Looking Back, Looking Forward

LOOKING BACK

It has been nearly a year since I decided to start pursuing professional writing. I think I’ve accomplished a lot, and I have greater hopes for the next year. Here are some accomplishments I’m proud of:

1. I finished my first novel. Well, “finished” might be a strong word since I am still working on it, but I succeeded in getting a good second draft done. I know it needs more work, and I know my future works will be better. Still, I found it a liberating experience—ah the magic of typing “the end” after a hundred thousand words–and I love the little world I created and the characters that live in it.

2. I read and learned a ton. Here are the books I managed to get through on writing.
Take Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing: Revised Edition, by Libbie Hawker
Writing Great Books for Young Adults: Everything You Need to Know, from Crafting the Idea to Getting Published, by Regina L. Brooks
How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method, by Randy Ingermanson
Getting into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn from Actors, by Brandilyn Collins
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself into Print, by Renni Browne and Dave King.
Writing for Emotional Impact: Advance Dramatic Techniques to Attract, Engage, and Fascinate, by Karl Iglesias
How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, by Orson Scott Card
First You Write: The Worst Way to Become and Almost Famous Author & the Best Advice I Got While Doing It, by Joni Rodgers
The Elements of Style (Updated 2011 Edition), by William Stunk
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King
Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success, by K.M. Weiland
Stein On Writing: A Master of Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies, by Sol Stein
Story Engineering, by Larry Brooks
Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story, by K.M. Weiland

3. I joined a local writing society. It turns out the city where I live has a writing society. Go figure! I joined up and managed to plug into a local critique group.

4. I started sharing my work with others. For the longest time, my wife would keep harassing me on when she’d be able to read the book she’d seen me hiding away and working on for the last couple years. Finally, she got to read it. And my children. And I shared it with an online critique group and am now workshopping it with the group I joined locally (more on my critique group experiences will be coming soon). I can say unequivocally that letting others critique my work has probably been the single quickest help to improving my craft.

LOOKING FORWARD

I have several goals for the next year.

1. Submit. While having my first novel be picked up may be a long shot, it will be good for me to familiarize myself with the process. I want to submit to a few agents and some editors and see what feedback I get. I also plan on submitting some short stories to magazines and contests. I want to make at least two submissions to “Writers of the Future” this year.
2. Take some courses. I’ve signed up for Dave Farland’s The Story Puzzle at mystorydoctor.com. He has a number of courses. We’ll see how this one goes and then I’ll decide if I’ll take another with him or look somewhere else. I’ll include a review here in my blog afterward to share my experience.
3. Write! My goal for the year is to write first drafts of two more novels. I’ve already managed a good start on one and have ideas for a couple more. I would also like to finish at least five short stories.
4. Get in a good critique group rhythm. I’ve got a local group that meets twice weekly now, but, based on submission guidelines, it will take the better part of a year to get through my first novel. I’ve tired critters.org online as well, and have just signed up for Inked Voices (inkedvoices.com).
5. Network. I’m an introvert and meeting new people has never been something I excel at, but the logical part of my brain knows that success is going to require becoming part of a larger community. I do like people, honestly! It would just be so much easier if they all came to me. So here’s to meeting new friends and colleagues.
6. Read critically. Reading a lot has never been a problem for me. I’ve been in the habit of reading ever since high school. Usually, I’ve just read for fun, or school, or work. Lately, I’ve read a lot about the writing craft, but now I need to read more to see if I can figure out why certain scenes and plots move me (or bore me) and how different authors have made things work.

Well, that’s it. The obligatory New Year’s resolution post is now done. What are your goals for the next year?