Hindsight – December 2015

I’ve gone beyond the point where I give much of a damn what other people think about what I should or should not write.  I will compose straightforwardly or I will experiment as it pleases me and as the piece of writing demands.  That’s a nice place to be in as a writer.  I’ve paid my dues.  I’ve been writing for about four and a half decades now and don’t need to be concerned that there are ethereal gatekeepers that possess absolute truth when it comes to English prose.  It is all a matter of opinion.  One man’s nightmare is another man’s wet dream, as the saying goes.  At least once you get past the rudiments.  Sure, I’ll rewrite a story for an editor who offers to buy it; that’s a simple business proposition.  Otherwise, the words I pour forth are as valid as anyone’s.  After all, by what criteria do we evaluate literature?  Awards?  Sales?  Critical analysis?  Academic nitpicking?  Longevity?  These are all subjective.

After that introduction that came out of left field (I am left-handed, after all) I get back to the purpose of this extended expostulation:  a look at what I accomplished as a writer during this past year.  My biggest frustration is that I am still tied to writing nonfiction articles for less than minimum wage because my fiction and memoirs do not sell enough to make a living.  So let’s start with that nonfiction.  The numbers are similar to last year.  I’ve written and sold roughly 300,000 words of nonfiction articles to Internet content mills in 2015.  Whenever I consider that statistic, I realize that those 300,000 words could have been significant prose instead of bullshit if I could only support myself writing fiction.  This is one of my greatest regrets:  that I have to churn out prose for money only instead of focusing on the writing work that I really want to do.

In fact, I have had to spend so many hours researching and writing the articles (and just barely managing to pay the bills anyway) that there was a period near the end of last year when I stopped writing fiction.  I just couldn’t find the time.  This deeply depressed me.  As a result, I developed insomnia, among other problems.  Well, I’ve found since then that the insomnia has other causes, but it got me to thinking that if I couldn’t sleep I might as well be writing.  So I set myself a goal that for at least five days a week, at the end of the day, I would write at least five hundred words of my own, usually fiction, before I went to bed.  And pretty much since then, with occasional exceptions, I have accomplished that.  The first result, published in December 2014, was the noir murder mystery novel “The Fantasy Book Murders.”  Since then in those late night hours I have written (and later published) two science fiction novels, a science fiction novella, and a number of short stories.

Lately I have been focusing on short story writing.  When you write a novel, it’s easier to keep forging ahead, as you have your basic characters and some sort of idea of how to proceed.  When you’re writing a string of short stories, on the other hand, the tough part is when you finish one and need to start from scratch and plunge ahead into the next one.  It usually takes me a day or two to get my bearings and initiate momentum on the next idea; nevertheless I have been able to leap from one to the next more consistently on this stretch than I have in the past.  I am currently taking several days off because so many relatives have come to town for the Christmas holidays, but I hope to jump back into the fray as soon as I resume a regular schedule.  I love short stories.  I love reading them and I love writing them, and lately I have had the undeniable urge to focus on them.  That could change in the coming year.  We shall see.  I will definitely be working on something again soon, whatever it will be.

This is a look back, though, not a projection forward.  In 2015, I managed to have several stories published in magazines and anthologies, which was gratifying.  Additionally, I published an article in the Science Fiction Writers of America cookbook, and an article on living and working overseas as a writer for the SFWA website blog.  All in all, it was a year of progress as far as traditional publishing is concerned, something that I hope will snowball now that I’m finishing all these stories and sending them off to magazine and anthology markets.  Once I write them and send them off, though, there’s really nothing I can do but hope – and in the meantime get to work on the next one.

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