Writing Goals for 2021

Feels a little silly to be setting any goals for 2021, to be honest. If 2020 taught me anything, it’s that plans can become meaningless fairly quickly.

But I live in hope, and so I want to enter the year, like I always try to, with some goals in mind for my writing.

Goals from 2020: How did I do?

First, a look back at how I did on 2020’s writing goals:

Write four short stories

Hahaha, nope. Not even close.

The story I started just after setting that goal? The one I’d been chewing on for a while, and wanted to just get started on? That’s the novel I’m currently writing.

It didn’t take long for me to look at the outline I’d produced for the “short story” and realize it was really a novel. And since, at the time, I was already working on one novel, I shelved it. Came back to it only this November, for NaNoWriMo, and I’ve been chugging along ever since.

I did start a new short story, that will actually be short, but hit delays because I tried to follow the advice of Story Genius, which ran me right into a wall of writer’s block. Had to hit pause that one, too, so I could start working on the current novel.

I did get one story edited, and by edited I mean “wrote an entirely new back half of the story, doubling its word count.” Said story is now so long it’s too long for many of the markets I’d like to sell it to. So maybe I can get credit for that one?

Finish the current novel

This one I did do, sort of.

“Current novel” here meant Prison Fall, the book I was working on most of this year (before the new novel). The official goal was to have it done, completely, ready to go to agents, etc. And it is done, in the sense that I’ve done multiple drafts now, one of which involved basically rewriting most of it, and I’ve done multiple editing passes since then to clean up the prose and eliminate inconsistencies.

The feedback I’ve gotten from beta readers, though, has revealed some things I want to fix before sending it out. So it’s not all done, in that sense. But close enough.

Post more to the blog

This one’s also a mixed bag. I started out well, conducting interviews with local writers and posting them here on the blog. I think I got three months in before the pandemic crashed down on me, wiping out the mental headroom I had to work on those.

Ditto my book and movie reviews. I had a good run of keeping up with them, but eventually ran out of steam, over the summer this time. Began to interfere with my enjoyment of the books, where I felt I had to keep notes on every little thing as I went through. Not to mention my motivation for writing them up fell away. So I stopped.

So this one’s a partial success.

Goals for 2021

Oof, here we go. Is it okay if I just call a do-over on 2020, and copy those goals? No? Fine, whatever.

Finish first draft of The Last Dragon

Slow and steady. I want to keep working on the novel I started back in NaNoWriMo, and finish its first draft before the end of the year. It’ll be an ugly draft. It’ll have mistakes and inconsistencies and historical inaccuracies everywhere. But I can’t fix it if it doesn’t exist, so I want to finish it out.

Finish edits to Prison Fall

One last pass to do the touch-ups from my beta readers.

Finish The Harvest

This is the short story I was working on in October. I like the story, and I want to finish it. By finished, I mean, drafted, edited, beta read, the whole shebang.

For once, I’d like to do the full cycle of drafts on a short story before sending it anywhere. In the past, I’ve gone through a few drafts, then started sending it out, sometimes before beta readers get to it. As a result, the story I submit to later markets is always stronger (and very different) from previous ones.

I’d like to have submit the strongest version from the start, this time. If that means it doesn’t get submitted anywhere this year, I’ll have to live with that.

Post three times a week

Yes, fine, I’m copying this one over from last year. It’s still a good goal.

Stretch Goal: Submit Prison Fall to agents

If I don’t finish the edits till the end of the year, this’ll have to wait till 2022. But it’d be nice to have this actually out the door, accumulating rejection slips, before the year’s out.

Wrap-Up

So there they are: my 2021 goals.

I’m setting the bar lower this time around, because I think the pandemic is not going away in the US anytime soon. Even with the vaccine, we’re seeing folks — medical front-line workers, even! — refuse to take it, all while hospitals are full and mask-wearing is maybe at 50%. It’s going to be a long hard road to herd immunity.

What about you? What writing goals are you setting for the new year?

Keeping Score: January 1, 2021

We made it to a new year!

In the past, I’ve taken that for granted. One year rolled into the next, I got older, and the world kept turning.

Not this year. This year, reaching January feels like an escape, like ducking under a closing door just before it seals itself shut.

So a sincere Happy New Year to us all!

Novel’s at 19,864 words. I’m still butt in chair every morning, forcing myself to stay there until I hit my word count goal. Some mornings it’s easier, some it’s harder, but…I’m always making progress.

I’m actually starting to run out of runway on the research I’ve already done about the setting. Which means I’m having to make more things up out of thin air, and thus getting more things wrong. I’ve already had to revise a few scenes based on new reading I’ve done. That’ll happen more and more, I expect, until I can catch up.

I know that ultimately, I’ll need to do some heavy editing of this draft, once it’s complete. Not just to fix some inconsistencies, but also to ensure the things that are consistent are historically accurate. Or at least, as accurate as a non-specialist like me can get them in a fictional tale.

But since I know I’ll need to do it, it doesn’t scare me to get things wrong now. What’s important now, I think, is to get the emotional beats of the story right. If I can nail down the characters, and how they react to the things that happen to them, I can fix the details later. Even if those details mean I need changes to the events of the plot, that’s fine. So long as the emotional arc of things is right.

That’s my theory, at least.

I want to thank those of those you who’ve been reading me regularly through this hell year. You give me hope that someday, these novels I grind away at will see the light of publication.

And for my fellow writers, I offer a hope and a blessing: May your writing be a joy and comfort to you. May your inner editor take a vacation when you’re drafting. And may all your tales be true.

Onward to 2021!