Looking Back at 2013

I love the start of a new year. It feels like a mental re-start, the shedding of old baggage, the beginning of something new and possibly better. You never know what it might bring: new opportunities, new hopes, the fulfilment of secret dreams and wishes, personal growth.

But first, mostly for my benefit, a reflection on the lessons of the past year.

In 2013, after almost 30 years, I quit dancing. I started feeling resentful that dance classes were demanding the little time and energy I had left after work. I either had to commit to dancing and throw all my passion into it, or commit to my writing. I chose writing and I know I made the right choice. Unfortunately this threw my fitness levels in the toilet, and I need to fix that in 2014.

I also decided to focus on writing novels rather than short stories. I only rewrote one short, wrote one new one, in 2013. Maybe someday I’ll enjoy writing short stories, but the long form is really what I enjoy. This decision was another relief. I realized I was writing short stories, because I felt I had to, rather than because I enjoyed them.

And I wrote the most awful YA novel in the world. Well, perhaps not the most awful, but it sure isn’t anywhere near good. I think it’s in the running for the most competent but boring YA novel ever. It might be salvageable, but its in the trunk for now. I found that the age of the characters was a challenge, and it was difficult for me to get into teen motivations (maybe I did too good a job of trying to forget that phase of my life). I’m glad I tried it out though. You never know unless you try, and hey! That’s the third novel I’ve finished. The real positive is that I’m fairly confident I can continue to write and finish novel length stories.

I also went from panster (first novel) to scene by scene plotter (second novel) to a hybrid approach this time. I wrote down the key scenes ahead of time, and plotted the missing parts as the book progressed. This felt more comfortable than my other attempts. In the end – I really believe that whatever way you need to get to done, is the  right way. Who knows, the next novel may demand a different approach.

The dayjob continued to be extra busy in 2013 and life was more stressful than I predicted. I had to be more careful at balancing work, home life, and writing. I think I did a better job of it in 2013 than 2012, but that meant a few months where writing was impossible. My dayjob is writing, so there were nights when I just had to stop looking at words. I’m ashamed to admit I watched more TV this year than I have before, and read less fiction than usual.

I also decided to take weekends off from writing and it did a lot to ease the burnout. Counter-intuitively, having some free time made the time I did use to write more productive. I also had more energy for it.

If anything, 2013 could be the year of non-fiction for me. I spent the fall reading and researching for the novel I will start editing… um… now. I’m restless and ready to get back to the writing process again.

A few of my favorite things by Flood G.

So there’s 2013 tied up with string. All the loose ends cut off and the package filed away. It’s on to 2014!

Happy new year 🙂

How was your 2013?

12 Comments to “Looking Back at 2013”

  1. I’m super thrilled you are now recharged and am looking forward to the novel that I’m going to read soon (edit fast!). It seems like the year has been fruitful on many instances. Good luck with the editing and yeah, get rid of everything that doesn’t makes you uncomfortable.

    How will you substitute dance?

  2. Chris Bauer

    Great to see the resolve for making such changes in 2014. On the flip side, sorry to hear you had to let something go in order to move towards new goals. Change of any kind, self-motivated or otherwise, is never easy; only necessary to grow. For what its worth no novel is ever “finished” per se. Only released into the wild in various states of editing.

    Best wishes in the new year and ping me if you need a beta reader.

  3. Sounds like 2013 taught you a lot! Those are the best kinds of years. 🙂

    For what it’s worth, I too prefer a hybrid approach to plotting/pantsing, and I too prefer novels to short fiction (although I do like to dabble).

    I also think TV and movies can serve as a great “shortcut” to story and characters; I find them inspiring while I work, actually.

    Here’s to a good 2013 and hopefully an even better 2014!

    1. That is true 😉 I’ve been reading screen writing books lately, and I sometimes check the clock while watching TV to see what time they hit certain plot points. For example, when you watch a police procedural, the wrong person is usually arrested at the 45 minute mark, and find the real criminal at about the 53 minute mark. Sometimes I get character ideas too 🙂

      Cheers to a happy 2014!

  4. I completely agree about the hybrid approach — even though the specifics of it change with each project, that middle ground seems to work really well for me. I can’t even imagine using any other kind of process now. I’m glad you’ve found something that works for you, too!

    Wishing you a happy, healthy, and inspired 2014!

  5. “I either had to commit to dancing and throw all my passion into it, or commit to my writing. I chose writing and I know I made the right choice.”

    I went through the same thing (had to make a choice between music and writing), and I’ve never regretted it. It was the right decision at the right time. And I never would have finished even one novel if I hadn’t made it.

    Congratulations on figuring that out. It’s all to easy to just keep going with something that isn’t working, just because it’s what we think we should be doing.

    I tried writing mystery stories for a while, and the stories started a) getting longer and longer, and b) sending out feelers to each other and connecting to form a novel. I think the novel is my natural form, too. 🙂

  6. As you know, Bob, my 2013 was pretty much filled with lots of not writing. Other than that, it wasn’t a bad year. Mostly quite good, if otherwise busy in other ways. But I do miss the writing.

    2014 is, as yet, a highly unknowable thing…

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