Kicking 2016 in the pants, and a forecast for 2017

img_0456It’s hard to believe it’s here already. Welcome to 2017.

I think maybe it feels surreal mainly because 2016 felt like the year that wouldn’t end.

    • So much political animosity.
    • So many celebrities and childhood icons passing away.
    • So little writing getting done.

Ugh.

2016

I was considering doing a wrap-up of 2016, but other than clobbering my personal reading goal I don’t have much to say about it.

But, yeah, my personal reading goal. I read 105 books in 2016. Some were short stories or novellas, but still, that is a lot of reading. I’m pretty pleased with myself.

Now, not every book I read was worth the time, but a whole bunch of them were. And even the bad ones have things in them for me to learn about storytelling… even if it’s just what not to do.

Interesting to me was that I read several books by podcasters I listen to. But the ones I thought I wouldn’t care for actually kept me completely riveted. And some I thought I would really enjoy I found I didn’t really care for. Success doesn’t guarantee a well-written book.

Names are withheld to protect the guilty. (Although I’d like to point out that I’m not talking about any of the Writing Excuses regulars here.)

It just goes to show that personality has very little to do with whether you will like someone’s writing. In other words, don’t judge a book by its podcaster. 😉

I will also not judge the podcasters by their books. In all cases, these are people who are making a living from their writing. Whether or not I actually like their writing, they are doing something right. I’ll learn what I can from whoever has something to teach.

And as a friend often says, I’ll eat the meat and spit out the bones. (He’s a Texan. Texans say things like that with surprising regularity.)

I have little else good to say about 2016, so I won’t. Onward.

2017

Writing

This year, I am quite certain, will be a better year for me in practically every way.

I’m planning to write and publish (or submit) at least a dozen short stories or flash collections. I am going to start purposely searching for markets and contests where I can submit because getting professional feedback can only help… and if I sell a few stories in the process, so much the better! But I also want to be very intentional about putting out more of my own writing, either as flash fiction on this blog, or short format fiction on Amazon or elsewhere.

It’s not because I want to start making money at this writing thing. Or not just that… making money would be awesome, let’s not lie.

But more than the money, I want to be really intentional about writing and improving my craft. So I’m committing to writing every day. I have things I know I need to do

  • deliberate practice,
  • stretch my abilities,
  • build on my skills, and
  • get out of my comfort zone.

I can’t do any of those things if I’m not writing regularly. So writing regularly it shall be.

I also want to (finally) write and publish at least one long-format story this year. A novel or long novella. Fully completed and published. Probably at least 40,000 words, but possibly up to 80,000 or more, depending on what I end up writing and how it goes. I have some ideas that I want to revisit, but I may start something brand new when I’m ready to do this. I’m not really sure… stay tuned to find out!

So between short stories, long stories, blog posts, etc, I should be well in excess of 150,000 words this year.

And make no mistake, I fully expect some of what I write to be crap. That’s where editing comes in. Learning how to self-edit is also on my list of goals for 2017. I’ll be using Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel class to walk through the process. And I know that by doing it, by being intentional (there’s that word again), that I’ll learn how to better recognize what is working in my own writing, and what still needs more attention. I’ll learn how to take a crappy story and make it better. I’ll learn how to take a decent story and make it something I can really be proud of.

All of this won’t happen overnight. Depending how long it takes me to learn the editing bits, it might actually affect my goals for the publishing bits. But that’s OK, as long as I’m making progress.

Deliberate practice.

Intentional progress.

Excellent watchwords for the year.

Professional Development

Another goal I have for the year is to attend at least one professional writing event. As much as I would really, really, REALLY like to go on the Writing Excuses cruise again this year, I don’t know that I’ll have the financial wherewithal to make that happen. (Someone offered to pay for the cruise itself, but I’d still have airfare, hotels before and after, and incidental expenses to consider. And since it would be 2 of us, and the cruise is in Europe, those “incidentals” are not all that incidental.) I still have hope, but I’m not holding my breath on that one.

However, all is not lost. I am already registered to attend the Life, the Universe, and Everything Sci-Fi and Fantasy Symposium that’s held in Provo, Utah every year. I still have to pay for my airfare and meals, but the conference itself is a mere $55, meaning the total cost of the conference, lodging, airfare, car, and meals will possibly cost me only slightly more than just the price of admittance to some of the bigger conferences out there. How could I not? If anyone else is going, let me know. Maybe we can hang out while we’re there.

Everything else

I, of course, have other goals for the year. Let’s not call them resolutions, shall we?

There’s, of course, the perpetual personal fitness goal. Eat less, move more. Be healthier. Blah, blah.

I won’t quantify that goal… partly because the numbers are depressing, but mostly because it’s not about the numbers. Toward the end of 2016 I was making some progress, eating differently, walking more. I will continue that trend in 2017. If I’m walking 4-5 days a week, that’s already a win. Like I said, specific numbers don’t matter.

I’ll also be continuing to read as much as possible. Last year I actually set a goal on GoodReads to read 100 titles, and I made it. This year I think I want to be more about quality than quantity. If I don’t enjoy something, I won’t finish it just so I can mark it as read. I want to read more books on craft. I want to read more things that will enrich me. I’ll still read fiction because I want to be entertained. But I’ll also read more deliberately to discover what I can learn about story and plot and character from what others are writing.

I suspect I may still approach the 100-book mark I hit last year, but I’ll be creating a goal that’s only half that because, once again, it’s not about the numbers.

Let me say that again. I need to hear it and keep on reminding myself… in all my goals.

It’s not about the numbers.

It’s about deliberate practice and intentional progress.

If you see me moping this year about what I’m not accomplishing, remind me to kick my butt out of 2016 (or you’ll do it for me…) and move forward.

There’s so much 2017 ahead I can’t afford to waste my time not celebrating it.

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