My Writing Goals for 2021

In 2019 I gave myself seven writing goals to accomplish by this time, this year. I completed every single one of them! Ha, no. That would be a lie *insert clip of Maury reading lie detector results in front of a live audience.*

The shutdowns in early 2020 really put a damper on my earliest planned goals. Let’s revisit My Seven Writing Goals for 2020 real quick before moving on to what I’ve got planned for 2021.

1. Finish Project Firedamp

Considering the fact that Project Firedamp is now shelved and saved onto my external hard drive, it’s safe to assume I didn’t accomplish this particular goal. While I’m sad that my original project – this idea began my writing journey and encouraged me to launch this site – is a bit beyond my reach right now, it’s always an ever-present thought in the back of my mind. So, who knows? Perhaps I’ll revisit Firedamp in the future.

2. Tour More Historical Sights

I finally managed to tour the industrial, historical city of Johnstown, Pennsylvania back in September. Before everything shut down, I had local coal mines, area farms, a blast furnace, and a local observatory on my “to tour” list in late Spring. Every Forth of July, my family and I also take a steam train trip either within Pennsylvania or somewhere close in the tri-state area. I count myself lucky that we were still able to visit Johnstown. I hope more historical sights are able to reopen in 2021.

3. Bring More Story-Themed Decor Into My Home

Shortly after writing the original post I realized something about myself. I prefer practical, vintage elegance over Victorian-esque objects that may not even work. What changes have I made this year? I no longer watch television, so my living room’s now a library. Yay!

4. Visit the Library of Congress for a Day

Okay. This one hurt more than all the others. It was to be the first trip I’d ever take by myself. I was going to get an AirBNB close to the Mall and work on a manuscript in the Library of Congress. And, perhaps, reenact that one scene from the first National Treasure film. Maybe I still can this time next year?

5. Build a Paper Organizer

I nixed this idea around June or July as I had the opposite problem with all the shut downs – I was working way too much due to my company’s status as an essential business. As a result, my DIY and crafting projects got pushed to the wayside. Instead, I now have plans to build a baking area. We’ll see how that goes…

6. Write in Tennessee (aka go on vacation)

This turned into the aforementioned Johnstown trip. I still need to go back to Tennessee

7. Hand Copy a Novel

Yeah – I didn’t complete this either. 2020 wasn’t a good year for me and I really lost momentum with my writing…

My Writing Goals for 2021

If I learned anything in 2020 it’s that life can throw us unrelenting curve balls. I spent much of these past twelve months disappointed in my sudden inability to write.

1. Work on my Self Doubt

For some reason I found myself in a state of denial for much of 2020. I thought, “Naw. I’m fiiiiiiiine. This covid thing isn’t affecting me. I’m just going about life all normal.” When August hit, and I still hadn’t written a thing, I became incredibly discouraged and almost deleted absolutely everything. While I did accidentally delete EVERY BACKUP FILE FOR THIS SITE from my hard drive with no hope of getting it back, I did safely store everything I had concerning Project Firedamp on Google Docs for future use.

In the meantime, two new ideas came to me in recent weeks. And each of them are polar opposites of them. I know many authors dabble in multiple genres; but I’ve yet to complete one project. So my first writing goal for 2021 is to tackle my self doubt head on.

2. Set Aside Actual Writing Time

This goal will be a tricky one to work out. Why? My work schedule follows the trends and rules of the retail business. It’s never consistent. I can close one night only to go back in eight hours later and do it all over again the next morning. How the heck is someone like me supposed to find a logical time to write?

Even though I pride myself on being a chameleon of sorts when it comes to varying schedules, I often wish I could become a creature of predictable habits. The other thing I need to learn to balance is how much time I spend blogging. Blog posts ≠ a completed manuscript. (Except, according to the Insights page, I’ve so far written 59,949 words for anotherhartmanauthor.com). That’s practically a novel right there!

So this goal is two fold: set aside time for novel writing, and time for blog writing.

3. Go On Those Historical Adventures

Of course this goal will all depend on what reopens in 2021, but I still want to write for a day in the Library of Congress, stare at the heavens from a local observatory’s telescope, and take that steam train trip again on the Forth of July. I still want to return to Tennessee, go spelunking in a Pennsylvanian coal mine, and tour a sight that plays an integral role in my very first novel concept.

4. Finish. That. Manuscript.


Everybody I’ve talked with recently has said they look forward to 2021. And the feeling is quite mutual. I think four writing goals is a manageable, attainable list, don’t you? Seven was definitely far too many, especially for a year like 2020.

This website’s first series will begin Wednesday, February 3rd. I love doing these writing community interviews because, not only do they give me something to look forward to during the slow crawl to Spring, but I get to meet many new faces. So while the Five Question Interview series isn’t exactly a goal, it definitely will help my ever-present self doubt. Will you try something new for yourself in 2021?

What is it?

You don’t have to tell anyone.

Just do it!


Three Blog Ideas That Failed

Blogging. It’s such an obscure topic. What works for one may not work for all. Bloggers who’ve been around five or more years have established followers and loyal readers, so they know what their audience looks for. Each website creator has their own niche of interests, and their content reflects that.

Niche /niCH,nēSH/ – adj. – denoting or relating to products, services, or interests that appeal to a small, specialized section of the population

Source – Google Search

This site began in 2016. Its intent – a place where we can collectively share writing experiences and maybe, just maybe, the things I’ve learned along the way can help someone else. Speaking of, here are three blog ideas that failed on anotherhartmanauthor.com over the past four years.


A MONTHLY NEWSLETTER
I’m not yet an established author, so I don’t even know why I thought I’d quickly gain readership with an e-newsletter. I don’t have a degree in English Lit. I’m not an experienced historian. I haven’t worked in publishing. Hence I had little to contribute to a market already saturated with e-newsletters. The extra work accomplished but one thing: it was an effective manuscript diversion and everyone knew it. Readers are savvy folks, dontcha know?

Any time you think to add one more task, ask if it’ll interfere with your writing goals. It it does, reevaluate. It might be a worthy addition later on.

SHORT STORY SERIES
Roughly two years ago I attempted posting a short story series. I’ve thought a lot about its concept – Could it work as a subplot for my WIP? Could I eventually have it published on its own in some magazine? Is the story even worth exploring? While I kept the story within my chosen genre and era (Victorian historical adventure), it was nothing but a procrastination method. Just as the e-newsletter was. It kept me from concentrating on my actual goals.

I am, in no way, saying you can’t have multiple projects running at one time. Do what works for you. And I can only concentrate on one story and one alone. Who knows? Perhaps my writing multitasking will improve as I grow my craft.

BOOK REVIEWS
If you know me, you’ll know that I’m the least opinionated person in my family. When I am, it’s because I absolutely love something and will sing its praises. That’s why I’m the worst book reviewer. Personally, it’s a strange feeling to say anything negative about someone else’s hard work.

At first it wasn’t too much of a problem. That is, until writer friends asked me to review their newly published books. While I appreciated their faith in me, I found I couldn’t properly review without bias. They say to bookend a con with two pros. But what does one do if there are more cons than pros? No. I couldn’t carry on with the reviews. Besides, there are more people out there with stronger voices than I.


We creatives can be very emotional creatures, can’t we? I’ve included myself in that because I know just how defensive I can sometimes get when someone critiques my work.

Remember – anything you put online is a reflection of your business. That’s right. Business. Creating content is a physical representation and extension of yourself as a writer. Removing emotion from your business is easier said than done. It’s perfectly normal to feel dejected when something doesn’t quite work out the way you wanted it to.

It’ll take time for you to find your niche, but there’s absolutely no harm in trying something new!


My Seven Writing Goals for 2020

2019, for me anyway, was a rather directionless year. Every time I tried to set a schedule, or curb my procrastinator nature, my laziness grew by leaps and bounds. Yes, you read that right. I am a lazy writer. And I don’t want to be.

2020. Not only do those numbers roll right off the tongue, they begin a new decade. My overall goal for the decade is to become a published author (dear God…if I do it within the next ten years I’ll be 44. Excuse me as I have a pre-mid life crisis). I digress.

They say that having seven items on a to do list is a magic, accomplish-able number. I kept trying to think of an eighth, but I decided to stick with seven. Do any of them look similar to your own goals? We shall see! Let’s start with finishing Project Firedamp:

1. Finish Project Firedamp
I recently read somewhere that it can take ten years (or MORE) to finish a writing project. Oh my! I officially began my journey in 2016. So, going into 2020, this will be my fourth year of dramatizing, character building (and killing, ha), outlining and researching. I think that world building for fantasy, sci fi and historical stories are the hardest of all the genres.

It took J.R.R. Tolkein twelve years to complete The Lord of the Rings. Whether you prefer the book over the films and vise versa, you can still see why his story resonates with so many people. I think that every writer strives to create worlds as realistic as Middle Earth.

My story isn’t as fantastical as Aragorn fighting with a horde of cursed, dead soldiers, but one of my other goals within the “Finish Project Firedamp” umbrella is to increase my skill in that department.

2. Tour more historical sites
As my story takes place in the 1890s, I’ve got some fantastic, real locations around my own hometown to explore. The problem is, I haven’t properly explored them as an adult.

When my sister and I were kids, our parents would take us on “Destination Unknowns.” Sometimes they were to historical places around the city of Pittsburgh, sometimes to a Pirates baseball game at Three Rivers Stadium (now demolished and replaced with Heinz Field and PNC Park. See? I can’t help but offer information like that!) At the time we’d get annoyed because we weren’t told where we were going.

If we were told, it’d defeat the “unknown” part, right?

Eventually, Dad stopped taking us on those ventures, but we’d still tour museums, Mt. Washington in South Dakota, etc. when we went on vacation. Here’s something I never told my dad – I think all those “Destination Unknowns” planted this historical adventure seed inside me as a child. It’s waited years to sprout. Now’s the time.

Now Dad’s retired, and my sister’s kids are a bit older. I think it’s time for Destination Unknowns to return!

3. Bring more story themed decor into my home
Although Project Firedamp is set during the Victorian Era, I can’t seem to bring myself to go all ham on decorating my home with the Victorians’ style. Throughout my research journey, it seems like they appreciated clutter, deep jeweled colors with gilded elements, dark polished wood and floral patters enhanced with lace.

As much as I want my writing environment to reflect that setup, my minimalist-centered brain won’t allow it. So I’ve settled on shabby chic; the cheaper(?) cousin to true Victorian style. I can live vicariously through the upper class Victorian ladies in Project Firedamp, and incorporate Victorian-on-a-budget in real life.

4. Visit the Library of Congress for a day
I have family down in Maryland, so it’s entirely plausible that I can spend a weekend exploring the famed, marbled grandeur that is the Library of Congress. During the initial stages of Project Firedamp research, I ran into several road blocks when it came to certain places. When my local libraries had very little on a subject, I discovered the Ask a Librarian link on the website for the LoC.

Let me tell you – they’ve got some fantastic researchers working there! Depending on the demand, and if there isn’t a government shut down happening, they’ll send you multiple links, documents, and titles of books they think will be helpful for your project. Sometimes it ends up going nowhere, but there’ve been times when I’ll open a link and it’s information solves EVERYthing.

So not only do I want to spend a day in those same stacks, I want to see if there’s some crazy book on the upper levels that will point me towards a national treasure.

5. Build a paper organizer
This may seem like a silly goal, but I really want to custom build a paper organizer for my office. Between crafting and writing, I’ve got a LOT of paper. The problem with pre-built ones is, not only are they super expensive, but they come in standard sizes that won’t work in the space I have.

Enter in my job at a home improvement store!

Granted, I don’t get a discount, but I also don’t need super expensive materials to complete the project. Earlier this year I built the table I’m typing on, and put together nearly every piece of IKEA furniture I own (not without at least a LITTLE bit of help along the way). At least, with my organizer, I can specify measurements and cater it to my needs as a creator.

Or it could just, you know, downgrade into this:

6. Write in Tennessee (aka go on vacation)
This one’s pretty self explanatory, albeit a pretty important hope of mine for 2020. I don’t go on vacation as often as I’d like (because priorities), but every few years my family and I trek down to Tennessee and spend a week tucked away in a cozy cabin surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains.

If you’re a forest person like I am, and that sounds AMAZING, because it is.

Picture writing in a screen-enclosed porch (to keep out the mosquitoes of course, a couple snacks, and the Tennessee summer. If I ever won the lottery (that I never play), I’d buy a cabin in Tennessee and summer there just to write every year.

A girl can dream, right?

7. Hand copy a novel
This may seem like an odd goal; hear me out. If you’ve spent any time online, deep in the trenches of the #writingcommunity tag, I’m sure you’ve seen tweets from folks who do this type of thing. I always thought it odd as well, until I thought more on it.

As someone who knows she has trouble with grammar, hand copying a novel, or even just a few chapters, can help. One of my biggest problems is I’m personally drawn to longer sentences and words used in the Victorian style. However, that form of writing just isn’t widely accepted in the modern age and I’d greatly limit my audience if I went that route.

The challenge with this goal: choosing WHICH novel to work from. I have a couple in mind (none of them are The Lord of the Rings), from a few favorite authors. Maybe I’ll finally figure out why I love them so much!


Do any of my writer goals for 2020 reflect your own? What are your goals? Are you further along in the journey than I? Share some of your thoughts in the comments below and let’s complete some writing goals by this time next year, or even sooner!

Good luck!


How To Have Fun Editing

One of my favorite lessons from grade school was when we learned the proof reading symbols for fixing our sentences. I love looking back through the process, marking things up, moving bits around (just like I’m doing now as I write this post). Yes, I’m that dork.

Others hate editing. They’d rather write and let others do that kind of grunt work. But I firmly believe that every author hopeful should know at least some basic copy editing skills. So here’s how you can have fun editing:

USE DIFFERENT PROOF READING SYMBOLS

There’s a spoof that many editors share in tongue-and-cheek posts about their profession, where the symbols highlight the levels of stress writers and editors go through. I laugh every time I see it.

They say that learning something new keeps creative juices flowing. My problem is I want to overuse these symbols, and it feels weird when a sentence is perfectly fine and doesn’t need anything changed.

I suppose that’s why I’m not a professional editor?

Editing is something I’m enjoying learning.

EXERCISE: Print off a page or two of your manuscript and purposefully grab a pen. It doesn’t have to be red ink; get yourself a fun color to work with and practice using some of these tools. You just may see something in print you normally wouldn’t on a screen.

EDIT A CHAPTER AT A TIME

I edit with pen and paper first. Then make the changes in my doc. Sure, it takes more time and printing off a full manuscript uses a lot of paper. Especially when it’s double spaced and semi-formatted for querying.

You don’t need to sit there, for hours on end, doing nothing but moving sentences and staring at your thesaurus. I’ve been there, done that. And I feel less accomplished than I did when I complete a manuscript.

Take a step back, work chapter by chapter, and take your time. Don’t rush the process. In turn, don’t expect an editor to have their edits of your work done in an unreasonable time frame. You may think that sending them constant reminders is helpful, but all it does is make them want to work on your MS less. (You may understand what I mean by that if you’ve worked in retail before).

I’m always surprised when I read threads online from folks who’ve never edited their work. How? No one’s perfect in their rhetoric. And fully relying on another individual to completely edit everything can cause your work to lose some of its voice.

Editors are fantastic creatures. You may disagree on the application of the Oxford comma, but many are passionate in helping their clients become published authors. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do edits yourself. It’s YOUR story, and a good editor will tell you that.

Remind yourself that
EVERY AUTHOR GOES THROUGH THIS PROCESS

You are not alone.

I’ve felt it many times during my writing journey, but that’s when I recognize that I need to tap the brake and step away from social media. Writing isn’t only about gaining an audience and making connections. That’s part of it, for sure. But there’s lots of conflicting messaging that comes along with it.

Find what works for you. You don’t need the latest writing program (heck, I write via Google Docs on a Chromebook. It doesn’t support fancy programs), an AuthorTube (YouTube channel) or an Instagram account to write. The amount of information that’s out there can, most definitely, be overwhelming to digest.

EXERCISE: Throw on your favorite tunes, grab an author friend or two and chat about something other than writing. You may be surprised what comes out of it!

I am sad that I’m no longer in the editing stage. In fact, I *should* be in the middle of a rewrite. A month of working night shifts hasn’t helped matters. Thankfully those finished last week, so now I can reset my writing goals.

That’s really the core of all this, right? Your writing goals. I know the above tips are truly easier said than done, but I hope they help in some way. This particular post was also a reminder for myself.

I know the three points in this post aren’t strictly how-to steps, but I hope they resonate. Good luck with your writing this week!