So it has been a weird year with many ups and downs, but as it comes to a close, and I have failed to meet my primary writing goal, I am reluctant to call it a failure. I keep thinking about all the ways I have grown in my craft this year. All the people I’ve me and all the things I have accomplished, and to be honest, while I still haven’t found a home for any of my novel babies yet, there were so many unexpected and awesome things that happened this year on the writing front, I’m gonna have to grade it a solid B+ year.
So lets make a list! Yay! Lists!
1. Philadelphia Writers Conference
This was so far out of my comfort zone that I might as well have been taking a spin through outer space (side note, I never want to go to outer space). I had to force myself to start conversations with other introverted writers. I literally shook as I delivered an unexpected pitch to an agent. And by the end of the event I was exhausted, but I also had a table full of people I never met before who were suddenly my buds, had learned some great things about writing and the industry and had a cramp in my back that lasted an entire week!
Oh, wait, that last thing sucked, but the other things were pretty cool, just because they showed me I could do it when I had been pretty sure I could not.
2. The Writer’s Block
At the end of 2017 I was reconnecting with some old writing friends I’d lost touch with, and suggested starting a brainstorming group. One of the most helpful methods for working out plot points is to just talk about the story and it’s problems. We have a weekly chat online and after a solid year, we are stronger than ever. We don’t just brainstorm, although I have recently worked out three outlines with the help of these lovely people, we also support each other through professional and personal struggles AND we have a…
3. Group Project! Weee!
A theme and wildly different writing styles and genres. It has been way more work than we anticipated but oh man, it is finally almost ready to be revealed to the world. It has been fun and infuriating and so much has been learned. Hoping for the reveal in the first weeks of 2019!
4. Friends with Books
I have also been very lucky to be part of a local workshop full of exceptional writers who have been kicking the ass of my rough drafts. The only way to get better is to work with people who are better than you and some of these people have publishes some exceptional and well received books this year.
I also have friends who went the indie route this year. Having all these brains to pick from is exciting.
5. What’s almost as good as offers to rep?
Personalized rejections with notes for improvement!
Okay, maybe not ALMOST as good, but when you’ve been in this game for a while, it’s pretty damned exciting to get feedback from an agent or editor, and this year was exceptional in that I got a few pages from several different sources that had been interested in a novel i was pitching.
It not only gave me specifics for where to improve but saved me the time I would have wasted if I continued querying with problems I wasn’t aware of.
6. Lots and lots and lots of edits
I spent so much time editing this year that by the time August rolled around I made a call to take an editing break. I worked out a much better system for edits than I had been using before, and I am much more confident about serious edits in the future.
7. Working with a sensitivity editor
I won’t say what project this pertains to, but I will say I am so glad I had this opportunity. We all have biases that we’re not even aware of and it’s simply not possible to know all the struggles and issues that another culture deals with. Instead of shying away from any portrayals of marginalized characters, TALK TO PEOPLE WHO ARE MARGINALIZED! Not only will it improve your piece (or kill one that shouldn’t be out there) but you will learn. Too often we assume that since we have experiences our own struggles that we are fit to speak for others. We are not.
8. Two shortlists
One was for an anthology that ended up not being published and the other was an eventual rejection, but I branched out into short stories after years of insisting I just couldn’t do them, and I found out that I wasn’t so inept after all.
9. Expanding on social media
I am still learning, but slow and steady progress has brought some pretty awesome people into my online life.
10. Self worth tied to production
I broke a 3 year hot streak this year and did not finish a first draft. I really struggled with this because I thought this was my thing. At the same time, trying to come up with frequent blog posts had me banging my head against the wall. In the past I could write about things as they came up, as I learned, but I ended up staring at a lot of blank screens this year. Trying to force it did not make it happen though and I had to rethink how I was doing things and what my priorities were. Do I want to write just to have words on a page or do I want to write what I really want to share? Is my worth as a writer in what I produce or in how much I produce?
11. Lots of new beginnings
While I didn’t finish any novel drafts, I have some new starts that are really promising. I also have several outlines that I can’t wait to tackle (when i feel like it). So this year I didn’t finish anything, but I have a head start on next year and the years to come. I may run out of steam, but I have yet to run out of inspiration.
This isn’t really related to writing, except for me, it kinda is. That post is forthcoming, but having my childhood hero come back this year, full of her fem-power awesomeness was just a little reminder that if I want something, and I am patient, sometimes the universe will bring it.
If you mark your worth in what you’ve published there are going to be a lot of worthless years. I hope you can look over 2018 and find the places where you grew, where you learned, and where you got to do things that were just really cool.
Best of luck in 2019.