I’ve always been a very forward-looking person. I don’t tend to dwell in regret. I’ve certainly made mistakes in my life and tried things that ultimately failed, but I think it doesn’t really serve me well to fret about what happened. It’s better to learn from my mistakes and apply what I learned to the next thing.
We have a lot of annual milestones that, I think, offer us the opportunity to wipe the slate clean. The start of a new school year, for example—last year’s grades no longer count—or January 1.
So here’s a thought exercise for you: what from 2016 can you put behind you?
Did you get a rejection letter? Several? Did your dream agent pass on your manuscript? Were sales lower than you hoped for? Did you miss a deadline? Was there something about your last book that you don’t like? Did one of your publishers close?
Think about anything along those lines. Now put it behind you.
Because 2017 is a new year. Your stumbles and falls in 2016 don’t matter anymore. If you’re trying to hook an editor or agent, maybe do another pass through that manuscript to make sure it shines and send it out again. If something about your last book nags at you, put that energy into making sure your next book is amazing. If you got the rights back to a book—whether by design or not—what can you do with that book now? Find a better publisher for it? Put it out yourself? If your sales were not what you wanted, think about what you can do to improve on them in 2017. How can you find new readers?
Some of that’s easier said than done. We all have personal setbacks as well, ongoing stressors, things we have to deal with daily. But what I like about the New Year is optimism.
Here’s how I’m looking at 2017: I’m thinking about how the short term can help the long term. Maybe working more and writing less now means I’ll have the financial means to write more later. Maybe slowing down to think through the plotting process on my next book means the first draft phase will go faster and more smoothly. Maybe now is the time to experiment a little, to write my crazy idea even if it’s pretty far outside the mainstream romance market, or to try a new sub-genre.
Maybe it’s time to weed out the story ideas I’ve had that won’t work and I won’t finish and focus instead on the ideas that have potential. I keep a folder on my laptop that is mostly fragments of ideas, and lot of these have potential to be great books, but some of them admittedly aren’t any good and could be trashed. That’s another way of looking forward—getting rid of the old, heavy stuff holding you back and looking forward to new projects.
And celebrate your triumphs. If you signed a new contract in 2016, if you put a new book out, if you got a great opportunity or some stellar reviews, take the time to celebrate that. Don’t let yourself get mired in the things that don’t go as well.
Look forward instead of back. Take 2017 as a clean slate, an opportunity to start anew. Celebrate what goes well and move forward when things go poorly. I’m looking forward to 2017 being a great year, and I hope it is for all of you as well. ###
Kate McMurray is an award-winning author of gay romance and an unabashed romance fan. When she’s not writing, she works as a nonfiction editor, dabbles in various crafts, and is maybe a tiny bit obsessed with baseball. She has served as President of Rainbow Romance Writers, the LGBT romance chapter of Romance Writers of America; and as Vice President of RWA/NYC. She lives in Brooklyn, NY. Visit her at www.katemcmurray.com.