My writing goals for 2015 were simple–do more than I’d done in 2014. More stories, more submissions, and hopefully more acceptances (though that wasn’t a goal because it’s not in my direct control). So without further ado, here’s the totals…
New stories written: 5
Submissions: 3 (1 acceptance)
New stories written: 4
Submissions: 19 (1 acceptance)
New stories written: 13
Submissions: 50 (1 acceptance, 9 pending)
New stories written: 12
Submissions: 54 (4 acceptances, 5 pending)
So, mixed results. More acceptances by a large margin (yay me!), and more submissions, but one less new story written. The sad thing is that I was way ahead of the game through the summer, on pace to obliterate the numbers from last year, but I really tailed off in the autumn and winter.
Oddly enough, I think the increasing sales and declining new story count are related in a way. Writing, like most other learned, creative endeavors, is a process of plateaus. You experience periods of crazy productivity, and then, just when you think you’ve gotten it all figured out, periods of stagnation where nothing seems to work the way you want it to. This is part of a healthy process (at least, that’s what I keep reminding myself!), the natural byproduct of improving. It takes time for your mind to assimilate and put into practice what you learn. For me, I think what’s happened is that, in the latter half of the year, I reached that next plateau. I realized that I needed to step up my writing game. My stories have been okay, good even at moments, but I needed gain more control over those good moments–figure out how to capture them and reproduce them on a consistent basis. As a result, it’s taking me longer to write stories (and that in itself is an adjustment as I’ve always been a quick writer). I find myself less satisfied with first, and second, and third drafts and often starting over from scratch and trying new approaches to the same story. In that same vein, I’ve also spent more time this year revising old stories which counts as writing, but not as a new story. In other words, I’m become slightly less of a pantser (although I think I will always tend toward that side of the pantser vs. planner spectrum). So, while the numbers for this year are slightly disappointing, I think the outcome will be better quality stories, and hopefully more success.
So, goals for 2016? Well it sounds counter intuitive given what I just wrote, but more submissions and more finished stories than 2015. See, I think (I hope!) that I’m going to find the end of this plateau early in this year and emerge into another of those crazy production periods, only this time writing better fiction. Here’s to you 2016!
And, in the name of overloading myself with resolutions, I’m going to make a second goal this year. Almost every writer I know catches the novel bug, most of them early on. I’ve been an exception. I think about novels, of course, and I’ve always planned on writing them, but I haven’t been in any hurry. I’ve been content to learn what I could from short stories and let the novels come when they were ready. Forcing yourself to write a novel before you’re ready strikes me as the surest way to fail. Well, I’m starting to hear the skittering feet of the novel bug outside the door. It’s not in my head yet. I’m not making any big proclamations about finishing a novel, but I am ready to start thinking about it. So, for this year, my goal is to develop an idea (and I have several, but one in particular that I love). This means note taking–fleshing out the world, learning about the characters, figuring out that the problem is and how they will go about grappling with it. No promises to have a single word written (although, I’m sure this process will involve at least a few character sketches, and perhaps key plot moments drafted), but by the end of the year, I will have a world, characters, and plot firmly outlined, both in my head and in my notes. This doesn’t sound like much, but I want to be patient, and honestly, this is secondary to my first goal of writing more short stories.
Can’t wait to see how my 2016 Writing Goals post shapes up!