Happy New Year! I hope everyone enjoyed the December holidays and had a fun, safe end to 2016. 🙂
Looking back on the year, one of the words that comes to mind is “growth.” This site especially was booming. Thanks to all your shares, likes, and comments, 2016’s stats in terms of page views and visitors doubled 2015’s. And that’s despite the fact that I slowed my blogging schedule to once a week. I may be the one who writes and runs this site, but you, the readers, deserve much of the credit.
So, thank you for stopping by and coming back, for sharing your thoughts and offering feedback, for spreading the word and celebrating milestones with me. But most of all, thank you for encouraging and inspiring me. Yes. You inspire me to be not only the best writer I can be, but also my best and fullest self. And for that, I’m truly grateful.
So, let’s get to the annual year-end wrap-up, along with some quotes that reflect my feelings about 2016 and my hopes for 2017.
Highlights and Milestones of 2016
Writing-wise, 2016 was a fantastic year. I accomplished two out of three goals for my WIP by finishing not just Draft #2 in March, but also Draft #3 in November. Now the novel is with Beta-Reader Group A and will sent to Group B within the next week. (I’ll write more about this in this month’s Chronicling The Craft.) The only goal I didn’t reach was pitching my WIP to agents at Writer’s Digest Conference, but I was fine with that. It’s more important to pitch a story when it’s truly ready, not when you think or hope it will be. Maybe 2017 will be its year…
Speaking of Writer’s Digest Conference, I went for the second year in a row this past August. And not only did I learn more about the publishing industry and the business of being a writer, but I enjoyed myself even more on a personal and social level – and no doubt meeting more of DIY MFA colleagues was a big reason for that. (Click here to read my Field Trip post on WDC 2017.) I’m not yet sure if I’ll go back this year, but this conference means so much to me that I know I’ll attend it again in the future.
2016 was a eventful year on the blogging side, too. In addition to reaching the 2-year mark with DIY MFA in November, I joined Writers Helping Writers as a Resident Writing Coach in October. The belief that my bosses (yes, I see Gabriela, Becca, and Angela as my bosses *smiles*) have in me still floors me, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be part of two of the most engaging and passionate writing resource sites out there.
Along with “growth,” “change” was another key word for me in 2016. My parents moved to their retirement home on Cape Cod, about a 1.5-hour drive away. It’s been a joy visiting them every other weekend, but the extra traveling meant altering my routine at home – including my former “weekends-only” writing schedule. (It also led me to cutting down my blogging schedule and, on a sad note, leaving my tea review column at A Bibliophile’s Reverie.) But by recognizing the need for that change ahead of time, I was able to plan a new schedule and set realistic limits. And in the end, the new writing / life routine worked out better than I could have hoped, and I’ve learned to be OK with the fact that “busy” is my new “normal.”
Plenty of fun things happened last year, too. I was a bridesmaid in a high school friend’s wedding, which was a beautifully and culturally eye-opening experience in that she and her husband, who are both Vietnamese, infused a Western-style wedding with Vietnamese traditions. I also attended a baby shower for one of my college friends and attended two concerts (Josh Groban / Sarah McLachlan / Foy Vance in July, then Foy’s solo show in October). In other words, life wasn’t all about writing. It was also about… well, living, and being grateful for even the smallest joys.
Lessons and Insights from 2016
I want to be a responsible, purposeful fantasy writer.
I usually avoid discussing politics here… but many people (myself included) were dismayed by the results of the U.S. presidential election in November and are now apprehensive about what the future holds for us. As wronged as I felt about the results, I decided to turn the negative into a positive.
Today, I’ve never been more motivated to use my writing to help make the world a better place. It’s not much different from what I’d hoped to accomplish with my stories before. But we all know the amazing power books can have on the world, and I want to harness that power to empower, heal, and make all readers feel included. It’s a lofty goal, but I’m determined to get there, one word at a time.
You are the master of your destiny – and your energy.
I’m not the kind of person who wants to “rock the boat,” so to speak. In the past, I often wouldn’t do things that I thought would upset or anger people who were close to me, even though I’m an adult and have the right to do what I believe is best for me. And by doing so, I wasn’t letting other people take away my ability to make my own choices – I was denying it to myself outright.
So, in 2016, I began holding onto that freedom and defending my choices – not with an “I’m-an-adult-I-can-do-whatever-I-want” attitude, but with compassion toward the other person(s) and inner strength. (Example: Not everyone in my offline life supports my upcoming Iceland trip. And though I’m resolved to go, the rejection still hurts.) Using the right words and tone, even when you’re knee-knockingly anxious or seething like a dragon within, can make a difficult conversation less painful. It may be uncomfortable, but it’s a good exercise in maintaining your personal power while taking active steps toward making your dreams come true.
Funny thing is, I listened to Epica’s song “Beyond the Matrix” repeatedly during the time I was learning this lesson. I know not everyone is a fan of symphonic metal, but pay attention to the lyrics in this video if you have a few minutes. They’re all about growth, courage, and taking charge of one’s life. Powerful, positive, and relevant to what was going on at the time.
Take care of yourself.
This is the second or third year in a row of me re-learning that lesson. (*blushes*) It just goes to show how fitting in self-care isn’t always easy, especially when you’re prone to creating your own stress… and I have a bad habit of doing that sometimes. All we can do in response is slow down, breathe, and create that “me” time for ourselves. Hopefully I can do a better job of that in 2017 through a renewed yoga practice, meditation, coloring, and (most importantly) getting enough sleep.
My Goals for 2017
- Collect Beta-Reader Feedback on TKC & Revise Accordingly: I’m planning to go back to TKC in March, just so my beta-readers have plenty of time to read and respond to it. More about this is coming in the next Chronicling The Craft, which is next week’s scheduled post.
- Finish Draft #1 of The Novella: This will also be covered more in next week’s Chronicling The Craft. But the short of it is, The Novella is my first new writing project since TKC, and I’m super-psyched to finally be working on it!
- Attend the Iceland Writers Retreat in April: I blogged about this amazing trip last month, when I also launched a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for it. So far the campaign is 37% funded, or $1295 out of the $3500 goal! (Click here to visit the campaign page and/or submit a donation.) Between the workshops, the countryside excursions that will serve as research for future stories, and other events, the retreat will be the learning opportunity of a lifetime and a dream come true. April can’t come soon enough!
- Finalize TKC & Prepare It for Pitching / Querying (If It’s Ready): This is the one “nice-to-have” goal for 2017. TKC’s progress this year will depend on how much work it needs after my beta-readers submit their feedback. So I’ll wait to make that call when the time comes. I might also run TKC’s “blurb” by you guys again for further fine-tuning. I’m not sure when that will happen, either, but you can check out the current version here in the meantime.
- Maintain a Blogging “Status Quo”: Right now I’m comfortable with the current schedule (new posts on Tuesdays, occasional posts on Thursdays) as well as articles every 6 to 7 weeks at DIY MFA and every quarter at Writers Helping Writers. I might do a couple guest posts elsewhere over the year, but we’ll see what happens.
Popular Posts and Worksheets, Plus Other Notable Blog Statistics
Curious to know what some of the blog’s most popular posts were last year? Here’s this year’s list:
- Using Archetypes to Learn More About You and Your Characters
- Which Zodiac Sign Fits Your Character Best?
- The Character Evolution Files, No. 7: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 5 – The Revelation (Midpoint)
- The Character Evolution Files, No. 6: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 4 – The Struggle (Act II, First Half)
- The Character Evolution Files, No. 9: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 7 – The Dark Night of the Soul (End of Act II)
These “oldies but goodies” are still drawing a lot of readers, too:
- Acts of Compassion in Literature – A Special #1000Speak Edition of “Theme: A Story’s Soul”
- The Character Evolution Files, No. 1: What is Character Evolution, and Why Is It Important?
- The Character Evolution Files, No. 2: What Are the Three Types of Character Arcs?
- The Character Evolution Files, No. 3: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 1 – The Trigger (Inciting Incident)
- The Character Evolution Files, No. 4: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 2 – The Comfort Zone (Act I)
I’m also incredibly grateful for these lovely writers and the guest posts they contributed (click here if you’re interested in writing a guest post for this site):
- “A Screenwriter Gets Schooled in Novel Writing” by Heather Jackson
- “Plontser: The Happy Medium” by Victoria Grace Howell
- “Rock the Vault: Celebrating the Urban and Rural Setting Thesaurus Duo” by Angela Ackerman
- “Why Creativity Is Essential for All Genres” by Leanne Sowul
And what about the free worksheets? These five were the most downloaded:
- Story Structure & Character Arc Alignment Chart
- Character Arc Themes Worksheet
- Novel Title Brainstorming Worksheets
- External Conflict Themes Worksheet
- Premise Themes Worksheet
A Quick, Compassionate Note in Closing
January might be a relatively quiet month here. I have deadlines to meet for my next DIY MFA and Writers Helping Writers posts over the next few weeks. So while the Character Evolution Files likely won’t be back until February, I do have some fun things lined up, including another book giveaway and the return of Chronicling The Craft. In the long term, I’d also like to do some creativity or inspiration posts inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic and at least one poetry-related article in April in honor of National Poetry Month.
Finally, perhaps this last bit doesn’t need to be said… But after the year that 2016 was for the world at large, I hope every writer, bookworm, and anyone else who visits this blog knows that this corner of the Internet is a safe haven. Everyone – regardless of gender, race, religious beliefs, and so on – deserves to have their voice be heard, their joys celebrated, their ideas embraced, and their opinions respected. We are all human beings; and together, through our words, stories, and actions, we have the power to make this world a better place.
Thanks again for all your encouragement, enthusiasm, and wisdom-sharing in 2016. (*hugs*) What were some of your blogging or writing highlights last year? Did you learn any valuable lessons? What hopes or goals do you have for 2017?