It’s just over 10 years, now, since I sold my first short story.
It’s been a rocky road since then. A couple years after that I started splitting my attention between prose and comics, and, while perhaps that was a mistake, I think I’ve been making progress on both fronts. Not as much as I would like, but progress nonetheless. I hope this will continue; I hope this will become a proper career for me and that I will be able to make a living writing full time… but at this point I still don’t know if or when that will be possible. The world of publishing is in a massive state of flux and who knows what will happen next? Certainly not me. All I can do is to keep working.
I was told this years ago, but I’m only now starting to appreciate how much of this job is in the hustle: the work by itself is not enough. You have to wheel and deal and hype and sell, and you just have to accept that people you work with will be unfair, unreliable, disreputable, distemperate, recalcitrant, reluctant… Shit just isn’t going to go your way most of the time. Like in real life, some people get lucky, but the rest of us have to work for it. One thing I have going for me: I have never been afraid of hard work.
My career (as it were) has been characterized by a lack of focus. I take on too many projects and it takes too long for me to complete them all. Over the last couple of years I have been concentrating on improving that, trying to narrow my workload down and avoiding starting big new projects–with limited success. I have had a pretty big output over the last couple of years but a lot of it has been in the pipeline for a long time. I don’t want to abandon good projects but scheduling them around a real life and travel has been tough. I do still believe that it’s desirable and necessary to have a number of projects underway at once–it keeps me productive–but I need to keep that number to a manageable level and I believe that will happen this year. Bloody Waters is done and being prepared for release. Faerie Apocalypse will be completed soon. After that it’s new work, baby. The other projects I have underway are small (well, except for XDA Zai, but there is a lot of ‘new work’ still to be done on that one, too).
What else has changed?I guess my approach is the same, which is to say that I don’t have a particular method for writing all of my stories or scripts. Sometimes I start on page 1. Sometimes I write bits and pieces and then later work out how to glue them together. Sometimes I outline everything before I start ‘writing’. Sometimes I just write dialogue and then build everything around it. One thing I have certainly learned is that the real craft is in the cutting. I’ve never been afraid of putting words on the page; I’ve never lacked for ideas… but it’s taken a long time for me to learn to enjoy swinging the scythe and letting the bodies fall where they may. Writing the first draft is still far and away my favourite part of the process. That’s when I feel powerful. The rest is just work.
Ten years ago I was very very interested in sucking up information about the craft of writing. Books, classes, workshops, discussion groups… now I don’t do any of that. Not because I believe that I’ve learned all there is to know, but because I feel that I have proven my competence as a writer (most days) and that I need to spend my time writing, rather than talking about writing. You learn by doing. I do miss those workshops, but I just don’t have the time anymore. Perhaps next year.
I have never been attracted to the ‘lifestyle’ of a writer. Coffee shops and berets and awards ceremonies… I do not give a rat’s arse. I do, of course, want recognition from my peers… but mainly I care about writing good stories and getting them in front of readers. That’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do, and I’m going to keep doing it until somebody finds a way to stop me.
Well, come on, then, if you think you’re hard enough.