The 2016 Year in (Writing/Editing) Review Post

With the new year settling in, another year of writing, reviewing, and editorial work is done. 2016 was a decidedly full year in many ways, replete with financial hills and valleys, and definite peaks where career and personal life were concerned. If you’ve been following/occasionally checking in with me on Twitter then you’ve heard me speak at length on the state of the world, so I’ll not duplicate that here. And a lot of the personal stuff is just that and will remain so. But it was an interesting year for me in publishing and related fields.

I’d initially planned to have this post up earlier and do the 2016 Recommended Reading, Retrospectives, and Notes post today. But there’s still so much 2016 short fiction reading I need to catch up on that I’m looking at aiming for the end of the month for the recs post. In past years I’ve put that up around February 15th which is useful to highlight work for awards whose nomination periods are later in the year, but it’s always too late to be of any use for pointing people to work they might want to consider for Nebula nominations. (Not being a member of SFWA I can’t add directly to any of the recommendations threads on their message boards, so this is how I contribute there.)

I often get a head start at the end of a year in terms of getting the recs post ready, but the last two months of 2016 were absurdly full in their own right. From November through the end of the year I ran a crowdfunding campaign for Anathema: Spec from the Margins, spent a fair bit of time putting together the website for Anathema (with help, because oh my god website construction is not my forte), soliciting for Anathema, oh and ghostwrote a non-fiction book for a client in six weeks. So, you know, I was a little busy…. :)

And though there was a lot of scrambling for money last year because I kept having freelance contracts fall through after Brexit tanked the GBP, and with a couple other things just not coming together in the end, I ended up getting a fair bit of work done anyway.

You may have heard I wrote a novel last year? In truth, I wrote (including that non-fiction book) two and a third books in 2016. That third of a book is the second book of the series to which the novel belongs.

I also clarified, right near the end of the year, how I wanted to proceed with a story cycle I’ve been putting together since … well, Clarion West, actually. At the time I didn’t realize that one of my CW stories was tied to the saga I call “Titan and Serpent,” but in retrospect that first draft of the story was absolutely tied to that mythology. Up to six of those stories written now, with two of them sold (“Until There is Only Hunger” in Upside Down, and “And in that Sheltered Sea, a Colossus” forthcoming in Shimmer) and at least several more stories planned in that sequence.

Of course stories and novels weren’t the only thing I wrote in 2016. There were practically no reviews done on the blog last year (beyond one book review and one film review — the latter was admittedly 9,000 words long), but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t reviewing. By my count I wrote 25 reviews for Publishers Weekly in 2016. Not that many all told, but I didn’t get around to everything in my queue so some of last year’s review copies will be dealt with this year.

It was a slower year than some for publishing short stories, as I had only three short stories published in 2016: “Change as Seen Through an Orrery of Celestial Fire,” “All Them Empty Alleys,” and “Until There is Only Hunger.” I talked about those some in the award eligibility post I put up. And it was nice to see the latter get a thoroughly lovely mention from Nisi Shawl in her Seattle Review of Books article “The Future Alternative Past: this dystopian hope.” The article covers a far bit of ground, but in reference to Upside Down Nisi notes that my and Haralambi Markov’s stories are “deeply moving weirdness.”

I think I’ve found what to answer when people inevitably ask me what I write. :D

I debated pitching anthology projects (there are a couple I want to do at some point) to publishers, but right now I’ve only got the kind of reach where I can work with small presses as an editor and that’s not by and large getting anybody the kind of money contributors ought be making for their work. I’m also hesitant to take on another anthology right now until everything’s sorted out with the back end of The Humanity of Monsters. I don’t like leaving projects unfinished, and at the end of last year a third of the contributors to that book were still owed remuneration in one form or another — some of that due to error on the part of a distribution partner from what I gather. Still, having the completion of that project in limbo means I focused elsewhere rather than launching into doing more anthologies.

Which ended up meaning that, given the completion of a novel, and having finally gotten the short story collection into good shape (said shape has since shifted again, but that’s what happens when you continue to grow as a writer), for the first time in ages I was sending out queries to presses and agents for my own work.

Overall my 2016 submission statistics weren’t too terribly different from the 2015 numbers. I sent out 46 submissions in 2015 and 48 in 2016. Each year had four acceptances and/or requests for full or partials for the books. The biggest difference was that in 2015 ~4% of the subs had been for long form work, and in 2016 that was up to ~20%.

In truth, being that close to last year’s numbers is unusual given the statistical variations since I started keeping track of my submissions in 2010. (Prior to that I’d been submitting haphazardly and poorly, and was decidedly not ready to be published.) This because the numbers have been as follows from year to year:

  • 2010 – 31 subs, 1 rewrite request, 1 acceptance (not related to the rewrite request)
  • 2011 – 115 subs, 4 acceptances
  • 2012 – 75 subs, 10 acceptances (only 7 of which were ever published)
  • 2013 – 51 subs, 5 acceptances (only 4 of which were ever published; I pulled the fifth because I decided in the end I didn’t want to publish it)
  • 2014 – 24 subs, 1 acceptance (I was at CW; did far more writing and revising, trying out new approaches, rather than submitting that year as a result)
  • 2015 – 46 subs, 4 acceptances
  • 2016 – 48 subs, 4 acceptances/partial or full requests for manuscripts

If I were to hazard a guess, 2017 will probably look more like the last two years than what came before. I’m working on a mix of short and long form material again, and averaging out at just under a submission a week seems to be a comfortable level for me. Could go entirely differently, I admit. I’ve already had occasion to send out three submissions in 2017, so I’m slightly ahead of the curve I just mentioned. As ever I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see how that shakes out.

So am I happy with 2016’s year in writing overall? Yes I am. The world had a truly fucking awful year (and publishing had some definite shit show moments), but as with many writers, artists, and other creators, for me it was a good year for the work.

Thus far 2017 looks like it should be a good year for my creative work as well. Anathema‘s had a strong start with the successful crowdfunding and we’re in the middle of our first submissions period. I’ve got short fiction work I want to attend to, novels to write, and we’ll see how fares the search for an agent. Should be an interesting year. :)

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