It’s 2017, and, I have to tell you, I’m very happy about that fact. See, 2016 was about as flaming a pile of dog feces for me as it was for most everyone else. I had many memorably terrible days, lost two family pets to old age, had periods of depression that stalled my writing progress immensely, and basically just felt like a failure for most of that calendar year. So. I was pretty happy to be slamming the gas pedal on December 31st and watch 2016 diminishing in the rearview mirror.
The first couple weeks of January have been rough, though, as my mom and I were both clobbered by a sinus infection/congested cough that would not release us from its sticky, snotty, feverish grip. So, here it is January 12, and I’m only just now starting to feel like a Productive Human Being again (who still occasionally coughs up quarter-sized gobs of mucus. Disgusting, but the constant and sudden expulsion of bodily fluids has become so normalized in this household that I’m utterly desensitized to the grossness.) Since I’m now ready to Get My Life Together (also known as being ready to Make Great Plans I May Never Take Any Strides to Actually Accomplish), I’m participating in PaperFury’s Beautiful Books: 2017 Writing Goals link up. Because I really, really do intend to make 2017 a year full of words.
Onto the questions.
1. What were your writing achievements last year?
I didn’t get anything published, nor did I get anything completely finished. BUT. My goal for the last year has been to take Books 1 and 2 of my WIP series and figure out a way to smash them together. You’d think it would be like taking a slice of bread slathered in peanut butter and another spread with jam and slap your hands together, but it’s actually like taking two fully constructed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and trying to press and squeeze and smash them into one palatable sandwich. Only, upon merging, you’ve wound up with too much bread, and jelly oozing over the sides, and you realize that a lot more goes into this than you previously expected.
My best writing achievement of the last year was kind of sort of hopefully figuring out a blueprint for merging the two stories. Each book had its own antagonist, and I think I’ve figured out a way to smooth this over, foreshadowing the second antagonist way earlier on. I’ve found a lot of fat to cut, whole story lines to hack away, and while there’s still a ton of work to be done, I think I know what to do?
This time last year I was staring at the two books with utter fear and dread and a growing chasm of awfulness in the pit of my stomach, so it feels like an achievement, at least?
2. What’s on your writerly “to-do list” for 2017?
ONE: FINISH THIS FIRST BOOK. Smash these two books together into one coherent story, get it finished and polished up to a beautiful shine, and get myself in a position to query it.
TWO: WRITE MORE SHORT STORIES. I’m participating in the NYC Midnight Short Story Competition on January 20th, and hope to write more short stories (and to submit them!) throughout the year.
THREE: WORK ON A BOOK THAT ISN’T PART OF MY FANTASY WIP. In case this Fantasy series proves Way Too Hard To Market, I’d like at least one standalone novel completed that I could maybe query first. So, finding time to work on Something Completely Different would be a really good idea.
3. Tell us about your top-priority writing projects for this year!
My top-priority writing project is my fantasy series. sobs It’s about a guy named Charley who is dragged out of his life by a mysterious, moving Door that no one else can see, and is thrown into another world that shouldn’t exist–a world created by people who were depressed, detaching from reality, who needed a place to escape to. Impossible things are possible, here. There are potions which can change your moods, trees that move of their own accord, Nightmare storms that slink oily black across the sky and which, when they fall, attack people with their worst fears and most foul thoughts.
But something’s going wrong.
People are turning up dead, killing each other to get their hands on a silver bracelet said to be powerful–and temperamental. Charley just wants to find a way to go home, but when the Object latches itself onto his wrist, and refuses to let go, he resigns himself to staying on this side of the Door just long enough to return the bracelet to its rightful owner–if the people still out there hunting, coveting the Object don’t kill him for it first.
(I’m terrible a describing this project, btw. Here’s some mood boards to smooth over the awkwardness:)
4. How do you hope to improve as a writer? Where do you see yourself at the end of 2017?
I want to become a writer who finishes projects. By the end of 2017, I want to be done with all edits on the first book of my series, and I want to have a small arsenal of short stories that I can send out on submission. Working, getting paid, for being a writer would be fantastic, but I’ll put my goal for 2017 to just “finishing my work”.
5. Describe your general editing process.
Outline, outline, outline. Plan everything minutely, sometimes paragraph by paragraph, and attack the scene until it does everything I need it to do. I reread the same scenes a hundred times over, spend a lot of times crying or staring off into space, write myself dozens of notes ranging from “YOU CAN’T DO THIS YOU ARE A FAILURE” to “YOU CAN DO THIS, YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE”, and basically, hopefully, end up with something that is exciting and readable and not a complete and total mess.
6. On a scale of 1-10, how do you think this draft turned out?
The draft I’m working on right now is a solid … 7? I have some chapters totally done and some that are huge messes (but messes with plans). If I could figure out exactly how to make everything flow together, I would put this draft at a 9 or 10 and be very proud of myself. Right now, while I’m plodding in the right direction, I still feel like I keep accidentally making right or left turns and can’t quite keep focused on the end goal. So, 7.
7. What aspect of your draft needs the most work?
I could tell you the exact chapters that need the most work. (6-11, if you’re asking). Basically, what was the climax and resolution of Book 1, I now need to make the second act up to the midpoint of this combined effort, so I’m trying to condense everything, figure out what needs to be there and what is extraneous, and get everything to a point where it’s flowing nicely and setting up for the events that come next. (Transitioning Old Book 1 to Old Book 2’s story.) It’s what I’m going to be working on the moment I finish this blog post, so at least I can say I’m chinking away at the beast?
8. What do you like the most about your draft?
The characters. They’re cuties. The dialogue is funny and there are moments of action and terror and humor that, I think, create exactly the kind of story I would want to read.
Here, okay, here’s a couple snippets of my favorite moments from this draft:
9. What are your plans for this novel once you finish editing? More edits? Finding beta readers? Querying? Self-publishing? Hiding it in a dark hole forever?
When I finish this edit, I want to set it aside and work on something else, then do a final read-through to determine if I’ve worked out the kinks and actually, successfully melded these two books into one. Then, it’s query time.
10. What’s your top piece of advice for those just finished writing a first draft?
YOU WILL REWRITE THAT STORY SO MANY TIMES, DON’T WORRY ABOUT ANYTHING RIGHT NOW. There are going to be parts of your story that you absolutely love that you keep throughout every single rewrite, and there are going to be huge chunks of your story that, once you finish, will not in any way resemble their original iteration. DON’T BE TOO HARD ON YOURSELF. Take time off from your story to write something else, read lots, and study story structure, the hero’s journey, the difference between act breaks, and different plot points. Once you revisit your draft, diagram it on a plot diagram, figure out where each act break is, what your pinch point is, where your midpoint mirror moment might be. This will all be a huge help when you edit, because it’ll be the difference between “there’s something wrong with my story and I don’t know what!!!” and “there is something wrong with my story, and this is how I will fix it.”
Good luck, and keep writing, because you are so much better at it than you realize. 🙂
There you have it, my writing goals for 2017! I hope to blog more about writing, and to share more news, snippets, and updates on my Patreon page throughout the new year. Become a Patron and follow my writing journey! And click the banner above to check out the other writers who participated in this link-up — SUPPORT YOUR FELLOW WRITERS!