Kissing 2016 Goodbye

Otherwise known as “just what did I do this year?”

I think I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I’m usually far better organized when it comes to writing goals. A couple years ago, I adopted James Scott Bell’s approach of setting goals for my writing career, redefining how I measured them. For example, setting a “goal” of getting published is maybe not the best because there are so many variables I can’t control with that. But I can control how many queries I send, so the goal might be “send fifty queries in 2016.” Or submit to a certain number of short story outlets.

You get the idea.

Except last January, when it came time for goal setting, I…didin’t. What was the point? I asked. Nobody pays attention but me, I said.

Oh silly, silly me.

Now at the end of 2016, I’m left a little discombobulated, wondering what the heck I did over the last 12 months. So here it is, reverse goal setting.

Submit short stories to the major anthologies

It was Bouchercon Raleigh in 2015 that two of my Sisters in Crime friends noticed that a lot of award nominees came out of these anthologies. So they issued a short-story challenge: to submit to the major anthologies for 2016. I was not sure I would do this. My short story success rate was…spotty. But hey, I’m always up for a challenge. So I submitted – Bouchercon (Blood on the Bayou), the Guppy anthology (Fish Out of Water), and Malice Domestic (Mystery Most Historical). I figured if I got one of the three, I’d be doing good. After all, isn’t that a good average in baseball (.333)?

Color me gobsmacked when I placed stories with not one, not two but all three anthologies. I really do not know what happened – except that I put myself out there. The Hubby treated me to a trip to New Orleans in September for Bouchercon. I’ll get to go to Malice Domestic in April.

I’ve already got a story prepped for Bouchercon 2017.

Then I placed a story with Mysterical-e. A story I thought was long dead. The only rejection I got all year? A local contest for Halloween flash fiction. What’s that saying about a prophet in her own town?

Query, query, query

According to Query Tracker, I’ve sent out about 80 queries this year, most for my first Laurel Highlands Mystey, And Corruption for All. I’ve tallied 80 rejections, too. You know, lest that short story success go to my head.

I’ve got one full manuscript for the second book in the series, Identity Unknown, out with an agent. And based on some feedback I received recently, I have a plan for the series in 2017. No, I can’t tell you the plan. I need to vet it with my critique group. If they say it’s a good plan, it’ll become a goal for 2017.

In some respects, 2016 was a rough year. So many celebrity deaths (Bowie! Rickman! Prince!). Yet it turns out I did okay when I look at my major accomplishments, things I’ve done. They’re kinda big things. I’m rather proud of myself.

But next year? I’m setting some goals, baby.

Readers, what about you? Do you set yearly goals or not?


Author: Liz Milliron

Liz Milliron has been making up stories, and creating her own endings for other people's stories, for as long as she can remember. She survived growing up through reading, cutting her mystery teeth on Agatha Christie, Mary Higgins Clark and, of course, Nancy Drew. As an adult, she finds escape from the world of software documentation through creating her own fictional murder and mayhem. She lives near Pittsburgh with her husband and two teenage children, and fantasizes about owning a dog again - one of these days.

17 thoughts on “Kissing 2016 Goodbye”

  1. It seems to me, Mary, that setting your goals backwards is working quite well for you. Why change now? I, too, have goals, but keep them mostly in my head. This is the time of year, however, when I start thinking about them. Thanks for reminding me.


  2. Susan, in a way you’re right. But like you – if I don’t start thinking about the things I want to do now, I probably won’t get around to doing them. And my head is really risky place to keep important stuff. 🙂 (I blame the teenagers.)


  3. Woo hoo, Mary, you had a super great year! I set goals, because if I didn’t, I would lose track of my course toward the overarching goal of producing good stories to reach readers (or not).


  4. I do, absolutely. I put my goals/deadlines on a calendar and I’m constantly revisiting since it’s so easy for me to get sidetracked or to work solely on one thing. Written goals keep me on track and honest. You can’t say you worked hard all year when it’s clear you didn’t.
    Congrats on the three anthologies … I didn’t know that. Nice hat trick!


  5. Sam, thanks! It really snaps into perspective when I look back. I’ve got stories in the chute, so we’ll see what happens.

    Thanks, Sue. Yes, exactly.

    Becky, yes. So easy to get sidetracked, especially be “new, shiny thing” if you don’t have your goals known. And thanks!


  6. Wow, congratulations on all your successes, Mary!! I only made a reading goal this year, which worked out well because pregnancy. My goal was to read 60 books and I’m pleased to report that I’m on track with only 4 books to go 🙂 Here’s to a fabulous 2017!


  7. Great year, Liz! I just keep putting one foot in front of another. Querying and querying some more. Two short stories were accepted. Working on edits for book 2 right now. Book 3 is outlined and first draft is partially written. And reading. I’m thinking about the Bouchercon anthology but it’s further down on the to-do so the tendrils of thought aren’t meeting up with my fingers yet.


  8. Whoo hooo Liz, Congratulations, those are some impressive totals. All three anthologies – WOW. I do hope you have a glass of wine and some chocolate on your menu tonight. You deserve a celebration.

    You just sent me to my journal to set come in writing goals. There is something about actually putting a goal on paper that seems to imprint it in the brain. SO, I’ve done my writing goals for 2017 – we’ll see what happens next December.

    Fingers crossed and nose to the keyboard.

    Happy, healthy, marvelous, spectacular, holiday season and 2017 to all.


  9. Keenan, you sound like me. And we’ll meet up at Malice, yes?

    Kimberly, yes – but only good surprises. LOL 🙂

    Kait, believe me – I celebrated mightily earlier this year once those acceptances rolled in the virtual door. I know exactly what you mean by putting goals in writing.

    May we all hit our goals for 2017!


  10. Zowsters! Congratulations on those anthologies!!!

    I used to hate setting goals… until I realized I was setting goals for other people and not for myself. That’s when it all changed, learned to set SMART goals and since they were mine and mine alone, I could be sure they were aligned with my life priorities and values.


  11. I am glad that everyone has had such a productive year. I do make “annual” goals, but nothing as lofty as those you guys make. I started making a “goal” to read books by authors whom I have not read previously, and I succeeded wonderfully. I not only read some great books, but I found some wonderful authors to add to me “must read” the next book list. I also joined a book club, another goal, and though that book club at a great independent book store — The Book Carnival — I met wonderful people who share my love of reading and I met wonderful authors whose books I had never read, but now will.

    I encourage all you authors to get out and talk about your books to everyone who will listen. The importance of book signings to me is that most times I didn’t think I would be interested in the book, but I went to the signing just to support the bookstore. Then I found that the author was so interesting that I ended up buying the book. I even bought books from authors who I did not hear speak after other members of the book club commended on the signing and shared the interesting stories from the author.

    I also found a few new authors through Facebook. I my goal was to become friends with every author I read. I found new authors by “liking” author pages who were friends of my author friends. The interaction on Facebook is not the same as a personal visit at a book store, but it is a productive way for me to learn about authors who do not make it to Southern California.

    Please remember, that you speak not only through your books, but also though your interactions with readers, in person, direct word of mouth, and through Facebook. I hope you all make it a goal next year to add one more book signing and one more Facebook activity to your book promotion routine.

    I wish you all happy writing, and promotion in 2017. I am ready for more reading.


  12. Wonderful advice, 3 no 7 and thank you so much for the reminder. I live in a rural area with few bookstores and few reader/writer events. My goal for this year (thanks to you) will be to seek out more opportunities, local libraries, other local venues, and meet my readers!


  13. Well, 2016 was a transition year for me so the types of goals I set were a bit different than past years. I retired from work this spring and I was determined to get more physically active, so I join several walking/hiking/cycling groups. As I became more fit, it was easy to up the daily steps or distance cycled every couple of months. During the previous 5 years, I had set my annual Goodreads reading challenge goal, and made it easily (usually 160-170 books/year). And I figured for 2016, I would bump up my Goodreads number since I was retired and would have more to read. Well, guess what? I am well short of my 180 book goal…currently at 122 books read. So what took up my precious reading time? The daily physical activity mentioned above and more time on Facebook and blogs interacting with mystery fiction authors and readers. So I enjoyed talking about mystery books and participating in on-line FB events, but social media can be a black hole that sucks you in for hours. We will see what I decide to set as goals for 2017.


  14. Peg, it’s funny. I have to do SMART goals for my job and I detest it. Somehow setting writing goals is easier.

    3 no 7, great reminder. And yes, Facebook can be a time sink!

    Grace, congrats on the retirement! Oh, I’m so far away and so envious. Maybe you should try audio books – get your fitness and your reading in at the same time?


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