New Year #amwriting 2020 in review and 2021 goals

Good riddance, 2020! For sure, this year has not been the all-around best of times. However, writing-wise, I’ve actually been doing pretty good this year. According to my annual custom, I will review last year’s achievements, then make a few goals to shoot for going forward.

2020 review

It’s almost bitterly funny, remembering how excited and hopeful we were going into last year. All the 2020 vision jokes! We were so young, so naive. Well, let’s take a look at my goals for last year.

It appears my goals for last year were less ambitious than previous years, likely because I was coming out of a pretty awful and stressful year in which I produced relatively little. But I won’t waste time recalling any of that. Here is what I hoped to do in 2020:

  • Finish the new novel(and maybe get a bit more done on the Bigfoot story) — Yes to new novel, no to Bigfoot.
  • Get Schafer published — Yes!
  • Get the weird novella published — Yes!
  • Attend Camp Necon — No, it got 2020ed!

Not too shabby! In fact, I have had a decently productive year in terms of creation, and a rather good year in terms of publication as well. I finished "the new novel", now titled Order of Worms, and am currently trying to find an agent with it. In addition to that, I’ve written a short story titled "The Yellow Carousel", and am halfway finished with a Middle Grade Christmas horror novel called Garth on the Hearth. Not a lot of line items there, maybe, but total word count is pretty good for me. Order of Worms is my longest work yet, clocking in just about 84,600 words, and Garth on the Hearth is sitting at 12k, aiming for 20k by the end of it. "The Yellow Carousel" is a little long for a short story (but not unreasonable) at 5,900. Altogether, not counting the words cut after edits of said works, that’s 102,500 words of fiction produced in a rather stressful time (hmm, fact-checking this… I had forgotten that I started Order of Worms near the end of 2019… so this number is off a bit).

How does that compare to previous years? Well, unfortunately I don’t seem to have kept a running tally of yearly words. I reckon I could go back through my files and count things up each year, but I’m too lazy for that. And who really cares about it, right? Anyways, I am usually very proud to finish a novel above 60k words plus a handful of short stories averaging 4k each. I easily beat that this time around.

(Let’s just forget about Bigfoot, okay? It’s clear that ain’t happening any time soon.)

In February, I had the great pleasure to announce a new short story publication coming in the upcoming Dim Shores anthology. For various reasons, while that project was planned to be finished before the end of 2020, it has been delayed. However, I’ve been in contact with the publisher, and he assures me that things are back in motion. I suspect this one will be released before we know it. Looking back, this acceptance was a good omen of what was to come (disregarding the pandemic and resulting world meltdown), and still one that makes me quite proud.

March saw the announcement of one of my 2020 goals being met: publishing contract signed with Bloodshot Books to release Schafer! This one is coming soon! My first novel with a publisher other than myself. I’m very happy to have the inexhaustible Pete Kahle behind the production of Schafer.

Then in September, goal #3 was met when Independent Legions accepted my novella Unknowing, I Sink. They planned to publish it at warp speed, hoping to release it in November of the same year. I was hopeful but rather skeptical, to be honest. Incredibly, they crushed that timeline, releasing it not much more than a month later, around a week before Halloween!

December was a flurry of short fiction publishing activity for me. On the 5th, "The Apocalypse of Moses" came out as part of an episode of the Tales to Terrify podcast. On the 17th, at long last, the (double!) issue of Vastarien dropped with a mighty, heavy sound, containing my little darling, "Music For a Peripheral Companion.". And if those two fun things weren’t enough, "The Station Agent’s Wife, 1927" soon went live on The Dread Machine, now free for all to read!

Of course, Camp Necon, along with the other events I customarily attend, like the Lewisburg Literary Festival and West Virginia Book Festival, all got 2020ed. However, my Necon registration is still active, since they let us roll it over to 2021’s conference, assuming they are able to have it. The location has also changed, which is disappointing, as I was seriously stoked to go to Salem. But that’s the way things go these days. Lowell can’t be too bad, right?

I even made some reading goals later on. Before 2020 was, for everyone, "The Year of COVID", for me it was "The Year of Orwell." I decided to read all of what I considered George Orwell’s major works. Basically anything bound as a standalone book that wasn’t an essay collection. I succeeded in reading all that I had planned. Briefly, here are the Orwell books I read, in order from most to least favorite:

  • Nineteen Eighty-Four
  • Homage to Catalonia
  • Burmese Days
  • Animal Farm
  • Coming Up For Air
  • Down and Out in Paris and London
  • The Road to Wigan Pier
  • Keep the Aspidistra Flying
  • A Clergyman’s Daughter

So yeah, not too bad of a year when it comes to writing & publishing.

Still…

2021 goals

I don’t know what’s going to happen this year, and how it will affect my writing (of course, nobody ever does, but I think we all are learning that lesson). I’m sure there there is still quite some time before we can go back to as close an approximation of "normal" as possible. I’m hopeful and prayerful of this happening sooner rather than later. But all that being said, here are a few things I would like to get done in 2021:

  • Finish Garth on the Hearth
  • If I’m not too bored of it when I’m done with the Christmas one, I may try to write another middle grade holiday horror novel (I’ve got an idea for Thanksgiving already!)
  • Depending on whether or not I decide to take on the Thanksgiving middle grade book, I may instead try doing another adult novel. I haven’t had any further really great ideas strike me. But after I finish what I’m working on now, I hope to start going on a lot more walks to get the idea machine grinding again, see if anything shows up like Order of Worms did. As fun as doing the middle grade story has been, I think I will probably usually have my heart set on writing for adults.
  • There’s always that desire to try my hand at a screen play. I always say I’ll do it after I’m done with the novel I’m working on now. Then I end up starting another novel. Maybe 2021 will be the year?
  • Write more short stories. Because my previously mentioned goals are so nebulous, I can’t really make any kind of accurate prediction on how many I will try to write. However, I am hoping to soon have enough good short stuff done that I can start planning a collection. I am pretty close, I think. So it’s quite possible that by the end of this year I’ll begin choosing and arranging some for this purpose. Of course, I would like to have a few more short stories published, not just written, before going too far forward with that. So I can’t make any promises about any of this.

Happy new year, everybody. Let’s hope it’s better than the last.

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