At the turning of the year, it is the custom among my people to reflect on what has passed and what is yet to come.
Of course by “my people” I am talking about self-absorbed writers on the internet, and by “reflect” I mean complain and self-sabotage. Which in fairness is not a terrible summary of 2017.
I’d like to leave aside the toxic waste fire smouldering its way through the political systems of the English-speaking world (which a special shout-out to New Zealand, who seemed to keep it together better than most). But realistically, spending the entire year watching helplessly as civil institutions were not so much eroded as blasted with high-pressure acid hoses, while a great orange paralysis tick tried to bloviate the world into a limited nuclear exchange, and various other supposed servants of the people demonstrated themselves to be almost clownishly venal and corrupt, it’s kind of hard to ignore all that.
It certainly had an impact on my work. Looking back on my resolutions for the year – which I will allow are more laughable intentions than concrete plans – I wanted to write a trilogy of novels by the end of December. As I write this, it is very nearly the end of December and I am quietly confident that the remaining 200,000 words of that target will not scrape in under the NYE wire.
The first book – a YA science fiction survival adventure called A Flash of Black Wings – is drafted. The sequels are outlined and ready to go. In theory at any point in 2017 I could have cranked out some editable manuscripts in three to four months. I’ve never pulled the trigger on them. They’ve stayed in the “Ready to go” drawer.
Why? Among many reasons, the foremost is I decided I just didn’t want to write them. Not that there’s anything much wrong with them – they’re fun action-adventure romps with friendships, drama and numerous objects exploding – but having written the first one, I found myself unenthusiastic for taking on the sequels. It wasn’t fatigue or an unusual failure of confidence – I just didn’t like the book that much. It didn’t feel like a strong enough opening hand.
So what did I write instead?
Up until mid-year, I worked on longer stories – several in the 10-20k range. A couple of them were finished, a couple are still ongoing. I completed the first story in the Orphans’ Moon serial, which runs in my subscribers-only newsletter (which is free, by the way).
I also wrote a long fantasy Western story, finished a couple of nagging projects and sent them out on submission, and started what looks like a novella-length yarn pitting doomsday-seeking cultists against an ancient and uncooperative dragon.
Then in July I started the flash fiction project.
Having a weekly writing commitment has been great for feeling productive – I’ve always responded better to hard deadlines than vague commitments. I’ve posted a complete short story by 7:30 am every Friday morning for the past six months or so (this week’s Christmas-themed story was the 25th). So far I haven’t missed one, though it’s been close on occasions. The glue is still wet on a few of them.
Oddly, the weekly flash goal has boosted the rest of my writing. I’ve finished a couple of extra short stories, including two anthology submission pieces, and started several others. Until I went through the spreadsheet where I record my writing sessions, I thought it had been a lean year. In fact I’ve been as productive as ever, if not moreso.
If I go by my publication stats, that’s where 2017 comes across as a mild disappointment. I’ve kept up a pretty disciplined routine of submitting stories to publishers – online magazines, anthologies and so on – with only middling success. I’ve been grateful for a handful of acceptances, but so far only one has come out (‘Burn the Future’ in Andromeda Spaceways 69). I have a maddeningly large stable of stories due out sometime in the uncertain future.
So the year was bookended by my two publications – ‘Mnemo’s Memory’ in The Worlds of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Volume 2 in January, and ‘Burn the Future’ in December’s Andromeda Spaceways.
Not bad, but I feel like I can do better in 2018. More on that in another post.