2015 Lessons Learned

It seems to becoming a pattern on this blog that whatever I say I’m going to write about in the previous entry, I invariably don’t. So, not wishing to break with the established pattern, I’m not going to write about my 2016 goals as previously promised.

Instead, as the post title suggests, I’m going to catalog the lessons I learned from 2015. As I sat down to brainstorm what my 2016 targets should be, I naturally started thinking about previous years targets and how they’ve built upon the lessons I’ve learned from previous years. It was then a natural exercise to think over the lessons learned in 2015 (rather than just the accomplishments) and record them.

Lessons learned:

  1. I can write novels—plural. Corollary: I’m a novelist.
  2. Don’t work on two novels at once.
  3. Changed opinion on tracking word counts as a measure of progress (I like it now).
  4. Don’t rush the publishing process.

Lesson 1. I wrote a bit last time about how I had never written a full-length novel before 2015. So proving to myself that I could in fact not only write one novel, but almost three in a year, was a confidence booster. One things that I figured out in the middle of writing my first novel in 2015, was that I’m a novelist. Novels are my natural length. I have a very distinct memory of a writing session where I had this thought: this is so much easier than I was prepared for. It’s easier for me to write novels than short stories, novelettes, or novellas (takes longer, but easier). In retrospect, this should have been obvious. My entire reading life (except for Sherlock Holmes) has been reading novels. I’ve been training my subconscious for this since I was eleven. Pacing, character development, plot, all so much easier when I have room in a novel to breathe.

Lesson 2. When I set my targets in 2015, I made a schedule. I like schedules—a lot. I should not, however, be a slave to them. The first novel of the year ran long and I ran over my schedule. So instead of buckling down and finishing that project, I started the second novel and tried to timeshare. This did not go well. Not only were my attentions divided, but what progress I was making was lost in the feeling that I wasn’t making any progress on either project. Which led to undue stress. I should’ve just finished the first project up before starting the second. I lesson I intend to never forget.

Lesson 3. Back in 2013 I wrote about how I do not like tracking word counts as a measure of a progress. I think that opinion at that point of time was informed by writing mostly short stories and not having a great method for tracking word counts. 2015 was the first year I used the awesome spreadsheet titled 2015 Tool for Writers by Christie Yant (as of this post 2016 wasn’t available yet). It was also the first year I wrote a novel. When the target length of a manuscript is 80k words spread writing over several months, tracking word counts let’s you know your progress, let’s you feel like you’re making progress, and let’s you keep an eye on fast the novel is writing and project forward to a potential completion date. I’m now a fan.

Lesson 4: I originally planned on publishing the first novel in the Underwater Restorations Universe in December of 2015, having only just finished it in September. Two months is not enough time. All things didn’t come into focus and it was causing way more stress than it was worth. I started writing as a stress reliever, so the fact that it was causing me that much stress was a red flag. When that realization hit, I delayed publication for almost 10 months until October 2016. Which seems like a lengthy delay, but the extra time lets me get everything lined up properly with a minimum level of stress. So, I’m pretty happy about the delay actually.

Those are the lessons learned in 2015. With that in mind I refine my 2016 targets and share those next time (maybe).

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