2021, in writing.
I set some very concrete goals at the start of this year, much more specific and structured than I’ve done in the past:
- Work every day on my novel.
- Do 8 writing retreats.
- Work on writing business one time per month.
- Get 10-15 rejections.
- Read 54 books.
I did not work every day on my novel.
I wrote over 67,000 words in the novel. Comes out to 185 words per day on average.
I wanted, so badly, to have this book done sooner than, well, now. I thought it would be done in the spring! WHAT.
Then I thought it would be done in August. LOLSOB.
Now I’m not setting those expectations, I’m just continuing to move forward toward a future in which this book is done. If I work on it close to every day, eventually it will be done.
This year I’ve learned a lot about managing myself through the Slog. I learned that the first day back in the project after some time away will be absolutely miserable.
I learned about shutting my ears to the siren call of newer, less messy projects. I realized in October that I needed a break, so instead of working on the novel, I followed myself around in some of those newer, less messy project. I gave myself time to find something fun, to fill up my tank, and I jumped back in for November. It made me realize I need to be sure I’m getting that play time consistently, to avoid these big month long breaks.
Is this the right book? Surely it’s not. It’s terrible, flimsy and insubstantial. And yet I keep going. I don’t know if it will ever be publishable. Regardless, I must finish it. I will wrestle it to the ground.
I did five retreats, most of which have sludged together in the morass that is the endless pandemic. Hard to remember details of a day spent at home on a computer, even if it IS exciting.
Still, there were two highlights:
I went to the Muse & the Marketplace conference in April. Although that memory has been tarnished a bit, overall it was a good experience. My first writing conference! My first time submersing myself in life-as-a-writer, with OTHER PEOPLE. It was electric — reminded me of my first DrupalCon, when I was drunk on the proximity of all these people doing something unbelievably cool. But now it was even closer to my heart. There were writers there! Real ones! Published authors! And…I was also there! 🤩
In July, I went to Truth or Consequences, NM for my birthday. It was a rough and tumble retreat, with life intruding constantly, but it was still wonderful and useful.
I took 4 classes:
- Twenty Types of Terror, Cat Rambo (in which I learned about so many subgenres of horror!)
- Crimson Peaks & Menacing Mansions, Catherine Lundoff (in which I learned all about gothic horror and how my book is not gothic horror!)
- Plotting for Pantsers, Cat Rambo (an async set of strategies to get my plotting butt in gear)
- Write Your Novel! The Workshop With Jack, Jack Smith (in which I wrote and wrote and wrote)
In 2020 I took three classes (Experiments in Genre, Writing with Tarot, and Plotting Your Novel). The first one helped me answer the “What genre do I want to write in?” question. The answer: Just write and stop fretting. Writing with Tarot had me flirting with realistic/naturalistic fiction. Then I had a bit of a meltdown and Paul suggested I pick up the 2017 novel again.
The kind, secret voice in my mind said: “You’re afraid you will never plot anything. Take a class.” So I took a class and wrangled this book into a plot. DoI occasionally wonder if I have driven my original novel off a cliff? Absolutely.
I redid my website this year! You might know that because you’re on it. I haven’t cleaned up every loose end of my decade-long blog history, but I’m proud of myself for getting the website together. It’s nice to have a place in the world where I exist foremost as a writer.
I submitted poetry to journals 22 times. I was rejected 17 times, but…
In 2020, I submitted twice, with zero acceptances. I’d say it’s gotten better.
This year I used the Writer’s Relief service to get a list of markets to submit to. Not having to do the market research myself was glorious. I still read the journals before submitting, which was lovely, but it took the paralysis out of the equation. These people say I should submit here, therefore I submit here.
I’ve read 53 books, and I’m in the middle of one to hit my goal of 54 for the year.
Top five books, in no particular order:
This book grounded me. All the anxiety and uncertainty around publishing was really distracting me from getting the work done, and this book helped me get a sense of what a career as an author might actually look like.
Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir
Just…the very most fun thing. So enjoyable. Who knew necromancy could be so delightful?
Unbelievably gorgeous, inspiring work. Makes me love where I live in new ways.
Underland: A Deep Time Journey, Robert Macfarlane
Sometimes I get angry that someone is so talented in so many ways, and Robert Macfarlane is one of the people who triggers that feeling.
Piranesi, Susannah Clarke
Susannah Clarke is the kind of writer I envy (well, ONE of the kinds of writers I envy): She has written two books. She takes her sweet time with them. They don’t have much in common and yet they are both fantastic. (I also envy Seanan McGuire, who seems to release a great book every two minutes.)
In the coming year, I’m aiming to really nail down a regular intensive writing routine. I want to write a lot more in 2022, and I know that I’m the one causing the issues. I’m the one who says it isn’t possible.
I’ve been part of a small but amazing online writing community that has been a huge help to me this year and last. So while my goal in 2020 of building a writing community wasn’t achieved in the way I expected, I have made a start. Next year, I’m aiming to do another event in the writing community — probably a conference, maybe a workshop.
Some part of me has been gradually, over many many years, realizing that I can take myself seriously as a writer. And not only that I can, but that I must. That this part of me will not be quiet until I’ve given it everything it asks for.
And part of me realizes that, if I fail, if writing isn’t the thing I want it to be, then what? I don’t know. It’s scary not to know. And yet — I must move forward anyway.