I hope 2019, despite all the upheaval, has been reasonably good for you and 2020 may prove to be better still. My favourite gag I’ve heard so far on the theme of the New Year is:
Why are shortsighted people looking forward to next year?
Answer: Because they will finally have 2020 vision”.
Okay… that one’s never going to win any awards…
As ever the last year seems to have flown by and it’s time to take a look at how things went, writing wise, this year.
I keep a writing diary (which has writing exercises in it. This has been useful. I’ve written some flash fiction stories based on them). At this time of year I review what I have managed to do and set goals for the next year. I know I won’t achieve them all. Life gets in the way and all that as it does for everyone.
What I seek to do is achieve most or be well on my way to achieving them. Some of the projects I’m working on are long term so I probably won’t complete those within a year but that’s fine. I learned a long time ago just because sometime doesn’t happen in the time scale I’ve set, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen. I either need to lower my sights or accept my goal is going to take longer than I thought. There are no guarantees in most walks of life and writing isn’t exempt!
One of the huge benefits of networking with other authors is finding out where to seek advice when you need it. When you start writing, you are focused on getting work out there. You don’t need to know about the ins and outs of a publishing contract immediately as a rule (as you’re too busy trying to get work accepted), but you will need to know eventually what is right about such things and what you should avoid.
I’ve mentioned the Society of Authors and Alliance of Independent Publishers before but it is so important to check things out and not be afraid to ask questions when you are considering where to send work and whether you should accept any terms offered by a publisher. I’ve turned down a publishing contract in my time. After research, the publisher turned out to be a vanity one who wanted a great deal of money for very little. I wasn’t going there. If I pay for publishing services in the future, they will be the ones I want and where I know what I’m buying.
I also look back at what I did get done in the last twelve months. It’s important to note achievements as well as hopes. Why? Well, everyone needs a morale boost from time to time, but it can also be easy to be bogged down with rejections received, not hearing from competitions you’ve entered etc., so to balance that you do need to focus on what has been positive.
Often it’s when I look back I finally realise well hang on there, you have made some progress, and I think that’s true for a lot of us. It’s making the effort to look back and compare where you were with where you are now that can be difficult to get around to doing but the end of the calendar year is a good reminder to do so. I see it as a good discipline, a reminder not to rest on my laurels, but to push my writing on further during the next 12 months. There is no such thing as perfect writing. What you are aiming to do is to get better at what you do do!
I don’t go in for New Year’s resolutions. They’re too easy to break (and I have no intention of giving up chocolate!) but setting goals (short, medium, and long term) are fine. I’ve found they’ve helped me focus. By the end of the year I like to have fulfilled all of my short term goals and as many of the rest as I can.
Developments for me this year include:-
1. For the first time managing to get work into the annual Cafelit and Bridge House anthologies. I’ve had work in them before but it is usually one or the other in any one year.
2. For the first time managing to get two flash fiction stories in the Cafelit anthology. The nice thing about this was the stories included in this book (The Best of Cafelit 8) were voted on by regular Cafelit readers. So a big thank you to all who voted for my two stories. It is an honour to have one included yet alone two.
3. Getting to go on an excellent and eye-opening editing course (and all expenses paid too! The latter is a first for me. I like the all expenses paid bit a LOT!).
4. Being taken on as an editor as a result of what came out of that course.
5. Having my first professional job as an editor. The book concerned should be out sometime in 2020.
I am hoping to do more in the editing line. Writers often end up teaching writing and/or offering editing services, both of which are the standard ways many authors generate an income. So wish me luck!
I’m also submitting non-fiction articles to paying markets and hope to keep doing so. As with fiction, acceptances don’t usually happen immediately but persistence, a willingness to develop etc will increase the chances of that breakthrough coming. Naturally I am also continuing to submit flash fiction. I would like to get more short stories out there too.
I am revamping my website at the moment and hope to add pages to this later advertising my writing services but I am pleased with the improvements to the site so far. For example, I can now put videos on to it and I’ve put on the book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again. I’ve also created a simple video for one of my stories (Job Satisfaction) and that was good fun to do. I hope to do much more of this.
I am also writing a non-fiction book which I hope to pitch during 2020. I’m also working on a long fiction work and I have ideas as to where to pitch that. With any long project, you need to accept it takes time but I am hoping some of my ideas will come to fruition in the next 12 months or so.
I do know I’m not going to be stuck for things to do but I like that. There are times I only have brief writing sessions so I use those for drafting some flash fiction. My longer sessions are used for preparing CFT posts and my longer projects. The one area in life I have got better at is in working out how to make the best use of the time I have for the writing I want to do. As a result, I am becoming more productive.
I am also hoping to prepare more work in advance and schedule it. I do this for CFT of course on a weekly basis but you can do this kind of thing for Facebook posts and Twitter. Again it helps efficiency, freeing up time for other creative work.
CPD and Consistency
One issue all writers have is juggling their time between the creative work, the editing (it does need doing!), and Continuing Professional Development.
The latter, in my case, has meant learning how to set up a website and run it, how to get the best out of social media (though that is an ongoing learning curve!), and working out what is the best marketing for me to do for my book and the anthologies my stories appear in. There is no one size fits all authors solution here. What works brilliantly for one writer may not be appropriate for another. And even when you’ve worked out a route to go here, you need to keep it going too.
I blog on my website twice a week with a round up of what I blog where, including my CFT posts, and I stick to specific days for producing website material. Consistency is key. People get used to seeing your work up at specific points (which is why my posts here almost always appear on a Friday!).
Whatever your hopes and plans for 2020 are, I hope you have a wonderful New Year. Now the other things I would love to see happen next year include:-
World peace. This is one of those wishes that you only want to go away because we have it and we no longer need to long for it! If only…..
No cruelty to anyone or anything. It is depressing this one still has to be wished for. It says something about us as a species, I fear.
A good education for all.
For all to have plenty to eat and drink, to have good homes, decent sanitation etc. Again, it is a shame this is still needed but I have to sing the praises of Water Aid who do so much to improve basic sanitation for so many. It’s far too easy to take that kind of thing for granted.
The joys of good music and food to be enjoyed by all.
Whatever your creative talent is, to make the most of it and to always enjoy it. I believe that everyone has a creative “bent” of some kind. It’s a question of working out which one suits you. I also believe creativity is good for us. So wherever your creativity is, relish it!
Happy New Year!
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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