stabbed her double in an alley, me as the person who begged his help to hide a body." I wrote in bed after eating takeout crepes, deep into the evening after a long day outside, which included getting caught in my first balmy summer rain in several years. I'm reading The House in the Cerulean Sea after getting praise about it in a writing class and all over social media, and it is just as much of a hug as I was told. I read it all over Manhattan today, and it was fine company.

July 22

1,601 words, for 87,433. I did some deletion acceptance last night, old notes turned into actual prose. “Spending time with you is supposed to be when I don’t have to hide bodies!” I wrote in New York at London Writers' Hour - the west coast edition, ironically enough, and only the second time I've ever made it to that one, because 8 am PDT when I'm on west coast time is, uh, not great timing for me.

July 21

3,243 words, for 86,663 (the word count of the beast, obviously). "Bloodlust, it turned out, was much easier to handle when I had brute strength to go with it." I wrote on a literal airplane for the first time in 16 months, next to a tall man squeezed into a middle seat who didn't elbow me even once. London Writers' Hour helped train me to write or do nothing; taking that skill on a plane with a nonfunctioning electrical outlet and a diminishing laptop battery apparently is the magic recipe for a really rather lovely word count for the day. I thought maybe I'd be able to edit one of my other projects after, but I got about a page in before my brain said, "Baby, you slept for 4.5 hours last night, and every syllable you just typed was a miracle. THAT'S ENOUGH." I finished the new Becky Chambers book instead and watched the first 30-odd minutes of The Royal Tenenbaums. I write to you now from a compact hotel room in New York, which is blessed with excellent AC. I've eaten nothing but baked goods, gummy bears, and pretzels today. Next stop: something with actual plant in it before I pass out hard.

July 20

2,272 words, for 83,443. "The wax had faded, leaching its golden color onto the white ribbon it held." Tomorrow I leave for New York to set my heart free from the cage that's formed across quarantine but also do to writerly things at what I've named the Sweaty Flaps Writing Residency. I plan to finish this first draft while I'm there, edit a short story, and keep working on the revision of the first novel I finished during quarantine, which is now on draft three. Most recently, I cut 7,000 words out of a pared-down version of it; my hope is to get that version to less than 70,000 words and then put back only what's needed to support its central storyline. Draft two got bloated and roamed too much; this time, there'll be reins.

July 19

2,025 words, for 81,170. "I never have liked understanding the nature of my next demise." I wrote during London Writers' Hour. I also published a new travel blog post today, about threat modeling (usually a security engineering process) and how I'm planning my upcoming vacation. I just totaled up my writing for this event, and as of today, I'm at 45,736 new words in the first 30 days of this 42-day event. Now: onto the stretch goal of finishing this draft! I have a long flight on Wednesday, which I think will help a lot.

July 18

1,253 words, for 79,137. "Books were too precious to use as punishment." I wrote during London Writers' Hour, and I spent part of the time editing the blog post going up tomorrow on Deviation Obligatoire. I just finished my first of five weeks off between jobs, and this will be the second of five weekly posts I plan to publish while I'm off. This one applies threat modeling (an essential skill in my work as a security engineer) to pandemic vacation planning.

July 17

1,216 words, for 77,884. "I stood there for a long time, remembering the sound the skirts made as I walked, grieving that Gwyn’s name would never be on a small museum placard, that she’d be yet another pair of anonymous hands that made beautiful things for the wealthy to enjoy." Tech conference day two, but I squeezed writing in in the afternoon.

July 16

1,627 words, for 76,668. "On my way out of town, I buried my anvil next to some trees." Every word's a miracle today because I'm doing a tech conference talk in an hour, and my brain is alllllll over the place.

July 15

2,008 words, for 75,028. "Always twist the knife." This came after the class Geographies of Fear with Ian Muneshwar and Erin Roberts, which was fabulous - so much interesting stuff about familiar and unfamiliar locations, your character's sense of safety or danger, what the reader knows vs. what the character knows, and how to play with all of it to get the effect you want.

July 14

2,240 words, for 73,006 during LWH. "I’d met plenty of stupid mortals, but on the whole, I didn’t feel like they were significantly worse than I was."

July 13

2,352 words, for 71,564. "The more he spoke, the less human his voice sounded, the smooth tones giving way to something reminiscent of ancient stones grinding together, the mechanics of the world itself."

July 12

2,064 words, for 69,212. (I wrote a little past the end of LWH to get to two thousand words, but now I realized I missed an opportunity to get to 69,420. Oh well.) "I hated that she could ask for violence and smile while she did it." I totaled my Write-a-thon words yesterday, curious of how I was doing around the midpoint, and I'm at 33,015, which puts me ahead of the word-count part of my goal of 42,000. The other goal, of course, is writing a thousand words a day, which is going swimmingly, and should only get better now that I'm in the funemployment phase of the summer. I'll probably push in a particular way to get to the end of this draft over the next couple of weeks, but I think I'll probably hit it around the end of this event, even if I just stuck to a bare thousand words a day. That is very exciting.

July 11

3,067 words, for 67,148. "And he whispered my first name, my true name, and grinned when he saw the chill it put through me." I wrote before the You Wrote a Book. Now What? class I took this afternoon, then went and saw a friend (a friend! in her house! both of us!) and came home and wrote some more, hence the chunky word count. Of course, getting another day out from working life didn't hurt either.

July 10

1,358 words, for 64,081. Today I am unemployed, which is a delight. I spent the bulk of the afternoon taking a class in flashbacks. It was aimed at memoirists, and I am at best an occasional personal essayist, but I actually really like taking technique classes aimed at people working in different genres than I do. Having to think a little to transfer parts of it to what I'm doing helps me understand it better. This is also why I often take a session in poetry when Hugo House does their Write-o-rama events.

July 9

1,458 words, for 62,725. Tomorrow marks the start of five weeks between the job I finished today and the one I start in August. I'm very happy about this. There's going to be a lot of writing and editing in that time. "Sometimes we healed, and debris got left behind."

July 8

1,307 words, for 61,267. I did that notes pruning and some reorganization last night, making this a truer measure. "Generally it was better than perpetually staying on the periphery on purpose, but then there were these moments where I didn’t even have privacy inside my own head."

July 7

1,605 words during London Writers' Hour, for 61,073. (It's about time to pare some notes, I think.) "She looked up and to the right, the same gaze into the middle distance that usually accompanied her god rage."

July 6

1,094 words, for 59,468. '“Give me tea, and you can tell me anything,” she said, stretching her arms over her head.'

July 5

1,318 words during London Writers' Hour, for 58,376. "No wonder he remained unfazed by all the weird demands of the Forgotten Immortal Wing." And my first writing newsletter came out! You can see it here (and subscribe too, I hope!). In the evening, I watched an excellent Clarion panel from writers who had their first books come out in the last year.

July 4

2,054 during a very fruitful London Writers' Hour, for 57,058. “It isn’t my fault if the nature of your life means that sincere condolences sound sarcastic.” Yesterday, after posting the day's word count, I did some travel blog work too: adding to and editing a draft post about encounters with people as the world opens up again and writing something new about the strange process of planning a large trip when everything about a vacation was OMG IMMORAL DANGER for the last 15 months.

July 3

1,172 words for 55,004. "One of the consistent guidelines across the centuries: tip the help, and tip better for good help."

July 2

1,081 words for 53,833. "We could smoke and lick handrails in public transportation, we could eat terribly and never move, avoid all mindfulness and pursue only the most stressful situations, and we’d be unchanged."

July 1

1,486 words for 52,752. "Guillotines, trebuchets, guns, airplanes, ocean liners: everything that can be used as an instrument of death had a first time, and I’ve usually had a first time with it." Today was long, but on the plus side, you can now subscribe to a newsletter where I'm going to talk about writing, reading, and everything in my life that touches it (so... everything).

June 30

1,207 words for 51,266. "My grief began ebbing, giving way to that slow pump of fear, the kind that brings the skin alive, that collects all the details of a room. Especially the exits."

June 29

1,461 words for 50,059. "It marked the first and one of the only times I’ve ever gotten to aim above subsistence." Another London Writers' Hour. ❤️

June 28

1,380 words for 48,599. "We’re meant to have an arc, not an endless straight line."

June 27

1,071 words for 47,219. "Artists need grist for the mill, and a sketch of you while sleeping can end up as the Virgin Mary in ecstatic repose, or a girl working at a mill, or someone in a crowd scene."

June 26

1,287 words for 46,148. "It was the small and interpersonal writ large, fields of blood and burnt cities because communication became impossible." I wrote until past midnight for the last couple of nights because of STUFF going on. Stuff is done, and today I wrote in the middle of the afternoon. I missed it.

June 25

1,018 words for 44,861. "I learned to slip into his chamber in the hour just before dawn, when he tired himself out and sprawled, snoring and repellent across his thick bedding." Goal: write during daylight tomorrow. The last two days have been a lot, and it's gotten pushed to late into the night. At least today it was pushed off by going out dancing, which I've been longing to do since last April.

June 24

1,049 words, for 43,916. "It’s something that so many of us feel so very comfortable telling other people they’re not a person: not correct, not believable, not real, not true. And we never realize quite how often it happens until it’s finally pointed at us."

June 23

1,670 words, for 42,874. "The greatest horror comes from the most ordinary things."

I did a Clarion class tonight with D.A. Navoti tonight that talked about, among other things, branding as a writer. As a one-time content marketer (who was both reluctant and, honestly, so-so at it at best), I'm a little resistant to applying ideas like this to the creative work I love, but the question of who I am as a writer is an interesting one. I spent last May through, oh, kind of now writing regular non-speculative fiction for the first time in years and years, and now I'm back in fantasyland, so the "who shall I be as a writer" question is timely. The best one-word description I came up with is "nerdlove." It's a good start.

June 22

1,684 words at London Writers' Hour, for 41,204. "I tried not to say it, but the words sprung out one by one like soybeans freed from the pod."

June 21

1,083 words, for 39,248. "So then I found myself sitting at my cafe table as the world’s shittiest demigod and I ate canned fruit out of my green glass bowls, the ones I’d bought 60 or 70 years before on a trip to town."

June 20

1,043 words, for 38,219. "Possibly more than almost anyone, I’ve lost patience for attainable pleasures being denied."

I also took two (!) writing classes today: Cat Rambo's Hopepunk class and Dial Up Your Dialogue with Lish McBride through Hugo House. Sometimes two things I want to do happen right next to each other. It's been a wordy day.

What I Write

Historically, I've written fantasy and scifi. There's a partial fantasy novel draft, flawed but close to my heart, somewhere in my college's library, the capstone project that meant I got a BFA instead of just a BA.

A weird thing happened in the last, you know, pandemic number of months, though. Things like "going outside" and "sitting in a bar" became as far-fetched as anything I could've dreamed up, and I started writing much more ordinary fiction for the first time in years and years. I'm still working on that, but for this event, I'll be focusing on something more speculative, which is also really fun. My current description of it is "Addie LaRue meets The Vampire Chronicles." (Which I guess means I'm writing about a bunch of old, dramatic people, which suits.)

Anyway, we'll see if that shifts.

Actual Physical Publications

I've written a lot of zines, which you can find on Etsy. The most recent one is a fiction project, a departure for me.

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  • Mehran Baluch Good luck! July 2021 $15.00
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  • Aimee Cerullo Breanne, make me a zine! Also, good luck and I can't wait to see what you do. Xoxo June 2021
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