With 2017 drawing to a close, I feel compelled to compile something of my year in writing. And what a year it has been.
As always, my recap of the year begins with my debut novel. It’s hard to believe how far it’s come; when I first began Wide Horizon, publication was a distant dream. It was almost intangible, and the thought of even finishing the novel was hard to fathom. I had never written something so long…and now, looking back, part of me is still surprised that I did. But I’ve found the experience deeply fulfilling – fulfilling enough to know that this will not be my last crack at it.
In Wide Horizon, I cracked the glass: I proved to myself that I could, in fact, write a novel. After years of dreaming, I now find the act of writing a novel within reach, opening a world of possibilities. All I had to do was prove that I was capable. I do not know what the future holds for Wide Horizon, but I believe that I stand now equipped with a worthy piece of fiction to show the world. And if nothing else, it was important for me as a proof-of-concept. No matter what happens, I will carry that with me, at least.
And so it goes. As I’m often saying, a writer’s work is never truly done. With that in mind, it’s safe to say that my next novel will occupy the bulk of my attention in the coming year.
Work on Pathfinder has progressed far more slowly than Wide Horizon. I find this disappointing, but I feel there are several factors that have contributed. One of those, a large one, was of course the simple reality that my work on Wide Horizon was far from over after I’d completed my first draft. At times it seems the more I research the process of publishing a novel, the more I find I’ve left to do. Still, arguably the biggest drag on progress in Pathfinder has been the nature of the novel itself.
Pathfinder is a very different story from Wide Horizon, different to a point that defies overstatement. Whereas Wide Horizon was very much a work of soft science fiction, allowing me to fly by the seat of my pants and play fast and loose with science, Pathfinder is very much hard sci-fi. It’s a story firmly rooted in the possible, intended to provide as realistic a portrayal of our collective future as I can manage, bearing fully in mind the realities we face today.
Of course, there’s also added pressure. Pathfinder is to serve as the first in a series of novels. These stories represent my most treasured ideas: my magnum opus. It’s not something I want to take half measures with. For my own sake, I need to get this right, and sadly I’ve fallen into much the same trap that ended work prior to Wide Horizon: paralyzing doubt. It has been said that it’s easy for a first draft to be perfect, as it need only exist. When writing something based on a really great idea, one in which one is heavily invested in, it’s easy to get discouraged when every single line isn’t exactly New York Times Bestseller quality.
That being said, I feel a lot better about Pathfinder right now than I have in quite a while. Recently, I’ve been struck by fresh inspiration, which I feel will help me find something I’ve been missing: a central message around which this story can be built. I also feel my experience in writing Wide Horizon will help. As my more diligent readers will know, I’ve found the process of editing Wide Horizon to be deeply fulfilling. It’s also helped me to realize that I needn’t fret over my first draft. Many key passages of Wide Horizon now read very differently than they did when first laid down in the rough draft, and very much for the better. Hopefully, I can bear that in mind, and move past perfectionism to power through Pathfinder in the new year. As I learned with Wide Horizon, getting to the end of the first draft is the hard part, and also an important first step.
Let’s just handle this as a whole. I wrote a lot of short fiction this year, and I’m smiling as I write this sentence, because I feel very good about that. After all, the more I write, the better my chances of publishing something. And of course, the more I write, the more material I have available to post here for my readers.
Notably in the short story department, this year I declared March to be “Short Fiction Month”. For an entire month I worked solely on short stories, and to motivate myself I committed to posting one short story each week. It was a deeply rewarding experience, generating some truly remarkable works of fiction, and though it came two months in, I dare say it set the tone for my year in short fiction writing.
Perhaps the most unusual feature of my short fiction writing this year was the subject matter. Since I began writing, I’ve long found myself following an odd sort of duality: I exclusively write science fiction in novels, and I’ve long exclusively wrote general fiction in short stories. I’d had the odd sci-fi short story here and there, some of them fairly good, too. But I tend to feel that short fiction should be spontaneous, at least to some extent. It should begin as an idea, and rise from nothing.
After years of writing general short fiction, over the course of the past year I found my work trending more toward space, robotics, eventually even alien life. Now, I find it virtually impossible to bring myself to write anything that is not science fiction. And that feels great.
While I’ve yet to be published, I can’t help but feel I’m getting closer. I’ve begun getting more and more positive feedback on my stories. It’s just a matter of finding a place where they fit.
And I posted several short stories I’m very proud of here, on my website. In case you missed them, here are a few I was particularly proud of:
Another year. Another trip around the sun, another three hundred and sixty-five spins on Planet Earth. It’s important, when marking each year that passes, to step back and take stock of what’s happened, to add pages to one’s personal story. We all have a story to tell, whether or not we put the words to paper.
For me, and indeed for all of us, much remains to be done. But for now, let us take stock of the passing year, and look ahead with hopeful anticipation to the year that comes.
Good luck. May you never find yourself at a loss for words. May your story never be complete. And Happy New Year, dreamers.