I’m not huge on super longterm goals (weekly goals are more approachable), but last night I spent a fair bit of time thinking about the upcoming year.
Each time I put a story in someone’s hands, I’ve felt apprehensive (the healthy way) about the quality of my storytelling. In the moment of writing and immediately after I finish, the writing itself always looks and acts the way I designed it, and so I feel good about it.
But when I watch someone else sit in front of me and read it, all the things I know that I should have done come back to haunt me. It’s like I ignored what I knew was the better structural choice simply because what I was writing was “good enough.”
I’ve got the distinct sense of just how absolutely in control I am of how strong a reaction I can get from a reader. The exercise I keep going over with myself is to imagine another author (literally anyone) writing my story better than I did. It makes me borderline indignant right there where I sit that I would choose to settle for writing the story with less care than my imagined rival.
So this year, I’m going to stop writing scenes that do too little. If a scene does little but is perfect for the story, then that’s fine. The scenes I want to stop writing are those that, for example, are 3,500 words of great dialogue and blocking, but little else, or that don’t put enough conflict in the mix to be interesting beyond the surface details.
This isn’t “stop writing useless scenes,” but “start writing professional scenes.”
2016 was a year of brute force of craft. I wrote over half a million words this year. I did three NaNoWriMo events—the official one and two Camps. Literally every story listed on my Projects page at the time of this writing had its writing take place in 2016 (and some others that aren’t making the cut). For an hour or more almost every day, I listened to audiobooks or writing advice content like Writing Excuses. That’s more hours of Writing Excuses than there exists, you might note, and so I actually listened to Writing Excuses au complet four times from start to finish. I attended my first real writing conference and learned just how much more ground I had to cover. I’m part of two small writing groups that are hitting me with perspectives outside of my own and forcing me to write better content.
The stories themselves were amazing experiences from a process standpoint. Each one felt completely different.
I took a boat to Alaska and wrote nearly the entirety of Soulbound, a single POV story, while the coast turned from green to white. I fumbled the ending so badly that I’m still thinking about how to change it.
When I arrived in my new apartment, surrounded by mountains, I sat in the middle of my empty floor and planned Holder of Ash for a month before I dared to “begin” the story. I worked on nothing else so that I could do prewriting, character concepts, worldbuilding, plotting, etc.
Holder of Ash was the first story for which I went immediately into revision mode once the draft was done. My instincts were sharpening about what was working and what wasn’t, and it was exciting to be aware of that and watch the story get better with each change.
I tackled short stories. I think only a couple of them are any good (and one was a full novelette that I absolutely gutted just this last week) but I learned a lot about making every paragraph count. I want to do more of them.
Week by week, this is going to be a busy year. I might not write as many words this year, but the ones I do will be even better.
I’m not published just yet, but the steps are right there in front of me to work towards change that.