A Look Back at My Year in Writing—2015—A Sort of Capitulation

2015 was a tough one. No doubt. I’ll try to recap here the main developments and the things I achieved and didn’t achieve. Next week, we’ll look forward to 2016 and what I’m planning next.  Highsmith


1. I didn’t get a new work published.
This one stings, no doubt. I think two of the stories I wrote this year (“Pacha-Mama” and “Barabanchik”) are both top notch. Unfortunately, the big bad world seems to think otherwise, at least for the time being. That was tough, can’t pretend it wasn’t.

But I view it as a pretty minor setback. I’ve kept writing and feel the writing’s getting better. I’ve also gotten close to getting those works accepted…

2. I got two “good” rejections.
I know this is a weird, but work with me here. When a writer doesn’t get his work accepted he looks for a little, desultory cheer in his rejection letters. And now that I’ve collected over 50 of these, I can speak from experience. Most are stone-cold, not-interested-in-your-stuff standard rejection letters. But then there are those letters like these two (names have been removed to protect the innocent):

Dear Darius Jones,

Thank you so much for submitting to XXXX. We have read your work with interest, and although we are not accepting it, it did come close. We would love to see more work from you, so please feel free to resubmit during our next reading period.

Again, thanks for sending us your work. We hope to read more from you soon.

Signed,

The Editor

That was the first rejection that ever made my day. Getting an invite from an editor to keep submitting is a nice touch. A nice way to say: “Man, you came close. Don’t be discouraged. Keep sending us stuff.” And it was sure nice to get an encouragement after all those rejections. Here’s the next rejection letter:

Dear Darius,

Thank you for sending us “Barabanchik”…

We have decided not to include this piece in an upcoming volume of our anthology. However, since multiple readers review each submission, you may find the following excerpts from their notes useful or interesting…

– This is rather heavy with adult language…I like the narrative style, atmosphere, cultural references, and attention to details. I believe the POV shift…is rather abrupt and deserves a smoother transition. I’m very interested in all three characters, though I was expecting a greater connection to be established between them…I felt it was cut short, and I’m hoping a longer version is in the works!

That bit about getting engaged in the characters and hoping for a longer work I found pleasing. I think the most important thing is to have your reader care about your characters. I also think it’s gratifying to see the reader’s interest in a longer version, since I feel I write better in long form. I ain’t no Chekhov, that’s for sure.

I think I will revisit the works above slightly and keep submitting them this coming year.

3. I finished 3 short stories and made substantial progress on a longer piece.
The three stories I finished were: “The Man with Storms in His Eyes,” “Barabanchik” and “Pacha-Mama.” I have since decided to trunk that first story because I feel it’s not quite up to snuff. The other two pieces have received some good feedback from Beta readers. I’m going to keep submitting those two to editors next year.

I have also made significant progress on my latest piece “SSC.” Which you know,  if you’ve been following my Twitter feed. First: it’s not a novel. So don’t ask me: “How’s the novel going?” I will reveal what it is when the first draft is done, probably in early 2016.

I’m proud of the fact that I kept writing despite rejections. That’s important.

4. I went to one Con.
Although I had planned to go to three. I think that was a bit too ambitious. I made it to RavenCon this year and I’ll be planning my Con schedule for next year in the coming weeks. I think aiming to go to two Cons this time makes more sense. There’s only so much time in a year.

5. I wrote more and blogged less.
I wrote about this last year. I pretty consistently wrote the blog only once every two weeks as planned and this allowed me to write more fiction. I think it’s important that the blog continues and that I keep writing. I’ll have more to say about this one in the coming year.

6. I set a new readership (visitor) record for my blog.
Despite writing less, I broke the readership record for my blog. I guess, like they say, that consistency counts for something on blogs. I think people knowing that you’ll  be there, even if they have to wait two weeks, keeps them coming back for more. I also seem to be enjoying growing interest from UK readers. It’s cool to see readers outside the States getting interested in the blog.

7. I started writing my stuff.
This one is unquantifiable. But the unquantifiable stuff is usually the most important. I would say this year I finally capitulated. I came to realize my stuff isn’t really what “they” call speculative fiction. It doesn’t easily fit into fantasy or science fiction. Some of it comes close to “urban fantasy,” but not really…

Also…I’m not really writing “literary” fiction either. It’s not meticulously crafted prose larded with literary-style effects and plots about couples’ mid-life crises in suburban America/New York City. So, it doesn’t really appeal to that crowd either.

To put it simply, it’s a marketer’s nightmare. Its doesn’t fit the “literary” tag and it doesn’t fit the “speculative” tag. It’s still stuff I want to write. the main difference is that this year, I came to peace with that. And really don’t care much. The manuscript—and only the manuscript—has to come first…And second…And third. Otherwise, all  the marketing, blogging, promotion and events don’t mean a thing.

I think you know where I’m going with this. But I’ll get into it a bit further down the road. Suffice to say 2015 was the year when I decided to write my stuff. Damn the consequences.


So, sounds like a pretty “meh” year. Huh? Well, so be it. I think I matured as a writer over the past year and I think the stories are getting better and sharper. I have some ideas where I want to head next year too. But that’s a post for January. I’ll see you then with a new post and new ideas about where I have been and—more importantly—where I’m headed.

See you then.

Have a Happy New Year, Everybody!

Darius

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A Look Back at my Year in Writing–2014

Wrapping things up here on 2014. So, I wanted to look back at my year in writing and talk a little about what I accomplished and maybe a bit about what I didn’t. Next week, we’ll look forward to 2015. But this post is about the year that was. Here are the highlights one-by-one.


1. I saw my name in print for the first time.  Never_Look_Back
If I had to single out one highlight of my writing year, it would be seeing my novelette, The Ghul of Yazd published in Strangelet Journal. It was so great to see this story get accepted and finally see my name in print on, you know, an actual page of paper. And I almost fell off my chair when the editor asked me to put footnotes back into the story, thus preserving my original vision for the story.

It was doubly nice to hand a copy of the magazine to my parents as a Christmas gift this past week.

I also enjoyed the protagonist, Yusuf, in this story so much I wouldn’t mind visiting him again sometime by writing another story with him in it. I miss him.

2. I got a response to a query letter for the first time.
I finished writing my comedy-horror novella (AFTA) and got an editor interested enough to respond to my query letter. It’s too early to see if it gets picked up, but, hey, it was still fun to have another “First” even if the editor ultimately decides to pass on the manuscript.

3. I attended my first Con.
This was a resolution of mine last year and I stuck to it. This April, I attended my first Con (convention), RavenCon, and it was great. I learned a lot about writing, but I also learned a great deal about the publishing business and what editors look for—thanks to my fellow fiction-writer attendees and a handful of editors from Tor. If you’re a speculative fiction writer and you haven’t done this yet—get thee to a Con! You won’t regret it.

And, FYI, I will attend RavenCon again this year, so hope to see you there.

4. I finished a novella and two short stories.
It’s tough to fit writing into the daily grind, you know? But somehow I was able to finish a novella  (completely) and two short stories (almost).  A short synopsis of all three is now on my “Works in Progress” page. That’s not bad output, considering I have a full-time job that isn’t writing fiction.

(Truth be told, I still have to wrap that 2nd short story, but I should have that done in short order.)

5. I kept the blog  going.
It was no easy task, but I managed to write something for this blog at least every 2 weeks. Toward the end of the year, I was able to post something every week.

6. I said I would write short stories and I stuck to it.
As I said in my writing resolutions last year, I wanted to write “short or long,”that is, to write short stories or novels. Well, I did. I’ve written two short stories so far and I’m planning more to come in 2015. Who knows? I might even work on a novel next year.

7. Reading was the weak link.
Talk about not having time. After the day job, writing fiction and keeping up the blog, there isn’t a lot of time left. I resolved to read all sorts of things this past year, but it didn’t happen. That’s the way it is. I’m not going to loose any sleep over it, especially since I kept the fiction writing rolling

8. I kept submitting stories.
I’m proud of this last one. This is tough. You write your heart out, you take care of a piece. You write a solid first draft. Do the major polishing lift in 2nd draft. You polish some more in the third and/or fourth draft. Then, you proof it. And maybe somewhere in between, you workshop the piece. Finally, you research markets to find a place it might fit.

And then, in a sense, comes the hardest part of all: sending it to some unknown editor to see if they like it. Man, that’s never easy. But I’ve gotten to the point where I just go automatic. I say to myself, “this is a good piece” and I bring up my Gmail and press “Send.” It’s never easy, but after about 25 rejections, it’s becoming much more fluid. It’s a small but very significant milestone and I feel this year I’ve come to accept submission as a natural, integral part of the writing process. It wasn’t easy. 


Alright, see you next time when I’ll break down what I want to do in 2015 in writing. That should be a fun one.

,DJ