In a rare break from story, I wanted to have a quick review of 2013. Looking back can sometimes be as useful as looking forward, if only to get a real sense of how far I’ve come, and perhaps learn something along the way.
So first, a quick list. In 2013, I have done the following:
Written a little under 1 million words.
This equates to…
Nine full length novels, either contemporary fantasy, epic fantasy or sci-fi, but not yet with any dragons.
Nine novellas, all scifi.
Twenty-ish short stories, of varying lengths, and various genres.
One, very bad, young adult romance novella that shall never see the light of day.
Edited four novellas, and two novels, and found, if not joy in the doing, then at least a great deal of satisfaction.
I have, after six painful months, found what I want to blog, and for the last three months, maintained a blogging schedule of three times a week.
Created, maintained and enjoyed a twitter account, a goodreads account, a facebook page, and a pinterest account. I say enjoyed, because of all the things I dreaded doing twelve months ago, social media was right at the top of the list. It turns out, I enjoy twitter almost as much as throwing some poor character into almost certain death. Whilst eating chocolate brownie. That’s me eating the brownie, not the character. They’re normally screaming, or looking up at me as I play with their strings, with that sort of ‘really? Do I have to?’ look on their face.
And last, but by no means least, published a full length novel, and three novellas, all of which I am thoroughly proud of, and still see as only the tip of the iceberg.
Actually, sorry, not quite last. I’ve also sampled at least seven different brownie recipes and found one I consider to be the pinnacle of the chocolate brownie world.
So what have I learned?
1. Always be writing: I write every day. This is partially because I told my family I would, and with brothers like mine, you don’t mess around with those sorts of things. It’s also because I love it, and can’t imagine doing anything else on a Saturday night. Nah, just kidding. Actually, not so much.
On a serious note, though, I believe the very act of writing makes us creative. For anyone struggling to get the words out, or make the ideas flow, just keep writing. Write anything. Start with a sentence, then figure out how the next sentence can make the first one really interesting. Then work out how the third sentence can make the character come to life. Then work out how the fourth sentence can introduce chocolate brownies to the story…
2. Time is precious: this isn’t so much to do with putting aside that set time, and making it clear to those around you that to disturb you could very well tear a hole in the space time continuum, and create a very grumpy writer bear, although I do think that’s a good idea.
No, this is about using every second you have. Where once, I might have taken a queue to mean Angry Birds time, it’s now a chance to find a blog through twitter, and learn something new about writing. Where I could once have spent quality time with my wife and child, I now barricade myself in the bedroom and, in the seven minutes it takes them to break through the quilts and pillows, scribble down a couple of hundred words.
More seriously though, it’s about recognizing when you are wasting time, and putting it to use.
3. The people you work with are crucial to your success: When I began this back in January, I was lucky to have some very experienced and helpful friends to call, and they put me in touch, or pointed me in the direction of, the people who now, in my own little head-based universe, make up my team. My editor, Steve Parolini, I cannot recommend enough. My cover designer, Derek Murphy gave my first book early recognition through the sheer quality of his work, and my print formatting is looking very lovely so far thanks to the great products now being created by JF Bookman. Add to that my wife, who through endless support, patience, tea, and of course, chocolate brownie, has made it seem easy, and you realize how lost I would be without those people
4. You gotta play the long game: my initial sales were pretty poor. There’s no denying it, nor shall I ever. But having said that, we did no advertising, relying only on my social media presence, and a relatively small blog tour. So it was friends, those who caught the tour and liked the sound of the book, and maybe a few others. But that was fine. Because I’m not here for a year or two. I will be writing in ten years, I’ll be much better at it, and I’ll have a heck of a lot more books out. Hopefully by then, we’ll be able to afford some advertising too J
5. Keep an eye out for the coincidence: This is maybe a weird one, but I haven’t been able to avoid the strange way in which twitter brings me what I need. There I am, sat on the sofa, thinking how badly I need to get a really good handle on the correct way to write dialogue. Flick through my stream and lo and behold, there are three blogs back-to-back about dialogue. Two days later, I’m looking for brownie recipes and bam, more blogs about writing. Amazing. However, all of those blogs will be about something I haven’t even considered, and help me take another step on the road to being better than I was yesterday.
6. Relationships are good: My first blog tour, which was beyond exciting for an introvert like me, came about because of the relationships I’d built on Twitter. My wife told me, at least one or two thousand times, that knowing ten people well on twitter was worth a thousand followers, and she was, predictably, yet still sickeningly, entirely right. I’ve been blessed with the people I have met. They have been generous to a fault, made me laugh, made me feel good when I’ve run out of chocolate, and a hundred other things.
So, 2013 has been pretty busy for me. It’s also been thrilling, revelatory, tiring, chocolaty, frustrating and satisfying. Indeed, much like eating a chocolate brownie. Except the tired bit, I could eat brownie forever.
Best wishes for the New Year, here’s to making it tastier than the last one.