This was my first year formally participating in NaNoWriMo. If you don't know what that is, it takes place in November and the goal is to write a novel in a month (or around 50k words). I throw down first drafts pretty fast - by the end of November, I had over 80k words. Since I'm pursuing the publication dream, I need to whip those words into serious shape.
It's safe to say I am now DEEP in the Revision Cave, aka another level of Hell. Revising is as terrifying and soul-destroying as it is fun - by the end of this first round of revisions, I'll have a stronger manuscript in front of me. There's nothing more satisfying than transforming a first draft into something...readable.To be fair to myself, this isn't the worst first draft I've thrown together. I need to deepen the conflict and raise the stakes in the midsection, among other things, but it's not a draft I'd be terrified to show my friends.
Revising this manuscript got me thinking - what have I achieved this year in terms of my writing, and what goals should I set myself for 2015? It's time for a little reflection...
Writing-Related Things Achieved in 2014
1) I learned the basics of writing a query letter. I've queried a project before, and when I think about the horror story of a query letter I sent out...suffice to say, I'm not surprised it didn't inspire as much positive feedback as I'd hoped. Taking lessons on board I queried a project in the summer and, although I'm ultimately shelving that manuscript for now, I learned SO MUCH about constructing a proper query letter. This is a skill I hope to hone by the time I query my NaNo project - if you want to have a look at my query for it, check out my previous post! :)
2) I've developed a revision process. The most recent project I queried had a few complex subplots, and three POVs. I was daunted even thinking about revising it - until I checked out Susan Dennard's amazing resources for writers. Aside from writing awesome books (if you haven't read the Something Strange and Deadly trilogy, YOU SHOULD), she's proactive about helping other writers develop their skills. I followed her revision guides and, although I've adapted some of the steps to suit myself, I'm following the basic process. If I hadn't found her revision worksheets, I'm confident that I still wouldn't have the first clue how to break novel revision into manageable chunks.
3) I appreciate how awesome the writing community is. Since reaching out to the writing community on Twitter I've won critiques, received and offered feedback, and found people who understand what it's like to be a querying writer. Non-writer friends and family mean well, but no one quite gets the pain of crafting a synopsis and query letter like someone who has been there. And only those who've queried understand the crushing feeling of shelving a manuscript.
Writing-Related Goals for 2015
1) Get an agent. I have no control over when I'll get an agent, if ever. Yet so long as I keep writing, this will continue to be a goal - whatever year it is.
2) Query my NaNo manuscript. I could find a massive plot hole that completely destroys all chances of this manuscript ever finding a home. Failing that, I'll be querying this project during (possibly early) 2015. It will need at least a third draft followed by line edits, but it doesn't feel like a project that will need 10+ drafts before querying. Of course, my thoughts could change once I start seeking feedback!
3) Fix a currently abandoned manuscript. I wrote a first draft just before NaNo. Well, really it was a second draft - I scrapped the first after 60k because it was a contrived shambles. I still don't feel like I've found the right story, even though I love the characters. I'm leaving this manuscript to rest for a while to focus on my NaNo project, but I don't want to forget about it. Note - this isn't the same manuscript I've recently shelved.
4) Write a new and shiny first draft. I don't know what kind of employment situation I'll find myself in this year, so I don't want to be too ambitious and say I'll write something crazy like four first drafts and disappoint myself. I have three or four potential ideas bouncing around right now, so once my NaNo project is ready for line edits and I prepare for the querying process, I'll start plotting something out.
5) Never forget why I'm pursuing this in the first place. I didn't write my first (semi-coherent) story when I was seven or eight because I cared about earning a living (although I do vaguely remember trying to figure out who was responsible for producing the magical things called books). I wrote it because I love writing. Even if I never find an agent, that doesn't change how much I love to just write. And I'll try not to forget that, even if I'm ultimately unsuccessful querying this year.
Whatever goals you set for 2015, I hope you achieve them!