2010 was a limbo year for me as a writer, but an important one.
With the acceptance of ‘Jetsam’ to New Horizons magazine, I started the year on a high. Having someone pick up that story was immensely important to me; some personal validation that this whole fiction malarkey wasn’t some fool’s errand and that I could actually do it.
But I came to accept that I am not naturally a short story writer and that my strength lay in novel fiction. Or at least this is what I believe given that my novels seem so much ‘more’ than my short fiction. This is where I’ve put the effort in 2010 and I’ve had to remind myself as I’ve watched others enjoy short story success. It’s so easy to get jealous of others when you have no yardstick by which to measure your own progress.
Success also came in the form of my co-written (author 5 of 7, or 6 of 7 or whatever it is) non-fiction book getting in the British Fantasy Awards long list. It was through this that I found that I can’t handle success very well, and I somehow ended up getting really depressed about the accolade until my friend Sam kindly gave me a virtual slap. I think if I should ever be so lucky as to get an accolade again, I’ll just take myself off for a day and get over it.
The big work of 2010 has been the novel and as frustrating as it is be so behind where I wanted to be, it hasn’t been for lack of effort.
July saw the awful realisation that what I thought was one novel was actually two. This was both exciting and frustrating. I could almost hear my friends’ sighs as I announced the book was almost finished only for me to announce I needed to rewrite.
“Why do you need to keep rewriting? Are you going to be one of these people who tinkers with their novel until their death?”
I don’t think so. I know in my head the standard I need this novel to be.
But a rewrite was what was needed and I still don’t regret it. Book 1 now feels like a solid book; a really solid book. People who have read excerpts have been universally positive, although I’ve not used it as an excuse to rest on my laurels. Instead it’s spurred me on more.
September saw the completion of the “first draft” of the revised book, although the term “first draft” is a little misleading. Many parts of this book are well over twenty drafts. It felt like a major victory and for the first time it felt approaching the book I wanted it to be.
The autumn saw all manners of disruption in my personal life as the house seemed to fall apart around me. This really affected my writing and any semblance of a plan or self-imposed deadline for editing the novel went out the window.
Editing has been a laboriously slow process, partly because I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing and because I’ve worked really hard at it. There’s also a little fear here as well. I’ve yet to find anything even approaching this book on shelves (I mean, there are elements that are very familiar, but it doesn’t sit nicely in any one sub-genre). There may be very good reason for not seeing books like this on shelves, but I find myself feeling guilty that this novel could be special (and secretly excited, because every time I go back to work on it I find the semblance of a novel I really love). But whether it’s good or not I don’t want people saying that the prose let it down. Hence more hard work.
My lack of confidence in my work has let me down a lot I think. For me, the divide between over-confidence and lack of confidence is razor thin. I’ve yet to find the right balance. I think I perhaps need a year being over-confident, even if that makes me a tiny bit of an ass.
When I did the old website, I used to get in from work at 6pm and work pretty much solidly until Midnight. That slacked off a bit in the later years but when I gave up the site in order to make time to write. However, I’ve felt guilty that I wasn’t writing 6 hours a night. It’s taken some time to realise it’s OK to only write for an hour or two, but I think I got there this year. In a bizarre way, I think it’s helped improve my productivity (although I still subscribe to the idea that you should find new hobbies through which to procrastinate).
However, I think the most important thing about 2010 was twitter or the friends I gained from it. I’m not sure exactly how it all happened either, it just materialised. Whereas I’ve had a miserable time at conventions being Billy No-mates, Eastercon proved a completely different experience. With Adam, Amanda, Jason, Cara, Mark, Sam, Liz, Mark, James and a load of others (probably including some important ones) we seemed to have a bit of a posse going on. Yes the drinks were expensive in the pros bar, but I had such a great time. So much so that Fantasycon was a completely different experience to previous years. I also attended two Alt.Fiction events and enjoyed them both.
I know some will go on about how networking is important, but for me it’s about having like-minded friends. They have no idea just how much they have helped me keep my sanity this year.
So onto 2011.
The pessimist in me says that if 2010 was the year of limbo, then 2011 will be the year of rejection. But that’s just me being pessimistic. In reality I think it’ll be a year of hard work and waiting. The novel is good now, but I believe it can be great. However, that’s only gonna happen with a bucket-tonne of editing. That’ll take time, but I hope that by the summer I’ll be submitting to agents.
I won’t know what writing I will do in 2011 as a lot depends to the initial reception to Book 1 (A New Year’s resolution has to be to find the darned book a name). If people like it, I’ll start on book 2, if they hate it I might do something different.
This will be the first year where I don’t have “write THE book” as one of my resolutions (admittedly over the years ‘THE book’ has applied to different novels) so I guess that’s progress. However, I think even if 2011 goes amazingly well, it’ll still be another limbo year. The trick is to just keep plodding on, word by word.
I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait