Morgan’s 2021 Resolutions

Now that we’re firmly into January, it’s time to determine what my goals for the year are.

Last year was intended to be a year of querying/submitting, revision, and networking.

Thusly, I listed my goals:

  1. Revising
  2. Querying and submitting
  3. Blogging/Vlogging
  4. Reading
  5. Writing
  6. Beta-reading
  7. Conventions

As I shared last week, I did great on everything on that list — except my revisions and querying — you know, the parts of the list that actually get me closer to publication. Does anyone else see the problem here?

This year? This year my focus is on writing, revisions, and querying/submitting.

As always, I like to set SMART goals –

  • Specific – you’ll see numbers and dates!
  • Measurable – you’ll still see numbers and dates
  • Achievable – I set goals for things I have influence over. I’m aiming for an agent, getting something published, but unless I self-pub, I have no control over that.
  • Relevant – I’m keeping my exercise goals and healthy eating off this post. These are all about my writing, the relevance should be clear.
  • Time-sensitive – Obviously, these are intended to be completed in 2021, but some items may have specific dates associated.

So? Let’s take last year’s list and put it in a new priority order.

Morgan, a long-haired brunette, is laying on a carpet, legs in slippers kicked up behind her, writing in a notebook.

Behind her is a table and a bookshelf.

1. Writing

Finish my NaNoWriMo space fantasy! Preferably by April. At least the rough draft.

I’m not sure if I want to do OctPoWriMo again — writing a poem a day for all of October. I skipped it last year. But, I really like participating in NaNoWriMo — writing 50,000 words in November. If I’m really stumped in November, I’ll rebel and revise either 5 shorts or a full manuscript. But, knowing me, I’ll probably make new words.

2. Revising

I managed last year’s goals to finish my revisions before Balticon! And then was query-shy in the wake of the 2020 querying climate. And I managed to at least edit my middle grade fantasy.

Remembering, of course, that rewriting IS writing, this makes revision half of my writing goals. But? The final goal is publication and I’ve got 4 manuscripts, 21+ short stories, and 30+ poems just waiting for a home.

So much to polish!

This year’s goals? Revise three of the short stories I drafted during my NaNo-Of-Shorts back in 2019.


3. Querying & Submitting

I’ve talked a lot about the differences between querying and submitting, but basically — one is to get an agent to sell your book, and one is to publishers to buy your stories. Typically, writers submit their own short stories, but publishers usually want agents to submit full length manuscripts.

Querying is a intro-letter and first chapter or so that you send to a literary agent. Once you have an agent, they often make you do revisions, before submitting your work to a publishing house.

Submitting a manuscript/short story/poem is what you can do to any editor/publisher who is open to it: publishers (who are open to unagented work), literary magazines, anthologies, etc.

This year, for my short stories and poetry, I’m going to try to actively submit at least 6 short stories to at least 3 markets each markets. Plus? At least the first round of the submissions needs to be by March (for the stories that are already prepped). And query my YA fantasy 3 times a month, unless revising.


4. Blogging/Vlogging/Podcast

You are my supporters, my community, my friends. You cheer me on and watch me learn and grow. As always, blogging helps keep me out there, keeps me accountable, and gives me a way to give back to the community.

Plus? I haven’t missed a week on my blog since February of 2016 (although, I have done reruns) nor a vlog-post since I started vlogging on June 27, 2017. Since we all know how much I hate ending a streak, I’m going to keep at it. You’ll be seeing my a new blog/vlog every Thursday with writing tips or writerly musings.

I’ve also started a podcast and weekly live-stream. I plan on taking a week or so off between seasons, and no more than one live-stream off a quarter (unless double-booked with a convention).

Morgan taking a selfie while sitting near the front of a room full of chairs. (She's at a writing panel at a convention)

5. Conventions | Writer Groups

My goals here are: to panel at 3+ conventions, attend 6+ open mic nights, 4+ monthly writer meetings, and 3 NaNoWriMo events (kickoff, 1 write in, and the all-nighter till 11pm). Plus? Staff Balticon and maybe another virtual con..

Ravencon pushed out my panelists dates from last year to this, I’m staff and panelist for Balticon again (May), and — if everything works out — WorldCon (August) in Washington DC. My panels were well received last year, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be accepted back. (All of my panels were topics from this blog that I feel I can talk competently on, where my unpublished perspective won’t be a detriment to my authority on the subject).

Plus, I’m running social media for Balticon’s parent group. So… there’s another time suck!

What does being on panels net me? Why do I want to do this?

First, it’s a greater reach for my blog/vlog/podcast that’s supposed to lead to a larger audience when I do get published. It’s a great way to network and meet more writers and readers who like the same stuff I do. Plus, a chance to talk about all the stuff I obsess over on my blog and on my vlog in person with actual people.

But how does attending conventions count as a writing goal? Isn’t it just fun? Or part of your social media addiction?

Well, if you’ve been following my blog, you’ve probably noticed that over half the content is actually write ups from notes at convention panels! I attend the panels, for those who can’t (or don’t). Also? My sister teases me that I act like a teacher, trying to get her recertification credits, all in one weekend.

And? Well, I talked about it in my post on attending conventions, but, of course, there’s the networking aspect. The science-fiction and fantasy conventions I prefer are full of readers, writers, and even some publishers and agents!

Quote on a grey board on a brown shelf with books behind it.
“And to think, some of life’s best stories haven’t even begun”

6. Reading

Thanks to this year being what it was, I managed to read 46 books, with 35 of them being physical and nearly all of the physical books being from the pile that moved into the house with me.

So? I’m upping my goal from last year of reading 26 books – to 36 books! Three a month is less than I’ve achieved the last couple years. Plus, half of them should be physical and already on my to-read bookcase.

7. Beta Readers

This year, again, I’m going to try not to beta-read more than 3 full manuscripts for others.

I will need the short stories I’m preparing for publication beta read. As always, 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.

I’m still a contributing editor to The Oddville Press, an online literary magazine of odd, but not really fantastical tales.


In Summary

This year, I’m starting off with my focus on drafting, not my usual revision, but plan to do a lot of querying and submitting. The middle of my year will be rather convention heavy, but by October/November, I should be back in the writer’s seat. Plus, I’ll be reading and blogging and vlogging and podcasting throughout the year.

Except December. I’m not a writer in December — everyone needs a chance to breath.

We’ll have to wait until next January to see if I had 2021 foresight.


What does your plan look like for 2021

Did you build in flexibility?

And, how SMART are your goals?


See my previous years resolutions and reflections:
2017 Resolutions | 2017 Retrospective
2018 Resolutions | 2018 Retrospective
2019 Resolutions | 2019 Retrospective

2020 Resolutions | 2020 Retrospective

Morgan’s 2020 Retrospective

Despite “unprecedented times”, 2020 kept me busy. Between my dayjob, my own projects, and helping with conventions, I was, as always, completely overbooked.

Yet again, I may not have ended my year with a signed agent, but I didn’t just sit around. Okay, I literally sat around, but there’s a lot one can do in front of one’s computer these days!

I attended 3-5 writing conventions, wrote 1 short story, finally finished a very long revision, and edited my fourth novel.

Between Balticon, WorldCon, Imaginarium, and couple of Authortube Virtual Retreats, I attended 25 panels, 1 shows, 2 readings, and was ON 11 panels. Not counting all the training sessions and tech orientations I ran for the staff, participants, attendees, and my own local NaNoWriMo group. Outside of cons, I attended 3 different writing groups, participated the #authortube community, and attended my local open mic nights for writers.

This year, I did a lot more interacting in real-time virtual spaces. 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.

2020 Goals

  1. Revising – Finish the mentor-led YA rewrite. Edit my middle-grade fantasy. Prep some shorts and poetry for submission.
    • PARTIAL CREDIT (70%): Got the YA and MG done and wrote/posted a short on my blog, but didn’t edit anything else new.
  2. Querying & Submitting – Prep 5 short stories for submission, and submit to at least 10 markets — half before July.
    • PARTIAL CREDIT (90%): Submitted 9 stories, 4 before July! But, only had 4 pieces prepped.
  3. Blogging and Vlogging – Don’t lose my posting streak. Maybe add a weekly Authortube check-in.
    • WIN: Kept up with the blog/vlog, and started a podcast. I tried a few zoom checkins, and ended up with a weekly livestream write-in that’s relatively popular. And did Vlogmas!
  4. Reading – Read 26 books (at least 2 a month) with at least 10 of them physical and ALREADY on my bookshelf
    • WIN: Like WHOA win. I read 45 books (4 more than last year) and a mind-boggling 35 of them were physical, with only 2 of those not from my to-read bookcase.
  5. Writing – OctPoWriMo and NaNoWriMo
    • PARTIAL CREDIT (50%): I skipped OctPoWriMo this year. But I did a lot more prep and ‘won’ NaNoWriMo. And drafted a short for Christmas.
  6. Beta Readers – Reach out for my middle-grade novel, don’t commit to more than 3 fulls yourself.
    • WIN: Got feedback from my alpha and 3 beta-readers on the MG. Only beta’d 3 shorts (including chapter 1 of a graphic novel). Working on one longer beta right now.
  7. Conventions/Writing Groups – Hit 6 open mic nights, 4 monthly writer meetings, try a critique group, and attend 3 NaNoWriMo events. Plus, be a panelist at 2 conventions and staff Balticon.
    • PARTIAL CREDIT (110%/70%): 5/6 open mic nights, 3/4 monthly writer meetings (but I hit 4 meetings for a different group!), tried a critique group, 2/3 NaNo events (but with it all being virtual, maybe I get full credit?), and I definitely paneled 5/2 conventions and staffed 4/1 cons.
  8. And give myself a pass if I don’t get anything accomplished in December.
    • What was that whole Vlogmas thing, Morgan? And read 4 more books? And wrote a short story?
    • EXTRA CREDIT!!

Things outside this list I achieved, though?

  • Started a podcast
  • Staffed 3?4? conventions and became a Zoom and Discord trainer/operator.
  • Vlogmas
  • Started a weekly livestream
  • Hit 10k views in one year here on the blog.

Blogging!

Top Lifetime Post

My sleeper hit, 10 Questions To Ask Your Beta Readers, from 2016 is still tops with 2,850 lifetime hits (and is published here). After a year as my number two hit, it has returned to prominence.

My Query Corner — where I rewrite queries with authors preparing to enter the query trenches, and my Author Spotlight — to help promote friends’ works — are sticking around, even if they’re not my most popular posts. I’m not hustling for entries, but will share them when I have content for them. (If you’d like to participate, please contact me at morgan.s.hazelwood@gmail.com)

My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2020!

  1. How One Writer Uses Trello To Track Her Creative Process
  2. They Want What? The Difference Between Blurbs, Queries, and Synopses!
  3. Querying and Agents: Now I’m Confused
  4. Everything You Need To Know About Convention Panels
  5. How to Self-Edit That Lousy First Draft
  6. What’s In A Name? Characters in Fiction
  7. Top 11 Ways NOT To Respond When Getting Feedback
  8. What Cons Are Looking For In Panelists
  9. Choices To Make With Beta-Readers
  10. Black Lives Matter

My Top 5 YouTube Videos! in 2020

Unlike last year, most of this year’s top 5 are actually from this year! Not sure why Youtube likes to push my Mythology post, but I’m not sad.

  1. Querying & Agents: Now I’m Confused
  2. Better Beta-Reading – A Virtual AuthorTube Retreat Panel
  3. Morgan’s Lazy Sunday Afternoon Write-in (Dec 27th edition)
  4. How To Create A New Mythology (old – a perpetual favorite)
  5. Novel, Novella, or Short Story?

My Top 3 Posts of 2019

  1. Morgan’s Complete Guide For Attending A Convention
  2. So You’ve Decided to Write A Novel – 7 Tips To Get Started
  3. Making the Asexual Textual

My Top 3 Posts of 2018

My Top 3 Posts of 2017


My Top 3 Posts of 2016


My Top 3 Posts of 2015


Social Media Stats

While this isn’t really writing related, I know I like to see how other people do it, and I like stats and tracking progress, so, probably more for me than you, here are my numbers for 2020. I tried to be both engaged and engaging, while still invested in upping my content creation in all mediums. As always, some weeks were better than others. Honestly? Some MONTHS were better than others.

Followers

First off, I really dove into the #AuthorTube community on Youtube. Most of the other stuff was automated though, so far less engagement on my part.

Between all my social media accounts, I added 3,068 followers, about in line with 2018, and about half of 2019! This year? My Facebook Author Page grew the most, followed by twitter. Percentage-wise, though, my Youtube channel did the best — and has the most interaction — I no longer feel like I’m shouting into the void there.

Content

This year I maintained my streak of blogging once a week, and almost hit twice a week, plus I kept up with the vlogging and started turning the vlog into a podcast. (My Goodreads stats are books added to my library, the last 3 years are the books I’ve read.) (My FB page wouldn’t give my year stats and stopped letting me scroll in mid-2016, so, those stats are incomplete, but I can compare to the last 3 years.)

As targeted the past two years, I maintained my average of posting on Instagram twice a week. And started posting at twice a week to Pinterest – mostly automated from my blog and youtube channels. Tumblr content is just Instagram and blog reshares, and LinkedIn is just blog reshares.

Account Break Down

  • WordPress – I started this blog in April of 2015.
    • This was my best year yet on the blog! For the first time ever, I hit 10,000 views in under a year! I grew at a steady pace.
    • Some of it was consistent content and regular Author Spotlights. But? When I look at my source referrals, this was the year that Google search results were my number one, rather than links from my own social media. While my search results referrals have been steadily growing, the bump 100% corresponds to a link from prowritingaid.com referencing my perennial favorite “10 Questions to Ask Your Beta Readers”. So, yeah, the importance of bigger sites referencing you actually do matter a lot for SEO (search engine optimization).
Activity on the blog
Blog referrals
  •  Twitter MorganHzlwood – I joined in March of 2016.
    • I could be more engaged. But, I think I’m comfortable with my level of engagement. I’ll ramp it up if needed. I’m still just posting and responding to my notifications. It’s a good way to avoid the drama that twitter can be prone to.
  • Youtube – MorganHazelwood I joined in April of 2017
    • I definitely stepped it up this year and my stats show. I got 7,677 views, added 154 followers (for 352 total), and hit 689.7 watch hours. (Yay! They started giving annual stats!)
  •  Tumblr MorganHazelwood – I joined in June of 2016
    • I basically stopped using except for resharing my blog and pinterest.
  •  Instagram MorganHazelwood – I joined in 2015.
    • I continue to attempt to be more intentional in my posts. Making 1 text post for every 2 image posts. (or reversed in OctPoWriMo). And making sure to vary the types of images.
  •   Pinterest MorganHazelwoo – I joined in 2015.
    • I’m sharing my video post weekly, and my blog post but not much else. I should join some group boards? Or something like that. I did make that inspiration-board for my space fantasy NaNoWriMo project, though.
  •  Facebook PagesMorganHazelwoodPage – I joined in 2015.
    • “Writing About Writing” continues to reshare my alt-text added reshared memes — bringing me MASSIVE readership for those posts. Otherwise, though FB still 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.
    • I think most of my growth was from the conventions I worked this summer and facebook suggestions.
  •  Google+Morgan S Hazelwood – I joined in 2013
    • Dead.
  •  GoodReads Morgan Hazelwood – I joined in January 2016
    • I read 46 books this year, beating my target of 2 books a month significantly! Again!
    • I rated all of them, but only reviewed 1. I try to review indie books more, because they don’t have a following.
  • Reddit – Morgan Hazelwood  – I joined in January of 2017.
    • I got 5 karma all year.
    • I had 1 post, and commented on a 6 discussions. If I want to be active here, I need to be more active
  • Discord – morganHazelwood#1975 –
    • I’m on like 5 convention discords, 4 active writing discords, my voice acting group’s discord… Not really tracked here for any good social media use, but it is somewhere I spend in chat rooms. And writing sprints.

In Conclusion

I didn’t do as much as I’d hoped.

Some of that was external. I don’t think anyone expected 2020 to look like it did. When other people are helping with your revisions, you can be limited to their pace and availability. I was wary of the conditions into which I was considering querying.

Some of the issues were the consequences of decisions.

  • I’m still running 3 Facebook PitchWars support groups and administering another SFF writer’s group. Plus, stepping up as part of the #authorTube community. Helping out with Concellation AMAs. That takes time, energy, and spoons.
  • I helped run two conventions and helped staff another 3. I paneled at 3 virtual cons and 2 authortube events.
  • 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 on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Add in my blog post writing and uploading Wednesday nights and con meetings…

I’ve been prioritizing keeping up with my self-imposed schedule over actually writing. I’m still a bit burnt out, but I have goals. Last year’s intentional breaks turned into working conventions — except December. This year, I’m going to take intentional breaks. At least two weeks off of everything TWICE but the blog/vlog/podcast (not including December).

However…

I DID get some writing done, finished revisions on 2 books, grew my vlog, created a podcast, helped make virtual 3 conventions happen in a year unlike no other, staffed 3 others, was on 12 panels outside of my own vlog, and read an average of 3.8 books a month.

I may have fallen short, but… as I quote Les Brown every year: “Shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”


How well did you do on your goals?

Did quarantine side-track you or free up your time?

Choices To Make With Beta-Readers

After you’ve written your manuscript and gone over it at least once, it’s usually time to ship it out to some beta-readers, to get an outside perspective. If nothing else, they can spot the things that you know about your story that you didn’t actually put down on paper.

There are tons of different techniques, and I’ve got to say, this time around, I’m kinda winging it.

How Many Beta-Readers To Ask?

It has been quite some time since I sent a new, fresh book off to beta-readers.

My first time, I just asked my friends on facebook — before I’d jumped into the writing world. I had RPG game masters, english teachers, family, and readers reading it. I tried my best to mix backgrounds, gender, and age. I sent it out to seven readers and heard back from five. I had in-depth feedback from four and high-level feedback from three (there was some overlap).

Since then, I’ve had plenty of critique partners — writers, looking at my manuscript with a similar lens to mine, that I let loose in ones-and-twos on more polished drafts.

For this beta? I asked a middle-grade writer friend, a YA writer friend, and was pleasantly surprised when a friend working on base during quarantine asked for something to do while waiting out his shift, helping make sure I didn’t *just* have writer perspectives.

Three beta-readers. Not a lot, but a nice balance if they all come through — which mine have. Just in time for me to have a block of time between chapters on that never-ending YA revision of mine.

What To Ask For

The best way to get beta-feedback you can really use is — shock-of-shocks — to ask for it. You know I’ve got my 10 Questions I Ask My Beta-Readers, such as: what works, what doesn’t, and what parts they enjoyed.

No matter what you’re worried about: characters, dialogue, world-building, pacing — now is the time to ask. Have them focus on the parts of the story that you care about.

You can even tell them to skip the line edits, if you want! Make this a developmental round of edits, not a copy edit.

They might not address all your questions directly, but by asking, you plant the ideas in their head before they begin, and it can really help direct their feedback.

Should Your Betas See What The Others Are Saying?

There are mixed feelings on this, and clearly, the answer is to do what works for you.

If you’re still world-building or playing with techiques and things, where you want to almost brainstorm what the story could look like with your betas, a shared document with open feedback might be just the ticket.

For me? I make sure they all have their own private copy, so they don’t know what anyone else is thinking. This way, I know they’re all facing it fresh, with no one else’s pre-conceived notions influencing them.

The choice is yours.

How To Compile Beta Feedback

Some people read feedback from beta-readers as it comes in, addressing stuff immediately with the excitement and energy they get from the fresh critique.

I like to sit on it.

Well, I read the draft letter they usually send with the big picture stuff and let it percolate in my brain. But the read-through and all the inline stuff? That waits.

I like to wait until I have feedback from ALL of my beta-readers. And then, I–

Wait. Let’s be honest here. This is only my second completed manuscript. I need to stop talking about this like I have a process. I sorta did this with my 2 or 3 shorts I sent out, but noo really. I just have “what I did last time” and “my vague plan that I’m stalling on by writing this blogpost.”

So, my plan and what I vaguely remember from my first round of betas, longer ago than I would like, is that I’m going to go through the feedback, chapter-by-chapter.

I’m going to have all three beta drafts and my own fresh-copy open at once. Maybe on separate quadrants of the screen? As I see line edits, I’ll see what the other betas thought, and decide if I want to incorporate them.

On a notepad, or gmail draft, I’ll be jotting down the larger stuff (although, most of that, I’d imagine, is not in-line, but instead in the draft letters they all sent me, that I already read).

I know, all the advice says to skip the line edits until you know if you’re even keeping that chapter, but I find getting the line edits out of the way makes the big choices easier, because I’m not overwhelmed with all the ‘clutter’ of the small stuff.

Last time, I printed the whole thing out, going chapter by chapter, making notes, writing new scenes on the back of the pages of the last draft. I’m debating now, and if I should do that before or after I do the quick line-edits. I almost called them ‘easy’ line edits, but they can be quite challenging. They’re just often smaller changes in scope, not difficulty.

To me? I consider changing wording and adding descriptions, etc, as ‘editing’. While changing pacing, characterization, and other big picture stuff are ‘revising’.

So, after I use their feedback to edit my manuscript, it’ll be time to look at the big picture and decide where to go from there.


How do you like to work with your beta-readers?

Are there any things you’d suggest I do differently? Does something else work for you?

Let me know in the comments below and I’ll be back again, next week, with more writing tips and writerly musings.

Morgan’s 2020 Resolutions

As January firmly establishes itself, I’m finally ready to talk about what 2020 is going to look like for me.

Last year was intended to be a year of reading, revision, and reflection.

Thusly, I listed my goals:

  1. Blogging/Vlogging
  2. Reading
  3. Revising
  4. Querying
  5. Beta-reading
  6. Conventions
  7. Writing

As I shared last week, I did great on everything on that list — except my revisions and querying — you know, the parts of the list that actually get me closer to publication. Does anyone else see the problem here?

This year? This year my focus is on revisions and querying/submitting.

As always, I like to set SMART goals –

  • Specific – you’ll see numbers and dates!
  • Measurable – you’ll still see numbers and dates
  • Achievable – I set goals for things I have influence over. I’m aiming for an agent, getting something published, but unless I self-pub, I have no control over that.
  • Relevant – I’m keeping my exercise goals and healthy eating off this post. These are all about my writing, the relevance should be clear.
  • Time-sensitive – Obviously, these are intended to be completed in 2020, but some items may have specific dates associated.

So? Let’s take last year’s list and put it in a new priority order.

Morgan, a long-haired brunette, is laying on a carpet, legs in slippers kicked up behind her, writing in a notebook.

Behind her is a table and a bookshelf.

1. Revising

Last year’s goal of revising 3 full manuscripts was… ambitious. I clearly was thinking more about what it takes for me to edit (clean up a draft) than about what it takes to get feedback from others, integrate it, and polish the draft till it comes out in my voice.

The manuscript I had ready for querying last year is in the middle of revisions with my wonderful mentor. But? The mentorship officially ended last April, and, although she generously volunteered to keep at it with me, she has paying work that, of course, comes first. So? We’re working through my novel 30 pages at a time.

My hope is to have the revisions done by the end of May, when I hit Balticon. But, life happens. So, what can I do to speed up the process on my end? Make sure that the next 30 page chunk is as ready to go as I can make it before I get feedback from the previous section.

I’m cutting a secondary character’s role in the last 3rd of the journey, and changing the nature of the last leg of the journey quite a bit, so I already know a large part of the plotting changes. Plus, my mentor keeps reminding me to add visuals. As I’ve said before, I worry about what’s in the character’s head and the action. I forget people want to see the world itself. So, that’s my revision priority.

But, of course, there’s going to be some downtime.

To fill that in, I’ve been nudging my alpha reader who has my middle-grade contemporary fantasy (the school play story) and should hear back in the next week or so.

Also? Last year also included writing some short stories and some poetry. Between revising my middle-grade story and getting those shorts and poetry ready for publication, I’ve got a lot to work on.


2. Querying & Submitting

If you haven’t tried to get your work published before, this item might seem confusing. What’s the difference?

Querying is a intro-letter and first chapter or so that you send to a literary agent. Once you have an agent, they often make you do revisions, before submitting your work to a publishing house.

Why do you need an agent? There are many publishing houses that do not accept unagented work. Agents understand what your contract should look like and what is negotiable. Plus? The agent’s job is to know the market — and thus know what your book needs in order to best sell it — and to whom. Typically, you query 5-10 agents at a time.

Submitting a manuscript/short story/poem is what you can do to any editor/publisher who is open to it: publishers (who are open to unagented work), literary magazines, anthologies, etc.

When you’re sending a cover letter and your story to the place that will actually print/publish the piece, it’s called a submission. Typically, submissions are exclusive (unless the guidelines state otherwise), so you have to wait to hear back before you can send to another publisher.

This year, for my short stories and poetry, I’m going to try to get at least 5 stories ready for publication and submit them to at least 10 markets. At least half of those submissions should be before July, just to make sure I don’t forget to put myself out there.


3. Blogging/Vlogging

With you, I’m finding an audience and, I hope, creating a community. You are the people whose queries I help polish as you look for an agent, whose books I add to my massive to-read pile, the people I feature in my Author Spotlights. Blogging puts me out there, keeps me accountable, and gives me a way to give back to the community.

Plus? I haven’t missed a week on my blog since February of 2016 (although, I have done reruns) nor a vlog-post since I started vlogging on June 27, 2017. So? I’d hate to break my posting streak! Thus, I’ll continue putting out a new blog/vlog every Thursday with writing tips or writerly musings.

I’m already off to a great start with this, but when I have them lined up, I’ll also be sharing Author Spotlights or Query Corners on Tuesdays.

I’m thinking of adding some Authortube videos of my massive to-read pile, or maybe an occasional brief weekly check-in since those were popular during NaNo. I just need to find a time that works every week for those, so I can schedule them in advance and make them interactive.

Quote on a grey board on a brown shelf with books behind it.
“And to think, some of life’s best stories haven’t even begun”

4. Reading

I did great on this one last year, but I’m not gonna look a gift horse in the mouth. I had a lot of travel, and managed to hit 41 books, but there’s no guarantee this year will as generous. I even managed to read a decent amount of physical books — but a lot of those were new or re-reads. Not as many from my to-read pile as I’d like to admit.

So? I’m keeping my goal from last year of reading 26 books – a little more than two a month. This time? At least 10 of them should be physical and ALREADY on my bookshelf.

So far? I finished a short story collection I bought over the holidays AND read a book that’s been with me since before I moved. Not a bad start!

5. Writing

Yet again, writing is so far down my list!

I can hear your thoughts, your concerns. What’s wrong, Morgan? I thought this was your writing blog. Why isn’t this more writing focused? Do you want to be a blogger/vlogger more than a writer?

Well, first? Rewriting IS writing, and revisions are tops on my list. The goal is publication and I’ve got 4 manuscripts, 21+ short stories, and 30+ poems just waiting for a home.

More writing right now just means a larger backlog of things to be polished.

But! Never fear, I will be doing OctPoWriMo again — writing a poem a day for all of October. And then NaNoWriMo — writing 50,000 words in November. If I’m really stumped in November, I’ll rebel and revise either 5 shorts or a full manuscript. But, knowing me, I’ll probably make new words.

6. Beta Readers

I’ll be reaching out to beta readers as I wrap up my revisions on my middle grade novel, hopefully before August. Last year’s goals of having revisions of two different manuscripts done by May AND July were unrealistic.

As always, 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.

I’m considering joining a local critique group and feel that short stories work much better in those venues than a full manuscript. Especially since I’m more interested in feedback on my pacing and characterization than the chapter itself. I guess it’s arrogance, but I think I know where my problem points lay.

On the flip-side, I’m now a contributing editor to The Oddville Press, an online literary magazine of odd, but not really fantastical tales. I’m also a regular beta-reader for my dad (who’s retired from a day job and enjoys filling my inbox). Not to mention, I have a few critique partners, and writer friends who have been known to reach out for feedback. I will try not to commit to more than 3 full length betas this year.

Morgan taking a selfie while sitting near the front of a room full of chairs. (She's at a writing panel at a convention)

7. Conventions

Actually, maybe I should have changed the name of this goal. This should be all the in-person writing goals. I aim to attend 6+ open mic nights, 4+ monthly writer meetings, try a critique group, and 3 NaNoWriMo events (kickoff, 1 write in, and the all-nighter till 11pm). Plus? Two+ conventions.

I intend to hit Balticon again (May) and — if everything works out — WorldCon (August) in New Zealand (!!). I submitted to be a panelist at Balticon again… and this time was accepted! And? I think they approved the panels I suggested (topics from this blog that I feel I can talk competently on, and that my unpublished perspective won’t be a detriment to my authority on the subject).

How do I know they approved them? They recruited me to be on their Programming team! (Apparently, after attending nearly 30 panels a year for the last 5 years, they suspected I might have opinions about what makes a good panel and who are the good panelists.) So, that’s another time commitment.

What does being on panels net me? Why do I want to do this?

First, it’s a greater reach for my blog and vlog. Plus, a larger audience when I do get published. Hopefully, a way to make more friends and supporters. Plus, a chance to talk about all the stuff I obsess over on my blog and on my vlog in person with actual people.

But how does attending conventions count as a writing goal? Isn’t it just fun? Or part of your social media addiction?

Well, if you’ve been following my blog, you’ve probably noticed that over half the content is actually write ups from notes at convention panels! I attend the panels, for those who can’t (or don’t). Also? My sister teases me that I act like a teacher, trying to get her recertification credits, all in one weekend.

And? Well, I talked about it in my post on attending conventions, but, of course, there’s the networking aspect. The science-fiction and fantasy conventions I prefer are full of readers, writers, and even some publishers and agents!


In Summary

As is becoming my trend, the first part of my year will be focused on revisions, the middle on conventions, and the end on writing. Plus, I’ll be reading and blogging and vlogging throughout the year.

Except December. I’m not a writer in December — everyone needs a chance to breath.

We’ll have to wait until next January to see if I had 2020 foresight.


What does your plan look like for 2020

Did you build in flexibility?

And, how SMART are your goals?


See my previous years resolutions and reflections:
2017 Resolutions | 2017 Retrospective
2018 Resolutions | 2018 Retrospective
2019 Resolutions | 2019 Retrospective

Morgan’s 2019 Retrospective

2019 kept me busy. Between my dayjob, my own projects, and helping friends and family with their projects, I was, as always, completely overbooked.

As with 2017 and 2018, I may not have ended my year with a signed agent, but I didn’t just sit around.

I attended 2 writing conventions, wrote 21 short stories, 33 poems, got a mentor who is helping me revise my 1st novel (my 8th time), and revised my fourth novel.

Between Balticon and WorldCon, I hit 39 panels, 7 shows, 4 readings, 2 yoga classes, and helped run 2 parties. Outside of cons, I attended 3 different writing groups, joined the #authortube community, and became a regular at my local open mic nights for writers.

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.

orange and green pen on graphing notepad
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

My Writing Goals Last Year

I made sure to set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound) goals.

2019 Goals

  1. Blogging/Vlogging – don’t break my streak. Maybe add a picture post.
    • WIN: Well, no new picture posts, but my streak is still going strong.
  2. Read at least 26 books this year.
    • WIN: I blew this one out of the water with 41 books this year!
  3. Revise Manuscript (MS) #1 in February, MS #2 in April, and MS #3 or #4 in June.
    • PARTIAL CREDIT (50%): Instead of 3 revisions, I’m halfway through a revision with my mentor of MS #1, but I did finish a revision of MS #4. It’s now off with my alpha-reader.
  4. Once MS #1 has been revised, starting in March, query 3 times a week for 4 months.
    • FAIL
    • Um… I’m still revising it. I didn’t query At All this year. 😦
  5. Beta-Readers – after revisions, send MS #2 and MS #3/4 to <8 beta readers.
    • Partial Credit (25%): My alpha-reader’s sitting on MS #4, and MS #2 was never revised.
  6. Conventions
    • WIN
    • Attended Balticon and WorldCon as planned.
    • Did NOT get on any panels, but that’s fine. This coming year’s looking good 😉
  7. Writing. Do OctPoWriMo and if I don’t have a great idea by NaNoWriMo, rebel and revise something.
    • WIN
    • I did OctPoWriMo – October Poem Writing Month – a themed poem a day for all of October.
    • I didn’t rebel by revising, but instead by writing short stories. I hit 50,000 words, so I count that as a NaNoWriMo win.
  8. And give myself a pass if I don’t get anything accomplished in December.
    • Wait? That was on my resolutions? *whew* Thank you, Past-Morgan. You were 110% correct on that front.
    • WIN

Things outside this list I achieved, though?

  • Got a writing mentor from The Broad Universe in January
  • Set up my own newsletter
  • Networking – became a regular at Open Mic Night for writers
  • Got asked to read slush for “The Oddville Press” – an online magazine.
  • Got asked to help with Balticon programming — due to my extensive panel viewing, I’ve got insight on which panels worked and which panelists I’d love to see again.
  • Beta-reading for friends. At least 2 full length novels and 5 shorts.
  • Setting up Trello for me (and for a friend on her blog tour for her book release)

Morgan peers over her laptop (it has a red flowery vinyl skin on it). trees are in the background behind her.

Blogging!

Top Lifetime Post

My sleeper hit, 10 Questions To Ask Your Beta Readers, from 2016 is still tops with 2,134 lifetime hits (and is published here). But, it’s way down from its peak, one of 2019’s posts beat it out for popularity.

Despite being less popular than my regular posts, I’m keeping 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 not hustling for entries, but will share them when I have content for them. (If you’d like to participate, please contact me at morgan.s.hazelwood@gmail.com)

My Top 10 Posts of 2019!

  1. Morgan’s Complete Guide For Attending A Convention
  2. So You’ve Decided to Write A Novel – 7 Tips To Get Started
  3. Making the Asexual Textual
  4. Introduction to Hopepunk
  5. Done To Death: The Art of Killing Characters
  6. How I Finally Gave In and Set Up My Own Newsletter
  7. The Future of Podcasting
  8. Advancing the Story Without Traumatizing Your Characters
  9. What The Writer Needs to Know: The Brain and The Body
  10. Picking an Agent (or #PW Mentor) To Query

My Top 5 YouTube Videos! in 2019

Not all of these are from 2019, but here’s what was popular on my feed this year. (I’m still not sure where all my Mythology viewers are coming from, but I’m happy to have them.)

My Top 3 Posts of 2018

My Top 3 Posts of 2017


My Top 3 Posts of 2016


My Top 3 Posts of 2015


Social Media Stats

I like stats and tracking progress, so here are my numbers for 2019. I tried to be both engaged and engaging, while still invested in upping my content creation in all mediums.

Followers

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 5,970 followers, more than double last year’s! Twitter was, of course, #1 for number of new followers, but percentage-wise, my facebook page, facebook profile, and Youtube channel were the main areas of growth. Plus, I added LinkedIn to this chart and removed GooglePlus.

Content

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 me scroll in mid-2016, so, those stats are incomplete, but I can compare to the last 2 years.)

As targeted last year, I maintained my average of posting on Instagram twice a week. And started posting at least weekly to Pinterest.

Account Break Down

  • WordPress – I started this blog in April of 2015.
    • I took a bit of a dip in the blog category, although some of it is just plain not posting as much. I had a lot of Query Corners, Author Spotlights, and a blog hop last year. This year, I didn’t do as much. Actually slightly below 2017’s numbers, in views and likes.
  •  Twitter MorganHzlwood – I joined in March of 2016.
    • I could be more engaged. But, I think I’m comfortable with my level of engagement. I’ll ramp it up if needed. I’m still just posting and responding to my notifications. It’s a good way to avoid the drama that twitter can be prone to.
  •  Tumblr MorganHazelwood – I joined in June of 2016
    • I mastered queuing things, in spurts. Grew a bit organically, but I think the platform is dying.
  •  Instagram MorganHazelwood – I joined in 2015.
    • I may try posting on an actual schedule. Or not. You never know when something pretty will happen. I’ve been trying to be more intentional in my posts. Making 1 text post for every 2 image posts. (or reversed in OctPoWriMo). And making sure to vary the types of images.
  •   Pinterest MorganHazelwoo – I joined in 2015.
    • I’m sharing my video post weekly, but not much else. I should join some group boards? Or something like that. I did make that inspiration-board for my middle-grade novel, though.
  •  Facebook PagesMorganHazelwoodPage – I joined in 2015.
    • I invited all my friends once. A lot of them followed me, and I’ve been trying to post semi-regularly. Since I bother to alt-text most of my reshared content, “Writing About Writing” often reshares me — and brings in MASSIVE readership for those posts. Otherwise, though FB still 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.
    • I got a lot of new followers when I posted a tribute to the Mars Rover Opportunity. (The post went VIRAL) It was a roller coaster for me and as heartbreaking as a robot could ever be. </3
  •  Google+Morgan S Hazelwood – I joined in 2013
    • Dead.
  •  GoodReads Morgan Hazelwood – I joined in January 2016
    • I read 41 books this year, beating my target of 2 books a month significantly!
    • I rated all of them, but don’t think I reviewed them.
  • Reddit – Morgan Hazelwood  – I joined in January of 2017.
    • I slipped on this, but my karma is 510.
    • I had 7 posts, mostly reshares from my blog.

In Conclusion

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 summer, plus personal travel.

Some of the issues were the consequences of decisions.

  • I’m still running 2 Facebook PitchWars support groups and administering another SFF writer’s group. Plus, stepping up as part of the #authorTube community. 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…

I’ve been prioritizing keeping up with my self-imposed schedule over actually writing. I’m still a bit burnt out, but I have goals. This year, I’m going to take intentional breaks. EVEN if I haven’t achieved my target for the previous working-stretch.

However…

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 3.42 novels/novella’s a month.

I may have fallen short, but you know what Les Brown says about that?

222r9n

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?