I’m probably the last to the “Year in Review” party, but I have a good excuse! The mountain behind my house was on fire. Literally.
See, where we live is very dry and fireworks are banned in the entire municipality. But, someone decided to celebrate the new year with a flare. It landed on the mountain. And spread.
11,000 hectares of burned land, 31 houses gone and 28 damaged, 5 helicopters and hundreds of firefighters and volunteer support teams later the fire is out. Sixteen days of uncertainty and fear.
Thankfully our house was never in direct danger, but the wind was whipping the fires and they can travel quickly. We did pack in case we had to evacuate.
But that’s 2019, and the danger is past. I’m here to talk about 2018. I’m going to look at two areas, writing and reading.
Writing in 2018
I had three big projects last year: IN HER OWN SKIN the YA I was revising and then querying, THE MONSTER NOVEL STRUCTURE WORKBOOK which I revised and published(!!!!), and UNCHURCHED which I outlined and then drafted during NaNoWriMo and December.
IN HER OWN SKIN (YA book)
In 2017 I and this book were selected by author Sophie Cameron for mentorship via Author Mentor Match (Round 6 starts soon!). Incredibly exciting and validating. Sophie gave me excellent, really helpful feedback and I dug in with serious revisions. The bulk of the work was done in 2018.
In addition to Sophie’s feedback I used Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel course to guide me in making changes. Between these two factors I did more in-depth revision than I’ve ever done before. It was empowering and I’m so grateful for this experience.
Then it was back into the query trenches in June. Overall I had a 6% request rate, which isn’t terrible but isn’t great either. Having learned a lot about my book, and about the industry through AMM, I came to the conclusion by the end of the year that this isn’t a grabbing enough book to be a debut. I’m really proud of it, I’m immensely pleased with all I learned and the opportunities I got through this book, but it’s time to let it rest. I’d rather have a strong ace in my back pocket than not.
THE MONSTER NOVEL STRUCTURE WORKBOOK (nonfiction)
I began working on the theory behind this book in 2016. It came from my frustration with what I hadn’t found in researching novel structure. There was conflicting information from different sources and I needed to use my graphic design skills to make it all cohesive. And then the obvious next question was, “Wouldn’t this help other people, too?” So I wrote a book and prepared downloads to go with it.
Writing this book was so much faster than writing fiction. Fiction requires lots of layering and subtlety and cause-and-effect planning. This nonfiction poured out of me (I wrote 5k in one day without sweating). I have a lot of experience writing documentation for work, and those skills came to bear here.
To launch the book I recruited a beta reader team who gave me invaluable feedback, and went on to leave stellar reviews. Highly recommend this method.
I sold what I consider a good number of copies between the launch on Sept 15 and the end of the year, and I’m going to continue promoting it in a low-key but consistent way.
(I’ve got the next Monster book lined up, too—THE MONSTER GUIDE TO WRITING GROUPS! You can sign up to hear more here.)
UNCHURCHED (YA contemporary)
Oh, this book. I’ve taken so many cracks at it and learned so much along the way. The last time I looked at it seriously was in 2015, when I determined that that wasn’t the draft I needed. I put it aside to work on IN HER OWN SKIN. In 2018 I picked it up again, made some mega changes, and wrote an absolutely massive outline. It was 13,000 words by the time I was ready to draft.
Why so big? First of all, I’ve been working with these characters and this story for years and years. There’s a lot of nuance and subtlety I wanted to make sure I included. Secondly, I’ve learned that the more thorough my outline is the easier it is to draft. If I outline what I want to happen then turning it into a scene is much easier. Of course, I didn’t pull this off flawlessly. I still had places where I’d basically said, “And then the character says something witty with major implications,” but hadn’t put in any legwork to figure out what the actual words would be. So that slowed me down in places.
Still, giant outlines are definitely a plus for me. Will do again.
I got a bunch of beta readers for the outline, and then drafted in November and December. There were some really difficult points where I was itching to revise already. I’d revised effectively with IN HER OWN SKIN and I wanted to be back in that place, with a draft already down and able to make it pretty and perfect. But that’s not how drafting works. So I put my head down and cranked out words, painful as it was. By the end I was making a bunch of notes for planned changes, which is the best case scenario.
Quick shout-out to Pacemaker which helped keep me on track after November. It helps you calculate and track word goals (and page goals and more) over a given period. Really cool.
I now have a 72k word draft waiting for me.The 20th will be a month since I finished it and then I can reread and make a plan for revision.
Reading in 2018
I use Goodreads to track my reading habits. All the below stats are from running my eyes over and over the list, so I might’ve screwed up somewhere.
- I read 55 books last year.
- 12 were writing craft books, 43 were fiction.6 were graphic novels.
20 were fiction books aimed at adults. 15 were aimed at young adults.
19 could be defined as Own Voices—books by and about marginalized identities.
Books I really enjoyed in 2018:
- The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Yee
- The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke
- Jade City by Fonda Lee
- The Captive Prince trilogy by C. S. Pacat
- The Odyssey by Homer, as translated by Emily Wilson
- The Seventh Bride by T. Kingfisher
- The Black Tides of Heaven by J.Y. Yang
- Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
So that was my year. A lot accomplished, a lot learned, a lot of enjoyable books. How was your year?