It’s a good thing I keep a journal. In looking back on the year, it felt like I’d done nothing but write fiction. That was not altogether true. While 2014 was by far my most productive fiction-writing year yet, I didn’t really kick into gear until it was nearly half over.
When it came to personal and family drama, 2014 was blissfully uneventful. There were ups and downs but no major illnesses, deaths, or emergencies. There was one messy divorce that I got very peripherally involved in, but compared to the upheavals of the past decade, life went pretty smoothly. Even though we spent a crazy amount of time and money on truck and trailer repairs, those are minor problems in the grand scheme of things.
Early in the year, I realized that I needed to come up with a proper plot, so I spent a great deal of time figuring out the major events of my story and writing really detailed character profiles. I was doing this pretty part-time. My main focus back then was still on our online dating blog and book. During the spring, I had all kinds of crazy technical problems around that, and also felt like I needed to really step up marketing efforts around it. I just wasn’t feeling it, though. All I wanted to do was work on the novel.
By the end of April, I started writing it again, completely abandoning the version I wrote the previous November. I ended up rewriting the first few chapters several times until I’d figured out some technical and backstory issues. I was beginning to wonder if this would ever really happen. But once I got past the very beginning, it got easier and I really started to enjoy myself.
In fact, within a few weeks it was clear to me that this was truly all I wanted to do. I had a long talk with the husband and decided to put the whole online dating advice thing on hold for the time being. We’d started out just wanting to write a little book about our experience and it somehow turned into two books, a blog and a huge time-suck. I just didn’t care anymore, and I resented every moment it took away from working on fiction.
By the end of May, I’d freed up even more time. My father had bought back the rights to a book he’d written and wanted to publish it as an ebook. I formatted it for him, helped him get a new cover and put it up on Amazon and Smashwords for him. The formatting was a learning experience in itself and probably took three times as long as it needed to. But now I know how to do it!
My writing really took off in July, with Camp NaNoWriMo. I set the totally unreasonable goal of 90,000 words for the month, and met it! It was a faster pace than was optimal for me, although I think I’m slowly working my way up to that naturally. Writing that quickly helped me see some of the problems the book still had, and at the beginning of August, I re-outlined it and cut about 70,000 words from the total manuscript. Painful as that was, it still left me with nearly 100,000 words to work with. I had cut the POV of two characters because I didn’t trust myself to manage so many povs. I think now that might have been a mistake. When I get to my reread shortly, I’ll have to decide if one or both need to be put back.
August saw me get involved with two separate groups: the writing challenge on Twitter, and Weekend Writing Warriors. Both helped me a great deal. The challenge made me accountable to write or edit every day, and WWW gave me some feedback for what I was working on. Until that point, I felt like I’d been writing into a void and had no idea if any of this made any sense. Getting positive feedback and encouragement really inspired me to keep plugging away at it, in spite of all of the setbacks.
Because the setbacks continued. At the end of September, I felt the book was too long and I needed to split it in half. Big mistake. Fortunately, I do love to outline, because I’ve sure done a lot of it! Re-outlining the whole thing as two books was daunting, but also helped me figure out a structural problem that had been dogging me the whole time. Once I figured it out, I lost my fear of the long book, too. I outlined it again, with my new information, and it worked out beautifully. Just in time for NaNowriMo.
At that point, there was no stopping me. I finished the first book (still untitled, ARGH!) on November 23, took a few days to finish outlining (with both hands tied behind my back) Book 2- which does have a title: Valley of the Shadow- and started writing it on the 27th. December hasn’t been quite as productive, though I’ve still managed to write about 45,000 words and get close to the halfway point.
So, from a writing standpoint, it was a pretty chaotic year. I learned a lot and hope I can apply what I’ve learned to the next one. I’m hoping I can edit book one and get it published while working on book two at the same time. We’ll see how it goes.
Happy New Year!