Another year, another cliché end-of-the-year blog post.
I considered not writing this post at all mostly because of how the rest of the year went. I tried to do end-of-the-month wrap-ups for a bit, but there were so many months where I didn’t feel as though I accomplished anything worth writing about. I did have some accomplishments in the self-care and mental health-related areas, and those are completely valid and worth celebrating, it’s just also hard for me to share those in enough detail to justify a blog post while still keeping a lot back. So between that, the impostor syndrome, and not wanting to come off as bragging when I do achieve something, I would often err on the side of not sharing at all, which is why I always resolve to post once or twice per week and then never do that. Sigh.
It turns out that this year’s writing-related achievements this year aren’t really big-ticket, “bucket list” kind of stuff. With a few exceptions, they were tiny, incremental things that added up to something that I can be kind of proud of at the end of the year (and those that were bigger were all crammed into the last couple of months). So here are the five things that I think have been pretty great for me and my writing.
Wrote in a Journal Once a Day
For a writer, I’ve always been extremely bad at journaling. I have no problem starting and finishing notebooks where I keep fiction ideas, but all the problems in the world maintaining a log of my daily life. I always start them with great enthusiasm, and then taper off when so many of the daily entries become “Housework. GI flare-up. Extreme self-doubt. Same old.”
I started one of those five-year, One Line a Day journals in the hopes of convincing myself that my life was worth recording. Honestly, a lot of the entries are still “Housework. GI flare-up. Extreme self-doubt. Same old,” and it took me a while to get into the habit, but I ended up really enjoying it. It turned into a nice ritual, I started to remember small victories for the express purpose of writing them down, and I logged something for each day in 2019. I’d recommend One Line a Day journals for people who want to journal but don’t think they’re disciplined enough for it because if I can do it, you can, too.
Designed a Game
Since I decided that I wanted to design tabletop RPGs in addition to writing fiction, I’ve been honestly kind of stuck on where to start. The fact that I ended up not finishing RPG Writer Workshop over the summer didn’t exactly help my confidence. I participated in the 200 Word RPG Challenge after some gentle prodding from a friend and got Until the Spell is Broken into the world. It’s more of a concept than an entire game, and I wasn’t a winner or finalist, but it’s still a project I completed, the first I’ve submitted in any official capacity for a very long time, and something that’s gone over well with people who read it. I’m plenty proud of it in its current form, but maybe 2020 will give me an opportunity to do more with it.
Read Some of my Favorite Fantasy Novels Ever
I’m kind of a slow reader. I generally set my Goodreads annual reading challenge to 25 books and sometimes don’t get there, which makes me feel REALLY inadequate next to the people who meet and exceed goals of 100+ books and still manage to write their own in the process. So while I didn’t read a ton of books this year, I was more deliberate in choosing the fiction I read and gave myself permission to give up on books that just weren’t doing it for me (sometimes—other times I let the sunk cost fallacy get to me).
What that also means is that all of the fiction I picked to read this year, for better or for worse, really left impressions on me. These five fantasy novels in particular were among my favorite reads of the year and, in some cases, some of my favorite fantasy novels to date.
- Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. I will happily recommend this one to anyone willing to listen to me talk about it. It took me on an adventure I really enjoyed in a very rich world with characters that I cared about.
- The Mis-Adventurers: An (Almost) Epic Tale by Steven Partridge. I know I sound really biased because I’ve talked about the book before and got an advance copy, but it was seriously one of my favorite 2019 reads of any genre and I made a point of buying a copy once it was released.
- The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. The best way I can think of to describe this book is “cozy.” It feels like curling up in a blanket by a fire with hot chocolate and listening to a parent or grandparent tell you fairy tales: sort of familiar, but magical and special all the same.
- Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. I know I’m very late to the game on this one. I also know that this novel is far from perfect—any fantasy novel that’s more than 10 years old will have aspects that really didn’t age well—but I can see why Sanderson is considered one of the greats in the genre. Also, Allomancy is probably one of the best “hard” magic systems I’ve seen to date.
- The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson. Technically, I didn’t finish it in 2019, but I think it could end up being one of my favorites. My first impression was very good, the reviews are very good, the world is beautiful and feels both intimate and sprawling at the same time, and the characters are all great for different reasons.
Created a Tip Jar
This one was an especially big deal for me personally. I wasn’t entirely comfortable creating a tip jar: I’m not the type of person that writes lengthy educational threads on Twitter (yet?) and I don’t blog all that consistently, so what business did I have asking for money? However, it’s a good thing for any creator to have, so I decided to create one on Ko-Fi. Per usual, you are under no obligation to give anything, as I intend for my blog to remain free, but if something was helpful or you feel so inclined, that option is there. I put it on this list not to get the link out there, necessarily, but because it did sort of mark at least a mental transition into an earnest attempt to take my blogging and game and fiction writing as seriously as I take my day job writing, and it… sort of worked. The mindset is honestly still kind of a work in progress.
Finished My Latest Draft of Kingmaker
In spite of it being the last item on the list, it’s probably not a huge surprise. I used NaNoWriMo 2019 to finally commit the second half of Kingmaker to the page. I’ve done as many self-edits as I feel like I can effectively do on my own and have begun giving it to some readers. This is the first time I’ve gotten this far on a manuscript since 2015, and frankly, Kingmaker deserves it more than that other novel ever did. Maybe that’s weird to say: I feel like I’m supposed to say that I hate it, and sure, there are parts that aren’t perfect, but I like this novel. Editing it hasn’t been painful beyond the expected cringing over typos, awkward sentences, or find-and-replace failures. Getting it on the page took around two years for a lot of reasons, but now that I’ve figured out what it’s about and gotten it down it feels very comfortable. I’m bracing myself for feeling sick of it by the time serious editing begins, but for now, I’m feeling good about this one, and it’s one of the best things to come out of 2019 for me personally. With any luck, we could see “Published My Novel” on my 2020 wrap-up list a year from now.
Happy New Year, and thanks for reading!