Thursday, 31 December 2015

Retrospective 2015.

Ever since I started this blog, I've had a somewhat loose tradition of writing an annual retrospective of the year that's passed.

Some years I did not do it because those years were too depressing. Indeed, the period between 2009 to 2013, I consider some of my darkest years of my life. No permanent job, a very low paying job and sometimes no jobs at all, I was scrounging for money, on top of having a wife and baby to feed. (Don't worry, things slowly got better and I'm not fishing for sympathy. Just saying.)

During those years, I barely wrote any of my own fiction, and the ones I did I wrote purely out of spite (See: Zombies Ate My Muslim. What was I angry at? The world.)

2014 was the year that everything turned around for me. I finally found a job where my employer truly appreciated my skills and so money was flowing in at a good rate again. In the meantime, to make some extra bucks, I had ghostwritten a screenplay (and half a novel based on said screenplay) and realised I actually enjoyed the experience of writing even after years of convincing myself that I did not really enjoy it that much anymore.

Then near the end of 2014, Fixi Novo, that upstart indie Malaysian publisher, announced they wanted to publish a cyberpunk anthology and put out a call for submissions. I pooh-poohed it at first, telling myself I wasn't good enough. No doubt years of rejection had taken a toll on me. But eventually several people convinced me to give it a go, so I did. I hacked out a story during the last week of December, then mailed it in the last few hours before submissions closed. The rest is history.

What's particularly important about this was the manic dash of writing reminded me why I actually like writing. No longer was writing such a chore. It made me forget the pain of years of rejection that had piled up like a heavy burden on my shoulders.

So I started writing another story. This time for another submissions call that involved my hometown of Ipoh. Again, the rest is history.

Since I was sending out stories anyway, I dragged out a dusty old story that had been getting rejected upways and downways back in the day. I cleaned it up a bit and submitted it to the Griffith Review. And that too, was accepted. It ended up being my biggest sale, ever! But the biggest contribution to me was that this was clear indication that my writing did not in fact, suck, as I had slowly begun to believe.

For the first time in years I was actually enjoying all this writing. Just enjoying writing for writing's sake. I'd been blinded by chasing "success" that over the years I'd forgotten what it is that made me enjoy writing in the first place. Now that I didn't have the stigma of "failure via rejection" hanging over me, I convinced myself I could write whatever the heck I wanted and wouldn't have to give a damn what the world thought about it.

So during a 4-day holiday, I made myself crank out 20,000 words. It was initially meant to be a novella, but it grew to become a novel. It was a novel where I wrote whatever the heck I wanted, and I enjoyed it.

And with that, another tradition in these retrospectives where I scold myself for not writing a novel and then proceed to promise to write one next year DOESN'T come to pass.

What's up for next year then? Well, I meant to write 12 short stories this year, but that didn't come to pass. I did end up writing 5 complete short stories though, so that's still good. The main reason I wasn't able to complete this goal was because I was distracted by other writing projects.

I managed to write two other halves of novels and also a complete novelette. No publishers for the novelette so far, but who knows what 2016 will bring. I aim to finish at least one of those novels next year. Another short story got accepted for publication in 2016 and I'll reveal more about that closer to launch.

I've also been working on a top secret project that is totally different from anything I've ever worked on. Unfortunately, it's likely I might not be able to divulge details until 2017. Well, we shall see how that one turns out.

2015 was also the year I reconnected with my local writing communities, both the English-writing one and the Malay-writing one. Both communities have changed vastly since I started writing seriously in 2006 and while the English-writing side still has a slightly condescending attitude, it's gotten remarkably better than it used to be. What's great though was getting to know a new breed of SF authors on the Malay-writing side who are doing amazing things in pushing the genre. Maybe I'll write more about them in another post.

In summary, 2015: what a splendid year! I've got good vibes for 2016. May it bring more publishing and writing successes.

Some optimistic resolutions for 2016:
  1. Write a novel.
  2. Write at least five cyberpunk short stories. (I'm aiming for an anthology.)
  3. Write a collaborative novel with a friend.

Previous Retrospectives:

I wrote one for 2014 as well but posted it on Facebook:

Currently Available E-Books

Available from: Amazon | Smashwords | iTunes | Google Play | Kobo
Available from: Amazon | Smashwords | iTunes | Google Play | Kobo
Available from: Amazon | Smashwords | iTunes | Google Play | Nook