2023 Writing Wrap Up

Writing Accomplishments and Non Accomplishments

Well, here’s the year end writer’s status report. There’s nothing much to say, really. You don’t have to read this. Every year, around New Years, out of some masochistic impulse, I do a review of my writing activities and accomplishments for the year, and my plans for the next year. Sometimes I’ll go back after writing one of these things, and measure myself against previous years activities and plans. So in the spirit of talking to my future self, here’s the roundup for 2023.

Early in February, I re-released the Mermaid’s Tale. This novel was originally published in 2017 through Five Rivers out in Ontario. They did print, ebook and audiobook editions. Five Rivers closed down in 2020, and rights reverted back to me.

I sat on it for a few years. I had hopes of finding another publisher, or an agent for it. No luck. So, basically, I decided that if I couldn’t take it anywhere, I might as well get it back into the world, so I re-released it under my own banner.

Apart from that, very little of my work got out in the world. I did do a lot of writing as always. I think probably a couple of hundred thousand words worth.

* Two Novellas, 27,000 and 40,000 words;

* Several short stories and a script, probably collectively another 50,000 words;

* Some work in progress stuff for upcoming collections, 40,000 words;

* Alt-History fanfic stuff (don’t judge me) maybe 60,000 to 70,000;

* A lot of short essays, mostly posted on medium or facebook or on my blog, no clear idea – anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000.

A lot of writing, and almost nothing to show for it. Rather disappointing.

There were actually a lot of books that I was going to complete and release this year that just didn’t get off the ground:

* An adult/erotic novel;

* A couple of erotic short story collections (it was going to be one, but I had enough material for two);

* A vampire novel;

* A slasher collection/novel;

* A nonfiction book about Starlost;

* A Cthulhu/Atlantis style spec essay book;

And I was hoping At Bay Press would be releasing Twilight of Echelon this year.

Most of these were complete, or mostly complete and requiring fine tuning and hammering to get them into shape. As it turns out, the day job, episodes of depression, a crisis or two and various other personal, professional and writing distractions got in the way. It probably didn’t help that my chosen cover artist got cancer, and that kind of derailed things.

On the positive side, they’re all sitting there, waiting to be polished up, or in some cases hammered into shape. I’ll get them all out into the world one way or the other.

And I had plans to branch out. I did a lot of writing for social media, largely unsuccessfully and without effect. I think it was good writing and thoughtful stuff. But it’s shouting into the void. Social media is mainly a place for memes, pictures and cute aphorisms. I really did end up just wasting a lot of time and energy.

I thought I’d found a forum called Medium which might have been a venue for my style – longer thoughtful pieces. In the end, I was too busy to use it effectively or to put up as many pieces as I wanted. But no worries, I did put up a lot of pieces and I had no impact or success to speak of.

Entered a couple of short story contests, and did some anthology and magazine submissions. Got turned down on everything. I did get long listed for the literary short story contest – meh. And a magazine gave me a complimentary rejection note – another meh. But I take what I can get.

I did get the chance to make personal pitches to three agents. People I met at conventions, or I’d actually had real references for.

Pitching agents is tricky – if you pitch blind, you look them up, search their websites, research them, but you have no personal reference, no personal contact or connection, you basically go on the slush pile – they get 250 pitches like yours every week and mostly they just delete them. In the previous years, I’d pitched about a hundred agents blind, with three different novels. Struck out.

This year my approach was much more selective, much more ‘cultivated’ – so far nothing. I suspect I’ve struck out again. But I think maybe this approach is better. I suppose nothing to do next year but get back on the horse.

I also pitched three small or medium sized publishers, and they were all interested enough to want to see the full manuscripts. I’ve still got hopes for one, and I’ve submitted the manuscript. The other two, I need to polish the manuscripts before sending them in.

There were some very good reviews, including many from complete strangers. Notable were a Youtube review, and some from Amazing Stories online. I did a couple of podcasts, and an online print interview. It’s not much, but it’s something.

Financially, I did a better this year than last year, but not by a huge amount. Online sales were about the same. Workshop fees, I think I did a little better, maybe a couple of hundred dollars there. The big new item was from in person sales at book launches and conventions, it didn’t come to a huge amount – maybe a few hundred. But really, overall it was the same ballpark as 2022. Basically it’s ‘report it on your taxes, but don’t dream of quitting the day job’ money.

All in all, from all platforms and personal sources, I think I sold … maybe 350 books. Okay I suppose, not burning down the world.

Overall, looking at the totality, I felt it was kind of disappointing though. There’s a lot of time and work invested every which way and no results to speak of anywhere. Everything kind of flopped, failed, got rejected, got put off, or is just waiting.

The best I can say is that there’ll be a lot of irons in the fire next year.


Writerly Related Things

I think that the problem was that I got distracted by to many things. I spent two much time being a writer and not enough time actually focusing on writing.

I did do a major workshop series for the Manitoba Writers Guild – five three hour hands on teaching sessions, early in the year.

I attended four major conventions or literary conferences – World Fantasy, NASFIC, Words Collide and CanCon, and I estimate that I probably contributed maybe twenty programming items – Presentations, Panels, Readings, Autograph Sessions, Pitch Sessions, etc. Honestly, there were so many I’m not even going to list them. I think I did that in an earlier post. They and the conventions turned out to be a massive outlay of time and energy. We’re talking extended travel to Kansas, Toronto, Ottawa and Calgary. Each panel or presentation represented up to several hours of work. Each trip required preparation and ended exhausting.

I applied for two Manitoba Arts Council grants. Got turned down both times. I was heavily involved in a Canada Council grant application – for a documentary about me as a writer – basically, what makes a marginal struggling writer tick? I’m working on another Canada Council application for an international project, but that’s looking like a long shot.

I organized three book launches for a total of eight books. A two book launch for Scott Ellis, for his Benny the Antichrist and Crawling to the Moon collections of short stories. A two book launch for my Drunk Slutty Elf books, and a four book launch for R.J. Hore’s Toltec Conquests trilogy, and his standalone Kansas book.

With R.J. Hore, that was a project. Originally, I started out helping him get his rights back from a Zombie publisher. That was a project by itself. Then I agreed to republish his four books four him, another project. Did the book covers myself, another project. Then the launch.

And I’m helping another writer, Elisabeth to get her rights back from another possibly sketchy publisher.

So as it turns out this year, I’ve invested a huge amount of time and work in rescuing, publishing or doing launches for writers who weren’t me. Which maybe explains how some of my own stuff got back burnered.

So tons of writing related activities, engaging heavily with the community of writers, both local and beyond, and at times getting into projects.


So what’s for next year?

More of same basically. Who knows, maybe one or more of the three agents or the three publishers will come through, and I’ll finally have my breakthrough. Or at least potentially move up a level. Yeah, right, I’m laughing along side of you.

At Bay Press promises me that Echelon will be coming out next fall. I’m going to push that like a m*******r. Seriously, I think it has the potential to make waves. I have some dream it could be career elevationg. I’m allowed to dream.

As for the other seven book projects, if I can get three or four out next year, and the rest the year following, I’ll be happy. If I can get everything done this year, I’ll be ecstatic. But it won’t be the end of the world if I don’t. As long as I can get some books out.

In terms of improving my self publishing platform, getting more books out seems to be my best strategy. I’m accomplished enough now I do print books automatically with ebooks. The only thing that looks like its worth doing is increasing on IngramSpark – I’ve only got a few titles there, the covers are a pain in the ass, but I may expand and add to titles there. I might also do Barnes & Noble separately – it’s currently under Draft2Digital, not sure.

I’ve got AI audiobooks on Googleplay and Kobo, but I think I’ll discontinue that experiment for for ethical reasons.

And then there’s the long term quest to steadily empty out the hard drive, and hammer my body of work in there into presentable forms. That’s long term. The hard drive is thinning out, there’s still a lot of material left to go, but a lot of what’s left will take some work to hammer it into proper shape.

There are a couple of novels that I really want to write just to get them done – Goddess of Asylum, to finish of the Asylum series; The War to finish the Arukh trilogy. Then some novel projects that might be a change of pace, a Vampire comedy, and a Pacific fantasy, an Asylum spin off. I’ll be honest, if I manage to get one or two done, I’ll be happy.

I notice I’ve been doing a lot of short stories this year – not breakneck, but I think I’ve got at least a half dozen. I might focus a bit on writing short stories and get serious about submitting them competitively to anthologies, contests and magazines.

I’m going to be working on Youtube videos with my friend Dean. We’ve already started on that. We’ll see how that goes.

R.J. Hore has one more book to publish. And I need to finish with Elisabeth and get her made whole. I’m volunteering to do a bunch of workshops for the Manitoba Writers Guild, and I’ve committed to a Copyright workshop for a Toronto group. Beyond that, I think I’m going to try and focus on my selfish projects.

I’m going to try to commit to a handful of conventions again, Can Con, Words Collide, WFC, NasFic, Keycon, WDW. A lot of travelling, and I’ll have to set money aside and book time off.

Though maybe not the same brutal pace of Panels and Presentations. I feel I’ve established a little bit of a presence and bona fides in the writing community. Maybe relax and try socializing and making connections. And of course, use these venues is where you make connections, shmooze and directly or indirectly find opportunities to pitch to agents and publishers.

Honestly, I’m really not good at this. I basically get by by being an extremely hard worker. That’s made me valuable and useful in certain kinds of object oriented social situations, and that makes up for personality deficits. Even within my family, I got by by just being a hard worker.

In straight up social situations? Sometimes I’m really good, often I’m not, it’s always stressful and exhausting. It’s not helped by an instinctive hostility to anyone I perceive as potentially having power over me – that’s not a good trait to manifest when you’re trying to shmooze Editors or Agents. But this is the game, and this is how it’s played.

If I can, if I have the time and guts, I’ll also restart the ‘blind pitches’ – research and blindly email. But that part of it is basically the Kafka ‘do it so you know in your heart you’ve tried everything’ shtick.

The big priority, of course, the brass ring, the big prize is a trad publishing deal. Which means an agent and a deal with one of the big five or their imprints. Been bashing my head on that one off and on for years. Maybe this year, maybe not.

I might continue to try smaller presses. I could hope for something medium sized and respectable. Something that will get me into bookstores, pays an advance, pays decent royalties, reports regularly, and has some actual experience, technical know how and commitment to marketing.

I might try doing some book tables this year, just to have that experience. Maybe keep an eye open on marketing, figure out how to actually make use of goodreads, stuff like that. It’s not just for myself – Scott Ellis and R.J. Hores are both very good, very overlooked writers, and if I can find a way to promote and market effectively, I can do it for them as well as myself. I say this every year. I learn a bit more every year. I find it more futile every year.

Probably won’t apply for an Arts Council Grant again. I’ll have been kicked to the curb six times on four projects. I think I’ve hammered away with all the potential projects. All it did was make me delay on projects, rather than just jumping in and getting started. I’ll wait until I’ve got something new.

And the non-fiction stuff? I might cut back on that. There’s no sign of anything in Medium that suggests I’ll make progress there. There’s still things to try and look at. Substack (whatever that is). Reddit. Patreon. Maybe. Social media seems disappointing, and there’s a pervasive whiff of toxicity to all of it. I think I’ve been writing or doing a lot on facebook the last couple of years, and that really comes down to loneliness and isolation on my part, craving any kind of human connection, even the faux connection of social media. Honestly, it’s a weakness on my part, and not going anywhere for anyone. So maybe try to shift efforts over to other areas.

You know what? I like writing. I know that much. I like writing, it sooths me, it heals me, it balances me and takes me away from the sterile emptiness of my existence. I’ll keep doing it.

But all the rest, chasing the brass ring year after year, going in circles. Is it worth it? I didn’t really do anything this year that wasn’t just a continuation of the year before. Last year was just a continuation of the year before, and the same for the year before that. Sometimes its productive in small ways, sometimes there’s nothing much to show. Even the successes are often quixotic and futile, a glimmer, and then the boulder’s back down at the bottom of the hill.

So what’s the plan for this year coming up? More of same, basically. There’ll be some fine tuning, shifts of emphasis, different projects. Hopefully get some self publishing out into the world. Might sell a story to an anthology. Do a sellers table. Attend some conventions, socialize more.

Maybe I’m just going in circles. It’s entirely possible that in five years time, I’ll be where I am now, mostly nowhere.

Worst case scenario, I’ll just add the novels and stories I’m trying to market, or writing for the market, to the self pub pile and hope that it’s not made completely obsolete by AI. And that will be it. Veni, vidi, perdidi.

Is this the best thing I can do with my life? Probably not. Definitely not. I think I’ve wasted my life, in every single way that it’s possible to waste your life.

But here I am, for whatever it’s worth, I’m a writer. I think I’m good at it. And I love it. There’s no rule that says that the things that you love have to love you back. Mostly, they don’t. That’s just another one of those hard things that you learn to accept. So why not?

Here’s to writing in 2024, and maybe trying to get some of these boulders up the hill.