Monday, January 4, 2021

2020 Hindsight and 2021 Hopes


Well, here we are! 2021! Finally. I know that changing the calendar doesn't fix the issues of 2020 — we're going to carry a lot of those problems and the behaviors that caused those problems into the new year, no matter what we say to the contrary. But at least it gives us a feeling of a fresh start and a clean slate so we feel more motivated to work on making things better.

I also will say that even though 2020 was a dumpster fire in many respects for many people, it actually wasn't a bad year for me personally. The part of my last semester that I was on campus for was really enjoyable! I've been able to keep up the college friendships that were most important to me (and the D&D campaigns we started) via online means. I wrote a lot, and I got to spend a lot of time at home with my family, and I got some time to rest and do creative work that didn't have a deadline. So, yeah. I have a lot to be grateful for.

As the joke goes, none of us had 2020 vision, and even 20/21 may be a bit much to hope for. That doesn't keep me from making goals and plans, though, and in some respects makes those goals more important (because you can't get pushed off course if you don't have a course in the first place). I'm hoping to incorporate a new approach into those goals, but I'll talk more about that later. First, it's time for some reflection on this past year — because, after all, hindsight is 2020.

(Ok, that was terrible. No regrets, though.)

2020 Hindsight and 2021 Hopes

The Hindsight:


  • My attempt to set and achieve a writing challenge eleven out of the twelve months of the year actually worked better this year than it did last year, I think. I did have some kind of writing goal or challenge to direct my writing going pretty much constantly. I set specific goals month-by-month until the 100-4-100 challenge started. Then I had that plus deadlines for various projects, whether "I need to have a session written for D&D this week" or "I need to edit The Midnight Show in time to publish it on the planned release date!"
  • I ended up with a total of 318,533 words written over several different projects (which I'll talk about in a minute) and 124,991 words edited. And that's . . . honestly a lot? It's just a bit over five times what I wrote last year, about the same number of words edited, and my combined total is about two and a half times last year's combined total.
  • Again, it helped that I had very little to do other than write for several months. But I was doing about half a NaNo event per month for most of the year, so that's very solid.
  • As for specific project goals, well, that went a little off course (though I wasn't unsuccessful, just successful in different ways).
    • I finished drafting Blood in the Earth. I didn't edit it, though, let alone publish it. I'm not sure exactly when it'll be published because it's going to need a rewrite, not just an edit.
    • I did not write either of my short story/novelette ideas for that world. That's mostly because BitE took so long to write, though.
      • Also, it took me this long to realize what the initials of Blood in the Earth spell, and I have to say, that's . . . kind of appropriate, given one of the fairy tales it retells.
    • I did write, edit, and publish a different, unplanned novella, The Midnight Show! Which was a super fun project that I'm really happy I decided to pursue! And I wrote about 60-70% of a sequel to that novel, which will, with any luck, come out next year as part of the Arista Challenge release.
    • I . . . sort of finished my D&D campaign? I finished it up to the point I originally intended to write it. And then people still wanted to play, so I kept writing. And technically I'm still writing it. And I started writing a second campaign as a just-for-fun side project, and I have plans to write one or two others . . . It just snowballs.
    • I did not figure out a publishing plan, though I did take some steps in that I talked to some other authors about their experiences and contacted UUP with some clarifications about what they're looking for and what they accept and so on. The fact that I'm tying pretty much all my books into one multiverse is going to make things interesting if I decide to pursue small press or traditional publishing with some of my other books, so I'll have to be careful about that. (That said, some are more closely connected to the rest of the multiverse than others.) I also have a pretty good idea of at least two, possibly three, of the next few books I intend to publish, so there's that!


  • I talked about this in my Best Of post last Friday, so go check that out for all the details.
  • But in summary: I achieved my goals and then some. I didn't achieve all of them in the way I expected to, but it still counts.


  • I did indeed graduate! And I more or less figured out my life for the moment. I've said this before, but I'm pretty chill with the fact that I didn't get a graduation ceremony. I have the credentials and the piece of paper that says I did all the work, and I didn't spend a week stressing out about how I'd probably trip on nothing and embarrass myself in front of eight thousand people, and that's all I needed. Finding a job took longer than I expected, but I did get an offer I felt comfortable (and even excited about) accepting in December, and that will start up soon.
  • I also started back up with German. And I've been pretty consistent with it, especially since I discovered the Duolingo story lessons, which make for a nice change of pace from the regular lessons. I didn't have as much success with Irish (I've more or less dropped it at this point), but I think German will be more useful. (Did the fact that my favorite Critical Role character has a German accent motivate me to keep up with it? Maybe at some points, just a little.)
  • I didn't get back into photography like I hoped to. I did a little bit in May, but for the most part, writing took precedence. I'm ok with that, though.
  • I also didn't start the side project I was thinking about last year. I did look into it, and I decided that it wasn't something I wanted to invest time and energy into at this point in time. I'm not taking it totally off the table, but it's definitely on hold for an unknown length of time.
  • Some stuff that happened that I didn't include in my original goals (because how would I know to?)
    • We finally got FIOS! I had nothing to do with this being accomplished, but we've been waiting on this for literal years. It's very nice to be able to do internet stuff like a normal person, without having to second-guess how much data I'm using or whether or not I'm taking up too much bandwidth just by browsing Instagram or so on.
    • I got my first taste of solo freelancing. And having had that taste, I have decided that I don't want to do it for my main income, at least not until I have some work experience under my belt — not just for what I can learn, but so I have that extra weight to back me up and give me confidence when I'm working with clients.
    • I attended two more weddings and almost attended a third, but it got rescheduled to a time when I couldn't make it. (It was going to be right in the middle of the two I did attend, which would've been awesome.) And in between, I spent a week with my roomie and her family and played a ton of Sentinels of the Multiverse.
    • I did not get COVID. I did spend a lot of the summer and fall torn between "I am so glad that I have an excuse to not be social" and "I have not seen non-family people in SO LONG and it might be making me go crazy." But I don't think that makes me special.
    • I started watching Critical Role and now I might be just a touch obsessed. The fact that I haven't been able to get further in the series makes me genuinely sad. And I maintain that it's helped me think more about how I make characters, how I play my characters, and how I run my games! (I think that's brought about improvement. I could be wrong. But I don't think I'm wrong.)

So. That's my 2020! All in all, a pretty solid year. Moving on, then, what am I aiming for in 2021?

The Hopes:

Year of  . . .

  • So, a few months ago, I watched a CGP Grey video about an alternative to New Years' Resolutions. His idea was to pick a "theme" for the year, a single word with a broad enough interpretation that it allows plenty of room for change and adjustment throughout the year but specific enough to actually provide some kind of direction. You can then use that theme as you think about how you spend your time, how you think, and so on.
  • (The video is here if you want to watch it.)
  • (It's kind of like a less-spiritual version of the whole "God giving you a word for the year" thing that some people talk about. You could probably actually combine the two if you really wanted. But anyway.)
  • Obviously, I already have my resolution alternative in the form of the goals that make up this post. But, I like to sometimes try new things and new methods as well! So, this year, I'm going to test having a theme that I'll use to direct some of the goals I set as well as how I approach spending my time throughout the year.
  • The theme I'm picking for this year is a year of "finally" in the sense that I want to try to do and accomplish things that I've been working towards or meaning to do for a long time but just haven't gotten to yet. This idea seems like it'll align well with things that are going to happen anyway, so hopefully it'll work out. I'll try to remember to reassess around spring and decide if the theme is actually helping, if I need to pick a different theme, and so on.

Writing Goals

  • Once again, I want to set and actively work towards monthly writing goals in at least ten of the twelve months of 2021. Even though I accomplished this last year at a harder difficulty setting, I'm dialing back a little for two reasons. First, as I mentioned already, I'm going to have a job and I don't know exactly what that's going to look like for my writing. Second, I want to make sure I build in time to rest when I need it.
    • My primary January goal is to finish writing (and start editing) the Midnight Show sequel. I think that another 20K words should do the trick. That's about 650 words a day or 5K per week, either of which is achievable. On an average day when the words aren't fighting me, I can get 600 words in a bit under an hour.
    • My secondary January goal is to finish writing the current arc in my D&D campaign. I know what needs to happen from this point out. I just need to take the time to write it down. But, of course, that's time away from my novel, so it hasn't happened yet.
  • Some other specific writing projects I'd like to accomplish this year — subject to change, as always.
    • I want to finish, edit, and publish the Midnight Show sequel for the Frosted Roses Arista Challenge. This feels like it should be doable, much more so than finishing Blood in the Earth did last year.
    • I want to decide if I'm writing something for the Broken Mirrors Arista Challenge and, if I decide that the answer is yes, I want to start and finish drafting it before the holiday season hits. I think it could fit in any of my established storyworlds or in quite a few of my unpublished worlds. The world of Mechanical Heart is currently the strongest contender (though it would be a very, very loose retelling), but that's mostly because it's the first idea I came up with.
    • I want to begin rewrites on Blood in the Earth. I'm not going to say finish rewrites, though that would be a nice stretch goal. (Actually, if I don't do Broken Mirrors, I probably could get through rewrites this year.)
    • In the D&D realm, I want to keep up with writing Defenders of Serys, finish writing my Portal-inspired campaign, and start at least one of the other one-shot/campaign ideas I have. That said, everything on that list except Defenders of Serys is a low-priority goal. I love D&D, but my regular writing comes first.
    • The last project for this list — and this is a stretch goal, though it's the one that most aligns with the Year of Finally theme — I want to start, if not finish, rewrites or edits on at least one of my backlog projects. The top contenders for this are Once Upon a Dream (a Sleeping Beauty retelling from the same world as The Midnight Show, but on a different continent and at lest half a century earlier; it's written but it needs edits), Dust of Silver (12DP/Rapunzel; currently in rewrites; I want to finish rewriting it and its sequel so I can get to the later books in the series), or Between Two Worlds (non-retelling portal fantasy; I'm halfway through edits but will probably have to re-edit what I have done anyway). All of these are stories I plan to publish when I'm done, but I'm not setting dates for a while yet.
  • Finally, I want to keep up with my blogging and author social posts as much as possible. That said, I don't know exactly how much time I'll have with the job, so I'm giving myself permission now to skip one Friday blog post per month if necessary. I'm also going to start working out other post types that will provide variety and will make it easier for me to get posts done during the week.

Reading Goals

  • I'm going back to my more conservative reading goal of 77 books for the year. Again, I don't know how much reading time I'll have, plus some of the books I'd like to read this year are on the longer side. I may reassess this in June or July and raise the goal then if I feel it's necessary.
  • Since I achieved last year's read-older-books goal, I'm amping it up a little this year and aiming to read 12 books published (or at least written) before 1975. I debated adding a further stipulation about genre or audience, but I don't think that'll be necessary given another goal on this list.
  • Also like last year, I want to read 12 books that are outside the speculative fiction genres. We're not amping this one up because it's a pretty solid goal as-is. And we're not adding further genre stipulations because, quite frankly, I'm a mood reader and would rather just see where my interest takes me.
  • We're adding on a new goal as well to go along with the Year of Finally: this year, I'm going to aim to read 1 epic-length Tolkien or Jordan fantasy novel every two months. I was originally going to make this broader and say "one epic fantasy novel not written by Sanderson with significant cultural significance," but . . . the point of this is to finally finish my LOTR reread, get back into the Wheel of Time books, and maybe read the Silmarillion, since I've been meaning to do all that for months or years.
  • Finally, despite what I said in my last post about tracking books, I decided that I'm going to try to track my reads in more detail for 1 month. The main reason I'm doing this is so I can easily check how many books I've read towards my publication year and genre goals. But at the same time, if tracking things in a spreadsheet or a Google form ends up being too much hassle, I will drop it at the end of January.

Life Goals

  • Obviously, the chief goal in this category is don't fail at the new job. And also figure out how to balance all the things. Those two things kind of go together. Again, I'm very excited to start working, but I'm also nervous for . . . pretty obvious reasons, I should think. And I am more than a little stressed about having sufficient time to write and spend time with my family and friends and keep up other hobbies . . . especially stuff like reading and consuming good stories in general, which directly affect both my mood and my writing quality. And, of course, I need to get sufficient sleep without just saying "I'll catch up on the weekend" because I won't.
  • I also want to keep up with practicing my German and learning more of the language. I'm a perfectionist and like my Duolingo streak, so this shouldn't be too hard? In theory? But at the same time, if I lose my streak, I have much less motivation to keep going. (I'm not even going to try picking Irish back up right now. Not gonna happen.)
  • Bringing back a goal from last year because it fits with the Year of Finally: I want to get back into photography. Will I have time to get back into photography? Hard to say. But my dad manages it, so I feel like I should be able to, even if it's just for an hour or two once or twice a month. (I'm thinking of rejoining the photo club I used to attend since they've moved online, on the principle that if I spend time around people who are doing it and talking about it, I'm more likely to want to do it. Also, contests are excellent motivators. I'm not 100% certain, though, because, again, time, plus I'd only be able to join for half a year at this point.)
  • And we'll finish up this list with some connected craft goals — three specifically:
    • I want to put the finishing touches on my cloak, which involves sewing in some extra stabilization pieces and adding another fastener.
    • I want to make at least one project using one of my "special" yarns, otherwise known as the nicer yarns I've been hoarding for the perfect project.
    • And I want to try at least one of the other crafts or art things I keep saying I'm going to try. I'm not sure exactly which one yet, but we'll figure it out.

What were the highlights of your 2020? What goals, themes, or resolutions do you have for the new year? Do you track the books you've read with more than just Goodreads? If so, any tips or suggestions for me? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment

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