2020 Writing Year in Review

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Holidays and other traditional posts have made this a bit later than usual, but I still wanted to take some time to look at my 2020 writing year and see what I accomplished.

I’m actually pretty proud of the work I did in 2020 overall.  I did the Get Your Words Out (GWYO) habit tracking challenge again, and this year I actually made my goal, completing some amount of writing work on 314 out of 365 days.  My goal was 240.

Here are a few fun metrics from the data produced by the spreadsheet GYWO provide for tracking.  I tracked time as well as days which turned out to be quite interesting.

I tracked progress on nine different writing projects, one major sewing project, as well as other sewing, ML work, and my D&D prep work this past year.  It came out to a total of 432.6 hours spent on creative projects.

I spent the most time on my NaNoWriMo project, now a series called Relationships and Readings, with 97.1 hours spent.  (All of that in October, November, and December too!)

I spent 241.9 total hours on writing projects and 66.6 hours on making projects (sewing and the like).

I also apparently spent 121.4 hours on ML related tasks, events, etc in October and November.  (I was tracking this largely out of curiosity.)

This averages out to 6 hours a week or .85 hours (51 minutes) a day spent on creative projects.

None of these numbers are perfect, and they’re likely all underestimations as I’m not always great about tracking, but it gives me an idea of how I spend my creative time over the course of a year.

So what did that all result in?

Among all those hours, I spent 54.6 hours working on book three in the Swords and Shields series.  Toward the end of last year I got book two pretty close to finished.  It still needs a close reading for style, grammar, etc, but the basic structure of the story is settled.  Because of how book two and three relate, I want to release them close together, so I moved on to working on book three this year.  Those hours included some hefty rewriting, a lot of reorganizing, attempts to figure out how to be a plotter, and I’m still not happy with or finished with book three.  I burned myself out a bit on the project though, so I set it aside to work on other things.  I’m hopeful that I can come back to it in 2021 with fresh eyes, fresh perspective, and some new spaces to ask for help untangling the story so that I can make substantial progress on it this year.  Book three was the project I spent the second most time on, which I feel pretty good about.

The fact that I averaged nearly one hour a day also makes me pretty proud, especially with that writing spread across more than 300 days of the year.  I did a good job of prioritizing my creative pursuits this year, and that’s something that I want to continue.  2020 was a very hard year in a lot of ways, and I, like many others, spent time thinking about what matters most to me, and one of those things is my creative pursuits.  Some of my creative pursuits, like sewing and writing, have tangible end-products that I can use or share with the world.  Some, like planning and prepping for a D&D session, don’t have a lasting and tangible product, but that doesn’t make them any less important.  Creativity in my life is very important to me.  Writing gives me so much more than just a completed story.  It gives me space to explore my emotions, practice empathy, and through my writing communities (like NaNo and GWYO) a way to connect with others.

I hope at the end of next year I can look back at these numbers and compare them to my 2021 numbers and find that I’ve carved out even more time for my creative pursuits and prioritized the joy and fulfillment I get from them.  I already have a pretty good start with more than 16 hours on creative projects this January.

I hope you’ve all had a wonderful New Year so far, and that you’re making progress on your goals for the year like I am.  Keep writing, making, and creating.

Image Prompt 072 – Tired of Third Shift

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I chose the image of the cat on the laundry hamper for my 20-minute sprint today. 

Tired of Third Shift:

Amy was so glad to be home.  Working third shift was harder than she’d thought it would be.  Just managing to sleep properly when it was daylight out wasn’t a simple thing.  Thankfully she’d found a mask that was comfortable enough.

Violet was settled on her laundry hamper as usual, eyes closed and looking content and warm even right next to the window.  As soon as Amy walked in she opened her eyes and meowed loudly in greeting.  For such a lightweight little thing, she was incredibly loud.

“Good morning to you, too,” Amy said, stepping over to pet Violet and scratch her ears and chin just the way she liked best.

Amy heard the bathroom door open in the hallway outside her room.

“Good morning,” her brother Jason said quietly.  “It’s nice that I always know you made it home alright, but that’s the only nice thing about how loud she is.”

Amy laughed softly, still petting Violet.  For as much as Jason complained about her cat being loud, Amy knew he secretly loved Violet, especially when she was in a good mood and curled up on his lap to cuddle.

“Good night at work?” Jason asked, leaning in her doorway.

“Not bad,” Amy replied.  It was a retail warehouse job, it was never going to be great, but at least it meant she made enough for her part of the rent and utilities and at least some of the grocery bills.  Jason was being really great about feeding her when she came up short.  But then, he made bank doing computer security work for one of the big banks, so it wasn’t like he was struggling too.

“I got a pot roast and your usual list of veggies for it if you want to get that in the oven this afternoon,” Jason said.  “I’m going to be a little late getting home, so you don’t have to wait on me unless you want to.”

“Thanks for feeding me all the time,” Amy said, moving over to the door to give her brother a hug.

“You’re worth it,” he said, hugging back.  “Besides, one of these days you’re going to find that perfect job and you’ll be able to spoil me right back.”

Amy laughed again.  Finding work as a graphic designer wasn’t as easy as you’d think.  Yes, plenty of people needed one, but not everyone was willing to pay what you were worth or pay you to just do design and not six other things while you were at it.

“Have faith,” Jason said as he gave her a final squeeze and headed back to his room to get ready.  He had to leave for work soon.

“I’ll try,” Amy replied, heading into the bathroom to brush her teeth and get ready for bed.  At least she was able to keep her sleep schedule such that she was awake in the evening when her brother and their roommate were home.

Amy changed into pajamas and curled up in her bed.  Violet was jumping up to join her only a moment later, curling up against Amy’s chest where it was nice and warm.  Amy smiled as she put on her sleep mask and lay her head on the pillow.  She gently stroked Violet as she let her mind wander, hoping it wouldn’t be too hard to get to sleep this morning.

She was almost asleep when her phone range.

She pushed the mask up and reached for it.  Clearing her throat she answered with a standard “hello.”

“I’m calling to speak with Amy Thomas,” the male voice on the other end said.

“This is she,” Amy replied, laying her head down again.

“I’m calling from Wright Light Design,” he said.  “We received your application for the designer position and wanted to arrange a phone interview if you’re still interested in the position.”

“Yes, I’m still interested,” Amy replied, sitting up in bed.  “What day would you like to schedule it?”

“Are you available tomorrow?”

“I’m available between two and six tomorrow,” Amy replied.  If it was going to be that fast turnaround she didn’t want to disrupt her sleep schedule.

“We have a time available at three,” the man replied.  “The phone interviews usually take about thirty minutes.”

“Tomorrow at three,” Amy replied to confirm.  “Who will the interview be with?”

“I’ll be calling you at three as the HR representative for this position, along with the Lead Designer the position reports to and one of the designers on the team the new designer will be working with.”

“I look forward to speaking with the three of you tomorrow,” Amy said.

“Excellent, I’ll speak with you then.  Have a pleasant day.”

“You do the same,” Amy replied.

Amy’s door opened, Jason peeking his head in.  “Did I hear the word interview?”

“Yeah,” Amy said.  “Phone interview tomorrow.”

“Nice,” Jason said, smiling.  “Get some good sleep,” he added, “I’ll see you for dinner and I can grill you about the job it’s for.”

Amy just laughed.  He never grilled her despite how often he said that.  “Have a good day at work.”

“Later,” Jason said, closing her door before heading down the stairs.

Well, maybe things were about to turn around.  This was the first interview she’d gotten since she started applying for design jobs seven months ago when she graduated.

Image Prompt 072 – Cats and Wolves

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It’s the Second Friday of the Month, so today is an Image Prompt day.

I’ve included two images to work from.  Pick one (or both if you’re feeling ambitious) and write something inspired by the image.  You can use something in the image, the feeling it invokes, or whatever the image makes you think of.

If you write a piece and end up posting it somewhere online, please link back to it here on a comment so we can all enjoy it too.

I’ll be posting my own piece next week.

Image Prompt 072-01 Winter Break in Gastonia 001

Image Prompt 072-02 Campus Spring 2012 (10)

Where I’m From: 2021 Edition

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Happy New Year!  I hope everyone has had a lovely holiday season and that we all have a positive start to a new year better than the last.

This is my yearly version of the “Where I’m From” poem prompt.  You can find my original prompt here and the versions from 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.  If anyone else wants to try their hand at the poem prompt, I’d love to read your results, so feel free to leave a comment.

Where I’m From

I am from Tinkerbell journals, from apple-scented Dawn, and NaNoWriMo mugs.

I am from the half-underground, hobbit-hole apartment, dimly lit and cozy.

I am from the proliferating pathos, the bright pink Christmas cactus.

I am from holiday pumpkin rolls and too-loud laughs, from Catherine and Elizabeth and Brown.

I am from the collecting of craft projects and the taking of too many photos.

From look where you’re going and don’t read after lights out.

I am from wooden crosses and five-pointed stars.  From advent wreaths and home altars.

I’m from the Steel City and Scotland’s wild moors, cheesecake and tacos.

From the mysteriously eaten pumpkin pie, the sliver I was given, and the sugar left out of my sister’s very first taste.

I am from bulletin boards, wall-frames, hard drives, university libraries, and file folders.

From towns founded, journeys taken, and memories made.

From personal histories, shared stories, and time with grandmothers.

From anecdotes and writing prompts, recipes, and family trees.

Happy Holidays

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For those celebrating today, Merry Christmas.  To those who celebrate other December holidays I hope you’ve had (or will have) a wonderful one.

It’s been a truly remarkable year in a great many ways, so I’m taking today to be nostalgic and post some happy memories from holidays (December and otherwise) in the past.  I hope you enjoy my slightly eccentric collection of holiday photos.

Happy BirthdaHalloChristmaWeen! 😎

Image Prompt 071 – Flight

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I chose the image of Edinburgh Castle for my twenty-minute sprint this week.

Title: Flight

Sonja crept along the edge of the wall.  Every few feet she paused to listen.  She could hear the patrol making it’s rounds above her.  As long as their steps remained slow and regular it was unlikely they’d noticed she was gone.  If they were looking for her there would be running.

She moved a few more feet and paused again.  She heard voices.  There were guards right above her.

“I don’t see the point,” a woman said.

“We’re getting paid, who cares why?” a man replied.

“It just seems like such a waste,” the woman answered.  “Fifteen of us at all times just for one prisoner.”

Sonja crept forward a few more steps.  If they were talking and dismissive, maybe this really was going to work.

“One very important prisoner,” the man reminded his fellow guard.  “You remember what they told us, don’t you?”

“I’m not sure I believe in any of that stuff,” the woman replied.

Sonja crept forward again, coming to the spot where the wall met the living rock.  She needed the guards to move away.  It was too risky with them so close.

“Believe it or not, they do,” the man said.  “And if they believe, you bet your ass we’ll be in for it if we don’t do our job.”

“Whatever,” the woman replied.  “I don’t shirk,” she added.  “It’s time to check the south wall.”

“You want windows or exterior tonight?” the man asked.

“Windows,” the woman replied, their voices already getting quieter.

Sonja pressed herself against the rock at the base of the wall.  This was her only chance at this.  They were moving away, but they were also about to find an open window and raise the alarm.

Sonja gripped the rock and pressed her foot against the wall and slowly managed to inch her way up onto the top of the rocky ledge along the edge of the wall.  She had to stay crouched to not be visible from the arrow slits in the wall above, so she inched forward carefully.

She heard the shout when the woman found the open window.  Scrambling forward as fast as she could in her crouch, she made it to the corner, where the rock face dropped precipitously and the next portion of wall was flush with the sloping edge.  She glanced back at the old castle they’d turned into her personal prison.

Every light in the place was on, but she was still in shadow.  She prayed that she had enough time.

Sonja closed her eyes and sought her magic.  It had been so long since she’d been able to let it out.  So long since she’d been her true self.  It took a heart-pounding moment before her magic answered her.

The magic boiled out of her in a rush, transforming her body as it enveloped her in flames.

Sonja spread her wings, fighting every instinct she had to keep from crying out in joy as she let herself fall off the cliff.

The wind caught her, the air around her wings lifting her up as she soared out over the city.  She headed straight for the most densely populated area.  The lights there would help her hide.

~

Anna looked out over the wall as they ran back toward the east end of the castle.

“Gods defend us,” she gasped, coming up short at the east wall.

There it was.  The phoenix she didn’t think she believed in.

“She’s headed for the city!” Anna cried, unable to look away from the beauty of the giant bird soaring out away from the castle.

“Bring it down!” their commander yelled from somewhere behind her.

Anna drew her weapon as her partner came up beside her, his already drawn.

Sighting carefully Anna’s finger touched the trigger, but she couldn’t make herself fire on such a beautiful creature.

Her partner’s rifle went off and Anna held her breath, still tracking the phoenix, so she saw it dip one wing, her partner’s shot missing completely.

Anna fired, and watched the majestic creature dodge her shot as well.

Image Prompt 071 – Edinburgh Castle and Brookgreen Garden Labyrinth

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It’s the Second Friday of the Month, so today is an Image Prompt day.

I’ve included two images to work from.  Pick one (or both if you’re feeling ambitious) and write something inspired by the image.  You can use something in the image, the feeling it invokes, or whatever the image makes you think of.

If you write a piece and end up posting it somewhere online, please link back to it here on a comment so we can all enjoy it too.

I’ll be posting my own piece next week.

Image Prompt 071-001 - Brookgreen Gardens 2013-03-08 (226)

Image Prompt 071-002 - Edinburgh Castle 046

December Goals

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NaNoWriMo has officially come to a close.  I now have to remember what normal life is supposed to look like.  (I use the term normal very loosely here.)

Step One:

Continue writing every day.  I only missed one day in October, and I didn’t miss any days in November, so I’m going to write every day of December too and I’m joining an accountability buddies group for writing every day of 2021 in addition to signing up for GYWO again.  I’m looking forward to prioritizing my writing again in a more intentional way.

Step Two:

Get back into my normal routine.  Work during work hours on weekdays, goof off in the evenings, and change up the routine a bit on weekends.  Sunday write-ins will continue to be a thing in my life even if they have been virtual since March.  I’ll add some additional writing time Sunday nights with a writing Twitch stream my friend does.  I might try to set up a regular night for gaming with friends in whatever form that takes.

Step Three:

Goals.

I’d like to try to get enough of the story I’m working on strung together into something with a plot to move forward with the idea as a whole.  There are romance plots, intrigue plots, social tension plots, and maybe an overarching revolution of class structure in society plot, but I need to make sure enough scenes pull on the threads of a given plot to make it work developing.  That’s the part I want to spend time on in December that’s not just about drafting.  I need to do some reorganization and flagging of sections by character and timeline details.  The thing stretches across at least four years now and that’s a bit unwieldy.

I’d also like to work on a few other projects.  I have two sewing projects I’d like to at least start.  One is a pattern I cut out last December that I’d like to finish before the end of the year just so it doesn’t go into a second year.  I also have a project for my mother that’s years late that I should be working on.  Not necessarily in time for Christmas but I need to start working on the silver cloth covers for her various silver things.

I have the family’s collection of slides (the photo kind) and a scanner capable of very nice scans from slides, so I’m working on that and want to at least get the chunk with my sister’s first Christmas done before Christmas.  It’s been fun seeing all the pictures so far, so I’d like to continue chipping away at this project until it’s done (maybe by next Christmas).

What are your December goals?  Any writing, crafting, or productivity you plan to work on this month?

NaNoWriMo Update: Day 27

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So this month, like much of this year, did not go according to plan.  And for once, this was a good thing.

I’ve been a Municipal Liaison (ML) for my local region of NaNoWriMo for six years now.  This volunteer role is a lot of fun, lets me develop a rather surprising number of skills I can actually put on my resume, and helps me (and the rest of the team of four MLs in our region) make NaNoWriMo more fun for everyone.  But it does take some time.  My first several years of NaNoWriMo, I was an overachiever, reaching 1.5 or 2 times the goal each year.  I was able to sustain that for the first few years as an ML, but as our region grew and the events we put on increased in number or complexity, I began spending more time on my ML duties and less time writing, so I was writing closer to the 50,000 word goal the past several years.

I was fine with this.  I was still meeting the challenge and getting a lot of writing done in November every year and I was having a lot of fun with my region.

This year, I was planning to meet that 50k goal like usual.  I was going to my own virtual write-ins and attending a few others and we had two big global online events full of extra writing time the first two weekends.  And I crossed the 50,000 word mark on November 14.  I hadn’t even been paying much attention.  I was just suddenly there.  It happened during a global write-in, so I had lots of folks (local and otherwise) to celebrate with.  And then my coML (who was hosting at the time) asked what my record was.  So I looked it up and from the stats on the site, it was the 13th.

And then I found my stats for the first year I ever did NaNoWriMo.  Apparently, my record, is Day 11.

My very first year, I wrote a total of 123,671 words, restarted my story twice, and didn’t even know there was a community to engage with.  I was also only working part time, and was probably spending sixty hours a week at my desk writing my novel.

My second year I discovered regions and write-ins and the community around NaNoWriMo.  It’s been amazing.  I’ve made so many friends, local and not, I’ve been inspired to self-publish my own book, been able to watch as other friends did the same, and generally had an amazing time every single November since that first year (there have been eleven in total counting this one).

It’s been amazing and I look forward to another decade of doing this zany challenge with all my friends around the world.  Yesterday, I ended the day with 100,943 words for the month so far.  And I wrote 44,045 words of planning and pre-novel scenes in October as my prep this year, so I’ve written 144,988 words on this project alone in the last two months.

It’s been an amazing ride and I’m looking forward to the last few days.  Maybe I’ll be extra ridiculous and aim for a total of 200,000 words across the project before the end of the year.  I’m certainly having enough fun with these characters to keep writing in December.

I hope everyone else is having a good NaNoWriMo this year regardless of your word count.  Enjoy the challenge and the comradery and I’ll see you in December.

Image Prompt 070 – Silent Snowscape

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I chose the image of the snowy scene in Dundee Scotland for my twenty-minute sprint.  I’m also still having fun with the idea I started two image prompts ago and continued last month.  So this is a continuation of those two scenes.

Silent Snowscape:

Valerie shivered as she stepped out of the tent the next morning.  There was a dusting of snow over everything, giving the world a hushed feeling and a brightness that didn’t seem to belong in their world anymore.

She made her way to the latrine and then the washing tent to prepare for the day.  By the time she was back Dr. Harrison had left the tent, so she went through their packs and put everything they would need into the smallest two.  They had one last device to install today.  She closed the second pack and sat down on her bunk beside it.  This was the last one.  The last step.  She didn’t know what they’d be doing after today.

Valerie shook her head and got to her feet.  She wasn’t going to get maudlin.  Besides, Dr. Harrison had admitted that he requested her as his partner.  She would likely get to continue working with him if he wanted.

She found Dr. Harrison in the mess tent and joined him for a quick breakfast before they returned for their packs.

“As efficient as always,” Dr. Harrison said, laughing as he picked up both packs to gauge their weight.  He always took the heavier pack.  She tried to load them fairly equally when she could, but she couldn’t argue with him over it.  She was a slender 1.6 meters and he was a solidly muscled 1.9 meters.  She wasn’t out of shape but he was definitely equipped to carry more weight than she was.

They gave their names and codes at the gate and let them know they were returning as soon as the device was installed and headed out on foot.  The camp was tucked between buildings in what was once the city center.  They made their way back across the eerily quiet snow-dusted emptiness in silence.

Valerie remembered Dundee as a bustling city.  Normally there would have been plenty of people out, even on a cold snowy day like this one.  But now the city was a shell of what it once was.  The buildings on one side of the central square had been leveled and the rest heavily damaged.  By some miracle the dragon statue in the middle of the square had survived.

It didn’t take them long to make their way across the empty city to the shores of the Tay.  They took a right past a cherry tree that seemed frozen in time.  It was dusted in snow now, but every time Valerie had passed it in the pasted six months, it looked exactly the same.  The pink flowers just starting to bloom like it was early spring, even though it was late January at the moment.

In the lee of the building behind the mysteriously static cherry tree was what looked like a pile of debris.  Valerie took off her pack and handed it to Dr. Harrison before crouching down and making her way under the first board until she could reach the boat that was hidden there.  She pulled the small row boat completely out onto the snow before accepting her pack again.

They made their way down to the water with the boat carried between them.  Valerie climbed in firt and and Dr. Harrison pushed off as he stepped in.  Dr. Harrison did the rowing and Valerie using a third oar to help steer.  They made for the piles of the old Tay Bridge.  It was going to be a tricky installation, but the location was too good not to use.  The devices were meant to both gather data about electromagnetic activity within their range and work as rudimentary communication towers.

The hope was to determine what was interfering with radio communications and hopefully allow a limited number of cellular devices to communicate.  It would solve one of their largest problems, and allow them to better coordinate and share information.  They still didn’t know what actually happened ten months ago aside from the physical devastation it left behind.  They didn’t even know where the attacks came from.

When they reached the pile they wanted, Valerie shifted to kneel in the center of the boat.  She wanted as much stability as possible while they tried to find a way to anchor the boat to the pile.  If the thing had been big enough they’d have brought along a third person to help them.  One who knew more about boats.