First editorial of 2021! Looking back, looking forward

Right, then. Seems as if I, like the rest of the world, have found myself out of 2020 and zooming (and Zooming, indeed) into 2021. It seems pretty much the same so far.

But hey, not everything about being the same would be a bad thing. Usually at the beginning of the month I take a minute to quickly take stock of the projects and drafts I have underway, and this seems like a good opportunity to do a slightly wider-scale version of that. So let’s do a bit of reflection back on 2020, and perhaps have a bit of a think about what 2021 might bring…!

A Year In Review

So: 2020.

Well, April 30th was the day that marked the start of this journey, I think – or not quite the start, because it took me a lot of time and a lot of work to get there, but it feels like a turning point so we’ll start there.


On April 30th, 2020, I released Each Little Universe! My first novel, it may not be a tightly-plotted masterpiece but I’m really proud to have put it out there, and also extremely proud that it’s had quite a few very nice reviews on its Amazon page and on Goodreads. I imagine that if you’re reading this, you might well be one of the people who’s already given it a review, and I am very grateful!

If you haven’t yet read it… well, keep an eye out in the next couple of weeks for a chance to pick it up for the low, low price of nothing whatsoever.

So that was April, and then I think I spent a fair while wondering what to do next. At some point during that time I tried to get a bit better at using social media, which had mixed success but did at least put me in the network of one Chris Vandyke, who was looking for people to be in a fun little anthology.

That fun little anthology turned out to be one of the coolest, most creatively brilliant things I’ve ever even heard of, and by August 2020 we had published Achten Tan: Land of Dust and Bone, the first volume of what will be a twice-yearly series called Tales from the Year Between. Not only that, though…

Skullgate Media

… somehow in the process of creating that volume, we also ended up creating Skullgate Media, an independent writers’ collective slash indie publishing company. Since August, we’ve got most of the way through creating TFYB volume 2, started up a podcast, signed an author whose novels we’ll be publishing sometime soon, and edited Loathsome Voyages, a completely different anthology that’s out tomorrow! (So a full post about that is coming then.)

But… yeah, holy heck. If you’d told me eight months ago when I’d just released ELU that it would lead to me becoming a founding member of a publishing company doing some seriously amazing work, I’d have chuckled all the way home. (Which wouldn’t have been a very long way, ‘cos lockdown.)

I’m basically just very grateful to have had the chance to meet and work with some really awesome people. It’s an unexpected, but really tip-top, part of this weird little adventure.

Putting More Work Out There

Towards the end of the year, I also started writing some more short stories to submit to anthologies and magazines and that sort of thing, since it seemed like a good way of being productive in a more immediate way than writing novels, and of course would be a great addition to my writing credits. In 2020 I submitted pieces to six publications; I’ve had one rejection, three acceptances, and the other two I’m still waiting to hear back from. What this means, of course, is that you’ll be able to read my work in at least three new publications some time early this year, I hope!

Things Begun But Not Completed

Ah, yes. This is always gonna be the category with the highest number of things in it for me, I fear.

Back in June I did a little audit of things I hoped to get onto writing next, now that ELU was out, and I am amused to report that that list is pretty much unchanged, to be honest. None of the things on there are finished yet, and there are even some additions. I was wondering whether it would be worth trying to plan out which things to focus on in which order now, at the start of this year, but looking back I realise that a lot of stuff appeared out of nowhere and took up my time and focus. I wouldn’t change any of that, because it was all great, but I think basically I have to admit that trying to rigidly plan is unlikely to work, just pick things to work on, try to finish them without moving onto something else, and hope for the best.

So, look, there’s a lot of stuff in here, but perhaps the best way to talk about it isn’t in terms of what wasn’t done in 2020, but what might be done in 2021.

Looking Forward

As I say, this isn’t a plan or a roadmap so much as it is a brainstorm, but with any luck at least one or two of these things will come to fruition this year and I’ll be happy with that!

Untitled Achten Tan Story (with the appalling working title of Friends Close, Enemies in the Toaster) is a novella set in the world of Achten Tan a few years before the TFYB volume about that world. I’m 32k words or so in, and expect it to be wrapped up by 40k, so the hope is to finish it in January and then put it out to other Achten Tanians for a bit of feedback before polishing and probably self-publishing a few months down the line.

Chronicles from the World of Guilt is still out with beta readers; I’ve had some feedback, but not a lot. Still, it’s probably enough for me to be getting along with the second draft, and then I plan to query it with an indie publisher I’ve got to know a little bit (not Skullgate, partly because we already have a lot on and partly because the title’s very similar to Tales from the Year Between – not deliberate, as I’d titled this one before I was ever involved with that!).

Project ANALOG HORIZON // DIGITAL SKY is a multimedia storytelling project underway with friends from the Fable Factory, and I’m hugely excited about it. We’ve done a lot of work on it already, and I’m hoping it’ll be going properly into production soon. When it does, I’ll be yelling about it, because it has the potential to be reeeeeaaally cool.

Untitled Games Writing Collection is something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while: just collecting a bunch of the non-fiction stuff I’ve written in various places about video games and releasing it as a volume. Seems like a fun and relatively lower-effort way to get another book to my name, so may as well!

I Am The Chosen One is a novel adaptation of a play a friend and I wrote back in uni – we got started on this way back in, like, March or something and just dropped it. I really want to be able to release the novel and the original stage play script together at some point, though!

Wrestlers vs Cthulhu is the working title of an audio drama I was working on, like, all the way back in 2019 with another friend. It’s another thing I just sort of still want to make a thing at some point but haven’t worked out quite how yet. Maybe I’ll be able to enlist some help from my new multimedia-talented friends… hmm.

Through All Things A River is the next, like, full-on novel I want to do. I did 50K words on it for NaNoWriMo in 2018, but I’m gonna need to start again because I’ve had a lot of thoughts about it since then. If I get this right, I think it could be really good: a sort of His Dark Materials style reflection on identity, but for twentysomethings rather than adolescents.

Solarpunk Progression Fantasy Series is, like, partly planned. I have a world and a magic system and a vague idea of the first book or two, and that’s it. But I feel like doing a series would be a really good thing, so it’s actually quite high up in my mental priority list. Will it get done? We’ll see!

Not mentioned because they’re still gestating are at least three collaborative projects with other writers, none of which will probably be anything in 2021 but are potentially exciting a bit further down the line!

And… that’s me, I guess.

Taking the time to reflect like this makes me feel really astonished at how much has happened in the last eight months since April 2020, and the momentum’s only building. I don’t expect to suddenly be a super big-shot author in 2021, or ever, but I do think I’m going to keep having the opportunity to do lots of incredibly cool things I’d never have imagined being able to do only a year ago. So that’s pretty great.

If you’ve been part of this journey to date, I am really ridiculously grateful. It’s been the support of a lot of friends old and new – and, always, my other half Hannah – that’s made most of the best bits of the year happen, so thank you.

Stay safe, be kind, and review indie books. Love to all of ya.

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Published by Chris Durston

Writer of stuff. Y'know. Words and that.

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