2016 Year in (Writing) Review

Whenever I feel like I haven’t produced anything in a while, I look at what stories I’ve posted. 2016 might not have been my most prolific year, but I did write – and post – a little bit over 66,000 words, across 22 stories. I’m not including the work I did on the rewrite of my sci-fi adventure story, or all of the back story snippets I hashed out when the editing wasn’t working to my liking, or the starts to stories I scrapped or set aside because I went back to editing and rewrites, because those have not been seen by eyes other than mine. They would also be a lot harder to calculate.

Not a great year for output, but not as poor as I’d originally suspected when thinking back on it.

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Not every one of these stories is great, but each one represents a personal effort, and my desire to become a better storyteller. If I had to pick a favorite, I know which one I’d choose…but I won’t say because a parent playing favorites is not a good thing. 😉

For those of you who took time out of your lives to read any of these, and especially to those folks who let me know what they thought, thank you from the depths of my artist’s heart. Hearing that I’ve touched, amused, or entertained someone else with these stories keeps me going day after day.

What was your 2016 year in writing like? Any surprises, challenges, or turnarounds? Here’s looking forward to a strong 2017 in all of our writing goals!

Nothing Special, But Why I Do It

A few years ago, we went to visit my in-laws. My mother-in-law, a professor at the time at a small, prestigious higher education institution, was talking about her students: young men and young women fortunate enough to be favored by talent as well as privilege. She spoke about how impressed she was by these students – deservedly so – but she also said, very specifically, how these young people were special. And, how we were – how I was – decidedly not special by comparison. How I was “mundane”.

Intellectually, I knew she was right. I’m not an Earhart, a Da Vinci, or a Hawking. I’m not epic; I won’t change the world; I have no revolutionary ideas. But, damn it, if hearing those words didn’t twist my guts around my spine and make me want to stab a stake into my hand.

I’ve also never completely gotten over that feeling of being called mundane.

I write all this without fear of repercussion or rebuke because (A) it’s true, and (B) nobody from that side of the family has ever read this blog, or anything I’ve written, actually. There’s a (C) reason in there, too, though. Because, while I might never be special, I still get up every day, and put forth my strongest effort at my job, support and care for my family the best that I can, and give my damnedest for every story I write. They’re not epic; they won’t change the world; they have no revolutionary ideas. But I still do it. Because if we don’t make the effort, what’s the point of any of it?

I wrote my 2016 holiday story (“Actually and Indeed”, for my Finding Mister Wright universe) not to prove to anyone how special I am, or to force down anyone’s throat how special I think my stories are. I wrote it because I love these people and the little life situations they find themselves in. It’s a story about family and love, and how we’re all worth it, even if we’re part of the mundane.

Is there a type of story you like to write best: fantastic or ordinary? Maybe some combination of both?

NaNo 2016 Recap

Well, I didn’t hit the 50K word count goal for NaNoWriMo 2016, but I wasn’t planning on doing that. (I’m trying to remind myself that I didn’t really “fail” this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge, because my goals were different from the word count ones. It’s kind of working.) Instead, I focused my energies on the rewrite of Highs, Lows, and In-Betweens, the sequel to my space opera/western romance novel, From Hell (A Love Story). I still got a little over 40K done, though, so that’s pretty good!

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One of the unique joys-slash-conflicts I always experience during an edit or rewrite is the comparison between what happened in the first draft, when the words are just gushing out, to the more thoughtful edit, where I try to pick apart, rework, and sometimes even build anew the character motivations, relationships, conflicts, and plot events. During my NaNo rebellion over the past thirty days, I took the bones of my five protagonists (I know; that’s a lot of protags, but that’s a discussion for another day) and really rebuilt them. They’ve become a lot more complicated, and a lot more engaging because of that. At least, I think they are.

The first draft of the story, which I wrote in 2014, was a lot of fun, and many of the main story points are still there. But now, after tearing parts of it up and delving deep into who these people truly are at their cores, there is a new villain, a new love story, a new betrayal, and a whole new possibility for this adventure to go far beyond the simple introductory tale it was at the beginning.

I will keep working on this rewrite, because these characters are too interesting to let fall to the wayside. I’m sure I’ll also be writing new stories, too, because I just can’t keep myself from examining what the other characters in my other worlds have been doing. In short, I’ll just keep writing, NaNo or no NaNo.

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo this year? How did you do? What projects are you working on that you’re excited about?

Once More Into the Breach

Yeah, I’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo again this year. But, this year, I’m participating as a NaNo Rebel.

I got the idea – and the bug – from writer and editor Kate Johnston, aka 4amwriter (website and twitter), who talks more in-depth about the concept of how to be a NaNo rebel here. As for me, I’m using the opportunity and join-in rush of NaNo to push myself forward on a long-overdue rewrite of 2014’s NaNo, Highs, Lows, and In-Betweens, a space opera that follows about two years after the events in my Borderlands book, From Hell (A Love Story):

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Like Kate, I’m using this NaNoWriMo to concentrate on aspects of the book other than the wordcount. I’ve completed NaNo at least six times over the last ten years, so that 50,000-words-in-30-days goal is not a significant challenge for me. What is a challenge is making sure that every chapter in this rewrite has a conflict, every character gets their due, and the end of every chapter has a hook to keep the reader pressing on. No nothing-happens-here moments that go on for pages; no dangling or missing motivations; no falling interest to make the reader put the story down. In many ways, this is a much tougher challenge, and I almost wish I’d gone the easy wordcount route. But this story – like all my stories – is dear to me, and I want to see it finished: bigger, better, more badass than ever before.

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo 2016, whether as a traditional drafter, pantser, plantser, or rebel, let’s connect! My username is bonusparts over there, and I’m always open to more buddies.

What are your writing plans for November? NaNo? Rebellion? Let me know!