Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Writer's Year in Review

Wake me up in 2019

By David E. Sharp

Here in the awkward corridor between Christmas and New Year's, many of us think about resolutions and goals for the next year. Even if resolutions aren't your thing –they're not mine— writers without goals are like mosquitoes without proboscises. In a word- pointless.

But it's not time to start any kind of goal-setting yet. In my critique group, our first order of business is to review our goals from 2017. We share our yearly goals in January at our first meeting of the year so we can keep each other accountable. But before I face the music with my inner circle, we can take a look at my 2017 list together and see how I did.

Yes, it's all good and well I hit the target.
But I was aiming for the one on the other wall.

Goal 1: Shop my manuscript out to 60 agents/editors/publishers

Coming into the year, I'd had several near misses with agents, editors, etc. Frustrated but undaunted, I determined to press on focusing on 5 queries a month, each one tailored to the recipient. Nobody wants a form letter, so I prefer to research each professional and draw comparisons to titles they've worked with or requests they've mentioned on their websites. I've read goals should be based on your own efforts, not the response of others. It makes things more concrete. I either sent my 60 queries or I didn't.

Verdict: FAILED? I didn't reach 60. I received a publishing contract in the Spring, and it seemed awkward to keep querying after that. So much for concrete. But it's worth noting the offer came from a publisher I'd long given up on, and at the end of a querying process that began in early 2015. So if you're stuck in querying limbo, keep at it. Five solid queries a month may be doing more good than you realize.

Goal 2: Try out some new things to expand my repertoire of experiences

This is not a new goal for me. And it may be one of the most important. It's hard to be inspired over the same-old, same-old unless you can experience it in a new way. The funny thing about life experience is it's not all bungee jumping and car trips. Some life experience finds you, and that was especially true this year. I now live in a different home with a different car and different circumstances than I had a year ago. None of this was planned, and there were some real struggles along the way. Still, I only have to check the news to find people whose difficulties dwarf my own. 

Verdict: SUCCESS! I have two great kids and oodles of inspiration.

Yes, but on the bright side, darling.
This will make an excellent chapter in our memoir.

Goal 3: Create the rough outline of my next manuscript

This is the goal I've put the most time into. Time I can't really measure anymore. And this one was a struggle. I had a lot of words down. I had an outline in place. Somehow, it just wasn't turning out the way I wanted it to. So, I took a break from it. I tried to look at it from different angles. In the end, I changed one thing in the first chapter (swapped one character for another), and it exploded. I've been plowing through it from that point to present. I haven't hit THE END yet, but I'll get there before long. And the improvement in quality was worth the time expenditure.

Verdict: ALTERED. While I didn't reach the specific goal I'd intended, I'm better off than if I had.

Goal 4: Read, Read, Read!

You've got to read if you're going to write. And I read some great stuff! A few of the highlights: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult was outside of my standard fare, but a good read with some thought-provoking themes and ultimately hope that we can tear down the walls between us. Wonder by R.J. Palacio had been on my list for a while. It's every bit as amazing as I'd heard. The YA fantasy thriller Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is nothing short of awesome. I've been revisiting The Chronicles of Narnia with my oldest son, and they're every bit as great as I remember. While I was at it, I picked up C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity which I'd enjoyed in college. His nonfiction style is so fluid and logical, I emulated it in my academic writing and my grades improved. The Grimm Legacy, because who doesn't like books about magic libraries? And, since I'm an advocate of picture books for everybody, Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins is easily worth two minutes of your time. 

Verdict: SUCCESS! Let's do it again next year!

This is my happy place.

Goal 5: Write a dozen flash fiction stories

This was a minor goal to urge me to stretch myself into new territory. Flash fiction stories are a great way to experiment, and to teach yourself to manage a tight word budget. I got some great micro-stories out of the deal, and a few that are less lustrous, but I'm glad I wrote them anyway.

Verdict: FAILED. I only wrote eight. However, one of them has been published, and another one is set to be in 2018.

Goal 6: Write a dozen blog posts for The Writing Bug.

Verdict: SUCCESS as of riiiiight…


Have a great New Year's, everybody!


Ronda Simmons said...

You’ve done a great job writing in 2017, David. Keep it up! I can’t wait to find out what 2018 brings to you. I also can’t wait until your first book is published, you will keep your loyal fans updated, right?

Patricia Stoltey said...

You did great in 2017, David. I need to put together a good set of goals for 2018 to keep me on track. I guess writing them down and making them public is not a bad idea.

David Sharp said...

Of course! And thanks! Hope 2018 brings you tons of inspiration. And let me reiterate how much I loved your Night Before Deadline.

David Sharp said...

Thanks, Patricia! It's always interesting to compare what I thought I'd do to what wound up happening. A lot of my goals evolve as the year progresses. How about you? Do your goals shift as you go or are they more constant?

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