Alex Callahan

Perfect mix of magic and mayhem

2019 in Review – The Year of Experimenting

I’m not gonna lie, I don’t think I’m ready for the end of the decade. I wasn’t ready for my oldest niece to turn 18, but apparently, nobody cares, especially not time. So, like every December, I looked back on the year that’s about to end and took stock of where I am and what I accomplished.

2019 was a Year of Experiments for me

I tried new things in my writing life as well as my professional life. And it all went much better than I initially anticipated.

After querying my first novel in 2018 and receiving nothing but boilerplate rejections, I figured I need to work on my craft and hone my skills before I can send another manuscript out there. So I read some books on plot and structure, to see what I can improve on that level (spoiler, apparently a lot).

I also asked myself if the writing and editing process I employed so far was what fit me best, or if I was simply doing what I thought would work. And so my experiments started.

Experiment 1: Can I pants through a novel?

Answer: YES

During this year’s CampNaNo, I decided to write a novel and not outline it ahead of time. I had a couple of scene ideas and I knew where I wanted to take the novel and the characters. And then I proceeded to write it. I was skipping around, writing whatever scene idea I got, then working my way back to connect it to the rest of what I had. I kept my excitement up and I actually managed to finish a 50k draft. Success all around!.

What I learned:

Skipping around the manuscript is a lot of fun and was a great way to keep my enthusiasm going. But pantsing is not for me, I like to know where I’m going. And I don’t have to waste time figuring things out.

Experiment 2: Can I write a novel in a completely different genre?

Answer: YES

Another CampNano achievement for me. I had this crime thriller at the back of my head for ages and I finally decided to write it. I needed a cleanse from my urban fantasy werewolves stories and this seemed like a great way to switch focus. It was difficult because while I’m an avid reader of crime novels, I’ve never actually written one. 

What I learned:

I still have a lot to learn when it comes to pacing and foreshadowing. I think editing this novel will also teach me a thing or two. Right now, I’m just happy to have this idea out of my head. And though I now know I can actually write them, I don’t think my primary focus will ever be crime thrillers.

Experiment 3: Can I pants a crime thriller?

Answer: Eh?

I’ve done it. I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. But after completing the first draft, I know how much better the manuscript could’ve been if I had it all planned out. Writing it was a great adventure, but the end result could’ve been much better.

What I learned:

I really need outlines with certain genres and there’s no denying it, I’m a plotter and I work best when I have a lot of prep done.

Experiment 4: Can I improve my editing process?

Answer: YES

After the disappointing querying results, I wanted to see if I could tweak my editing process to make it easier for myself and to make sure my novels are even better. So I started to learn from books and youtube all while editing Draft 0 of my YA urban fantasy. And even though I’m not done yet with my first pass, I can already see the improvements!

What I learned:

Thanks to all the time I spent learning and researching and applying all the new knowledge, I feel like I have established an editing routine that will do wonders for my process and my future projects. I can’t wait to test out my improved editing skills on the drafts I have sitting on my drive.

2019 was a great year and I learned a lot about being a writer. I’m really excited about what’s to come, so keep your fingers crossed and wish me luck!

I won #CampNaNo!

(I wanted to post this on 29 July, but I got distracted by Hobbs and Shaw… Don’t judge me)

I decided on a crazy goal for this year’s Camp NaNo. Not only was I writing in a genre I haven’t written in before. But I also wrote with a minimal outline. Just to see where it would take me.

And now, I need you to take a look at the date of this post.

That’s right! I won Cam NaNo!

I met my goal and I finished Draft Zero of a project that’s been in my brain for years.

And I did it all with days to spare!

The best thing about it? I decided to try and see if I could write the initial draft in one month, so I set my goal at 50K. And after 27 days and 51 thousand words later, I am a winner 🙂

look at my professional screencapping skills /o\

On top of it all, I also accepted a challenge from Lyra Parish to write 10K in a day on July 20 and those of you following me on Instagram know that I also met that challenge!

It took me 14 hours with breaks (or 8.5h of non-stop writing, depends on how you want to count it) but I wrote over 10 thousand in a day. One-fifth of my initial draft was written in a single day.

This month showed me what I’m truly capable of. I knew I could write 50k in a month, I’ve won NaNoWriMo in the past. But I’ve been in a writing slump for a long time already and so I wasn’t sure I still had the passion to pull it off.

Turns out: I can totally pull it off and writing novels is still something that brings me joy.

And before you ask: why yes, I am going to participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo.

November can’t come too soon!

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