Friday, January 1, 2010

A Year in Review

So, 2009, then.

Much of the good stuff about 2009 is mentioned here in my Thanksgiving post, but as that post is very writing-related (I know, I blog about writing, it would tend to be), I'm going to reproduce the last bit of the post here:

And then there's the personal stuff - family, friends, loved ones, home, Dublin, tea, music, knitting, the fact I haven't wrapped any of the three cars I drive regularly around anything solid (yet), the fact London is still reassuringly there across the Irish sea, all full of bookshops and museums and cafes and red buses, material comforts, and too many other things to name.

There's a lovely extract from a short piece of writing by Sarah Rees Brennan that I want to reproduce here, because I was thinking of it on New Year's Eve, when it snowed in Dublin and the place seemed magical. This comes from a short story that Sarah posted for free on her website, because she is great, and it's set in the same universe as her debut novel, The Demon's Lexicon, which is also great.

It might all turn out okay. Marie hoped so. And if it didn’t, that was almost okay, too.

Because I lived until today, Marie thought, I saw magic, fell in love in a lift, danced with my best friend under breaking glass, heard mermaids singing, played music in a river, and if that was all, it would be enough.

But it wasn’t all. She was going to live to see more tomorrow.

[from The Arundel Tomb, by Sarah Rees Brennan]

I don't think I've done any of the things Marie has done (and she's only just started college in that extract so she's younger than me, just to rub it in. . . but then she knows cool magicians who summon demons and my friends, while wonderful, are a little deficient in that regard). But I could write my own list, if I was Marie.

2009 wasn't great. But there were good moments in there, and I hope that as I look back on them, I'll feel they were enough.


Anyway, that's the happy stuff out of the way. Now I get to be all miserable and wallow-y! YAY! I love blogging. It can be so self-indulgent :)

But yeah, writing. I have very mixed feelings about my Writing Year in 2009.

I missed a major deadline that I set for myself, and felt utterly crap about it. The aforesaid friends can testify to this. I was not a happy bunny in the last week of July when it became obvious I wouldn't make it.

I did learn some valuable lessons in the process, though.

1. Writing historical fiction makes it difficult to set deadlines because research can rear its ugly head at any time.

2. I don't know that I will ever write historical-bloody-fiction ever a-bloody-gain.

3. If I set deadlines that are too lenient and non-specific, I won't keep to them. 'I'll give myself til July to finish this book, that's almost a year' equals, in my head, 'I have aaaaages to finish. Play time!' Something like 'I will have this section done by the end of the month', or 'I will write a little every day this week' works a lot better for me.

4. Equally, if I set a deadline that's too harsh, I freak out and do nothing.

Valuable lessons, and ones that will probably carry me through my writing life for a long time. Especially that second one. But learning them wasn't nice.

I had hoped to finish this novel five months ago, but I have to admit now that the deadline wasn't realistic given everything else that was going on. I'm not finished the novel, I'm still working (and looking for that notebook!). But I can see the finish line from here and 2010 will be the year I cross it. I hope to cross it while I'm still 25, actually, but we'll see how that goes.

But moving away from the nuts-and-bolts of writing (yes, the important stuff, let's just leave that for a moment because it's inconvenient. . . ), there were some good developments in 2009. I managed to corral several writers I know and form a writers' group that has its first meeting in less than a week, and I started a blog, and I learned a lot.

As a writing year, it could be worse. I have hopes that 2010 will be better, but it couldn't be without the lessons I learned about writing in 2009. I'm not saying all that I could about that, because I'm not done with the novel yet and I know it has a lot more to teach me, and I'll post about all that stuff when I'm finished.

Wow, that was a long post. It was written after very little sleep, so please excuse me if it's not the most coherent post I've ever made!


  1. 2009 was a difficult year all round, but regardless as you have said it was most certainly a year of learning.

    I don't know if its any consolation in relation to the difficulties you've had, but I believe I have you to thank for the eventual emregence from my writers block. Chatting about novels and writing with you so often really brought back my confidence and relieved so much pressure. Thank you so much for that.

  2. Thanks so much for saying that, it means a lot.

    Onward to 2010!

  3. Ellen, I think you accomplished and learned a lot in 2009. Just reading the post made me think Wow! And you learned a lot. About yourself. About your writing. About where you want to go. Looking at the list, I'd say a huge accomplishment was finding a network of support where you live. That will lend itself to building on your writing accomplishments. My critique partners and I exchange our goals at the beginning of the year. That helps keep us accountable.

    And sometimes life and research does happen. That's why I allow for "wiggle room" in my goal setting. So you didn't finish your book in July? Well, life happened. And you reset your goal. And you learned you need more time for research and that you may not to historical writing after this.

    I know 2010 will be awesome for you!

  4. Thanks for that, Christine - sometimes it's hard to tell when we've genuinely learned something and when we're just consoling ourselves for messing up by saying 'Well, at least I learned something!' :)

    A support network is great, and knowing how I react to my own deadlines is helpful too. Once this novel is done, though, I'll have a lot more to post about stuff I learned writing it!

    I hope your 2010 is wonderful and brings you everything you want!

  5. I managed to corral several writers I know and form a writers' group that has its first meeting in less than a week

    This sounds wonderful! Congrats!

  6. A writers group in Dublin sounds like the opening scene of a really good movie. :-)

    Please keep us posted on how it goes, Ellen.

  7. I will - although I will be sharing blogging rights with at least one other member :p

    I call dibs on the screenplay about it though!

  8. Ellen, I am with you on 3 and 4--the deadline problems. Too long and the writing gets put off. Too short and I freeze up. If you figure out how to overcome those things, please let me know!

  9. Don't worry, Karen, if I find out the solution, I will publish it in a very expensive book and thus make my fortune. You can buy it along with everyone else :p

    Just kidding. I'll blog about it first to increase my potential readership :)


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