A writer's life is one full of rejection and disappointment. I've never felt it more strongly than I have the last few weeks or so. The writing life is painful. It is good, too, and fulfilling and joyous, but it hurts.
I've been working on one of my novels for three days a week since the beginning of the year. I have many weeks under my belt. Then I think of how far I've gotten. Not far at all. I keep circling back to the first chapter still. All this time and all this work, and what do I have to show for it? A whole lot of nothing.
I'll be honest. I thought I'd be much further in nine weeks than a solid first chapter and mediocre second, third, fourth, and fifth chapters.
My goal this year is to query three agents per month. I've kept up with it, but that also means I'm receiving regular agent rejections. I've had many agent rejections in the past, but there's something about these that feel so painful. Each rejection makes me feel further away from my ultimate goal. Each rejection makes me question the path I've chosen and makes me wonder if I'm good enough.
Remembering My Progress
Sometimes in the face of disappointment, it can be hard to remember progression and achievement. My brain tends to focus on the things I'm not getting done rather than the things I've completed. I need to change that. Although, it's one thing that keeps me productive. I may not be hitting these main goals like I wanted, but that doesn't mean that other cool stuff isn't happening all around me.
I may not have made huge progress getting through page numbers with my revision so far this year, but that doesn't mean I've failed.
I took my first chapter to my critique group twice, two months in a row, after working on it in between. I needed a solid beginning to help me frame the rest of the revision, so it makes sense that I kept circling back to it. It wasn't ready for me to move on to the rest of the story. I may have a lot of work left to do on the novel, but I have a strong first chapter, and there's something beautiful about that.
As for the agents, I used to never even get a response from agents. I may not be getting positive news, but they're actually responding. That shows progress.
I also had an article pitch approved for a book on writing put together by ANWA (the writing association I'm a part of). I'm ecstatic about that. Now I just need to buckle down and write it. No big deal, right?
I'm making progress on my writing, but just in different ways that I originally imagined.
How are your 2018 writing goals coming along?
I've had a new article published this morning on one of my favorite sites -- Introvert, Dear. This article idea has been floating in my mind for months, and it was actually therapeutic to get it out. The simple act of writing it has allowed me to close the door on that relationship even more. I'm grateful for that.
If you have a moment, take a look and let me know what you think or if this has ever happened to you.
You can read it here.
In order to keep myself accountable this year and to also give you some thoughts on goals you could make, here are my 2018 writing-related New Year's resolutions.
Goal #1 - Find an Agent
It's time to get down to business. I NEED to find an agent this year, and the only way to do that is to put the work in. And I don't mean the same type of "work" I've been doing over the years. I mean consistent, researched work.
With this in mind, I have committed to querying at least three agents per month. Sure, I could do more. I could send queries to every agent out there. But this isn't about finding any agent. This is about finding the right one for me and my work.
Goal #2 - Rework "The Highest Apple"
"The Highest Apple" is the first novel I ever wrote, and it holds a special place in my heart. I had been trying to figure out that story for almost a decade. I tried it as a picture book and a short story. Didn't work. I knew it needed to be a novel, but I was afraid to write something that long.
I've revisited a few times since I wrote it, but this year I'm devoting major time to making it ready to be pitched.
I want to work on this novel at least three times each week.
Goal #3 - Get Five Articles Published
Even though my main focus for this year isn't on building my freelance career too much, I still want to make forward progress. I just got on article accepted for publication this week, so that's great! I have two more slotted for March, but I don't know if I should count those toward this goal because they were accepted for publication last year, but I've just been playing the waiting game.
And those are it! Should keep me busy enough, right?
What are some of your writing goals for 2018?
November went by in a blur.
No, wait. That's a lie.
November was a painful trek over thorny and headache-inducing terrain. My feet are bloodied and my body and mind are broken.
But you know what? I have a first draft of a novel. Worth it.
Now that I'm in blissful December, I feel like I can breath and finally focus on things I've been neglecting all last month (like working out and housework for starters).
December 1st -- this is what freedom feels like, and it feels marvelous.
We're only a few days into December, and I'm trying to re-find myself. There's something about NaNoWriMo that helps you hyper-focus on writing that book. Because of that, other things have to fall by the wayside. Otherwise, you'd never finish the book.
I'm currently trying to get out of the habit of skipping my workout so I can free up more time. I power through the morning, trying to get all my grading done because that's what I've been doing for the last month. By the time I realize that I can slow down again and enjoy parts of my day, it's a bit late and I have other deadlines to hit (like getting my twin girls in bed on time!).
Before November, I would sit down to my meals and read a book as I ate. It was some of my favorite times of the day. In order to find enough time to write my novel, I had to cut that out. Instead, as I ate, I worked.
I actually sat down today for the first time in over a month and read my book for ten minutes while I ate lunch. I was instantly more relaxed and happy. I had forgotten it felt like that. Boy, I missed that.
I even did a little knitting today. Watch out, world!
Remembering that I'm Still a Freelance Writer
During November, I had two articles get accepted to two different publications. I was excited but overwhelmed because of everything on my plate. It didn't take them long to send back edits, which I didn't have time to touch if I was going to hit my goal of 50,000 words.
So, I put it off.
Now that it's December, I can finally get around to those edits and finally feel the full excitement of getting those articles published in a few months.
Reclaiming the Night
Before the chaos of NaNoWriMo, I spent the few hours between my daughters' bedtime and mine working on freelancing articles and querying a novel to agents. As you can probably guess, I had to give that up and devote that time to novel writing.
I love that I'm able to get back to that habit. It feels good to continue making progress on those fronts.
So, what about you? How was your NaNoWriMo journey, and how does December feel?
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) takes place in November of every year. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. If you've ever considered writing a novel, there's no better time than now. Don't feel overwhelmed. You've got this. Here are nine ways to get ready for writing your novel during NaNoWriMo.
1. Find out if you're a plotter or a pantser.
If you're unfamiliar with these terms, a "plotter" is a writer who outlines extensively beforehand. People who are plotters usually know exactly where their story is headed before they even start writing it. A "pantser" is someone who writes by the seat of their pants, letting the characters guide the story.
If you're a plotter, it's time to get started. The more time you give yourself to create an outline or a game plan, the better off you'll be. If you're a pantser, it doesn't mean you can't come up with a plan, too. In fact, you should. At least have a general idea of what you want to work on -- whether that's a character idea or plot idea. As a pantser, you have to at least know where to start.
And if you're neither of these, you might just be a hybrid. It doesn't matter how you define your writing style, the point is that you just need to define it so you can work within the writing process you've created for yourself.
2. Read in the genre you're going to write.
Generally, the more you read, the better equipped you are to write. With that in mind, read within the genre you're planning on writing for NaNoWriMo. Read both the classics in that genre and books that have been recently published. Both are important to give you a well-rounded knowledge and familiarity with the genre.
3. Outline or give the book idea a great deal of thought.
Now that you know whether you're a pantser or a plotter, make that outline or think a lot about what you want to accomplish. Make sure you're ready to write the book when November hits. Get as much of the brainstorming and planning out of the way in October because then you'll be able to fully focus on hitting that daily word count.
4. Make a game plan of how to use your time.
Your book idea is ready to be explored, but first you need to make a game plan for how you will use your time. Life is busy, so when will you be able to squeeze in time to write? For the past few years, I used my lunch break at work and my fifteen-minute breaks to pump out as many words as possible. You'd be surprised how much you can actually write when you have such a short time frame to work with. You'll feel that pressure and you won't let yourself get distracted.
Also consider waking up an hour earlier to get in some more words before you start your day. If that won't work for you, you could always stay up a half-hour to an hour later and fit it in.
Don't think that you have to schedule 3 hours at a time per day to hit your word count. Most people don't have that kind of schedule flexibility. Instead, focus on short bursts of productivity when you have the time.
5. Commit and share on social media.
There's just something about publicly committing to something. You'll feel more accountable and that means you won't let yourself slack. After all, people will be following up and asking you about it later. Commit to being able to give them the answer you want to give them - that you're right on track or ahead of the game.
6. Deal with distractions now.
Look ahead to November. What is going to come up that will distract you? Deal with those distractions now. Get ahead on deep cleaning so you only have to maintain in November. Or, will your car need an oil change in November? Get it in October instead and free up some of your time for writing. Do everything you can ahead of time.
7. Build up your inspiration.
Use Pinterest to collect images that inspire you. Or, maybe you like to write to music. Put together the perfect playlist before you begin writing your novel. Whatever inspires you, immerse yourself in it, and it's great to have it around when the dreaded writer's block hits, and it will hit.
8. Look forward to it. Don't dread it. It's only a month. You've got this.
It will be hard. It will be painful. You'll want to quit. You'll want to make it all go away. But remember that it's only a month. One month of tiring, excruciating work, and you'll have a novel! It's so worth it. You can do it!
9. Think of the end goal.
What are you going to get out of NaNoWriMo? If you can stay on track, you'll get a novel. So, that's something. But you know what else you'll get? You'll gain confidence, and now you can stop telling yourself that you could never write a novel. If you want to be a writer, guess what? You are. If you write, you're a writer. Simple as that.
If you're going to do it, become my NaNoWriMo buddy! Here's my profile: https://nanowrimo.org/participants/charlydaws
I'm an adjunct creative writing professor and freelance writer, but I dream of being a published novelist. This is my journey.