Writing FOMO

I’ve just booked my ticket for the 2018 Fantasy Convention in Chester. It’s almost exactly six months away and I’m looking forward to it immensely. To keep me going in the meantime I have Edge-Lit in Derby.

Conventions like these are great for learning more about the craft and the business of writing, and for making connections with other writers – both those who are in a similar position to myself, and those further down the road who are able to give me the benefit of their wisdom.

Recently, a couple of my fantasy-convention friends have published new works. Cat Hellisen has a fantasy novel, Empty Monsters, while Joseph Cole and Ali Nouraei have stories in the Not So Stories anthology (a post-colonial take on Rudyard Kipling). Meanwhile, my brother Thomas J Spargo (also a writer) has a couple of stories coming out in anthologies soon. It’s great to see them having success, and a chance to read some excellent writing.

The only trouble is my lurking FOMO – the fear that I’m missing out, and things are passing me by. Why haven’t I written more short stories, and gotten them into some anthologies? Why haven’t I finished my novel yet and found a publisher for it? Why I am so slow? Such insecurities are common among writers, and if you’re not careful, they can fester.

Well. When such feelings surface, it’s time for some self-talk. Like reminding myself that this isn’t a zero-sum game. That I have a baby to look after, who is very cute but also kind of time-and-energy-consuming so no wonder my work rate has slowed. That I made a deliberate decision to concentrate on long-form fiction rather than short stories, and you obviously can’t crank out a 100k-word novel as fast as you can a 5k-word story. And that, since only I can write my novel in a way that’s truly my own, it’s impossible to ever really miss out, however long it takes.

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First World Problems

It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster week for me. Last weekend I was at the Fantasy Convention, an annual get-together for fantasy and horror writers, editors, and fans, held this year in Scarborough. It was great. Writing is a lonely profession and the chance to go from writing blog posts about Mike Carey to actually meeting him doesn’t come round that often. I met up with old friends and made some new ones. I saw some fascinating panels on topics like magic in fiction and the apocalypse (time until first mention of Donald Trump: less than five minutes). I went to some great sessions with publishers, and I got to meet some of my favourite authors including Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear. I also sat near Zen Cho at the banquet and cheered loudly when her excellent book Sorcerer to the Crown won the Best Newcomer prize at the British Fantasy Awards ceremony. Two other prizes were won at my table and I basked in reflected glory for a brief time. The weather was glorious and Scarborough was beautiful.

Then on Monday I drove back to Derby in the rain, and on Tuesday I was washing dishes in a cafe to try and help make ends meet. Talk about returning to normality with a bump.

On top of this, I’ve had the everyday stresses of our kitchen refit, familiar to anyone who’s ever had work done on the house: the noise and disruption, the schedule over-runs and extra costs, the annoyances when something goes wrong, having to live off microwave ready-meals for weeks on end. By yesterday morning, I was feeling pretty frazzled.

It is, of course, all very First World Problems. We’ll shortly have an awesome new kitchen complete with a Rangemaster cooker and one of those American-style giganto-fridges, so whingeing about how long it’s taken us to get there is – at best – a pointless self-indulgence. Which is partly why I enjoy doing voluntary work – helping out with some decidedly more third-world problems at the refugee centre really puts my own issues in perspective.

And the great thing about being a writer is that any unpleasant experiences can go straight into the story-pot. Which I’ll then stir up and transform into a tasty stew with the help of my new cooker.

New New Year’s Resolutions

Back in January, I laid out my New Year’s Resolutions for 2016. We’re now nearly half-way through the year, so I thought it was time to re-visit those resolutions and do a progress report.

My first resolution was to finally finish my novel The Silvergreen Sea. Status: Confident green tick. It’s all done and out on submission as I write these words.
Second resolution, to finish the rough draft of my new novel The Tide of Fire. Status: Slightly more wobbly tick, probably in blue ink. It’s done – albeit only to a given value of ‘done’. It’s still nowhere near ready to be sent out on submission and I’m putting it aside for now, to be re-visited later.
Third resolution, to read at least 50 books. Status: Firm tick. I have successfully consumed 50 books in various forms – 29 paperbacks, 11 audio books, 5 hardbacks, 4 electronic books, and a graphic novel.

All my resolutions are already done, and it’s not even the end of June. I’ve officially won at New Year’s Resolutions. So what comes next – shall I just put my feet up and watch Netflix for the next six months? It’s certainly tempting – the new season of Orange is the New Black has just come out, so that’ll keep me occupied for a few days at least.

Some of my reading material for the second half of the year

Some of my reading material for the second half of the year

But after that, perhaps it’s time for some New New Year’s Resolutions. 2016 Part Two, if you will. What’s up next? Well, I’ve started writing a new book, The Only Thing That Never Burns In Hell, so I want to finish that in rough draft. I also want to read 50 more books, to get me up to a nice round hundred for the year. And as part of that I’ve got a mini-resolution, to read all the books which have been nominated for the British Fantasy Society’s Best Fantasy Novel and Best Horror Novel Awards, before they’re given out in September at the convention in Scarborough. I’ve made a start on the winning novels from last year as well – Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge, and No One Gets Out Alive by Adam Nevill. The only problem is that they’re both kind of freaking me out. Oh well, New Year’s Resolutions can’t be too easy, can they?