Monday, December 30, 2013

2013: The Year That Was

It was the best of years, it was one of the stranger years.

Looking back over 2013 there's a strange dichotomy. On the surface, my work has gone from strength to strength and I've had my best success since I started almost 4 years ago. Below the surface, there has been a lot of gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair, but that is more from expectations I have put upon myself than publishing problems. It's always nice to stop playing turtle and remind myself how things are going.

Happy Cat is Happy...also probably drunk
The Best: This was the year I was determined to make a pro sale...and I did! Not only that, I made THREE sales to pro-rate paying venues, one SFWA qualified, and two awaiting qualification. Theoretically, that would allow me to apply to SFWA if I so desired; I'm still thinking about it.

My three big sales also qualify me for various awards, like the John W. Campbell Award for best new author, and if anyone feels so inclined they would be my choices for being put forward for nomination within the Short Story catagory of next year's Sir Julius Vogel Awards.

To save you a click through to my Bibliography Page, here Amanda's Big Three For 2013:

The Good: I had eleven stories published this year, which is a huge improved on three from 2012. All of them were in paying venues, from token up to pro. Four of them were in anthologies, two of which were Crossed Genres Publications. Along with "Second Skin" in the June issue of their magazine, I've had an excellent relationship with CG editors Bart and thank you, my peeps. 

The other anthology I'm very proud of is "Regeneration" which was released at Au Contraire in July. I'm glad the editors took a punt on my really weird story, the cover artwork is fabulous, and the line up of stories was exceedingly strong. I would like to see it nominated for Best Collected Work at the SJVs.

For a further list of my other stories from this year, check out my Bibliography. I'm quite partial to "A Fear of Falling Under" from Septembers Future Fire. 

Speaking of Au Contraire...what a convention! It was so lovely to catch up with people who are just generally names on Twitter or Facebook. I did my first ever con panels, and had a fab time hanging out with some really great people. 

And speaking of good people...I've had really lovely support from people, mostly remotely, to help motivate me through, cheerlead, and wave banners for my success. Thank you Andi Buchanen, Liz Gatens, Helen Lowe, Cassie Hart, Lynne Jamneck, Lee Murray, Debbie Cowens, Matt Cowens,  Dan Rabarts, Cat Langford, Marie Hodgkinson, The Christchurch Crew, Lisette Ingram, Sunny Moraine, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, AC Wise, and all you other wonderful people who have been there for me in one way or another, whether its conversations on Facebook or helping our with professional links and advice. Sounds like an award speech! Really, you've all been so helpful this year.

Words wise, I set myself a target of 5000 words a week. In the latter half of the year I realized I wouldn't quite reach that, so set myself a yearly tally of 200 000 words, which I passed with days to spare. I'm very pleased that for sheer volume of raw words, I wrote basically a couple of novels worth of short stories.

The Bad: My raw words data and output did not always translate into completed projects. 2013 was the year I had more unfinished and trunked stories than previously. Not simply because I was writing to raw output numbers, but because I was being a lot pickier and harder on myself, pushing myself to improve. This push to improve is definitely a good thing - it's becoming easier to recognize what my style looks like, what I like to write, and what form my good writing takes. However, it's still not easy on my work ethic when my magpie brain is all over the place, and I'm discarding things quicker. Yeah, I beat myself up a lot. I am hard on myself, because I don't have the luxury of waiting to improve over a 20 year period. Because of the age I started writing I need to hit my stride quicker.

I won't lie - trying to find my comfort level for input vs output is still very difficult. Some weeks I'm just trucking along and loving the story, other weeks I fail massively and can barely conceive that I can actually wurd like a pro should (with appropriate mental beat-up). I sometimes think I should have a better plan with an end goal (go novel? creating a collection? self publish?), but I still like the freedom of writing short stories. Of course, you're not seeing any of this - writing can look a little bit like magic on the surface, but in reality its a lot of lonely hard work (I'm not going to call it grind, because I do love it even when it sucks), a lot of frustration and waiting, and a lot of second guessing. And even when I DO have something great happen, like a sale or praise, I'm still all "Nahhhh, that's not's just a fluke". And then I have to remind myself "Yeah, you are good, and you're getting better. Believe in yourself."

Fun now, sparkly poopz later
It's a win-win
Out of my control, I had two stories that did not see publication, one because the magazine folded before its final issue went to print, and another because of a tricky political situation when a small press was absorbed by another (and subsequently ran into its own problems, after I pulled my story from consideration). Along with the mountains of rejection I've negotiated the last few years, I took these challenges in my stride - I was sad to not see these stories go to print, but I am hopeful that because they were originally accepted by editors they can be again. 

To Sum Up: Yeah, 2013 has been pretty good. Thanks for reading. I hope 2014 is even better.