I don't normally do a year in review because my pursuit of publication has been an ongoing effort for over four years now and that story has only changed somewhat. Write a novel -> query, write a novel -> query, start new year, repeat. That was 2009 through 2011. Then came 2012, the year of the great rewrites. I was asked by three different agents to revise and resubmit four different manuscripts, and the entire year disappeared while working on those stories.
And here we are at the end of 2013. It started much like it did every year before it. In February I started and finished the first draft of my most recent novel, FAMILY JEWELS. 28 days almost to the minute. I didn't feel proud. I didn't feel excited. I felt like I had been there before and it wasn't working. 2012 had gotten me "this isn't your best work" plus "this is so close but not for me" plus "I can see how another agent would love this, try sending it to X and Y" plus "This is an amazing story, but it can't be your first novel on the market" all of which equalled being in the same place I had been at the start of the year. Obviously I was improving at my craft, but I still didn't have representation and I still didn't have a book deal, and that just wasn't good enough. And so, we begin 2013, the year of the singular endeavor.
I finished the first draft in 28 days. I spent six months on the second draft. I spent another two on the third draft. And another two on the fourth draft. I did other things in between. I joined a roller derby league. I learned how to skate. I learned how to officiate. I became the head non-skating official of my league. I injured myself repeatedly. I joined a group dance studio with my wife. I wrote the first chapter of my next novel. You know, I lived life. I took all that advice I had always said didn't apply to me and I applied it to me.
And here I am at the end of 2013 and guess what? I still don't have an agent. BUT, I've written the best novel I've ever written since I started taking my writing seriously. It's not my favorite story I've written (that still belongs to WITH A CROOKED CROWN), but it is lightyears better than anything I've put down on electrons. I read Donald Maass' prompts on Twitter and gave more thought to characters that would have otherwise been cliches. I got AMAZING feedback from my beta readers and I applied it to fill all the holes and fix all the failures in logic. I asked myself, what more is there to my character and then I tried to find it and offer it up in the story. (Sure, I've done all that before, but not with the rush I've felt before. It was always, "I don't have any more time to make this better" and that was a mistake. This time, it was going to be better until it was the best it could be.)
How do I know I accomplished that? Well, I started querying this past Saturday (with the twelfth draft of my query) and by Monday, I had two full requests. That's right, kids, FULL requests. Not partials. Stick that feather in my cap, why don't I? I think I will. My query is strong. My synopsis doesn't read like a shopping list. My novel rocks. Even if this doesn't get me an agent, I know that what I'm doing now is what works for me, what makes me the best I can be, and I'm confident that if this novel doesn't have an agent calling me up and saying, "Let's take over the world together," the next one will. Or maybe the one after that. Let's keep going until we find out how many licks it takes to get to the center of this Tootsie Pop.
So happy new year to you, ladies and gents. I hope your past year has been as rewarding as mine and that your forthcoming year is filled with hopes and accomplishments.