|Photo by Feral78 used under CC license, with attribution|
So far, this year - and it's not even the end of the first month of the year - I've already done 2 things that challenge me.
The first was to craft a short story that fits as a prequel to the universe of Halcyone Space. The second was to submit a manuscript to a publisher during their open call.
The short story was hard for two reasons - first, short fiction doesn't come easily to me. Creating a story is vastly different than creating a novel and most of my short stories end up reading either like ultra-compressed (and ineffective) novels or the first chapters of a novel. Where I have been successful is in writing more poetic/literary speculative fiction short stories that are less plot driven than idea driven. But for this project, I needed to capture the narrative flow of the novels in a format that worked for a short story. AARGH.
The second reason it was a challenge is that I needed to match/sync up with what I have already written in 2 published and 1 in process novel for this universe AND make it work as a standalone short story. It's the problem of continuity on a whole other scale.
The submission challenge involved a full revision of a project I had written a number of years ago and make sure it was at the point where I would be proud to have it stand next to my recent work. Then I submitted it to Angry Robot for their open call.
Why was this a challenge? Let me tell you - writing something new, starting from scratch is far easier than doing a revision of an old work. Think of the difference between building a new home and renovating one from 100 years ago. You have to find the healthy foundation and bring everything around it up to code.
And submitting it for publication consideration means that rejection (my old friend/nemesis) is a very likely outcome. It's also letting go of a degree of autonomy and creative control I've enjoyed on all my own imprint's projects.
I decided to go ahead with submitting OATHBREAKER'S PRICE to Angry Robot because I'm focusing on the Halcyone Space books under my Interrobang Books imprint. I had the manuscript available and I didn't have a publication slot for it this year. I'm not fully convinced that going with a publisher will be a significantly different experience than being my own publisher, but I'm interested in finding out.
And before the month is out, I'll be starting on my third out-of-my-comfort-zone project: a collaboration with writer Rick Wayne on a novel whose inception happened in a strange conversation thread on google plus. I've never written with someone before and I'm nervous, but also excited and energized by the thought of it.
This is what I believe: The life of an artist of any stripe means living balanced on the edge of fear and joy, being driven by both. I believe the act of creation is essentially an act of sacrifice. Being willing to fail is part of that sacrifice. If I don't challenge myself, if I'm not willing to reach past my limits, I back away from that place where what I create is greater than what my mundane self can imagine.
So, yeah, this is the year I'm planning to fail better.