And once I make a goal, I get so excited about it that I start telling everyone I know what I'm aiming to do. This is met with one of two reactions: a) they get excited along with me, or b) they back away slowly with the wide-eyed expression of someone avoiding a rabid skunk.*
*Technically, I suppose one would run away from a rabid skunk as fast as possible. I never said my metaphors were 100% accurate.
I had this post all tidily drafted and ready to publish, and then lo and behold, the Beautiful People/Beautiful Books link-up returned with a set of questions that halfway meshed with what I already had. So I compromised by tweaking some of my material and tweaking some of Sky and Cait's material, in order to offer you this conglomeration that may or may not be comprehensible. Read at your own risk.
1. What were your writing achievements last year?
Allow me to examine each goal and whether or not I reached it. Analysis is such fun.
- January: Finish editing book 1. Well, I mostly finished. I thought I was finished at the time, but since then I've decided to cut out a couple of characters, and just haven't gone back and done it yet. It shouldn't take too long once I get to it, though.
- February: Begin querying agents for book 1. (Yipes!) Review the outline of book 2 and do some research. I researched a fair number of literary agents, but . . . did not begin querying. I did, however, review the outline and research.
- March-May: Draft book 2. I certainly started!
- June: Draft Rooglewood entry. July: Edit Rooglewood entry and send it off. (I'd like to be much more on the ball this year, so I'm going to try finishing it in two months. Two and a half, tops.) Seeing as the Rooglewood contest was postponed because of Anne Elisabeth Stengl's pregnancy, this did not happen. Which I am okay with, because there was so much else to concentrate on instead.
- August-December: Finish drafting book 2, and if I've actually managed to meet my monthly goals, I'd like to do a round or two of edits on it as well. Ahahaha . . . ha . . . ha. I am approximately 63% through the first draft. Not exactly finished, and definitely nowhere near a pass or two of edits!
- I didn't make a specific monthly goal for this, but a big thing last year was taking a step to grow my craft by starting a writing course, something I plan to finish in 2017.
Considering school and life and the unforeseen complexities of The Prophet's Key, I think I did pretty well. I know if I hadn't made these goals, I wouldn't have accomplished nearly as much. So I consider 2016 to be a successful writing year!
2. What's on your writerly "to-do list" for 2017?
Uh oh. Prepare to run from the rabid skunk.
January to mid-May: Finish the first draft of The Prophet's Key. Given my estimated word counts, this will amount to 60k words or more over the course of four and a half months.
Mid-May to July: Begin expanding The Brightest Thread into a novel, and hopefully have the first draft at or very near completion by July 27th, because . . .
July 27th to 29th: Attend Realm Makers! It's not going to be cheap, but I feel it's worth the investment.
Somewhere within the summer: Maybe write, edit, and send off an entry in the next Rooglewood fairy tale retelling contest. This will depend on how the progress on my two main projects is coming along, and whether the chosen fairy tale sparks a great idea or not.
August to December: Continue working on The Brightest Thread. Complete the first draft and do a round or two of edits so that it's poised to move forward (aka maybe get published) in 2018.
Throughout the year: Finish The Creative Way writing course. Possibly begin querying agents for TBT, depending on progress.
It's a lot of writing, I know, especially for a fulltime student. But if you don't aim high, how are you going to get anywhere? Even if I don't meet all these goals, the main thing is still to make the most of the time and resources I do have.
3. Tell us about your top-priority writing projects for this year!
Pretty sure the above list gives a clear indication. There's The Prophet's Key, book 2 of my long-time WIP high fantasy YA series. And after finishing that first draft, there's expanding The Brightest Thread, a Sleeping Beauty novella I wrote in 2015. I am a pretty single-minded writer, so two main projects is plenty for me! But who knows, there might be that new fairy tell retelling thrown in there too. If that happens, I hope to plot so extensively beforehand that I can draft it within a month, tops. #optimisticallyhighacheiver
4. How do you hope to improve as a writer? Where do you see yourself at the end of 2017?
I hope to keep growing in all areas of my writing life--perseverance, creativity, skill, and also the whole career side of it. I see myself with a couple more stories under my belt by the end of the year. I see myself more knowledgeable, more confident, and with a clearer sense of where this path will lead. Most importantly, I see myself involving God in my writing process more and more.
5. Describe your general editing process.
Let the story stew on its own for an indefinite period of time.
Reread the story and make notes on whatever problems I spot (and simultaneously bemoan the horridness of it all, and occasionally smile when I come across a bit I still love).
Begin editing. This will include: cutting out fluff and unnecessary scenes, adding new scenes if needed, adding in foreshadowing, smoothing out the pacing, bringing the right details to life, working on consistency, tightening dialogue, keeping an eye out for pet words, paying attention to the arc of the story and of individual characters, drawing out the themes I didn't realize were there, etc. But not all at once! I try to work on the big stuff first, and then work my way down to the little things, but I usually end up polishing the little things as I work on the big things, which is not the most efficient method.
In between editing passes, I may let it stew a bit more. I may have to take some time out to research, re-examine my outline, or brainstorm my way out of a particularly knotted problem.
In the final stages, I'm just brushing up the wording and catching stray plot holes.
6. On a scale of 1-10, how do you think this draft turned out?
If we're talking about The Prophet's Key, then it hasn't finished "turning out" just yet. But so far . . . eh. The bones of the story have a lot of potential. I think the story is a little lost in the clutter of people and places, but I sense a good tale underneath that just needs to be hammered into shape.
7. What aspect of your draft needs the most work?
Oh, it's a hodgepodge. So the biggest thing is streamlining everything, which will include patching up the places where my research had holes in it, and trimming down events that took too much page-time to happen. My main characters, Josiah and Aileen, will also need to become more assertive. With everything happening in this book, I'm worried they've become too passive while all the adult characters run around making things happen.
8. What do you like the most about your draft?
I like how unusual it is. I don't think I've ever read a book that combined the exotic flavors of a globetrotting, riddle-solving quest with a high fantasy world boasting dragons and portals and impending doom. (Mind you, this conceptual stuff is also what is most scary about this book. I have to keep telling myself that I'll find a way to make it all work, and that way will not be found during the drafting stage!)
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?
I shall hide it in a dark hole, but not forever. Just until The Brightest Thread is completed, or until I'm between editing passes and need another project at which to poke. But The Prophet's Key will probably wait until it can once again take first priority. I have a feeling I'll need every ounce of my creative energy to tackle the job of editing it into something readable. After all that . . . well, perhaps by then TBT will be out in the big wide world, in which case, my next publication would be this series. I'd like to get the whole series written by then, however, so it could be a while, folks.
10. What's your top piece of advice for those who just finished writing a first draft?
LET IT REST. It's nigh impossible to edit that book objectively when you've just finished drafting it. You're still in creation mode, and you need to gain some distance and perspective to get into critique mode. I've tried editing things I've just written, and guess what? I don't make many changes. But when I leave a piece alone for a while, then return to it with a fresh eye, I see so many things to improve.
In the meanwhile, work on another project, or focus on filling your creative tank: soak in other people's stories, draw, paint, listen to music, spend some time outdoors, live life, try new things. When it comes time to get back to that first draft, you'll be refreshed and ready to tackle its problems head-on.
Looking at 2017 writing plans overall, I am ecstatic about seeing where my TPK characters end up (hint: bad places. like cliffhanger bad); building my craft and career by going to Realm Makers; and returning to TBT, which is probably one of my favorite stories I've ever written!