So ends my second calendar year writing and submitting, and this year has been strange in that it feels as if I've made massive progress while actually only selling one more story than I did last year: a total of 8. Last year I sold 7. The feeling of progress comes from many sources, not least the amazingly exciting sale I made at the end of last year that I'm still not allowed to talk about because it's yet to be set in stone.
In addition to this, my sale to Lamplight was my first to a professional paying market and I ended up contending for awards. I won The Fiction Desk Writer's award for my story 'Just Kids' in March, and was on the editor's longlist for The Million Writers award for my story 'The Thing that Captured Fenella'. I also put a lot of work into finishing and subbing my Young Adult novel 'A Permanent Record', and my literary novel 'In Chalk Circles'.
I also got married and bought a house which took up a lot of time in the second half of the year. It probably explains why I wrote fewer short stories than I'd anticipated: a total of 12. I wanted to write 25 so that's a 48% fail. 2% off epic, I believe. However, of the 12 stories I wrote this year, 5 have already sold and many of those sold within the first 3 attempts. Again, progress of a sort.
I'm going to aim for another novel this year and will try to write 25 stories again. But this year I'd like to at least double my sales.
Like it's that easy.
With that said, my final sale of the year is my short piece 'Only the Dead Know', which was bought, and is now live at, Fabula Argentea. The story was written as an experiment to try and capture the state of mind someone has to be in to dangle themselves from a crane above London voluntarily. I've long been a distant admirer of Parkour and its practitioners, and watching Traceurs on the internet reminded me of the unique sense of freedom you can feel when accessing off-limits areas in otherwise run-of-the-mill locations. Yet I couldn't help wonder, watching people jumping recklessly from rooftops above the heads of pedestrians on the streets below, if the line between adrenaline junky and troubled soul isn't a fine one.
As I did last year here are the best books I read in 2014.
Top Five Fiction
1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – A really fast paced book with a brain and a black, black heart. Gillian Flynn writes with a modern voice without skimping on craft, a proper literary thriller. Half way through this I was upset she only had two other books out.
2. Midwinter Blood by Marcus Sedgwick – Billed as a YA novel, this is the really well crafted series of related stories about two souls wandering around together through time. Sort of like Cloud Atlas in some ways, but shorter, less confusing and much sweeter. A bit lovely and a bit haunting.
3. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay – A really creepy and unsettling outback story that made me want to visit Australia.
4. Rosemary's Baby – Always shocked at how peripheral Ira Levin seems to be in the literary community. This is so well written and such a brilliant satire of motherhood that it makes me sad the film got all the acclaim. Everything good from the film is in the book. "What's wrong with his eyes," "He has his father's eyes".
5. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn – Like Gone Girl, a black little heart and very fast paced. Not quite as complete as GG but still better than most of the fiction I read this year. Gillian Flynn feels like a writer I've been searching for as a reader for a long time.
Top Five Non-Fiction
1. Lost at Sea by Jon Ronson – Far and away the best non-fiction I read all year. Every little story made me think or made me laugh. Sometimes these things happened simultaneously and it wasn't at all bad.
2. Travels by Michael Crichton – This one blew me away a bit. It's very engaging despite suffering from allovertheplaceitus. The first half is a fascinating insight into what lead Crichton away from medicine, while the second charts his many travels as an adult (some a bit morally dubious). Despite not being a major Crichton fan where his writing is concerned, the writing here is good and he proves to be a fascinating, if somewhat curmudgeonly and odd, character.
3. Perfect Soldiers by Terry McDermott – A book that inspired the Chris Morris film Four Lions, it reveals the September 11th hijackers to be rather boring and somewhat inept individuals, and that there is a lot of banality at the heart of terrorism where you might expect cunning, idealism and madness.
4. Whatever You Do, Don't Run by Peter Allison – An entertaining and light-hearted read about a young man's time as a Safari guide in Botswana.
5. Chavs by Owen Jones – A good overview of class politics in Britain and how popular culture has fostered a deep dislike of its working class. A bit preaching-to-the-choir in parts, and unlikely to change anyone's mind, but strong and entertaining none the less.