Thursday, December 28, 2017

Obligatory End of the Year Post (AKA Holy Crap, I Made It To the End of this Insane Year)

2017 has been, to put it in technical terms, absolutely ridonkulous.

Writing-wise, I've hit some intense highs that I had never thought possible, and it's been an absolutely fantastic year in that area of my life.

The rest of the world, however...

BUT. For this post, I'm going to focus on the positives because so many wonderful things have happened this year, as well as the things I'm looking forward to/goals I wanna hit next year. So without further ado:

2017 (not so) Humblebrags:

     1. Won the 2017 William F. Deeck - Malice Domestic Grant for Unpublished Writers (blogged about here). 

Winning this award quite literally changed my life. It broke me out of the depressive writing slump I'd been in since the election and forced me to finish my story. It introduced me to Kellye Garrett, who would go on to become my mentor, which leads me to:

     2. Finished writing my novel

I've been writing and dreaming up stories almost my entire life, but I have never, EVER finished a story that wasn't a school assignment. I don't know why. This story took me two and a half years to finish, but I stuck with it. And when I typed "THE END" and looked at my hot mess yet finished manuscript, I almost cried. 

Facebook screenshot

It sounds terrible, but I guess I never really believed I could do it. But I did. And because I did, the next that that happened was:

     3. Got accepted into Pitch Wars (learn more about the program here)

Screenshot of the announcement

The amazing Kellye Garrett chose me as a mentee, and forced me to tear apart my (full of potential but structurally problematic) manuscript and build it up again from the ground up. I cannot even begin to explain how much time and effort Kellye put into improving my story, and how insanely better it is thanks to her help. Through her instruction, I learned how to write an 11-pg outline and always question why a particular scene is there. She also taught me to get out of my own way and just TELL THE DAMN STORY.

Other than my fancy new revision skills and mentor, the best thing about Pitch Wars is that it's not just a competition; it's a community. I've met so many amazingly talented writers that it sometimes triggers my Imposter Syndrome, but everyone is so supportive and helpful and just really lovely. It's almost Hallmark holiday movie levels of charming and cheesy, and it's wonderful. I love checking into our FB group to experience all the highs and lows of writing life together.

Pitch Wars has also lead to a bit of agent interest, so here's hoping that my next blog post will contain some very happy news ^^

     4. Had my first public reading (with Sara Paretsky and many other talented female crime fiction writers. Blogged about here

My name was on the poster!

An absolutely surreal experience. Opportunities like this are why I urge writers (particularly genre writers) to join national and local writing organizations (if you can afford it. I understand that these organizations charge more than many writers can afford, particularly PoC, but that's another post for another time). It's excellent for learning about craft, finding out about contests, meeting critique partners, and, to be completely mercenary, networking.

At this reading, I got some laughs, people I've never met before came up to me and told me they enjoyed my excerpt, and my husband and friends came out to support me on a busy Halloween weekend. What more could I ask for?

     5. Pushed myself out of my comfort zones

I used to think of myself as not being very political, but nowadays it's impossible to avoid, isn't it? Pro-tip: When life gets to be a bit too much, marathoning The Great British Baking Show is bliss.

I heart Tamal

Considering my personality, people are usually surprised to find out I'm very passive-aggressive. I hate conflict. I avoid it as much as possible. Even writing it is a struggle for me (no conflict = no story, so...). But I'm doing my best to speak up more. 

I'm not very good at it because it's hard for me to speak logically and evenly about topics that I feel passionately about, but I'm trying. I attended the Women's March in Chicago. I got into my first fight with a Twitter troll who claimed I wasn't a "real" Asian. 

And to remind myself to keep fighting, I got this kick ass Bitch Planet/Captain Marvel tattoo:

NC = Non-Compliant

Writing-wise, the Malice grant enabled me to attend many writing-related events that I could never afford otherwise. This was a big deal for me because not only did I get a better understanding of my story (particularly at the Writers Retreat Workshop, which I meant to blog about but never got around to), but it forced me to

Over the years, I've become comfortable traveling by myself, but attending events where I don't know anyone and having to, gasp, talk to strangers takes an immense amount of courage and energy (Introvert 4 Lyfe). 

Plus anyone who knows me, knows that I'm lazy. Embarrassingly, annoyingly lazy. And after years of taking on family responsibilities, I've learned to dodge adulting and commitments like my home girl dodges bullets:

But this year, I co-lead an MWA Midwest panel on the importance of diversity in the mystery genre. I agreed to take on the position of Secretary for MWA Midwest, starting January 1st, in an effort to become more involved and start a few projects that I'm passionate about (namely getting more marginalized voices in the mystery genre, as well as younger writers involved). 

Also starting in January, I'll be joining the Mysteristas, a group blog of female crime fiction writers. I'm hoping it will teach me to write consistently and to deadline, and also force me to interact more with the online mystery writer/reader community. I love reading posts, but I rarely comment, which is something I need to work on.

But the fact that I continue to try and improve myself both professionally and socially (when all I wanna do is eat, read/write, play video games, and chill with my dogs) is something to celebrate.

Which leads me to my goals for 2018:

1. Sign with a literary agent

2. Get a book deal (hope hope hope)

3. Finish my second novel and plot the third

4. Read at least 50 books (about 1/3 of them should be outside my genre)

5. Figure out a writing routine that works for me (can't take 2.5 years for every book...)

6. Start an exercise plan that works for me and STICK TO IT (the PW 15, like the freshman 15 in college, is too real...)

7. Be more involved in my communities

8. Figure out Scrivener (I want to love it, but it scares me...)

9. Write a short story

10. Get better at adulting (budgeting, organization, paperwork, etc.)

And most importantly, travel, laugh, and spend more time with my loved ones. Because without those three things, I never would've made it this far.

How about you dear reader(s?)? What are you most proud of this year and what are your goals for the next?

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