Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Year/Decade in Review

I normally do a year-end performance review of myself, but all the decade in review columns I'm seeing have reminded me that it's the end of a decade, as well -- at least for non-pedantic folks (I think, technically, the decade starts with the 1 year, but there's something satisfying about that odometer turnover).

I don't have a lot to say about this year. It was there. No major highs or huge successes, but nothing really awful. I think, in retrospect from further into the future, this year will be like the middle book of a trilogy or that episode just before the season finale two-parter. It's a bridging, a time for pulling together threads of things that have already been set up and then putting everything into place for the explosive finale. There's no room in all that set-up work for a standalone plot, or if there is one, it's pretty thin. How that episode or book rates is ultimately dependent on what comes after it. If the set up pays off in the finale, then the arc that includes the bridge is a success. On its own, that episode or book isn't much, and you'd probably never revisit it on its own again.

And I think that's what this year has been for me. There's been a lot of setting up for things that could possibly happen in the future. If those things do end up happening, then this year will have been a big success. If not, the year will have been a washout, professionally, at least. I wrote a book that hasn't yet gone out on the market, I've started writing a book that I think could be really good, and I got and started researching an idea that gave me the same "oooh, this is it" tingle I got when I came up with the concept for Enchanted, Inc. None of that came to fruition this year, but 2010 better look out.

As for the decade, at this time in 1999 I'd already bought this house, and most of it hasn't changed, although I did switch my bedroom and office in 2001, moving the bedroom to the downstairs room that felt like a cave (which is nice in a bedroom, not so great in an office) and the office to the upstairs room with a wall of windows and a skylight. I was working full-time at a PR agency then, but contemplating quitting my job to write. I'd saved the amount of money I'd considered my threshold for making the leap, I had an agent (a different one than I have now) and had a book rejected with favorable comments and a mention that they'd like to see something else from me. But I hadn't had a chance to write something else because I was working crazy hours and was doing trade show media relations, so I'd spent the fall of 1999 mostly on the road, hitting such lovely spots as New Orleans, New York and Las Vegas (actually, the first two are nice, though the convention centers aren't so much). And I was doing some media training, which meant a quick trip to Minneapolis in December. My grand plan was to take an hourly wage part-time job so I could leave work behind at the end of my shift and only work the hours I was being paid for. It turned out that my boss wouldn't let me quit and instead worked out an arrangement to work part-time and telecommute, so I stayed for two more years (and was happy enough in that time that I ended up not getting much writing done).

I do have a new car and an entirely new set of friends that reminds me of the crowd I hung around with in college (and some of them know some of the people I hung around with in college, so it's a small world). I did a lot of travel in the first two years of the decade, for both work and fun (I was a gold-level frequent flier those years). I've traveled a little less since then, since the absence of a steady salary does trim the travel budget, but I've still made a bunch of trips to New York, several to Chicago, one to Denver, one to Atlanta, one to Reno, one to Philadelphia and then that crazy whirlwind trip to LA for a movie premiere (we'll hope that one repeats this decade, but for my movie and maybe involving more sleep).

As for work, the numbers make me feel like a bit of a slacker. In the decade, I wrote nine books, four of which have been published. I've known people who wrote and published that many in one year. Of the unpublished ones, one was widely rejected and will probably never see the light of day, though I think I'm unconsciously scavenging the worthwhile elements and using them elsewhere. One I think was a good concept that I wasn't a good enough writer at the time to pull off and may get revived in a total rewrite, but the market for that kind of story is weak at the moment. One made the publishing rounds, but I don't think it was the right time for that book and I may revisit it. One was last year's NaNo book and needs a rewrite, but my brain isn't there. And one is the book I've been working on lately that I hope to see published.

I've also written about a dozen proposals and partial books. Some were rejected, some were things I wrote and then changed my mind about. I did two complete re-workings of previously rewritten books to adapt them (unsuccessfully) for a different market, so that might up my writing count.

There's also the non-fiction stuff, with eight published essays and a couple of magazine articles, as well as the five one-minute radio scripts I've written every week of the entire decade. For the first couple of years after I went freelance, I wrote and edited a ton of marketing materials and other documentation.

The thing I can't let myself forget, though, is that this was the decade in which I realized my dream. I've worked for myself through most of the decade and for about half the decade have supported myself mostly through my work as a novelist. I've had a series published in multiple countries and had a book optioned for film. This is the kind of life I've wanted since I was about twelve years old, and while it may not be quite as lucrative and glamorous as I imagined then, I've managed to do it. So it's been a good decade.

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