Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Year of the Teeth-Clenched Learning Experience

"Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes."  --Oscar Wilde

As much as I enjoy bucking tradition, there really is no better time than the year's end to look back and see how things have gone.  Looking back on this year, there's really only one way to sum it up:

2014 was fucking awful.

Dead serious here.  The year's high points were DragonCon with friends and Christmas with family.  That's pretty much it.  As for my writing, much as I'd love to say "the less said the better" and cut this entry short, I think it needs more than that.

I started querying THE ACCIDENTAL WARLOCK earlier this year, and received more silence than rejections.  I'm no stranger to rejections, I know none of us are.  One does not simply get published without getting rejected.  But I believed in this book.  I wanted nothing more than to start my career with this book.  Hearing back nothing got to me more than rejection; a rejection at least means I know the agent considered it before saying no.  Hearing nothing means they could have just deleted the e-mail unread.  And somehow, that's worse.

Then, as I've talked about, I decided to set TAW aside.  Realizing that the book had no real antagonist came as an unpleasant surprise, the sort of thing I should have seen when I was plotting.  Isn't all the time I spend plotting meant to catch problems like that?  I set the book aside, I didn't want to go back to it after some time, and . . . and the whole thing ended up feeling like a huge failure on my part.

I try not to feel that way.  I really do.  But seeing TAW go the way of every single other book I've written hit me hard.

It should be a brighter note that I wrote two books this year.  It would be, if they were worth reading.  The first one I wrote in a few weeks, despite knowing that for me, trying to write quickly results in crap.  Yes, 70K words in 16 days is a hell of a thing.  But as soon as it was done, I hated it.  It wasn't anything like what I wanted it to be, and what gets me the most is that I knew it wasn't ready when I started it.  But I had taken time off for a writing vacation, and it was the only plot I had that was even close to being ready.

The second book went a bit better.  The end result wasn't what I wanted, but the only way I could have realized what I truly want the world and its stories to be was for me to write the ridiculously over-the-top story that I did.  I'm slowly taking down notes for another story in this world, and assuming I get to it someday, I'm hoping it'll go better.

My bitter ranting aside, I'd like to think of what happened with that last book as a metaphor for this whole year.  Nothing turned out the way I wanted it to.  But even in mistakes and failure, I honestly do think I'm getting better at this writing thing.  I'm not good enough yet, but there's hope.  And there's no way I can stop.

So here I sit, teeth grinding together, as I consider this whole year one giant learning experience.

Next entry: IWSG for the new year.


  1. Honestly, I've given up trying to figure out publishing and agents. I don't know what they want. I'll keep sending my work, but at this point, I don't have much in the way of hope for traditional success, whatever that means.

    Still another year, another chance at the world. I'm hoping 2015 is better for you.

    1. Thank you. ^_^ And if it helps, I've seen agents say that they often don't know what they want until they read it. It's always something of a crapshoot, but at least there's always hope that we could send something to just the right person.

  2. I'm pretty sure I've commented on this before at your blog, but just because your books didn't turn out the way you wanted and, in the case of TAW, you saw a major flaw in them doesn't mean you've failed. You are learning and growing as a writer, something we all must do -- published or unpublished. I returned to a beloved old project this year, saw all the glaring flaws in it, revised it, and sent it to my agent for her thoughts. I don't know if that book will ever find a market, but I still love it and every time I revise it (this must be version #12 by now) I learn something new. I might be revising this book until I die, but at least it teaches me things that I put to use in my other books.

    Hoping 2015 is more fruitful for you!!!

    1. I know that's true, and I know it doesn't mean that I've failed. It's an issue of mine, though, and one that I've addressed here before. I tend to be really hard on myself when something goes wrong. >_< But like I said, I keep going, and I do feel like I'm getting better.

      Hope 2015 is likewise good for you. ^_^

  3. I think each "failure" teaches us so much about our stories. I've learned to never toss an idea because you never know when it might show up in a future project. I have one novel that will never see the light of day because it's so terrible, and you should see my first drafts. Yikes! But the important thing is to keep writing and learning. We all want to be further along on our writing journey but I think we're right where we need to be. Sometimes you have to just bloom where you're planted. I hope the new year brings you much success!

    1. I agree with everything you've said here - especially about first drafts and work that will never see the light of day, ye gods - but it's hard to keep going sometimes. Taking a moment to look back and assess things does help, as does having support from a bunch of other people in the same boat. ^_^

  4. For the record, I loved TAW and I encourage you to consider other publication routes for it even if agent + big press is your eventual goal. Hybridization is working well for a lot of authors (self-pubbing, small pressing, AND/THEN agenting). I happen to know of one small press that is desperate for good high fantasy. Email me if you want to chat further about that.

    As you and others have said, failure is only failure if we let it derail all the progress we've made. The agents at Fuse Literary recommended in their writer resolutions post that writers set goals for things they can control 100%--sending x number of queries versus get an agent. That might help as you make plans for 2015. I do hope it all comes together for you!


    1. Thank you. ^_^ I am considering other publishing routes, though that's a ways down the road - I need to write something that I feel is worth publishing first. Been having a ton of ideas that are working out lately, though, so there's hope.