GOODBYE 2015 — Two Things I Did Wrong and Two Things I Did Right

My first post for 2016 is a tell-all. 

Ha. Kidding, of course. I don’t have any shocking or salacious secrets to share. I do, however, love hyperbole, alliteration, and taking stock at year-end.

TWO THINGS I DID WRONG

(SORT OF) IN 2015

Nothing Published

I never promised a new novel in 2015 and for that, I’m grateful. It really bugs me to say I’ll do something and then not do it. I knew even back at the start of 2015 that getting a fourth novel out last year would be difficult. Still, I thought I would be able to publish other, smaller projects, like a Nightshade novella, a standalone of my short story “Dream, Interrupted,” or an audio version of something. But I didn’t. And that sucks. Because I wanted to.

But there were good reasons for each of those projects not happening.

(The Nightshade novella has always been ancillary to the Noon novels; it took longer than I anticipated to confirm that I have the right to do audio versions for the first three Noon books; and “Dream, Interrupted” was somewhat experimental. I’m not sure, frankly, if it’s worth it to do anything more with it. If so, it will require more thought than I want to give it right now.)

Still… not publishing anything feels very unproductive, especially in the current über-prolific publishing world where it seems that authors everywhere are being pressured (regardless of whether they are traditional or self-pub) to publish a minimum of one book a year.

I’ve said many times that if I could change one thing about me as a writer, it would be the pace at which I write. I’ve tried with zero success. When I attempt to write something at a faster pace, I produce garbage. Garbage that can probably be fixed. But fixing it takes time. And then I’m back to square one.

At least I’m in good company. George R.R. Martin recently revealed that he won’t be releasing The Winds of Winter anytime soon. Obviously, he’s GRRM and I’m Jill No Middle Initials Archer, but a lot of what he said in his post really resonated with me.

Ok, it’s true that I don’t have to worry about HBO, the Emmys, or a ginormous fan base, but his simple, truthful admissions (e.g. “sometimes the writing goes well and sometimes it doesn’t”) are encouraging to slow writers like me.

It’s crap that I didn’t publish anything in 2015. But that doesn’t mean that I’m a crap writer.

No Newsletter

Oh. My.

If I could go back in time à la Marty McFly or Claire Randall Fraser nèe Beauchamp I would start an author newsletter in the summer of 2012, two months before Dark Light of Day’s release.

As it is, I neither started a newsletter, nor did I save in any easy-to-locate place all of the email addresses of the various readers who have contacted me in the years since. Stupid? You bet. But live and learn, I suppose. (And, to be clear, I’m not saying I’d sign anyone up for a newsletter without their permission, but I don’t think it’s out of line to email them once to tell them I’m starting one and ask them if they’d like to subscribe.)

In October of 2015, I mentioned here that I’d be launching a newsletter “soon.” Didn’t happen. Why? Well, the biggest reasons are elsewhere in this post, but I also got lazy about learning how to use Mail Chimp and I worried that a year+ after my last release, no one would sign up. Obviously, I need to get over myself. I continue to think that newsletters can be an effective part of an author’s outreach plan. The only way I’ll ever know if it works for me is to do it. The sooner the better, but at the latest, before Pocket Full of Tinder is released.

♦♦♦

TWO THINGS I DID RIGHT

IN 2015

I continued to participate in the writing/reading/publishing community

Though 2015 was a quiet year for me, I didn’t disappear completely. About halfway through the year, I scaled back my online activity so that I could spend more time on Pocket Full of Tinder. But I still posted here occasionally. I checked in on Facebook and Twitter. I lurked on writer’s group loops. I scheduled workshops for FF&P. I read lots of books. I took classes on self-publishing. I responded to readers who reached out to me. I served as a writing accountability coach for a nonfiction writer who lives near me – and SHE published in 2015 – something I was incredibly happy about.

I kept writing and submitting

This is the key to everything, of course. If 2016 shapes up to be a good year, it will be because of the work I did in 2015. I may not have released anything in 2015 but I:

  • Wrote a 20,000 word adult fantasy proposal (I submitted it to my agent, but we both decided it wasn’t ready to be submitted to New York. I could have revised, but decided to stuff it in a drawer instead. I want to finish Pocket Full of Tinder.)

[For those of you who don’t know, once you are published, you can sell future work by submitting a proposal. Typically, a fiction proposal is the first 50-100 pages of the manuscript, a complete synopsis/summary, back cover copy, and your bio. Twenty thousand words may not sound like much, but there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into getting those first 20,000 words right. Putting a saleable proposal together is no easy task. Much of the research, worldbuilding, plotting, and characterization has to be done before that first portion of the manuscript can even be written.]

  • Submitted my YA fantasy proposal to five editors (in addition to the six editors we sent it to in 2014). Out of eleven editors, two passed it on to another editor (a great sign), one exchanged emails with my agent (another potentially good sign), but ultimately all rejected (two in one day!!). All of them gave the proposal serious consideration and nearly all of the rejections were kind and complimentary – “clever concept” “intriguing” “fresh and original” “compelling premise” “REALLY good writer” “reluctantly passing”………

But. No. Sale. Argh!!! 😦

[For the record, in case anyone beyond my readers or writer friends reads this, I’m truly grateful for the experience. I very much appreciate that nearly a dozen awesome editors took the time to review my proposal and consider buying it. I think the books would have been fantastic. But publishing is a weird beast, half-creative and half-commercial. Editors not only have to love the books they buy, they also have to believe those books will have mass market appeal. A writers’ life is challenging, but I don’t envy Big 5 editors. It’s got to be a tough gig.]

  • Wrote 50,000 words of Pocket Full of Tinder. Do I wish I was further along? Yes! But I’ll get there. The book’s halfway finished and fully plotted. I found an illustrator to do a custom cover for me and I’m on her wait list. Hopefully, we’ll start designing the cover by the end of February.

♦♦♦

Things I did in 2015 that were neither right nor wrong

Left my literary agency

This was as amicable as it could be. I’m still friends with my former agent and, if I see her at a future conference, I will give her a big hug and ask her if she wants to grab a coffee, wine, lunch, or whatever. I’m so very grateful to her for all that she did for me. She is a terrific mentor and a dedicated, loyal, committed, and tenacious agent. So why leave? After spending fourteen months trying to sell my YA proposal, I knew my next step was going to be to self-publish the next Noon book. Our paths started to diverge and it felt like the right time to clarify my relationship with the agency. I don’t regret the decision but that didn’t make it any easier. It was INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT (anyone who has ever left an agency can probably relate, although every situation is different so maybe not).

Judged myself more harshly than others

This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. The fact that, when other people share their challenges with me, I’m much more forgiving with them than I am with myself.

When I talk with other writers, I’m constantly stressing that the important questions are whether they’re happy, whether they feel creatively fulfilled, whether they’re meeting THEIR GOALS, but with myself, I strive to be unflinchingly objective. This is good and bad.

Setting quantifiable goals and meeting them is a guaranteed way of achieving what you want. You know the Yoda quote, “Do or do not. There is no try.” I get that.

But writing fiction is unlike anything else I’ve ever done. It requires imagination and emotion and letting go as much as it does discipline and structure and bearing down.

♦♦♦

Goals for 2016?

Make the transition from traditional to self-pub

This doesn’t mean that I’m giving up on being a hybrid author. I’d love to sell to New York again. But it will be a while. I’m going to self-publish my fourth novel and then…

And then…

We’ll see. 🙂

A lot depends on how that goes. But, after a somewhat rocky 2015, I feel sanguine about 2016.

A return to my irregular, inconsistent blogging schedule

Hahaha. You all know I’m the poster child for “Do as They Say, Not as I Do.” My blog has NEVER been a contender for any “Best Websites for Writers” list. And that’s not me being too harsh on myself. That’s just me calling it like it is. But blogging isn’t meant to be perfect. So, in a way, my blog *is* perfect. 😀

Expect some of the same type of posts I wrote in the past – writing, books, movies… Noon Onyx updates, posts about my first time self-publishing… that sort of thing.

Ok, that’s it for now. If I would have put this many words into Pocket Full of Tinder I would be one very happy lady right now.

How about you? Did 2015 end the way you wanted it to? What are your goals for 2016?

Published by

Jill Archer

Jill Archer is the author of the Noon Onyx series, genre-bending fantasy novels including DARK LIGHT OF DAY, FIERY EDGE OF STEEL, WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE, and POCKET FULL OF TINDER.

9 thoughts on “GOODBYE 2015 — Two Things I Did Wrong and Two Things I Did Right

  1. I appreciate hearing the honest ups and downs of your year and it brought to mind a quote by H.D. Thoreau: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

    Whether it’s slow to get out there, or it doesn’t resonate with everyone, you’re singing your songs and I love that. I hope everyone you touched with this post resolves to get another song out there.

    1. What a fantastic comment — I love it!

      As I admitted above, I’m sorely tempted to only measure my success in terms of numbers: money made, books sold, contracts signed. But that type of thinking is a disservice to the creative side of a writer’s life. One of the reasons I started writing fiction was that I wanted more spontaneity and intensity in my writing. That’s a loosely defined goal, but one I should probably keep in mind as much as my “hard targets” for success.

      Thanks for stopping by and letting me know your thoughts on the post.

  2. Trying a second time on the reply….thanks for the great, honest post and I’m glad to see you blogging again! I had one novel out last year that was written back in early 2014, wrote a couple of books that won’t come out for another year, and dipped a toe into self-pubbing with two novellas. It felt like a non-productive year. Hardest lesson: no matter how much I love a series, or how much its fans love it, I can’t force a publisher to lower its prices or put books out in a timely manner, and, try as I might, I can’t make new readers try it. So I’ll be saying goodbye to two series I love in the next year or so. But I’ll have a new one starting in a new genre in 2016, so we shall see what the new year brings.

    I’m a fast writer, by the way, but have been prone to paralysis the last year. As in, I can’t make myself get started because I know it’s going to eat me alive until it’s done.

    1. Your “non-productive” year sounds amazingly productive to me! But it’s all relative. I know you like your output to be high and you can handle it (well, except for the getting pneumonia part. Fingers crossed you avoid that in 2016!!)

      “I can’t force a publisher to lower its prices” — yeah, don’t get me started on that. I’m determined to finish the Noon series in a way that feels right to me but I often wonder if I’m insane for choosing that path since I can’t control pricing or packaging for books 1-3.

      I love that you’re always thinking ahead and that you always sound positive, no matter the challenges that you’re facing. I’m betting 2016 will be a great year for you, Suzanne. Thanks for the visit!

  3. What an incredible, heartfelt post. Thank you for sharing. I’m a slow-as-molasses writer myself who left her agency this past year as well and it is comforting to find a fellow author in the same boat. We’ll get the books out eventually– and try our best to enjoy the process along the way–but there is no question that writing is a roller coaster of a ride, and not always easy or comfortable. 🙂

    I’ll look forward to cheering you on in the new year.

    Best,
    Alison

    1. Well said, Alison. A crazy roller coaster. (Luckily, I love roller coasters. 😀 ) Thanks for stopping by. Looking forward to cheering you on too. Best wishes for 2016!

  4. Hi Jill,
    Happy New Year! I also found GRRM’s “sometimes the writing goes well and sometimes it doesn’t” encouraging. I bless him for his honesty. Too many authors try to minimize the difficult parts of writing, and it makes readers think writing a book is a snap, and authors think it’s a snap *for every other writer but us*. Cue me banging my head on the desk a la Guy Smiley going “I’ll never get it! I’ll never get it!”

    My 2015 went a little pear-shaped, as I had to concentrate on some non-writing aspects of life, but a couple short projects that were already in the works were published. 2016 is also starting with my attention needing to be elsewhere, which is disappointing but I am trying to remember that I won’t be kicked out of the club for taking a break.

    Best to you in the new year!
    Carla

    1. Congratulations on your short works being published in 2015! That’s terrific. I hear you about being frustrated that you can’t devote the time you want to writing now if that’s what you want, but hopefully whatever it is that’s needing your attention will resolve soon and let you get back to writing asap.

      I know there are lots of writers who say you must write every day, but that’s never been my reality. Whatever works for you and your life. 🙂

      Best to you too, Carla!!

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