Friday, January 04, 2008

2007 - my year in review

Time for my annual appraisal of the year past, a necessary precursor to setting goals for 2008. I figure it's best to learn from my successes and my failures, so I can build upon solid foundations and try to avoid repeating past mistakes. Let's start with novels. My 17th and 18th novels were published in 2007, and I wrote my 19th novel [due for publication in December 2008]. My work also featured in four omnibus collections, but that's largely irrelevant in the greater scheme in things.

Novel #17 was A Murder in Marienburg, my first foray in the fantasy world of Warhammer. Novel #18 was Fiends of the Rising Sun, a WWII horror tale planned as the first in a series based around Japanese vampires and the battle for the Pacific. I spent February 2007 rewriting the book, throwing out a 35,000 word sequence that didn't fit and replacing it with new material.

My editor told me not to worry, I could transplant the lost chunk into the second book in the series. But by the time Fiends of the Rising Sun was published, publisher Black Flame was shutting up shop with no new commissions forthcoming. Such is life, but it's a shame the Fiends series got stymied by this as the books seem to have an enduring appeal, judging by my library lending statements [that's a post for tomorrow].

I spent much of November and Deember writing novel #19, A Massacre in Marienburg, my second Warhammer tome. I'm waiting to hear back from the editor how that's gone, but have hopes of a third book in my Marienburg series. With 19 novels under my belt, I'm looking to venture into new territory with my 20th tome. The roundness of that novel calls for something special, a fresh start. Guess that's a job for 2008.

Radio - 2007 proved to be something of a wash when it came to radio drama. I had plenty of good intentions but never found the time to turn these into reality. One thing I did do was intensive research into a historical period planned as the setting for a radio play idea I've been nurturing for years. Having done the background work, it's well past time I got on with developing the play. Another job for 2008.

I'd also like to develop some newer ideas for radio. It's a brilliant place to develop as a broadcast drama writer, hone your skills and storytelling crafts. Adding more radio drama credits also enhances your chances in other areas, plus it's just a brilliant medium for which to write. Emerging writers have far more input and involvement with their work on radio than most other storytelling media.

Courses - finished my screenwriting MA, and attained a distinction for the whole post-graduate course. Even got the university medal for my efforts. Have to admit I'm feeling the absence of the course now it's over. The chance to interact with other, like-minded writers on a weekly basis was a boon, and losing that has left a gap in my life. Emails and phone calls are great, but I pine for human contact.

Loved the Script Factory's Storylining for Continuing Drama workshop, but was less impressed by the same organisation's TV Forum. I'd crawl over broken glass to work in storylining, doing that workshop felt life I'd discovered my natural metier. Alas, sotrylining job openings are few and far between. My day at the Emmerdale storylining workshop only served to underline my enthusiasm for the job.

The TAPS continuing drama workshop in Cardiff was an energising experience, and one I wouldn't mind repeating this year, given the chance. I also managed to blag my way into a workshop for script readers held by Scottish Screen, and learned a lot from that experience too. I'll definitely be looking for more learning experiences in 2008, but financal constraints mean I'll need to pick and choose carefully.

Getting a job in TV - had my heart broken a couple of times trying to get a foot in the door with particular shows. I'd get a glimpse of the promised land, a lot of positive noises and encouragement, but still found myself shut out at the end of 2007. So be it. I've got another opportunity on the horizon and there will be others. Genius will out, but bloody-minded persistance gets you a long way too.

Competitions - stunned myself by winning a first place in the 2007 Page International Screewriting Awards with my short film script Danny's Toys. Still feels like the world's biggest fluke, though it had opened a few doors and gotten me attention I'd never have attracted otherwise. I've been working that win for all it's worth. Now I need to write some more scripts worthy of sharing a portfolio with Danny's Toys.

Getting an agent - lots of positive noises, no offers from my agency trawl in the final quarter of 2007. A degree with distinction and my award for Danny's Toys got me read, but that wasn't enough to lift me out of the pack. More killer scripts required, and more proof that I'm worth representing, a writer who can make it as a professional in the industry. I need more broadcast credits - job for 2008.

Finally saw my history of iconic British comic 2000 AD published in the summer of 2007. It was a joy to hold Thrill-Power Overload in my hands, the capstone of six years of effort and a career of involvement with British comics spanning nearly 18 years. The TPO book felt like something of a full stop, but there are plans for a revised paperback edition at some point, so there are epilogues ahead in 2008.

Revised The Complete Inspector Morse for a third edition to be published early in 2008, and also contributed to the Inspector Morse weekend on ITV3 in April 2007. With the spin-off series Lewis attracting big ratings, the legacy of Colin Dexter's creations continues and that's good news for my book. It's funny, but several of my non-fiction tomes haved proven to be far more enduring than my novels. Perhaps that should tell me something about where to direct my energies in 2008 and beyond?

Comics - write another handful of issues for Egmont's Phantom comics, hopefully with more to come in 2008. Found myself devoting more time and energy to these pulp fiction tales, due to my efforts to learn more about the craft of storytelling. In the past I'd simply have cranked these out, counting on my natural yarn-spinning instincts to carry the day. Now I think about them a lot more. I hope that's for the better, but sometimes wish I could just embrace the pulp a bit, have fun with them. Something to embrace in the year ahead.

Journalism - write several interview features for the Judge Dredd Megazine [my three-part interview with Alan Grant is a doozy]; and a lot of features and reviews for new genre monthly Death Ray. Enjoyed flexing my journalist muscles in 2007, but not sure how much time I'll have for that in 2008. Time will tell.

Income - this cratered in 2007, thanks to all the time, energy and cash I poured into my quest for storytelling knowledge. The past year was probably my worst financially since 1991. It'd be nice to have money in my pocket and a bank account not permanently at the edge of its overdraft during 2008. But breaking into broadcast drama is not an overnight process, and requires plenty of sacrifices. I guess that means I won't be getting rich anytime during the year ahead.


Oli said...

Bought my brother, a big 2000AD fan, TPO for Christmas. He's still happily chomping his way through it.

Jonathan Green said...

TPO is a great read! Read it cover to cover over the summer and found it absolutely fascinating.