Wednesday was a very special day!
She’s Novel officially turned two months old, and I said goodbye to the teen years (thank God). Yep, that’s right. My birthday is indeed April 1st. No April Fool's joke there!
I’ll admit that I initially hesitated to share my age on the internet. It’s not that I was afraid of stalkers or frauds or whatever other demons hide between the web pages. Rather, I worried that being so young would be off-putting to some readers.
After all, I am trying to present myself as an expert without a degree, a published novel, or a job in the field. All that and I’m only 20 years old? That could be a tough pill for some readers to swallow…
Then I realized something: age truly is just a number. It’s so simple, but it’s worth repeating. If I consistently put out great content that encourages, inspires, and nurtures you all then who cares how many birthdays I’ve celebrated?
Sure, some people will think that my age discredits me, but they are the ones with a bit of growing up to do. Right?
So Wednesday was not only a celebration of my birthday but of learning to be confident in my own passions and expertise.
I absolutely LOVE writing these articles every week for you, as well as sending out the Bi-Weekly Newsletters and working on new products and services to help you become a better writer.
And more than anything, I love YOU. I love chatting with you on Twitter, getting a peek inside your daily life on Instagram, getting to know you better through email, watching you grow and attain your writing goals, and purchasing your books when you complete them.
You lovely people make me smile each and every day. If I could, I’d reach through the computer screen and squeeze each and every one of your little guts out in the biggest bear hug ever.
Alas! I can’t break the virtual wall. But that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate together. Go grab a cupcake and some coffee, pull up a seat, and let’s chat about the coming year! I am so excited to present to you my 20 Writing Goals.
Hopefully they will give you a bit of insight into my fiction writing, as well as inspiration to reach for new heights in your own work. Oh, and this post may or may not contain pictures of me waaay too happy. Sorry!
1. Finish the 1st draft of The Astral Stone. Someday, I will tell you the story of how I managed to work on this novel for three years without completing the first draft, but let me just say…I am SO close to completing this goal.
I only have about 35,000 more words to go, which may seem like a lot if you don’t know that I’m writing an epic fantasy. Its first draft is probably going to top out around 130,000 words, so I’m really not that far off. I expect to complete this project by the end of April, and most definitely by the end of May.
2. Sketch new maps. The Astral Stone takes place in a world of my creation. I’ve spent hours upon hours developing its places, its people, and its cultures. I already have a few maps drawn out, but many of the names have changed over time, so I need to create more finalized versions. This is totally fine by me; world-building is one of my favorite parts of writing!
And surprise–I just wrote an article on world-building just for you!
3. Make character drawings. I’m not the greatest artist in the world, but I can produce a decent portrait if I put my mind to it. Despite pinning a million pictures to my private Pinterest board for inspiration, I’d really like to create my own renderings of my characters.
4. Do a 2nd draft edit for The Astral Stone. Astral has several story lines that intertwine late in the book. I completed one story line way back during NaNo 2014, which means that once I finish the rest of the 1st draft, I’ll be ready to dive into editing that first story line. I hope to complete the rest of the 2nd draft edit by the end of the summer.
5. Get my author website up and running. I’ve owned my own name as a domain for a while now, but there’s nothing on the website yet. I’d love to turn that place into a hub for the Astral series, introducing readers to the world of Emar and all the interesting peoples and histories it has to offer.
6. Start drafting some short stories related to the Astral series. Astral has a lot of backstory that is touched upon briefly throughout the book. I’d love to find the time to write a few short stories based on those histories.
7. Release those short stories on my author website. As a way to introduce readers to the Astral world, and to let you guys actually get your hands on a bit of my fiction, I would love to publish those short stories on my author website.
8. Continue my write chain. I just completed the Writember Workshop from my friend Faye Kirwin’s site, Writerology. I spent every day in March completing a minimum of 200 words of fiction a day, and I now have 36 links in my write chain.
Compared to Faye’s hundreds, that number is measly (though I am definitely proud of it!). I want to continue that chain throughout the year, so that that on April 1st, 2016, I have 386 links and a whole lot of fiction under my belt.
9. Do another NaNo. Whether it be a November NaNo with a 50k word count goal or one of the Camp NanoWriMo’s, I’d love to do another NaNo event. I find that I am so much more highly motivated to complete a specific goal when my internet writing friends know about it. It’s all about accountability, right?
10. Write a new synopsis. You can see my current synopsis for The Astral Stone on my About page (click here to read it), but I’ll probably need a new one once I’ve ironed out the plot after the 2nd draft.
Some details of the story are bound to change, plus I’ll be able to add more information about character motivations and goals since I’ve gotten to know them better.
11. Create a few #pitmad pitches. Pit Mad, also known by the hashtag #pitmad, is a Twitter event where authors write their book pitches in less than 120 characters for agents to pick and choose from.
It’s a great event for those looking to get selected by an agent and, though I’ve never participated in one, I think creating a few pitches might be helpful.
Even if I never take to pitmad to find an agent, having a few succinct words under my belt with which to describe my story could come in handy. After all, how many times have you writers been asked about what you write? I know I get it a lot, and I always fumble around for what to say.
12. Read 35 novels. As Stephen King says, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” I average about 1 novel every week/week and a half. Despite my ever more chaotic life, I’d love to read another 35 novels before I turn 21.
13. Read 5 research books. I LOVE collecting research books for my fantasy series. I have several history books on medieval Europe, books on monarchies and the nobility, and even a book on ancient Celtic mysticism (yeah, I got a weird look from the cashier when I bought that one).
I always bring them home, read the first chapter excitedly, and then get swamped by other books or projects. This coming year, I’d love to actually finish some of my research books!
14. Find beta-readers. After the second or third draft, I’d love to send out my manuscript for review by beta-readers, but I don’t want to send my book out to just anybody. I need to cultivate a list of beta-readers who I know will provide valuable critiques.
The Astral Stone is going to be huge, and it will take a while to read and review. I’d hate to send it out to anyone who doesn’t have honest experience and interest in critiquing fantasy novels.
15. Prepare a list of questions for beta-readers. I’m always working through my draft and thinking, “I wonder if this section makes sense to someone who doesn’t have the full scope of the story?”. I need to begin compiling a list of specific questions for my beta-readers so that I can get more than just an overall critique in return.
16. Do research on traditional vs. self-publishing. I am like…85% sure that I want to publish the Astral series traditionally. However, that 15% still looms over me, casting doubt my way at every turn. I’d like to do a little bit more research on both so that I can rest assured that one or the other is definitely the right option for me.
17. Begin researching agents and publishing houses I’d like to work with. I don’t want to send my manuscript to any old agent who is interest in publishing fantasy. I want to cultivate a list of potential agents who would truly be passionate about a story like my own, ones who will have the guts and drive it takes to make a novel successful.
And as for publishing houses, well, I really don’t have a clue…
18. Practice query letters. I’m not sure I’ll be ready to query a year from now. I mean, I might. We shall see, but I have never written a query letter in my life, so I want to jump on the bandwagon soon and gain a bit of experience. Maybe by the time querying rolls around, I’ll have a decently polished letter.
19. Begin outlining book 2 of the Astral series. Since I should be wrapping up this first manuscript by next summer, I need to begin digging in to book 2. Right now I have a general idea of where the series is going as a whole, and what plot points will appear in book 2, but I definitely have more Planner work to go before I can begin drafting the 2nd book.
20. Reward myself when I complete each goal. I have a bad habit of never seeing anything in a 100% positive light. I’ll complete an amazing goal that I worked on for months, and still find room to doubt that I put out my best work. It’s a DIY learner problem, I think.
I always want to keep improving, but that shouldn’t come at the cost of celebration. Every time I complete one of these goals, I am going to celebrate in some small shape or form (maybe even a really giant way!). Positive-thinking and hard work are the keys to success, and I am ready to master both!
Well, these are my 20 Writing Goals to Complete Before I Turn 21. It’s a lot, I know, but I’ve always dreamed really big and worked super hard. With a little luck and a whole lot of dedication, I am prepared to make these goals, and my dreams, a reality.
In what ways are you looking to improve your writing in the coming year?
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Kristen Kieffer is a writer of fantasy fiction and the creative writing coach behind She's Novel. She's made it her mission to help aspiring authors write sensational novels because obliterating expectations is her jam. Her other passions? Coffee and Tolkien, of course!