2016 (The Year in Writing)

I’m a little late in putting this together.  2017 has been Interesting Times (as it has been for everyone).  Still, I’m taking a moment in between literary marathons to take a look back at the landscape.  Figure out what I did, how it turned out, and a rough sketch of where I’m going.  (Some of which, as it happens, is already in progress.)

So.  How’d I do?

Rail car from the docks to Montjuic in Barcelona
The jumping off point.

1. That’s a Lot of Words.

Between writing and editing, I broke 250,000 words in 2016.  It didn’t seem like a lot at the time, but with three manuscripts in rotation (one finished, one started, and one given a gamma draft), there was a lot.  In a way, I didn’t think I’d had that much to say last year.  Turns out I was in error on that.

The total also includes a few short stories, some of which have gone into circulation and consideration.  Speaking of which:
2. Better Luck Next Year?

No publishing credits in 2016.  It was, for better or for worse, my first full year at it.  I’d cycled some novel query letters in 2015, but 2016 saw more queries, more shorts, more markets.  So while I didn’t have a breakthrough, I did learn a lot about:

  1. Querying agents.  It might be well and good to scope querytracker.net, but everyone’s perceptions of a genre (and their favorites within it) vary wildly.  So if I’m shopping science fiction, that’s a lot of time to spend culling out someone looking for the next ‘Hunger Games’ vs. someone looking for the next ‘Neuromancer.’
  2. Story markets.  I read a lot more in 2016 than I have in years.  Smarting a bit from form letter queries from the agents, it hit me that if I’m going to sub to various publications, knowing the audience and knowing tastes makes a lot of sense.   It sounds simple, right?  See previous bullet point.  The pro markets for SFWA (where I’m roughly aiming) cater to a large clientele with a lot of different forms of content.  
  3. How to handle rejection.  I sort of smiled a bit through 2015.  In 2016, I had to cope with a lot of no.  That’s not a bad thing.  It means I’m putting myself out there.  It takes a certain bravery to write for an audience.  Certainly it was way easier to please a few people in a coffee shop.  It took a year to build up that sense that it’s not personal.  I’m glad I did.

If it seems a bit odd to brag over the number of times I was rejected — for what it’s worth, it wasn’t a year of form letters.  (Or, at least, not entirely.) Both for stories and novels, I received replies that offered good feedback.  A couple of manuscript requests as well – which, even if they didn’t pan out, did seem to tell me I wasn’t doing so badly.

I have no year quite like it against which to compare, though, so perhaps anything was going to seem reasonable.
3. No blogging.

Uh, whoops.  Sorry about that.
4.  Gamma draft – clearing the 100k ceiling

The biggest effort was overhauling the current WIP (or, at least, the furthest one along).  It had been parked near 94K, comfortably within the starting range for a debut novel.  (Since, unless the one I’m shopping sells, it might well be.). Beta feedback told me, rather rightly, that I should just tell the damn story first.  And tell it I did.

+26,000 words later, it’s a completely new book.  It needs some trimming, I’m sure.  But it tells a better and more cohesive story now.  Now I just have to figure out which words to remove.
What’s next?

Good question.  One novel to shop.  One novel to polish up and get ready to shop.  One starting a beta draft.  One for which I need to finish an alpha draft.  About a dozen short stories in a state of constant revision and refinement as I tag them for new markets.  Meeting a local writing group, to get out of my shell.  

There’s a lot I could be doing.  Especially when one considers that I fit all this into the context of my quotidian routine.  It seems a long way to go.

But then, I look back to 2015 — 250,000 words ago — and realize that, when I put my head down, I can accomplish a lot.  Even in my “spare” time.

Let’s see what I can do with the year ahead.


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