So 2013, in writing terms, was a sneakily great year. I say that because it would appear that I didn’t do so hot. I didn’t begin and finish a book. I didn’t write 20 short stories. I spent a lot of the year in a depressive funk where my writing is concerned (why oh why is my career not going anywhere?). But when I look past my angst and really delve into what I accomplished this year, it’s sort of awesome. I ran the Origins writing program; edited my first anthology; had three short stories published and two more accepted, all in anthologies; wrote a novella; took a stab at a new novel, hated it, and started again; and performed readings of fiction and nonfiction.
You know what? I’m doing okay.
Goals for the next year are much the same as they’ve always been. Read more. Keep putting my work out there. Jumping on opportunities when they present themselves. Write, write, write.
Hey look, it’s one of these posts that tons of people are making.
I did pretty well at meeting my writing goals in 2013, despite my tendency to overcommit myself and to change direction partway through the year.
1. Write and submit at least 4 new short stories: I counted flash as a third of a story, so 6 flash pieces and 1 full length story gets me to 3. I wrote a few more stories, but they don’t count because I haven’t submitted them yet.
2. Revise and submit one novel: Done (finally)
3. Finish the first draft of last year’s book (and maybe do the second draft, too): I finished the first draft and started the revision.
4. Write first draft of a new book: I started it…
5. Read books, not blogs: Despite Pocket’s insistence that I read a lot of blog posts, I feel pretty successful at this one.
My goals for 2014 are looking pretty similar:
1. Write 2 new short stories (not counting flash)
2. Submit 2 new stories
3. Finish the current novel this spring
4. Finish the second draft of the other novel
5. Query agents on the book I finished this year
There are a few other things on that list, but these are the highlights, at least for now. As usual I’ll probably revise this list throughout the year. Some projects take more time (or less, but usually more) than expected, or I hear of a submissions opportunity, or I realize I can apply to a certain workshop after all, and suddenly my priorities shift a bit.
Wishing everyone a safe and happy start to the new year. May 2014 be everything you hope for and more.
And our house is full of boxes and shredded gift wrap. The children are in a glassy-eyed stupor of greed and sugar overload, we are cheered the f*(& out, and the cat has knocked every ornament off the tree.
But I haven’t forgotten you- here’s your gift.
Warning- it’s not textually safe for work, and it’s probably not safe for a writers sanity, but why should we cling to that?
If you’re reading this, get off the internet. It’s Christmas Day. Go read the book Santa brought you.
Time to relax. My novel draft is as finished as it can be for now, and it’s spending the holidays with my crit group. I’m sure they’ll take it to all the wild parties, get it drunk, put an ugly Christmas sweater on it, etc.
And what will I be doing? Well, I still have a short story to write before the end of January, and I have a book tour to prepare for. Yeah, that still sounds weird when I say it. A book tour. 2013 has been a wild year.
But for now, I’m going to finish wrapping a few presents, try out a new chocolate chip cookie recipe, and enjoy the time off with friends and family.
Stay safe, everyone, and Happy Holidays.
This post is not about what you want it to be about.
Chicago has a robust storytelling community–shows where people get in front of a crowd and tell a true-life story–and I finally decided to take the plunge. This past Wednesday I took part in Story Lab, which is really conducive to rookies in storytelling like me. I told the story about the time I almost fell off a bluff the summer before fifth grade. I’ve told the story to people over the years, but it’s usually over a pint and it takes about three minutes to tell. Now I had to take up six to ten minutes and do it in front of strangers.
The group of six storytellers gathered a few weeks prior to tell our stories and get feedback from the group. It was much like a critique session for writing–beef this section up, restructure this section a little bit, maybe focus on this concept more so the ending hits harder. I got some really great feedback that I incorporated into my story. Much of it dealt with craft, like pacing, focusing on tension, etc. I sort of rushed the story when I told it to the small group, mostly because I was nervous. The fact that I was nervous in front of six people didn’t bode well for me; what would I do in front of seventy? Also, I was going “off-book,” which meant that if nerves got the best of me I wouldn’t have a written story to fall back to.
Turns out, I shouldn’t have worried so much. Apparently, the bigger the crowd, the less nervous I am. Don’t get me wrong, I was plenty nervous leading up to the show, but once I got in front of everyone, I relaxed and just told the story. I felt comfortable onstage. Thinking about pacing and tension had certainly helped my performance, but I didn’t actively, consciously think “pause here for two beats, speak a little softer here.” The audience laughed, got scared, and teared up at all the right places, so I considered it a win.
Like most writers, I’ve told stories my whole life in one form or another. This was just a heightened form of telling a story to friends over dinner. Do I have room for improvement? Absolutely. But it’s definitely a craft I’d like to hone.
My good news, which I alluded to last week, is that I now have one.
I’ve mentioned before that I was passing a novel outline back and forth with a gaming company. Well, the outline finally got approved, and a contract has been signed.
Since things are all official now, I’ll tell you that the company is Paizo, the publishers of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. My novel will be a Pathfinder Tale, and that’s about as descriptive as I’m going to be until its done.
Since I’ve written about how much I wanted a deadline before, it would only be logical now for me to be freaking out about having one. But I’m not. Really! It helps that they gave me six months to write the thing, and I have a detailed outline. Plus, the short story I wrote for them will be the first four chapters of the book, so I already have that done. I’ve set the countdown deadline in Scrivener, and its been easy-peasy to hit it each day so far. Even with all the sick-kid wrangling last week. So my previous posts haven’t bitten me on the ass yet.
But we’ll revisit this subject again in a few months. I’m sure I’ll be just as positive then.
I love deadlines. I’ve said this here before, but having a due date for something makes a big difference in whether it gets done. Especially if it’s something that’s not on my list of favorite activities.
Like revising. A month ago I dusted off the novel I finished last spring and dove into the revisions. Revising a book takes me longer than writing it. It’s where all the cool ideas I had halfway through the writing process need to get incorporated back into the stuff I wrote before then. Characters get combined or deleted. Fight scenes get written. Details like how, exactly, that magic spell works get figured out. Giant plot holes get asphalted over. It’s a lot of work. 
Once I get going I gain enough momentum to keep going, but getting started? I’d rather write the first draft of the next book, thanks. This is where deadlines come in.
Deadlines are the only reason I started revising this book instead of continuing to work on the next one. First, I need to send something to the crit group every month, and I’m running low on new short stories. Second, the writer’s forum I’m on is having a contest–so I needed the first 50 pages of the book and a synopsis by yesterday. All I did this weekend was sleep, exercise, and revise, and I’ve got the beginning done.  Now I just have to keep going…
 This is why I’ve gotten obsessed with planning. Imagine knowing all that stuff beforehand and not having to clean it up later! That would be so awesome.
 For values of done that involve plot stuff, not all the fiddly setting details, character feeeelings, or nice prose. So not done at all, actually.
But at this point, it’s either work on the draft or blog. No time for both.
Related: editing a novel right before Christmas is kind of stressful. More eggnog, please.