End of the Year Review

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If I had to compare my 2021 to anything, it would be an aspiring novelist’s first draft of their first book. An exciting start, completely awful horrendous saggy middle, and an decent finish.

The Beginning

Starting strong, I kept up with my New Year’s Resolution to submit a short piece to a contest or magazine all the way through May. It’s an easy enough goal–craft a polished piece around 3000 words every 30 days. My usual daily word count goal is 500 words, which means if I spend a day planning then carve out some dedicated writing time, I could have a rough draft in about a week.

I started in January by entering a flash fiction contest with one of my critique partners. It was there that I discovered my shorter pieces tended toward horror, which was interesting because it wasn’t a genre I read much. I picked up a few books from the library and discovered some new favorites (Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Wilder Girls by Rory Power, and Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake).

From February through April, I submitted to a few open calls for submissions for anthologies and Writers of the Future. I’d gotten a few agent likes during Twitter pitch contests which resulted in partial and full requests. Man, I was crushing it.

The Middle

So, what happened in May?

A completely unrelated combination of factors contributed to my awful horrendous saggy middle. First, I hit the point in my pregnancy where I was waking up literally every two hours to pee. At the end of the workday, I was so exhausted I felt drunk. To be honest, I suffered pretty severe post partum depression after my first daughter was born, and I recognized very similar symptoms, so I took preventative measures this time (spoiler alert: this post partum period is going waaay better). I made the conscious decision to give up my 6 a.m. writing time to attain as much sleep as possible.

Second, I hit the highest wall of imposter syndrome ever. Publishing is a slow, brutal business, and as someone who craves external validation (not recommended in this industry), it was hard not to crack over the querying process. My poor little bloody murdery book with what I consider to be my greatest contribution to the literary world (a delightfully unapologetic side character named Bher) wasn’t getting a lot of traction.

The End

To borrow a phrase from Save the Cat, it was truly the All is Lost moment (or more like an entire summer) where I seriously considered giving up on writing. I greatly enjoy reading, which seemed like an easier, waaay less stressful use of my time that didn’t involve me beating myself up about no longer being able to wake up at 6 a.m. to write.

Looking back, I experienced the wisdom of the advice to keep writing while querying first-hand. My next novel, a dual POV, was much better. I applied what I learned about story structure to improve my craft.

Just when I was about to quit, I received an email informing me that my short story would be published in Air and Nothingness Press’s Spirit Machine anthology in 2022. Encouraged, I submitted a piece to another open call, and I’m excited that it will be published in Lost Boys Press’s Heroes anthology for 2022. One of my CP’s has dreamed about writing an anthology featuring colors, and she invited a group of writers to pick a color. I chose black, and my horror Perseus retelling is probably one of my favorite things I’ve ever written.

Then at the tail end of October, I started planning and drafting my newest WIP, a Sleeping Beauty-inspired retelling with (you guessed it) a bloody, murdery forest. My writing group convinced me to write in first person present which has been an interesting experiment. I will say, though, everything’s taken a backseat to the magnificent wonderful Annalise (who I’m thrilled to announce has slept from 9:30 at night past 6 in the morning three nights in a row). Small victories.

The Epilogue

At this moment, I’m up at 5 a.m. to pump and clean bottles so that I don’t open the fridge at noon and realize everything I need is dirty in the sink while there’s a shrieking 6-week-old in my arms and the 3-year-old clings to my leg demanding to watch princess movies and eat cake for every meal.

I’m pleased that I’m over 43,000 words into my WIP. It’s going well, although I have no idea how it’s going to end. But I have my fantastic sister, Katharine, reading chapter by chapter which is keeping me going (she’s going to be really angry at the cliff hanger I just sent her) and my fantastic writing group who assure me that even a word count as small as 50 words per day is still excellent.

Small victories.

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