2019 was a good year. Relationships were restored (praise the Lord!), I earned my degree and made awesome friends at my new church, and my writing life changed and grew. Now, I could elaborate for a while about all the wonderful things that happened, but for the purposes of this post, I’ll just talk about writing highlights. I’m really happy with where my writing went this year, and I wanted to celebrate with you guys!
Highlight 1: Prompted
I started this blog. That’s pretty important. It took me a while to actually get around to doing it, but I finally did in early August! And that’s all because of another important thing––I started using writing prompts for short stories.
Now, this may not seem like that big of a deal to you, but bear in mind that before January of this year, I had almost exclusively written novels. I just was never able to come up with ideas small enough for a short story. But that changed.
I decided to start utilizing writing prompts in my writing life. I’d saved so many of them on Pinterest, and one of my best friends ran Rooftop Writing Prompts, but I had never used a prompt. So, at the beginning of this year, I decided to try to use a writing prompt a week to stimulate my creativity.
I knew I couldn’t do this alone, though, so I asked someone to keep me accountable––my prompt buddy, Laura. We decided to write a prompted every week (which did not happen, but it’s the thought that counts, right?), and as we did, I realized that I really loved these stories and wanted to share them with the world.
I knew I needed some sort of platform like a blog, but I’d never known what to post on it before. But now I had lots of stories that I could use!
Thus, Prompted was born, and here we are now.
Highlight 2: Realm Makers
I attended an incredible writing conference called Realm Makers, which is for Christian speculative fiction writers––a.k.a. all the nerds. It was my second time attending and, as expected, was one of my absolute favorite weekends of the year.
Plus, I was able to dress up as Yzma from Emperor’s New Groove at a fancy dinner. What’s better than that?!
During the conference, I had a mentor appointment with Gen Gavel, who gave me advice on marketing, social media, and blogging, which were areas that I had previously been clueless about. My Instagram especially would not be what it is now if not for her. So, Gen, I am so grateful for you.
My other mentor appointment was equally important. I met with Janeen Ippolito. Initially, I’d wanted to talk to her about marketing, but since I was talking with Gen about that, I decided to ask Janeen about world-building and plot, which were some of her specialties. Because of her, I realized that I was trying to do too much with my unnamed novel, and I altered the story in such a way that it is less complicated and more powerful. Thank you, Janeen, for your much-needed advice.
Highlight 3: Prompted Contests
I hadn’t planned to do any contests until I was well-established on my blog. But then, when I launched my blog, I decided to try an Instagram prompt contest in which I posted a prompt and people responded with a flash fiction story. It went over so well that I decided to do it every month. I even added a Facebook contest, though those didn’t go over as well. If you haven’t seen my contests, here’s a link to the latest winners.
Now, next year I’m going to cut back; the plan is to only do contests every other month. It’s hard to run contests and choose winners every month! I also plan to discontinue the Facebook contests because they weren’t getting enough participants to be worth it. Still, I’m so happy with the creativity my contests have spurred, and I’m so grateful to all the participants! You guys are what make my contests fun, so thank you.
Highlight 4: Short Story Publication
My writing was published in several different venues this year, which was very exciting!
I received second place in a short story contest! *throws confetti and drinks sparkling grape juice* I really love Story Embers, so being chosen as one of the winners of their contest was incredible! They’re a fantastic website. I’d highly recommend checking out their resources if you’re a Christian writer.
The story is called “The Will of the Sky.” It’s about a man about to become the elder of his tribe who has to decide whether or not to restore the honor of his son. I really enjoyed writing this one and was so happy to see it published.
I was published with Havok Publishing, a website that posts flash fiction daily, three times this year. Unfortunately, since the stories were published on days long gone, you can only see the stories if you’re a Havok member. That’s just the way the website works. But if you have a membership (or are planning to get a membership, which is super cheap, by the way), the stories were “Stealer of Secrets,” “Skinthief,” and “Walls.” They’re all based on songs, as that was the season theme.
This website is exactly what it claims; it publishes short stories that are exactly 101 words. That’s a difficult challenge, by the way. It makes you use every word well.
My short stories “Ache” and “Welcome” were published on this site. “Ache” was a big deal because it was the first short story I’d had published on a different platform. Unfortunately, though, “Welcome” was often misinterpreted. It was based on a true story. During my freshman year of college, I came home for Christmas break to discover that my cat had passed away a week before. My parents just hadn’t told me because I was taking finals. Some readers thought this story was supposed to be malicious, but really, it helped me process my grief. That’s the thing about flash fiction; you have fewer words, which means it’s easier for people to misunderstand you. Usually I’m okay with being misunderstood, but in this case, I wanted to clarify that the mom did not kill the dog. Here is an Instagram post explaining more about the story behind the story.
Highlight 5: Shards
I completed a novella this year. Now, a novella is not as long as a novel, so that may seem like a lesser accomplishment, but I’ve always been long-winded, so the fact that I completed something under 100,000 words was a surprise to me. (This was before I really started getting into short stories, by the way.) Shards was published on Journey Online, an online ministry platform that I interned with during my final year of college.
Shards was one of the first non-fantasy stories I’d ever completed. Plus, I consider the spiritual journey and arc to be relatively not preachy, which is difficult to do. Lastly, Shards was the first story I’d written (besides short stories) that fully focused on one character. That may sound simple, but I’d always written stories with many main characters. It was fun, but I always had trouble focusing on one journey, and my stories suffered for over-complication and lack of focus. With Shards, I focused on Elisabel’s story, even though I could have added other points of view, and it really helped me understand plot and character arcs. I’m so grateful for the experience of writing Shards, particularly since they are on a website that could help people see who God is.
Highlight 6: NaNoWriMo
I won NaNoWriMo for the first time! That is a huge deal! If you don’t know, NaNoWriMo is a challenge to write 50,000 words in a month. Crazy, right?! Some of you may know that when I started the month, I said I would be aiming for 20,000. But the words kept coming, and before I knew it, I’d reached 50,000 words.
It was an exhausting but rewarding month. I look forward to next November.
On to 2020!
Next year, I plan to finish my untitled novel. I’d hoped to do so this year, but it ended up taking longer than I expected. Still, I’m almost there, so if I can just push through and resist the urge to tear the draft apart (which is very strong right now, by the way), then I’ll be able to do it. I then plan to write a draft of a different novel, one that some of you may know––it’s called Exotic.
As for this blog, I also plan to post a story every month, preferably on the first Friday of every month. I will be more diligent this year. That means there will be a new story on January 3rd.
2019 was a good year for me. However, I’m aware that it wasn’t for everyone. If that’s the case for you, my heart and my prayers go out to you, and I hope next year is better.
I can’t wait to see what God does in my life and in the lives of the people around me next year. Here’s to 2020!