2020 was different.
It was a notable year for many obvious reasons I don’t need to get into here. What I will talk about is how the year impacted me as a writer, and what habits and plans I have in place for 2021 as a result.
In 2020, I published my first novella and then my debut novel. They’re projects that I’m quite proud of, especially NASCENT WITCH, my witchy novel that is something of a loving missive (or perhaps a pep talk!) for all of my fellow millennials who grew up on magical stories full of hope and who are now facing exhaustion, drudgery, and the threat of losing our dreams.
Since NASCENT WITCH‘s publication, I’ve had several people ask me about my editor/proofreader, my cover artist, my book design team, my publisher. One reason I’m so proud of the book is that for each of those roles, I’m able to reply: “Thanks! That was me.” The experience of producing this novel was one of bringing an artistic vision to life in its entirety. The process of creating NASCENT WITCH as a finished book taught me that I’m capable of seeing a project through in a way that makes life as a hybrid author exciting and full of possibility. I value everything I learned along the way, and I can hardly wait for all that I have planned in the year to come and beyond.
Of course, I would never diminish the role of the wonderful beta-readers who helped me on my publishing journey, especially my two incredibly gifted critique partners. Without their input and willingness to reread the many versions of the story, NASCENT WITCH would never have evolved into the book it is now. I am so fortunate to write alongside such bright, generous, talented women (and they’re a hell of a lot of fun to hang out with, too!). We’re currently on a group deadline to swap finished drafts about a week from now, and I’m so looking forward to reading their work and sharing mine with them.
Inevitably, a new year brings about thoughts of breaking old habits and forging new ones. I think I’ve said in the past on this blog that I don’t believe in regrets; I think feeling wistful gets in the way of moving forward, and beyond that, I’ve learned something from every situation I’ve experienced, positive or not.
When I lost not one but two jobs in March/April of last year, I experienced plenty of shock, fear, and panic (not to mention the fact that I also had to cancel my wedding around the same time). But not feeding regret takes conscious effort, and so once I started actively seeking my silver linings, I realized that one of the most valuable things being unexpectedly unemployed in 2020 gave me was the time to push myself beyond the writing life I’d had with a day job. It was as if someone had heard me saying over the years how much I wanted enough time and space to be a professional writer, and they suddenly said, “Okay! Here’s your chance.” And while the collective despair the world was experiencing in the midst of the pandemic year was often overwhelming, I did my best to work as though writing was the only job I was allowed to have, because in that moment, it really was.
I worked constantly during those months: I planned, drafted, revised, submitted, queried, pitched, and did everything I could think of to sell as much work as I possibly could because I was desperate for an income. And while the world of writing doesn’t quite work at a breakneck speed—traditional publishing certainly doesn’t!—I found that what I was capable of producing was much more and much better than I had originally thought. I raised the bar for myself, so high that I could no longer see it, and as a result, I was leaping for the moon on a daily basis.
I have a day job again (two, actually), which you probably could have guessed given I’m not a name you’ll find on the NYT Best Seller List (yet). I didn’t turn into an overnight success, despite all of my best efforts. However, those efforts did begin to pay off in the year I made them and beyond.
So, in 2020, I made my first sale on a story, for which I signed my first author contract with my first publisher and on which I worked with my first editor. That story, “Necromancy,” appears in the anthology CLOCKWORK, CURSES, AND COAL, forthcoming from Rhonda Parrish and World Weaver Press this March. I also have a lead on another story sale for a project being floated for later this year (more on that when there’s more to tell). And while I can’t give details yet, I can say that I’ll be putting out at least two more books this year, one of which you can expect this coming spring.
I write every day now, without fail and without fear. I make sure to stay on target with my goals, even if it means sleeping a little less or just eating fruit for lunch (sandwiches take a minute to make, am I right?). I drink a lot more water than I did before, which of course is always tempered with plenty of black coffee, and I make sure to stretch for a minute or two before I write to get my blood flowing. I meditate and read my cards, I journal and use affirmations, and my focus remains on the writing and what needs to get done.
It’s not easy to maintain this routine, but it’s also not nearly as difficult as I worried it would be until I started doing it (read that last part again because there’s a big lesson in it). I began my daily writing practice by squeezing in at least 10 minutes of drafting, and now I find that I’m hitting 45 minutes or more each day, even if it’s one of the more hectic days where I’m working at both jobs. It’s important to me that I don’t neglect this daily practice: my writing, after all, is the one job that didn’t abandon me when I needed it most, and we’re in it together for the long haul.
What will 2021 bring? More books, for sure! and I hope more stories, too. I’m going to be querying agents once again, although I’ve been educating myself on contracts and am happy to work with editors at smaller houses directly. I have some collaborations planned that should turn into really positive publicity experiences, and I’m slowly gaining a readership that I value very much.
On top of that, look out for giveaways, a newsletter, and other fun celebrations of this writing that I love to do. It’s going to be a bountiful year, and I’m so glad it’s already started!
Happy 2021! And, as always, happy writing,