2009 marked my first year writing more regularly. I had always done well with the deadline provided by National Novel Writing Month and National Novel Editing Month, but I had trouble outside of these and the other mini-challenges I set for myself. So in 2009 I signed up for National Novel Writing Year with a goal of 250,000 words. I also set a few additional goals of my own: completing 150 hours of editing, submitting essays and poems for publication, and working on a book proposal for a coffee-table book project related to my Twitter handle “herstorian.”
I started the year gung-ho to work on the book proposal, but an unexpected thing happened. What I think of as my lifelong writing project — my childhood memoir — started vying for my attention. I found myself thinking about it, and thus working on it, more and more. I decided to set aside the coffee-table book project for now (it would be more viable when the economy is doing better, anyway). I had written a partial draft of my memoir for my first National Novel Writing Month challenge in 2006, and had subsequently tinkered with editing and adding to it. I now have it planned out, and over half of a first draft written and reviewed by my critique group. My goal is to finish the first draft in the spring of 2010 and get it out to a few readers in the summer.
Early in the year I wrote and submitted a short story from the above-mentioned childhood memoir. It was accepted, and in September it was printed by Wising Up Press in the anthology Double Lives, Reinvention, and Those We Leave Behind. To gain experience in marketing my own books (or what I call “the book in which my story appears”), I bought 15 copies to sell to friends and give to family, and I only have a few left. Now I get to learn how to cite that on my taxes!
I also shared the short story — called Learning to Leave — with a number of people, and I’ve been surprised and touched by the response. Many people have responded passionately, demanding to know more. It is heartening to get this feedback, and definitely is good motivation to keep writing!
I also submitted short stories and poems to a few other publications and contests; one poem was published in Breadcrumb Scabs, and I will hear back on one contest this month. In 2010 I want to increase my submission rate ten-fold, starting with a goal of submitting to 5 publications per month.
In March, my National Novel Editing Month was a great success. It was my second year attempting it after reaching 30/50 hours in 2006; in 2009 I reached 55/50 hours. Hours are a LOT harder to fill than words are to write! I got a LOT done in those 55 hours, and I’m definitely participating again this year. Through editing, I found many pieces and essays I had forgotten about, rough writing that I can fashion into more polished pieces that I can submit for publication. I even found a poem while editing — the poem that was published! I am still very chuffed about that. I came across a line that took my breath away and said poem to me. I played with structure, and voila! The editing process really is a process of rediscovery.
In the summer I took a “life writing” workshop with the Maritime Writers’ Workshop that was very helpful. I learned a lot about the writing process, and it was great to talk to a published author one-on-one.
The final big project of the year — other than NaNoWriMo, of course — was research for my childhood memoir, which took up my August and September. Frankly, I found it frustrating. It was slow-going and emotionally difficult. It’s by no means finished, but I think (hope!) it’s something I can work on in bits and pieces throughout 2010. I really didn’t like dedicating all that time (other than some writing and light editing) to research – it was very hard to feel like I was getting anything productive done. But, in the end, I went through all my letters and memorabelia and set aside the ones relevant to my project, and I found my journals and started typing up the relevant entries. I have a very good idea of what is left to be done.
Another exciting 2009 development was my “discovery” of Twitter. I had an account previously, but I never understood the attraction. It was when I heard that Twtter was a great tool for writers that I started giving it a chance. I think it was #litchat that hooked me. All of a sudden I was talking with published authors — and unpublished authors like me who were writing seriously, writing every day. It was, and continues to be, a great inspiration to me to see people doing what I am doing, and what I want to be doing. I am always sad at the end of NaNoWriMo, to see this wonderful and supportive group of writers disperse for another year. This year I wasn’t so sad when I realized that, hey, Twitter is my year-round writing community! With tags like #amwriting and #amwritingparty, I definitely look forward to exploring Twitter-for-writers more in the new year!
Originally published on WordPress on Jan. 8, 2010