A year is not such a long time: a mere three hundred sixty-five days, perhaps only a hundredth of a human lifespan, and it seems not very long ago that I was working on 2021’s update. Yet, it is in the days of each year that life happens, and so, like what we put between the covers of a book, the pages of the year are where the story is told. Sometimes, it seems that story goes by with unparalleled alacrity, and sometimes it can drag, but always we reach an ending…which is actually a beginning, because as much as I write these posts to reflect on what’s happened over the past year of writing, they are more to discuss what will be coming up in the year ahead.
This post marks the end of IGC Publishing’s third year of existence, and the beginning of the fourth. We’ll be finishing Blood Magic, which has served as the flagship story and the site’s centerpiece for most of its existence, in just a few months. Maybe that’s why I’ve been reflecting more than usual on writing as a discipline, how mine has evolved since I started working to seriously improve it, and what my long-term writing goals are. Ten thousand hours of deliberate practice gets thrown around a lot (even though much of the research underlying that number has been called into question, and reducing to a simple, universal metric like that is probably impossible). If I write, on average, for two hours each day, then it would take me almost fourteen years to do ten thousand hours of writing. This is where you can start to see what a difference making a career of something can make: do something for eight hours a day, and you’ll have ten thousand hours after just three and a half years.
We’ll get into all of that, especially my ruminations and debates on what my writing will focus on in writing year 2023, and we’ll spend some time reflecting on what we accomplished this past year. I do say ‘we’ deliberately, because IGC Publishing exists as much for you as it does for me. Though I use the site to motivate myself to finish stories, to track the books I read, and to garner feedback to improve my writing, it exists to share stories with you. Whether you’ve read every Blood Magic episode since they began coming out, or you just happened to drop by because you found a review for one of the weird books I read, thank you for supporting this journey through all regions of space and time.
Year in Review
Most of the time, I feel like I could be writing more than I do, which is just one reason why conducting this yearly review is valuable: it provides important perspective on how much I actually write. So, as much for me as for you, here are some statistics for the last writing year: I wrote 190,000 words in blog posts and book reviews, 160,000 words in Blood Magic stories, and almost 100,000 more words in assorted other stories, from Verdon’s Tragedy to Rogue Star. That’s…almost half a million words. For someone who only writes part time, I think that’s pretty respectable, and I should probably stop feeling guilty for not writing more than I already do.
Not that word count is the end-all-be-all for writing, for all it is a useful metric and a helpful benchmark. Quality and substance are no less important, for all they defy quantification. I try to gauge my output in those senses by the number of stories I actually finish, which for this year includes the rough draft of Verdon’s Tragedy, twelve Blood Magic episodes, a Blood Magic short story, the Executioner short story, and the Dragon’s Hoard short story. Necromancer and Rogue Star are both close to being completed, as well. This is what most of your probably care about, since my word counts really would only be interesting if you are a fellow beginning author looking for references for your own progress and productivity. Note: there will always be someone who writes more than you do.
Looking at that output, I do wonder if I am dedicating too much time to the blog posts and book reviews. Devoting an extra 200,000 words to storytelling would amount to writing an extra novel (or even two) each year. However, the blog posts and book reviews are an important component of the limited amount of publicity and search engine optimization that I do for the site, constituting the most consistent new content and the major avenue by which new visitors find the site. For the foreseeable future, therefore, I do not intend to change the Tuesday/Thursday post/book review schedule.
I have two major topics to discuss in the ‘Year in Review,’ the first of which I’ve been talking to you about since late 2019. Blood Magic is the featured story of IGC Publishing, and it has been since the series began in January 2020. In monthly new episodes, revisions, re-releases, and bonus content, not to mention the insights its writing occasionally inspires that make their way into other posts on different topics, the series is the main programming for IGC Publishing, and I hope that you’ve been enjoying it. As I’ve said since the end of last year, though, this, the third season, marks the end of the Blood Magic series. After December 31st, 2022, there will be no new Blood Magic episodes, and I will be moving on to writing new things (what that will be we will discuss in the ‘Year Ahead’ section).
At the time of this writing, Blood Magic is not done: I still have four season two episodes to revise, the two-part season three (and series) finale to write, and Vere’s bonus episode to write. When all of that is finished, I’ll be posting a series reflection, but for now there are a few thoughts I’d like to share. It is close to being done, and just that is a strange thought. For almost as long as this site’s existed, I’ve always had another Blood Magic episode to write.
It’s been an immensely valuable undertaking for me, and I can credit most of my improvement as a writer to forcing myself to write the series, episode by episode. I’ve been able to experiment, practice my endings, my beginnings, and my middles (but especially my endings), all while not needing to invent a new world and fresh characters every time I want to write a story. With its semi-serialized nature, I’ve been able to learn and apply techniques for both short and long form storytelling. Each episode, and the series as a whole, is far from perfect, but it was never supposed to be. Purely as a writing exercise, Blood Magic is the most important project I’ve worked on, and without the experience I’ve gained in writing thirty-five episodes I would have neither the confidence nor the skill for the other major topic for this section…
…Which is announcing that I’ve begun submitting stories to contests and publishers! At the time of this writing, I’ve submitted to both the August and September Elegant Literature contests. I’ll hear back about the first one at the beginning of October, and I will naturally be posting about the results here on the site. Elegant Literature runs a monthly contest with a prompt and a word limit of two thousand words, so these are quick stories I can pound out in a day or two, plus revision time. I’ll share more on that in a future post. I intend to start submitting other stories to other publishers and contests, as well, which is a change for IGC Publishing, but we’ll talk more about that and its implications later in the post.
It feels almost like an afterthought, now, but there is a third notable accomplishment for this past year, which is that I finished the rough draft of Verdon’s Tragedy. That happened back in the spring, which…feels like a long time ago, now. Starting in January I essentially began the story anew, taking significant elements and entire portions of prose from an older draft, but reworking major parts of the story and developing a lot of new content, which is how it went from being a novella to a novel (the rough draft is about 95,000 words). That story is currently with my alpha readers. I know there are some major revisions needed, mainly revolving around Verdon’s characterization, but those have to wait until I’ve gotten my reader comments back.
That about does it for the ‘Year in Review.’ Without any extra stories to post on the site this year (yet, and mostly because of that whole decision to try submitting to contests and publishers instead of going straight to IGC Publishing), I was worried that I would have little to say, that I had not accomplished very much writing-wise to review this year, but the paragraphs above prove that not to be the case. My writing is continuing to improve with each story I tell, and I hope that you’ll continue the journey with me.
Last year, I included a section of the yearly update post dedicated to ‘updates on current works,’ but I am expunging that as an independent segment from this year’s post and instead rolling it into the ‘Year Ahead’ portion. I think that makes more sense, especially as I’m becoming more focused as a writer. An ‘update on current works’ section makes sense when you have half a dozen or more separate projects underway that you reference with inconsistent frequency, but less sense when you’ve reduced that to just a handful of active projects (and a lot more dormant ones awaiting their time in the spotlight), which is exactly what I’ve done. No projects have been completely retired, but I am trying to focus more on just one or two major undertakings at one time.
With the end of Blood Magic in sight, the major, looming questions is ‘what’s next,’ and the answer is that I still don’t know. I’ve started running a poll in conjunction with the weekly writing updates, but even if I get enough responses for a relevant result, I may ignore what it says. My uncertainty has as much to do with my debate over what my own goals for my writing are as it does with not knowing what I want to write next. Some of my ideas involve projects of similar nature to Blood Magic, which might be best for continuing to build my audience at IGC Publishing through regular, periodic content, but I wonder if, at this point in my writing, I would be better served by focusing on a longer form project, with the occasional short story sprinkled in for variety.
When I started IGC Publishing, it was intended as a personal motivator for me to actually finish stories. I’d been writing more-or-less seriously for three years or so, and I’d gotten some positive feedback on a few stories, but I wasn’t confident enough in my writing to submit to contests or for publication (and very good at finding excuses why I shouldn’t), and I was notorious for starting stories and never finishing them, for similar reasons to why I don’t outline. By posting my stories in a low-threat but public forum, I would force myself to finish stories, work on my endings, and hone my craft through consistent practice and production. I also had some thought of making IGC Publishing into a genuine publishing imprint and turning it into a genuine publishing house someday.
The vision of IGC Publishing as an independent publishing apparatus for both my and others’ stories is still attractive, but as I’m growing more confident in my writing, and taking better stock of my present circumstances, I wonder if that is not the best path for me right now. I’m employed full-time as an astronautical engineer, and I have no intention of changing that anytime soon – unlike the stereotype of the aspiring writer, I’m not working in my ‘real’ job just to make ends meet until my big break, and even if I become successful as a writer, I don’t know that I would want to stop working on the space industry. For all the time that I’m able to find to write, I don’t know that I want to sacrifice half of that time for the publishing side of being an independent publisher (which is different from a self-publisher). I would have to contract my own editor, contract a cover artist, a book designer, run advertising campaigns, set up ISBNs, figure out distribution…there are a lot of functions that publishers have to fulfill, and a lot of work that goes into creating a finished story beyond the act of putting words on a page. All of which is to say that, if I want to take the next step as a writer while continuing with my current approach, there is a lot to be said for traditional publishers.
Not that I’m at the point of submitting a novel’s manuscript to an agent to find a place with a major publisher; however, it is with those thoughts in mind that I’ve begun submitting to contests and periodicals for short fiction (less than twenty thousand words, in general). Being published through such a forum would boost my legitimacy, IGC Publishing’s profile, and place me in a better position to either be accepted by a traditional publisher or create my own publisher, whichever path I should ultimately choose (not that they are necessarily mutually exclusive – I could, for instance, shop my more mainstream stories to traditional publishers while independently publishing niche tales like Thorskgold).
That’s a lot of unknowns and maybes, and a dearth of anything concrete for the year ahead. That is my own uncertainty reflected, but I do owe you something of substance for wading through this lengthy post and my verbose ramblings. I am…leery of starting another project like Blood Magic. While I have benefited greatly from working on it, the onus of having an episode to finish each month is not small and has made it extremely difficult to work on other long-term projects simultaneously. So, while the Magician short story series has some interest to me, I do not think I will write that next, and if I write the Gilgamesh series of novellas, it will not be for release in the same periodic fashion as Blood Magic.
Instead, I intend to pick one project of significant scale to be my focus for 2023. It might be Fo’Fonas, or maybe it will be the so-called “frankenstory.” I have an idea for a story about djinni that could be interesting to explore, or I could return to the world of Impressions. Alternatively, I have a couple of science fiction novels that are in progress which could be worthy of my attentions. Numerous possibilities, but I will choose one. Just one, and that will be my main project for the next year, accompanied by a handful of short stories for the sites and/or contests/periodicals. If you haven’t already, respond to the poll below to let me know which novel you’d like to see me finish in the next year.
Change, that inevitable symptom of all-consuming entropy, that will only stop when entropy wins its final victory, is afoot. It doesn’t always feel like it, but IGC Publishing has accomplished a lot in the past year, and I’m looking forward to even more in the year ahead. Whatever story I end up focusing on, I am excited to write it. This site is still young, its readership is still small, but we are growing, and we’re doing more with each year. You can expect another year of book reviews, another year of me rambling about astrophysics on Tuesdays, and another year of writing updates once a week. Blood Magic is ending, but I have more stories to tell. I hope you’ll stick around to find out what happens next as we explore together, through reading, all regions of space and time.