Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2019: My Year in Words

It's that time of year again, when a flip of the calendar has me looking back at what Ive accomplished and what I want to accomplish before it happens again. For me, that's my cue to examine my writing life. So, here's what my life of words was like in 2019:

I'm fighting feeling disappointed in myself because I didn't get a book-length work out there this year. I know I worked hard, and I know that on my schedule alongside a full time day job and an active family, it takes me roughly a year to draft a novel. But since I started my career with a book a year trajectory and haven't released another since 2017, I feel that as a failure.

I let go a novel I'd worked on for most of 2018, finding I wasn't in a good mental place to write dystopian fiction and started a gothic novel which I'm still loving, but don't yet have a complete draft of. So, no new book-length releases for Samantha for the second year in a row. Sadness.

So, it's a good idea to look back at what I *did* accomplish and remind myself that I made real progress even when it doesn't feel like enough to me. I know myself. It never feels like enough. I'm still learning to be reasonable with myself.

Publications are the most public measure of success. So, let's start there. The big thing to happen this year was the re-release of my novels. My first publisher fell apart and I jumped ship. After regaining my rights, I signed with Falstaff Books out of Charlotte, North Carolina and couldn't be more pleased with the treatment of my book babies.

They got new covers emphasizing their heroic elements and the publishing house has given me great support in finding a wider audience. There's an audiobook in progress and I'm now contracted for three more novellas and two more novels in the series. So exciting! My audience and sales are slowly building, too.

It wasn't my strongest year ever for other publications, but I did have short stories included in two anthologies, and two magazines. 

One of these (Christmas Lites) was a charity project supporting the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. "Margaret Lets Her Self Go" my cosmic horror story found a home in Hinnom Magazine (for a nicer-than-average paycheck, too!), "The Gleewoman of Preservation" my clown-themed horror story was included in Deadman Humour, and my Rod Serling style weird tale "Breakfast at the Twilight Café" found a home with Tell-Tale Press. All of these were new venues for me, working with new people, which is a positive for building a sustainable career. 

For those interested in stats, I submitted my work 72 times in 2019, a pretty good increase from 2018 when I only submitted 44 times and so much better than 2017 when I only submitted 6 times. I keep telling myself that I need to devote more time to submitting my shorter work. No one is going to publish my stories if I don't give it to them to look at, after all. But it's always a time-balance struggle to fit in time for promotion of already published work, creation of new work, and playing the submission game. 

In September, I participated in a submission challenge for which I submitted a piece of writing every day. So far, only one of those has led to publication, but I had several kind and personal rejections and several pieces are still under consideration, so I consider it worth my while. I'm planning to play along again in January as a way to kick start my year. 

My biggest disappointment was my failure to get my collection of short stories out in October. Self-
publishing is an expensive venture, at least the way I'm trying to do it. I want to feel good about my product!

So, I hired outside editing, hired a cover made, bought formatting software and taught it to myself. I got really close, but in the end there were two many life expenses and time crunches in October, so I didn't release the book, not wanting to release one that wasn't ready and unable to spare the dollars to buy my ISBNs.

Since it's a book with an obvious Halloween connection, I'm planning to hold off, taking my time to make sure its as near-perfect as I can and try again in October 2020. So look for Stories from Shadow Hill in October 2020!

Promotion: I devoted a fair amount of time to promotional activities. I attended conventions, gave readings, did signings, gave interviews, and in general tried to help my books find a broader audience out there in the world.

I went back to some events I'd enjoyed participating in before: Illogicon, Free Comic Book Day at Atomic Empire, teaching for CCCC Pittsboro, ConCarolinas, hosting the First Monday Classics Book Club, ConGregate, The Hillsborough Local Authors Book Fair, and Conapalooza. I did a couple of new things, taking a vendors table on Con-Tagion, participating in the first ever Hillsborough Comics Fair, reading as part of the Books and Beer series, and holding a signing at Dog-Eared Books.

I really enjoy the opportunity to do things like this. It makes the whole "I'm a writer now!" thing feel *really real*. Spending time with other creatives is educational and inspiring, and well, just plain fun. No one understands a writing life like someone else living one, after all.

That said, I'm looking at all events with a ROI eye in 2020. So far, writing has been a losing proposition, at least in the dollars and cents accounting. I spend more than I make--on travel, lodging, food, swag, copies of my books, etc.

So, I'm looking for more events that cost me less to participate in or where I can be more assured of making some sales while I'm there. That makes me feel rather mercenary, but it is a business, and since teaching in North Carolina is unlikely to afford me a comfortable retirement, I'll need other income streams in my old age :-)

So far, I'm only committed to two conventions in 2020, both new to me: MarsCon and JordanCon. I've applied to two others at which I would be a return guest, but haven't heard back yet. JordanCon will be more expensive to participate in, since it's further away, but it's a city I haven't visited yet and will introduce me to readers I haven't met yet. So, I'm hopeful.

Productivity: Even though I didn't finish a novel in 2019, I wrote a heck of a lot. I have a daily writing chain of more than six years now! 2,286 days recorded on the Magic Spreadsheet as of the last day of 2019 with a grand total of 2,848,826 over those years.

I track my work on Jamie Raintree's Writing and Revision Tracker, too, a spreadsheet tool I love for its versatility in letting you set and track goals in up to ten projects at a time. (She sells this amazing tool for $10, BTW. Quite a bargain! And she doesn't pay me or even ask me to say so; that's just my opinion.)

My numbers there shows that I wrote 463,737 words this year and revised 202,443. Not too shabby!

I also kept my promise to myself and blogged at least once a week. In fact, I overdid it. 88 posts this year, as well as posts on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. You might think that social media wouldn't count as productivity, but it's an important part of a writing life in the twenty-first century and I definitely count work spent on providing content on those platforms as part of my job.

My focus for 2020 is to be more disciplined about where my writing time goes. I have a March deadline for a novella and a novel to turn in on January 1, 2021…and I really want to finish my Gothic romance and my dystopian, and get back to several other backburnered projects, while building my publications for short stories, too. I know, I don't ask for much, right?

There's a reason my blog is called Balancing Act. Here's hoping 2020 comes with perfect vision!



  1. Wow, it sounds like you've had a busy, exciting year! I can understand why you're disappointed about not having another novel released. But, you're doing a fantastic job! Those word counts are absolutely stellar! You're kicking butt with ink and words. And that's awesome! Best of luck with your goals and aspirations for 2020. I'm wishing you the very best!

  2. WOW! You may not feel good about what you did, but I have to say: all of that is REALLY impressive! Especially submitting so much work. I know that takes a lot of energy, and it's different to the kind needed to write & revise. Plus, a bit scary to put your words out there. You should be proud! I know I am! xoxo

    1. Thank you! It's always good to have someone else tell me I'm doing well!