2021 has ended, which proves that time flies even when you’re not having fun. Seriously, 2021 was a doozy.
2021 in the rearview mirror
I leaned into writing as self-care because, let’s be honest, our options remained limited. I managed three writing retreats at AirBnBs, which helped considerably—having a different view and being in nature. Also, in 2021, I joined the Great Resignation. I quit my comfortable job to produce a climate change podcast (fits neatly into my wheelhouse of research, writing, and podcasts!) and freelance/consult for the rest of my time. It’s scary and still in transition, but I am much more fulfilled on a daily basis than I was doing a job my heart wasn’t in.
My 2021 writing goals were to get an agent (nope), edit my 2018 manuscript (nope), and draft a fourth manuscript (yes!) But in taking stock of what I did over the course of 2021, I surprised myself.
I sent 89 queries to agents. I didn’t get an offer of representation, but I had six full requests and lots of positive feedback. In the end, I concluded that the novel I queried is a bit too quiet for an unknown author. I intended to write a quiet novel, and I’m ok with it staying on the shelf a bit longer until the world’s ready. Best advice I can offer people in querying trenches: Let those rejections roll off you. It’s not personal. You only need one yes, and that should be the right yes.
I finished my 2020 NaNoWriMo project, and, honestly, really love it. Six beta readers and my critique group made it all the way through and gave me some great feedback (always thank your betas and CPs!) I wrapped up my synopsis and query letter in the last months of 2021, and I plan to start querying it in January.
In addition to my critique group, my writing group has continued to go strong, meeting every week on zoom. And our leader added a new feature in the autumn: reading aloud from our work. I was in theatre for about a decade and have given dozens of public talks, so that part doesn’t bother me, but there is something about reading from your own fiction… and I did it in an accent (reading an Elizabethan suspense novel in an American accent seemed weird to me). The words transform when spoken aloud—a useful tool for editing as well.
I felt all over the place this year with writing. I started two manuscripts, only to abandon them. I will get back to them, but I struggled to focus. But in addition to finishing my 2020 NaNo project, I also wrote first drafts of two others (including my 2021 NaNo project). They are rough, but that’s what first drafts are for. So, now in all, I have two finished manuscripts, three first drafts, and two partial first drafts.
I wrote three short stories this year. I probably hadn’t written a short story since high school. All three were historical fantasy, which was fun to do. I liked not having to focus on the long arc of a story when my focus was all over the place. I found the short format helpful because you create a hint of a world without having to do the entire scope of world building required for a full-length historical fantasy. That being said, I have an idea for a future historical fantasy novel.
In my freelance work, I continued to write for TriplePundit. In 2021, I wrote 44 articles (46 in 2020). I had several favorites, including writing about surviving the winter storm in Texas, the mental health impacts of climate change, digital equity (I LOVED this interview), and a profile of the climate work by my beloved alma mater the University of Glasgow.
There wasn’t a magical formula to getting all of this done in such a tough year. It was part needing self-care and part sheer stubbornness. I often joke that I’m a Taurus in western astrology, an Ox in the Chinese zodiac, and a bull in Indian. But I’m also the product of a Montessori education. Call it stubbornness or determination, I will push myself, sometimes too hard. This was the year that I felt the burnout.
Looking Ahead to 2022
My five manuscripts fall into these categories:
1. American Civil War, follows three women, theme: abolition, women’s right, suffrage (2018)
2. Regency-adjacent, loosely based on my ancestor, one of the first female botanists (2019)
3. Elizabethan suspense, a woman works to overcome her past trauma to free her nephew from unjust imprisonment (2020)
4. Dual timeline Elizabethan/WW2, the same house, same family in the Channel Islands, two women who face similar odds in trying to protect the persecuted (2021)
5. 1901 New York City, first female detective, immigrant communities, prejudice, a shifting world (2021)
My goals for 2022:
— Edit manuscripts #5 and #4 (in that order). We’ll see how that goes. If travel is in the cards, I’d like to do some research to work on my two unfinished manuscripts.
— Write three short stories
— Blog more. In 2021, I wrote three blog posts (2020, six). I want to write at least six in 2022.
— Get an agent! This is a goal every year until it happens
Heading into 2022, we’re vaxxed and boosted and our daughter’s vaxxed. We’re hoping we can travel—for research, for feeding the soul, and for inspiration.
What do your 2022 goals look like?
Photo credit: Unsplash/Etienne Girardet