Looking Back on 2016… and Looking Ahead to 2017

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

  1. Using Archetypes to Learn More About You and Your Characters
  2. Which Zodiac Sign Fits Your Character Best? 
  3. The Character Evolution Files, No. 7: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 5 – The Revelation (Midpoint)
  4. The Character Evolution Files, No. 6: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 4 – The Struggle (Act II, First Half)
  5. 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:

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):

And what about the free worksheets? These five were the most downloaded:

  1. Story Structure & Character Arc Alignment Chart
  2. Character Arc Themes Worksheet
  3. Novel Title Brainstorming Worksheets
  4. External Conflict Themes Worksheet
  5. Premise Themes Worksheet

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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?

Original versions of banner and quote images courtesy of Greg Rakozy, Matthew Henry, Everton Vila,  Austin Schmid, Kyle Szegedi, and Bari Glew

38 thoughts on “Looking Back on 2016… and Looking Ahead to 2017

  1. I’m impressed by how organized and goal oriented you are, Sara:-) I get so busy during the year that I often just react to things as they come up, rather than see them as goals. I’m very curious to read your post about your beta readers and their reactions:-) Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Happy New Year to you too, Tammy! 🙂

      Thanks so much for commenting. I think the main reason why I set goals is not just for accountability, but also for memory’s sake. One of my fears is that I’ll get so caught up in general life and won’t make time for the things I really want to pursue. But if I write or speak those goals and then share them with others, the intention (and the responsibility) is out there. But I also know that I can only accomplish what I can in the time I have. So if something has to be pushed until a later time, I’m OK with that.

      Like

  2. Love the combination of looking simultaneously backward and forward in this post, Sara! I wrote my year in review/future goals in two separate posts, but I like the way this method tells the story of this point in time for you.

    I know I’m like a broken record encouraging you to go to WDC again this year, so just ignore that part of this advice! I just wanted to say that IF you go, I’d highly recommend doing the pitch session. I learned SO MUCH about pitching and querying from that session. Even though I didn’t directly sign an agent from it, my query letters got 100% better afterward and I was able to sign with an agent based on a completely cold query. I’d recommend it even if you still want to do edits on TKC. They tell you at the pitch session that if an agent asks you to submit your manuscript, it doesn’t have to be immediately. You’re invited to submit at any time afterward.

    I’m excited for your 2017 and all the good writing things you have ahead of- and behind- you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • “I like the way this method tells the story of this point in time for you.”

      You know, I hadn’t thought of it that way before, Leanne. I just thought it was more convenient to put both “hindsight” and “foresight” in one post. But yeah, it is a snapshot in time for me right now: where I’ve been, where I am now, and where I want to go and want to do next…

      Oh, believe me, I want SO BADLY to go to WDC next year. But it’s going to depend on how much money I raise for the Iceland trip. The good thing is that WDC’s Early Bird prices are good through February 14th, so I can wait until after the Iceland GoFundMe campaign is over to make a decision.

      “They tell you at the pitch session that if an agent asks you to submit your manuscript, it doesn’t have to be immediately. You’re invited to submit at any time afterward.”

      Really? Other people recommended to not do the Pitch Slam if the manuscript wasn’t truly done. So this is really good to know, because I’d definitely do the Slam for the pitching and querying help.

      Thanks so much for commenting, Leanne. I wish you the best with writing, family, health, and happiness in 2017. (*hugs*)

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    • It is, I agree. But at the same time, other relatives and most of my friends (both offline and online) have been extremely supportive. So that’s helped me stay motivated, inspired, and excited about the trip and the crowdfunding endeavor. 🙂

      Thanks so much, Zezee. Best wishes to you (again) for a happy, healthy, and productive 2017!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I really hope you get to go to Iceland in April. I’m certain it’ll be a wonderful trip! I’m not sure if I can contribute monetarily, but I will spread the word to see if anyone I know is willing to help out. 🙂 The other writing goals all seem achievable and I’m looking forward to how TKC and the novella shape up by the end of the year. Good luck on all your writing projects! 🙂
    The last part of your post really resonated with me. Although I’m from a different country and a different background, I’ve found that you’ve been exceptionally kind to me throughout the year and I really cherish this relationship. I admire how you want to make a positive impact through your writing. 🙂
    (Sorry, the other one got sent by mistake while trying to edit it.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure the Iceland trip will be amazing, too. And that’s OK if you’re not able to donate. Spreading the word on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, or however you want would be a great help. And the support you voiced here means a lot to me. (*hugs*)

      I think my first Chronicle of the year is scheduled for next Tuesday, so you’ll get a more in-depth update on the writing side then. 😉

      Thank you for that last paragraph. 🙂 And no worries about the first comment. I can delete it, if you want, since this second one went through.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Congrats on the blog growth! I love what you said about purpose and having your writing make a difference, and I applaud that. As writers I think we want our writing to touch others, and especially in light of recent events I think that’s a wonderful goal. Love the quotes too- they do give one something to think about.

    And best of luck with your WIP in 2017!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Greg! Especially about the “purpose of writing” comment. The weird thing is, I’ve always looked at writing as a way for someone to contribute to the world at large. I think I have a better grasp on the emotional side than the socio-political side, but if a story I write can impact someone in a positive way, then I’ll know I’ve done my job.

      Best wishes to you for a happy and healthy 2017!

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  5. What a wonderful post, Sara!
    As always you inspire me and motivate me with your words. What most awes me is your attitude towards life and I love what you have to say here about using your words to heal and move people. If there’s anyone I believe capable of doing it, it’s you!
    Good luck with all your goals and aspirations. I am glad that 2016 turned out to be a wonderful year for you with so much insight gained. Thank you for sharing the same with us!
    I hope that 2017 proves even more fruitful, and that it brings many more opportunities for you to share your wonderful words with the world! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m so excited about your goal to go to Iceland! You must write a detailed post about it. I want to hear all about it! I want to try to go one year. Not this year but another year. It sounds like such a fantastic opportunity! I’ll be giving my donation soon. It sounds like you had a lot of great accomplishments for 2016 and lots of good goals for 2017. Best wishes to you!

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • GAH!! I still need to read your December wrap-up post. :S I sluffed off on blog-reading during my hiatus, so I’m still in the middle of catching up on things, but that post is next on my list.

      I’m already planning to write about Iceland for DIY MFA after my trip. But don’t be surprised if articles with different slants end up on Writers Helping Writers and this blog, too. 😉 So you’ll have plenty of opportunities to hear about it.

      Definitely looking forward to what lies ahead in 2017. And I hope it’s a good year for you, too, Tori! I know 2016 was tough for you at times, so fingers crossed that this year is happier, more peaceful, and full of prosperity in all its forms. (*hugs*)

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  7. So happy for all you’ve accomplished last year (can you believe 2016 is already “last year?!”). Your achievements are well-deserved, and there are so many more coming your way, I’m positive about that! And I’m so glad we met; you’re a great inspiration, a great writer, a great reader, and a great friend. I love the links for your year in review, and I remember all those articles, they’ve been very helpful.

    Your schedule sounds so busy! I truly hope you can get to Iceland, that is going to be so amazing. Will it be the first time you travel out of the country? Your scarves look amazing, by the way, and we’ll leave it at that 😉 All the perks you’re offering are awesome! Each one keeps getting better than the next, I wish I had more $$! I just paid off my credit card, so the budget will stabilize now, finally!

    Liked by 1 person

    • (*blushes*) Thank you for all your kind words, Jessica. 🙂 I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you as well. You’re a fun, encouraging, and truly genuine person, and I wish the best for you, your family, and your writing in 2017.

      I agree, it’s hard to believe that 2016 is last year now. Time goes by too quickly, doesn’t it?

      “Busy” is my new normal, I guess. (*shrugs*) I learned to accept that last year once I started visiting my parents on the Cape and changed my writing schedule in response. But it’s also forced me to manage my time better and take advantage of moments when I can relax and/or meditate. Which isn’t always easy… but I try my best.

      Yes, Iceland will be my first trip abroad! (*fidgets excitedly and nervously*) I actually know two people who have been to Iceland before – not for the retreat, but at least I can talk to them about specific preparations they recommend for that country.

      Please don’t feel bad about the perks and $$. I understand if people aren’t able to donate. Your support is help enough. 🙂

      Oh, and thank you for your comment on the scarves! I don’t have a lot of time for knitting now (can you believe that? *lol*), but I really enjoyed it when I was doing it more often. And since I never mastered anything other than simple knitting and purling, I loved how the variegated yarn could create its own “patterns” with colors.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Knitting is hard! I did much better with crocheting, and last year, I picked up one of those circular looms — they are amazing! But yes, it’s time-consuming, nevermind the time it takes to hunt down the perfect yarn/thread. Your scarves are very tempting!

        Reykjavik was a setting for my book, so I’m looking forward to how your experience is over there!

        And fortunately, it’s only the fifth day into the year — thankfully, it’s not flying by too quickly…yet! Here’s to an amazing year!

        Liked by 1 person

      • “Reykjavik was a setting for my book, so I’m looking forward to how your experience is over there!”

        Really? 😀 I’m sure I’ll have some time to explore Reykjavik during the retreat, so I’ll definitely share that experience on the blog once I’m back. Just curious, but what kind of story was it?

        Liked by 1 person

      • So excited for you! My story was set in the future (about 300 years), but certain places, like Reykjavik, hadn’t “modernized” as much as other European cities. I never got around to researching it as well as the other settings, and I’ll admit that it sort of got pushed to the back of the queue.

        Now that I think of it, other than my current WIP and sf/f stories, all my settings are in Europe! Prague is a favorite of mine, as is Germany. But Iceland has a certain charm and mystery to it, almost in a strange druid-like way.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Marvellous post, as ever Sara. You had a great 2016, both bloggingwise and with your writing – altering your blog scheduling as your personal circumstances changed was timely and intelligent. As you know I love all your articles, but the one that stands out for me is the one about the zodiac signs – so original and quirky:)). I love your goals for 2017 – you are absolutely right in thinking that looking after yourself is vital. I’m looking forward to receiving the m/s for The Keeper’s Curse – and delighted to hear you have started work on your next WIP. I very much hope that 2017 is yet another successful year for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sarah. I’m really glad I looked at the long term and changed my writing schedule before my parents moved. If I didn’t, I’d probably still be working on Draft #3. So I’m very thankful I made that choice.

      I’m still surprised that the zodiac article did so well! I wasn’t sure if it was too “nerdy” or detailed in concept to appeal to other writers, but it looks like I needn’t have worried.

      As I type this, Chapter 1 of The Novella is already 2/3s to 3/4s done. I’m home this weekend after a snowstorm postponed my travel plans to the Cape, so I’m taking advantage of the unexpected free time.

      Many wishes for a happy, healthy, and productive year for you too. Btw, you should have an email from me the next time you check. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  9. It has been such a blessing getting to know you and watching your blog grow, Sara. You are an inspiration, and I can’t wait for what 2017 will bring for you! *hugs*
    Fingers crossed for the Iceland trip! I cannot wait to hear from you how it goes and see photos!

    Liked by 1 person

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