Backdrop: Context for 2015.
I saw Brandon Sanderson do a post like this, and it made me reflect on my own writing for the past year. This isn’t for any audience other than myself – the point really is so I can see that yes, I actually still am writing. It’s also a chance for me to sketch out some goals for myself.
Let’s begin with the most important life change that kicked off 2015: I got a new job.
To tell you it went perfectly swimmingly and that I hit the ground running would be a complete lie. Like all major changes, there is a considerable adjustment period. It took time to get over teaching, but all the while this new job was treating me nicely, paying me well, and moreover it gave me one other crucially important thing: stability.
There is one other literally revelatory event that happened this year, and it happened in June. We went to a writing convention. There were lots of little vendors, booths, speakers, and it all fascinated me, but truly the most fascinating thing was meeting the writers. I sat down and spent the first hour just thumbing through the pamphlet of writers. Person after person had a day job, and also wrote books. Brandon Sanderson also spoke, and he was so down to earth… what really struck me with all of that was these writers are just people.
It’s such a simple concept, really. I don’t mean that I glorified authors as some sort of quasi-mystical beings who just plucked stories from the air. But seeing how many people have written a series, a trilogy, even if they aren’t top of the ranks like Sanderson, showed me that yes, it can get done. If you put in the time and finish a book, you can really sell a book. It’s not as random or ad hoc as the process is sometimes described. I realized that the biggest thing was to simply, well, write the books. That’s all. Sure, there’s minutiae to it, but just write the books.
That’s where the stability came in. I suddenly realized I did have the time to get into my writing. The confluence of these two events was a major catalyst for me to dive back into my work. And dive I did: I set to revising Deveroux and Fitch.
I realized partway through the process there was more I could be doing to hone my craft. Some of it was simply reaching out to communities of writers, some of it was diving into reading texts on writing. One of these, Scene and Structure, by Jack. M. Bickham really put a lot of the craft into perspective for me.
We had then a confluence of multiple factors: I found myself in a stable job where I had the time to write. I met some wonderful people and my eyes were opened to how much I wanted to write and how much I actually could write. And I started honing my craft to get better at what I actually do write. It was an important year for me to have that happen.
With all that very large bit of context aside, let’s talk about the meat of the matter.
The Writing – 2015
Deveroux and Fitch book 1, draft 2.
Status: In Progress. Depending on how you count it, I’m on page 247 out of 556 (in what was originally the first draft anyway). That’s 44.45%. Compared to the first draft I’m on chapter 32 out of 68 (47.05%). For the materials present in this draft after omissions I’m on chapter 21 out of 56 (37.5%). And for this draft I’m 52,391 words in out of so far 138,314 (37.87%). Clearly, metrics change, but we’re a little below half-way.
The middle of this book is what persuaded me that I needed to learn more about my craft, and it has also shown me how much that study has paid off. Now working on these scenes I’m mentally going “I could have done this first draft so much better.” It makes it frustrating to be reinventing the wheel, or to be fixing glaring holes I should have fixed by now; while it is frustration it is a continual reminder I am always growing.
I also have alpha readers. Michael Belzeski, Rachel Fakih, Leah Gates, Marika Wade, Justin Hunt, Leslie Headley. Their feedback is invaluable to me.
I also recently (as in the beginning of December) saw a post for writer-critique groups. I contacted a writer there and got some very useful feedback from her as well. It’s very interesting getting feedback from writers, and something I hope to do more of in 2016.
The Untimely Death of Theodore Baldwin
Status: Done, and submitted. I submitted this to TOR books in the fall, and have been waiting to hear back for the presumed rejection. 40 pages, 11,998 words, and I really enjoyed how the project came out. Thanks to Casey Reid, who was really helpful both in her feedback, and measured in her praise.
Status: Revised. On the one hand, it’s ready to be shipped out to readers as is. The prose is polished but I wrote it from the perspective of a completely unrelated observer character. I feel like it needs a complete rewrite from the characters to whom things are happening.
Status: Outlined, freewritten. This is a project I’m actually really excited about, because it involves dying gods, giant robots, and time travel. It’s a super fun project. It is also the first project I explicitly outlined using scene / sequel format, and it was mostly an avenue for me to play with those structural tools. It IS a really interesting concept and I am enjoying it immensely. I’m ready to begin the first draft.
Considering I got back into writing about 6 months into the year, it has been a year of learning. I’ve been learning my craft, I’m pleased with my results. On the one hand, it’s been frustrating going back to a first draft from two years ago, constantly glaring at it going “I could have done this so much better” it’s also reassuring. It’s easy to forget how far I’ve actually come. I’ve also revised 40% of a novel (with considerable rewrites, chucking outs, etc). I’ve connected with the community. Is it as far as I had hoped it would be? No. But I’m satisfied. Especially because I managed to get some work out there. Sure, it was only one short story, but it is still something that has been submitted.
The Writing – 2016 Goals
When I look ahead, there is one over-arching goal: I want to be putting more of my work out there. The intent is to start chasing being published. As the world of publishing is slow, I’m sure this is a slow process, and it is too much to hope that any of my larger work will sell this year. However, I can begin that process. Here’s my goals for the specific works:
Deveroux and Fitch
This is an exciting time for this story. First, I am going to submit it by Jan 31st to Angry Robots publishers. While I have a draft finished, I’m not comfortable with the writing in all of it. Ideally I would do another whole draft before submission. As is, I plan on polishing and submitting the first 10,000 words and taking advantage of the fact that publishing is notoriously slow to get the rest of my rewrites in. Ideal? No. but doable.
- Submit the first 10,000 words to Angry Robots January 31st.
- Finish draft 2.
- Get some beta-readers for a complete beta-read
- Revise and write draft 3.
- Start submitting it.
This is the first of a fantasy trilogy. I’ve been writing some historical fantasy, now this is my attempt at wading into the world-building that is high fantasy. This is my next project that I want to begin work on.
- Complete pre-writing for book 1. This includes characters, an outline.
- Do some preliminary sketches of the rest of the series
- Complete a first draft
- Get a better damn title than “Esper Guard.”
Deveroux and Fitch, book 2: Outlining
As I do intend Deveroux and Fitch to be a (relatively small) series, part of my pitch to Angry Robots is a sketch of what the rest of the series is going to be. As a consequence, I want to make sure I have time scheduled to revisit this and start thinking about the sequel.
- Do some pre-writing for book 2.
- Sketch an outline.
Short stories are an interesting intersection for goals. First, short stories by their nature are much more spontaneous and harder to plan out in advance. That being said, a big part of what I am trying to do is actually get my work out there. Short stories are one avenue for that to happen.
- Continue shopping Theodore Baldwin around. Explore other submission options.
- Rewrite Terrible Clouds
- Write one short-story every 3 months, and get it to at least a second draft. That means, by the end of the year, I will have 4 more short stories to shop around.
Novellas are an interesting middle ground, and it is a medium I want to explore more. First, I know TOR.com is actively accepting Novella submissions, as are many other publishers, because it is a great market for e-books. In addition, because the projects are longer I can play with some structural components that make sense in that medium as a warm-up to using them in full-fledged novels. In addition, I get the fun of doing some world-building, character development, but it’s a shorter project that will not literally consume a year of my life. There’s a few projects in this medium worth exploring.
Iron Stars is a story I am super excited about. Giant robots that are actually working for a time-traveling dead god of aliens? Holy CRAP that sounds so cool! This is a novella I really want to work on.
- Complete the first draft
- Revise the first draft
- Sketch out an outline for novella 2 and 3
Alright, this has been a whopper of a blog post. It’s been a whopper of a year for me though, and it is really helpful for me to take the time to lay out my specific goals.