Does A New Year Make A Difference?

At the change of the year it’s the tradition to examine the past twelve months and develop a new strategy for the next dozen, in the form of New Years Resolutions. I’ve never gone into that in a big way. If there’s something I think needs to be changed in my life I don’t wait until January 1st. Every day is just as valid as any other for the beginning of a new me.

So how do writers evaluate the past and plan for the future? Especially somebody just getting a career rolling?

For me, 2010 was a productive year in terms of the amount of material I created—I finished a first draft of a novel, polished another, completely rewrote a third (an earlier work), and began a fourth. Plus I wrote at least a half-dozen short stories. But it wasn’t so productive in terms of publishing credits. I only sold one fiction piece during the year. (Thank heaven I’m not counting on that income for survival!) Instead I aimed higher—I took a shot at the bigger, hardest-to-crack markets, reasoning that they’d be more impressive publishing credits when it comes time to solicit interest in my novel-length work. For my daring, I got some encouraging rejections from some of the most influential editors in the biz. Close, but no cigar.

So what should I resolve to change?

Thanks to some tips from Robert J. Sawyer, I’ve already begun to strive for more deeply meaningful stories, with significant themes. Writers like Sean Costello have taught me how to polish and cut and trim and polish some more. Each time a story is rejected it goes back under the knife for reconstructive surgery, to some degree. I’ve also taken greater pains to ensure there’s a real scientific basis to my SF stories. It didn’t help them sell.

As other writers before me have noticed, there’s been a shift—in the short fiction markets, at least—toward well-written stories with striking prose and SF-style premises, but no real science backing them up. In that sense they’re reminiscent of Ray Bradbury’s fiction. Don’t get me wrong—Bradbury was a terrific writer, and I’m a fan. But at the risk of sounding like I’m crying sour grapes, I think having the whole genre skew that way is unfortunate.

So will I change my style? Chase the markets? Aim lower, just to see my stuff posted on somebody else’s website?

I don’t think so.

I will crack those big markets. I will get an agent, and a book deal (though maybe not in that order). I think 2011 will be the year.

Come along. It should be a good ride.