Saturday, December 28, 2013

Looking Back on 2013

2013 was a year of change and transition for me. Of course, all years bring some kind of change, but this past year brought more than usual.

First of all, I accomplished my goal of publishing my first novel, Faith, Hope, and Murder, in January of this year. I have been looking forward to publishing a book since I was twelve. Maybe even before then. Between the end of 2012 and early 2013 I put in an incredible number of hours in conversations with my cover designer and editor, editing the book, and learning the skills I needed to upload it to all the online sites so people could buy it.

I also put lots of hours into learning the business side of publishing: registering a business name, opening a business bank account, tracking sales and expenses, and filling out a Schedule C with my 2012 tax return. I ran a Goodreads giveaway, guest posted on several blogs, tweeted, and set up a Facebook author page. The last required two attempts before I got it right. Having avoided FB for years and purposely ignoring most of what I read about using it, I made a big mistake to start. But I think I have all of that straightened out now.

Having proved to myself that I could finish a book and make it available for sale, I allowed myself to think about early retirement. I already knew I hated my day job. Despite the fact that I was only working three days a week, it still took time away from my writing career. I had to protest the poor review I got because my accomplishments working three days a week were compared to those working five days a week. My boss's boss agreed with me and my rating was supposed to be changed, but this was the last straw as far as I was concerned. I retired at the end of June to devote more time to writing. (The official rating never did get changed and I did not get a raise because of it.)

What I didn't realize was that I would need a period of adjustment between leaving the day job and becoming a full time writer. Apparently this isn't too unusual, but I'd thought since I was using a good part of my two off days to work on my new career, it wouldn't be hard to work on the other three. But without the structure of a job to go to, it takes time to figure out a schedule of sorts and stick to it. I'm still not done with that.

Although I didn't publish any more books in 2013, I did manage to complete the first draft of Deliver Us From Evil, the sequel to Faith, Hope, and Murder, and draft another mystery, working title Blue Murder, during NaNoWriMo this year. Because Deliver Us From Evil was largely written in fits and starts while I still had the day job, there were lots of things I didn't keep in my head while writing it. That resulted in leaving out some scenes and ideas and putting others in twice.

After reading through Deliver Us From Evil, it seemed to me that this book was a worse mess than FH&M had ever been. I wasn't sure how I was going to fix it. I thought a long time before finally deciding to pay for and use Holly Lisle's How to Revise Your Novel class. Holly's classes are expensive, but they are chock full of information. Another bonus is that she continually offers more "stuff"--updated lessons, additional material, access to areas of her site that are not visible to the general public--long after you've finished the class. I've spent weeks working through my novel using her worksheets and techniques and to finish the class will take more weeks. That means that I will not achieve my goal of publishing the second book by the end of the year.

Another goal for 2013 was to write 100,000 words of new fiction. I fell short of that goal, but did probably write between 65,000 and 75,000 words, mostly because of the 51,000 I wrote for NaNoWriMo. I also wrote a few short stories, something I'd been reluctant to try because I didn't think I could write short. Not too shabby.

There were other, smaller goals that I set at the beginning of 2013 and revised once I retired that I did not achieve. I'd like to have done better, but there was that period of adjustment. And something totally unforeseen.

Part of my heart will forever be in Boston, so when the Marathon Bombings occurred, I was unable to do anything except watch the news. Just when I decided it was time to stop and get back to a more normal routine, there was the chase and hunt for Dzhokar Tsarnaev and I was back to voraciously devouring every piece of information I could find.

But that, although not foreseen, was not what took up hours of my time. Enjoyable hours, to be sure, but hours that I had not planned on. What I spent most of the summer and fall doing was watching the Boston Red Sox.

Yes, I am and have been a Red Sox fan, but 2012 was such a disaster, I seriously considered not renewing my subscription to the MLB baseball package on cable. Except I'd tried that one year and couldn't stand not being able to watch the games.

The season started out amazingly. The worst team in baseball in 2012 was winning games! These were largely new players, ones I hadn't watched before, some veterans, some rookies, and a very few remaining veterans. But the Red Sox had started other seasons like race horses out of the gate and not fulfilled the early promise later in the season. Can you say September Collapse (2011)?

There were times they faltered, slipping out of first place and sinking in the standings as other teams in the AL East found their rhythm, but the one thing that made this Red Sox team different was that they didn't give up. Even when trailing by a large number of runs, they kept trying. It reminded me of the 2004 team, the self-proclaimed bunch of idiots who finally brought the World Series trophy back to Boston after over 80 years. Only the 2013 team was The Beards instead of the idiots. They were fun to watch. And, in the end, they did it. They won their third World Series in a decade.

There were other big news stories during 2013, but those are the two I'll remember.

All in all, 2013 was not a bad year for me. And what will 2014 be like? Come back next week to find out!
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