2020 Writing Year in Review 2

Writing This Year

Novels: 1 (finished editing)

Novellas: 1 (finished editing)

Novellettes: 3

Short Stories: 1

Flash: 0

Paid Nonfiction: Book Riot newsletter and a couple of posts

Editing: Several small freelance editing gigs

Consigned to the trunk of awfulness, never to return: None this year.

Best/Favorite story of the year: I’d have to say it’s actually One People, One Purpose, which is my first ever IP story.


Words: 331,712

Time Spent: 202:45 hours

Days Written: 293 out of 365

Wow, this is a big jump over last year. Probably helped by NOT having any of my bones fused. It’s weird, because I don’t feel like I’ve been more productive, yet I definitely have been. And that even though this has been the worst year ever, basically.


Queries sent: 8
Rejections received: 6
Pending: 1
Most rejections received: That would be Raising the Steaks, which finally did get published this year by Andromeda Spaceways! I’m so proud of that story.
Gross earned: $8,457.39, almost $3k less than last year. Which was unfortunately already down from the year before. The good thing is, this is more than I expected to make! I had one big project roll in unexpectedly during the summer, and a couple of sales, but this was mostly several regular revenue streams (Book Riot Newsletter, Patreon, and my regular freelance proofreading gig) just adding up together; I only made about $550 from royalties this year.

Published this year:

  1. The Books That Hate Us for Sarah Gailey’s Personal Canons series (8/18/20)
  2. One People, One Purpose for the 10th Anniversary of Blizzard’s StarCraft II (7/28/20)
  3. Raising the Steaks in Andromeda Spaceways Magazine #78 (6/18/20)

Well, if my word course made me feel like I’d actually been productive this year, this list sure just set me straight, didn’t it. I’ve at least also put up some content on my blog and Patreon, but that’s really not the same as someone else publishing it.

Favorite Patreon posts for the year:

  1. Well, I read It (public)
  2. Jiu Jitsu
  3. The Lighthouse (2019)
  4. Chapter 17: How It Feels

Favorite blog posts for the year:

  1. Quiz: Protoss or Ikea Furniture
  2. Thoughts on Turning 40
  3. Slush v Solicitations: Just Tells Us Where We Stand

How did I do on last year’s goals?

  1. Figure out how to incorporate writing time into my new work week; achieve an average of 6,000 words per week.
  2. Write at least 3 short stories. (Additional: I really want to write a story to sub to Silk & Steel so one needs to be early in the year.) I actually technically did this, though only one of them is an original short story, the one I wrote for Silk and Steel. Which did not make it into that anthology, so I am sentenced to the hell of trying to sell it elsewhere.
  3. Finish both of the novels that I started this year. I get half credit for this one; I finished one of the novels, made some progress on the second.
  4. Do NaNoWriMo. Finished it again!
  5. Read at least 60 books. Read 75!
  6. More blog posts. I think? Does Patreon count?
  7. Refocus on character, character, character.
  8. Put fair share of time in on ongoing collaborative projects.
  9. Spend less time on Twitter. LOLOL

Considering what a goddamn dumpster fire 2020 was, I actually did really well on my goals. Shockingly so. Even if goal #2 is completed on what feels like a technicality. And yet I’ve come through the year without much of a feeling of accomplishment, even after crossing all these things off. I think that’s mostly linked to how little I had published this year, even though I felt like I was working my ass off under very trying circumstances. My writing income has shrunk two years in a row, my credits have shrunk, and it doesn’t feel great. Financially, this is not me panicking; I got a new job back in 2019 and I’ve been working it for a solid year now, and I’m in the best place financially I’ve been since I got laid off in 2016.

The new job has come with a lot of new challenges, one of which has been trying to figure out how to write around the brain drain of 40 hours a week of mental labor, which was not something I had to do when I was working in construction. (Then, I could be physically exhausted at times, but I still had a lot of unstructured waiting time where I could literally pull out my laptop and write while I was waiting for crews to get their shit together.) The financial stability that’s meant I haven’t had to scramble so much to do other people’s work and stress constantly about money has instead meant I don’t have as much energy to do my own work. I’m sure there’s some kind of irony there–though I’m certainly not complaining, because at least, as I mentioned before, I’m not constantly freaking out about money which is its own kind of brain drain.

I think ultimately my feeling of discontent and sadness at the end of 2020 is partially just because the year generally sucked. And the other part is the anxiety of being a writer, where you’re absolutely certain that the minute you aren’t publishing something, you will disappear and be forgotten. Social media does not help this, and honestly neither does my Book Riot gig where I’m constantly tracking what new things are coming out. When you’re never the new thing, and all of your peers seem to have a lot more in the pipe than you, it’s hard not to feel like you’ve sunk beneath the water. There’s a certain amount of “keep your eyes on your own paper” that comes into play; everyone’s career is unique and you cannot measure yourself by the achievements of others if you don’t want to lose your fucking gourd.

But on the other hand, I’m also only human, and at this point even deleting Twitter forever wouldn’t stop me from noticing how much everyone else is doing because it’s kind of my job to pay attention to that. So I’m just going to have to deal with the constant, choking feeling of inadequacy and soldier on. The most annoying thing about writing is I can’t even soldier on in the determination that in the future, my day will come. While I can do things to try to reach that goal, it’s ultimately out of my control. All I can do is set my shoulders and keep doing the work.

Which is an answer, and maybe the only answer, but it’s not a very satisfying one for hollow feelings.

Goals for 2021

  1. Continue averaging 6,000 words a week. Stretch goal: 6,500?
  2. Write 3 short stories.
  3. Finish drafting The Smallest God and The Greatest Baking Show in the Galaxy.
  4. Finish editing at least one of the above and make it DongWon’s problem.
  5. Do NaNoWriMo
  6. Finally start the goddamn epic fantasy book. New outlines need to be done first because things have shifted.
  7. Read at least 60 books.
  8. If possible, finish the collaborative project (WE ARE SO CLOSE!) and start on the next book.
  9. Focus more on writing sprints. Figure out a routine that works with day job.
  10. Work on expanding the Patreon audience; keep up faithfully with the obligations there.

I’m a little unsure face about refocusing on Patreon (since depending on someone else’s infrastructure is always frought), but it was an important income source for me this year and I think I can do a better job with it. It’s a more viable platform for me than a newsletter model, I think. I already write two newsletters a week for Book Riot and I cannot currently brain more.

Final Thoughts

Well, that was sure a year, wasn’t it. A year horrible enough to be a capstone on four already horrible years, and I’m not some fool that thinks things are magically going to be better because it’s 2021, but I’m not a cynical hope-eater, either. I don’t have anything profound to say about how fucking awful things were (or will probably continue to be for another half a year at least) other than we got through it because we’re the lucky ones, and the only way to truly honor that is keep fighting for both justice and kindness and flipping the bird to the people who have tried through hatred or ignorance or selfishness to kill us.

This is my tenth year doing year-end writing reviews… I started in 2010 but somehow ended up skipping 2011? I don’t know. I was in grad school and very busy. If you’re curious about a walk down memory lane just check out the year in review category.

I think me of ten years ago might be impressed that I was making money in the thousands from my writing. Would be seriously excited that I have an agent and have had books published. And would be sad that it’s not nearly enough money for me to be doing things full time. But 2010 me was also pretty realistic about things.

This year, I:

  1. Bought an ebike with the intention of regularly doing the 36 mile round trip for work that way. And… yeah. That sure didn’t happen. But I’m still really enjoying the bike.
  2. While I know that the lockdown isn’t necessarily a good measure of one’s ability to work from home because of these weird, stressful circumstances… I think this did tell me I could do it. If somehow I could make enough writing income to cover my bills, I could keep my shit together and get the work done. Especially because I’d be able to leave the house on occasion, unlike this year. I’ve actually really enjoyed working from home, despite the circumstances.
  3. Had a hysterectomy and it’s literally the best thing I’ve ever done for myself medically. As surgeries go, it was way less horrible than the foot surgery, too. Three cheers for gender-affirming care!
  4. Got hired to do IP fiction writing for the first time ever, which was cool and fun and I loved the work I did and the people I worked with.

Here’s hoping 2021 will be exponentially better. And I wish us all the strength and stamina to do the work that will make that happen.

2 thoughts on “2020 Writing Year in Review

  1. Reply JohnD Jan 2,2021 08:15

    Welcome to the new decade! I hope that it is more healthful and prosperous than the last for you (and us all).

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