Looking Forward by Looking Back by Jill James
(article first published in Black Diamond RWA Chapter newsletter 2010, updated for blog 2012)
Sometimes it seems in the writing world everyone is looking forward. Deadlines for manuscripts written, asking what your next project will be, asking where you want to be in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years. We are trained to say, “When I get published, not if I get published”. Always looking forward to the prize on the horizon.
I use the end of the year as a time to look back and see what I’ve accomplished, not only this year, but every year I’ve been seriously writing.
Day by day, if we are serious about our craft, we will see improvement. But, will we recognize how far we have come if we don’t take time to look back at our beginnings? I’m sure everyone has heard a writer, maybe even you yourself, talk about that first awful manuscript, the one gathering dust bunnies under the bed, or languishing on a hard drive never to be seen. Or in my case, on floppies I’m unable to read, sits Passion’s Price. LOL The question to ask is, are they really that bad and are you brave enough to dig them out and compare to today’s work?
Recently, I did just that. I dug out the twelve years-old children’s story I wrote for my son’s then-2nd grade class. “The Story of Sammy Bootlebutt”. I wrote and illustrated a story of Sammy the frog finding his place in the world. Even though my RWA chaptermates’s comments were encouraging and they liked it, that wasn’t why I dragged it out of the closet. I wanted to show myself just how far I’ve come. Sammy is an okay story, but simple. It was fun to write, but so are my stories I write today. Everything I’ve learned along the way goes into each and every story I write.
All the classes, workshops, critiques, and conferences add up to where my writing is today. I’ve learned POV, GMC, layering, subtext, using back story to build character’s, being organized, how to plot, using astrology for characters, world-building, treating this as a business, and a dozen more workshops I’m sure I forgot. Today, I can add formatting, self-editing, what I do and do not want in cover art, and uploading to vendors. Learning from the self-published who came before me, reading Indies to see what is out there, and studying covers to see what works and what doesn’t, and a dozen more things I’m sure I learned.
So, I “look forward” to where I want my writing to be in the future by “looking back” to today so I can marvel how far I’ve come.
So, as I look back at year’s end I see a year ago I had one small-press published book that had sold 57 copies in almost a year. I had one self-published novella that was starting to take off. I might be sad at that if I couldn’t compare it to this year and what I’ve accomplished. I have one small-press published book that is doing well by being an excerpt in the back of my Indie books. I have 3 novellas and 1 book bundle of the novellas, which will be in print (hopefully) by New Year’s, and a full-length paranormal novel in eBook and print.
Now, I might be sad at my numbers this year if I hadn’t looked back and seen just how far I’ve come in a year.
So, look back and tell us, what have you accomplished this year?
Jill James, author of contemporary and paranormal romance