2022 was a comparatively big writing year for me: I had two stories published, finished a novel, and started another major writing project. It was also the first year (since I started writing regularly) that I didn’t routinely record my writing stats in a spreadsheet. This is because I, apparently, forgot to set up my spreadsheet for 2022 and not the result of some bold change in my psychological writing strategy. I did, however, jot down most of my writing stats in a notebook which means I still have some data to reflect on.
Broadly speaking (and I can’t easily compare 2022’s stats to previous years) my writing output was probably a bit less than it could have been. It was a weird year, and building more structure and discipline around my writing is a definite goal for 2023. That said, in addition to finishing the aforementioned novel, I also wrote seven new short stories (one of which was published), finished one that I started in 2021, and started three additional stories. That’s not bad.
I had the pleasure of seeing one of my earlier stories, The Doorman, published in the Fourth Corona Book of Horror—which you can acquire at all good booksellers should you be curious. I also wrote a story specifically for the Camp Slasher Lake anthology and was delighted to have it selected for publication. You can buy a copy of Camp Slasher Lake Volume 2, which features Disassembler: The Revenge Of Billy Burns as its opening story, on the Fedowar Press website. While I also had three other stories rejected (two of which were shortlisted) by other publications, I’m still happy that my stories are slowly getting out there.
I self-published two new stories on my fiction blog, Slightly Odd Tales. The first is a Halloween-themed tale called Mr Farroway’s Cakes, which I challenged myself to write quite late in October. The second is a Christmas story, The Feast of Christmas, which is the 2021 story that I finished up late this year. I also published a handful of older stories to the blog over the course of the year.
Of the remaining stories that I worked on last year, two were random ideas that simply demanded to be written: one was inspired after watching Terminator: Dark Fate (a perfectly decent sequel which, coincidentally, ‘stole’ an idea I had years ago and never got around to writing concerning the domestic life of a Terminator after it completes its mission). The second story was a technology-related idea I’ve had bouncing around for several years and which, it seems, finally gestated this year—an expression which makes the writing process sound really quite strange and Cronenbergian, so don’t expect me to use that again.
I finished two other stories (and started two more) which were loosely based around a common theme. I’ve long wanted to write a themed short story collection, my original idea being to write a novel where each chapter also works as a standalone short story. That idea hasn’t … germinated, yet. However, something did come up which I’ll probably elaborate separately on in a separate blog post later in the year. For now, as they say, watch this space.
In terms of the writing itself—as in, sitting down and actually writing words—I noticed two clear trends in my behaviour this year. The first is that when I do have a clear idea of a story, or a clearly defined project to work on (such as editing my novel) I can be satisfyingly productive. While my average writing session (a 30-35 minute session every morning) yielded around 500 words, there were some days where I drew comfortably close to 1,000 words. Ideally I’d like to get back to my previous average of around 700 words per session, but I still work on the basis that writing any words is better than writing no words.
The second thing I noticed (and which mostly explains the first) was a tendency to get distracted. I will frequently have to stop while writing and let my mind wander ahead through the plot so I know what to write next. In those spaces I found that I kept picking up my phone and getting distracted. The other day I deliberately left my phone out of reach (which will be part of the strategy going forward) and instead picked up a book that was sitting on my desk. While the resolution to this will largely come from self-discipline, I have ordered Johann Hari’s book, Stolen Focus, so I can hopefully better understand why this is happening.
A further element of this comes from my tendency not to overplot my stories—I always come to the blank page with an overall idea of the shape of the story (the main plot, the major events, the pace and tempo, sometimes even a beginning and an end) but it can take me a while to find the story. Some of them come out almost fully-formed, others I go back and forth on until I’ve found the right characters and tone of voice (and a few never quite get there). This can be fun, but it also means a lot more opportunities for me to sit there, stare into space, and get distracted. So, for next year I’m going to look at introducing a little more planning to my work. If all I do is get to the point where I can get up each morning and know exactly what I need to write, then that will count as job done.
Obviously I don’t have the whole year mapped out yet, but I know that my first goal will be structuring this short story project. I’m sure I will get distracted along the way with other tales that demand to be written, but let’s see how this goes for starters.
I will continue tracking my word counts this year, but in a change to the process I’m going to update my spreadsheet each morning when I finish my writing session. Previously I have scribbled my updates into a convenient notepad and have then, at some laborious point later in the year, transcribed them into my spreadsheet. This just makes the job harder than it needs to be and means I’ve sometimes forgotten what I was working on (especially if my notes aren’t up to scratch). It’s also useful for me to make additional notes if there’s a reason why I haven’t written on a particular day, or have written less than expected.
I’m also thinking of doing monthly writing updates (like this one) for no reason other than it’s a useful way for me to reflect on my progress (and process) and look at what might need changing.
I’m on the fence about whether I should submit more stories. For the most part I just write what I want to write, and not with any particular publication goal in mind. In 2022 I wrote two stories specifically for submission opportunities: one got published and one did not (though I’m very happy with the resulting story).
However, if I’m not going to submit stories regularly then I really need to put more effort into the self-publishing side of things (mostly promotion) which is a lot of work … especially for an introvert like me.
So we’ll see …