2021 was a big year. Aside from having a kid that turned my world upside down, I published two works and made really good progress on a new novel. Initially, I wanted to use the momentum built up in 2021 to launch into 2022 and beyond. However, when I actually sat down to set some realistic goals, with realistic timelines for each, I realized that I won’t be able to capitalize on any momentum built in 2021 right away. See, I made a Gantt chart. Gantt charts don’t lie.
Essentially, I took my word count goal per week (4,000–same as last year) and extrapolated that out by how many words I would expect to get in a month and how long I expect each project to take. This allowed me to prioritize and plan out my projects for the next year. The colors designate when I’m actively writing, when things should be out in review, when I’m marketing, and when I’m publishing. There are more projects and pretty colors than are shown here, but you get the idea.
So, with that said, what are my goals this year?
My goals here are based on the number of words I expect to write per month and the priority I’ve chosen for my projects. This priority is subject to change. For example, last year I had a time travel novel outlined and ready to go, when I decided to scrap it in favor of what I’m working on now. Some of these timelines are ambitious, and I don’t realistically expect to meet any of them, but I think it sets a solid foundation for what I want to achieve in the year. Here’s what I hope to accomplish:
New Novel: Titled (for now) THE END OF EVERYTHING, I wrote nearly 50,000 words of this in 2021. If I can stick to my word count goals I should finish this by the beginning of March, do a revision through April, and have it out to beta readers in May and June before doing a second revision in July. At that point I’ll see how I feel about it to decide what the next steps might be.
Novel Revision: Nearly five years ago I wrote a novel called THE INHABITORS. I spent a year writing it, another year revising it, and then gave it to beta readers. I got a lot of great feedback, but one critique in particular has stuck with me. The problem is that it requires overhauling major parts of the story. I ignored it for a long time, implementing all sorts of other changes, but I need to do it. It will make the story much stronger, and the experience I’ve gained over the past few years has made me a much stronger writer than I was then. And so March and April will be dedicated to that overhaul, assuming I meet my schedule for THE END OF EVERYTHING.
This is one I plan to self-publish, which means that once it’s done I need to find a professional editor and then do another revision. Hopefully that can be done end of spring / early summer while THE END OF EVERYTHING is with beta readers. What I’m really looking forward to, though, is putting together the marketing plan for this one. I didn’t do any marketing for ANH NGUYEN or THROUGH DARK. But for THE INHABITORS I plan to do as much of a full-court press as I can afford / manage. More on that below.
New Novella: Last year, before I started on THE END OF EVERYTHING, I began a new novella that I plan to self-publish this year. I envision it being between 20,000 and 30,000 words, 6,000 of which are already written. I hope to get a first draft done while THE END OF EVERYTHING is with beta readers and THE INHABITORS is with the pro editor. Then I can basically alternate months where I’m working on it or it’s with beta readers / a pro editor before self-publishing at the end of the year.
Series Idea: A while ago I came up with an idea for a novel that could lead to a series. I really love the concept, and if everything goes well I can do a research trip and write just under half of the first book before year end.
Web Series: It’s been a long time since I’ve applied my creative energies to a visual medium. I’d like to change that this year. I have an idea for an 11-episode web series that I want to use as a way to market THE INHABITORS. The plan is to write and film 3-5 minute episodes that are released weekly here, on YouTube, and via Twitter. Hopefully people like them. If so, I have a really ambitious idea for a season two. So ambitious it’ll never realistically happen, but a boy can dream. I hope to get this done in late summer / early fall, with THE INHABITORS following on its heels with publication in the fall.
This is the last year of my initial plan for this website. The first two years haven’t been as successful as I was hoping, but much of that is on me. I’m inconsistent with posting, sometimes going months between blogs and never being able to maintain the vignette schedule. Considering my other goals for this year, I don’t expect that to change.
Instead of trying to blog once or twice a week, as I’ve done the past two years, which requires a lot of thought and effort, I’m going to shift focus. I’ll still blog sporadically, particularly when a new vignette goes up or I read / watch something I want to unpack. My expectation is that blog posts will decrease, but the length of each individual post will increase. That may be a net good.
That said, I do want to put more effort into the vignettes. They’re good practice for me, in writing and photography, and I enjoy doing them. I can also work them into my word count goals, which isn’t something I can really do with the blog. These are words, sure, but they’re not words that will ultimately help me reach a creative goal. Vignettes on the other hand, can be reused in collections or expanded into other types of prose.
So, once a month expect a new vignette and “behind the vignette.” (Maybe.)
Ah… the day job. I’m lucky, in a lot of ways. I have stability, I’m paid well, and there is plenty of flexibility where I am. Still, after everything I wrote above, it feels strange to say I have career goals for the thing that I don’t want as a career.
But, the day job supports me and my family, makes everything else possible, and my other goals tend to live and die by what’s going on there. For example, our busy season is over summer, so I know that my word count will probably take a major hit. I have to be prepared for that.
An added wrinkle is that I’ve seriously considered jumping ship to a different place. If I did that I’d be giving up a lot of privileges I currently enjoy. And that, too, might affect my other goals. I won’t have the flexibility or clout that I have now.
What are my goals, then? Survive, mostly. Continue to mentor my team and improve the quality of our deliverables. Seize opportunity when it comes. The nice thing about my current position is that I control my own fate. We’ll have to see if and how that changes.
If 2020 and 2021 taught me anything, it’s that predictions are a fool’s game while there is unprecedented sickness and political upheaval happening. Throw a kid into that mix and it’ll explode.
I don’t expect to meet all my goals this year. I’m already something like 7,000 words behind. If I do end up changing jobs, that will only get worse. I do expect to meet some of them, though, and so the ambition is beneficial. If I get through the year with a healthy kid, happy wife, stable job, and another novel or published work under my belt, it’ll have been a good year.