The Difference a Year Can Make for a Writer

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

It’s been an interesting past year.

While many writers I know are in the thick of National Novel Writing Month, I had to let it pass me by this year. One reason I did is because I don’t really have any new ideas for a book, since I have a few different manuscripts that deserve attention before I make another commitment.

As I was looking over my list of goals I gave to my writing accountability group at the beginning of this year, my heart sank a bit. One goal was to revise a YA novel that is close to my heart. I haven’t touched it since January. Another goal was to continue researching agents for my YA novel, Between. But after several rejections, including more after I revamped my submissions package and opening chapters once again, I stopped sending out queries. Instead, I uploaded the novel to Wattpad to enter their Watty Awards. The book went nowhere in the contest, as I just don’t think I’m the right demographic for the platform. Now I’m not sure if I should pull the book from Wattpad (it has almost 500 views spread among the chapters) or if I can even pitch it to agents any more. It’s a little frustrating.

Another goal I had was to enter two writing contests each quarter. Looking over my spreadsheet, I did a pretty decent job of sticking with that plan, but the stories and essays haven’t received any recognition, leaving me wondering if I should put them all on the backburner and simply attempt to write something new.

I’m trying to give myself grace. It was around this time last year that I realized I was in a full-time job that wasn’t a good fit for me and it had really dampened my spirits. I would tell myself I would learn how to be better at the job, but my efforts weren’t getting me anywhere. In early spring, out of the blue, I was presented with an opportunity to edit a magazine I have freelanced for since 2010. It couldn’t have come at a better time. The past several months have required me to ramp up in my new position, meet the writers and photographers, do a fair amount of reporting on my own articles and attend various networking events.

I guess the point of this post is to commiserate with any writers whose plans have gone awry this year. You never know what life is going to throw at you, and there are lows to go along with all of the highs. The good news is that I’m taking tiny steps towards producing my true crime podcast I’ve been talking about forever, and that wasn’t even on the list of goals I made in January.

How have your writing plans changed and evolved since the first of the year? How do you keep moving forward when you feel like you’re not making enough progress on your projects?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and magazine editor who lives in North Carolina. Learn more about her at


Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I think that this is where being part of a writing community pays off. Your fellow writers understand what you are going through and can help you see how much progress you have made even if it isn't THE Progress you planned to make. As they say, You have come a long way!

Nicole Pyles said...

I can relate! Actually, I'm ending the year wondering if I didn't push myself enough. While I did meet (or will, I should say) my goal of 5 short stories, one hasn't been published yet. Although, I'm not sure how smart of a goal that is to have because that's not in my control. I'm definitely already thinking of how to approach next year. And I know that while it may not feel like progress has been made, I often will look back at old journals and old blog posts and realize that progress has been made! Each step forward is still a step forward even if it feels like you've taken steps back.

Angela Mackintosh said...

I feel ya, Renee! I just looked at my BKers goals and one of them was to submit one essay per month. I think I only submitted six this year early on and then just stopped because it's so time consuming to choose the right markets. But the year is not over! I think I will make that a priority from now until the end of the year.

My other goals were to write 2k a month on my memoir, which would be 24k, and I'm not too far from that. I wrote around 22k, and now with NaNo I'm cruising way past my estimated word count. I also took one class per quarter, which was another one of my goals. I didn't finish some of the long-form essays I was working on because I've been wrapped up in my memoir, but that's okay.

You can still pitch Between to agents, and I think you should. It doesn't matter if you published it to Wattpad, and you can always pull it while pitching if you think they will care. Personally, I don't think they have time to cruise Wattpad and if they accept you, then you can pull it. Also about your stories you submitted--I've read at least one or two and I know they are excellent and publishable. They just haven't found the right home yet, so definitely keep submitting. :)

You've done some GREAT things this year. You've always wanted to create a true crime podcast and you are getting closer. That's a huge deal. You've purchased the equipment and are writing the scripts! You also attended an amazing crime conference, and your new job as editor is impressive. I feel like things are lining up for you and you're now in the position to make it happen. :)

Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--You've had an incredible year so far.your podcast debuts, I will be subscribing (is that what's done to tune in?) and listening. I'm almost a virgin when it comes to podcasts, and usually am quite resistant to even the idea of listening to them--"S Town" is the only one I agreed to listen to, and I loved it. So, for me to say that I will be one of your groupies, it's saying a lot.

You went from a rotten job to a great one. (I hope it's still great.)

As a fellow BKer, I feel more like a FS (foot shuffler) because I'm not kicking any butt currently. I've stopped submitting "The Massacre of Greenwood" (a 3rd publisher requested a full manuscript) because I'm kind of holding my breath and waiting for one of the publishers' reaction. If they all say no, I will realize that something needs to be done to the manuscript before submitting it anywhere else. So, I'm working more sideways--on my Emmett Till piece--while I'm in a holding pattern with the Tulsa piece.

Keep your chin up and your fingers moving (on the keyboard).

Cathy C. Hall said...

Well...I think sometimes it may not look like we're moving forward--if we gauge progress by traditional means--but everything matters.

I look at some years that didn't seem like much happened, or that I even took two steps back. And then I look at where I am now and know I had to learn this or that before I could be here.

At least, that's what I tell myself. And most days, it works. :-)

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