Writing in Review: 2014

Writing in Review 2014 notebooksAt the beginning of 2014, I gave myself a simple goal: write 250 words a day. Writing consistently has always been a goal of mine, but lofty dreams of writing for an hour every day have never materialized. So I decided to aim low and go for something ridiculously easy to reach.

One year later, I’m blown away at where that simple goal brought me. I kept track of how many words I wrote and for how long using a spreadsheet in Google Docs. It added a bit of extra time, but now I can look back over the past year and see how I did.

The Numbers

January through April was pretty consistent. I only missed a few days in each month. Numbers for May through July, however, were very low. My word count was under 2500 for all three months. That’s around the time I decided to rework the outline for my novel, so I lost steam.

Halfway through August, I started writing again with a fresh outline. That pace continued every day for the rest of the year.

All told, I spent 114 hours writing 165,391 words in 2014. I broke 2,000 words in a day several times, the largest being 2,469 words on December 18. And I ended the year with writing every day for 135 days.

In the midst of all those numbers, I finished the first draft of my current novel. While I have started other novels before and even wrote a fantasy book in high school (because we’ve all done that, am I right?), this is the first novel I intend to revise and publish. It was a great day when I crossed the finish line. I couldn’t help but grin as I walked out of the coffee shop.

It is no stretch to say that 2014 was my most productive year of writing ever. I’m humbled at how small, steady efforts can achieve big things.

What I Learned

After writing consistently for a good portion of 2014, here are a few things I learned:

  • Setting a timer helped tremendously. It gave me an immediate goal, and even if I didn’t want to write that day I could tell myself, “Just ten minutes. You can do it.” Once I could meet that time easily, I increased it to 15 minutes. By the end of the year I was averaging 30 minutes a day.
  • The choice to write every day didn’t get easier, but staying in the chair did. I thought gradually I would want to write, but it was always a choice I had to make. Once I was actually writing, though, my stamina to continue greatly increased. While doing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November, I wrote close to an hour every day.
  • I can write more than I thought. This is largely due to NaNoWriMo. I had to write 1667 words every day, and at first it was extremely daunting. But I found that by pushing myself, I could reach that goal. Discovering that I was capable of more than I thought was very encouraging.
  • I know how much I can write, and how long it takes me.  Thanks to keeping track of my daily numbers, I know I can write about 1000 words in 30 minutes. Having that data helps me know how much time to set aside during the day if I want to meet a certain goal. I’ve found that if I don’t know how long something is going to take, I generally never do it, so this data helps dispel the myth of not having time to write.
  • Planning ahead helps me find time to write. If I know I’m going to busy all day on a given Thursday, then I need to not wait until the very end of the day to write (like today :/…) Just simply thinking about when in the day I’ll be able to write helps me find time to do it, like in the few minutes before I leave for work or while waiting for a wedding to start.

This year I’ve relaxed my goal of writing every day, but I’m glad I focused on it in 2014. It trained me to be consistent, it worked my creative muscles and expanded them, and it encouraged me that I can, in fact, write an entire book. It was always a far-off dream, and now it’s reality.

Goals for 2015

With a solid year of writing behind me, I have a few new goals for this year. The first goal, and one that needs more than a bullet point, is to write with God.

As I compiled my list the things I had learned in 2014, I realized none of them had to do with my relationship with Jesus. It shocked me that I spent 114 hours, almost a whole week, on something and didn’t grow in my relationship with the Lord.

That is probably an extreme statement, and of course not everything in life reveals something about the Lord. (How many hours have I spent brushing my teeth?) But writing is a creative endeavor, and I want to get to know the Creator better while I do it. It seriously felt like a blow to my heart to think that I hadn’t learned anything about him while I was writing. That needs to change in 2015. I don’t want to look back in a year and say again, “I spent a solid week of my life doing this and didn’t grow in love for the Lord.”

So far I’ve found two ways of doing this. The first was suggested by my friend and fellow author Andy Sheehan. When he was writing his fantasy novel years ago (see what I mean?), he would go for a walk and pray for a certain time period, then write for a chunk of time. If he wanted to keep writing, he would walk and pray again. I think that is a fantastic idea. Second, I want to find books about creativity and the Lord and read a small section of it before I write. The book I think I’ll start with is Pursuing Christ. Creating Art. by Gary A. Molander.

With that foundation in place, here are some other goals:

  1. Finish the second draft of my novel by August. 
  2. Attend the Realm Makers writing conference in August and pitch my novel. I’ve never pitched anything, so that will be a new learning experience!
  3. Submit two short stories for publication. If I only do one story, I could take all year to do it. Submitting two forces me to at least get one done.
  4. Write 6 comic book issues. This project has been outlined for a year and needs to be written!
  5. Write a short film screenplay. I have a rough draft for one finished, and another idea simmering.

Looking over this list, I’m realizing I can’t relax my goal of writing every day. That doesn’t mean I won’t give myself a day off now and then, but these things won’t write themselves.

What did you learn in 2014? Any goals for the new year, or book recommendations? I’d love to hear about them, so write a quick comment below. Here’s to writing in 2015!

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6 thoughts on “Writing in Review: 2014

  1. Steve Donnelly

    Great idea to log your writing sessions. That is some valuable data that you have collected. Thanks for the insight on it still being a challenge to choose to write everyday. This carries over into any discipline.

  2. Jesse Koepke

    Thanks for the comment, Steve! Yeah, consistency and diligence will carry you far no matter what you are doing.

  3. Danielle Rizzo

    I just want to say that this blog entry was enjoyable to read and inspiring! My writing goal for this year is to write one short story (first draft, 1,000 words minimum) or blog entry each month. With the short story I’m giving myself permission to write simple tales as my primary aim right now is to complete projects. I often end up with just one or two of of the elementary elements of a story structure (beginning, middle and end) and can’t figure out the links to bring it all together. My hope is that simplicity will allow for some practice with developing those links. My theory is that in starting with small projects and gradually building I will develop confidence that I can put together all the elements to build a complete story structure.

  4. Jesse Koepke

    That is a great idea, Danielle! I’ve heard of musicians doing something similar, where they write a song a week or so. Go for it!

  5. Christiann Koepke (@PortlandFresh)

    This was such an amazing post Jesse!! Gosh I’m so proud of you- and I simply cannot believe you wrote 114 hours last year! That’s insane and so impressive. I love your challenge to pursue what you want because it won’t happen otherwise- such wisdom and it’s something I’m really going after as well. Also, that book sounds amazing and I love what you were talking about in connecting and growing with the Father through our creativity. I agree that it is so important to be intentional about this and in finding ways to create WITH Him. Not just unto him or from him, but with Him. That’s been my prayer lately- that I would see what he sees and create out of a place of oneness with him, bringing fresh insight in ways people haven’t quite seen yet. Totally possible- totally attainable in the seeking. xx

  6. Jesse Koepke

    “Not just unto him or from him, but with Him.” That’s a powerful sentence, sis. An entire dimension of creating (and living), separate in purpose and process from the others.

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