Down the 2022 Memory Lane as a Writer
Updated: May 18
- Reflections of a year gone by and resolutions for a year to come
“Celebrate endings—for they precede new beginnings.”
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie
It is that time of the year again when we are ready to bid adieu to one year and welcome another with open arms. It is also the time for resolutions and to go for new dreams and visions.
Before setting goals for the future, it is always a good idea to reflect on the past with gratitude, pat ourselves on the back for a job well done and sum up the learnings so that we are well-positioned to begin the New Year. We cannot change our past, but we can definitely make sure not to repeat our mistakes.
2022 has been an excellent year for me professionally in both of my careers. This year, the foundation I had set up in 2021 started to pay dividends, and that too at a time when I had almost decided to give up on one of my ventures. Thank God I didn’t. Just goes on to show that patience will yield results if you give it time.
Starting this year, I am making a pact to you, my reader, listener or audience, to share my experiences, achievements, learnings from the past year and resolutions for the New Year. One, it will help me to be accountable for my goals. Second, it will help you to know me a bit better. Last but not the least, I hope my learnings inspire you to make every year the best one of your life.
Writing and Me…Taken Small but Significant Strides, Many More Miles To Go
As a writer by passion, my endeavour has been to write daily. Much like eating and sleeping, writing has become a daily ritual now. Even though there have been days that I skipped writing fiction in the early morning hours, I would have written non-fiction during other hours of the day, primarily to further my coaching practice- my other career.
My Writing Goals for 2022
At the beginning of the year, I had set out the following writing goals for myself:
Publish my second book and first novel
Become a traditionally published author
Go beyond online platforms in India and start writing stories for international platforms
Become Author of the Month at least once on Women’s Web- one of my favourite platforms in India
Win at least twice each in the long-story and short-story writing format in Penmancy- one of my favourite writing community platforms.
Get invited for a PenKonnect session with Penmancy—a discussion session with established authors whereby they share their experiences with new ones (I hoped they considered me important enough to invite for this someday)
Expand my writing network— get to know some fellow writers personally
The above goals were for fiction writing. I had set separate milestones for myself in non-fiction, which I have mentioned in the blog post on my coaching site.
All the Hard Work: Behind the Scenes of A Writer’s Life
1. Burnt the early morning oil—every day
I woke up between 5-5:30 am for 340 of the 365 days in the year, including when I was sick. For the remaining days, I got up at 6 am. This part of the day is my fiction writing time. For many of these days, I switched on the laptop half-groggy, fighting not to go back to bed, not having a clue about the first word I would write. On other days while travelling without a laptop, I would get up and start writing something on my phone.
By putting in time every day, I was making incremental progress daily. Over a period, the results added up.
2. Made a writing calendar
At the end of 2021, I made a list of publications and platforms where I would send my stories for consideration in 2022. At the beginning of every month, I simply looked at my calendar and knew where all I had to submit my entries. Additions—and in occasional cases, deletions—happened in the calendar throughout the year. Then I set about writing accordingly.
Partial screenshot of my writing calendar
My Grammarly editor tells me that I edited close to 6.5 million words during the year using the software.
My 1.5 years Grammarly word count as on Dec 20, 2022
The one-and-a-half-year Grammarly word count above includes the non-fiction content, details of which have been provided in my coaching reflections blog post.
3. Accomplished more than a half-century of short stories; wrote blog posts and book reviews
I penned 57 finished short stories, 4 writing blog posts, 7 book reviews and 1 personal essay during the year. The short stories include flash fiction, quintales, long forms and drabbles. This figure doesn’t consider the stories in the draft stage and a lot of unfinished stories. However, some of the stories were repurposed and sent to more than one platform for consideration.
25 of my short stories were published across various platforms and anthologies.
4. Finished editing my first novel and sent it to publishers
The first draft of A Price to Love was written in 2018; since then, the manuscript was lying untouched in my system. I picked up the draft in Oct 2021, edited it, and sent it out to beta readers. The feedback started coming in earlier this year, and on the basis of that, I rewrote some portions, added some sections and edited them again.
Editing, rewriting, editing, rewriting and editing some more… and finally, in Feb 2022, the final draft from my side was ready to be sent to publishers.
Image of the draft Manuscript of A Price to Love
5. Wrote the first draft of my second novel in the Nanowrimo style
This was a spur-of-the-moment, completely unplanned decision. Penmancy, my favourite writing platform, was having its annual tale-a-thlon in August and invited writers to write a novella of 15000 words. I wanted to challenge myself further and set a target of 60,000 words for myself. I broke it down to 2000 words in 30 days and continued writing— fully pantser style, without a plot or character reference. To top it all, I fell ill during the period.
The end product was a first draft comprising 65,600 words. It will take a lot of polishing to be publishing-ready; however, the foundation of my next book is well and truly there.
Screenshot of email received from Penmancy on completion of draft of my next novel
6. Self-taught myself to make submission kits and write query letters to send to publishers
Writing a book is easier. Pitching it to publishing houses and literary agents is a whole different ballgame. With the internet and informative blogs from platforms like The Himalayan Writing Retreat, gathering and consolidating the information you need to draft the pitch to publishers has become easier.
I prepared my submission kit and sent the query letter of A Price to Love to 18 publishers and 9 literary agents in India for representation.
7. Sending fortnightly author emailers to my website subscribers
This was the year I started sending regular author newsletters and emails to my site subscribers. I have made it a point to send one email every two weeks without fail throughout the year.
Partial Screenshot of a newsletter sent to my writing website subscribers
Writing Report Card: Progress Vs. Plan
Despite the misses, I achieved much beyond what I set out to do at the beginning of the year.
Achievements and Accomplishments
1. Became a traditionally published author and a novel writer.
A Price to Love, my first novel brought out by Readomania, came out in Oct 2022 and warmed its way to the readers’ hearts. In less than three months, it has garnered 150+ reviews and counting. It trended in the bestseller list for days after launch, and I had a fangirl double take upon seeing my book trending above my favourite, Jeffrey Archer, and when Amazon recommended my book to me amongst Hot New Releases in its newsletter.
Amazon Newsletter email recommending A Price to Love and the book ranked higher than a Jeffrey Archer release
The reviews were heartening. Readers found the book a page-turner, with most liking the book despite being taken aback by the unconventional female protagonist. Most loved Sonia, while others hated her, but no one could ignore her. Some reviewers equated the book to women’s fiction and literary fiction, while a few who had read A Slice of Life earlier kindly said that ‘Smita Das Jain has done it again.’ It was humbling to read them.
Snapshot of some of the reviews for A Price to Love
Then, towards the end of the year, it turns out that the copies from the book’s first print run are sold out, and Readomania is going for a reprint. There are no two ways about it- the book is selling, which means more and more people are reading the words I wrote. Grateful.
Then another good news came just before the stroke of midnight on the last day of the year when the Delhi Wire editorial team named A Price to Love among the Top 50 Books of the Year, 2022. I will consider this as good tidings for 2023.
A Price to Love took a lot out of me. But it gave me much more. I had my first-ever book launch event at Kunzum, Gurgaon, where listeners patiently queued up and waited for me to sign their book copies. It was much beyond my dreams, and I had to try damn hard to stop the tears that threatened to come from my eyes. That was the moment I felt that all the hard work in writing the book, sending the query letters, and the long wait for an acceptance paid off. As Sonia from A Price to Love says, ‘Patience is a bitter plant, but it gives a sweet fruit.’
Precious Moments: Image from A Price to Love book launch event
2. A published author six times over.
I wanted to publish one book during the year and ended up with six—five paperbacks and one E-book. My short stories started winning awards from the first month of 2022 and found their place in prominent anthologies. 2021 had ended with a high when my flash fiction found a place in the internationally renowned Auroras and Blossoms Anthology in December.
January 2022 saw my winning stories find their place in the WriteFluence and Women’s Web anthologies. This was followed by another Writefluence collection in March. The middle of the year saw my poem (one of the only two pieces of poetry I have written) find a place in the StoryMirror anthology.
Then the StoryMirror short story anthology came out in October, just a couple of days after A Price to Love.
God made the blessings pour this year. Thank You, God!
Images in the section are the cover pages of some anthologies co-authored by me
3. Writing Awards and Recognitions in India and abroad
Apart from being published in anthologies, my stories received awards and recognitions on multiple platforms across the globe.
I was shortlisted for the Women's Web Orange Flower Awards,2022 for my short fiction.
The one recognition that holds a special significance to me is my flash fiction The Figure in the Charpoy winning an honourable mention for being in the Top 20 stories out of the 300 stories received from all over the world in Women On Writing (WOW!)- a prestigious US-based online magazine and community for women writers, authors, editors, agents, publishers, and readers. I was the only Asian writer in the list of Top 20. Holding my own against the wonderful, native English-speaking fellow writers worldwide was an incredible feeling.
Image of The Figure in the Charpoy finding an Honorable Mention in WoW
My stories were among the winning entries in Penmancy 6 times — 2 in the flash fiction format and 4 in the long-form form, besides getting special mentions seven times.
The story Why is it important if I can cook, but not if I want to work after marriage was among Women’s Web’s top 10 most-read posts for July 2022. And I was Author of the Week for Women’s Web 5 times during the year for a blend of fiction, creative non-fiction and book reviews at different points in time.
The year ended with a bang when my flash fiction My Knight in White came in the list of Top 25 stories out of 398 stories received all over India in the contest by The Himalayan Writing Retreat and The Story Cabinet.
Image from The HWR and Story Cabinet Flash Fiction Win
4. Won an award for my debut fiction.
Firsts are always special. They become more memorable when you receive accolades for the same.
In July 2022, Writefluence adjudged my debut book, the short story collection A Slice of Life: Every Person Has A Story, among the Top Three self-published works of fiction in India for 2021.
Three's Company: Image of me, my first book and the award for my first book
The win, coming two months before the publication of A Price to Love, was a considerable boost. A Slice of Life will always be a part of my heart, and sufficient to say that there would have been no A Price to Love without A Slice of Life.
5. Transcended borders as a writer
2022 was the year of overcoming geographical barriers as a writer. I submitted my stories to 20 international platforms and contests in the US and UK. I am proud that I dared to dream and challenge myself. That my story passed muster in WoW makes me more confident in my craft.
6. The Writer in the News: Media Mentions
From being an avid newspaper reader, my writing propelled me to be someone who is in the news. I found myself in newspapers and magazines 11 times during the year- for my books and my writing journey combined. Prominent publications include The Times of India, Storizen, The New Indian Express, Authority Magazine, The Pioneer, The Literary Mirror etc.
In the News for my Writing: Images of media clippings during the year
7. Meeting People, Making Friends, Expanding Network
When I started writing last year, I thought it to be a lonely profession. Not anymore. I now know more writers, beta readers, reviewers, writing platforms and communities than I knew last year. And I know the numbers will keep expanding as I grow old in my writing journey.
I don’t want to put numbers into relationships. While writing gives me pleasure, the bonds and relationships I have forged make the experience enriching.
Further, it also helps my books. While a writer may need the solitude to first draft and edit her manuscript, she needs the reviews and feedback from readers and fellow writers to plug the plot and character loopholes and improve her future body of work.
With the wonderful Shalini Mullick at my book launch event
Four's Company: With Penmancy's founders and fellow writers With Anuradha Ramachandran and Anupama Jain at an event
8. Started writing book reviews
I always thought book reviews were for experts and that I was not capable enough to do them. I overcame my self-limiting mindset this year and wrote 7 book reviews. A small number but better than the 0 last year. The writer in me changed my perspective as a reader- I started paying attention to the nuances rather than gobbling down stories. I also realised that reviewing is another form of writing where you put forth your honest and balanced perspective as a reader. I could also empathise with its importance for a writer, being one myself.
I wrote reviews without any pressure or expectations. Imagine my surprise when I got awarded the best reviewer by a forum for my first review! One of my reviews got me an appreciation message from one of the country’s well-known writers, and yet another is the top-rated one on Amazon for a book written by one of India’s most prominent authors. I was even professionally commissioned to write a review of a non-fiction book.
This goes on to show that being sincere and honest about your craft pays; you will get recognition even when you least expect it.
9. Attempted different writing genres and POVs.
I considered myself a romance and thriller writer back in 2021. While these remain my preferred genres, I spread and stretched my writing wings in 2022. During the year, I dabbled in Historical, Horror, Paranormal, Mythological, Speculative and Science Fiction.
To my surprise, almost all these experimental stories were well received, and some also won awards. I also attempted the second-person PoV for the first time and used the first-person voice in many of my stories. Much credit goes to Penmancy for the growth in my writing arc — they gave such wonderful prompts that I couldn’t resist trying them. I am now a writer wanting to write good stories- genre notwithstanding.
File Photo of a Speculative Fiction Genre Win
10. 16K+ Subscribers of my Facebook Writing Page Smitas Write Pen
The page started with less than 2000 subscribers in 2022 beginning. And trust me, I have no idea what has fuelled this surge. I know that the number is not insignificant.
I have not been focusing much on it, apart from posting my stories regularly and writing news on this page. Perhaps it is time for me to focus some of my energy here.
Snapshot of my Facebook Writing Page
Special Shoutout and Gratitude: I thought writing was a lonely profession when I started. Not anymore. The section will be incomplete without acknowledging the forums and people who played a crucial role in my journey. Thank you, Himalayan Writing Retreat, for your information-rich resource blogs and courses, Penmancy for your writing prompts and review forum, and Readomania for believing in my first novel; it would have been a different journey without you.
I want to emphasise that I am neither surprised nor disappointed with the so-called ‘misses.’ Any profession will have more ‘misses’ than ‘hits,’ and writing is no different; setbacks are further opportunities for growth as long as we learn from them.
I am listing the misses here to provide a balanced perspective of my writing journey. Behind all the glamour lie a lot of heartbreaks.
1. Short stories did not get accepted in certain platforms and journals
I mentioned earlier that 25 of the 57 short stories I wrote got published during the year. That means 32 completed short stories remain unpublished; the high absolute number of acceptances masks the fact that there are more rejections or no replies than acceptances from the platforms and journals, including both India and abroad.
Screenshot of regret email from Unleash Work Anthology
I must say that a rejection or reply doesn’t necessarily mean that there is something wrong with the entry. In fact, there was more than one occasion where the story that got a regret mail from one platform won an award in another! Hard work never goes waste.
2. Unable to crack the literary journal code
I submitted my stories to 5 literary journals in India and received regret emails from three. I am yet to hear from the remaining two despite follow-ups.
I must confess that I don’t consider myself a literary fiction writer, but my penchant for conquering a challenge made me tread the ground. I don’t mind rejections (seriously, I love writing so much) but what frustrates me is the lack of feedback or review of my work. How will I improve my craft if I don’t know what the issue or concern is?
I would welcome tips from the readers or the writing community regarding writing literary fiction.
3. Rejections and No reply to my query letters to publishing houses for my novel, until the acceptance
Of the 27 letters I sent, 5 publishers and literary agents each sent regret emails. I decided not to go with the literary agent who did reply after discussions. I didn’t hear back from all 10 publishers and 1 literary agent. The remaining 3 accepted my manuscript, and then I decided to go with the one I now firmly believe is the best publisher for releasing what is now known as A Price to Love to the world.
You have to leave behind the trails of failure to emerge a trailblazer 😊
4. Growing the list of my email subscribers
Unlike my coaching, my writing email list remains small and grows intermittently. Although I do send important updates and information about writing to my coaching newsletter subscribers too, for better targeting, this email list has to expand on its own. I am still figuring out how to go about this. Any suggestions will be welcome.
5. Low Reading Count
There would not be a finished product without raw materials. Reading is the raw material for writing. My reading count has gone down ever since I started writing. I read about 12 books during the year, which is an abysmal count. The latest book of my favourite-Jeffrey Archer- has been sitting on my shelf for the last two months- unforgiving!
I have realised the impact of low reading on my writing and am determined to set this right in 2023.
My Writing Goals for 2023
What can I do differently in 2023? How can I grow as a writer?