For a lady who started blogging, just to keep her website from looking empty, after blogging had already peaked and was on its way out… here I am, 5 years later.
Back in April of 2015, I’d written my first complete manuscript, I’d sent it off to beta-readers, and revised it. And, following all the online advice, I set up a website as a landing page for agents, so I’d look like I hadn’t just popped into existence when my manuscript was published.
But, I didn’t want my website to look like a thing created and forgotten. So, I made a blogpost or two, just to make it look like I was still active online.
That was five years ago.
Five years ago, I never imagined that I’d still be both:
a – Unpublished and
b – Still Writing
I figured I’d be one or the other. In fact, I rather clearly remember telling my mom that I was gonna do one more pass of revisions after the beta-readers, then query for a year. If nothing, then I’d self-publish.
Ah, Morgan, you were so young, so certain that you could keep getting rejection letters without trying to ‘fix’ your manuscript.
That beloved manuscript has been through two rounds of queries, and is in the final stretch of its latest revisions, and has been joined by 3 other rough drafts, a couple dozen short-stories, and an annual month’s worth of poems.
As I said, I got into blogging after blogging had peaked, when everyone was moving to facebook or youtube, then snapchat, then Tik-Tok.
But, I’m a writer, I’m a novelist, I’m a pretty-wordy lady. The blog really is the best format for me, (and the now-regular vlog. I really do have an issue leaving a social media empty).
Obviously, no one would have predicted the spring of 2020 would look like this. But, one can only dwell and obsess for so long. In a move that surprises no one, I’m spending, (at least today), looking forward. Creating dreams and goals and plans to reach them. And here’s one, I say to you now: I plan to be published, one way or another, before I hit my ten-year anniversary.
I try to keep this blog partially educational, sometimes celebratory, always honest with a peek into my writing process — and progress (or lack thereof).
Thanks for joining me on this adventure. I’m not sure where the next five years will take us, but I’m excited to find out.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
The past couple of years, I’ve noticed a trend–in myself. I’ve been wanting to stay home and not deal with going out. I’ve been not wanting to host big, complicated events, and it was usually okay if people came to me. Although, lately, I’ve been craving smaller and smaller groups. Of worse? Wanting to stay home, on my couch, alone.
But wait, I thought I was an extrovert. Was I was wrong? My entire identity has fallen into crisis!
Maybe I was never an extrovert and was always an ambivert?
That’s definitely what I consider myself now.
Maybe my extroverted-ness was influenced by my nearest and dearest?
Thank you, exes.
Maybe it was my age?
Do extroverts get less extroverted when they get older?
Maybe, I’m more into my writing and don’t have the energy anymore?
My new ‘hobby’ might be taking the energy extroverting used to.
Maybe, I’m simply overscheduled
If I just made time to rest, surely I’d be back to normal in a week or so and craving socialization.
And then, a couple weeks ago, it dawned on me, like a person remembering to turn their sound back on after they miss a couple text messages: Social. Media. Is. SOCIAL.
Let me say that again. Social Media Is Social.
Okay, I know, many of you are rolling your eyes at the obviousness of this statement.
But wait, the internet is supposed to be a ‘cheater’ way for introverts to reach out without depleting their energy, right?
Apparently, it depends on how you do it. And how much social media you take part in.
You’d think the blogger who literally wrote the (or at least ‘a’) series on social media (See parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5a, 5, 6) might have noticed sooner, but no.
When one tries to continually network and keep up with all the recommended social media best practices, one can stretch themselves a little too thinly. Who knew?
Now, my loyal readers, I’m sure you’re starting to fear this is about to turn into a social media hiatus or blog-cation. Calm thyselves, I’m far more of an addict than that.
But, next time I turn down an invitation to go out, I’ll know who to blame.
Readers, talk to me!
Am I the only one? Or do you find yourself peopled out because of the internet?