In my day job, I’d been working hard on a project for nearly a year, but turned the last of my work in back in December. Then, all I could do for that project was wait for everyone else to be done with their part. Tuesday, we had a big, milestone test, and it passed. But? It’s far from done.
But, my day job isn’t the only place where that happens, my writing works the same way.
I work hard, polish it up so it passes my own tests, and then I send it off to beta readers, or critique partners, or agents. I wait… maybe not-so-patiently for my writing to pass their ‘tests’, and then I hear back (or pass the no-answer-means-no-thank-you deadline).
So far, my responses have been positive — or at least neutral.
No one has told me my writing sucks and I should stick to reading. But? They all have ideas for improvement. Ways for my work to get better, for the plot to flow more naturally, to give the emotional core of the story a greater impact, to make the setting and main character something that an agent can connect with and draw them in.
Both of my projects already have a form, a function, and a shape. Now, it’s time to really see what I can turn them into.
This coming year is a year of revision for me. Taking rough manuscripts and turning them into a polished form. Rough stone to elegant statues.
Where are you with your projects? Are they still ideas and raw material?
As January firmly establishes itself, this might seem a bit late for a resolutions post, but I always planned to take January off from writing and relax some, so you haven’t missed anything.
For me, this is going to be a year of reading, revision, and reflection.
I’ve got such a lovely streak going here, I’d hate to break it. So, I’ll continue putting out a new blog/vlog every Thursday on writing tips or writerly musings.
When I have them lined up, I’ll be sharing Author Spotlights or Query Corners on Tuesdays.
Plus, I’m contemplating maybe a picture post on the weekends. I’m debating if Saturday or Sunday is better. Suggestions?
They say one can’t be a writer without reading. And, finding out what’s new and good in your genre is research, right? Although, that doesn’t mean I won’t do plenty of ‘for fun’ reading.
My goal is to read 26 books this year, one every other week on average. (Although, I tend to read in binges.) I’m looking at taking breaks from writing to focus on downtime and reading in January, March, May, and July. And I hope that planning intentional breaks will help fight the feeling of being on a never-ending treadmill, where I fail if I let myself take a break.
So far? I’ve read a couple romances and all 4 books in Charlie Holmberg’s The Paper Magician series. I think I’m off to a good start.
I’m sitting on a backlog of 4 manuscripts in various states — mostly collecting dust. It’s time to fix that.
I got some great feedback from a critique partner back in November for Manuscript #1 (a secondary world young adult fantasy), but it was kind of a bitter pill to swallow. I have been brainstorming and messaging with the critiquer on ways to fix it. But I took December and January off, partially sulking, partially trying to figure out how to solve the issues mentioned. I’m going to let the ideas percolate a bit more and plan to hold off until February before implementing my fixes.
Then, in April, I’m going to pull out MS #2 — the sequel to MS #1.
In June, I’m going to pull out either MS #3 (my gender-bent Robin Hood) or MS #4 (my middle-grade contemporary fantasy, where the more you connect with what you read, the more your world shifts to be like it… physically!)
Once MS #1 has been revised, again, I’m marching into the query trenches once more.
Starting in March, I intend to send out 3 queries a week for 4 months, unless I get an R&R. If it goes no where, I’ll contemplate edits in August.
I’ll be reaching out to beta readers as I wrap up my revisions on MS #2 (May) and MS #3 or #4(July). Readers for MS #2 will, by necessity, be people who have beta read or critiqued MS #1, but for the others, I’m open to a small pool of new readers.
I like to keep my beta reader pool to no more than 8 readers, typically from different backgrounds. I usually give them separate copies, so that their feedback won’t influence each other.
If my Alpha reader’s schedule permits, I’ll send my manuscripts to her for quick feedback, but otherwise, these may just go straight to my beta readers.
In August and September, I’ve blocked time to incorporate the feedback — at least for MS #2. And perhaps, some updates for MS #1 (either as query feedback suggests, or to better set up MS #2’s plotting).
I intend to hit Balticon again (May) and WorldCon (August) in Dublin (!!). I submitted to be a panelist at Balticon… but after they’d already started sending out panel invites, so I may have been too late there. We’ll see. (Keep your fingers crossed!)
Hmmm, there’s very little actual writing on this project plan, but sometimes, that’s how the cookie crumbles. Besides, I’ve been assured that editing and revising and brainstorming ARE part of the writing process.
Plus? I don’t have a big idea pushing on me right now.
That said, I intend to do OctPoWriMo again — writing a poem a day for all of October. And then NaNoWriMo.
If I don’t have an idea by then, I’ll do a rebel NaNo and revise whichever manuscript hasn’t been touched.
And that’s my plan for the year. If you got a little lost, here’s the plan in chart form.
I’ll be focusing on reading every other month until the last quarter, revising most of my backlog, querying, a couple conventions, and a bit of writing.
2018 was a year unlike any other. Some parts were stressful, some parts were lazy, and some parts? Some parts were productive.
As with 2017, I may not have ended my year with a signed agent, but I didn’t just sit around.
I queried 9 agents, attended 2 writing conventions (including my 1st time as a panelist!), wrote my fourth novel, several short stories, 31 poems, and revised my first novel twice, including that R&R from 2017 (that turned into a rejection).
Between Balticon and WorldFantasyCon, I hit 21 panels, (plus the one I was on), attended 3 different writing groups, joined 3 groups (although not all the same ones), hit a local writer’s workshop, and even picked up the mic at a poetry jam night.
This year, I did a lot more interacting in person, versus all the virtual interaction I’ve done in the past, but I love comparing numbers, so let’s look at them.
My Writing Goals Last Year
I made sure to set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound) goals.
Query novel #1 at least 3 times every other week until I get an agent
unless I’m revising it
Let’s hear it for caveats. The only way this possibly qualified.
Move forward with my picture book
revise at least one of my shelved rough drafts
Write something NEW during NaNoWriMo
half credit if I rewrite something old
Keep blogging and decide if vlogging is worth it
Try to use social media better
more one-liners on tumbler
more consistent posts on twitter
instagram at least 1x a week
Read an average of 2 books a month,
rank them on GoodReads
Bonus Points – review them!
And give myself a pass if I get nothing done in March (likely moving) or December (recovering from NaNo + holiday/family obligations).
The move was longer than expected, but December was as predicted. Things outside this list I achieved though?
Joining Write By The Rails and The Broad Universe
Reading my poem (written about my nerves waiting for query feedback) at a poetry night
Being on my 1st panel
Writing a poem a day for October
Writing 1 short story for querying and tossing 3 short snippets up on Reddit
Top Lifetime Post
My sleeper hit from 2016 had 1,145 views before this year, was published in a book of writing essays here, and now it’s up to 1,945! Beating viewings this year alone of my next most popular post by a factor of FOUR!
This year, I started 2 new features on my blog, and participated in a blog hop. None of these items proved very popular, but I hope their following will grow and plan to keep doing them. My features are, of course, my Query Corner — where I rewrite queries with authors preparing to enter the query trenches, and my Author Spotlight — to help promote friends works. I’m no longer hustling for entries, but will share them when I have content for them. (If you’d like to participate, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org)
I like stats and tracking progress, so here are my numbers for 2018. I tried to be both engaged and engaging, while still invested in upping my content creation in all mediums.
First off, I worked on getting more followers for my Youtube channel and Instagram. I was sporadic in my Pinterest and Reddit usage. Having hit the Twitter follow limit, I can only add people as people add me.
Between all my social media accounts, I added 2,721 followers, about 300 shy of last year’s additions. As always, Twitter was the bulk of the adds, but percentage-wise, my Youtube channel was 1st, with 73% growth, Instagram and Tumblr followers more than doubled, and even WordPress was up around 43%.
This year I maintained my streak of blogging at least once a week and kept up with the vlogging. My Goodreads stats are books added to my library, the last 2 years are the books I’ve read. (My FB page wouldn’t give my year stats and stopped letting my scroll in mid-2016, so, those stats are incomplete, but I can compare to last year.)
Based on my plans from last year, I averaged posting to Instagram twice a week, so doubled my goal. And I did start using Pinterest, even if it was horribly inconsistent.
Account Break Down
WordPress – I started this blog in April of 2015.
Here are my stats as compared to last year are as follows… I have to admit, I’m liking the improved engagement!
1406 (+494) likes
587 (+377) comments
Twitter – MorganHzlwood – I joined in March of 2016.
I could be more engaged. I should try at least once a week to go through and read a couple of my lists back a few days. Mostly, I just post and respond to my notifications. It’s a good way to avoid the drama that it can be prone to.
Tumblr – MorganHazelwood – I joined in June of 2016
With the new regulations, I’m not sure if Tumblr will still be kicking this time next year, but I’m still trying to stay active with the writeblr community. And I’ve gotten better at reblogging content and using their queue feature. I’d be pretty solid on use if I queued up stuff for 20 minutes once a week.
Instagram – MorganHazelwood – I joined in 2015.
Confession: I was about 50 followers shy of 1k last week, but there was a BookBlogger and Writer community group follow event that I joined. And I *think* I saw a prototype for making groups or lists on here, which would be awesome for clearing some of the clutter.
Pinterest – MorganHazelwoo – I joined in 2015.
I’ve stepped up my usage, but only sporadically. I should keep up with this a bit more. Definitely should make a mood board for my MG novel.
Facebook Pages – MorganHazelwoodPage – I joined in 2015.
FB often shows my posts to fewer than 10% of my followers. It’s annoying, but I’m not paying. I’ll just keep reposting on my personal page as well.
Facebook – MorganSHazelwood – I joined in 2013.
Most of my new followers were new members of the PitchWars support groups and people I met in person at actual events.
Google+ – Morgan S Hazelwood – I joined in 2013
Stats! 37 (+9) likes and 2 comments. I counted. This is supposed to die this year, though.
GoodReads – Morgan Hazelwood – I joined in January 2016
I read 26 books this year, beating my target of 2 books a month!
I rated all of them and reviewed 3 of them.
Reddit – Morgan Hazelwood – I joined in January of 2017.
I actually started using reddit this year, and now my karma is 406!
I had 19 posts, 3 of them were short stories, and 1 was that poem I read for the open mic night.
I didn’t do as much as I’d hoped.
Some of that was external. People who are reading your work out of the kindness of their hearts and working around their own schedules aren’t necessarily going to adhere to your schedule. My paying job got very busy for the second half of the year, really ramping up in the 4th quarter.
Some of the issues were the consequences of decisions.
I bought a house in April and moved in May.
I’m still running 2 Facebook PitchWars support groups and administering another SFF writer’s group. That takes time, energy, and spoons.
I decided to do my best to keep up with at least 5 different types of social media.
I really like 9 hours of sleep a night, even if 7 is more standard.
I still have scheduled social time with friends Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights. Add in my blog post writing and uploading Wednesday nights and full weekend social schedule…
One could argue that I’ve been de-prioritizing my writing over my networking this year, but… honestly? I’m a bit burnt out and I’m going to be gentle on myself.
I DID do a lot of writing, more revising on my first novel than anticipated, grew my vlog, critiqued novels for friends and family, and read an average of more than 2 novels/novella’s a month.
I may have fallen short, but you know what Les Brown says about that?
How well did you do on your goals?
Had you given up on them in January, did you rock the BLEEP out of them, or did you do okay but think you might do better with concrete, SMART goals?
As an American with a Pagan dad and a Southern Baptist mom, I celebrate both Solstice and Christmas. As a person with friends who love hosting over-the-top parties, every year I spend a couple days helping prep for a massive New Years Eve party.
I know I’m fortunate to be at a company that shuts down for a week at the end of December. My previous company didn’t but it’s a great way to help cut down some of the holiday stress. Or give me more time to fill with family and friends…
And believe me, my schedule has been jam-packed. Full of people I love, but definitely busy.
There was one thing though, that I missed. Despite my moderately-distracted efforts.
I missed the taste of wonder, of peace, of heart-filling joy that I usually can find this time of year.
For me? Usually, it’s after sunset. Either outside, in the still and the quiet of the night, with the chill nipping at my nose and the moon shining down. Or inside, with all the lights turned down low, just sitting and basking in the light of my tree.
Well, I found a quiet moment outside with the moon shining down — took a picture, and ran off to the Solstice celebration a friend was hosting.
I found a few evenings with my lights turned low and my tree all aglow. But, I didn’t get my sense of basking.
I don’t know if I was distracted or tired or if I just wasn’t in the proper frame of mind, but I missed it.
Now, this isn’t to say I’ve had a bad holiday! Not by any stretch of the imagination. Minimal drama, seeing almost all of those I love, lovely and thoughtful gifts, delicious food. All the things that make the season bright. But I missed the magic.
As for my writing?
I’ve done nothing this month. But, that’s not unusual for me with my post-NaNo hangover, chore backup, and seasonal plans.
Some reading? Yes.
Some incorporation of beta-reader feedback? Only read the summary.
Some blogging? Of course.
Now? I sit and contemplate what I want to do next. I’ve debated incorporating the feedback and hopping back on the query road, revising a rough draft, or finding a new project.
Because? There’s the never-ceasing sensation that a deadline is looming. Only one problem with that. This writing thing? The only deadlines for are the ones I give myself. I have no agent, no editor, no contracts. True, I’d like to have that sense of ‘done’, that feeling of accomplishment. But there is no one, other than myself, staring at the calendar and waiting for me to finish. To find a publisher or publish it myself.
I think need to take a break from the writing until I’m ready. Until I’m excited once more to see how much better I can make my story. Until I’m ready to dive back into the query trenches or the editing doldrums. Until I can find the magic again.
Meanwhile? I’ll think about my worlds, I’ll take notes when inspired, and I’ll keep blogging–sharing advice I’ve received from people who DO have deadlines and have already found their audience.
And? I’ll read.
Did you celebrate the holidays? Did you find your joy?
If you’re writing for yourself, do you have trouble letting yourself take a break?
(I haven’t put any of my fiction up here, so this is a first. Just a short vignette I wrote this week.)
She’d had to cram a year of work into a few short months. That’s when her stasis ended. The magic that took the year and compressed it for her gave her just long enough to do her work.Four months out from delivery wasnow when they could calculate what might be wanted andwhat would be needed. It was part of the deal she’d made.
For much of the year, the little onesexperimented and worked on pet projects, lived their lives, grew their families. But once she awoke, it was time for all-hands on deck, around-the-clock work. They had deals through many of the large manufacturers: two percent of the merchandise would be delivered there for her purposes. It was easy to get these deals when you got in early…