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!