So… almost to the day, I’ve been twenty-five years a professional writer (the editing, publishing, book-designing, etc, were added a bit later).
The tally so far:
- 73 short stories, the first published two years after I started writing professionally (I count August 1987 as the start of my pro career because that’s when I started to write full-time, albeit with no income to start with, and the first story I wrote that month was ‘Adrenotropic Man’, my first sale to Interzone) and several featured in recommended lists and Year’s Bests
- 8 novels under my own name
- 4 young adult novels as Nick Gifford
- a collection of short stories written with Eric Brown (is this one book or two? The first edition in 2000 included a couple of solo stories; the 2008 edition dropped those two and added a new collaborative novella, and so is quite substantially different)
- 6 collections of my own short fiction
- getting on for 200 book reviews for a range of publications, including the Guardian, Interzone, Foundation and many more
- 2 or perhaps 3 anthologies co-edited with Nick Gevers (see why I have trouble counting up how many books I’m responsible for? There’s the difficulty with how to count my collaborative collection written with Eric Brown, and here there’s the question of how to add up two separate anthologies which were later published by a different publisher in a single, fat volume – two books, or three?); we also co-edited an issue of Interzone
- editor of a non-fiction, kind of academic book about SF
- 10 years of editing the online genre fiction showcase infinity plus, featuring over 2 million words of fiction, more than 1,000 book reviews, more than 100 interviews and much more
- a fair number of non-fiction essays, interviews and journalistic pieces
- and a few things under various other pen-names
I think it’s fair to say that I’ve kept myself busy for the last twenty-five years.
So where does this leave me?
Quite frustrated, as it happens. All this work, all those fantastic reviews, and yet still I seem to be the kind of writer very much admired by a smallish number but unknown to most; I’ve published regularly, but have rarely had a regular publisher for more than a few years; I’ve had at least one pretty big bestseller, but that was nearly ten years ago now; I think I have a reputation as someone who works away and achieves a lot; and I think my last four novels are among the best things I’ve written.
Is that enough?
I don’t know. It’s not that I’m craving awards and media attention (although it’d be nice not to feel that each book is published into a vacuum), but I really do wonder if all the personal sacrifice is worth it.
Twenty-five years in the business and yet again I’m faced with slogging away at a book that I’ll care passionately about but may never be published.
Twenty-five years, and this year I’ve had two books published by fantastic publishers (Solaris and Palgrave Macmillan) and am I really thinking that now might be the time to go into semi-retirement? By this I mean that I love to write, and want to continue, but I’m just bone-tired of slogging away writing on spec when my editing and pseudonymous writing bring more regular and guaranteed response and reward, even when what I regard as ‘my own’ writing is what I really love to do.
If anyone likes my work enough to ask me to write a story for their publication then I’d love to hear, but right now, well… right now, other than for those invitations, I think it’s time to dig out those slippers and take a break from working on spec.
Note: tomorrow I might feel entirely different. We’ll see.