I tweeted this a few days ago:
#authorconfession D28 My biggest writing accomplishment this year is absolutely that I’m still doing it.
— Elizabeth Bonesteel (@liz_monster) December 28, 2017
It got 17 likes, which is a lot for me. I suspect a lot of people thought I was talking about the debilitating effects of US politics and the state of the world. And while that’s a fair assumption, I wasn’t.
2017 was bad.
In fairness, the badness started years ago. The first time things went palpably wrong was April of 2016, a month after my first book came out, when a blog on a reputable web site ripped into the book for not being a proper romance novel. (“But wait, Liz,” I hear you say, “it’s not a romance novel at all. WTF was that blogger talking about?” Got me, folks.) After that, it was just one thing after another, and I couldn’t get much creative traction at all.
So by 2017, that boulder was rolling down the hill, unstoppable–or at least not stoppable by me. That some of the endings that happened last year were good ones–ones that I should have initiated much, much sooner, instead of waiting for them to be done unto me–doesn’t change how awful it was going through them.
But the past is a foreign country.
I begin 2018 with nothing but good people around me, including all those lovely people still supporting my first three books–the readers, reviewers and other writers who recommend my work, the folks at Harper Voyager who still talk about them, all the lovely people who keep the books on their “really, I want to read this someday, honest” lists.
And my family. They’ve put up with a lot this year. They’ve held me up, they’ve kept me clear-headed, they’ve looked after me and been angry for me and told me to keep going.
There’s a point, when a cascade of bad hits your life, when you want to say “Fuck this, I’m done.” Retreat seems like the sensible decision. All your efforts have given you is pain; only someone crazy would keep trying.
But there is a parallel to politics, and it’s this: giving up guarantees you lose. Retreat isn’t a neutral solution. If you stop fighting, the battle isn’t over; it just means you’re going to get overrun and destroyed that much more quickly.
And yeah, you may get overrun anyway; but your only hope–literally–is to pick up your sword and keep going. The number of times you’ve already done this doesn’t matter. Your exhaustion doesn’t matter. Your bitterness, your sense of unfairness, your wish for the universe to be something other than it is–none of that matters. You’re not playing “the only way to win” anymore. You never were. You’re playing “the only way to not lose horribly and catastrophically.”
Which sounds hyperbolic when all I’m talking about is knocking together some stories, but you know what I mean.
I do have a few concrete plans for 2018, but it’s worth noting that a lot of this is dependent on external events. I can’t absolutely commit to any of it. But I’m going to try to keep the list to things I have some confidence about, so hopefully I won’t have to retcon anything later.
So here we go:
- Finish the standalone book. I had a draft of this out with a beta until a few days ago, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about refinements. I’d like to get this one into a publishable state this year–preferably the first half of the year, but a lot depends on how the refinements go. Some are pretty major, and we all know I am not fast.
- Get a solid draft of Central Corps #4. As mentioned yesterday, I have a really, really rough draft of this one, but the revision has been going well. I’ve drafted seven (!) books now, and one thing that seems consistent is that I rarely know how the book needs to be shaped until I’ve completed a rough draft. I had to churn out a lot of words before I realized what I wanted this one to be about, and now I just have to make it about that. (I’m fond of it. It’s weird and not-weird, all at the same time. Like life.)
- Polish two short stories and write one more. I have one in-universe short and one standalone. The in-universe short is closer to being finished, but they both need attention. As for what the third will be…I’m not sure. I don’t have a lot of practice writing shorts, so it’s all kind of experimental at this stage.
- Blog more. My December goal was 2 blog entries, and I made it (barely). I think two entries a month is probably a reasonable goal to set; I may get to the point where I have more to yak about, but between general nattering and doing reviews, I can probably come up with a more-or-less-every-other-week thing.
- Get a newsletter going. This may end up being superfluous, but it’s trivially easy to set it up, and I figure it might be fun.
My only real open-ended question for this year is what to do with the short stories. My instinct is to toss them up on the blog (maybe making them newsletter-exclusive for a month first), but I’m acutely aware that in these days of the internet, artists are often expected to work for exposure. I’m not equating the value of what I’m doing to anyone else’s work, but I fear, a bit, that if I toss it up somewhere for free I’m contributing to a bad culture. Which brings us to things like Patreon, which–ugh. Maybe I’ll convince myself free is OK.
Beyond that, I’ll probably readjust some of my social media usage. Goodreads, by starting to charge for book giveaways, is pricing itself out of marketing usefulness, but I’ll probably see if I can to link my blog to my author page there, at least. Twitter is kind of an ugly mess, but there are a lot of writers there, so I’ll probably keep playing some of the hash tag games. I’ll keep linking to stuff on Facebook, but Facebook is making it more and more difficult for creators, so I wouldn’t expect to put a whole lot of emphasis on that platform. (I do check notifications, though, so please feel free to comment or message me there.)
As for what will happen to those books I’m writing…what a good question. Those are details I’m still working out. Central Corps #4 will see the light of day one way or another, but for a lot of reasons in and out of my control it’ll probably be a while. The standalone? I don’t know. Depends on a lot of things. I like it, but I may be in the minority on that one. It’s structurally very different from the Central Corps books, but I do my usual focus on characters in strange and untenable situations. It’s both far more bleak and far more optimistic than my usual stuff.
It’s frustrating to recognize that the most important thing I have to do in 2018 is to shake off 2017. My hope is that this year I can keep my feet under me and look forward. There will be times I’ll fail at that, I know. (The worst of it I can’t discuss here, but I will tell you it had nothing to do with sales.)
But when I fail, I’ll turn to the same thing I’ve always turned to when times are hard: writing.
And I guess we’ll see how that goes.