Well, that year’s over. And what a weird one.
We all, globally, had a weird one. In late January, I emailed my Wildfire editor, Ella, a news article about this thing called coronavirus, going ‘haha, how strange, it’s like in Goldilocks.’ I didn’t think much of it the next few days, thinking it would be better contained like swine or bird flu. Like everyone, I saw it spread like the opening sequence of the film Contagion, and we all side-stepped into a strange not-quite-post-apocalyptic novel. I watched the Charlie Brooker 2020 satire the other day, and realised 1. his job was very easy to satirize this year; he barely had to do anything and 2. time has gone strange. Trump was impeached this year? This year? There are also a few hopeful things: Trump didn’t get re-elected, and we’re at least not careering into No Deal Brexit tomorrow. A vaccine gives us a glimmer of hope that 2021 will see a dip in cases and deaths.
I was in many ways insulated from the worst of it–my job lecturing at Napier simply moved online (‘simply’ L says, hollowly), and obviously I can write at home even if I would prefer to write in coffee shops (and I did risk writing in a few when the cases were lower).
This was very much a ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times,’ writing-career wise, for me. I had two books come out in lockdown, and I’m sure that affected things, and there’s no way to know how much. At one point, I was going to have a mini book tour, but that all fell apart. But there are still many positives to take away from it–Goldilocks was critically acclaimed and got two starred reviews, and ended up on a few Best of 2020 Lists, including Kirkus and School Library Journal, who were the same ones who gave the stars. Seven Devils (with Elizabeth May) also had good reviews and was a freaking Sunday Times Bestseller for a week (!), which was definitely a plot twist, and also got on the Waterstones best SFF list of the year and a starred School Library Journal. Seven Devils was in an Illumicrate box and Goldilocks was the first GSSF box for Goldsboro. A few neat things happened behind the scenes, along with some setbacks. Overall, I think my career is in a better place than it was a couple of years ago and people seem to be enjoying my work. I’m very grateful for that. After a rocky couple of mental and physical health years, I was actually pretty sound this year, despite everything burning around us, so I’ll take that, too.
Writing-wise, here’s what I worked on this year:
- Seven Devils: We did a smaller line edit, then copy edits, then proofing. And then launched!
- Seven Devils 2: We did a proto terrible zero draft of around 50k, condensed that into a 26k outline that would actually make sense to other people, and sent that to our editors to make sure the overall shape of the book was on the right track. We then wrote a 140k draft that didn’t entirely embarrass us in about 2.5 months, and turned that in a few days ago. Good gravy, we’re tired.
- I did two drafts of a fantasy partial, but had written the original draft of that at the end of 2019. More news on that. . . at some point!
- After a nearly two year hiatus, I decided that when the world was burning was a great time to pick up the most emotionally harrowing book I will ever write, which is the semi-autobiographical novel based on my family history (Family Book). I edited the first 35k I had written in 2018 and got to the end of a first draft (95k), and then re-edited the first 20k or so to a place I’m happy with. I did a lot of research for it, including a deep dive into my genealogy, with some interesting results. I also took Part 1 of an Experimental Memoir class with Tawnya Renelle while thinking about this project–I really recommend her classes! They’re affordable and I learned loads, and she has a wonderful warm and informal teaching style. I also hired her for some mentoring on the opening of Family Book.
- I edited a short story or two, and thought up a few ideas for more. I did a mini partial at the very start of the year that didn’t go anywhere, but I started turning it into a screenplay for a TV show pilot. I lost steam/other deadlines became more pressing, but I would like to get back to it at some point, as I found the process interesting.
- I kept up with my Patreon pretty well, though I was a bit inconsistent with the writing prompts.
I read about 80 books (you can see them here). I don’t do ‘best of’ lists as it just hits me in the anxiety. I also watched a lot of TV. Like a lot. I fell deep into a Lucifer hole, and Halt and Catch Fire was another favourite discovered this year. I’m currently re-watching Bones. I’m sure I watched a decent amount of films, but can’t really recall any of them in the blur of the year.
I inconsistently did art. I also did a fair amount of French on Duolingo, set Netflix to have subtitles in French, and also did a little bit of Spanish and Italian.
It feels like tempting fate to make too many plans for 2021, as who knows what’s going to happen. COVID is still raging, the UK is the epicenter of the more infectious strain. While we avoided No Deal, Brexit is still gonna Brexit. But here’s what I’m hoping to do:
- Edit Seven Devils 2: We’ll have to do a structural (hopefully nothing too major) edit, a line edit, copyedits, and proofing. I think it’s still coming out in August. We have a cover and a title, which we will hopefully reveal soon!
- Edit Family Book. I plan to take part 2 of Tawnya’s experimental memoir course. I also, very happily, got funding from Creative Scotland to get more mentoring on it from a former colleague, Sam Boyce. I’m really not rushing this book. I’m taking my time and working on it in between other things.
- Write the fantasy book. There are a few worldbuilding/character/plot things I’m re-imagining, so I’m sort of starting over at the beginning again as of tomorrow, but with a good plan of where I’m going. I’m really excited for this one. While I love SF, I’ve missed fantasy, and this has so much of what I love in fantasy. If you want more details and behind the scenes, I give regular updates and sometimes WIP snippets on this and Family Book on my Patreon.
- Brainstorm a co-written fantasy, probably later in the year.
- Maybe screenplay stuff? Maybe a novella? Who knows. The above is probably more than enough. Writing faster isn’t necessarily writing better, which I need to remember.
- I’m delivering Authorship as a weekly instead of bi-weekly class, so I’ll be beefing that up significantly at Napier. We’ll still be online until September, at least. Very strange that I won’t meet any of my students in person this year, probably!
Hobbies & Miscellaneous:
- My main one is to take a day off every week, ON PURPOSE, no matter how busy I am. It’ll usually be Sundays, but I have some flexibility here.
- Launch CYOTOPIA!
- Do art more regularly.
- Limit time on social media, the perennial goal.
- Read 75 books.
- Keep up exercise, which is a pretty ingrained habit by this point. No set goals though, just whatever feels good. It’s usually buddy PT once a week, a lot of walking, and some yoga. Drink more water, slightly cool it on the constant sugar.
- Stop pressing snooze every 10 minutes for an hour and just get up.