Posted by: devonellington | December 30, 2009

2009 Wrap Up

Yes, I’m posting this on the 30th rather than the 31st, but — hey, it’s the 31st already over the International Date line!

I’m really rather shocked by how far short I fell from . . .everything, except giving up my safety net of Broadway work. Let’s see if I can take what I learned and move forward positively.

Feel free to share any comments or your own wrap-ups/reflections on the year.

2009 GDR Wrap-up:

1. Looking back on the previous year, without consulting your notes or the GDRS for it, what stands out in your memory as a met goal that makes you feel positive about the future?

January: The publication of HEX BREAKER and the launch of the Jain Lazarus Adventures. The characters and book received such a warm response, I feel as though I’m back on track with the fiction after flailing for awhile. I’m also thrilled that “The Merry’s Dalliance” was so warmly received by NEW MYTHS. And glad that Nina Bell is back, and, in many ways, better than ever.

December: As the months progressed, I felt a lot of frustration with the publisher with whom I’d lodged HEX BREAKER, especially since the release date for OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK kept getting pushed back. I was already talking to other publishers about CRAVE THE HUNT and the moving the rest of the series to a new home when the original publisher tanked. My commitment to the series remains; I simply have to figure out the smartest way to get it before the public.

At the top of the year, I felt back on track, fiction-wise, but, unfortunately, lost that as the year progressed. That’s something I have to get back this year.

Other optimistic happenings: The publication of DIXIE DUST RUMORS, the warm receptions for the plays TILL DEATH DO THEY PART and THE MATILDA MURDERS, and that my essay for the Anita Blake anthology was so enthusiastically received by the editor. Unexpected royalties from the PERFECTLY PLUM anthology was also welcome.

I was surprised by how much of the freelance work came out of DC, and that I was much more politically involved than usual. Feeling optimistic about the current administration (while still not always agreeing with them) motivated me to accept more of that type of work.

2. What did you find you needed to release, because, as the year progressed, it no longer worked to struggle towards it as a goal?

January: The obsession with cracking a couple of specific markets; I don’t like to write what they publish, so why stress over it? Just because they pay well doesn’t mean I’m the right match for them. And I got better at saying “no” to ridiculously low-paying markets and not getting guilted back into working for them.

Also, I’m frustrated because I didn’t get the move accomplished. I feel like I’m spinning my wheels, but, in this economy, it’s getting more and more difficult to pull it off. At the same time, I can’t stay where I am.

December: As the year progressed, I continued to cut deadwood out of my life, people, places, and things that no longer fit into my vision for my future; some of whom are actively trying to sabotage it. I had to let go of anger towards one of the publishers, because it caused my work to stall. I had to let go of certain friendships I had hoped to renew when the other party had no interest. Also, a long term romantic relationship came to an amicable parting, but a parting is still a parting.

3. How has writing become more important in your life this past year?

January: Absolutely front and center. I made the bulk of my living from it. Not to say that I made a lot of money, but I did earn the bulk of my living from it and (barely) kept my head above water.

December: As the year progressed, I took an honorable withdrawal from the wardrobe union. At this point, if I don’t write successfully, I don’t eat and can’t keep a roof over my head. It’s quite the motivator.

4. How do you plan to move it up on the priority list this year? List three specific steps to make your writing more of a priority.

January: It is the number one priority to me. What I need to do is find a way to manage my time better, and to utilize more creative marketing concepts to get my name to a wider audience.

My approach is to:
–dedicate specific blocks of time each week for marketing
–try to get more done in my initial writing session of the day
— on non-show days, add an additional writing session in the evening

December: January’s comments are still relevant. As far as the three steps, I improved on the first, the second was hit and miss, and now that I don’t have shows, I can have as many writing sessions as I want. Unfortunately, I did not utilize them as well as I should have.

5. In terms of a living wage, what do you need to adjust in your writing output in order to achieve your wage-earning goals?

January: Hustle and land a few more higher-paying gigs. Perhaps find a few regular clients instead of the majority of what I do (because I don’t want to be tied down) which are currently one-offs. Manage the time better so I can get the fiction out to the higher paying markets more quickly, and market more effectively what’s already out there. I don’t have theatre to fall back on this year, due to the combination of my writing commitments and the economy, so I’ve got to be smarter in the way I go after and land jobs.

December: I would add to the above: stay away from content mills, which I’ve done successfully, after a narrow escape in February. One cannot make a living writing for content mill sites, most of the content is crap anyway, and why write an article for $15 when I can easily sell a quality piece for ten times that or more?

6. Do you still hang on to the fallacy that if you love to write, you don’t “deserve” to be paid a decent wage for it? List three steps to move past this block.

January: I deserve to be paid what I’m worth. I need to hold that payment line harder.

December: I AM holding the payment line harder. Clients who aren’t willing to pay quality money for quality work don’t deserve my work and don’t get it.

7. What large projects do you want to start this year?

THE SANDOVAL SECRET (the third Gwen and Justin book)
The third and fourth Jain Lazarus Adventures
Pick one or two of the novel-length ideas with which I’ve been playing and run with them
Maybe another Nina Bell piece

The project roster wound up being totally different.
THE SANDOVAL SECRET did not get done
I’m working on CRAVE THE HUNT (the third Jain Lazarus) which is a priority for 2010, and I’ve got LOVE AND FURY (the fourth and a shocking one) outlined.
FEMME FATALE was written, contracted, and will be produced in April of 2010.
I think the Nina Bell I will write next is FINDING JAKE, which is outlined, but which has to find a place in the queue, and it might not happen this year. I’m shocked and saddened that I did not complete any of my big projects this year – outside of plays. Most of the work was shorter pieces and business writing. That has to change in 2010.
I wrote a lot of short fiction this year, and that’s out there finding homes (some of them have successfully landed). But, looking back, it doesn’t look as though I’ve done much of anything, although I spent many hours at my desk. But very little made it thorugh enough drafts to be submittable. That must change.

8. What projects from the previous year do you need to complete? (Either first drafts, revisions, query letters)

THE BALTHAZAAR TREASURE (the second Gwen and Justin book)
The Big Project
The first Helena Francis Mystery
Keep the momentum going on The Penny’s Dreadfuls tales
If TRACKING MEDUSA doesn’t get picked up, next round of submissions for that

ANGEL HUNT has truly lived up to “re-vision” and ‘re=imagine” – it is vastly different from where it started and still needs more work.
Damned if I can remember which project I publicly nicknamed “The Big Project”
Helena Francis Mystery is almost there.
Lost momentum on PENNY’S DREADFULS and must regain it.
EARTH BRIDE – pushed to 2010.
TRACKING MEDUSA is out on submission
ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT is also out on submission (that was not on last year’s list, but I saw an opportunity for it and jumped).

9. What mix of smaller projects do you want to get into the pipeline this year?

Penny’s Dreadfuls stories
A few shorter ideas with which I’m playing
The magical realism stories I began in Jamieson Wolfe’s workshop last year.

Lost focus on Penny’s Dreadfuls, which have to pick up again.
I worked on a lot of short pieces.
The stories begun in the workshop are starting to find homes, including “The Peace of the Night” in THE RANFURLY REVIEW.
“The Retriever” also found a home with BOOKS FOR MONSTERS
“Mina’s Test” was accepted by STORIES FOR CHILDREN

10. How do you prioritize your projects? How do you shuffle them as your needs change?

January: When is the deadline? How much does it pay?
They get shuffled depending upon deadline, payment, and whatever idea catches fire. Sometimes, they need to be re-prioritized on a daily basis.

December: Unfortunately, I did not balance the short turnaround projects well enough with the longer projects.

11. What is your querying goal for the year? (IE, how many queries per week/month would you like to send out)?

January: 3-5 freelance queries per week.
At least one batch of book queries per month ((I usually send those out in batches of ten), as soon as each book is ready for submission.
As many short story submissions as I can manage per month – hopefully at least 3 per month.

December: That was kind of hit and miss. I sent out a lot of queries, especially early in the year, and was pretty good with follow-up. I had several months of intensive editing work with a client, which was terrific, and quite a few business clients. I did not market myself effectively enough this year in any area.

12. What new area/genre are you willing to expand into/experiment in this year?

January: I might go back and experiment in erotica a bit, if I can find ideas that interest me enough and markets that pay well enough for writing that needs to be that technical. On the non-fiction front, I want to write for more environmental and wildlife organizations.

December: I wound up writing a monthly column for SOLE STRUCK FASHIONS (my last one is January 2010). I played with some ideas for erotica, but contracted work came first. I am moving toward writing for more environmental and wildlife organizations, but am not as well-positioned as I would like going into 2010.

13. What is the greatest gift to your writing self you can give?

January: Time and focus.

December: Well-managed time. I spent far too much time on other people’s projects. Necessary, when they’re paying, but this year, it got out of balance. I can’t let that continue.

14. What do you need to renegotiate with other factions in your life to give yourself more writing time?

January: I need to manage my own emotions better so that interruptions don’t throw me for a loop for hours on end. Drop it and move on. Also, this year, I have to take a long, hard look at whether or not I should do Nano. It threw a monkey wrench into several things this past November. Although I’m glad I got to play with the idea for the mystery begun in the workshop, I had too many other deadlines looming over me that didn’t get the attention they deserved because I was caught up in Nano. And I ended up feeling frustrated all the way around.

December: I’m still working on the former, although I made progress. I chose not to do Nano this year, and it was a good decision.

15. Decide on one writing risk for this year – be it a submission in a new genre, attending a conference, or trying something completely out of your comfort zone. Write about it, and set yourself a loose timeline to accomplish it.

January: I don’t know what this is yet. I’m still trying to figure it out. Maybe co-write something with a friend and fellow writer – we’d discussed it last year, but haven’t managed to get back to more discussions.

December: I did not take writing risks this year and wound up feeling frustrated and unfulfilled. However, the germination for several extremely risky projects happened, so hopefully, next year, I’ll be taking some creative risks. I’d rather risk and fall on my ass than not risk. My risk this year was a non-writing one, in a way — I withdrew from the union and the safety of Broadway work to write full time.

16. What new and unique marketing arenas will you enter this year to promote both yourself and your work?

January: I’m seriously considering purchasing a page on the Long and Short site. I’m trying to be more active in loops, and more supportive of my fellow writers on a regular basis. I think I also need to create a speaking platform and seek out more speaking engagements.

December: I planned to purchase the page once OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK was released. Since it did not release, and HEX BREAKER is now out of print, I did not do so.

17. What do you need to do to enhance your self-esteem so you refer to yourself as “writer” FIRST when someone asks you to define yourself?

January: This is how I refer to myself and how I define myself. For me, this is a non-issue.

December: Ditto.

18. What kind of time commitment are you willing to make on a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis to support your writing?

January: Focus the bulk of my day on writing, revising, marketing, and searching for jobs each day. Fill in with other stuff only as needed.

December: In 2010, I need to restructure my writing day a bit so that I spend more time on the novel-length projects.

19. What other elements needs to balance with your writing? What happens when you feel unbalanced?

January: Fitness, which for me, is primarily yoga. Spending time with friends and family. Traveling. Going to museums. Reading, especially material that I’m not paid to read or need to read for research, but am reading “just because”. When I don’t take percolation time and down time, I can’t create.

December: I stayed true to the above pretty well. I did not take enough percolation time, and that reflected in the lack of completed, polished projects.

20. What contract are you willing to make with yourself to prevent writing from falling farther down on your priority list when “life gets in the way”?

January: No one will “give” me the time. I have to create the time and space to write. If I don’t achieve my writing goals, the only one to blame is myself. It’s up to me to set boundaries and to reshuffle as life requires.

December: I agree with January’s comment, but did not always live up to it.

21. How do your writing goals for the year fit into your dreams for the future?

January: Writing is the foundation of my future.

December: The above is even more true now than it was in January.

22. What resolutions do you make to integrate your writing and the rest of your life?

January: It is integrated. I just need to up the payment ante.

December: The ante needs to be upped even further. In 2010, I have to also move more out of my writing comfort zone.

23. How do these goals fit into your three year plan? Your five year plan? Your ten year plan?

January: The writing is the springboard to everything else. I want the Jain Lazarus Adventures complete in three years. The Gwen/Justin adventures will be complete within five years, and I have several other multi-book projects that I want to write, market, and get published within the next ten years, along with everything else and all the new ideas that come up. I also want to keep playwriting as an integral part of my professional writing life.

December: I still stand by January’s comments. I’ve stayed the truest to the playwrighting taking a more prominent place in the works, and it being successful.

24. Name one new non-writing element you plan to introduce into your life (and that might give you something new about which to write).

January: There are several non-writing elements I want to introduce into my life, but they have to wait until I move.
I want to find a good and supportive yoga studio.
I want a garden (one where I can grow a mixture of flowers, herbs, and vegetables)
I want to learn how to play the piano
I want to take a pottery class
I want to play at painting (as in pictures, not walls)
Not all of that will happen this year, but I hope that some of it will.
One of the goals I can put into practice is to not rush my yoga practice, even when I feel time pressure to get other things done. By taking the time out for my daily practice, I come back to the page far more focused and productive, so it is not time lost, but time gained. And that’s the way I need to look at it, when I’m feeling deadline pressure – which is almost all the time.

I found a good and supportive yoga studio.
I had a pretty fun indoor garden.
Piano, pottery, and paingint are on hold.
Taking the time with the daily practice was the best gift I gave myself all year.

25. Name one non-writing element in your life that gets in the way of your writing that you commit to giving up or limiting and, instead, devote that time to writing.

January: I became a news junkie leading up to last fall’s election. I need to cut back on that. Not only is it cutting into my writing time, it depresses me. We are responsible for knowing what’s going on in the world and taking the action to change it. Apathy = condonement. However, I don’t need to remain glued to the set for hours on end. I’d be better off making the world a better place through my writing.

December: Turning off the TV was easy, although, due to work coming out of DC, I have to watch more than I’d often like. I have to now balance the business and contracted writing with the other projects, so I don’t keep putting off my own work to do someone else’s.

GOALS FOR 2009 (and how I did with them)
Increased writing output and quality, in both longer and shorter projects – I upped the shorter, failed on the longer projects. I did not realize how badly I failed until I did this reassessment.
Landing a couple of regular, well-paying clients – clients come and go, I had some great regular ones this year.
Expand my marketing techniques and speaking engagements – this happened, and I will continue to improve.
Move – This did not happen and I’m very frustrated.
More efficient time management – for awhile I thought I had it down, and then I lost it, so I have to reconfigure my time for 2010.

Live in my own house with a garden – unfulfilled
Travel more – lots of short trips to the Cape, Maine, and even DC. Long trip to Prague. I did pretty well on that, and those germinated future projects.
Start either piano, pottery, or painting – unfulfilled.

Take the needed time for yoga, fitness, and percolation time – Yes on yoga and fitness; percolation time fell by the wayside and needs to be factored in.
Stay out of creating a 9-5 trap within the freelance world – hit and miss here.
Search for the kindness and the good in stressful situations; I feel I took a very negative turn in my outlook last year. – Made some progress, plenty more to be made. Cutting the deadwood out of my life as much as possible is a big part of that.
Spend more time in my private, handwritten journal – off and on all year, getting back to it slowly.

Overall: As I lived the year, I thought I was doing well; looking back, I am shocked on how short I fell in so many aspects. It makes sense in regard to the growing frustration I felt over the course of the year, but not knowing the cause until I did this reassessment. I hope to take what I learned and apply it WELL moving forward. I can choose to wallow in discouragement over the past year, or I can learn and focus more on my goals moving forward. Wallowing doesn’t get it done.



  1. […] posted my year-end wrap up on the Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions site. Not happy with my progress, but I feel I learned a lot, and if I apply it moving forward, it […]

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