How Was Your Writing Year?

My Favourite Reads of 2018

Review The Endless (2018)

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Paul Whybrow

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Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
Even accepting that Time is an artificial man-made construct, it's impossible to resist judging one's progress by the pesky calendar.

At the tail end of the year, looking back on your accomplishments, it's easy to beat yourself up for what you didn't do, forgetting how much work you did to make progress. Writing stories means constantly learning, including discovering things about yourself, which is why I find it so stimulating.

When I returned to creative writing in 2013, I knew that it would take a while to get anywhere, for, after all, these days anyone can write and publish a novel, so there's a lot of competition. Noah Lukeman says the same thing in a free download called Ask A Literary Agent (Year One):

'You can attain major credentials on your own, but first you must prepare for a sustained effort. Instead of a three or six-month plan to attain all the credentials you need, why not give yourself a three or six-year plan? With that kind of time, you can attend writing programs, workshops, conferences, colonies; spend extensive time networking and build an endorsement list; get stories published in magazines and online; begin to build a platform; and most importantly, hone your craft extensively.'

Ask a Literary Agent (free e-book) by Noah Lukeman

Every new year starts optimistically, which is as it should be: we all say to ourselves"This will be the year that I...." A writer needs faith in their own abilities, even arrogance, to get anywhere. Such cockiness is absolutely essential to self-promote, be it through querying literary agents or running social media accounts and blogging to support self-publication.

I wasn't feeling that enchanted with publishing as 2017 ended, for I'd made about 50 queries early in the year, to add to 450 I made in 2015, so I decided to return to writing more material. I penned the second novella in a series about an American Civil War cavalry officer travelling from the Appalachians to help his sister rebuild her Atlanta plantation in the post-war Reconstruction era.

The 25,000 words took four months to write, preceded by two months of research, for it's a very complicated period with divided loyalties and laws passed by Congress that weren't enforced on the ground. I re-read Down From The Mountains last night, after not looking at it for six months, and enjoyed it a lot. I did wonder if my frustration was showing through in the graphic violence of the plot, which is the goriest I've written!

As further sublimation of my homicidal impulses, :mad: I next turned to writing another Cornish Detective novel. The Dead Need Nobody is the fifth story in the series and was tricky to write in that it's set in the art world. I like and regularly read about painting and painters, but I learned a lot about collectors' obsessiveness and the murky world of art theft and forgery, which were to feature in my plot.

I've settled into a rhythm of writing novels, which take me 5-6 months, including regular editing pauses, followed by as many nit-picking trawls through the manuscript as I can stand after I type The End. The book was fun to write, partly because I gave my protagonist a love and sex life, only to kick him into a state of limbo, leaving him in a coma on the final page.

Since November, I've been researching ways to improve my querying technique, pondering whether to return to self-publishing by reading articles on blogging, tweeting and posting on social media.

Such studying of advice is useful but boring, so I've started a new short story about a widowed dog walker who sees a naked middle-aged man dancing in a field to recorded music. Her dog's barking alerts him to her presence, and he disappears into a wood. I don't know what's going to happen, but I'm tailoring the story towards submitting it to women's magazines, so it won't be too saucy! :oops:

Posting on the Colony helps keep me sane (ish), as well as revealing much about my motivations for writing to me. I've always been a firm believer in the dissemination of information, which is why I trained as a librarian and teacher. Governments may claim that they believe in the value of education, but really they follow the mushroom management approach to educating citizens...Keep them in the dark and feed them bullshit!

Learning how to write, and trying to understand how publishing works, feels a bit like navigating an ocean at night while sailing through fog. Here be monsters, and I'm often appalled at the underhand dealings of literary agents, publishers and charlatans offering training courses.

Shared knowledge on the Colony is like seeing a beam from a lighthouse.

I still don't know where I'm going, and I'm not quite sure of where I've been, but I'm enjoying the journey and looking forward to 2019.

How was your writing year in 2018?

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After a six year hiatus, this was my first writing year, so it was all quite new! I've focussed solely on one novel all year, which at times is frustrating because it feels after three drafts that the damn thing will never be finished, but on the whole it's been very enjoyable and much better than frittering my time away on video games, which is what I'd done for the last six!

My hope for the early part of next year is to whittle down the 195,000 word monster I've built over the past year into a much more respectable length that I can hopefully secure an agent/publisher for, next year.

One thing I'd like to focus on @Paul Whybrow is you mentioned in that post is "that book was fun to write". That's the thing I don't want to forget about my writing this year and remind myself of next year. I'm doing this because I enjoy it and I don't think that I or any other writer should lose sight of that in 2019.
 
I think I'm beginning to learn my craft, three novels in. If next year brings a new project, I hope I'll be spared a lot of dreadful faffing about by the things I've learned this year.
Finding Litopia at the end of October, and feeling so much less isolated, is the best personal writing breakthrough of 2018. Cheers!:)
 
Could have been worse. One novel published, three short stories in paid pubs, two non-fiction articles I got paid for, and two novels drafted. All while dragging my daughter away from death's door. Actually, now I think about it, I did pretty damned good, all things considered--my focus wasn't on the writing at all for the first six months of the year.
 
Could have been worse. One novel published, three short stories in paid pubs, two non-fiction articles I got paid for, and two novels drafted. All while dragging my daughter away from death's door. Actually, now I think about it, I did pretty damned good, all things considered--my focus wasn't on the writing at all for the first six months of the year.
Yikes! Sounds like you had a tough year. Hope all is well now.
 
Type type type type delete delete delete delete type type delete curse swear DELETE!! type type type day job ... day job?? damn, type type type type oooh YES!! fab idea type type type nope, shit idea qhwcfbiuw4pyn4nvnriovhpur^*^&$£kkbef type type type type hmmm that could work type type type

That pretty much sums it up.

@Robinne Weiss . Hope your daughter is alright.
 
Staying motivated throughout a year of writing is a challenge. I pace myself, not forcing things when inspiration runs dry on my WIP. Often it's better to step away from the vehicle of my story, than to write a load of tosh that doesn't ring true; if it doesn't come naturally, leave it.

There's always something else to do, such as re-reading old stories and tightening them up. At the closing of the year, I'm dithering a bit, stopping myself from being creative and trying to get enthusiastic about researching blogging, tweeting and Amazon's arcane ways.

In preparation for querying in the new year, over the weekend, I wrote synopses of my last two Cornish Detective novels, half-a-dozen of them in 500 words, 750 words and 1,500-word length—as that's what the literary agencies I like the look of are asking for. This dispiriting exercise felt like psychoanalysing myself! Why had I written these stories, what was I trying to say, did it work, who am I as a writer? Aargh, get me out of here! o_O

Whenever my spirits start to flag, I recall what Charles Bukowski said about getting up in the morning and making it through another day:

Sometimes-you-climb-out-of-bed-in-the-morning-and-you-think-400x211.jpg


Bukowski's poem So You Want To Be A Writer? is a rallying cry to any author who's doubting their courage:

So You Want To Be A Writer Poem by Charles Bukowski - Poem Hunter
 
Could have been worse. One novel published, three short stories in paid pubs, two non-fiction articles I got paid for, and two novels drafted. All while dragging my daughter away from death's door. Actually, now I think about it, I did pretty damned good, all things considered--my focus wasn't on the writing at all for the first six months of the year.


Wow! Thatś pretty amazing. Good job, and I hope everything is ok with your daughter. I had a similar kind of year.
 
Type type type type delete delete delete delete type type delete curse swear DELETE!! type type type day job ... day job?? damn, type type type type oooh YES!! fab idea type type type nope, shit idea qhwcfbiuw4pyn4nvnriovhpur^*^&$£kkbef type type type type hmmm that could work type type type

That pretty much sums it up.

@Robinne Weiss . Hope your daughter is alright.
Much better than at the beginning of the year!
 
Sorry to hear about your daughter @Robinne Weiss, but glad to hear she's doing OK now. And you still managed a novel, short stories and articles on top of that—impressive!

I wrote synopses of my last two Cornish Detective novels, half-a-dozen of them in 500 words, 750 words and 1,500-word length—as that's what the literary agencies I like the look of are asking for. This dispiriting exercise felt like psychoanalysing myself! Why had I written these stories, what was I trying to say, did it work, who am I as a writer? Aargh, get me out of here! o_O
I feel your pain. I tried to condense mine into 300 words recently. I think sawing off my hand would have been easier.

type type type day job ... day job??
Tell me about it. Pesky thing keeps getting in the way!

All up, 2018 has turned out to be a cracking year for me. It didn't feel like I was doing much for most of it, but now I've stopped to take stock, I'm stunned at how much I've managed.
  • WIP finished and 2 rounds of edits done – it's now with betas.
  • Author profile set up (website + blog, Facebook and Twitter).
  • 9 blogs written (I may squeeze another one in before the year is out).
  • 11 pieces of flash fiction completed (so far).
  • 20 submissions made between August and December (rejection rate = 50%, acceptance = 15%, still in limbo = 35%).
  • Wrote my best short story ever – it's yet to find a home, but I still love it.
Finding Litopia at the end of October, and feeling so much less isolated, is the best personal writing breakthrough of 2018.
Finding Litopia is also of my highlights :)
 
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My Favourite Reads of 2018

Review The Endless (2018)

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