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2023 Wrap-Up | Celebrating The Small Wins

And just like that, another year is in the books!

2023 was, well... it was something, all right.

I haven't written extensively about this on the blog or posted much about it on social media, but I spent most of 2023 dealing with health issues carrying over from getting Covid-19 in late 2022, which took a significant toll on my writing (and life in general).

When I shared my mid-year check-in back at the end of June, my lingering Long Covid symptoms had resulted in me throwing virtually every goal I had set for myself back in January out the window.

My main goal was to edit Bound to the Heart and get it ready for beta readers, but it's kind of hard to edit a novel when you're fighting brain fog and other symptoms so that project was mostly on the back burner.

When I write these wrap-up posts each December, I usually review the plans I made for myself in January and evaluate the progress made throughout the year. However, I don't think I can exactly assess plans that were cast aside apart from saying that they didn't come to fruition.

So instead, as I talked about in last week's post, I'm going to redefine what success means for me in my circumstance and celebrate everything I did manage to accomplish in 2023.

Social Media And Finding New Internet Friends

In a blog post many moons ago, I said something to the effect of not wanting to be on Instagram because I didn't have a photogenic setup and wasn't too comfortable with posting photos of myself online.

While that's still true, I did finally set up an Instagram account this summer (follow me @AvrilMAalund).

I will admit that I was in part motivated by the changes to Twitter, now known as X. A lot of my writing friends over there were posting less frequently (myself included), or left the platform altogether. It definitely began to feel like a lonely little void so I joined the migration over to Instagram and Threads (and other corners you can find here).

As expected, I rarely post selfies. Instead, I find myself diving into creating infographics in Canva (my Preptober overview was surprisingly popular compared to my other content) and things about my WIPs, and sometimes Reels that mainly consist of my fingers on the keyboard using an audio clip that sparks my fancy.

I also started up a daily prompt in the form of Authors In Progress Chat (aka #AIPChat) which invites the writing community to share things about their projects and their process among other fun topics.

Between Instagram and Threads, this internet introvert began to come out of her shell a little bit!

Maybe 2024 will be the year I finally get on TikTok?

NaNoWriMo And A Tided Love

This November, I took part in NaNoWriMo, an annual writing challenge in which participants set out to write 50,000 words in 30 Days. It was semi-spontaneous. I had a new story idea around the time of the Camp NaNoWriMo event back in July but wasn't in a place where I could participate at the time. November, however, seemed a bit more likely, and I planned to participate as early as this summer.

2023 was my first-ever NaNoWriMo, during which I began the first draft of A Tided Love, a second-chance Regency Era romance set in a seaside resort town.

While I fell short of the 50,000-word mark, I did accomplish some other things last month that, though tinier victories by comparison, are worth celebrating.

I finished NaNoWriMo a smidge past the 30,000-word mark which, considering I hadn't written any new fiction for about two years, is pretty good. After all, the last time I sped through a first draft of a novel was Bound To The Heart, which started as the creative component of my research project for a London travel course, and that took the entire semester to finish (so about four NaNoWriMos, give or take). So I guess 30K in 30 Days is still a new record for me, even if it's not the record I aimed to set.

If you've been keeping up with the blog for a while, you might know that I've been editing in circles for the past two years, and every draft seems to invite a new air of doubt. There's always something else to fix, something else that doesn't quite work. Recognizing these things are a sign of my growth as a writer, but it sometimes contributes to the ever-present feeling of impostor syndrome because I'm not "good enough" of a writer, as those mistakes were made nevertheless.

NaNoWriMo reminded me that first drafts are often called "rough drafts" for a reason. They're messy by nature, and that's okay. Taking on the challenge encouraged me to embrace that imperfection I so often fear. So even if I'm not drafting at breakneck speed for the foreseeable future, I can still give myself grace and (hopefully) not get so caught up in the small, inconsequential details.

A Tided Love also demanded a new level of vulnerability from me I've only ever scratched the surface of in past WIPs. Some scenes have been especially hard because they discuss sensitive themes, and I'm taking my time to ensure they're handled with the care and respect they deserve.

I'm also proud of myself for trying something new. 2023 was my first-ever NaNo (at least, my first in an official capacity), and it pushed me out of my comfort zone several times. A lot of that has to do with trying out new strategies and approaches to the first draft of a new WIP. This diehard Plantser actually crafted an in-depth outline—which became obsolete after three days. As much as I tried, I couldn't stick to the plan and instead found myself exploring as I tend to do. There's such a heavy focus on plotting and that often being considered the "right" way to do NaNoWriMo, and I let myself get caught up in that. But, frankly, the entire outlining process was stressful because it was such a departure from my usual methods and potentially contributed to my feelings of burnout early on in NaNoWriMo.

I think my biggest takeaway from all of this is that it's best to figure out the writing strategies that work best for you and stick to those. It can be fun to try new techniques or writing advice, but if they make writing more complicated and less fun, there is nothing wrong with dismissing them.

So while I didn't technically "win" NaNoWriMo, I feel like I won in my own right.

For a more comprehensive overview of my NaNoWriMo experience, check out my wrap-up post here.

My 2023 feels a little lackluster compared to the plans I laid back in January. Unexpected health challenges threw a wrench into things pretty early on, so I didn't accomplish most of what I set out to do.

You'll sometimes see me talk about shifting your goals depending on your circumstances. That definitely came into play this year.

After all, I didn't plan to participate in NaNoWriMo this year and didn't even have the faintest idea of A Tided Love, but now I'm exploring Thomas and Caroline's story and finding out a lot about myself along the way.

I'm also beginning to put myself out there a little bit more. That's been a bit daunting, but it's also led to finding a number of new writing friends I'm excited to get to know better in the coming year.

Even though 2023 looked a bit different than I planned, there are still accomplishments to celebrate and joy to be found.

I have plenty of exciting things lined up for 2024, which I'll be sharing more about in next week's post.

Until then, have a Happy New Year. May the first steps into 2024 be ones full of love and warmth and towards bigger and better things!

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