Words for the Year Ahead
A few days ago, I was talking with my mother. She said my brother (yes, the one I’ve written about in my novel No One Needed to Know), recently read a book about how people should choose a ‘word of the year’ to make their own and guide their actions. My parents were excited about this concept, and Mom chose ‘positive’ while Dad chose ‘tolerant’. My brother has not chosen a word yet. I don’t think he has to. He’s awesome as he is. We should all strive to be like Joe.
Anyway, my mother suggested I choose a word for the year. This isn’t exactly a new idea. I’ve read lots of motivational books and articles over the years that suggest this, or something similar to this. Visualize success. Make your thoughts about what you are, not what you want. “I am a writer” verses “I want to be a writer.” And you know what? I’ve seen it work for some people. I have a couple friends who are like poster children for positive thinking.
I, however, am not one of those people. Honestly, it always backfires on me. The more I use ‘this is happening’ language in my head or start believing that something is really going to transpire, the more I lose. It’s like I jinx myself. If I can picture myself doing it, I won’t ever do it.
Here’s one of my earliest examples. When I was 20 years old, I auditioned for the role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz at a professional theater in California. I had just played Wendy in Peter Pan at that theater the year before. I was 5’3” and super thin. I did a great audition. Other actors at the audition were gathering around me, certain that I would be the one playing the part. I saw it in my mind—me in the brown braids and wearing that blue dress with the red sparkly shoes. Then… I lost to a 33-year-old actress who was an Equity union actress. I was devastated.
No joke. When I start planning what I am going to write as my next tweet or Facebook post about my great upcoming success story, that’s usually when I get the rejection. This happened just this past week. I got a request for a full manuscript from a publisher only two days after submitting. I just KNEW this was going to be IT! Not just a book sale, but a SERIES sale. I had my announcement tweets forming in my head and my blog post about determination and dusting off old manuscripts half planned. Then I got a rejection—the very next day. It wasn’t the direction they were planning after all. I didn’t tweet about that.
So, here I am, a determined optimist who is cursed to not be allowed to specifically imagine the fruits of success. My mother suggested I picked a word for the year, and my impulse was a big fat “No!” If I pick a word, then the opposite of that will happen to me. I know my tone disappointed her, and that made me feel sad and guilty. In deference to her, I decided I would give it some thought. I’ve come up with a few words that might be good motivators (without being too specific).
One of my goals this year is to further my knowledge about the business of writing. I’ve been to lots of writing conferences and workshops about the craft of writing and how to submit to publishers and agents. I’ve read and read and read about these skills and have applied them. What I haven’t taken enough time doing is learning about promotion tactics, SEO, effective advertising, you know, how to really sell books. I have a limited amount of time to dedicate to my writing career, and most of that time has gone to actually writing or doing some minimal publicity. There has to be a way to break through and get my books noticed by a larger audience, and I want to take more time learning the tricks of the trade that are eluding me right now.
In both my acting and writing careers, I’ve always been a person who sees an opportunity and runs with it, even if it takes me away from where I thought I was headed. For that reason, I published 6 nonfiction books back in the early 2000s and did a fair bit of freelance writing even though I always wanted to be a novelist. These nonfiction books helped me make some income as a writer and become a Published and Listed author with SCBWI, which was important to me.
I like challenging my writing ability, and I also like working on assignment, so I might look for more opportunities outside of writing young adult novels this year. To that end, I’m also considering leaving children’s writing (and fantasy) behind completely later this year and working on a book intended for grown-ups. My plans have a way of getting changed depending on what comes my way, so we’ll see what happens.
Five of those nonfiction books I mentioned above were a series of biographies about classical composers that I co-wrote with Daniel Felsenfeld, who is now an accomplished composer and a music professor at Julliard. It was a great experience. Other than that, I have always worked on books by myself, in a little messy office, with no real input from any outside voices. I had a meeting yesterday with a dear friend about the possibility of us working on a novel together. I’m super excited to see where this will go and how it will improve and change my writing for the better.
Along with collaborating, I need to get more involved. I am a member of SCBWI, but I haven’t been to the local conference in the past three years because of schedule conflicts. I feel the difference it makes, not being connected to the local pack of authors. I am in a great online group of clean indie fantasy authors, and I’ve had the good fortune of having three stories of mine selected for their anthologies. I’ve done a few of their Facebook events but not enough of them. (In fairness, my fantasy novels aren’t self-published, so I can’t always do some of the group sales events because I don’t control the prices of my books). However, I could try harder. I went to a couple local book signings last year, but I want to be more supportive and go to more of these if possible. I will definitely be looking for more opportunities to include myself in events—and not just ones where we all stand at our own tables and sell books.
Fortitude means to carry on bravely through adversity.
I’ve been at this writing game for 24 years now. That’s a considerable amount of time. I’ve seen my work published in magazines, websites, anthologies, nonfiction books, and novels, but I’ve yet to get an agent or reach what I call 'The Big Show'. Like most creatives, there are days I want to quit and give it all up. I had more of those days in 2018 than ever before. I hit a hard block on the novel I was writing because I just didn’t see the point in finishing it. I was disappointed at the lackluster sales of my newest novel release. One of my manuscripts that I shopped around to agents all year didn’t get a single bite, even after multiple revisions of that all-important first chapter. Sometimes I get really heartbroken by it all.
But then I’ll get a new awesome review, or a small award, or someone does a cool bookstagram post with one of my book covers or sends me a message about how much they liked one of my books. I’m revived and rejuvenated. I keep plugging ahead and hoping the next project will be THE project. The one that’s going to propel my career to the next level.
There you have it. That’s my list of words for the year. I hope Mom is pleased. Do you have any words that would help define what you expect for yourself in 2019? I’d love to read your comments about that, and I wish you all the best at achieving your goals.
D. G. Driver
Award-winning author of books for teen and tween readers. Learn more about her and her writing at www.dgdriver.com
Author D. G. Driver's
Write and Rewrite Blog
“There are no bad stories, just ones that haven’t found their right words yet.”
A blog mostly about the process of revision with occasional guest posts, book reviews, and posts related to my books.