How was it for you?

2016, if you go by the news and social media, has been pretty horrible. Sometimes though you’ve got to look at your own smaller world, and judge a year more personally.

For me, writing wise, it has been very quiet. I think I’ve managed less than 10,000 words for the whole year. I’ve beaten myself up about it a few times, and seriously thought of just giving up. However, the truth is I have edited – a lot. The book I wrote has been edited again and again. Each time trying to get it in better shape. So, being a little kinder to myself, I’ve edited massively, and what I have written has been either published, or at least appreciated.

January of 2016 saw the release of Jurassic Attack. A series of dinosaur tales based on a set of collectable cards. My story was ‘Phased’. This is an odd one for me because I was genuinely not impressed with my own story in this, however others really like it, and have even gone so far as to say they could see a jump in the quality of my writing – so what do I know.

Jurassic Attack Cover

March saw me send off my book ‘Blood Key’ to the publishers Kristell Ink, who had an open submissions period. The response I had was unlike any I have had so far in my writing. I’ve been extremely lucky with numerous acceptances, and even the declines have been both helpful and polite. Kristell Ink e-mailed me with four words – “It’s not for us”. Those four words hit me hard, and if I am honest it probably is the main reason why I’ve been so unproductive for 2016. This is not their fault, it is mine. I’ve gotten used to being told ‘yes’ and even when I am told ‘no’, it has always been with an explanation that was both encouraging and helpful. I didn’t think my confidence was that fragile. Looking back now, I take it for what it is – a reminder that you need a thick skin, that you need to believe in yourself, and even if someone doesn’t like your stuff, there may well be plenty out there that will.

I’d also sent the book to ‘Black Rose Writing’. They also declined but simply said they loved the original idea but suggested a professional edit. This perked me up a little. I happened to pick up a writing magazine and in the back were details of a publisher called ‘Pioneer Teens’. They said they wanted new writers, authors still trying to perfect their craft – still rough around the edges but willing to work with an editor to get better. I sent them the first three chapters and eventually they asked for the whole manuscript. Obviously they did not take the book – or else I’d have fireworks exploding from my blog! – but I got very close. They liked it a lot. They were seriously considering it. They are a small press, and in the end they had a limited budget and were only going to print two books that year. I didn’t make it but I know I was very close.

You’d think confidence renewed I’d have been typing away everyday – pushing on to bigger and better things. Sadly real life took over. Work this year has been great. I’ve worked more hours, spent a lot of time learning new skills, and…  been very tired as a result.

March also saw the release of another story I’d written in 2015. ‘Wax and Wane: A Gathering of Witch Tales’ came out. I love the cover to this book. I think this is possibly the best looking book I’ve been in. My story, ‘That Familiar Feeling’ was fun to write, and I enjoyed putting a positive outlook on a young witch.

wax-cover

April saw me really try and get back into the writing habit. On the final day of the deadline I wrote ‘Purchase and Possess’, which was accepted for ‘Ghosts, Gears & Grimoires’, an anthology of steampunk and horror. I enjoyed writing this, and have always felt that the Victorians obsession with holding seances are ripe for any story setting.

My local writing group, ‘The Writer’s Cafe’ held a competition in May, in partnership with the National Trust. It was a flash fiction competition with the theme of ‘Underground’. All stories had to be no more than 300 words. I was thrilled when my tale, ‘Crumbs of Hope’ won. The prize? The story was  put on display at Levant Mine, at the top of a working steam engine no less, for all to see.

Here is a picture of the story, along with its German translation, as provided by the lovely Renate Augstein.

Levant crumbs.jpg

And here is Levant Mine…

Levant_Steam_Mine,_Cornwall.jpg

June saw the release of ‘We’ve All Been There: Tales of Tenacity’. This was an anthology of true stories of people dealing with various problems and the proceeds of the book went to charity. The idea was that the authors wrote about personal issues. I have a strange feeling towards this book. On one hand I’m very proud to be part of it (my story is called ‘What About ME?’), on the other I regret writing the story, since I was very honest. I feel like I put a little bit of myself out there and I wish I’d not been so open. Still, it is done, and quite probably it was therapeutic to write it. My own issues should not detract from the other authors who also shared their experiences, all in the name of letting people know they are not alone, and hopefully raising some money for a worthwhile cause.

Tales.jpg

And that was it for my writing all summer long. I worked and worked. I didn’t go to my local writing group, I didn’t go to the ‘Speakeasy’ group – I felt no inspiration for the themes they set, and I felt no desire to get involved.

Pretty much I continued to feel sorry for myself, still talked about giving up the writing lark, and generally passed on advice to others about keeping going, when I should have been listening to it myself.

July saw me take part in an event in my home town. There was the ‘Penzance Literary Festival’ and some local writers not involved set up there own ‘fringe’ event. I got involved and read some unpublished short stories that seemed to go down well. To be a part of it was very nice and being described as ‘experienced’ at public reading was surprising but reassuring.

redwing-reading

October/November saw work come to an end for the year, and so I had to shake myself down and go back to basics. First things first, I started going back to my T’ai Chi lessons. I got some energy back, and decided to look again at ‘Blood Key’. I can’t afford a professional edit but I can at the very least keep trying to make it better.

I decided to do something small, and ended up sending a ‘drabble’ off to a publisher in Chile. Lo and behold it was accepted. ‘Shadow’ appears in the e-book ‘Spooky Halloween Drabbles 2016’. A drabble is a story in 100 words. It is not that easy to do well and I was really pleased with what I managed to convey in very few words. A beginning, middle, and end, with atmosphere. Something that small made me feel much better about myself.

drabbles

On my birthday, ‘Ghosts, Gears & Grimoires’ was published by Mocha Memoirs Press. I think I return to steampunk as a sort of safety blanket.

ghosts_72dpi-3

October was also when I got hold of a copy of ‘Forever Hungry’. My story ‘Family Ties’ made it in there, and I really like that tale. I felt I managed a nice level of humour and gore. I’m pretty sure it came out before October but that was when I managed to get a copy.

Forever Hungry cover

The annual ‘Writer’s Cafe Christmas Flash Fiction Competition’ came around again. I decided to try and write something different for this. I always approach the competition, not with the intent to win (which is nice mind) but to try and do something different in tone. I think after a number of years my style of writing is obvious to many members so I try and almost disguise myself by mixing up the tone or feel. I don’t know how successful I am with that but it feels like a good exercise. This year my tale, ‘Never Too Late’ did not place in the top three. The winners stories were much better and fully deserved their reward.

Finally, having dusted myself down, and given myself a little bit of a talking to, I’ve spent much of December editing again. I’ve entered ‘Blood Key’ into the Chicken House/Times competition for children’s and young adults novels. I won’t know the result of that until Easter 2017, at least.

Of 2016 I can say I’ve reminded myself that no one deserves a nice, friendly, detailed rejection – so suck it up and get on with it. I need to be realistic about where a story fits too. What I think is Young Adult, might truly be Teen or Older Children. Maybe I see Science Fiction where another sees Horror. Knowing where a story fits is important, and can determine whether or not the right people are reading it.

Despite hardly writing, I’ve had 6 stories published (I’d thought it was 3 before typing out this blog!). I won a flash fiction competition, and the display of my work at Levant and then later in my home town, is something to be very proud of.

Of my work already written but unpublished, I still hold out hope that ‘The Adventures of Dayton Barnes’ will see the light of day eventually, and the story that I wrote for the people rescuing dogs and cats may get out there, if they can get a few more tales together.

I’ve not written yet in 2017, and yet I have – for here is a blog entry for the first time since April 2016. It’s a start.

When I first said I’d blog, I said I would log the ups and downs. I’ve not stayed true to that. I’ve not kept up to date with what is happening. The point of me telling you about how I reacted to the various occurrences is not to seek sympathy or to look for a pat on the back. I don’t need either. The point is to share, to tell someone else who might be doing something similar, or just about to try, that these things happen. Famous authors get 70 plus rejections, but they are famous because they kept going, and didn’t let it discourage them. Just writing this blog reminds me that I’ve had more success in the last 3 years than I could have ever dreamed of.

So, 2016 seemed depressing at the time, but for me personally, looking at it like this – it was actually pretty good!

I hope yours was good too, and I hope we can all have a great 2017. The wider world looks scary but hopefully within our own individual worlds we can each have some happiness and share that along.

Thanks for reading and being with me,

Stephen.

 

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