A Look Back: Retrospective on 2011’s Challenge

Dean Wesley Smith on Resetting Challenges: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=5956

Sam Lee on Resetting Challenges:  http://samleewrites.blogspot.com/2011/12/resetting-my-2011-challenge-and.html


2011 Challenge – Write and publish a short story a week / Write and publish 12 novellas / Write and publish two novels

What do you do when a challenge goes sideways?


Figure out what caused it and why.

One major life altering event part way through the year – the birth of my son, Tommy. I was doing pretty well up until then, but after that happened, my writing dropped off for almost six whole months. Still, I was able to climb back up into the saddle from August and August, September and October were all very productive.

Then towards the end of October I allowed procrastination, the myths DWS warns about and my own hang-ups with the stories I had sent out that died with a whimper to drag down my motivation. November has not been a total bust, but it has been far from great. December has started out pretty much the same.


Figure out if the challenge was too extreme or the type of challenge not in your control.

It was too extreme for me considering that I knew very well what was going to happen when my son was born. Also, I allowed myself to get sidetracked by becoming to hung-up on the sales side of things.


Figure out how much the challenge helped you.

-I wrote and finished more than I have in years

-I learned how to publish online, how to write blurbs and create covers

-I learned I need to stop looking at sales information

-I learned I am much more interested in writing novels than I am in writing short stories

-I learned that I can write and finish stories

-I learned I need to stop worrying about marketing and all that BS because it is just leaching the fun out of writing for me. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it isn’t as though I’m going to end up on the street.


What I *did* get done this year, due to the challenge:

– I wrote and finished 15 short stories and 4 novellas

– I published 9 of those short stories and 3 of the novellas, as well as a short story collection

– I set up a website and blog

– I wrote regularly for 3 months, averaging at least 2k a day for that time

– I learned Heinlein’s Rules and began to apply them

– I made some buddies and other writer contacts


Reset the challenge or create a new one.

End of 2011:

I’ll finish the novel I started by the end of the year

I’ll finish formatting the remaining short stories and one novella that I wrote and have them published by the end of the year so that I can start 2012 with a clean slate



The 12 in 12 Challenge

2012 = 12 novels in 12 months

My main goal is consistency in writing – 3500 words a day, 6 days a week. That figures out at just under 2 hours of writing per day. All of those novels will also be published at the end of the month after I finish them (Book written in January published end of February).

I am also setting myself some craft orientated goals:

1) to improve description

2) to write endings that deliver on story promises from the beginning (stolen from Sam Lee)

3) to work on improving the use of scenes (Jim Butcher’s livejournal advice)


To ramp myself up to this, I am setting myself a goal in December of 2000 words a day, 6 days a week. That should end up at 46k for the month, in theory enough for me to finish my Thieftaker novel.

I’ll be writing more about my12 in12 challenge before the end of the month and I will post a daily wordcount post here on the blog for December.


Posted on December 2, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I’m so glad that I read your blog post. I have been feeling a bit down lately about my writing, without any real direction or purpose to it. Reading your post though has really lifted my spirits and inspired me to make a proper plan for 2012. I don’t thin I’ll be as ambitious as what you are doing but maybe one short story every two weeks is a good start. Maybe then I’ll get myself published.

    Many thanks for the gentle nudge,


    • Hi Heather!

      First of all, thanks for the comment, means a lot to see someone actually reads these mad ramblings! 🙂

      I’m glad that my goals were able to help you. I’m probably going to end up changing them slightly before the beginning of the year and looking at something more like 9 full novels and 3 novellas, now, but getting them down certainly helps to motivate. Your goal sounds brilliant, we all have to push ourselves in whichever way we need to reach our goal.

      Good luck!!!


  2. You mean 48k? 😉 Good rundown on 2011 and setup for 2012. I still haven’t decided on concrete goals for next year, but when I do I’ll post about it.

  3. Hi James,

    I hope you don’t mind but I found this blog to be so useful that I put a link to it in my own to share the inspiration you have given me.

    If you’re interested in following, my blog is http://readingwritingeverything-heather.blogspot.com/

    Happy New Year!


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