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2021 Review & 2022 Outlook

Well, 2021 certainly came and went, didn’t it? On the one hand, it was the fastest year in my memory, absolutely whizzing by. But on the other, so much happened last year that my memories of it seem much longer!

From a writing perspective, my biggest achievement in 2021 was, of course, releasing Pyramidion. The previous year had demonstrated that I could write a book, and in 2021, I learned the process of editing and releasing one, which was a heck of a lot of fun and a massive achievement. But the real learning came afterward (and no, I’m not talking about marketing… I’m still trying to learn that, to be honest).

So, what do you do after releasing a fantasy novel? Common sense would suggest that you get started on the follow-up novel – either a similar book or the next in the series if the first set that up. If you’ve read Pyramidion, you know that it does indeed set up a sequel, and any normal writer with a functioning brain would have gotten started on that.

But nope, not me.

Here’s what I did, in point form, to emphasise how much I tried to squeeze in and how indecisive I was…

  1. Started a new sci-fi novel: yes, I started a novel in a completely new genre. This isn’t a huge problem, as many writers pen novels in differing genres, and now is as good a time as any to branch out, but let’s face it – I’m a new writer, with new readers… They’re going to expect the next book to follow the first, not something new. I spent time worldbuilding, mapping out a basic outline, and creating characters, and then I jumped in, witing about 25% of an estimated 100k word novel, before…

  2. I had the idea to start a travel guide: if you weren’t aware, I used to live in Tokyo, and I love Japan. So I had the great idea (and I do still love this idea) to write a travel guide targeted at both tourists and expats – a little bit of fun, something different, and helpful all at the same time. I ended up writing about half of this (alongside the sci-fi novel) before I realised it had been 3 or 4 years since I last went to Japan, and that I should at least wait until my next trip before I complete this book – you know, in case certain things have changed since my last visit. And then?

  3. Then I discovered serial format, particularly Royal Road, LitRPG, and Kindle Vella, and I decided this was something that would be a great way to grow my readerbase. And I still do, but the biggest problem that I have (and that many writers have) is a lack of time, and Royal Road readers, for example, expect a certain cadence – a chapter a week is recommended, at the very least. As I wasn’t certain I could manage this, I began writing a new fantasy story that I plan to eventually release in this format, one chapter per week, for free, at least initially. I wanted to get about 20 chapters ahead before I started this (a 20-chapter head start, so to speak), but before I even got 10 chapters in, I realised…

  4. I had nothing to show for the second half of 2021…

Learnings in 2021

So… what did I take away from the above?

Well, it’s simple, really – while I CAN write three (or more) books at a time, it slows down the process considerably, and makes me feel like I’m not achieving anything. I wrote the first draft of Pyramidion in about six months. After releasing Pyramidion, I was hoping to have a second novel finished by the end of 2021, but all I have is three distinct but significantly incomplete manuscripts. While I’m proud of each and intend to complete them (which means that yep – there are at least three more books in my pipeline!), my release cadence has taken a hit.

After releasing Pyramidion, I expected to release a second novel in mid-2022, and the follow-up to Pyramidion in 2023. However, because of my inability to follow logic (i.e., write the next book in the series first, and immediately), along with my sudden crazy ambition to write all the things, I am now in a position where I’m not sure I’ll finish anything for release even by the end of this year…

So my biggest takeaway – and advice for new authors – is this: while you probably can write multiple books at a time, you probably shouldn’t. Maintaining momentum is key when you are new, and getting more books onto the market (at least to show you aren’t a fly-by-night one-off hack) is really important, so focus on that one story, and get it done. Sure, I have three books in various states of completion, and I could potentially finish more than one within this year (meaning 2023 could be a big year for me in terms of releases), but the fact is this – I am yet to even start thinking about the follow-up to Pyramidion.

So where do I go from here?

Plans for 2022

Taking my learnings from 2021, I took a good hard look at what I wanted to achieve this year, and I came up with the following key desires for 2022:

  1. My other novels can wait – I need to get working on the Pyramidion follow-up ASAP

  2. I need to get some more content out into the market even sooner

I can, and I’m sure I will, work on my other novels from time to time – provided most of my focus is on the Pyramidion follow-up. Once that is done, I can then put my focus back onto those projects and have that bumper 2023 I was hoping for… at least, it might now be 2024, but that’s fine.

However, the biggest issue was my second point – how do I get something onto the market sooner rather than later, and better still, how do I ensure it’s good? Starting the Pyramidion follow-up now will see me publish it – all going well – at the end of the year at the very earliest, and I felt that would really impact my momentum.

I considered my serial novel – could I conceivably release a chapter a week, even if they were only short chapters, and could I maintain this cadence?

The answer was… maybe, but I wouldn’t be able to work on anything else. So that would push the Pyramidion follow-up further into next year. So what was the solution?

Short stories. Novellas. Novelettes. Whatever you want to call them: books under 100 pages and around 20,000 words – not only are these popular with readers on Amazon, but they are also somewhat easier for me to write, and if I’m honest with myself, they probably suit my style even better.

So I made the decision to release 2 or 3 short novels this year while working on the Pyramidion follow-up. This may or may not affect my expected completion of that novel (i.e., by the end of this year), but hopefully not by much, allowing me to release that novel by the middle of next year, but also have 2 or 3 new releases within this year.

But I didn’t want to release standalone shorts – I may do that in the future, but for now, I decided to create a world that I could explore from the perspective of multiple characters, all of whom provide background on different aspects of the world. In a way, it’s an epic fantasy in bite-size form. It’s a big project, but I think I can do it, and I’ve come up with a world that I really like, and I hope you do too. I’ve even created a cover theme that I want to work with for these stories, so readers can tell they are all part of this same world just by looking at the cover. It’s kind of retro and pulpy, but I think it matches the tone and feel that I’m going for.

And, in just over a week, I’ve already written half of the first draft of one of these stories, with the rest expected to be completed over the next week. I have beta readers ready to go, and an editor (hopefully) on standby to polish when the time comes. By April, I might be ready to release it onto the world, and who knows, I might even be finished the first draft of the next novella by then as well.

But don’t be concerned – all the while, I will also be working on the worldbuilding and story outline for the Pyramidion follow-up, which, I should be clear, will be very different from that first novel (which should be pretty clear from the ending). Where Pyramidion was a contemporary fantasy, set in a version of the real world, its follow-up will most certainly not be, so buckle up for something far more… fantastic. And once that prep work is done, I’ll put my head down and get to writing.

It’s going to be a good year, I can feel it.

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