It’s December 29th and it’s time to take a step back and reflect on what I’ve achieved as a writer in 2017. Writing can be a singular existence where it’s sometimes easy to forget what you’ve accomplished throughout the year.
So, dear reader (s?), here we go.
The biggest highlight was the response to my short story “The Mask That Always Smiles.” Featuring characters from a group known as “The Circus of the Night,” this story is a departure from my usual style of writing in that it was a lot gorier than normal. The “Circus of the Night” can best be best as the bastard love child of “The Devil’s Rejects” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” conceived in a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey big top. In short, they ain’t very nice people.
The characters were a lot of fun to create and my favorite, Absinthe Dark, is based on a former pro wrestler who worked with WCW and TNA as “Daffney.” Read the story and then find some Daffney videos on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean.
When I’d finished the first draft I was still unsure of the content and the flow of the story, so I put out a request on Twitter for beta readers to give me some input. I was lucky enough to get a response from multi-award winning screenplay writer Dene Stark. Dene not only loved the story, but left a comment on The Haunted Pen website saying “If you love Horror, you will absolutely love this!” High praise for sure.
Dene then asked if she could turn my story into a screenplay. Let me tell you something for nothing (put your money away), my mum didn’t raise a fool where I was concerned and I said yes instantly – or as instantly as you can when you’re in the USA and Dene’s in Australia.
A few days later I was looking at Dene’s finished manuscript and was amazed at her interpretation of my work. To see the story laid out in such a different style was fascinating and highly educational.
I was so blown away I bought a couple of screenplay writing books to learn more about the craft.
What was really interesting was when Dene read my next short story, the Halloween-inspired “All…Fall…Down…” she said it was written like a screenplay and I hadn’t even been aware of it. Once more, my sincere thanks to Dene for her comments and inspiration and I wish her nothing but continued success for the future.
According to my Goodreads account, I read 47 books in 2017. Many of these were by authors that were new to my reading list such as Joe Hill, Paul Tremblay, Greg Hurwitz and J.H. Moncrieff.
Confession time, I’d never heard of J.H. Moncrieff until I saw someone tweeting about one of her titles on Twitter. Curious as ever, I took a look at J.H.’s website and was impressed with what I saw.
Her work has been described as “early Gillian Flynn with a little Ray Bradbury and Stephen King thrown in for good measure.” High praise indeed. J.H.’s first published novella, “The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave,” was featured in Samhain’s “Childhood Fears” collection and stayed on its horror bestsellers list for over a year.
Since then I’ve bought four of her books for my Kindle reader (The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave, and supernatural suspense series City of Ghosts, The Girl Who Talks to Ghosts, and Temple of Ghosts.
J.H. Moncrieff writes suspense, mystery and horror stories that are well-constructed, lively, gripping and easy to read. The stories flow and have the unique ability to make you not want to stop reading them once they’ve been started. If you haven’t read any of J.H.’s work, shame on you. Trust me, her books are that damn good!
2017 Writing Goals – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
I guess now’s as good a time as any to take look back on my 2017 writing goals and see how many were achieved.
For 2017, I was a member of the “365 Challenge” Facebook user group. The group is designed to help writers develop the habit of writing daily by setting a daily word count. All original fiction or non-fiction writing such as blog posts, journals, planning, outlining, setting, character development, research, etc. counted toward the daily total. The keyword here is “original.”
It was a great incentive. Admittedly there was a few days where a zero was recorded due to illness or traveling to and from vacations, but I would say I wrote on a minimum of 340 days. I set myself a target of 250 words per day, thinking this would be a realistic, achievable figure with a day job to contend with as well.
The Scores On The Doors
Target – 91,250 words for the year
Achieved – 378,274 words
Average – 1,036 per day
Editing hours logged – 253
Critique hours logged – 30
As you can see, I quadrupled my daily target and now have a whole lot of outlines, half-written story ideas and research notes to build upon in 2018. This was definitely a mega RESULT!
Learn and Use Scrivener
Last year, my wife bought me an enrollment to Udemy’s “How to Write a Book in Scrivener” home-study course. I’m happy to say I worked my way through it and came out the other side with a whole heap more knowledge than I had before the course. Prior to this I’d used Scrivener very sparingly, so this course was perfect and upon completion I feel I can start using the software to its fullest. I have the beginnings of a novel outline laid out along with all my research notes already and love using the software – RESULT!
Tied in with learning Scrivener in 2017, I intended to:
- Finish my works in progress. “Killed by Death” is completed and the first draft is ready to be revised – RESULT!
- Write longer short stories as mine averaged around 6,000 words. By focusing more on plot and outline, I wanted to increase the word count, but definitely not at the expense of the story. “Killed by Death” comes in at more than 14,000 words pre revision – RESULT!
- Novel outlines. I have the beginnings of a novel outline laid out along with all my research notes and character profiles already in Scrivener – RESULT!
This time last year I was considering dropping the “.wordpress.com” from the site’s URL and changing it to “thehauntedpen.com”. I did this in early January – RESULT!
I also designed and printed some business cards with my URL and Twitter address on and have given quite a few out to interested readers – RESULT!
To repeat the quote from Stephen King – “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” I completely agree with this statement and took his advice to heart throughout 2017. I love to read; I always have. I often have a couple of books I’m reading simultaneously and sometimes a third on the Kindle as well. As I mentioned earlier I read work from a lot of authors who were new to me. On top the authors mentioned previously, I read for the first time books by Janet Evanovich, Sue Grafton, and Jonathan Maberry. I added a few more Lawrence Block titles to my books read list as well – RESULT!
Another 2017 consideration was to set up a mailing list for website followers and offer a free story upon sign-up. A targeted and invested e-mail list of subscribers is the most important element of an author’s website if an author wants to make his or her writing and publishing a sustainable venture. This one got away from me, but will be looked at in 2018 – FAIL!
I was aiming at writing at least one new blog post per week to encourage interaction with readers/followers of my website. I kept on schedule for the first five months of the year, but then it dropped off considerably. Including this post, I’ll have made 42 blog posts in 2017. Not too shabby, but still a FAIL!
Another goal for the year was to have stories available for purchase on Amazon. While I’ve always maintained that this would only be achieved when I was fully ready, I still have to call this a FAIL!
Social Media Platform
I wanted to increase my social media platform by doubling Twitter and Facebook followers in 2017. On January 1st, The Haunted Pen’s Facebook page had 268 followers, while the Twitter page had 1,250. As of today (December 29th), Facebook stands at 492 (target 536) and Twitter has 1,643 (target 2,500) – DOUBLE FAIL!
Fiction writing is something I take very seriously, and I feel I took that level of intensity up a couple of notches. I love to write and I love the feeling it brings me knowing I’ve written something that other people enjoy enough to comment on.
I would like to say a very heartfelt thank you to everyone for your support of The Haunted Pen throughout the past 12 months. Here’s to an amazing New Year, full of writing, reading, fun and love. See you in 2018.