In a real way I’ve failed. I have a half novel, a novella, and not a novel at all.
However, I’ve learned a few things – the most important of which is that I can’t write every day (even if I wanted to) and that some targets are millstones not milestones.
The Certainty of Dust exists in a readable format, just shy of 35,000 words. The draft has gone to 3 beta readers. I could do with 1, possibly 2 more beta readers – if you’d like to do so please drop me a line (I can’t offer anything apart from your name in lights in the book and my eternal gratitude if you were so kind to offer). If I hadn’t done this crazy challenge that wouldn’t have been the case. I’d still be procrastinating.
Once I have beta comments I’ll revise and edit and then send to my publisher who has asked for first refusal (so, no guarantee they’ll take it). If they refuse I’ll start punting it to various other publishers.
I have also learned that my ongoing writing crisis (caused by fear of disappointing expectation) is really a crisis and not just because I was busy. Hence the procrastinating. Despite Emma Newman‘s great advice at Fairford Festival that procrastination is just armour against fear. Fear of finishing, fear of failure, fear of success. You just have to write through it. But am I determined enough? Do I want ‘it’ enough? What is ‘it’ anyway? Publication? Fame, fortune and fast cars? The adulation of the masses and respect of my peers? Why do it? That’s something I need to ponder…
At the same time I’ve enjoyed some success (won a couple of competitions, had a story in the best of horror, shortlisted for the BFA and various people I respect telling me I’m a good writer) my novels have failed to make any splash whatsoever. My aim for Seven Deadly Swords was to get more reviews than for Sick City Syndrome. I not only got less, but some of the ones I did get were removed from Amazon. Sales-wise they’ve been poor. Both much, much poorer than A Tiding of Magpies (which also has more reviews). So each book has done worse than the one before. That sort of puts me off as writing a book is quite a lot of work. So at the same time I feel there is some expectation (based purely on the short stories really) I also feel like the books are failing to find an audience. Although Small Press publishing was always going to mean (unless you have a serious stroke of luck) a limited distribution.
My bio for a long time said I made more money from non-fiction and joked that I should write that exclusively. (It’s a close run thing now as to which has made me more money. Oh and ‘more money’ is very relative – it’s still tiny amounts in the grand scheme). Now I’m wondering if novels are where it’s at for me. Of course the counter is that my first ever novel I tried to write was published (after a *lot* of rewriting) and the second too. I wrote a few short stories before I sold any.
I’m certainly going to go and work on The Museum of Forgetting (my next short story collection, for which I am writing new stories) while waiting for the beta feedback. Coincidently that also (with 5 stories written: 4 shorts and a novelette) stands at just less than 35,000 words.
I’ve signed up to do two writing retreats next year – and I hope to get my mojo back. I’ve also bought a pile of research books for the next project, another historical fantasy set in the 1600’s. So I guess I’ll carry on with this writing lark, and try to ignore any expectation of publication or ‘success.’ For now, success is finishing books.
If you’d like to hear what the beginning of The Certainty of Dust sounds like I’ll be doing a reading at BristolCon (an expurgated version as it’s only 5 minutes) – I’ll also be at the Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion 2 launch. I’m really happy that Jo & Roz accepted a story from me, despite it being mid-crisis and my first attempt being a bit of a mess (they rightly got me to rewrite and it’s much better now). My story is called The Engine At The Heart Of The City and is set on a flying city.
Anyway. It’s Friday, it’s four o’clock so not quite Crackerjack. But it is time I put this to bed and welcomed the weekend in…
Happy Reading & Happy Writing!