Sunday, 11 January 2015

2014: Year One

I'm pretty certain I've never put as much weight of expectation on a year as I did 2014.

I mean, as the year when I gave up my old, safe career in IT for my new, hazardous career in professional Authoring, the pressure on these last twelve months has been absurd.  Almost all of it self-imposed, it has to be said, because everyone I know without exception has been completely supportive; but for my own sanity, I needed to know for sure that I had a chance of making this thing work and that I hadn't just driven my life off a cliff in some fit of self-delusion.  Not only that but my health, social life, home and pretty much everything else were in shabby condition indeed at the start of the year, and I wasn't about to let them stay that way for a day longer than I had to.

That basically left me fighting on three fronts.  I had to produce enough work, and enough of an increase over what I'd been able to do around a full-time day job, to feel like I'd done the right thing; I needed to try and sell some stuff if at all possible, since otherwise I'd be that bit closer to running out of money; and somewhere amidst all of that I needed to sort out basically all of the rest of my life.

I won't dwell too much on that last one, except to say that things are vastly better now than they were twelve months ago.  And number two, that's kind of tricky to quantify, so we'll come back to it.  But as for getting the work done, yeah, that's definitely been a success.  Frankly, I even shocked myself a bit.  After years of making grand plans only to have them sabotaged by cold, hard reality, it was easy to assume I was expecting far too much.  I wanted to get drafts down of three novels: World War One-set Sci-Fi novel To End All Wars, post-apocalyptic thriller (and part-rewrite of earlier project War For Funland) Degenerates and my first hesitant step into Crime writing, The Bad Neighbour.  On top of that, I wanted to finish a few short stories, comics and such, and I had a great deal of research to get through.  With all of that ahead, and however much it looked doable on paper, I couldn't but go in with the assumption that I was basically doomed to failure.

So to be sitting here with everything I wanted done done is a strange feeling.  Beyond the fact of having it all finished, and given that Degenerates ended up being such a strange hybrid of revamping and reinventing my unfinished second novel War For Funland, it's difficult to put an exact number on how much I wrote in 2014; but guesstimating that half of Degenerates was essentially new work, I'd say I've produced about 260'000 words of new novels, plus some 55'000 of shorter work over seven short stories, one comic and a novelette.  With the second draft of To End All Wars, two redrafts of my first novella Patchwerk and much polishing work on some of some older stories, I'd be surprised if I've done less than 200'000 words of editing on top of that.  All of which is heartening, because it means I can comfortably write and edit two novels a year, plus a few other bits and pieces, and I figure - based on little real evidence - that that's about what I need to be doing to make some kind of a living.

Which brings us neatly to the topic of selling things.  On that front, things were going appallingly until late in the year, and though I hadn't expected much (I had no novels to pitch, after all) I'd still hoped to do much better off short fiction than I did.  That never entirely turned around, but a few other things - arguably much more exciting things - did come together in the eleventh hour.

First up, I have a buyer agreed for Patchwerk.  I can't say who yet, but I can say that they were my absolutely first choice and are a publisher I'm hugely excited to be working with.  Both of which are also true for my graphic novel C21st Gods, which went from a long-talked about dream project between myself and artist Duncan Kay to a concrete reality, by such a bizarre chain of events that it's a story in itself, and one I'll probably share here in the not-too-distant future.  Then lastly - and the one thing I can officially announce - there came the contract signing on my long-gestating short story collection The War of the Rats and Other Tales, which will be coming out from my absolutely favourite Horror small press, Spectral, in August of this year.

With three major projects and a ton of short fiction scheduled for the next twelve months, I'm starting 2015 in a stronger position than I ever anticipated.  And as if that wasn't enough, the belated discovery that Working Tax Credit is a thing has put my financial situation on a less tenuous footing than I expected it would be at this point.  With To End All Wars almost ready to go out and both Degenerates and The Bad Neighbour hopefully to be finished before the end of the year, the question now becomes, can I sell novels too?  And, perhaps the even bigger question, can I do it for enough money to live off?

Well, who the hell knows, right?  But at least I'm looking forward to trying, and twelve months ago I never thought I'd be saying that.

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