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"I'm A Hustler, Baby."

Updated: Jun 23, 2021

Jay-Z's "Give It To Me" has been in mind of late. The hook of the song being: "I'm a hustler, baby, I just want you to know / It ain't where I've been, but where I'm about to go." What also comes to mind is a question a number of people ask me, whether they're peers or not. "Are you working on anything at the moment?" The answer's usually 'yes.' If I'm not writing something, then I'm editing something. Those relatively rare occasions between the two, I take time out to beta read for other authors. This is important on a number of fronts. One, because it keeps my critical eye sharp. Two, it means that when I need eyes on my work, there are (ideally) a number of authors who are up to reciprocate. Of course, as an author, the buck stops with me, in terms of what goes into the story, what stays in the story, and what gets removed. I already have a go-to beta team, but I'm mindful of the fact that additional pairs of eyes can lend a fresh perspective to things. Plus, there are the submissions (sending stories to publishers to try and sell work), interviews/Q&As, guest posts, etc. All part and parcel of the hustle. So the answer is 'yes', in that I'm usually working on something at the moment. Right now, that's a little different. In juggling more long fiction of late, it's more challenging to get that time to write. The last novelette (short novella, whereas a novella is a short novel) was knocked out yesterday. The business of actually writing is still the bottom line, since it's this that makes everything possible: the submissions, the interview/Q&A/etc. A nod to the likes of Phil Sloman here. Not only because he crams in the writing wherever he can, but he handles the other aspects of the hustle. Beyond the writing, he promotes his work (as well as that of others), and if there's a get-together? There's a chance you'll see him there. Even on the convention circuit: you'll be hard-pressed not to see him. If anything, he'll be on a panel or two. That's all part and parcel of his hustle, and I give him his props for that. It's a conversation/idea that partly informed us on the HWA panel at last year's FantasyCon: the HWA gives a platform to both the elder statesmen and new(er) bloods that will push their work and the genre as a result. Good times.

'The Horror, The Horror!'. HWA panel at 2018's FantasyCon. l-r: Maura McHugh, Marie O'Regan, Ramsey Campbell, Phil Sloman and me.

Thankfully, I'm still in the position where the muse outruns me. Dark and devious delight she is - I still get ideas and inspiration faster than I can write them. The biggest hurdle is now getting time to write them. A possible failing on my part is wanting to clear schedule so that when it comes to edits, that's all I'll have to contend with. It's a nice idea in theory, but it doesn't necessarily work in practice, since there'll always be something. Again, the likes of edits/writing/Q&A/etc - and this is all in aid of keeping the machine running. The publishers I'm currently working with have been great to work with: accommodating. Considering my input, as well as sharing theirs. Accepting that I have additional works with other publishers. Communication is key, since both parties are involved in bringing that work to life, and to the masses. So I concede I may have let things slide a little of late: certainly in terms of my usual output. The aim to write more often and not just at the weekend had taken a back seat of late while I've had other things to juggle outside the realm of writing. Recent attempts to get to conventions, signings/book launches and such fell flat. Life gets in the way. Nearly half way into the year, and no short fiction sold yet, despite a raft of submissions. But then, short fiction has taken a back seat for me in terms of pushing more of the long fiction, so that's not necessarily a bad thing. As I'm sat here, I'm realising that I still need to keep the machine moving. More importantly, I realise there are things that I can always do to keep the machine moving. The next projects will be the next novella and then the next novel. I'm loathe to start writing the new novella now especially since I may need to drop it at the drop of a hat to write something else. In terms of the writing process, I like to outline the work before I start. I'm not a 'pantser': someone who can write a story by the seat of their pants: on the fly, as it were. I need some kind of outline: even if it's as basic as the elevator pitch. The new novel might benefit from me working on the outline now, at least. I won't give too much away right now, but it's genuinely alien territory for me; so it'll need a fair degree of research. What, more than cemeteries, wheat fields, or Century boats? Yeah, possibly. One of the things I like about this genre, especially from an indie point of view is the sheer scope of opportunity. Again, the likes of open submission calls, those peers who put together a work of their own or solicit from other peers. The conventions, low-key meet-ups and such. The hustle is everywhere. It's just a question of how much hustle you handle.

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