On Writing

Write Like It’s Your Job 2021

Write Like It’s Your Job 2021

I’ve heard it said goals are best achieved when they’re things you’re already doing.

I think that makes sense. It’s harder to achieve a big goal, like a first draft of a book, if you don’t already have a writing practice. It’s not impossible, but if you have the practice or environment in which you can operate than your goal supports your practice and your practice your goal.

In other words, what are you already doing that is parallel to your goal?

That’s how I’m viewing my writing goals for 2021. I have a steady writing practice. I am consistently working on my main work in project, The Sea & all Its Stars, and dabbling every now and then on my short story collection The Haunting of Magnolia Woods. I’m already running parallel to my goals.

This year I have five writing projects I want to focus on. Yes, I know five sounds like a lot when it’s taken me nearly two years to draft The Sea.

Why do I think I can tackle five projects in one year?

Well, I’ve grown and developed as a writer:

  • I’ve gained some needed perspective.
  • I’ve realized that showing up to write at least four mornings a week is my sweet spot for focus and productivity.
  • I’ve seen in editing my current WIP that there is less editing needed in the half that was written in a shorter time frame. Lesson: drafting in a shorter, more consistent period of time leds to more natural cohesion.
  • I need to flex my creativity muscles and let other ideas breathe.
  • Some projects are much smaller than others or I’ll be working on different stages.
  • And, simply, there are some ideas that I’ve been itching to explore for close to a year or two now and I’m having a hard time holding them back.

2021 Writing Projects

Want to hear what I’m planning to work on? There’s a lot of writing I’m looking forward to in 2021, though I am a little nervous, but also excited to share:

This beloved WIP will be sent out to beta readers by the end of January. I’m letting it go for a month or two with plans to attend to its editing needs in March and April and, hopefully, begin querying in May.

Ideas for this project had been floating around for a few years, but I wasn’t quite sure what form to give them or how they’d work. When Emily Barnett started hosting #flashfictionmagic in the summer of 2020, I saw that as the perfect opportunity to play around with the ideas and see what might become of them.

Back in the fall I outlined the stories and poems I want to write in this collection and dabbled with a few voices. In January, I’m planning to form a more cohesive outline to tie those stories together, then draft the unfinished stories in February. Do some editing in March and send to beta readers in April. The BIG maybe, the one thing that I can see probably not happening, but I still might attempt is self-publishing The Haunting of Magnolia Woods in September or October 2021. BIG maybe. We’ll see.

On a whim at the end of August 2020, I submitted a short story and a last minute poem to a local arts council. My short story didn’t get selected, but I won first place in poetry with my poem, “What We Got to Be Scared Of.”

I was both encouraged and surprised by that win and after that found the poems flowing out with a little help from Joy Harjo’s An American Sunrise and Buffy Saint-Marie’s Medicine Songs. I wrote probably 20 poems over the course of two days.

Bloodlines will be a poetry chapbook (between 20-40 pages) centering around my experience as a bi-racial Native American and the genealogy of both sides of my family, which–surprsingly–overlaps. I’m hoping to be able to self-publish is by May 2021 in time for our town’s first poetry festival.

I have a sense that Dark Waters will be the hardest, yet most intimate thing I’ll write this year. The premise is a bi-racial Lumbee teen heads back to her family’s hometown for a family reunion and meets an ancestral spirit in the murky waters behind a church. It’ll explore themes of identity, belonging, culture, racism (I’ve got plenty of dumb comments to pull from over the years), and family history. That’s all I can say yet.

In my head, Dark Waters is a three book series each book about 150-200 years apart dealing with stories from my Lumbee family history. When I first had this idea in 2019, I wanted to start chronologically at the beginning with first European contact and one of the few named women I could find on my family tree from that time, then tackle our infamous Lowry Gang War that took place during the Civil War and Reconstruction, but from one of Allen Lowry’s daughter’s point of view. And to end it with a more contemporary story. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I needed to start with the story I know best–mine. That makes me incredibly nervous, but also excited. A little Southern Gothic/magic realism, #ownvoices that may dabble in horror? We’ll see.

I plan to plot and do some research in February and March, and then draft during Camp NaNoWriMo in April. After that, I’ll see what I feel led to do.

Another fairy tale retelling? Of course! Sleeping Beauty is one of my least favorite fairy tales. Yes, least. Until I read the originals. I’ve been mulling over this idea for a couple of years. Maybe 2-3 years. That tends to be my process–mull over ideas until I grasp enough mystery and magic to hold a story.

The Last Princess is a historical fantasy retelling of Sleeping Beauty mixed with the Welsh folklore of The Mabinogion set in 11th and 13th century Wales. I’ll get to play with the Anglo-Saxons and Norman invasions and the Welsh rebellion (being Welsh on my mother’s side and knowing where our family came from in Wales, Powys, is a fun bonus). It’ll center around the last true native princess of Wales, Gwenllian. With maybe a little time traveling…

One thing The Sea has taught me is to do my research up front and not while I’m drafting or editing! Following advice from Kate Forsyth’s History, Mystery, & Magic course, I’ll be spending May through August reading Welsh history, culture, and folklore, taking notes, doing a little plotting, and diving back into my Welsh lessons on Duolingo. (If we weren’t still living through a pandemic, this is the year I had hoped to visit Wales.) I plan to heavy outline in October during #preptober and then draft in November with NaNoWriMo. I’m super excited about this story.

This year’s writing projects will take discipline and I may have to do some heavy editing of what I can actually hold and accomplish, but after nearly five years of working on the same project I am ready to dive into something new.

I think keeping my writing rhythms and self-care routines (particularly going to bed at a decent time) will help me walk toward these project goals. Steady work, steady focus.

I think my biggest struggle will come with trusting myself and believing I can do the work, that I have these stories within me and not let fear keep me from writing.

If you’ve been keeping track, I’m scheduled for heavy editing and drafting for the first half of the year, saving summer for research and family adventures. I’m taking off writing projects in September as we head back into the school year, outlining and drafting in October and November, and taking off in December.

I’m walking into 2021 writing project goals with rhythms of work and rest on my mind and eyes wide open with a willingness to adapt and change when need be.

What are your writing goals for 2021?

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