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?

How One Writer Uses Trello To Track Her Creative Progress

At some point in any creative’s life, they realize they can’t keep track of it all in their heads.

There are a lot of tools out there; from handwritten bullet journals to Scrivener to post-it notes, there is a plethora of choice. Because every person works differently, so different tools are going to be helpful to different people. Plus, even if a tool was useful at an earlier stage, doesn’t mean it’ll be the right tool for you right now.

If you’ve been following me, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve got a ton of balls in the air, so to speak.

  1. Revising a YA fantasy
  2. Sent my MG contemp-fantasy out for feedback
  3. Reworking some short stories
  4. Querying my short stories
  5. Revising other people’s queries – and posting some for my Query Corners
  6. Interviewing authors and posting Author Spotlights
  7. My weekly blogpost
  8. My weekly vlogpost
  9. Other #authortube activities – write-ins, short updates, etc.
  10. Volunteering for conventions – working on Balticon’s programming staff
  11. Assistant editor for Oddville – an online quarterly fiction magazine
  12. Applying to be a panelist at conventions
  13. Attending conventions (either as an attendee or presenter)
  14. Beta-reading for friends and family

I could probably think of a few more things I’m trying to do this month alone, but my list is getting a bit long. At some point, probably after some betas nudged me 3 months late, I realized I couldn’t keep tracking this in my head.

As I’ve discussed before, I love being able to check things off, I love keeping up productivity streak, I love feeling like I’m making progress.

To Do lists are always a good thing for me. But? I needed an online one. I needed to be able to check my list no matter where I was. I didn’t want a journal — I don’t carry a purse, just a phone-wallet.

There were a lot of post-it note or list style to-do lists, but my day job had introduced me to some project management tools. I’m a coder by day, and I’d worked with GitLabs, which has project milestones, and epic tasks broken down into 1-2 day chunks. So, I looked around to see if there was anything similar that I could use at home. Preferably free. And didn’t look like it came out of the 90s.

I saw ads for a few others – Monday.com kept being shown while I was trying to binge Brooklyn 99 on the cheap Hulu. But? It seemed aimed at teams and collaboration — not something that was a major concern for me. I thought it might be far too heavy-weight for what I was looking for. The first thing I saw and tried was a tool called Trello. And I liked it.

I fell off the bandwagon back in November or so, but with my New Year’s resolutions, I set it back up, and I’m really liking it. It helps me visualize, prioritize, and make sure I don’t forget things with less immediate deadlines.

Anyway, enough preamble. Pictures are worth 1,000 words. (Or more. Because I’m pretty sure I could get super wordy if I tried to describe an image in excruciating detail.)

Trello Boards

In Trello, you can have one or more “boards”. As this is intended for project managing a team, you can have multiple boards for multiple projects. This year, I’ve split mine boards by 3-month-chunks, rather than splitting it up by writing-project. This way? All of my active stuff in one place, but I’m keeping the board itself from getting too cluttered.

When I first tried it out last year, I just had one for what I was writing and one for what I was reading (books, beta-reading, etc). But, it kept getting busier and more cluttered and I felt overwhelmed.

Trello offers lots of templates, so when I created a new board for this year, I looked through them and set one up. But, after careful consideration, decided it wasn’t quite what I wanted, so created ANOTHER new a board for this quarter.

My Actual Trello Board

My Trello Board for 1st Quarter 2020

In the upper right corner, you’ll see a menu drop-down. That’s where you can change the background color, search for cards, add stickers, and more. I like a nice mellow blue, but if I was managing multiple boards, I’d likely use a different color per board. (Spring might be green…)

Lists

As you can see on the right, there’s a button to ‘Add another list’. The lists are the large columns. I’ve labeled mine:

  • Backlog
  • To Do
  • Awaiting Feedback/Queried
  • Doing
  • Done

And each list contains a number of ‘cards’ that I’ve added to it. As a card moves through my process, I can click and drag it from one column to the next — forward, backwards, or skipping around.

Cards

These are my task items. I try to break them down into small chunks. Bite-sized tasks that could be completed in just a few days, nothing huge and epic.

Clearly, you can split your items anyway you want, but half of my reason for using this tool is the sense of progress I get as I check things off. I’d rather check off 7 sub-tasks a week, than wait 2 months to check the parent-task off. I’ll STILL be thrilled when I move that card into the ‘Done’ list, but this way, I get to celebrate the little achievements that help me on my way.

Cards hold a LOT of information and a bevy of attributes.

  • Titles
  • Labels (for different types of tasks)
  • Members (if other people are collaborating, you can assign them)
  • Due dates (you can schedule reminders!)
  • Check-lists (where it tracks percentage done!)
  • Attachments! (if you need access to outside files)
  • Descriptions
  • And more!

When you add a new card, whatever you enter into the box becomes your title. Once created, you can click on the title to edit the full card, or you select the pencil icon to quick-edit a single attribute.

Labels

I have a bunch of labels I use, to keep track of the different types of tasking I do. You can just leave them as color options, or you can edit them and add a word to the label.

  • Conventions
  • Beta-Reading
  • Housekeeping
  • Revising
  • Author spotlight\Query Corners (requires outside input)
  • Blog\Vlog (just me)
  • Meetups
  • Oddville (I’m an editor/slush reader)

The color-blind option adds the symbols to the left edge of the label. I know in a glance, when I look at my board, which things are get me closer to publication, which are supporting the community, and which are for my social media platform.

Check-Lists

When I first saw that the items had check-lists inside them, I thought I was using Trello wrong. Then, I realized the truth. I could use those to break down the sub-tasks and watch my progress on a given task.

And the best part? I can use a pre-existing list as a template -> Just copy it on over to my new card.

Then again, it’s also one of the few annoyances I’ve found. It shows each and every instance of every checklist, rather than selecting from 1 instance of each checklist.

But still, watching the “Percent Complete” go up? TOTALLY WORTH IT.

Under housekeeping (my yellow label), I even made a task to make sure that I reviewed my board and updated all the tasks. The promise of watching that percent bar goes up almost guarantees I won’t miss a week.

Due Dates and Attachments

You’re familiar with the concept. I’m just taking a moment to show the screenshots for you. The Due Date lets you set reminders. The attachments lets you find stuff on many common hosting sites.

Deleting Boards

When you finish a project, you can always archive its board. But sometimes, you just don’t want the board to exist any longer. In those cases, you can delete it permanently.

Deleting a board

  1. Select settings
  2. Select more…
  3. Select Close board (this means no one can make updates to it)
  4. Confirm at the pop up
  5. Select ‘Delete’

Now, Trello has plenty of other features, from the automated Butler and more. But? For a solo creator, just trying to manage her workload? This is all I need.


Do you use any project management tools for your personal projects?

Which ones and why?

Let me know if you use Trello, too.

3 Why You Shouldn’t Set New Year’s Resolutions (and why I did)

Goals aren’t for everyone. Goals in January? Even less so.

For some of us, setting goals is just setting ourselves up for failure. You need to take a good hard look at where you are, where you want to go, and what stands in your way.

1. Current Obligations

If you are already over-committed, you might want to re-examine your priorities and see if you actually have the bandwidth to take on new tasks.

If not? This probably isn’t the right time for you to set new goals. Instead, you might want to look into what steps you could take to free up your bandwidth — to either get a better handle on everything you’re currently trying to do, or make space for new goals in the future.

2. Emotional State

Check in with yourself, first. If you’re not in the right space, emotionally, setting goals can end up hurting you.

Some people are naturally contrary, and when faced with a goal, find ourselves doing anything else.

Others? We have trouble dealing with the setbacks and failures that are intrinsically a part of striving for something that’s not in our reach, yet.

If you know that you won’t be able to roll with the setbacks and keep at it? Your priority should be working on getting yourself back on more stable ground, emotionally. And making sure that you have a firm support network that will be able to help you through any setbacks and push you toward your better self.

Instead of setting goals, just work on whatever project seems to be flowing better and concentrate on making progress. Let your creative side out, without burdening it with expectations.

Of course, if you find setting and meeting goals intrinsically encouraging and reinforcing, then do so. Just make sure they’re achievable and things you actually have control over.

For writers? Setting word count or page-edit goals are something you can control. Self-publishing or querying 50 agents is something you can control. Getting an agent or traditionally published? Not so much.

3. Timing

Basically, whether it’s the right time for you to set goals, or not, just boils down to timing.

Timing of obligations.

Timing of dealing with everything life throws at you.

For me? New Years Resolutions are a GREAT time to set goals and plan out how I’m going to approach them.

Why? Because October is busy and has #OctPoWriMo, November is PACKED and has #NaNoWriMo, and before I can catch my breath? December is there with all the holiday cards and decorations and baking and gatherings.

January? Is my first chance to breath since the start of fall. It’s my first chance to take a step back, see where I am, and decide the best way to get from here to where I want to go.

But, your annual cycle doesn’t necessarily look like mine. For professors or teachers, summer might be your time. For tax accountants? May. For parents? September (or October, after all those open houses and back-to-school activities and the first wave of brought-home-germs).

Don’t feel like you’re doing things wrong if your schedule doesn’t match up with the calendar, or what everyone else is doing.

As I’m fond of saying at my dayjob, processes exist to help you accomplish stuff. If the process is getting in the way, you need to either adapt the process for your purposes, or find a new process.


Did you set New Year’s Resolutions?

If so, share them with me!

If not, did one of these three things contribute toward that decision?
Or was it something else, entirely?

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