I think an overwhelming majority of us can agree that 2016 was a really rough year and one many of us would like to forget. Yet I can’t and during this month of reflection, I’ve thought a lot about what this year has brought me professionally. It was certainly a mixed bag, more so than in previous years.
Published stories: This year saw four stories published. This is great and brings my total up to ten stories in the few short years I’ve been submitting work. Even better, I got paid for three of the four stories so it seems like my continuing goal of only seeking markets which pay was a good decision.
First Interview: 2016 saw my first interview ever. Published on the Charlotte Writers Group’s website, I felt honored to be approached for the feature especially when many of the other interviews featured members with published books.
First Guest Blog Post: Back in August saw the first ever guest blog post on my little piece of the internet. Author M.K. Williams approached me via the website blogtour.com and asked me if she could guest blog. It was a neat feeling being asked and it was fun working with Williams. Here’s to a long career for her!
Publishing Prospects: While I saw four stories published, three of those stories were things I submitted last year. Unfortunately, I have a giant goose egg in my spreadsheet for stories submitted this year. Needless to say this was demoralizing as each year since 2013 has seen the number of stories accepted for publication increase by one each year. Instead it feels like I’ve take a giant step backward. Some of the rejections were simply the story not being a right fit (an error on my part for not submitting something appropriate), while other rejections had to do with the story not quite being there for them or the issue was too full.
I’m not ashamed to admit that late summer I decided it would be best for me to take a break from worrying about publication. With a book I wanted to revise, my time needed to be focused elsewhere. The blow to my ego also factored in since nothing but rejections takes a toll on one emotionally. Sometimes it’s best to just walk away from something for a little while in the hopes of coming back to it in a better frame of mind.
Looking over the goals I set for myself this year, I didn’t quite live up to some of my expectations. Some I did meet like working more on diversifying my reading. I also did revise a historical fiction novel I’ve been working on and off for years. While I’m still fumbling around with the plot, damn those historical events, I feel like I’m getting closer to being what I’ve seen as it plays out in my head. In addition to the historical fiction novel I revised, I also did another revision on a novel in a completely different field. From those experiences I learned it is best to focus entirely on one project from and take a smaller break from it before diving into the next revision.
One of the goals I abandoned pretty early on was tracking my word count and aiming to up it. I’m discovering that the more metrics I try to implement, the more it hampers my creativity. Seeing days with zeros doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. Those could be days where I’m doing research or revising an outline or scribbling down a story idea or simply dealing with personal matters. They are not indicative of a lack of work ethic and I know what I’m capable of doing. So no more tracking numbers.
As this year has progressed I found myself questioning if I’m actually getting better as a writer. I’m not honestly sure. I find myself more often than not struggling with how to get the characters and their emotions just right. Looking back onto earlier pieces I think those had more energy and depth than what I’ve produced of late. Perhaps because the more I learn about the craft and the industry, the more that information clogs my mind and affects my creative process. Perhaps what I’m actually experiencing is struggling with finding my voice and style. It doesn’t help that I’ve always been hardest on myself.
Another change I hadn’t expected was questioning much of the advice circulating around about writing. Some of this has been thinking deeply about supposed “rules” which often times come down to personal preference. To me, so much of this advice is drilled into writers it feels as if a writer’s individuality is sucked out in an effort to fit in. No wonder the authors with a unique voice and style stand out from the crowd.
2016 was certainly a mixed bag. Next week I’ll go over my 2017 goals. I hope 2017 will be better for everyone and Happy New Year!