I started 2016 sublimely confident that I was ready to publish and be proud of my first book just as soon as I'd finished it.
I ended 2016 with that book written - and another one written too - and maybe a million miles away from publishing. Maybe I'm quite close. It is difficult to be sure.
When I started writing, I was a fool. I stepped blindly over the precipice, full of trust that things would be right. Plenty of reading and doing plenty of writing would be enough. It isn't. In hindsight that is obvious but the reality of my experience was quite humbling.
In a way though, the trust has been well placed. Through luck and through effort and through friends, I have learned a huge amount. I have created a huge amount. I could never have another idea for a story and yet still have enough for a lifetime. Most crucially, I have found support networks and new friends that will sustain me for a long way through this writing journey. I might be wrong about the tools I would use but I have been right that sitting down at the keyboard and writing has been the way to go.
That is not to say I will be successful. I may never write a book I am satisfied with, nevermind one that fulfils my dreams, bringing many people happiness and enlightenment while giving me the ability to work while completely naked. One of the things I've learned is that writing's not that sort of game.
Something I have learned though is that as long as you're having fun, you're winning. And what I learned in 2016 was a lot of fun. I also learned that writing isn't about waving a magic wand, its about doing the work again and again, and I have been doing the work. Possibly the greatest lesson I learned through is that most writers give up too quickly and that the only thing that can finish you as an author is stopping writing.
That said, my plan isn't just to keep having fun, keep working at it and never stop trying. That's what I tried last year, and the year before that, and before that too. It hasn't got me to where I am yet. If the heart and soul of writing are desire and discipline, imagination and perspiration, then the brain and muscle is skill and knowledge. I need more brain and muscle to move to where I want to be.
I've seen a lot of writing resolutions on the forums I use, most about the books people will write and release. I'm not going to say I don't have these resolutions, but they are not the goals I am pursuing first and foremost. Because after a conversation with Jo Zebedee sparked by a throw away comment, I have decided my resolutions are all to do with my writing processes. I will trust in the belief that it is performance that matters and if you get the performance right, the results will come.
The first resolution is that every day I will write or edit. I'll even try to learn and how do so without having a distraction at the same time.
The second resolution is to improve my knowledge of narrative structure and storytelling techniques. I'm currently doing my research for books to aid me in this while also searching for online articles such as this fabulous series by Jim Butcher.
The third resolution is to ask more questions. That's an idea that weirdly I didn't get because its simple common sense, but due to a book recommendation from Bryan Wigmore (of whom you will hear more shortly). The book deals with the story of the Fisher King, the crippled guardian of the grail in Arthurian legend who cannot be healed until Perceval is able to ask the right question. Its one of the great truths of human condition - that questions must be asked before things can get stronger - and that goes for writing as much as anything else.
Those are my resolutions. Maybe I'll discover they are the wrong ones and change them. No, wait. Maybe in time I'll discover I need different ones; they'll never be the wrong ones because today they are the right ones. If something is right in its time and place, then it is right.
If things go right, then I should self-publish my first book this year. That would be Eye of the Eagle, a military sci-fi adventure set in the same universe as Richard Tongue's Alamo series. I will also have another book to make decisions over, that being the fantasy murder mystery project currently known as Gumshoe Paladin. I'm still unsure over whether to submit it or go straight to self-publication. And there's a few short story ideas that are germinating and might become something, which would be nice, particularly as I've just joined a writing group focused on short stories.
There's a few fun blog things lined up too, like my first author interview (hopefully first of many) and my plans to do big weighty reviews for all the Discworld books. I'm also planning to chronicle my discovery of fantasy written this century and start throwing out the odd very short story here and there. And I'll even have a life outside of writing (Boo! Hiss!) as I'll be getting married in May (love you darling if you're reading this). A full year in other words but as they say, if you want something done give it to a busy person.
Whatever happens though, I will have fun, I will keep pressing forwards and I will keep learning. I hope you do the same.