Hello and happy Wednesday!
At the end of 2020, when I revealed what I’d written that year (in this post, and this one), I talked about how crazy the year had been, and how surprised I was at my wordcount of roughly 275,00 fiction words. It was a crazy year, but as is often the case in reflection, I’m not so surprised by the wordcount now, haha. I still had far more time in 2020 than I did last year. And it shows in my fiction wordcount for 2021: 68,308 words.
In comparing the two years, I think another aspect that contributed to the difference in wordcounts was that 2020 was full of new projects and first drafts – which naturally lead to a lot more words written. 2021, however, was more focused on edits and blogging (I wrote 137,108 words of nonfiction, much influenced by my wordier style of blogging. Not sure if it’s a good or bad thing…).
Even the fiction words I wrote in 2021 were scattered among a handful of novels – none of which are finished yet. I discovered something about myself last year: in order for me to stay motivated in my writing journey, I have to allow myself to use my imagination and write some new projects from time to time. My attention span is unfortunately short, and after approximately 3,700 times scouring a project for typos, I lose all motivation.
When this happened as I was working on editing several projects last year, I grew desperate to just write again. And what usually resulted was me writing one or two chapters in a shiny, new novel, before feeling guilty that I was no longer working hard at editing my old one. It became a frustrating cycle – one that I’m aiming to break in 2022.
Ideally, this year I’ll manage to balance all the different types of my writing journey, and find a good way to stay motivated – in first drafts, rewrites, editing, blogging, and anything in between. It’s a lot to ask, but I’ll see how it goes!
So today, I thought I’d share some of what I wrote last year and the lessons I learned from them. And if you’re a writer, I’d also love to hear about your writing adventures from 2021!
This dystopian novel (about a contagious disease that impacted the entire world – ironically completely brainstormed before 2020) was my largest fiction accomplishment for 2021. Somehow I managed to write at least 1,000 words every day in January, and into the first week of February as well. Then life happened right as I ran into some plot issues. The rough draft has sat around 30,000 words ever since.
Blood Money was one of my only novels to be ‘pantsed’, which has been an adventure. And while I’ve realized that much of my plot needs a bit of reworking, I loved the sense of freedom. I was also working out-of-order, keeping an index of scenes and chapters, and just writing whatever I felt inspired to. I believe that played a huge part in me being able to write every day – despite some really challenging obstacles. Is it my best method of writing? I don’t think so, but I’m genuinely excited about this story, and am super happy with the feedback I’ve gotten this far. I’d like to be able to work on it some more this year.
This was my second biggest fiction project, at about 7,000 words so far. And horror of all horrors (not really, haha), it’s technically a romance. A medieval adventure romance however. I’m not usually drawn to romance stories, and certainly not writing them. But when the plot came to me back in 2020 – about a clueless prince, a hotheaded princess, and a conniving second-in-command – I couldn’t resist fleshing it out a bit.
I haven’t gone very far in this story yet, as I’ve felt I lack the life experience necessary to do it justice, but the theme (‘love is not just a feeling, but a choice’) is one I look forward to exploring in story-form some day. Hopefully soon, but I’m going to take this one as it comes. The characters are very fun, so that alone will bring me back to it at some point.
Sparks of Silence
I think everyone has a genre that they love reading, but just can’t seem to ever write the way they’d like to. For me, that’s epic fantasy. The kind with spanning and immersive worlds, unique types of characters and creatures, new languages, and plots with a seemingly never-ending amount of story threads. I love reading well-written epic fantasies, but every time I try to plot one, my brain screams for mercy before I’ve finished worldbuilding. It’s just never been my strength, as much as I’d like it to be.
I gave it another shot in 2021, writing the first chapter of a novel I’m genuinely excited about. It revolves around one of my favorite story tropes (a calloused but truly soft-hearted mentor, and a timid, trusting youngster), and some themes that I think have a lot of potential. But I quickly realized that I didn’t have the time to devote to proper worldbuilding and plotting so I set it aside for now. I’ll probably chip away at it in the months to come.
Before the Mirror Broke
For once, a project I finished last year! This one (at about 2,000 words) is on my website: here. I wrote it last spring for a short story contest, and to my surprise, it actually managed winning entry. Writing a short story based off of a couple of pictures was a new experience, and one I enjoyed more than I thought I would. The genre I settled on – contemporary fantasy – was a new one for me, and a good learning experience.
I’d also like to look into developing the story idea into a longer work one day. In it, a girl with healing powers is trapped inside a mirror, and manages to befriend a child suffering from a serious illness (I think of it as cancer). Though I hardly scratched the surface of the main character’s background, it intrigues me…maybe I’ll come back to it again some time.
Not the Wind
I also wrote this short story last year, which can now be found on my site: here. It’s only slightly under 1,800 words, and based on the song Must Have Been the Wind by Alec Benjamin. This was written for another short story contest, and as I’ve never written a story based off a song before, I decided to give it a shot. I’d also never heard the song before, but all the artist’s songs tell such vivid stories that inspiration came very quickly.
After months of not writing any fiction at all, allowing myself to take a day and crank out this story was extremely refreshing. It’s not impressive, and it’s not even entirely original (since it came from a song), but getting to watch the characters and setting come to life was a great feeling. I’ve used this strategy several times since, when I just need to reset and let the words flow.
I’m not even sure what to call this project of mine. It’s still unfinished, sitting at about 4,500 words currently, and I’m pretty sure it’d be considered a short story of sorts. But it’s written entirely as a series of letters – first from a mother giving her daughter up for adoption, and the rest from her daughter years later as she searches for the truth and longs to know her birth mother too. I still plan to finish it at some point.
I’ve found that short stories are a very good way to test out different genres, writing styles, and tenses. In as little as a day, I can try out something that intrigues me, and not have lost much time if I don’t enjoy it. And if it does turn out well, accomplishing something small often motivates me to work on my larger projects. So especially when I don’t have much time for writing fiction, short stories have been very helpful to me!
Editing – Cabin Girl, Gills, and The Toymaker’s Doll
In addition to the writing I listed above, most of my 2021 was spent working on editing and even publishing.
Cabin Girl – my pirate novel – has gone through some substantial narrative voice changes, proofreading, formatting, cover design, and now needs some final tune-ups before hopefully publishing later this year. Though the process has taken longer than I originally thought, I’m grateful for the delay, as it’s given me much more experience and put me at a far better place to publish well. I’m excited to share the story with you!
This Cabin Girl prequel, Gills, which centers on the pirate captain of the first story, didn’t get as much rewriting as I’d planned, but I did re-plot most of the tricky parts I’d messed up in my frantic 2020 NaNoWriMo writing. Knowing where I’ll go and how I’ll fix the many plot holes when I do get to rewrite it this year is very encouraging. I’ve always loved Gills’ character, so I’m also looking forward to working on this story again soon.
And The Toymaker’s Doll became my very first published work – now able to be found as an ebook on Amazon (just click the story title). I was sure Cabin Girl would be my first published story, but after many elements just fell into place and a lot of prayer, I went ahead and pursued this allegory. And I’m so glad I did! The experience has been wonderful, and I’ve been very blessed to hear from people who’ve been impacted by it. I’ve also learned a lot of practical tips about publishing with Amazon that will come in handy.
Well, those conclude my writing projects for 2021! I hope you’ve found what I learned from them interesting and/or helpful. I’ll be back next week with some of my writing goals for 2022!
In the meantime, I’d love to hear about YOUR writing! What have you been working on, and have you learned anything new in the process? Please let me know in the comments below!