If I were writing a novel about my life in 2011, the following would be a month-by-month timeline of the external plot: i.e. me going after what I wanted, and some of the obstacles I faced in achieving my desires.
You might ask, what was my ultimate goal? It was to complete my YA manuscript and send it to a few editors. A related goal was to begin to build my writer's platform via blogging.
Goals for 2012 will build on those, plus some new ones.
In most cases, for sake of brevity, I have omitted the internal motivation, aka: the story, about the needs that drove me to do the things I did. Rest assured, the story is far more interesting than the plot.
Throughout the year, I was on a roller coaster of tumultuous emotions. Or maybe it’s just me all the time. I am a highly driven, passionate, intense person. Thus I felt an enormous amount of desire and frustration, anticipation, heartbreak and finally, a victory—a breakthrough—in 2011.
Toward the end of the year, in November and December, I went through a period of dark-night-of the soul-searching, regarding the life I want to create for myself in the next few years, and the direction I want to take with my writing. The plot doesn’t come close to showing everything I did, but the highlights with regard to my external goals.
Writing: After having spent all of my free time in the fall of 2010 doing a Feng Shui cleaning of my house, I decided to prioritize my (limited) free time on completing my manuscript.
Blogging: I switched my blog from being that of a book review blog to a writer’s blog. I started making contact with the writer’s community, following many new blogs, and getting new followers.
Writing: I was busy writing my manuscript, although hubbie and I did take a trip to Sacramento, where he gave a sermon at a religious conference.
Late in 2010, I had signed up for Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel, a weekly course in revision. Keeping up with the weekly lessons was a huge challenge, but also a fun one. It felt like I had a seasoned author watching over my shoulder with each step. I learned so much from her!
Conference Time! : I was delighted to attend the SCBWI-WWa conference with good friends Laurie and Sharon.
Blogging: I participated in the A-Z blogging challenge. If Rach’s Crusade was a sprint, this was a marathon. I posted every single day (and 2-3 times on several days) during the month of April. I felt I contributed something valuable to the writing community in that I wrote short pieces describing all of the Enneagram types and subtypes.
I also found many new, interesting blogs to read, and increased my own following significantly. I’d started the year with about 75 followers, and by the end of April, the number hovered around 300.
Unfortunately, blogging every day did me in, and so for most of the rest of 2011, I slacked off. Besides that, reaching my writing goals took priority over platform-building goals.
Writing: I completed the course, How to Revise Your Novel, however I still had not actually finished writing the novel. I needed to write a projected 90 pages.
Blogging: I finally finished organizing all of the 730 blogs I had RSS'd or was following in Google Reader into neat categories. A librarian through and through, I just had to make sense of it all.
Home Improvement: My husband and son-in-law re-roofed hubby’s and my house. I did the cleanup afterwards. What a job. What a mess.
My Paid Job: I asked the Library Board of Trustees to allow me to reduce my hours from full-time to 32hrs/week. (I would need to wait until the budget hearings in August for their decision.)
My Paid Job: Summer Reading was in full swing, with me putting on, or overseeing, five programs/week for seven weeks. (Read: It was a crazy busy time for me.) After the first week of signups, 600 children had registered for the reading program. We ended up the program on July 31 with 967 signups, and program attendance hovering around 5000.
Highlight of my Paid Job: For the first time ever, one of my grandchildren was old enough to be my SR helper. I brought my 9-year old granddaughter, Miya, with me to the library each Thursday. She helped with the morning program, the afternoon teen craft program, and then attended the professional entertainment/evening program in the park with me. All five grandkids and their parents attended the family programs in the park.
Writing: I finished the manuscript to my satisfaction. Then I put it away for a month, and when I read it again, I decided to hone in on changes that would make it more commercial and saleable—which resulted in totally tearing the book apart and putting it back together again. That’s what revision is about. Not changing a sentence here and there, but a re-visioning of the original idea to make it better. (That’s not to say I wasn’t doing it throughout the long process, however, lesson learned: With my next manuscript, I intend to get ALL the way through it before I start playing around with it. )
Immediately after finishing Holly Lisle’s HTRYN, she gave me a free, 4-week course called How to Write a Series, and she offered me a good deal on How to Think Sideways, and so I read all the free material and signed up for the new course, which is about finding good ideas and beginning a new book. It was hopeless for me to try to keep up with that, however I did read each week’s lesson and take notes. Her HTTS course is literally thousands of pages long. (She gives you the manuscripts of several of her books in varying stages to study, which greatly piles on the pages of information.) I summarized the essence to 70 pages.
Family: My free time for a week in August was spent making a scrapbook. It was the only scrapbooking I’d done in 2011 up to that point. I thought my mother, who’s had Alzheimer’s since 1996, was at death’s door (not for the first time, but the fourth). Now on December 30, 2011, she is still alive.
Family: Hubbie and I removed the last of our youngest child’s things from the basement. A year prior, they’d been scattered all over the house, and then in September of 2010, I successfully “corralled” them into a single bedroom plus a very large closet. Finally, we wanted our 5th bedroom to be a guestroom, and so off it all went to a mini storage unit.
Paid work: The board approved my request to reduce my hours. A co-worker will increase her hours by five and split the load of putting on about 130 storytimes each September-April.
Personal: I cut my hair for the first time in FOUR years.
Personal: I experienced my first week of having Fridays off, however my daughter from Seattle surprised us with a one-day visit, and instead of me being able to sit in my writing room with my new computer and spend the day writing, she sat at that throne all day instead. She doesn’t come home often, and so I allowed it. (Enormous amount of unwritten backstory, here.)
Writer’s Conferences: Attended SCBWI-eastern Washington conference and met some new people, including some people from the Moscow/Pullman area.
New Critique Group: Within a week, I had emailed each person and was in the process of setting up a new Children’s Writers critique group. We met for the first time with an attendance of 10 people. Two people from my former group decided to drop out.
October and November:
Personal: I was beginning to feel a desperate need to slow down. The extent of my R&R for 2011: I spent 15 minutes playing with some acrylic stamps for the first time, which I’d bought two months prior, but had been too busy to use. Though I now had Fridays off, they were being partially swallowed up by unexpected family visits, or a hubbie who decided that since I was at home, I should help him move farm machinery!
But besides that, it was CONFERENCE SEASON. In October, I attended a four-day state library conference in Boise, a one-day Youth Services workshop in Coeur d’Alene, and a three-day RWA conference in Seattle. Since earning free time on Fridays, my hoped for, quiet little Fridays had been mostly obliterated, due to my own decisions.
Additionally, after having attended so many conferences, including the SCBWI-WWa retreat in November of 2010, I had the invitation to send a completed manuscript to FOUR editors, but with a deadline of November 30, 2011.
I wasn’t sure I could finish my revision by then. In fact, I was sure I wouldn’t be able to do it ... But I used my free time to the greatest effect possible for me (and I was already an excellent time manager). I hated to have to do it, but in order to finish on deadline, I made the decision to take off four days of annual leave from work --- Those days are like gold to me.
But I did it, and was able to finish the revision and send off the manuscripts one week before Thanksgiving.
With my time freed up just before Thanksgiving, I spent eight hours cleaning the main floor of our three-story house, and I felt good. I was experiencing completions, endings.
It felt like GOD’s GRACE was seriously working in my life. It began a long month of realizations about God’s possible will for my life for the next few years, and how I should create and sculpt my life, and the direction I should take with my writing. For now, the new possibilities feel comfortable to me, like I’m “coming home." I am now happy to follow it where it leads.
How was your 2011? What were the highlights?