Thursday, January 7, 2021

The Writing Edition of What Worked and What Didn't

by Lynn H. Blackburn @LynnHBlackburn

For the past few years, I’ve created a What Worked/What Didn’t Work list as a way to review the previous year. **

I love this process because it allows me to acknowledge places where I struggled and shine a light on the things I want to change in the upcoming year, but it also gives me room to celebrate what went right.

I make this list for my personal life which includes how things went for my family, in my home, with my health, relationships, etc. But I also make a separate list for my writing life, and that’s what I want to share with you today. 

I expected the 2020 edition of my list to be heavy on the “What Didn’t Work” side and light on the “What Worked” side.

To my surprise, the opposite was true. Maybe this is because there’s a general sense that since everything went wrong in 2020, we could just put “Everything” in the what didn’t work category and be done with it.

But we do ourselves a disservice when we don’t take the time to spell things out, because as wild and woolly as 2020 was, it wasn’t all bad. 

No. Really. It wasn’t. 

Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first, shall we?

What Didn’t Work - the Writing Edition

1. Not going to conferences in person. The one in-person event I planned to attend, I had to cancel because I was quarantined and then tested positive. No matter how many awards ceremonies I have watched online or classes I’ve taken, it’s just.not.the.same. I miss seeing my writing friends. Hugging them. Cheering for them. I think on-line options are wonderful, but I cannot wait to attend conferences in person again.

2. Pretending my deadlines don’t exist. This feels self-explanatory. There’s no way this would ever work, so I don’t have a good excuse other than that it was 2020 and everything was weird. But sticking my head in the sand and pretending my words would magically appear with zero effort on my part? It never happened. It would make me feel better if some of y’all would tell me you tried the same thing. :) 

3. Creating while under extreme stress. All kidding aside, 2020 has been hard. I wrote. I met my deadlines (although, see #2, sometimes it was close). But I can’t say any of it was easy. 

What Did Work - the Writing Edition

1. Creating a private reader group on FB. I created a separate private reading group (The Deep Divers, feel free to join us) where my readers can interact with each other and with me. When it comes to actual connection, it’s working better than my author page (no surprise there) or anything else I’ve tried to this point. With the changing face of social media, who knows if this will be true for 2021, but it worked in 2020.

2. Zoom/Facetime. While never as good as spending time with the people you love in person, Zoom has helped me stay connected to my writing friends in a big way. I’ve even taught three days of Scrivener classes over Zoom. It wasn’t ideal, but it got the job done. Even though I wave my introvert flag proudly, 2020 has brought on a level of isolation that isn’t healthy for any of us. It would have been so much worse without Zoom. 

3. Scrivener. Scrivener doesn’t lie to me about my deadlines. Scrivener won’t let me pretend my deadlines don’t exist. Scrivener gets all up in my face with my word count every day. Scrivener also doesn’t care if my brain is too mushy to write in a linear fashion and I need to write a random kissing scene to make me feel better. (Yes, this happens, and I know I’m not alone in this). Scrivener can deal with my chaos. It has for a decade and I expect it to continue to perform admirably in 2021.

4. Writing a novella as a lead magnet. Y’all, this has been suggested to me for years. Years. And I always said I didn’t have time. But I made time this year, and so far, I’d say it has been worth it. If you’re trying to build a newsletter subscriber base, consider writing that short story, novella, flash fiction, or whatever it is that can showcase your writing and give readers some real incentive to sign up. 

5. Using my bullet journal. All those memes where people say the worst purchase they made in 2020 was a planner? Not true if you use a bullet journal, aka, the most flexible planner ever. Not familiar with the bullet journal? Check it out here.

6. Writing Sprints. Writing sprints are very popular during NaNoWriMo when the need to get words on the page supersedes almost everything else. But 2020 taught me that sprints can be a game changer when you need words, but there are 1000 other things vying for your attention. Which, in 2020, was all the time.

Here’s what you do. Grab a few writer friends. Get them on a text loop. Or set up a Zoom meeting. Then set your timer for fifteen minutes and write as much as you can. See if you can beat your friends. Gloat when you do. No. Wait. Did I say that? I meant be gracious when you do. That’s what I meant. Gracious.

I have written a ton of words over the past couple of months with friends in England, Texas, and five miles away from me in South Carolina all together on a Zoom call where we don’t talk, we write. Squeeze in three or four sprints and you’ve probably met your wordcount for the day. Give it a try! 

That’s my list. I’d love to hear what worked and what didn’t work for you in 2020. :) 

Grace and peace,


**This idea isn’t original to me. I have no idea who originated it, but I got it from Anne Bogel (aka Modern Mrs. Darcy) and Emily P. Freeman.

Lynn H. Blackburn loves writing romantic suspense because her childhood fantasy was to become a spy, but her grown-up reality is that she's a huge chicken and would have been caught on her first mission. She prefers to live vicariously through her characters and loves putting them into all kinds of terrifying situations while she's sitting at home safe and sound in her pajamas! 

Lynn’s titles have won the Carol Award, the Selah Award, and the Faith, Hope, and Love Reader’s Choice Award. Her newest series kicks off in March 2021 with Unknown Threat, Book 1 in the Defend and Protect series. 

She is a frequent conference speaker and has taught writers all over the country. Lynn lives in South Carolina with her true love and their three children. You can follow her real life happily ever after by signing up for her newsletter at and @LynnHBlackburn on Bookbub, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.


  1. I absolutely love the idea of the sprints using Zoom. My Crit partners are spread all over, and how much fun it would be to gather them on Zoom for one. Thanks for the suggestion, Lynn!

  2. Great perspective, Lynn. I missed a lot of in-person events as well, but I also learned how to record video sessions as well as join and host zoom meetings. Thanks for the reminder to always look for the silver lining.

  3. Thank you for the encouragement Lynn. Hope to see you soon. :-)

  4. What a great way to look back at the year -- I should try this. Some of my items would be the same as yours. I agree that in-person conferences are best, but all the online options meant I was able to "attend" three conferences and several standalone workshops. That's more than I've done in years because of work and family things. I'll take what I can get and hope for in-person sometime in 2021. :-)

  5. Great list, Lynn! Plan to try several of your ideas. 😄

  6. But sticking my head in the sand and pretending my words would magically appear with zero effort on my part?....Oh, yes. It was so hard to concentrate for many months that I did that very thing. lol but, I met my deadline!

  7. Great post, Lynn. Thanks for your positive perspective on 2020.

  8. I need to write a random kissing scene to make me feel better. (Yes, this happens, and I know I’m not alone in this).
    LOVE this! So very true. :) Great ideas and I'm going to start a What Worked and What Didn't list of my own--personal AND writing. Just had our very first "Write-In" via Zoom with my critique group and it was amazingly successful. And that novella/short story as lead magnet idea? It's happening--in 2021! Thanks, again. :)