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?

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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?

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Writer Confessions

After last week’s post on avoiding burn out, I thought I’d give myself a break. But, I’ve got a few confessions to make…

On Accepting Limits

Writer Confession #1: I am, indeed, quite bad at taking my own advice.

Once I’ve accomplished a thing two or three times, I have trouble letting myself stop. See: this blog. See also: my NaNo word count. Even when it might not be the healthiest choice for me.

Instead of accepting the inevitable, I’ve buckled down and written past my bedtime every night since we last spoke. I wrote while on a date, I wrote at one of the three Thanksgiving’s I attended, I wrote through an evening visiting my mother. As a coder-by-day, I’ve taken my work laptop home to meet deadlines and wrote during the 3 minute breaks while my new code was compiling.

As expected, everything non-essential in my life is being sorely neglected and I’m eagerly burning the candle at both ends, praying for December.

On being a Plantser

Writer Confession #2: My story looks nothing like I intended. (or at least, expected)

I’ve written about being a plantser before, but every time, it looks a little different.

Instead of kids saving parents from a brain-washing book, my story is ninety percent about a school play. Then again, as I sort of had the 90’s TV show “Wishbone” in my head as my mental concept of what sort of story to aim at a Middle Grade audience, I suppose it shouldn’t be too surprising.

There are several meal scenes that likely serve no purpose — although, of course, I can probably fix that in edits. Although, I probably shouldn’t repeat a breakfast scene unless I make it part of my character’s preferences? Why have I decided that my characters love bacon and breakfast foods? Well, I mean, who (whose diet includes pork) doesn’t?

Warning — if you write a story that centers around books and a play, that means you’re gonna have to sort of plot ALL of these things. Separately!

My play currently has roles such as “Sworsdswoman”, “Storyteller”, and “Sidekick”. I made up half a song from another non-existent kids’ musical about “The Flannel Bear” (my world’s Velveteen Rabbit, which my sister was in during OUR middle-school years). [If enough people ask, I might post a video singing it for you. Although, be warned, I can follow a tune, but I can’t carry one.]

With the changes in my story, I’m not really sure what a satisfying ending will look like, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to end at the cast party, so that’s what I’m writing towards now.

On Novel Prep Work

Writer Confession #3: My prep work wasn’t actually a waste of time.

Despite my story looking nothing like I intended, my first 9 chapters almost aligned, and then it kinda went sideways because of the new direction.

But! Working out the main characters, their personalities and families was helpful. Charting out that the two main characters would alternate chapters and would be friends but NOT romantically invested has been a cornerstone of my novel.

And? My massive list of random names definitely came in handy to help me keep up my pace while writing. Although, next time, I should note who they got assigned to. Especially when they only get mentioned once or twice.

On Writing Sprints

Writer Confession #4: My novel would NOT exist without these.

Three years ago, I started using Twitter to ‘clock in’, as sort of a type of accountability. Usually something like, “It’s 9pm and I’m clocking in”. Last year, NaNoWriMo.org created sprint timers integrated in their website where you could invite people to your sprints and race each other for the most words. Or, at least, have a focused 15 minutes where you could usually convince yourself to ignore social media and just write.

The timer breaks this massive “must write all the words” into an achievable chunk. 50,000 words sounds intimidating. 1,666 words a day seem to drag on forever. But 10 minutes? 15 minutes? I can sprint that long.

This year? My NaNo region has a Discord channel. It’s a chat application (often used by online gamer and, it can do audio), that has a sprint feature built in. You type in “_sprint” and anyone can join in. When the timer goes off, you enter how many words you’ve written and it tallies the ‘winner’.

Knowing you’re not writing alone, seeing everyone else’s progress, and comparing your own words-per-minute against your results last sprint can be very encouraging. Or shame you into focusing better next sprint. I’ll even sprint against myself, if no one else is on. But, there are early writers, day writers, and evening writers. You can usually find someone on the channel

On Rewarding Myself

Writer Confession #5: It’s all about TV and chocolate.

I got a large box of dark chocolate and orange truffles as my NaNo writing treat. They’ve lasted a lot better than I’d feared. I’m not sure if I’ve slowed down my consumption as I’ve gotten used to them, or if I greatly overestimated how fast I was going through them. Because the store sell them in bags of 15, and I got a box of a 150.

My daily reward for getting my words in? Getting to go to bed.

And if I have a spare hour, I’ve been catching up on the new Doctor Who. But really? I’m looking at the December 5th arrival of season two of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel as my reward for making it through NaNoWriMo. 


Confess to me!
Does your writing look like you expected it to?
What about your writing process?

If you’re not a writer, how do you handle deadlines and staying focused?

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?

 

So You Finished Your Rough Draft, Now What?

Nano is over and with that, the urgency for many writers seems to dissipate once they hit December. For me? The first week of December is often time to catch up on all the chores I let slide while trying to get my words in.

This year, I’m also adjusting to a new sleep schedule for the new job I started the last week of November. And prepping my home for the holidays my family celebrates…

But what about my writing? What about yours?

The Next Steps

Well, the next step depends on you. What do you want to do next? There are two main options and either could be right for you.

First – Take time off

In years past, I’ve taken December off and started again, to finish my work-in-progress (WIP), in January. For many of us, with family obligations or kids having breaks, December is a hard time to create new habits and is rough on the old ones. Be kind to yourself an give yourself permission to take the month off. Or to only work on your writing when you have free time, rather than scheduling everything else around your writing.

Maybe you just need an afternoon. Maybe you only write during NaNoWriMo. Most of us fit somewhere in between.

Second – Decide what your next project should be

NaNoWriMo has a traditional goal – write 50,000 words in 30 days. Not everyone follows those goals, but they’re there if you want to.

But November is over. That means it’s time for you to decide what you should work on next.

Finish your novel

So, if you were writing a rough draft in November, whether you won or not, it’s likely that you still have a ways to go to finish your novel!

Some of you wrote 100,000 words or 500,000 words, some of you barely squeaked out those 50,000 words, and some of you… well, you made some progress. You put words together on paper and you’ve got more than you started November with. Be proud of yourself.

But. Modern novels, at least YA and Adult novels are longer than 50,000 words. usually, they START at 65,000 words, and more fantasy things with a lot of world building can be as long as 120,000 words.

There’s a good chance your story isn’t done yet. In which case, your next project might be finishing your NaNoWriMo project!

Edit your novel

Perhaps you’re like me, this year. For the first time ever, I managed to FINISH my rough draft during NaNo. (With 50,612 words, but still.)

Maybe you’ve decided that you’ve written a novella and you’re okay with that.

Either way, it probably shouldn’t see the light of day, or even the eyes of a supportive alpha (pre-beta-reader) before you’ve done a read through and edit.

While gunning for word count and trying to skip editing, writers often end up with confusing word choices, sentences that are out of place, and plot holes you could drive a tank through.

If nothing else, do a line edit to make sure your story is readable. If possible, do a light revision, checking the pacing, verifying that the story order makes sense, and minimizing plot holes.

Start something new

Maybe you’re sick and tired of that novel from November.

The deadlines and panic, (or simply the concept itself), sucked the enthusiasm and joy from the story for you, leaving a lifeless husk of a story on your hard drive.

Maybe you pushed the Nano inhibition limits and are left with something you never want to see again.

Maybe you didn’t even do NaNoWriMo.

Maybe you just need a break.

In any case? Were there any other story ideas that started flirting with you? Trying to distract you from your NaNo project? And ideas that have been rolling around in the back of your head for days, or weeks, or years?

Go ahead and give it life!

Finish something old

Did you abandon or neglect an older project in favor of the new and shiny project for NaNoWriMo? Or choose to take a break for NaNo so you could come back to it fresh?

Maybe NaNo had nothing to do with it, but you still have that old story, sitting in a drawer somewhere.

Now could be the time to pull it out, reread it to see where it’s at and decide. Is it worth saving? What does it need? Massive revisions? Line edits? The ending written? A new first chapter and a coat of fresh paint?

Third – Set Achievable Goals (either now, or after a break)

So, now you’ve decided what you’re working on next. How do you find that momentum you had during NaNoWriMo? You set yourself some achievable goals.

For finishing your novel or starting something new

Word count goals, as you may have discovered, are helpful.

Outside of NaNoWriMo, I’ve usually set a smaller goal than 50,000 words. Obviously, your goal should be based on your life, your writing speed, and your availability.

  • I’ve aimed for 10,000 words before and found that actually a bit short–as soon as I started getting into the writing flow, my words for the week would be done.
  • 20,000/25,000 was a manageable goal with downtime, but steady progress. In which I could take a few days off.

For editing or finishing something old

I spend a lot more time editing than writing. But editing per word is hard to track, you’re adding and deleting… so what sort of measurement can you do? Editing pages!

Even if you delete some, or add some. You can still see how far through the original draft you’ve come.

  • I’ve aimed for editing 10 pages per editing session.
    • Some evenings I’ve managed 3 editing sessions before bed.
    • There have been times I’ve managed 1 editing session in a week.
  • Don’t forget to take the time to plot.
    • Go through your novel, summarize each chapter, and look at the big picture.
    • How is the pacing?
    • Are there plot holes?
  • Feel free to take time off from story editing and just do search-replace style editing.
    • Look for crutch words(very/just) or passive voice (am/is /was/were /be/being /been) and see if you can replace with stronger verbs.
      • Note: I usually try to halve my count for every overused word, so I keep track. I like metrics, I may have mentioned before.

What Is Morgan Up To?

Now, shortly before NaNoWriMo, I got the most treasured type of rejection letters on my novel, “Flesh and Ink”. The one with feedback. That I had a good idea how to implement!

So, my plan for this month is to write a new first chapter and update the old first chapter to work with it. Beginnings are hard. Pacing is tricky, and since my story is fantasy, it’s hard to set the scene, describe the stakes and consequences, and introduce you to the characters and world without feeling like I’m cramming everything in, and sprinkling info-dumps on top…


Wish me luck! And best of luck with your next project.

Some Days, You’re a Super Star…

Progress Post

Some days you’re a super star, and some days, you just show up to work. I’ve been revising, but took a long weekend off and am slowly getting back into things.

25807 / 88257 words. 29% done!

Where I’m At

I’m up to page 93* and I’m about to start chapter 8 tonight. I’d hoped to be starting this week at Chapter 9, but I made other things priorities and that’s the trade-off for not putting my writing first.

Excuses

I visited friends, ate out a lot, and got called up as emergency back-up for a sick voice actor to help record another episode of anansistorytime.com (not necessarily in that order).

Plans

Try to get minimally 4 chapters edited a week, hopefully 5-6, so that the last 2 weeks of March can be spent proof-reading a printed out copy.

* Out of 324 pages.