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!


A Comparative Review of CRAFT COMPLEX CHARACTERS for Golden May Editing

We don’t read action scenes for the action. We read to see how hard a character will fight for what they desire most.”

FOLLOW THE LINKS BELOW TO PAY THEM A VISIT

If you’ve never been to AnotherHartmanAuthor before, then hi! My name is Leigh Hartman. I’m in the fourth year of my writing journey with an intense interest in Pennsylvania history. I realize the title for this post reads as though I’m part of Golden May. I am not. But I am honored they trust me enough to review their workbook, CRAFT COMPLEX CHARACTERS.

Reviews. Whether they’re posted up on Amazon, Goodreads or here on my blog, a funny feeling washes over me each and every time. Did I say the right things? Who is this review really for – the writer? The reader? The publisher? In truth, reviews are for everyone. And that is a terrifying thought.

Why? Because reviews are incredibly public opinions concerning another’s work. Not only that, these days, opinions are picked apart and, if the individual on the receiving end doesn’t like what you have to say, the very real possibility of your review magically disappearing isn’t all that far fetched.

Why, then, am I reviewing CRAFT COMPLEX CHARACTERS for Golden May? The answer is simple: I love non-fiction. Okay, I love non-fiction and fiction. In my never-ending quest to find new resource materials, you better believe I jumped at the chance to review and see if another method of creating believable characters could work just as well, or better, than my current one.

In today’s blog post, I’m going to compare this guide with that of author KM Weiland’s character interviews to see which better matches my style. Because, in the end, you’ll never know what works best unless you try it out.

CRAFT COMPLEX CHARACTERS can be broken down into three key parts:

01


Advice

02


Activities

03


Completion

Plot twist!

When Emily Golden and I connected over this opportunity, I told her initially that I would be using this to work on my WIP’s antagonist. However, upon further reflection, I realized I didn’t want to give anything away anything for Project Firedamp, especially anything about my story’s baddie. I will touch upon all four of the above points as this post progresses, working with my newest character named Lady Irene. She will appear in a new web story series I’m writing for this very site.

PART 1. The Advice

“All stories make a point, beginning on page one. Which means that as a writer you need to know what that point is, long before you get to page one.”

-Lisa Cron, Story Genius via workbook pages

Have you ever read a self-help book and thought, “Okay, get to the point. This is too much information”? Another thing a reader needs to consider is how they’ll receive what’s presented. What I first appreciate about this guide is its straightforwardness. There’s no beating-around-the-bush or anecdotes. The second thing I like about CRAFT COMPLEX CHARACTERS is it was created by two editors with years of experience in the biz. Not only that, Emily confirmed the status of my grammar. I’ll gladly take that advice any day of the week!

PART 2. The Activities

Call me stubborn if you’d like, but I sometimes have a difficult time accepting change. After working with the character interview pages for Project Firedamp for so long, it was hard to switch gears. But did I liked the idea of activities over a list. Let’s begin.

The First Activity

Draft your story point. Consider why you’re writing this story, and who you’re writing it for. […] You’re aiming for a one-line statement: the message you want to share about how the world works.

Lady Irene’s heart is in turmoil. Her life, turned upside down the previous year, still affects her daily life. Stuck in a rut, she believes she’ll never go back to normal. Okay. This isn’t a single statement. Let me give it a real whirl:

Hope always follows fear.

Hmm – I think that’s actually pretty good! It matches the story’s overall arc which will, hopefully, be pertinent to 2020’s conditions.

It’s also at this point I’ll begin world-building. The opening scenes will play a very important later on in the story.

The Second Activity

Let’s take a look at the seven (or five, whichever you prefer) stages of grief. They are:

Shock
Denial
Anger
Bargaining
Depression
Testing
Acceptance

Lady Irene, in deep grief, absolutely refuses to acknowledge she’s passed any of these stages. She’s alone in her journey – though perhaps not as alone as she thinks. Irene’s setting herself up for a spinster existence, one no one else wants her to experience. She believes she’ll never escape this, nor the expectations placed upon a Victorian woman in 1853.

What beliefs can you think of that are in direct contrast to your story point? List them out and consider which which one is the most succinct, holds the greatest emotional impact and stakes, and will provide your character with the most intriguing struggle.

The Third Activity

What internal and external goals can you give your character that are incompatible with their inner obstacle?

Internal Goal: Our lady wants to get out but hasn’t realized just how desperately she needs to figure herself out before it’s too late.

External Goal: She wants the strange happenings and her tears to end, and things back to what they were.

The Fourth Activity

Lady Irene feels her time slipping away. Everyone abandoned her… including her Julian.

If Lady Irene cannot solve the mystery behind things which never happened before in her home, she fears she’ll go insane before her twenty-fifth year. She must discover whatever the messages left behind for her mean, lest she remain in her grief stricken state forever.

Okay , this needs some work!

What dire thing does your character fear will happen (whether real or imagined) if they don’t achieve their internal and external goals? Are they serious stakes? […]

The Fifth Activity

Now this is where I’ll end things because
No writer wants to reveal too much!


PART 3. Completion

Within the last pages of the guide there are charts you can work from to build your own. It shows how each of the previous parts works together to clearly showcase your character’s main motives.

While I may have done these pages differently from the intended results, the guide did force me to look past the interview style of building up a character.

Now you’re probably asking yourself, “Where’s this duel? Where’s the comparison part she promised us?”

So how does CRAFT COMPLEX CHARACTERS
differ from KM Weiland’s character interviews?

Craft Complex Characters

1. Looks at motives from the smallest to overall
2. Focuses more on the protagonist’s obstacles
3. Guides the writer to zero in on why they’re writing the story

Character Interview Method

  1. Details character’s mannerisms, demographics, personality, etc
  2. Can be used for protagonists, antagonists and secondaries
  3. Easily modifiable to fit your characters’ needs

Do I think they’d make great companion resources for creating well-rounded characters?
Absolutely!

As it turns out, both guides were created with very separate goals, but still the same overall one in mind: to help you finish your story and finish it well.

With all that being said, keep your eyes peeled for a Victorian ghostly tale coming next month to this site –
THE GILDED CONSPIRACY, featuring our Lady Irene.

And don’t forget to check out CRAFT COMPLEX CHARACTERS by Golden May Editing, available for purchase this weekend. Be sure to vote in the poll below, and feel free to let us know in the comments below what tools you use to create your characters


Writing Goals 2020 | Progress Report

Earlier this year I decided to follow that new goals tag and make a list of seven things I’d like to accomplish with my writing in 2020. Now that we’re nearly halfway through (crazy), I thought I’d take a look back and give a progress report on how things are going. Let’s take a look at the seven things I want to complete(ish) in 2020.

GOAL 1 – Finish Project Firedamp ⇝ Status: ??????

I can’t stress enough my embarrassment on how far behind I am on this particular goal. Being the slow writer that I am, I thought to write at least one chapter per month. Perhaps two if I finally get into the swing of things.

That hasn’t happened.

Just a few weeks ago I decided to finally set up a writing schedule. All my well-practiced procrastination instincts are having trouble conforming to a schedule I made myself. I can confirm that I’ve finally solidified how this series is going to work in the future. It took a while, but I’m thoroughly excited for everything that’s going to happen in The Firedamp Chronicles realm!

UPDATE: The writing schedule failed. I’m currently seeking editing/critique help for Project Firedamp, because I now recognize certain issues which need addressed sooner rather than later.

GOAL 2 – Tour more historical sites ⇝ Status: on hold.

For this particular goal, I purposefully put it off till the weather got warmer. This is also due to the fact that many of the sites I want to tour have very specific tour hours and time frames. I have a small list of sites around Pittsburgh I want to visit come Spring and Summer. Will I share that list? Perhaps. But those locations may give away too much of my story’s plot so, we’ll see!

UPDATE: Due to everything being closed until at least July, I cannot yet plan those visits.

GOAL 3 – Bring more story themed decor into the house ⇝ Status: changed.

Shabby chic decor is to Victorian as a grandchild is to their grandparents. True shabby chic equates to “cluttered,” “floral,” and “eclectic.” However, my biggest goal, when it comes to my home, is to maintain an organized, comfortable environment.

So I’m out to find more practical pieces – things I can use every day because I won’t dust fake flowers. Here’s my Pinterest board of DIY crafts I want to eventually put together. There’s still plenty of time left in 2020!

UPDATE: I’ve reorganized my office and decluttered a lot more things. The pile of donations for my church’s annual flea market has finally gone to church, and I’ve decided to just go practical in my decor.

GOAL 4 – Visit the Library of Congress ⇝ Status: on hold.

This visit is so very much in the works! No mind you, I began looking into this about a month before everything with COVID19 went down, so now I’ve got coworkers telling me to cancel cancel cancel. While I understand everything going on right now, the trip is for three months from now – in late June. I’m hoping that, not only will things have calmed down by then, but the library will be open to visitors again.

Because ever since that one scene in the first National Treasure film, I’ve wanted to go to the second level and look for secret books with codes to a treasure map’s key. The bus tickets have been purchased (a whole $6 – thank you Megabus!), arrangements to stay with my aunt’s family have been made. June trip to DC here I come!

UPDATE: Sadly my coworkers were correct. I held out hope for a long time, but the Library’s own closure until at least July has put this goal on hold. At least I only lost $6 in bus fare.

GOAL 5 – Build a Paper Organizer ⇝ Status: scratched.

This one’s tricky, because good wood costs a pretty penny. Budgeting is the name of today’s game, and I want whatever project I build to last. “But Leigh, why don’t you just go to Joann’s or Michael’s and buy an organizer?”

Fair point.

There are two benefits of building my own: 1- I can customize it to fit wherever it’s going to go and 2- I want it to have spaces for both paper and smaller cubicles for pens/colored pencils. It’s a tall order, and only something customized can fulfill both those requirements. This project’s planned for early Spring, when it’s a bit warmer.

UPDATE: As I’m now working a lot of overtime, I decided to table this goal. Instead, I’ve purchased a modern and sleek organizer to match the rest of my office’s decor. I can get overzealous at times. I also realized I didn’t want something big and chunky taking up space.

GOAL 6 – Write in Tennessee (aka go on vacation) ⇝ Status: On Hold.

The more I look at this particular goal, the more I don’t think it’s in the cards. Especially with the D.C. trip. It’ll most likely be combined with Goal 4 – Visit the Library of Congress. In fact – let’s change the title right now:

GOAL 6 – Write in Washington D.C. (aka go on vacation)

GOAL 7 – Hand copy a novel ⇝ Status: null and void.

And last but not least, let’s discuss hand copying a novel. This goal started off strong. I picked one of my favorite stories – INKHEART by Cornelia Funke. Hand copied a chapter a day – got up to chapter five. And then my hand had had enough. Kudos to all you who choose to hand write your stories before digitizing it.

Needless to say, I’ve given up on this goal.

For the time being.


So what have I actually accomplished? Blogging ahead, 2020s Five Question Interviews series, and buying more books than I can read right now. Three things not even on the list! At least I can say I’ve booked some critiquing help, so that’s progress.

How are you with your writing goals?


Confessions of a Chronic Underwriter

Be honest with me: How many of you thought I put the word “underwear” instead of “underwriter” in the title? I won’t blame you one bit! But the title is completely, utterly, unequivocally true. About two years ago my uncle, who’s a published children’s author, picked up on it when he read through one of my very early drafts for a shelved projected titled For One Night at the Winter Garden. “Your sentences are too long,” he said. “Does that detail really need to be in there?”

He didn’t use the words “you’re an underwriter,” but he recognized the signs that I was trying too hard.

When you try too hard, you put more detail (whether by choice or subconsciously) into a scene where it’s not needed. It often shows up in the form of sharing too much backstory or sharing, say, historical details out of context (if you’re writing historical fiction, that is!). Personally, it was overcompensation because I hadn’t fully developed any of my characters. For One Night was all scene and setting driven rather than main character centered.

I’m grateful for For One Night. Not only did it teach me when and where to include details, the project also showed me two years ago that I wasn’t ready to take on Project Firedamp. I needed to be patient with myself. So I blogged, researched my novel’s era and read UP on craft. My chronic underwriting is still there, but I’m more aware of the choices a writer’s mind needs to make because I focused on what needed to be fixed within myself.

WRITE TIP: Is there something keeping you from being the best writer you can be? What is it? Is it something your beta readers have pointed out in their notes for you? Don’t be afraid to take a hard look inside and the TIME to fix it. Life is a never ending learning journey. Be patient with yourself and don’t be tempted by shortcuts.

Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.

John Quincy Adams

My Multiple MC Problem

Even though I’ve done a lot of writing since childhood, this is the first time I’ve attempted something as big as Project Firedamp. Not only are there a lot of moving parts, historical facts to keep straight, and cultural differences to look out for, things are in their early stages and I’ve got time to make changes.

When my idea for #ProjectFiredamp first came to fruition, I tossed around several sub genres of historical fiction before settling on historical adventure. The time period I chose (late Victorian) and the characters created (some real, some not) really give me wiggle room in the adventure realm.

However, since a few NPCs (if you do online gaming you’ll know this stands for non-player character) and my antagonist were, in fact, real people, I still have to play the “How far can I go into their historical facts without bogging down the reader?” game. (Thank you, Paulette, for getting “NPC” stuck in my head! I love our writerly DMs). Not only that, but since I decided to have two point of views instead of just one, the fear of under developing one of them is real.

Dare I add a third POV? I’m not sure I’m capable of juggling that many subplots just yet!

I asked a question similar to this on Twitter a few weeks ago and KM Weiland shared her method for developing characters. Not only does she have a full book called Creating Character Arcs and its corresponding workbook, she also has a list of interview questions I’ve started using myself. While my fear of under developing a main character is still ever present in the back of my mind, these resources have really helped keep some of that anxiety under control. Let’s face it – I’m a list lover. And you’ve surely deduced by now that I’m an outliner as well.

Method is something I never looked at as a kid. Heck, I grew up in the 90s. We didn’t have as many easily-accessible resources then as we do now. I promise this isn’t a sponsored post. Ms. Weiland will have no idea I’m writing this until I share it on Twitter. Everyone has their own way of helping them keep track of their characters. So far, keeping a running dialogue with them via a list of “interview” questions is helping my process. Maybe those lists will help keep that seed of multiple MC doubt from growing!


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!