It’s July. That means half of 2019 is gone, and I thought I’d take a look at how the year’s going for my writing.
My first thoughts on this aren’t good. I’ve found writing increasingly difficult, and don’t feel I’ve been very productive. But to be more objective about this, I’ll recap the 2019 goals I set back in January (for more details, that original post can be found here). These were:
- To release a new edition of Dark Glass, the first book in my Dominions series
- To release another two Dominions books
- To take my Shadows series out of Kindle Unlimited and go wide
- To release paperbacks of at least some of my books
- To start a new project or series
So, how am I doing?
I published the rewritten version of Dark Glass in January, and followed it with a box-set of the first three novels. I’m far happier with this new version of the series starter, and a couple of recent (negative) reviews on the following books bring this back to me—Dark Glass is now a far stronger book, and so more likely to encourage readers to download other books in the series.
I’ll be getting new covers for the Shadows books from next month (the designers I’m using, Deranged Doctor Design, are usually booked up about six months in advance, which is why I didn’t use them for the original Shadows covers—a mistake on my part, I admit), so I’m waiting for these before re-releasing the series and putting it wide (Kobo, iBook and so on). I’m also getting paperback covers done, and I’ve already formatted the interiors, so this should be another goal ticked off by the end of the year.
So, one goal achieved, two on target. Now we come onto the ones that aren’t going so well.
I started Dominions V back in January, working from a rough outline I’ve been kicking around for some time (well over a year). But I wasn’t pleased with the first draft, and did some intensive planning before starting another draft. This one ended up far too long, and again I wasn’t happy with the story. There were moments I thought worked well, but overall it felt strained, and there were too many sections that plodded. The whole resolution felt forced, and it wasn’t a satisfying read.
It was now the middle of May, and I knew I needed a break. So I put this novel to one side and started something else.
Shadows was always intended as a trilogy, but I left some loops open (I’ve never been a fan of stories that close everything off too neatly). I’d been intrigued by a possible follow-on series, and so I planned and wrote a novel that could be start of this series, and managed to complete the first draft by the middle of June.
This was an improvement on the Dominions V drafts, in that the story worked. But it didn’t sit well with the rest of the Shadows books. The original trilogy was sci-fi infused with horror, whereas this new one was more action/adventure. It felt like a story being crammed into an already-existing universe.
So, six months and drafts of two novels that didn’t work. I started to wonder if I’d wasted half the year, as well as trying to figure out why writing had suddenly become so much harder. And as I thought on this, I realised two things:
Progress means aiming higher
In retrospect, writing isn’t getting any harder. What has got trickier is writing scenes and stories that satisfy my inner critic. As I’ve learnt more about the craft of writing and storytelling, I’m constantly resetting the bar for myself higher and higher.
If I wanted proof of this, I only had to look at Dark Glass. When I released the original version, I was really pleased with it. I believed the story worked, and that the writing was good—not exceptional, but better than I expected. But a few years later I was able to see so many issues with that book that I decided to re-write it.
No writing is ever wasted
There’s a famous quote from Thomas Edison, when he was asked about his failure to produce (I believe) a working lightbulb—‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’ This can apply to anything, including writing.
To get better at something requires two things—knowing what to do, and practising. With writing, I can read books on craft, listen to podcasts, learn in so many different ways—but this will have no effect if I don’t put this learning into practice by actually writing.
So I can look back on these ‘failed’ drafts as practice. I can see passages that work, and I can also learn from what didn’t. Through writing, I’ve improved, and that means my next draft should be better, maybe even something I can use.
But there’s another way of using this writing. Stories are made of scenes, and each scene should work on its own. From these drafts, I’ve managed to extract scenes and mould them into short stories (you can read one of these, There’s Always A Choice, here). Additionally, the draft of the post-Shadows book might be usable. I could re-mould it into the start of a brand new series, unconnected to Shadows.
Where does this leave me for the remainder of 2019? I’ve started another draft of the next Dominions novel, after a more in-depth planning process, and I feel it works far better than the previous ones. I’m confident I’ll have this book out by the end of the year, but I doubt the one after will be ready—especially as I want to spend some time concentrating on the re-release of the Shadows series.
So I won’t achieve all of my goals for this year. But that doesn’t matter—I’ve kept on working towards them, and I’ve learnt along the way.
As long as I keep on writing, I’m doing well.