Phew… so that was 2015. Looking back at last year’s review of 2014, I’m reminded of what an up-and-down year it was. 2015 was quite different in that it was neither a year or ups or downs. It just sort of… was.
On the writing front I was in a bit of slump. I’m not proud of that, but I can admit it. I had just come off an important meeting with my literary agent in which we both agreed this was not the right time to publish the first Felix Renn novel in a market oversaturated with urban fantasy and supernatural noir fiction. It’s true what they say, timing is everything, and this was not the right time for Felix.
When I decided to capitalize on the small success of my debut collection Every House Is Haunted, I had an idea for what I thought would be a great standalone horror novel. I’d been squirrelling away notes on this book for years, and I was very excited to write it.
I wrote two chapters and stopped. It was the last thing I wrote for almost the entire year.
At the time I didn’t know what was happening. I’d never had a problem with writer’s block before. I had almost the entire book outlined and ready to go. I knew the story, the characters, all the beats and broad strokes. All I had to do was write the damn thing. Easier said than done, I guess.
I thought maybe I was more upset than I thought about having to switch tracks from working on the Felix Renn novel. In my mind I had planned to write many books in the Black Lands series, and now I wasn’t writing any of them. It made sense that I was still upset about that, maybe even nervous about what people would think of this new idea.
Despite that, 2015 wasn’t entirely unproductive. Universal Pictures renewed the option on “The House on Ashley Avenue” and work continues to progress on the project. I had three short stories published, and they were all big ones for me. I had what was probably my biggest anthology appearance to date with “The Lighthouse of Midian,” which appeared in Midian Unmade: Tales of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed. I was also invited to take part in an exciting project, a collection of unauthorized James Bond stories called Licence Expired. I wrote a story called “Two Graves,” which I’d describe as “What would happen if James Bond was a character in Nevil Shute’s On the Beach?” It was a lot of fun to write and it’s one of my proudest accomplishments to date. My final published story of the year was “The Veils,” a spooky tale about hidden images in stock photography, which appeared in the The 2nd Spectral Book of Horror.
On a personal note, the year’s biggest highliight was bringing a new cat into our family. Kathryn and I weren’t sure when it was going to happen – we’ve still been feeling the loss of Thor from last Christmas – but these things have a tendency of announcing themselves. So it came as no surprise when, a couple of months into the new year, we ended up going to a local animal shelter and getting a new cat. The part that was a surprise was finding out how much we needed him. Barnabas (or Barney, as we affectionately call him; as well as Titus Barndronicus, BarnTown, and Shithead) has brought a much-needed dose of happiness to our lives.
Two very good friends of mine got married over the summer, which was wonderful, and two others got very sick. One of them spent several months in the ICU, while the other passed away. I don’t know if it was any of these things individually – more likely it was all of them combined – but I was eventually able to crawl out of my writing funk and get back to work.
I remembered a piece of writing advice I heard, not just from one author but from lots of them. They said to write something every day. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but try to stick with it, do something, anything, every day. It will help to turn your writing into a routine, and even if it’s only 250 words, one page of writing, then at least it’s something. And it adds up over time.
Like all writing advice, there are people who don’t agree with this method, and that’s fine. I think the only universal truth of writing (and I’m sure it’s the same for the rest of the creative arts) is that you should do the thing that works best for you. Some writers love to go on about their routine as if it’s the One True Way. If I’ve learned anything from writing and publishing it’s that there is no such thing as the One True Way, and those who say otherwise are usually selling something (probably a book on writing).
The point is, writing every day worked for me. It kept me honest when I was tempted to slide back into depression and self-pity (neither of which was going to get my book finished). I started with 250 words a day, and after a month, when I saw I was exceeding that on a regular basis, I bumped it up to 500. One of the ways I held myself to this was by recording my daily word counts in a small notebook. It got so that I didn’t want to miss a day because I didn’t want any gaps in my record. It was a small thing, but it worked. I started writing again on November 4th and I haven’t missed a single day, not even Christmas or New Year’s. As of today, I’m currently sitting pretty on 45,000 words of the new novel. Not too shabby for two months’ work, but mostly I’m just glad to be back in a place where I enjoy writing again.
If I can maintain my current pace, I should have the first draft completed around the end of February. Wish me luck.
See you on the flip-flop.