Thursday, December 28, 2017

New Year, New Writer!

This is one of those blog posts that will probably hold more interest for me than anyone who regularly reads this blog. It calls into question why I'm posting it here, but I've come to realize that in the absence of a more traditional journal, this blog has taken the place of that for me. In fact, I've got a few pages of unpublished posts that are either too messy, too raw or too boring to make the cut as public posts, but they live on in my drafts folder as reminders of earlier ideas or thought processes. You could say I've hit that point in nerd evolution, where all my deep, personal thoughts come out as long form essays, but I digress.

Today, I want to talk about goal setting! New Years is one of my favorite holidays, even if I'm not doing anything for it. (I've got nothing but attending church planned for New Year's Eve this year. Woopwoop!) Mostly, it's because I'm a chronic goal setter, and I love that blank slate feel that a new year gives.

Further, I'm a firm believer that if you want to get anything done as a writer, you need to have some system for setting and fulfilling goals.

Making Time and Reason for Writing

When you are like me - unagented and unpublished, but striving to reach both those milestones - it can be very difficult to make time for writing, due to the absence of any external pressure to do those things. Currently, my income is not derived from my writing. Writing does not make my house any cleaner, feed my cats or fulfill my church assignments. It takes me away from my friends, and as we speak, writing this blog post is keeping me up past midnight. Whoops.

My passion for writing is my primary motivator that keeps me coming back. I love stories. I love creating. I would do some form of writing and creating no matter what in my life. But due to the other demands on my time, it's downright impossible to get anything substantial done in my writing without some coordinated effort. Those other things distract me and destroy my productivity, unless I  hit back.

To me, goals are the names we give our dreams. If I want to achieve those big picture dreams I have, like selling books and using that money to buy cat food, I need to give a name to each brush stroke of that picture. So today, I'm doing that.

Feel free to comment with some of your own New Year Resolutions! Like I said, I love this holiday, and when people tell me their goals, I feel like I'm learning what they named their little, baby dreams.

First, The Year in Review

Let's look at some of the things I achieved or learned this year! YES!
  • Joined an online writing group. Got my revision game back on. All the love to you, my Oddballs.
  • Attended the Storymakers Conference, where I:
    • Met some of the people in my online writing group. HEY GUYS!!!
    • Got my first page onto the First Impressions agent critique panel
    • Pitched an agent after said panel, didn't die, and got a request for pages
    • Subbed two stories to the first chapter contest
    • Finally understood what is meant by Deep 3rd Person POV 
    • Learned what a beat sheet is
    • Wrote about insulation, and was complimented on it by Allie Condie. Guys, I may never get over this one.
  • Endured the loss of Tuula Mantta and Miranda Leavitt, when they had the nerve to move away.
  • Resolved to make more friends. Forced people to watch Planet Earth II with me.
  • Took trips to Kelowna and Calgary, where I got to see Tuula and Miranda, keeping summer awesome. YES!
  • Realized my friends were a terrible influence on my writing habits. Sat down, and finally...
The SWEET PEE timeline
  • Started drafting a new manuscript, titled SWEET PEE - and yes, that's spelled correctly - for NaNoWriMo in November 2016. Got about 20,000 words in by November 9th.
  • On November 9th, started a new job, which destroyed my brain and productivity. Put the manuscript on the backburner until the New Year.
  • Wrote large amounts of the first draft on the bus, to and from work, due to time constraints. Learned the value of a light, small laptop.
  • Resolved to make more friends in April/May. Got terribly distracted. Failed to finish last 4th of book for several months.
  • Realized the deadline for the Pitch Wars writing contest was coming, and remembered that I wanted to enter. Banged out the last 4th of the first draft in the first week of August, and submitted to Pitch Wars August 4th.
  • Got into Pitch Wars August 24th! Spent the next two months revising the book with the help of my amazing mentor, Lianne Oelke. Check her out here!
  • Completed the polished manuscript in time for the October 31st deadline, making it almost exactly a year from sloppy, first words to query ready manuscript. Fastest turn around I've had on a manuscript to date!
And back to other lessons learned...
  • Realized during revisions that there is DEFINITELY such a thing as biting off more than you can chew.
  • Learned some things about comma placement and compound sentences that would likely make my poor Master's Thesis advisors weep for joy, knowing I've finally... improved. Slightly.
  • Started listening to the Writing Excuses podcast.
  • Bought some awesome Christmas decorations.
Whew! I honestly didn't expect the list to be that long when I started, but it's kind of nice to see the year captured like that. Of course, I'll be the first to admit that this version of events glosses over some of the angst and messiness that goes on behind the scenes, but this is New Years and it's a frickin' holiday, and I reserve the right to have a party. GO ME!!!

This Year's Goals
  • Complete another first draft of a manuscript - this might not seem very ambitious in light of the turn around on my last book, but I am "between ideas" right now, and so it's hard to commit to getting something all the way past the editing stage when nothing is on the page yet. I'm between several different ideas, all appealing in different ways. We'll see where I go.
  • Draft 10,000 words in January - Again, I could be more ambitious in terms of word count, but the real goal lurking here is PICK AN IDEA AND WRITE ABOUT IT!!!
  • Send 100 query letters during the year - or get an agent. One can hope.
  • Send 20 query letters in January - right now I'm itching to do this, so it shouldn't be too hard.
  • Read more books - while I got a LOT of writing done in 2017, my reading suffered a bit. I'm trying to make up lost time right now while I'm between ideas. Still settling on a realistic yearly/monthly reading goal. 
  • Attend Storymakers again and maybe a second conference/writing retreat - anything additional will depend on finances, but I am SO STOKED for Storymakers! Anyone who writes and can get to Provo, Utah in May should absolutely check it out.
  • Start a Bullet Journal - guys, I am so excited about this. I've been reading up on them, and I think it could be really useful for me. I've been feeling like I want to a) do more journaling again b) start using a sketch book again and c) try and make a day planner work. But the idea of trying to do all three at once sounds insane. I like how a bullet journal can kind of grab from all three of those things at once. Like, guys! It's a journal/planner you get to DRAW IN!!! I just have to keep reminding myself that it's okay that I have terrible penmanship. I'm in it for the organizing/better documented memories/excuse to draw pictures. Pictures. Not pretty penmanship and headers. That's what I've got to focus on. Anyhow, if anyone out there uses one and has tips/spreads they use (especially any for organizing writing goals or LDS church callings) let me know!
And there you have it! My writing recap for 2017, and my writing goals for 2018. Here's hoping for another good year.


  1. You are inspiring, and it makes me so happy to read the list of your successes from last year. I know this new year is going to be great for you. Time for me to get to work, too.

    1. Thanks so much! Are we gonna see a similar post on your blog? :D