End of year thoughts

I wouldn’t want to do the traditional year recap here, and bore everyone to tears, but 2011 has been a pivotal year in my writing experience, so I wanted to take some time to write those down.

I wrote 2 books this year (almost, but let’s not dwell too much on that).

I know ‘Shrouds’ took me almost a year to produce, and that it has a lot of problems, but let’s be honest, I learned quite a lot writing this one, and there is this feeling when you reach the end of a book where your fingers write faster and faster, like you are riding a horse that won’t stop. Crossing the finish line in these conditions makes you forget all the time you were down in the mud trying to convince the horse to make a step.

I learned to like rewriting.

Funny how it’s much easier to edit your work once you actually see what’s wrong in it. My first editing passes were awful, and I knew it : I corrected nothing, and only got frustrated. Thanks to the writing group, now I know what to look for, and how to fix it.  It’s becoming difficult to read one of my earlier chapters now, because I can see what’s wrong in them, and I have to fight the urge to edit said chapter on the spot.

I joined the RE writing group where my writing got much better after a hurtful few submissions were trashed.

I was warned beforehand, that the writing group process was a difficult one. Man, I had no idea. They minced my first chapters real nice, pointing out all that they felt was wrong in it. That wasn’t easy to hear, but in the end, I found that the worst things they said about me were also the most useful. Sometimes, I really wish I had more bad reviews out there.

I’m now attempting to be professional about my writing : I follow Locus sales, I read business blogs, I go to conventions.

Yes, I’m switching to professional writing mode. I always wanted to sell my work, but 2011 is the year I began actually doing something about it. As every SF/F writer should do, I subscribed to Locus and am actively tracking the sales each month to get a feel of what editors and agents are buying today. As many writers this year, I asked myself the question about self publishing, and read actively writing business blogs to get a better feel of the industry. I’m also now a member of the SF/F community, as I voted for this year’s Hugo awards.

Let’s not forget conventions, shall we? My plan right now is to attend 2 cons a year, one local (Utopiales has really been good to me), and one international. This year, I went to Sweden for Eurocon, where I saw some wonderful people talking. Eurocon didn’t bring me much in the way of business connections, but it certainly widened my understanding of the genre a lot.

Next year, I’ll go either to World Fantasy in Toronto, or to Eastercon in London. Worldcon in Chicago seems out for now.

I attempted and won Nanowrimo – twice.

I don’t want to boast too much here, but I did it. Twice! This year, I was in a good position to start a new novel for Nanowrimo, with the concept and basic characters formed in october. I launched myself into it, and soon realized that 50 000 words were too easy to reach for that novel, so I pushed my limit to 100 000. It seems like the procrastinator in me really needs fixed goals in order to produce. I usually do 1 000 words per day, 4 days a week. During nano, I did 3 000 words per day every day, which boosted my productivity. Since then, I allowed myself a few days rest, and the novel isn’t going forward anymore. I need to fix myself a new goal – preferably an unrealistic one.

I’m extending my networking with other writers, known or not known.

Last year, I met Brandon Sanderson. I was pretty much a fanboy then. He gave me some great writing advice, but I wasn’t that professional then. This year, I met him once more, this time to talk about business. At Utopiales, I met Ian MacDonald and he explained to me for an hour the whole process of submission. After Nanowrimo, I got to meet Aliette de Bodard, and she spent an hour of her time to talk about the business too.

On the not-yet-published side, I’m also networking with other aspiring writers who are serious about being published. It’s great to exchange tips on writing or about the business with them. I also am building a writers group in Paris with one of my Nanowrimo friends. We’re going for an innovative format where we’re not only critiquing our work, but also discussing about the writing business and craft.

I’m pushing my work to an editor.

I haven’t blogged about it yet, since I’m yet at the proposal stage, but I was lucky enough to win a detailed analysis of 10 000 words I’ve written by Gollancz’s editorial director Gillian Redfearn. Gollancz is one of the biggest SF/F imprints in the UK, and Gillian Redfearn is a top editor there. It’s really a privilege to be able to push my work to her and get her input on my writing.

I’m currently assembling the package I’ll be presenting to her early January. Staying under the 10k barrier has proved difficult and forced me to merge together chapters the writing group suggested be presented as one. Right now, the submission includes a 5 pages synopsis, the book prologue, and chapter 1. I intend to write a short query letter as well for Gillian to critique.

 

So, I have a lot of things to be grateful about this year.

For 2012, the plan is to:

  • Finish the third novel. Honestly, I shouldn’t spend more than 2 weeks on this.
  • Finish editing the first novel. The entire first act is almost through the writing group. I think now I can finish editing this novel without them.
  • Present the first novel to agents. If I want to do this by Easter (for Eastercon), the novel has to be edited by then.
  • Edit the third novel
  • Start the fourth novel
Lots of work in perspective!