19 December, 2013

2013: How Was It For You?

Last month I wrote a post I didn't want to have to write - a perspective on what it's like to not have a publishing contract a year after signing with a very good literary agency. My overall feeling, despite rejection, was positive, but 2013 hasn't been a year of sitting by my inbox waiting for those rejections to roll in. So what have I been doing instead?

2013 has not been a good year for writing. There. I've said it. In past years I've mixed writing novel drafts with a good handful of short stories and met with a few prizes (and plentiful rejections!) along the way. This year - my first as an agented author - expectations were a bit different.

With my novel, The Art of Letting Go, on submission to publishers from March I felt the pressure to get another novel under my belt as quickly as possible. I thought I had a good idea and spent the next six months working almost exclusively on it. Two drafts later and the whole project fell flat. I don't have the space here to explain, but it became obvious that I had the choice of a) re-structuring the whole thing into a different book entirely or b) putting it into the bottom drawer. I chose b. The novel was the novel I wanted to write and I still think it could work one day, even if it doesn't now. I'd rather come back to it in a few years' time and write the book I want, than spend another year writing a book I don't want to write. Perhaps that's foolish.

It wasn't wasted time of course - I learned a lot, and I do think my writing style improved - but, honestly, it feels wasted. Six months for nothing (for now!). While I was working on this second novel I barely wrote anything else - not because I didn't want to but because I found I couldn't. I'm so out of practice for short story writing - it's almost as if I can't remember how to structure anything over 1000 and under 80 000 words! I'd love to get back to short stories, but I'm struggling to know how.

In 2013 I completed just three pieces of flash fiction and one short story. I abandoned a few others. Compare that to say, 2010, where I wrote 10 pieces of flash or short fiction, of which six won prizes. That's not to say I was idle - I spent some time this year editing and submitting old stories of mine, but with limited success. I know I'm a better writer than this time last year, I know I've worked hard, but I look at where I was then and where I am now, and it's hard to see what I've achieved in 2013. So here is a little summary of the things that HAVE happened:

  • One small competition success - being shortlisted in the Flash 500 competition for March
  • Two other pieces of flash fiction were published on Everyday Fiction: a flippant re-telling of Sleeping Beauty and an imagining of what would happen if there were no more Conspiracy Theories.
  • I've blogged nearly 90 times (this is post 87!). This may seem like scraping the barrel, but I've so appreciated the interaction I've had with other writers through this blog and others.
  • Two old stories of mine - Breakdown and A Dollop of Mother - are now available for Download at Alfie Dog Fiction
  • I ran a series of guest blog posts - each a piece of flash fiction or a poem inspired by one of the signs of the zodiac and written by a different author. Not my writing exactly, but I enjoyed it very much.
  • Plenty of rejections from various quarters - a lot of which were actually very positive and encouraging, so I can count them as achievements right?

I am grateful for these things, though I do feel as if I should've been able to achieve these small victories in my spare time over one month rather than as a summation of my entire writing year. Oh well - onwards to 2014! I've just started writing another novel entirely and am finding the process a lot more frightening and uncertain than before. BUT I am enjoying it more too. I am writing because I want to again, not because it is expected.

I'm not setting goals for 2014. Many of my dreams are now out of my hands anyway, but the main reason for this is that my husband and I are expecting our first baby in about three months' time. Who knows what life will look like after that?! The only thing I'm sure of is that 2014 will include plenty of writing of some sort. Because I love it. So to summarise the year: I am a better writer, I understand more about the technical aspects of writing fiction, I am not entirely discontent just deflated.

How has 2013 treated you? Whether you had a fabulous or terrible 2013 (and I'd like to make it clear that, apart from writing, my life was pretty great this year!), have a very merry Christmas!




13 comments:

  1. 2013 has treated us really rather well. Here's to a very special 2014, which I'm sure will be true regardless of how many stories you write :)

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    1. Oh and I've definitely written more in 2013 than for many many years thanks to my first full year of blogging, and writing a story for your series. I'm making no claims about quality, but there has been been a marked increase in quantity.

      Whether its the novel for now or for a few years time, you wrote a novel this year. A whole one. That to me is pretty impressive!

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    2. Thank-you :) A whole novel TWICE no less!

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  2. It's funny how so many writers fall into that writing because you have to (and not enjoying it) trap and not because you want to. Usually after becoming agented and/or published of course.

    You've still accomplished a lot,so be proud of yourself!

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    1. Thank-you. I think sometimes we all need reminders of why we do what we do and not why we think we do it!

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  3. You look stunning in that photo! Great pregnancy shot. I think you've done better than you think. Many years are not "fruitful" but then that's because you're putting in the hard graft and the success all comes at once (probably next year).

    But you can't have success without the work. Long, hard work. Plus, you can't win them all otherwise other writers wouldn't get their day either ;). All swings and roundabouts as they say. You'll get there. All in good time. We're in for the long game. Plus, you have a baby on the way. That is a HUGE accomplishment for the year. :)

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    1. Aww, thanks! We're trying to get regular photos and I look flustered and fat in most, so I told Paul we had to get one nice photo during pregnancy sometimes... I think this might be it!

      I know I wouldn't want success without the hard work as it wouldn't be satisfying. Just sometimes I think I wouldn't mind! Every run I did as an athlete we used to say was "miles in the bank" - made me fitter even if the run itself wasn't spectacular. I will try to think of this year as a couple of hundred thousand words in the bank - may not be my best but make me a fitter writer!

      Thank-you again. I didn't want to be sappy and say that expecting a baby has put things into a bit more perspective for me so I didn't, but it is true :)

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  4. While we writers 'write to live' it's really important to put the pen down and get out there and engage with life. Everything you've done this year has enriched who you are and that will inevitably find its way through to the page (not necessarily the details, but certainly in your perspective and attitude to living). Wishing you an amazing 2014. PS Thanks for giving me a space in the Zodiac blog collection - great fund to do!

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    1. Thanks, Derek. And thanks for joining in with Team Zodiac!

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  5. Great to see you blooming! I've had a busy 2013 but I've just been reading about Georges Simenon, who I've never read but now intend to. He was phenomenally prolific, and could apparently write a 90k novel in 20 days - and they were pretty good by all accounts!

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    1. Well some people just make you sick, don't they?! ;)

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  6. It's strange, but 2013 has seemed quite a tough year for many of the writers I know. Aside from your Zodiac challenge, I've not placed a single piece of fiction during the whole year (the only thing I've had published in 2013 I'd sent out in late 2012). I haven't hit 0% acceptance since I started writing, getting on for 10 years ago. It doesn't feel good!

    I can imagine it's very difficult to be in your position - agented and getting very encouraging rejections but no actual publishing contract - and to stay focussed on writing any one thing. It sounds like you've made the right decision in terms of putting the one that wasn't working aside. I'm sure you'll come back to it with renewed enthusiasm when the time is right.

    I wish you all the very best for 2014, and - before that - a very Happy Christmas!

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    1. Thank-you. You too. It's nice to know writers who know how it feels, but I hope this time next year we can both know how it feels to have had an amazing and successful year!

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