As the year winds down, it is traditional to reflect back on our accomplishments of the previous year and begin setting goals for the next. Like most people, I have many accomplishments of which I am proud: I published Deception Island, which has generated exceptional reviews (though sales are mediocre); I have also published a handful of flash fiction in various magazines; I have made significant progress in a new novel, a sequel to Deception Island. Most important, my efforts have earned a measure of respect from my fellow writers and literati.
That is invaluable. (There is nothing quite like having someone you admire say they admire you.)
As a tangent to my writing, I have read fifty-two books this calendar year, most of them fiction, most of the fiction in the mystery/thriller drama. Some have been exceptional, some mediocre, but I have learned from each and every one of them.
Now it is time to turn my attention to the coming year and the goals I would like to accomplish. (I dislike the term “New Year’s resolution” because I believe they are designed to set ourselves up for failure. I prefer to set goals). They are targets only, not promises. Not reaching my goals will in no way mean I have failed; it will just mean the goal was set too high, too optimistic. For instance, becoming a #1 New York Times bestselling author. While it is certainly possible (and I sure wouldn’t turn it down) there are just too many factors involved that I have no control over. Instead, I will set my goal at finishing the project I am working on now and making it better than anything else I have ever written. That is something I have control over.
I would also like to create more short works—poetry, fiction, and essay—while I am working on the longer, more complex novel. I just haven’t settle on a realistic number yet.
My reading goals are a bit more complex. The numbers are not that important. I proved to myself this year that I can read an average of a book a week without any strain to the rest of my life. The question I am struggling with is what, exactly, should I be reading?
In a previous post, I mentioned how much I liked the idea of reading more classic literature. If we truly wish to improve our writing we should be learning from the best, right? Virtually all the books I read over the last year were modern, so I need to add some classic lit. But how much? Every other book? Every third? One a month? I haven’t decided.
Another trend I noticed looking back over this year’s reading material is that about ninety percent of the authors were white American men (the rest were either English or women). So I would like to read from a better variety this coming year. There are very good authors, who happened to be born in Africa, India, the Caribbean, and elsewhere who write in the English language. There are also African-American authors, Hispanic-American authors, Asian-American and Native American author, all talented, all with stories worth reading.
And that isn’t counting translations.
I want—I need—to include some of these authors into my reading next year. I just haven’t yet figured how many and who.
That’s where I am right now, trying to figure out what I will be doing this coming year. Once I do, I will let you know.
Until the New Year, have a safe, peaceful, and happy holiday week. Merry Christmas and wishes of Peace on Earth.