Monday, January 17, 2011

2010: The Year in Review

2010: Year in Review
Last year, at the start of 2010, I did not think I was in a good place as far as my writing was concerned.  I had seen the end of a collaborative relationship with the comic book stories I had been working on.  I thought I might lose my professional accreditation with Comic-Con.  The stories I was submitting at the time seemed to come back faster than I could send them out.  It felt as if there was a contest going on amongst the various editors out there to see which of them could send my story back the fastest once they had received it (I think the record came to be a litter under two weeks).  I was wondering if I would ever seen anything of mine in print again.  
Now, at the start of 2011, things are much, much better.  As I think about the goals I am setting for myself this year, I thought it might be a good idea to look back over 2010 and note those things that happened to turn my writing around.  
In reverse order: 
“Shadow Angel” accepted by Asimov’s Science Fiction
Coming at the end of the year, the first week in December actually, this ranks as my favorite achievement both of the year 2010 and my writing career overall.  That was when I received the first in a series of emails from Sheila Williams, the editor at Asimov's science fiction, telling me she was interested in the story I had submitted to them at the end of October, "Shadow Angel," and was wondering if I would be willing to revise it a bit.  
This was a big deal for me for a couple of reasons.  First off, Asimov's Science Fiction is one of the premier publishers of shorter works in science fiction.  Writers' Digest Magazine rates in in the top 5 for the most prestigious market for a writer to have their work published.  The magazine gets approximately 800 submissions each month, from which they select SIX to publish.  Getting them to accept one of my stories is an achievement in itself.  
For me personally, Asimov’s Science Fiction has published some of my favorite science fiction stories that I’ve read, some of which I still remember today.  The stories struck me as having the perfect balance of cutting edge concepts and futuristic settings as well as some really fine writing that would stand up in any genre.  When I made the decision to be a science fiction writer, one of my goals was to see a story of mine appear in the pages of this magazine.  Now, sometime after August of this year, that goal will be realized.

What I learned from the experience:The edition of the magazine hitting the stands ‘now,’ was put together about four or five months before.  I hadn't realized that there was that great of a lag-time between acceptance and publication.  I also had my first experience working with an editor on one of my stories.  The revisions Sheila requested were to add exposition to clarify the background of the story, and then to clean up some of grammar in the rewrites.  I made it my goal to be as specific and direct in my revisions and to get them back to Sheila as quickly as I could, taking no more than a weekend to get them done.  I guess the guidelines I gave myself worked, because Sheila informed me of her decision that she would definitely take the story in the email she sent me after the first of the year.
The National Novel Writing Month (“NaNoWriMo”) takes place in November.  It is a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel (or at least complete 50,000 words toward a novel) finished by the end of the November.  That averages out to 1,667 words a day to meet that goal.
I had always wanted to try my hand at a writing challenge like this but always shied away from it.  Would I have enough time?  Could I write that consistently for entire month?  My previous attempt to write a novel, which I’m still officially working on, started a decade ago and is not close to being completed.  Would I be setting myself up for failure?
This year was different, though.  By November, I was already feeling much better about my writing than I had in quite some time.  And I had an idea, sparked by something a member of my online writing group had included in a critique for another story.  I did not have many details, mind you, but I had a good idea of the plot, from beginning to end and I could see some of the high points of the landscape I wanted to cross.  With that, without even taking the time to plot it out completely (mainly because I only had a week to go before the start of NaNoWriMo) I dove in, determined to pound out the story and get as much of it done as I could by the end of the month. 
Officially, I ‘Won’ NaNoWriMo.  I had over 76,000 words done by November 30th.  Unofficially, I don’t consider myself a novelist yet because I’m still working on the novel, which is opening of a trilogy I’m calling, “A Spell of 13 Years.”  I’m into the third act, heading toward the end, currently over 165,000 words.
What I learned from the experience: That I can write a novel, something I was starting to worry/wonder about after my initial attempt.  I also rediscovered the joy of simply writing away from just an idea in my head.  Finally, due to a change in my writing habit to make sure I met my writing goal each day, I discovered that scenes and stories ‘hang better’ when I write them in bigger chunks.  
World Con - Aussie Con 4/San Diego Comic-Con
I enjoy going to conventions.  I have gone to every San Diego Comic-Con for the past twelve years and every World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) since it was held in Yokohama, Japan in 2007.  In 2010, I added Westercon to my convention itinerary, mainly because it was being held in my hometown of Pasadena, CA.  
Last year, however, it looked like I wasn’t going to get to go to any conventions.  The trouble with the economy made such travel seem like something I should reconsider, especially for the WorldCon in Melbourne, which was the farthest I ever went to attend a convention.  There were also personal concerns, such as whether I was going to have a job and my cat becoming very sick in a very costly manner, that plagued my planning.  
But I ended up going, both to San Diego and to Melbourne.  Despite all the uncertainty and trepidation over what might happen, I made the decision to go.  Conventions represent opportunities for me to immerse myself in the things like I love the most, speculative fiction in all its forms and writing them, and meeting friends and 'convention buddies' that share that love.  My favorite thing I ever heard at a convention was by J. Michael Stracznsky, creator of Babylon 5, who said, “Never surrender your dreams.”  Conventions are where I go to help me remember why I dream the things I do.  
What I learned from the experience: Apart from the stuff I learned in the panels, some of which I will be relaying in upcoming blog entries, what I learned this year was that often the difference is making a dream or goal come true is simply making the decision to do it.  “I will go” has much greater power to help you get to where you want to be than, “I want to go.”  
SoftMetal Reprint
In June of 2010, a comic I wrote back in 2005 was reprinted under its own cover.  The comic is called ‘SoftMetal,’ which is drawn by Sanny Folkesson, and is currently available from Angry Viking Press.  
My efforts in my comic book writing could best be described as “so close, yet so far.”  My initial goal was, from the beginning, to get my own book.  I’ve had four stories published in various lengths, one, “Gagaku Berceuse,” even won the Best Horror selection in Rising Stars of Manga for 2007.  But all of them were run in anthology, where they shared space with other creator’s works.  This is not too uncommon when you are starting out, but I wanted to reach the point where the entire book was filled with just my story.  After the collaborator I worked with the most decided that he wanted to take his career in a different direction, it did not look like I would be achieve that goal.  
But it happened, though not in the way I expected.  Angry Viking Press is a relatively new company.  The publisher, Jason Canty, was apparently familiar with SoftMetal and contacted Sanny to see what we were doing with it.  It was Sanny that told me of their offer to reprint what we had published before and to complete the story we had started.  
SoftMetal #01 is the collected episodes of what we previously had printed in anthology with another publisher.  SoftMetal #02, which Sanny is currently working on, are the scripts for the episodes we were going to publish in with that same previous publisher but never did.  I’ve already received messages from Angry Viking expressing their interest in seeing this SoftMetal continue with future story arcs.  I don’t know where we’ll end up or how far we’ll go, but now that I have my own book in hand those other goals seem more doable.    
What I learned from the experience: You never know where success might come from.  Because of that, all you can do is keep working on your stuff and keep getting it out there.  Someone might see it, no matter where it’s at, and that may prove to be the key to the next step.