Sunday, December 27, 2009

Looking Back on 2009

The time between Christmas and New Year's Day is a very contemplative time for me. I spend a lot of time thinking about the past year and planning for the new year. I have a ritual writing exercise that I have done over the New Years holiday every year for more than a decade. It is very important check-up for me spiritually and emotionally.

This blog is about my writing. Perhaps I should take a moment to contemplate where I am specifically on that front. There is no doubt that I have made huge strides this year.

At the beginning of 2009, I had a folder with six "completed" draft novels, four or five "partials" and several "false starts" (most of which I think are good enough ideas to merit further work). I wrote random reflections about my life on a personal blog. I kept a folder of "ideas for stories" many of which came from dreams. I had been half-heartedly querying agents off and on for a couple of years, with no success (I'm guessing that "half-heartedly" part has something to do with the lack of success part). I knew my writing was improving after five years of committed, daily butt-in-chair practice. I was ready to step out in a new direction.

After participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time in 2008 and then entering the ABNA competition in February, I was frazzled and uncertain about what to do next. Typically, that calls for taking a step back. I decided to give up fiction writing for Lent. That was difficult but worthwhile. It forced me to rest, allowed me to stoke up the fires of my creativity, and to beef up my "story idea" folder with a whole bunch of not-even-half-baked ideas.

At Easter time, I started writing The Adventures of Miss Maybelle while simultaneously editing my 2008 NaNo Romance novel and polishing a couple of other stories. In between time, I researched agents and sent out a bunch of queries.

I want to add that I did all that while working full time, and pretending to have some semblance of a life. I will confess that my standards for housekeeping and my culinary creativity have suffered in this process! I discovered that cheese and crackers or a bowl of cereal makes a perfectly fine dinner. Fortunately for me, I have a cooperative husband and a kid who eats out most of the time anyway.

After ABNA, I signed up for CreateSpace in order to get a free copy of my NaNo novel, and was intrigued by the process of self-publishing, particularly the idea of print-on-demand publishing. In June, I started this blog, and created a website to showcase my stories. Then I self-published Always Faithful and The Way Home on CreateSpace.

I used the time I had previously spent researching agents and sending queries reading blogs on writing. That was an eye-opener that set me off on a new adventures in editing. I have learned a lot from the generous writers, agents and editors who provide such valuable free advice on their blogs, and I decided to take another run at publishing my new stories the "old fashioned way".

I have spent untold hours over the last few months honing pitches for four stories and researching agents, while trying to continue to post here twice a week.

In November, I took time out from everything else in my life (except my day job) to participate in NaNoWriMo again; the result of that was a first draft of a fantasy novel that is now "complete" at about 67,000 words. It's resting for a while until I decide if I think it merits editing and polishing. Also in November I sent out a couple of queries for the first time in more than a year. At least I haven't received any auto-response rejections!

Somewhere along the way I published my two self-published novels as e-books on Smashwords and then signed up to participate in Operation E-book Drop, giving away free copies of e-books to servicemen and women deployed overseas. I've had some takers, even though the target audience for those novels is not young military personnel.

In December, I paired up with a couple of other newbie writers to critique each others' work.

About the same time, Amazon finally announced that it was going to run the ABNA competition again, so I'm ramping up for the last minute tweeking of The Adventures of Miss Maybelle.

2009 has been a watershed year for me. Before this year, I was a scribbler and a blogger and a would-be writer. In 2009, I became a writer.

In the New Year, I will continue to improve my craft, write new stories, and try to improve the stories I have already written. I also hope to sell some books, in one form or another.


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