2012 was a hell of a year.
I didn’t meant to quit writing. But it happened. A month of not writing became six, and it was okay, I told myself. It was a difficult time, and it would surely end. Then I stopped justifying it to myself, and finally, stopped even worrying about justifying it. That’s how I quit writing for well over a year.
Part of it was from lack of a plan. When I started, I challenged myself to write a short story every week. This led to many a 4am night, blearily editing absolute nonsense, but it worked. Then I decided to give myself the room to play with longer ideas, and removed the arbitrary deadlines. Soon I was finishing work on a monthly basis, then bi-monthly, then it might take me a half a year. And this was when there was nothing else required of me. The moment fatherhood and a difficult pregnancy were my dominant concerns, writing slipped away.
In those first years, I never went back to a story, never learned to edit. I didn’t understand how important that was. I also had no concept of what to DO with a finished story. In those early years, I sent it one submission, to the Pseudopod Podcast, because it was literally the only place I knew of that would pay money for stories. I got a polite rejection three months later, and never considered it again.
When I logged into my forgotten and abandoned blog, nearly a year ago today, I noticed a curious thing: a sudden uptick of traffic, months prior. It seems that Kris Straub, an author and cartoonist I admired, had been reading the stories I posted. I remembered how much it meant to me when someone commented on a story, gave advice, shared their honest opinion.
That was the cattle prod I needed. I remembered how much I love writing, and hearing actual emotional reactions to those stories. So I sat back down again and I wrote.
But I am still a new father, sleepless and weary, and my day job requires more and more of my stress and attention every day, so finding the time to write didn’t get easier, I just had to get more persistent. I wrote on my lunch break. I traded away sleep. But still, I fell far short of what I intended…
- I wrote two new stories: Dogs in the Drywall, and First Souls.
- I finished a piece that had lain fallow for the past year, East.
- I started two stories that I have yet to finish, In the Fields of Ur, and Runner B.
- I took notes and outlined three other stories.
- I created an outline and character studies for a novel, Cradle.
It’s a step up from 0 words in 2011, but I still need to push harder. I find myself in the busy holiday months, justifying not writing again. It’s a question of priorities, and I know how important writing is, but, still, I found the time to play hours of Far Cry 3. I found the time to have weekly board games with friends. In 2013, if I am to stay serious about writing, I need to double my output and my pace. I need to find the time.
However, in 2012, I discovered there was a lot more to writing than, well, writing.
I learned to edit. I learned to clarify my thoughts, I learned the rules I’d forgotten from school, and I learned to never, ever use it’s when I mean its. I also got serious about how to submit, and take rejection. This proved the easiest, as making schedules and tracking progress is literally what I do at my day job. I made a spreadsheet, researched markets, tracked everything on Duotrope. I got on twitter, and asked writers I liked and respected how they started, where they submitted, and followed at least a half dozen literary agents, trying to learn by osmosis how this whole business worked.
- I edited and put into submission 17 stories
- I received 60 rejections
- I had 7 stories accepted:
- Barricade (“A Quick Bite of Flesh”, Hazardous Press)
- Fog (“The Dead Sea”, Cruentus Libri Press)
- The Gift (“From Their Cradle to Your Grave”, Cruentus Libri Press)
- Zero (“Mad Scientist’s Journal”)
- Sick (“No Monsters Allowed”, Dog Head Publishing)
- Quiet (“War is Hell”, Cruentus Libri Press)
- The Blues (“Psuedopod Podcast”)
See that last one? That podcast is one of the reasons I started writing. It’s the first place I ever submitted, and the first place that ever rejected me. I still am having trouble believing that I finally sold a story to Pseudopod. If I’d given up after one, five or ten rejections, I never would have sold anything.
- I migrated to this new website
- I crawled out of a hole and fumbled my way into social media
- I stopped writing under a pseudonym
- Talked about writing and influences in an interview at The House on Ash Tree Lane
- I withdrew one story from Weird Tales
- I got a Goodreads Author Page (This still makes me inordinately happy)
- I wrote and published a book review at Sanitarium Magazine.
- I started running, and I still run three times a week. This may not sound writing related, but losing 30 lbs, getting healthy, and getting an hour every other day to be alone with my thoughts has been invaluable.
In the next year, if I’m to continue growing as a writer, I have the following goals:
- Submit more. I have 10 stories in submission at any moment, and that number will only go down if I sell everything I have to sell.
- Write more. Then write more. Finish everything in progress, and then put more on the schedule.
- Interact more. I try to respond to every email and tweet I get, and it has been incredibly rewarding. I don’t see that stopping anytime.
- Read more (my current pace is a book a week, and the more I read, the more I want to write)
- Keep up my relationships with Hazardous Press and Cruentus Libri Press, because these are brand new, independent publishers who gave me my first shot at publication. They’re exciting and passionate markets, and the respective editors of each, Robert Helmbrecht and Kevin J. Bufton, have been incredible, supportive, and communicative.
- Learn and understand more about the markets I am submitting to, and keep setting my sights higher and higher.
- Write more.
- Blog more. I like prattling on, and I like sharing things with you outside stories.
- Finish Runner B. It’s currently 10,000 words with no end in sight. It may no longer be a marketable short story, but it deserves to be finished.
Someday, I will sell a story to Nightmare Magazine, Clarkesworld, or Lightspeed, and someday I will be eligible for membership, in the SFWA or the HWA. It likely wont be in 2013, but as long as I can keep serious about writing, and about always getting better, I’ll have a fighting shot.
I have some thoughts about self-publishing and traditional publishing, but I’ll save those for a future update. 2013 may see me package my older stories together into a pay-what-you-want, DRM-free ebook, but I have flip-flopped so often on that. It requires serious deliberation.
Finally, I’m certainly no expert, but the things I’ve learned this year have been invaluable. If I can help you, answer questions, or offer spurious advice, please, let me know. I’m more confident and motivated because people took their time to do just that for me. (Thanks especially to Chuck Wendig, Catherynne Valente, Fred Hicks, John Adamus, Bruce Bethke and Mark Diaz Truman). Please let me return the favor. And of course, do you have advice for me? Markets I should look at? Mistakes you see me making? Please, let me know.
Remember, it’s because you’re reading this, that I am writing. I owe you everything.
Thank you, and happy new year.
6 thoughts on “Metapost: 2012 – The First (Serious) Year”
Sounds like you had quite a productive year! Good luck on your goals for 2013!
I did, but I can do better next year. My thanks!
As someone who’s enjoyed your stories for years, going back to /x/ & creepypasta, it’s been a real kick seeing you get your work and your (real) name out there in 2012. You’ve also been an inspiration to me as I’ve tried to get my own storytelling career off the ground this past year. So congratulations, cheers, and thanks for all you’ve accomplished last year, and godspeed toward everything I’m sure you’ll accomplish in the future.
Joe, I’m completely flattered that I somehow served as an inspiration. That’s amazing, and even more so because what I’ve read of your stuff has been awesome. Best of luck to you as well!
First off I want to say excellent blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your mind prior to writing. I’ve had difficulty clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out there. I truly do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or tips? Thank you!
Thank you, and I never mind answering questions. Because of my completely unpredictable schedule, I end up writing on a moment’s notice when I find I have a few minutes here or there. I deal with the inertia by spending a lot of time thinking about what I am going to write next, not just broad outlines, but composing individual sentences in my head during a long meeting, or on a run. When I do sit down, I have a surplus of things I want to put on the page. Don’t worry about clearing your mind, just sit down the next time with the first sentence you want to type already at your fingertips, and let the inertia take you from there. Also, don’t overthink putting a bad sentence on the page. It’s a first draft, it’s allowed to suck!