Before I start sharing my goals for 2021, let me briefly talk about 2020: it was a bad year for everyone including myself and I found myself dealing with certain personal things and became somewhat overwhelmed and tried to cope. In any case, I lost interest in writing, blogging, and social media for the most part. Now that it’s 2021, have I regained my interest in them? Who knows. But I  was doing okay before, so I kinda want to (regain interest). To facilitate that, here I am setting goals for 2021…

1. New Year, New Name.

Starting 2021, the name I’ll be using for my writerly self shall be Steph Arven. I’ve decided to separate my writing stuff from my Sathepine pseudonym and channel it all to the Steph Arven persona. In case I haven’t mentioned before, Sathepine is an anagram for Stephanie, which is my real name. I’ve used it for other things, not just writing stuff. As for the Steph Arven name, we know where the “Steph” comes from, but not the Arven. Arven is a combination of my grandfathers’ names (Ar = Arceo, ven = Venancio). I hope to use this name from now on, especially in social media, even if it means I’ll lose all my previous followers now (at least, in Twitter and Instagram). But I’m not counting anyway, so it’s all good.

2. Read and review the top ten books in the 2020 Goodreads Choice Awards for: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Poetry, and Young Adult Fantasy/Sci-Fi. 

Not all these books may be to my taste but the challenge is to read what is popular, what is mainstream, what readers in general enjoyed (or at least got hyped up enough to vote for). Then we’ll see if I enjoyed them just as much. 

For books that are part of a series, I’ll only commit to reading and reviewing the first book of that series, although, of course, it would be great if I manage to read up to that book itself.

3. Read and review at least five indie novels.

I do have plans to self-publish in the future (though I’m not in a hurry as my work is a priority right now), and would like to support self-published authors. I have a condition, though, and that is I will not be posting my review of self-published books that I didn’t enjoy. So, for self-published books, at least, I’ll only be posting my review of those that I rate to be 3-stars or more. (My 3-stars rating means I enjoyed it enough to say it’s worth the time and money I spent on the book.)

4. Write at least one poem per month.

By doing this, I could hopefully ensure there’s at least one post in this blog per month. I’d really like to keep my blog active from month to month, and not just have a ton of posts at the end of the year or something (which I fear might happen). I also have some past poems that are not posted (or are privated) but I’m not sure yet if I want to post (or un-private) them. (Also, can “private” be used as a verb? lol)

5. Watch and review at least one movie or show based on a fantasy or science fiction novel.

I was planning to do this for The Witcher last year, but, well, I didn’t. This year, I could still do The Witcher (before the new season), or I can do The Expanse (I’ve been wanting to read the books and watch the show for some time now), or Dune (I’m not sure how much of the first book I’ve read but I haven’t finished it that time and hoping to read from the beginning before the movie), or Shadow and Bone (I’m excited! I didn’t really like the main character but I love the world building in this series and I hope the upcoming Netflix show does it justice!)

6. Post at least one instagram photo, and one tweet per week.

I’m gonna populate my Steph Arven social media slowly but surely… with nice things of course! And for sure I’ll be following a bunch of nice accounts too. 

7. Complete plotting the outline for my next NaNoWriMo project before November.

As I’m going the plotting (rather than pantsing) route, an outline is a must. My pantsing gets me everywhere but the ending so I feel that plotting — with a little bit of pantsing — would provide much better results for me. Ideally, I would like to finish the outline early so I can send it to someone for feedback (like I did in 2019 — thank you for the helpful feedback, Jennifer Jarrett!)

8. Win NaNoWriMo 2021.

It’s been a while since I wrote 50,000 words in one month. I’d like to do that this year. I haven’t lost in Nano yet! (Unless you consider 2020, which I didn’t even participate in — though I’m sure I would have lost it if I did — I was quite busy at work and dealing with personal issues…)

8. Turn my zero draft of COTC into a first draft.

COTC stands for “Claire of the Corpses”, which is a temporary title so I’m simply gonna label it COTC from now on. This was my project for NaNoWriMo 2019 so I have roughly 50,000 words on it. There are missing scenes, descriptions, worldbuilding elements, etc. so my goal is to fill in all of those to complete the draft. (Of course, once I have a complete first draft, I’d still have to revise that.) I plan to use Camp Nano in April for this activity.

9. Rework my TMM outline.

TMM was my project for NaNoWriMo 2018 and it stands for “The Moonseeker’s Medallion”, which is a temporary title, so, like COTC, I’m just using it as a label. It’s a huge mess. Well, it’s a bit less messy now… but still a mess! So it’s not really a priority, but I still enjoy this world so I’ll try to get it a bit more organized for Camp Nano in July. 

10. Go on a one-week “writing retreat” by myself. 

Most likely, it will be a staycation at some hotel, where my activities will only be writing, eating, and sleeping. (And some other stuff for hygiene.) We are anticipating that work will be busier this year so I probably won’t have that much energy or mood to work on my writing on normal days. So this “writing retreat” shall be my answer to that.

To be frank, I have no idea right now if these goals are modest or ambitious. In theory, I feel like they’re totally doable, but then again, I had planned to do some of them last year… yet I didn’t (grr, 2020!) What I am sure of, though, is that I’m definitely feeling hopeful and have a much brighter outlook for 2021. 

Happy New Year!

For Nanowrimo last year, I decided to tackle a brand new story from one of the ideas I had that I’ve never really drafted. My WIP at that time was incredibly ambitious – for me, at least – and I’ve decided to put it on hold for this new project. However, because of what I’ve learned from tackling that ambitious WIP, I realize there are things that seem to be holding me back from fully fleshing out my new WIP.

The most significant one, I feel, is the fear of world-building. I felt that this time, I’m not going to start on the world-building until I’ve fleshed out the plot. Yet even when I’ve completed the outline of my story, I still find myself afraid to really focus on the world-building. In the previous WIP, I was engrossed in the world-building and not so much in the story, and as a result, I built a story that would serve the world-building rather than the other way around. It was a mess (and still is, actually). Right now, I’m afraid I’d do the same thing again, even though I have a somewhat solid outline where I can pull out the parts that need world-building – and do only those parts. This is something I’m gonna have to tackle if I’m going to complete the story.

Another thing holding me back is fleshing out other characters. This is another fear borne out of my experience with my previous (still unfinished) WIP. That one had a ton of characters with POVs and some significant ones without POVs. For these characters, I know their character arcs, personalities, and relationships with other characters. And because of that, I have far too many subplots. For the new project, I found myself afraid to even touch the secondary characters’ backstories. I feel very little connection – or none at all – to the characters aside from the protagonist. A few of them would need some backstory – of which I have a general concept, but only in broad strokes – to sort-of explain their relationship or interaction with the main character, and I’m just afraid to flesh them out, afraid I’d end up with a runaway subplot and create random characters or conflict or scenes for that specific subplot, even though I know better now.

The last thing that I feel could be potentially holding me back is my resistance to writing in first person. Objectively speaking, I’m starting to believe that a first-person POV would enhance the storytelling given the character’s internal struggle, but I refrain from doing it for a few reasons. Let me start by saying that this story idea was inspired by depressing things, and I believe at that time, I was really into dark depressing anime. And for some reason when writing this story, I somehow wanted to preserve that kind of depressing tone which I feel works well with it being a dark fantasy. I don’t want it to end up being some kind of self-insert but in a depressing way, with me remembering how I felt back then when this idea came to mind. Or, I might mess up the tone because, at the time of writing it, I’m not really feeling depress-y. Also, the main character is supposed to have a personality different from mine. Would I lose track of her personality and end up inserting mine instead? I don’t know. Well, this issue is really just a thought and it’s not a big deal. I’m quite comfortable with third person limited and will continue to tell the story that way. (I also suspect these are all based on my own misconceptions of what it’s like writing in first person.)

If you are currently writing, is there anything holding you back?

I was planning to post an update of my current progress but decided on this topic instead because there’s really not much to update as of now. I am updating my outline based on the 50K+ words I’ve drafted and have grouped and regrouped the scenes into chapters. The outline is basically for me to check if everything flows well structurally without having to read through everything, but apparently, it’s not easy to summarize a scene (in paragraph or list format) and not that much fun either. I also can’t seem to make up my mind on which scenes should go together in a chapter. Right now, I’m looking at about 35-40 chapters for around 70 scenes. I hope to complete the draft and the updated outline by the end of Feb this year. We’ll see if I can accomplish that.