2014: The Year in Writing (And So On)

Apparently this is my 200th post on the blog. Probably would have been more appropriate to have that milestone be the 2014 Recommended Reading, Retrospectives, and Notes post. But if the timing on that one follows suit from last year it’ll show up in February (I need to finish actually assembling my notes before I put that up). So here we are, talking about what I had published in 2014, instead.

We’ll start straight in on that. And follow that up with notes.

Poetry

Fiction

Not a bad year, all told. Five pieces published seems to be fairly standard for me. (Been holding steady at that since 2012, we’ll see if that carries on in 2015). One story published at pro rates, another published for token payment in a charity anthology (the rare instance in which I will accept less than semi-pro rates to sell a story these days). And the three poems published came out in places I am happy to have them, and two markets I am especially happy to be placing poetry in because the company there is exquisite. And I got to put together an audio recording of the poem in Stone Telling, which was quite a thing.

Actually, it’ll be interesting to see what comes out from me in 2015. I didn’t spend a lot of time submitting in 2014, and all of the things I did sell in 2014 came out last year. Going into 2015 with no expected publications beyond the ones already listed on the Bibliography page, and I’m pulling three of the four forthcoming stories listed there after I finish this post. At this point I don’t think those three are happening. Which doesn’t bother me because I look back at those pieces, and they’re not written at the level I’m writing at now.

I’m not fond of this idea I see floated every once in a while that a story should be kept in circulation until it sells, simply because it is in your inventory, regardless of when you wrote it. Sometimes a story is fantastic and it just takes a while to find a market, sure. But as writers, we grow beyond our old stories. Tear a story to component parts and tell it better if it represents craft you are beyond now. (For the record, my trunk is full of stuff I’ve scavenged parts from–all stories that are reflective of an earlier level of craft–so I’m speaking from experience.)

Maybe it’s just the way I approach an investment in my work–I’m not committed to the idea that I have to sell everything I write. Hell, I know lots of people go into Clarion, or in my case Clarion West, with the idea that they must come out of it with six publishable stories, or as near that as possible. Me, I was just happy to finally get a chance to write and experiment after three months solid of having no time to write. (2014 was a ridiculously busy year, what with the move, the anthology projects, chasing down freelance work–let alone the Clarion West fundraiser, or attending Clarion West itself, and all the other stuff going on in the background that I’ve not talked about.) I came out of CW with one story I focused on and kept revising, and a partial way in to another. The rest (I wrote five there, and started a sixth) were just practice–written in aid of trying different things, or playing with form. And I consider the time spent doing that extraordinarily well used. Because while none of the theory there was new to me (god, that sounds like an asshole thing to say, but I’ve been doing this a very long time–far longer than it looks like from the outside, and theory of craft has never been the issue), for me Clarion West did represent a skill jump.

Part of that is that I no longer care about getting it right on the first draft. I’ve never been a first drafter anyway. My first drafts are all skin and bone, and I flense further back and then build a story up again as I revise. Can take anywhere up to a couple of years until a story’s ready. Sure, I’ve written a story and sold it as a revision of a first draft. Done it a couple of times. I don’t think those are my best work. (One I know isn’t, the other hasn’t seen the light of day yet, so we’ll see, but it lacks the layering I would normally build into a piece, and it’s not as spare nor as sharp as I’ve have made it had I kept at it.) So I trust the method that works for me. Makes it interesting in the couple of instances I’ve had anthology invites. I’m far more likely to take something I’ve already got in the works and revise that in aid of meeting the call than I am to write something from scratch. (For open calls I’ve written from scratch, and that can work, but I’ve usually got months to work on and revise something, so it pans out.)

And the real argument for scrapping work that no longer represents your level of craft is that if you can write better, you’re also probably not having the same conversations in fiction that you were with those earlier pieces. All fiction is a conversation. All stories address something, intended or no. And the conversations we are having change as our internal conversations do. Some authorial conversations are more pointed and less nuanced than others, true. And sometimes people get locked into having the same conversation for a couple of decades, which is … strange. Or some authors only ever want to have one conversation. That happens. But most discourse changes over time. A combination of experience and investment. Sometimes a shift in worldview. Sometimes a shift in physical state.

Writing, like living, is a function of growing into something.

I keep thinking about that as I work toward compiling my notes for the recommendations post. Despite the fact that I read what feels like fuck all last year in terms of short fiction (just due to workload), there are writers whose work I keep an eye on, and who I’ve watched raise not only their level of craft, but their level of conversation as well. It’s fascinating to watch. Also puts me in mind of the fact that I need to pull together my final list of writers to recommend for the Campbell Award.

And while this is technically my second year of Campbell Award eligibility, I’d much rather you voted for someone else. Even if you were thinking of voting for me, and I can’t see why you would given the extraordinary writers active in the field who deserve the nomination. You can find a list of writers eligible for the 2015 award here, and I’m pretty sure I’ll have narrowed my selections down to five eligible writers that I would recommend for nomination by the time I put up the forthcoming recommendations post.

Although, right now, I’ll tell you I don’t know how I’m going to pare that down. My current shortlist includes Emily Jiang, Carmen Maria Machado, Usman T. Malik, Helen Marshall, Sam J. Miller, Bogi Takács, Natalia Theodoridou, Alyssa Wong, JY Yang, and Isabel Yap. And that list might get longer still before it gets shorter.

[Edited to add Sam J. Miller to that list. Because I’d forgotten he was still eligible until I checked the list again. Well, this selection just keeps getting harder -_- ]

Oh well. An abundance of choices is always better than a dearth.

For now, I’m going to go back to compiling things. I’ve had word of good things that I’ll announce down the road, and an awful lot of things in the works right now. I suppose I could also reflect on the whole of 2014 before I wade back into the work again. Though it would be simplest to state that 2014, as a year in writing and a year in larger concerns, was full of dizzying highs and some abysmal lows. As all years tend to be. I’m not entirely sure I’d trust a year without sea change.

In the end, I’d rather be looking forward than mulling on the past. I get more done that way :)

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One Response to 2014: The Year in Writing (And So On)

  1. Arlee Bird says:

    Visiting here after following on Twitter. You present an interesting perspective. I guess whichever methods reap success and help us to feel better is the method that’s best. All writers don’t work the same, but if something is working to a successful end then it’s something worth looking at and considering a bit further.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

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