The freelancer’s life is not for the faint of heart, especially if you happen to be a single parent at the same time. Ask J.K. Rowling before Harry Potter took off. You struggle day by day to bring in enough income to pay the bills, and at the same time you are turning out quick-paying hack work ( in my case articles for the websites of others) you are somehow finding time to retain your artistic integrity by composing a daily quota of fiction. Not easy at all, but for those called to the life, there are few alternatives.
The year 2016 started out fairly normally – normal, at least, in comparison to the last few years of my own life; perhaps not so normal for most people living around me – in that I was writing articles for quick money, and the quantity of available work would vary so that there would be busy times and slack times. Nonetheless I would stay busy through it all, as I have several work alternatives; if one employer becomes temporarily void of jobs, I turn to the next.
February turned out to be a high-water mark. I sold a novelette to an anthology at a very good rate of pay. For the first time in many months, I felt the tight knot of stress due to low finances relax a bit. I actually had enough money so that I could keep up with my bills, buy my son new clothes, and even buy a few books instead of borrowing them from the library. Alas, the relaxed feeling was short-lived. Dental problems arose, and my dental work is the one thing my medical insurance does not cover. I had to pay cash, and the work was urgent. It stretched back to my years overseas, during which I seldom saw a dentist. When I did, a Greek dentist glanced in my mouth and told me my teeth were fine, without so much as an x-ray. The policy of doctors and dentists in Greece is that they will treat you after the emergency; there is little preventative medicine. It’s the same attitude the policemen have: they will allow all manner of speeding and traffic law infractions, but after the accident they bear down hard on you. Suffice it to say that my dental work, once I came back to the United States, was not minor; some of my back teeth were literally crumbling apart. So early this year and on into the summer, my dental work ate up all my extra income and much more – a devastating blow that left me gasping for economic relief.
Most of the time I kept up the schedule I had adopted in late 2014 and continued through 2015 and 2016. I would work all day, from early morning until about eight in the evening, on articles that paid poorly but consistently. After a break for dinner, I would write at least five hundred words of fiction. If I was in the midst of proofreading or preparing a work of fiction for publication, I would set a quota on how much of that work I would finish before stopping. So I usually start work at a bit before seven in the morning and work until about one when I stop to prepare lunch, our main meal of the day. In the midst of the morning work I take breaks three times a week to exercise with yoga and calisthenics, and every day to get outside and walk at least a mile. After lunch I take a short nap and spend some time reading. I start work again by five and keep going until eight when I stop for dinner. Then I resume work – my five hundred words of fiction – from nine until eleven or so. I work on Saturday and Sunday as well, but often with a slightly relaxed schedule to allow an hour or so of sleep-in.
My accepted, paid for, and presumably published non-fiction articles for 2016 number in the hundreds. As for fiction, I had, as I said, the sale of a novelette to a major anthology in February. During the summer, a magazine finally paid for and published a short story it had accepted almost five years previously, when I was still living in Greece. Towards the end of the year, I sold another story to an anthology. I still average many more rejections that acceptances in short stories, but I have begun to get many more encouraging personal letters from editors.
During 2016, I decided to write a fourth novella in my One Thousand series and then compile the four novellas together into an omnibus. I eventually called the fourth novella Deconstructing the Nightmare and published it as a separate book and also as the fourth part of the compilation, which I called Bedlam Battle: An Omnibus of the One Thousand Series. I also compiled many of my articles on writing together in one volume, added an introduction, and published it with the title Writing as a Metaphysical Experience.
Apart from the above publications, I spent most of the year focused on writing short stories. I completed about a dozen short stories and novelettes in 2016. I usually have about fifteen to twenty stories out to market at a time. Sometimes, especially with literary markets, I send one story to several markets, at least those that clearly state that they accept simultaneous submissions. So as of now, I have about twenty stories out to twenty-five or so markets. The frustrating thing about short story submissions is the time it takes for editors to reply. Some magazines take six months to a year to respond. It’s a tediously slow process, and the only answer is to send off the stories, forget about them for a time, and get to work on the next ones.
Around late summer or early fall, while I was in the midst of my short story writing surge, several science fiction and fantasy short story markets that pay professional rates temporarily stopped accepting submissions. My short stories started piling up because I didn’t know where to send them. Most literary markets open in the fall and I was able to divert some of the appropriate stories off to those; otherwise, my only recourse was to study monthly market reports and fire off ready stories as soon as magazines or anthologies announced that they were reopening their submissions systems.
And that’s how it’s gone until now – mid-December. My rationale in focusing on short stories and novelettes is to get my work out there and hopefully build up some readership that will seek out my published books. I’m not averse to beginning another novel if an idea presents itself, but for now I am happy with the shorter lengths. I’ve always had an affinity for short stories.
What do I see happening on into 2017? I plan to keep at it, of course, and I hope for a breakthrough of more book sales so that the royalties will allow me to focus more on fiction and less on non-fiction hack work. My goal is to be able to wake up in the morning and go right to my fiction and memoirs and completely dispense with the need to write the other stuff. I hope that as I journey into 2017, I find myself closer and closer to this goal.