2014 Writing Goals Retrospective

Earlier this year, I laid out a few writing goals for 2014. I updated a few months later, and have been quiet about them since.

Why? Let’s just say the year did not go according to plan.

Now that’s not a bad thing, but it is a little embarrassing to admit. The truth is, this year has been my most productive writing year ever.

Plans are only there to get you going. What happens after you start executing… that’s where the real magic happens.

2014 Writing Goals

These are the 2014 writing goals I posted in January. Below each one are some thoughts on my performance with respect to that goal.

  • Write at least 5 days a week
    • It wasn’t explicitly stated, but I meant fiction writing here. If we count all the non-fiction, blogs, journaling, sketches, outlines, etc, I definitely wrote at least 5 days a week. Unfortunately, I don’t have an exact number of days here. I wrote a lot, and I’m happy with that. I put in an insane number of hours.
  • Submit at least one short story a month.
    • This I simply did not do. My story tracking and submission spreadsheet has five titles listed, four of which were submitted and summarily rejected. The fifth actually turned into a novel, which I am still working on. More on that in a moment.
  • Get at least one story published.
    • I self-published a short story, but that’s not what I really intended. What I meant here was that I would get at least one story accepted for publication in a literary magazine. I got shortlisted once, but it didn’t work out. Still, I’d call this a win, even if it’s a technicality 🙂

The Self Publishing Bug

So what happened? Why didn’t things go according to plan?

I wrote a ton. By the time I posted the goals, I was in the process of finishing the first story. Days later, I started on the next.

But everything took me longer than I supposed it would. I was writing, but I was writing slowly. My first three stories took 2 months a piece to finish.

Nonetheless, when they were done I sent them off. And when they were rejected, I sent them off again. The process is much easier today because of digital submissions, but the response time is the same as it always was, at least a month for each submission; and none of the responses were helpful. All form rejections, except one whose feedback was… well. Let’s just say I get better feedback from strangers at writing groups.

I grew tired and frustrated with the submission process and by July I had decided to self publish the story. Several reasons. Mostly, I was tired of spending time on it. I wanted to move on to other things. So I wrapped it into a pretty self-published package and put it up on Amazon.

It did all right in the free run, all right for a short story I mean. But I soon realized that short stories aren’t that popular. And by this time I had listened to so many podcasts and so read so many blog posts about indie publishing that I had caught the bug. I knew what I needed to do.

I started thinking bigger. Short stories don’t sell, novels do. Not just novels, but a series!

My First Novel

What was originally an 8,000 word short story became a novel. I slammed out over 40,000 words on the next draft. That’s been in the works since August.

As usual I don’t write as fast as I’d like, and revising is taking ages. But I’m almost through it. I ‘ll have certainly finished this draft over the holiday break, and I start working with an editor in January.

Takeaways

For having three extremely modest goals at the start of the year, that’s a lot of progress. Sure, things didn’t turn out as expected, but I like the course corrections I made along the way. I can build on them. And I’ll be able to aim for better goals in 2015 because of what I’ve learned this year.

Look out for those new goals in January. For now, a few takeaways from 2014:

  • Keep track of word counts and revision days so that you can get a good feel for how long it takes you to get through a piece.
  • Give yourself more time, especially for the second draft. That’s one’s the killer.
  • The short story submission process is way behind the times.
  • Short stories don’t sell as well as novels, in traditional publishing OR in indie publishing. They just don’t.
  • Writing groups can give you better feedback than editors often give for a story submission.

Happy holidays. I’ll see you in the new year with a fresh set plans that will definitely change.

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