This Author’s New Year’s Day Reflections

Looking back at 2020

What a year we’ve all just had.

New Year’s is traditionally a time for looking back and reflecting on the past year and that’s going to be a hard thing to do this year. There was a lot of pain, stress, loss and strife around the world.

2020 for me was a year of adapting, compromising and just trying to keep going through all the chaos. But, despite the looming shadow of the pandemic, my year has included some huge achievements and high points.

Forgotten Sidekicks – April 2020

It started as we were heading into lockdown, with the publication of Forgotten Sidekicks. The anthology had been slightly delayed so it was a real boost to the spirits to have my story Henchman finally come out in print. The reviews for the collection have been wonderfully positive.

Publishing Mime

2020 will always be the year I published my first novel. A huge milestone for any author.

It wasn’t the environment I would have chosen for my debut. I haven’t been able to do any events or meet and talk to new readers, bookshops were closed for much of the time and so on. But those are all things I couldn’t control, and I strived to make the best of things. I’m genuinely proud of how the book has done.

Well before we’d even heard of “coronavirus” I’d planned to run a Kickstarter for Mime in 2020. When the time came, I didn’t know what would happen. What if people were spending less time online, or were only talking about the big events? What if they were being more cautious with their money because of the uncertainty? I thought about cancelling, but I decided to go for it and I’m glad I did. The response was phenomenal. Not only did more than 100 people find and back the project, but many continued to offer support with reviews and kind words.

One of the most rewarding aspects was the Blog Tour I did with Random Things Tours as part of the launch publicity. It was the first serious test of the book and how it would land with an audience. I’d hoped for a solid 3-4 stars with some positive comments and what I got was glowing review after glowing review, not just positive but enthusiastic. I couldn’t have asked for a better boost to my confidence and motivation.

Mime in the window of local indie bookshop Books on the Hill

Winning NaNoWriMo

Successfully launching Mime has inspired me to push forward with the series. It was fun to get short story Date Night Jitters finished and out to the readers soon after the release, but I’m even more excited about the progress I’ve been making on the next novel and on planning the future of the series.

I used NaNoWriMo in November to push towards the completed first draft of Hunters and made huge progress. It’s the first time I’ve “won” NaNoWriMo in several years. December has been a bit distracting but I’m confident I’m going to have it completed very soon.

Hitting my Reading Challenge Goal

I often find it difficult to balance reading time with writing time, and with my crafting and design commitments. I’m not a particularly fast reader and I no longer have those chunks of “dead” time in my days, like a commute or a lunch break, where reading used to fit into my life. I wanted to try to change that this year, so I set myself a target of reading 24 books. It may not sound like a lot to those readers who can chew through 100s of books in a year, but for me, it would be an increase over the last few years.

I happily hit that target at the beginning of December.

Part of the key to consuming more books has been to integrate audiobooks into my “reading” habits. I can listen to a book while crafting instead of having something on the TV. I’ve also chosen to lean into my inclination to binge read, setting aside a few days to immerse myself in a book or series rather than reading in dribs and drabs over a few weeks. I’m also allowing myself to DNF books that I can’t get into so they don’t discourage me from reading altogether.

Goals for 2021

Nothing is going to change immediately. We’re still deep in a global catastrophe and there are some dark times ahead. I for one am going to plough myself into achieving even more this year so that on January 1st 2022 I can look back and find just as many silver linings in what will undoubtedly be another difficult year.

Goals for the Weird News Series

Finish Hunters – I’m so close to having a finished first draft. I want to finish the revisions, go through feedback, edit and be ready to publish by the end of the year. I think so long as I break this down into sub-goals, and make it my number one priority, this should be achievable.

Draft Wings and plan Untitled Weird News #4 – While Hunters goes out for feedback, I want to get a head start on both of these books, then I’ll be ahead of the game when it comes to finishing them after Hunters is off to publication.

Weird News Shorts – I have The Leigh Woods Wisp short story to complete for the Kickstarter backers, and I am also partway through drafting a prequel novella, A Way to Make a Difference. I’d love to be able to get the prequel out before Hunters as a way to bridge the gap between main series titles.

Other Writing Goals

Finish and Submit more short stories – I’d like to try and get more work published and I have a huge archive of half-polished shorts to try and find homes. I’m also looking forward to continuing the story prompt exercises I’ve been doing with North Bristol Writers.

Improve my working habits – 2020 threw everything up in the air and I didn’t settle into a good working routine. I want to improve my work habits in 2021 – keeping my workspace tidy, seeing things through to completion, balancing my time between commitments to maintain momentum and so on – so I can plan and estimate my commitments better and stay motivated on the most important projects.

Life Goals

Healthy lifestyle – In the latter half of 2020, my partner and I established a really good healthy eating plan and while we’ve had a little hiatus for the holidays, I’m looking forward to getting back into it and also trying to integrate more exercise into my weeks. Feeling healthier helps keep my energy up and my focus engaged.

Bookbinding and Crafting – I’ve enjoyed developing my bookbinding and crafting skills this year and I’m excited to produce more this year. If I can manage to get everything in place in time, I might even take part in Kickstarter’s “Make 100” event. “To make what?” you ask. Well, that’s a secret for now, until I know for sure I can do it.

So that’s it for my New Year’s Day reflections. I hope things start to improve for everyone soon and we can get back to some semblance of normality by the end of the year. It would be great to start doing conventions and book fairs again, but I’m not going to make any plans in that regard until we know more. The advice to focus on what you can control and let go of the things you can’t has never been more valuable than it has this past year. It’s a moto I will continue to live by in 2021.

What about you? What were your highlights of 2020 and what are your goals for 2021?

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