I feel like, for many, 2016 was a troubling year. I look around me and see so much sadness about events and losses from last year. Then I look at my own life and realize that my experience has been surprisingly positive in comparison.
My biggest loss of 2016 was my boyfriend “R” moving back to Chicago. I could have let that ruin my year. I could have remained very torn up and bitter and depressed about it. I could have let it destroy our relationship. Instead, it’s become an opportunity for me and “R” to grow as individuals and share our experiences and lessons we’ve learned along the way.
If anything, it’s made our relationship stronger—a result many people in long-distance relationships don’t get to experience—and for that, I am grateful.
In other areas of my life, I’ve rededicated myself to completing work on my first novel. Those who have followed my blog for any substantial amount of time and are familiar with my journey while working on The Elementalist: Rise of Hara (TEROH) know that this is a pretty big deal for me. It’s been a struggle and continues to be so, but I’ll get to that later.
Anyway, I’m not normally into setting yearly goals, but this year I decided I should set a few because there are things that are important to me that I want to make progress on or cross off my list before the end of 2017. So this year, I’m setting 3 goals for myself.
Goal #1: Finish Editing TEROH
This is a big one. TEROH has been 10 years in the making from its initial conception as random scribbles in a journal, as of today. No joke, people. It’s time I wrap things up.
I have to be honest: this whole “read your novel out loud and then edit it” thing is really, really tough to do with 200,000 words. It takes a lot of mental stamina; it’s also taking longer than I’d like. I don’t know if I’m going to keep reading the whole thing entirely out loud (maybe just kinda mumble it to myself), but I do want to finish this read-through to see if I can’t catch more line-editing issues.
I’ll never catch them all, I know (sorry Pokemon), but I want as few distractions for my beta readers as possible. I also don’t want it to be June before they get their hands on the manuscript.
Editing is tough, you guys, but it’s so, so necessary. It’s where your story actually comes fully to life. This is my opportunity to really refine my writing and make sure it says what I really want it to say.
I had an early beta reader who read part of my story once. He really liked my dialogue between the characters. Then he came to one particularly lame line and said in his notes, something along the lines of, “Really? After all of this? I feel like you can do better.”
That’s the kind of honesty and feedback I need—acknowledging my strengths, using that as a standard, and calling out where anything else may fall short. Betas don’t have to be a dick about it, but the whole point is to make the manuscript as strong as it can be.
So this year, I finish editing TEROH. (That includes incorporating beta reader feedback, ugh.)
Goal #2: Start Outlining & Writing Book II of The Elementalist
Right now, I’m not sure I want to jump into submitting my first novel to agents before finishing at least a first draft on Book II and maybe even an outline of the third—only because of how long it’s taking to finish the first. I want to know that I can write a book faster the second time around before putting myself in a position where others are expecting follow-up work from me at a quicker pace. I need to prove to myself that I’m capable of doing this.
That way, if my book does get published traditionally, I’m already somewhat ahead of the game instead of having to play catch-up.
Is this necessary? I don’t know. Maybe it takes ages before TEROH gets published. Maybe I have to publish it myself. I do know I’d feel much better if I already have a follow-up draft under my belt when approaching agents with my first novel.
I also know that I’ve actually been super anxious to get to my second novel lately. I’ve been getting a lot of vibrant ideas for the story, and I think my brain is definitely, finally ready to move on. (Only took 10 years!)
I’ve named the next book The Elementalist: Revolutionary and have had a blurb written for some time now, though it’s something I tweak as I go—mostly because I see new ways of saying the same thing more succinctly or am debating how much to reveal. I pretty much know what the novel is going to be about, though. It’s the details, the connecting points that I’m still sussing out and will likely continue to do so using index cards to help me visualize the plot using my scene ideas, which I have a head start on at the moment.
Yes, I’m actually going to outline this next one, folks. (And probably any subsequent books in this series.) It only makes sense this time around; I actually understand what I’m writing about now as well as my personal style and how I work. The concept and world is also pretty fleshed out. Didn’t have those things when I started the first novel! #ConfessionsOfAPantser
Speaking of characters, there will be some new ones and I’m excited about exploring their threads. One is a biracial imperial heiress named Zoya who’s been living in disguise as a very important personal servant to her father to protect herself. Of course, it was all the emperor’s idea, as he’s very paranoid about protecting his dynasty during a time of great political change. He has grand plans for Zoya’s life, hoping her biracial status will help with solidifying the unification—that is, the complete assimilation—of previously conquered peoples with his own. However, in Book II, she decides she’s going to implement plans of her own.
Unbeknownst to the emperor, Zoya has different political views than her father and wants a different future for her mother’s people than he does, so it involves a betrayal that is very difficult for her to make because she’s never been in a position to openly discuss these things with him under the guise of a servant. In fact, she’s pretty much been a pawn in his grand political machinations all her life, so when war strikes home, she seizes the opportunity and escapes the palace, eventually teaming up with the protagonist Voi and other characters from the first novel in seeking help/allies—bringing with her some pretty terrifying news and proof about her father’s plans.
Zoya has an extraordinary gift that her father uses to stay ahead in the political game. She’s been his secret weapon for nearly two decades, and without it, his plans will be severely crippled. However, Zoya also knows that her father has his own unique abilities and is a dangerous man with numerous agents at his disposal, including psychically-adept bounty hunters and assassins. (That spells additional trouble for Voi and friends, naturally, once they meet Zoya and start helping her.) It’s why it takes the chaos of a political coup to give Zoya the opportunity to escape the emperor’s watchful eye and that of her bodyguards.
Anyway, that’s just one aspect of the story I’m looking forward to. We haven’t even gotten to the protagonist’s storyline yet! (Trust me, this is one complex story.)
Goal #3: Plan the End of My Long-Distance Relationship
Long-distance relationships are not easy. In fact, they’re not even sustainable. They only work when the people involved are not only 100% dedicated to one another but also have a plan to turn the long-distance aspect into a no-distance one.
The reason I’m in one now is because of ideal jobs in two different states, bad timing, and the newness and potential of my relationship with “R.” This isn’t my first LDR, so I’ve kind of had some practice at this. That’s not to say it’s made an LDR easier to deal with, but I’m definitely better at coping with them. I keep myself busy and we communicate and visit each other as often as our schedules will allow, which isn’t often. Still, we’re managing it.
The problem is not whether or not “R” and I want to be together; we do. The problem is that I know he’s happiest in Chicago because his lifestyle and career can thrive better there, while on the other hand, I have a great job opportunity here in Arizona that I’m sure will be very hard to find elsewhere. There’s the potential for expansion with my company into other states, but I don’t know which states those will be or how long it will take to get there. “R” has been very patient with my decision-making process and is willing to wait for “as long as it takes,” he says, so I guess the question comes down to this: am I willing to wait out my company’s expansion with the hopes that it eventually reaches Illinois, or do I make the leap and leave behind what I have so “R” and I can be together?
The company I work for has done a lot of expansion this past year. However, they’ve also announced that expansions will slow down in 2017 quite a bit. In fact, aside from one store, they won’t be opening any new stores for an entire year.
That worries me.
I also have to take into consideration that I took a pay cut to get this job because I was leaving my old one, where there was awful management that made me miserable, in hopes I’d be happier elsewhere. And I am. As far as my personal growth goes, the new job is definitely a better fit for me. However, I don’t know exactly how long it will take to make up for the pay cut, but from what I can gather, I suspect it will take longer than I’d like.
I have a very specialized position. Not many people do what I do—that is, visually merchandise home furnishing goods. It’s different than being a VM at other retail stores, namely those that deal with fashion, because a lot of them deal with planograms which visually tell the merchandiser how to arrange everything in the store. This is home fashion with very few planograms and a show floor that changes on a daily basis. It’s a unique combination of expertise in understanding furniture styles, visual merchandising techniques, physical labor, improvisation, and being a team player that can also work independently, among other things. Employers can actually have a pretty challenging time of finding people at my skill level who can quickly pull together different looks and create furniture vignettes and displays that not only follow company guidelines but also appeal to mass buyers with minimal on-the-job training. It’s not something you can really go to school for, either.
Through a combination of my interior design background, stepping outside of my comfort zone, and landing a job somewhere I’d never expected (a furniture store), I’ve been able to learn this position and gain enough practice to become really good at it in less than 3 years. Only months in with a new company, I’ve been invited to help open new stores.
I’ve never had such an opportunity before, and it really means a lot to me. I’m a very modest person and have always struggled with getting noticed for my efforts because I don’t like calling unnecessary attention to myself. To gain the praise and recognition within this company that I have in such a short period of time is a big deal for me.
That’s not something I can just walk away from, but I also love my boyfriend—and I know he loves me.
As you can see, I have quite the dilemma on my hands. I don’t want to draw things out for too long in this LDR because it’ll only put more strain on us; that means I need to make a tough decision, and I need to do it soon.
Sometime this year. Probably mid-year. That’s the goal.
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Anyway, those are my goals for the year and the things I’ve been dealing with. (Well, this post was a doozy…)
What are your goals for 2017?
If you have any goals and feel compelled to share. 🙂 Happy New Year to everyone, regardless!