Set It Off: My Writing Goals for 2016

Set it off 2016

Last year, inspired by Thaddeus Howze, I wrote out a detailed plan of what I wanted my writing output to look like in 2015. That post is here, for those interested.

I’m going to try to keep the format of this the same. I’ll begin with a review of what I wanted to accomplish in 2015, and then we’ll examine whether or not I achieved what I set out to do (SPOILER ALERT: I didn’t). After that, I’ll lay out exactly what I intend to accomplish in regard to my writing output in 2016. I find that doing this helps me stay accountable, and be realistic about what I can and can’t do. It also helps me to celebrate my achievements, which is necessary for any writer, because this shit is hard and we need to pat ourselves on the back every so often.

You ready? I’m ready. Let’s go.

In that post up there, I laid out some rather ambitious goals and guidelines for my 2015 writing output. These goals fit into three sections, each of which has a different sort of importance for my writing career. The sections were:

  1. Writing and Publishing
  2. Branding
  3. Community Building

I address those last two, Branding and Community Building, in the previous post:

…Branding and Community Building, aren’t technically related to my writing, they are important, as I publicize my writing and interests through twitter and other social networks, which assists me in networking with other writers and discovering resources.

I won’t be talking about those strategies, or my goals for them from last year here. Instead, I’m focusing almost totally on the first group, Writing and Publishing. Here were my goals from last year:

  1. Complete a novella-length fantasy work for submission to a pro or semi pro market.
  2. Finish edits on stories critiqued by [WRITING GROUP]. Finish incomplete short stories. Submit edited short stories to pro and semi-pro markets, submit incomplete short stories to Fizzgig for review.
  3. Write MORE short stories. In 2014, I sat down and wrote eleven short stories. Of those eleven, five were completed. (that’s a 45% rate of completion. Could be better.) Three of the five short stories were submitted to anthologies or online publications. In 2015, I want to write twice as many short stories as I did in 2014. Failing that, I want to COMPLETE as many short stories as I attempted in 2014.
  4. Continue to build my voice as a SFF cultural critic through frequent blogging and more submission of nonfiction pieces to online culture/review magazines and literary journals.

I set goals to have a piece of short fiction ready for publication every month. I also intended to have a novella-length piece of fiction finished and ready to be submitted by April.

2015 Review and Reflections:

First off, let’s talk about what I did in 2015. I kicked a lot of ass in some areas, and failed in others. I was definitely more visible, and expanded my horizons in 2015. A lot of these new experiences were really fun.

I completed four pieces of new, original fiction, and two more are still in the works. Of these four pieces of new fiction, one was submitted to a couple of markets, and was rejected by both. A piece of short fiction that I wrote in 2013 will be reprinted in an online magazine. Another piece of original fiction that I hoped to move as a new sale has been eaten by the void: I got an acceptance from an editor of an anthology regarding the piece in early 2015, and then I’ve heard no more about the piece, the anthology, or the magazine since. My crowning fiction achievement in 2015 was all of the coverage of my Memphis Noir piece, “Tell Him What You Want”: it got favorable mentions in Publisher’s Weekly and The Commerical Appeal. When I compare my 2015 accomplishments to my 2015 goals, we can see that I fell rather short of my projections. There were a few reasons for this (other than my being a lazy bum):

  • In late march, my MacBook was a victim of Death by Coffee, which put a halt on all production. I didn’t get a new computer for a month.
  • In late April, I started a new full time job, which forced me to reevaluate how I structure my writing time.

These two developments had more impact on my production of short fiction than almost anything else. The death of my computer also delayed production on the novella-length piece that I was working on, but I finished it in November of 2015. It has been submitted to a potential publisher. Shoutout to Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali and Phenderson Djeli Clark for their help with that.

Nonfiction is where I shined in 2015. I began writing for Book Riot in late May of 2015, and its sister site, Panels, in November 2015. I’ve contributed a number of articles to each site since I’ve started, some of which have been very popular. Here’s my favorite.

I’ve also been called on for other work. I’ve written on some of my favorite books for SFSignal and the Memphis Flyer, and I’ve showed up to a couple of podcasts. All in all, 2015 was a very productive year, particularly for my nonfiction writing. I’ve also made quite a bit of money from my writing in 2015, which has gone directly to my student loans is a balm to my hungry, hungry pockets. I still need to find homes for a lot of my fiction, though, and I also need to really work on producing, submitting, and publishing more short fiction.

Strategy for 2016:

Again, my only focus in this section will be writing. In the previous plan, I outlined a strategy for Branding and Community building, and those will remain pretty much the same. Instead, I’m going to split 2016 into two parts, and focus on those parts individually.

2016 Part 1:

  • Complete 2 pieces of original short fiction for publication to upcoming anthologies.
  • Finish incomplete pieces of short fiction, and edits on completed short fiction.
  • Submit edited short fiction to pro and semi-pro markets.
  • Submit short fiction to [NAME OF WRITING GROUP REDACTED] for suggested critiques.
  • Last year, I made a pledge to write more short fiction. I wanted to write as much short fiction in 2015 as I had in 2014, with the ultimate goal to complete a piece of short fiction every 30 days. Life was like, “nah fam. Wyd?” Even though I normally don’t take a long time to complete a first draft, I have to actually sit down and write the damn thing, which is where I failed last year. Instead, I’ll focus on quality over quantity. I want to write two face-meltingly good pieces of short fiction in the first half of 2016.
  • My chosen markets to crack in 2016 are Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. Sword and Soul Forever!
  • Continue to build my voice as a cultural critic through frequent blogging and more submission of nonfiction pieces to online culture/review magazines and literary journals.

2016 Part 2:

I need to have a workable first draft of a novel completed in 2016. Point blank. I have a couple of ideas that I’ve been floating, and I’m going to get to work on them. I hope to have a fantasy novel completed in one year. Cross your fingers for me.

As I said last year, “one surefire way to become a better writer is to write more. And ultimately, that’s the goal of all of this.

Like always, I want to hear from other writers. Are you plotting or pantsing your writing for 2016? Are you making any changes to an existing plan? Hit up the comments with your plans, and if you’ve blogged about it, drop me a link. I care, if don’t nobody else care.

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9 thoughts on “Set It Off: My Writing Goals for 2016

  1. It’s great to see what your goals are for the first half of this year, and even better to look back on all that you’ve accomplished in 2015. Congratulations and good luck!

    I’ll definitely have to catch up on what you’ve been writing for Book Riot and Panels; one of MY goals this year is to read more about what’s out there. The sheer amount of essays and stories can be paralyzing, but I’ve found it’s never a bad idea to start with friends and the people I admire.

    In 2016, my goals are persistent effort. I’d like this year to be the year that I make a habit of writing, of producing blogs, short stories and reviews on a regular basis. I’d like to make sure that my blog is updated three times a week at least; that I’m producing a weekly installment of a story I’m writing for a Patreon; and that I have at least five completed short stories that have been submitted to various markets. I’d also like to have more essays popping up through other blogs like [adjective][species] and (hopefully) black geek spaces.

    I’d also like to read a hell of a lot more. I’m putting together a reading list that I’d like to get through next year, including black sci-fi/fantasy authors and classic black works that I’ve missed or need to re-read. Because I’ve had such a rough experience with my community growing up and I’m only now finding my way back to it, I’ve got to catch up on my education in that respect.

    Finally, I’d like to reach out to folks a lot more than I have been. My letter and email writing skills are atrocious, and it’s high time I changed that. 🙂

    • You have a lot of goals for the coming year, and I hope that you achieve all of them. Especially that letter writing thing 😉 (kidding)

      I can’t wait to see what kind of work that you produce. One of my goals also is to read more, because my reading in 2015 was atrocious, and I missed a lot of good books.

      Keep sharing on your blog, and twitter. I love to see what you’re up to.

  2. I feel like I set some writing goals for myself last year, but I don’t remember what they were so I obviously didn’t take it seriously. Perhaps that should be my writing goal.

    1. Take your writing seriously.

  3. Love your goals Troy. I certainly hope we’ll get to read some of your Sword and Soul stories this year. Any hints on what you’re thinking of doing fantasy-novel wise? Are we talking big giant ensemble epic or sword and soul adventure or Urban Fantasy? Inspired by this post I put up one of my own: http://www.jeffxilon.com/hello-2016/

  4. Hey Troy,

    Last year was both good and bad. I got a lot less writing done than I wanted but am sitting on about five polished short stories and 3 novels that are about 20, 30 and 40 thousands words in. Sounds like a lot, maybe, but they have taken years. (In my defense, I have two kids and a full time job).

    I got only 2 stories published last year (well, technically only one) but one was reprinted in The Apex Book of World SF 4 and another here in Iceland but will be translated and reprinted in … drum roll …. the Faroe Islands (google it).

    2016 I plan to finish 1 novel first draft and get 5 short stories published in pro/semi pro magazines.

    Let’s rock 2016!

    • Johann,

      It sounds like you had a pretty good 2015. And I can’t wait to see what you produce in 2016. I saw that you had a story in the Apex Book of World SF 4, congratulations on that! I’m googling the Faroe Islands now.

      Lets rock 2016 indeed! *rebel yell*

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