Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2020 Vision

Well, here we are: the start of a new year and a new decade. I’d like to say that it feels hopeful or weird or whatever, but, let’s be real: it feels a whole lot like yesterday did. After all, when you get right down to it, the first day of the New Year is just another day to which we arbitrarily assigned a particular meaning. There's nothing inherent about this particular sunrise that somehow lessens the problems of the time behind us or makes the time ahead of us more hopeful. We're still the same messy people we were yesterday; it's just that today, we have a little more motivation to try to be better.

All that said, it is a good time for looking back and looking forward. 2019, on the whole, was a pretty solid year, and I'm hoping 2020 will be equally solid. Admittedly, the last three or four months have been tough, but they're behind me and I have hope that the next five-ish months will be easier. So, let's get on with the review, shall we?

2019 Reviewed


  • Soooo the whole “set a writing goal every month” thing? Didn’t work out so well this year. And by that, I mean that I don’t think I ever explicitly set a monthly writing goal outside of NaNoWriMo once Mechanical Heart edits were done.
  • Actual writing quantity wasn’t bad, though. I wrote a total of 61,340 words and edited a total of 110,628 words. Some of those overlap, though, as major rewrites (like I did on much of Mechanical Heart) count in both categories. 
  • As far as the major writing goals I set last year:
    • I successfully edited and published Mechanical Heart, and so far the response has been largely positive. (Thanks muchly, everyone!)
    • I wrote somewhere between 30 and 50% of a new novel, Blood in the Earth/Soil. Obviously, I still have not decided on a title. My current plan is to get to the end of the book and decide which one is more thematically appropriate. 
    • I did not work on Dust of Silver or Once Upon a Dream. I thought a lot about Dust of Silver and its world and sequels — ok, mostly its sequels. Thinking about sequels makes me more likely to work on the initial book, though, so it’s something.
    • I also didn’t put together a rough publishing plan, as I was too busy actually publishing things the first half of the year and trying to write something to publish the second half of the year. Oops. 
  • Outside my original goals, I learned how to write creative nonfiction and wrote roughly a dozen creative nonfiction pieces of varying lengths. (I can’t actually post any of them because the professor requires us to submit things for publication in lit journals and such, but oh well.) I also write a D&D one-shot and half a campaign (with the other half to be written in the near future).


  • My final reading count for the year is ___ books. I initially set my goal at 77 books, and I raised it two or three times over the course of the year. I did read a lot of fairly short books at the beginning of the year, so that helped.
  • And I have once again failed in my attempt to read more old books unless you count the fact that I read all 12-ish Oz books back in February. I mean, that comes out to the same number as one book per month, but . . . they’re not as varied as I intended, that’s for sure.


  • Despite the best efforts of last semester to murder me, I continue to survive in college. And now there’s only one semester left. What the actual pumpernickel.
  • I also continued my internship from two summers ago last summer. I put in fewer hours, but I’m still happy with the work I did. 
  • I did not make it to RealmMakers, mostly because money, but I did seriously consider it. I did go to Nashville, though, so that was cool.
  • I kind of dropped my language practice with both German and Irish midway through last February/March. I feel vaguely bad, but I had to much on my plate at the time, and I just never picked it back up.
  • I was selected as Honors secretary a second year. The dynamic of the board this year is very different from the year before, but it’s not a bad difference. I’m still enjoying the opportunity to help make my favorite org on campus happen.
  • I attended the first of probably-many weddings for people my age whom I consider friends. This isn’t actually an accomplishment, but it is a sort of milestone, so I’m mentioning it.
So, that was 2019 in a nutshell. Time for 2020 goals! As usual, these aren’t hard-and-fast things but rather things that I’d like to accomplish if possible.

2020 Goals


  • Even though it didn’t work as well as hoped in 2019, I once again want to set and achieve a writing challenge eleven out of twelve months. Part of the reason I failed this past year is that after I finished Mechanical Heart, I was too burned out to do as much writing as I felt I should be doing. Hopefully, if I allow myself a month without a writing challenge at some point during the year, I’ll be more likely to succeed the rest of the time.
    • My challenge for January is 300 words or 30 straight minutes of writing, editing, or worldbuilding per day, five days a week. I know 300 words is achievable, though not without a bit of effort; that’s just two or three pages in a notebook or a section or two in a D&D session plan. 30 minutes should also be doable, even once I’m back on campus, but it’ll help me stretch my writing stamina back to where it used to be.
  • What projects do I hope to accomplish this year?
    • I want to draft and edit Blood in the Earth/Soil and have it ready for publication in late 2020 or early 2021. I don’t think that the Arista Challenge is going to happen this year; the timeline as I understand it requires too quick a turnaround. (There’s a chance, but I’m not banking on it.) I still want to publish in 2020 if possible, though.
    • I also want to draft at least one short story/novelette set in that world. I have two ideas that I’ve been toying with, one that I came up with in the middle of editing Blood in the Snow and one that I thought up this past fall. Both focus on secondary or minor characters from Blood in the Snow, though only one is a fairy tale retelling. I’d like to write and release at least one of them this year, especially if Blood in the Earth/Soil gets pushed back to 2021.
    • In addition, I still need to figure out a rough publishing plan. This is going to start with talking to some authors who’ve done both small-press and self-publishing or large-press and self-publishing. Which is mildly intimidating, even though I follow and have interacted with several such authors. But once I do that, I can start sorting out the rest of the plan.  
    • I need to finish my D&D campaign. This is a much more contained goal, since I have a deadline for each session and for the end of the whole campaign. And this semester, I hope to be a little more organized with my campaign planning.


  • I’m going to start with a goal of 99 books this year instead of playing it safe with 77. I think I can afford that after the success of the last two years. Besides, if I do my Afterverse catch-up read, I’ll have at least a dozen fairly short books right there.
  • In addition, I want to read at least 12 books that are outside the speculative fiction genres. I feel like I should at least try to branch out a little more. Plus, people keep recommending contemporary and historical fiction books that actually sound fairly good, so maybe this goal will give me more motivation to read those.
  • Plus, those books can overlap with a second attempt at reading one book per month (or 12 total books) published before I was born. Yes, I am steadily relaxing my attempts at reading older books. My hope is that once I achieve it one year, I can start making it harder again.


  • Obviously, my main life goal at the moment is to graduate and figure out my life. I’m pretty sure that “figure out my life” means “find a full-time job,” and I’ve been saying as much pretty confidently to people for the last year, but lately my dad has been encouraging me to think about grad school, so . . . I don’t know. Much like the whole “figure out publishing” thing, I need to talk to people with more experience before I make too many decisions.
  • Pick up German and Irish again or learn more ASL (and get better at what I do know. Basically, do something with learning other languages. It’s helpful for writing and it’ll come in handy if I ever manage to go overseas. Less practically, I have a vague dream that if I ever get married and have kids, I want to raise them to be at least somewhat multilingual. But I can’t really do that if I can’t speak the languages I’m trying to teach them.
  • Figure out if the side project I came up with last spring-ish is actually feasible and, if so, start making it happen. I don’t want to give too much info yet because I don’t know if this is something that’s actually that feasible or practical. But if it does work out, it’ll be really cool and might make me a little money, so, yeah. I hope I’ll have time to make it work.
  • Get back into photography. Since we moved to New York, the amount of photography I do has significantly decreased, and it’s kind of making me sad. Plus, I feel like I need to relearn a bunch of what I used to know and a bunch that I should have known already but ignored because I was thirteen or whatever and didn’t care about technical details. Of course, that requires time and ideas, so . . . we’ll see what happens.
How was your 2019? What would you say was the best thing that happened to you or that you accomplished this year? Any big plans or goals for 2020? (Or small plans or goals?) Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)    


  1. If librarianship is ever on your list of jobs to consider, I'd be happy to talk about my experience there.

    I've had a full-time job offer at the library from March this year which will mandate changes to my 2019-2020 writing plan. I still have 2–3 chapters of the book I initially imagined finishing in September (The Patriot) and I doubt I'll get them done before mid-February when my last full-time study semester wraps up. Seeing as I've been studying full-time for the past 3 years without a break, I think I might take a break from study entirely in the first 2020 semester as I settle into the rhythms of full-time work, which will also free up my day off (Monday) and the evenings and Saturday afternoon to write.

    At the moment I've put off 2020 envisioning until mid-February, but intensive editing for The Patriot is high on my list and I'd really like to coordinate publication of the book with graduation.

    And although the book still isn't done it is undoubtedly my achievement of the year. The last few years I've really struggled to do any consistent work on a single project from start to finish, and my 80K on The Patriot is way, way more than anything I've done since completing The Teller's Apprentice in 2016.

    1. I don't think it will be, but thanks for the offer! Also, CONGRATULATIONS on the full-time job offer! That's awesome! I hope it goes well and that you can enjoy your break from full-time study. (Also, I'm excited to hear more about where you're going with The Patriot, especially if you're planning to publish. Are you thinking self-pub or trad pub?)

      (Also, I get the struggle with focus. I've had to deal with that on and off for a while. :P)

    2. Thank you! I'm really happy to have this opportunity because I love working with people and my community specifically, and full-time work was always the plan after I finished studying (with various possibilities as to what exactly I would do full-time).

      Yes, my current writing goal is to write/edit/publish a book, to put something out into the world, and The Patriot is currently the story I anticipate doing that with. Though that has been the goal since 2016 when I took my gap year to writ. So I'm envisioning high but approaching the idea of publication cautiously. For all but one of the stories I wrote in the past, I moved on once I finished the first draft, so I don't have much practical experience with editing my own work (hey, I know how to edit other people's work, but never tried to do it with mine).

      I'm thinking independent publishing. I've considered traditional publishing multiple times but I really like the idea of having my own imprint.

    3. Makes sense. And, I mean, I would've been surprised if you didn't end up somewhere where you're working with people.

      Exciting! I know I've said this before, but if you need a beta reader or such (or someone to help with marketing), just let me know. Or if you need someone to talk through strategies for going beyond the first draft or such, though there are probably a lot of articles you could read that would give you just as good of info.

      Exciting! Yeah, independent publishing is great. I haven't actually tried creating my own imprint, but that's probably a good idea.


I'd love to hear your thoughts! But remember: it pays to be polite to dragons.