New Year’s Resolutions: Dusting off my shelved manuscripts

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.

Blogging/Vlogging

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?

Reading

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, MarchMay, 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.

Revising

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!)

Querying

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.

Beta Readers

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).

Conventions

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!)

Writing

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.


What does your plan look like for 2019?

Did you build in flexibility?

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Morgan’s 2018 Retrospective

2018 was a year unlike any other. Some parts were stressful, some parts were lazy, and some parts? Some parts were productive.

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

I queried 9 agents, attended 2 writing conventions (including my 1st time as a panelist!), wrote my fourth novel, several short stories, 31 poems, and revised my first novel twice, including that R&R from 2017 (that turned into a rejection).

Between Balticon and WorldFantasyCon, I hit 21 panels, (plus the one I was on), attended 3 different writing groups, joined 3 groups (although not all the same ones), hit a local writer’s workshop, and even picked up the mic at a poetry jam night.

This year, I did a lot more interacting in person, versus all the virtual interaction I’ve done in the past, but I love comparing numbers, so let’s look at them.

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.

2018 Goals

  1. Query novel #1 at least 3 times every other week until I get an agent
    • unless I’m revising it
    • Let’s hear it for caveats. The only way this possibly qualified.
  2. Move forward with my picture book
    • Nope!
  3. revise at least one of my shelved rough drafts
    • Nope!
  4. Write something NEW during NaNoWriMo
    • half credit if I rewrite something old
    • WIN
  5. Keep blogging and decide if vlogging is worth it
    • WIN
  6. Try to use  social media better
    • more one-liners on tumbler
    • more consistent posts on twitter
    • instagram at least 1x a week
    • WIN
  7. Read an average of 2 books a month,
    • rank them on GoodReads
    • Bonus Points – review them!
    • WIN

And give myself a pass if I get nothing done in March (likely moving) or December (recovering from NaNo + holiday/family obligations).

The move was longer than expected, but December was as predicted. Things outside this list I achieved though?

  • Joining Write By The Rails and The Broad Universe
  • Reading my poem (written about my nerves waiting for query feedback) at a poetry night
  • Being on my 1st panel
  • Writing a poem a day for October
  • Writing 1 short story for querying and tossing 3 short snippets up on Reddit

Person holding a blue ballpoint pen writing.
Photo by picjumbo.com on Pexels.com

Blogging!

Top Lifetime Post

My sleeper hit from 2016 had 1,145 views before this year, was published in a book of writing essays here, and now it’s up to 1,945! Beating viewings this year alone of my next most popular post by a factor of FOUR!

This year, I started 2 new features on my blog, and participated in a blog hop. None of these items proved very popular, but I hope their following will grow and plan to keep doing them. My features are, of course, my Query Corner — where I rewrite queries with authors preparing to enter the query trenches, and my Author Spotlight — to help promote friends works. I’m no longer hustling for entries, but will share them when I have content for them. (If you’d like to participate, please contact me at morgan.s.hazelwood@gmail.com)

My Top 10 Posts of 2018

My Top 5 YouTube Videos! 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 2018. 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 2,721 followers, about 300 shy of last year’s additions. As always, Twitter was the bulk of the adds, but percentage-wise, my Youtube channel was 1st, with 73% growth, Instagram and Tumblr followers more than doubled, and even WordPress was up around 43%.

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 my scroll in mid-2016, so, those stats are incomplete, but I can compare to last year.)

Based on my plans from last year, I averaged posting to Instagram twice a week, so doubled my goal. And I did start using Pinterest, even if it was horribly inconsistent.


Account Break Down

  • WordPress – I started this blog in April of 2015.
    • Here are my stats as compared to last year are as follows… I have to admit, I’m liking the improved engagement!
    • 8,759(+981) views
    • 5658(+447) visitors
    • 107 posts
    • 1406 (+494) likes
    • 587 (+377) comments

  •  Twitter MorganHzlwood – I joined in March of 2016.
    • I could be more engaged. I should try at least once a week to go through and read a couple of my lists back a few days. Mostly, I just post and respond to my notifications. It’s a good way to avoid the drama that it can be prone to.
  •  Tumblr MorganHazelwood – I joined in June of 2016
    • With the new regulations, I’m not sure if Tumblr will still be kicking this time next year, but I’m still trying to stay active with the writeblr community. And I’ve gotten better at reblogging content and using their queue feature. I’d be pretty solid on use if I queued up stuff for 20 minutes once a week.
  •  Instagram MorganHazelwood – I joined in 2015.
    • Confession: I was about 50 followers shy of 1k last week, but there was a BookBlogger and Writer community group follow event that I joined. And I *think* I saw a prototype for making groups or lists on here, which would be awesome for clearing some of the clutter.
  •   Pinterest MorganHazelwoo – I joined in 2015.
    • I’ve stepped up my usage, but only sporadically. I should keep up with this a bit more. Definitely should make a mood board for my MG novel.
  •  Facebook PagesMorganHazelwoodPage – I joined in 2015.
    • FB often shows my posts to fewer than 10% of my followers. It’s annoying, but I’m not paying. I’ll just keep reposting on my personal page as well.
  •  Facebook MorganSHazelwood – I joined in 2013.
    • Most of my new followers were new members of the PitchWars support groups and people I met in person at actual events.
  •  Google+Morgan S Hazelwood – I joined in 2013
    • Stats!  37 (+9) likes and 2 comments. I counted. This is supposed to die this year, though.
  •  GoodReads Morgan Hazelwood – I joined in January 2016
    • I read 26 books this year, beating my target of 2 books a month!
    • I rated all of them and reviewed 3 of them.
  • Reddit – Morgan Hazelwood  – I joined in January of 2017.
    • I actually started using reddit this year, and now my karma is 406!
    • I had 19 posts, 3 of them were short stories, and 1 was that poem I read for the open mic night.

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 second half of the year, really ramping up in the 4th quarter.

Some of the issues were the consequences of decisions.

  • I bought a house in April and moved in May.
  • I’m still running 2 Facebook PitchWars support groups and administering another SFF writer’s group. That takes time, energy, and spoons.
  • I decided to do my best to keep up with at least 5 different types of social media.
  • I really like 9 hours of sleep a night, even if 7 is more standard.
  • I still have scheduled social time with friends Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights. Add in my blog post writing and uploading Wednesday nights and full weekend social schedule…

One could argue that I’ve been de-prioritizing my writing over my networking this year, but… honestly? I’m a bit burnt out and I’m going to be gentle on myself.

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 more than 2 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?

Accountability Time For Morgan

For me, accountability is key for me moving forward with my writing. So, here’s my irregularly scheduled check-in post, to let you know what I’ve been up to!

1. Query novel #1 at least 3 times every other week until I get an agent

(unless I’m revising it)

Well, thanks to that little caveat, I’ve only missed about 3 times this year. Because every time I hear back on a query, I take another look at my pages…

For reals, though. I’m planning on sending out another 3-8 queries in the next few weeks on WIP #1.

Although, from checking my SPAM folder with a hitherto now unknown diligence, I now know that the Nigerian Prince scam isn’t actually an urban legend. They come in ever 3-6 weeks, like clockwork.

2. Move forward with my picture book

I’ve done no research or revisions. I need to decide if I’m moving forward on this. It’s a sweet bedtime story, with little to make it stand out.

Plan? Find some picture book writers and see what they think: does it stand out, how should I edit it, or back to the drawing boards.

3. Revise at least one of my shelved rough drafts

Nope. But the year isn’t over? I don’t *think* I can count revising my WIP #1, again…

4. Write something NEW during NaNoWriMo

Well, I’ve got something new in my head. Working on getting a story ready, so I’m pretty sure I’m gonna write something new. I’m just hoping it’s more than 5,000 words.

I may start it early, but 50,000 in anything new should be reasonable for this goal.

5. Keep blogging and decide if vlogging is worth it

I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job at the blogging thing and I’m slowly building a vlogging audience.

My blog is growing – I average over 100 views a week thanks to viewers like you. I started a new Query Corner feature, that’s up to 25 queries already. I’m looking into a published author spotlight feature, so look out for that!

Plus, my vlog is growing – I average 25 views per post – eventually. Not amazing, but I remember when my blog was there.

6. Try to use  social media better

This one I think I’m doing fine at.

  • This is the year I wrote my own guide to social media
  • I hit 5,000 followers on Twitter (last night)
    • I’ve tried to use it regularly, not just for posting
  • I’ve posted 132 things on Instagram – so beating my goal of 1 thing a week
  • I’ve been using Tumblr more, joined the #writeblrs?
  • I’ve earned 81 Reddit karma – even writing a couple short stories to add to r/noSleep. Thus, practicing this whole ‘writing short stories’ thing.
  • I’m using Pinterest — we’ll see if it helps
  • I joined a couple blogger groups, but I’m not sure if I’m the right demographic

7. Read an average of 2 books a month

BAM! Got this one.

I’ve been ranking them on GoodReads – and sometimes on Amazon. No bonus points for reviewing them, but I’ve already read 23 books this year – putting me 1 away from my yearly target.

2018BooksJuly

* Bonus – Networking!

Okay, this one wasn’t a written goal, but I’m giving myself points for attending 3 different writers groups in the last 2 months, joining 2 of them, and reading my work aloud to an audience. Plus volunteering to help judge a writing contest.

Note to self: Remember to make time to write your fiction. Not just blogging, networking, and all the rest…

Plotting and Planning for 2018

Most people I know have given up on resolutions. Sweeping declarations of fixing their lives and doing everything they think they should have been doing all along.

Me? I’m an eternal optimist, with what I like to think is a decent realistic bent. I’ve read too many fairy tales to think that happily-ever-after is a permanent state.

So, while I’d love to state a resolution of ‘get an agent, sell a book to a publisher’, I’m going to stick to things I can actually control.

And I think setting goals and working towards them helps you keep from stagnating, to make sure inertia isn’t what’s keeping you from making your dreams a reality.

Last year, I was super ambitious… or I ended up being side-tracked a few times. That doesn’t mean that Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and
Time-bound (SMART) goals are bad. In fact, I plan to use them again.

Without thinking too hard, this year I will:

  1. query novel #1 at least 3 times every other week until I get an agent
    • unless I’m revising it
  2. move forward with my picture book
    • researching picture books, perhaps my word count is in the wrong place?
    • revise it
    • then query it 3 times a month, or until I get an agent
  3. revise at least one of my shelved rough drafts
    • Sequel to Novel #1 or Genderbent Robin Hood
  4. write something NEW during NaNoWriMo
    • half credit if I rewrite something old
  5. keep blogging and decide if vlogging is worth it
  6. try to use  social media better
    • more one-liners on tumbler
    • more consistent posts on twitter
    • instagram at least 1x a week
  7. read an average of 2 books a month,
    • rank them on GoodReads
    • Bonus Points – review them!

And give myself a pass if I get nothing done in March (likely moving) or December (recovering from NaNo + holiday/family obligations).


Did you set any goals?

They don’t have to be year long ones. What are you going to get done this January?

 

When Your Rough Draft Is Really Rough

When Your Rough Draft is Really Rough

The Truth About My Rough Draft

Friday night, I wrote 3,560 words and finished my second book. The book is done at 85,600 words. And it’s shit.

  • I have place holder names for about 35 characters –from Alice to Zed (why do I even need that many named background characters?)
  • I have stupid tactics and plot holes a mile wide.
  • I have dropped side plots and disappearing-reappearing characters.
  • It’s right around my target word count–but I’m used to cutting 1/3rd of my story to tighten up my babbling writing. There’s nowhere to cut
  • My denouement – that falling action after the climax of the book? Mine’s maybe 200 words. That’s gonna need work.

I had to finish the book though. Book 1 is with an editor and the best thing for me was to wrap it up before I got lost in the rounds of revision, so I pushed hard and got it done. Having it done didn’t stop me from feeling embarrassed about the state of the draft, though.


I was talking to my sister, (also known as my alpha-reader, the best way for “me” to read what I’ve written without being the one to have written it), on Tuesday about ongoing discussions with my editor over my artistic vision. My lovely sister was cheering me up by complimenting my writing and letting me know how much better I’ve gotten over the years she’s been reading drafts of book 1.20170124_1830121

Reluctantly, I tell her that’s because she hasn’t seen the nightmare that is book 2.

You know what my sister says? Exactly what I needed to hear today.

“It’s a process, not an assembly line.”

She says I just need to clean it up for a month or so and it’ll be fine.


Writing is an Art

When my sister reminded me that writing is a process, not just a formula, I remembered exactly why I count my rough draft as I do.

I start off numbering my Rough Draft as ‘Draft #0’. My rough draft doesn’t even count as an integer – it’s not “a thing complete within itself”.

My first step is to turn that spew of words into something coherent and legible, before I can even think about plot revisions.

Most books on writing and many authors out there agree–rough drafts are shitty. They’re the necessary evil you’ve got to get out on paper so you can find the REAL story and discover what you were actually trying to say all along. Sure, there are those authors who crank out saleable first drafts that only need a bit of copy-editing, but those authors are few and far between.

I now know that expecting my second book to be better than the rough draft of my first book was a vain hope.

The writers and writing books agree, every book is different and requires different things of you.

I can only hope that the lessons I’ve learned on book 1 make polishing book 2 into something I’m proud to share a faster process.

I’m not counting on it, there are so many writing mistakes out there I’ve yet to make.


Count Your Successes

And this I when I remember that my rough draft of book 1 took me 3 false starts and 10 months to write. This one took me 1 false start and 2.5 months to write.

I set a goal to write 10,000 words on that story before the 25th and I beat that by 5 days.

I set a goal to finish that rough draft by March. It’s pretty clear that goal was reached.

I was going to write a big “100th Post!” thing, but then my 100th post ended up being my announcement of finishing my 2nd book. I think that’s a better post than anything I could have written. This is 101st. 🙂

Maybe I am making progress.