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  • Cara Trent

A Midnight Update: Reflections and Goals

Updated: 4 days ago

The dawn of a new era


You know, that subtitle might be a bit dramatic.

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I just have thoughts about 2022 and plans for 2023 to share with you!


This is gonna be a longer post, so you may want to grab a drink and a snack if you feel so inclined. I’m excited to tell you guys what I have in store for next year! But first, let’s talk about 2022.


Reflections

So what did my 2022 look like? Hectic.


Since I began freelancing in September 2021, I tried balancing Midnight Quill alongside three other jobs/gigs (yay, American late-stage capitalism). Add that to maintaining relationships with my friends, spending time with my fiancé, doing family things, and allowing myself time to not be a constant workaholic machine, and…


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… yeah. In December 2022, I left one of those jobs (the most time-intensive one) to devote more time to Midnight Quill.


But to figure out where I need to go in 2023, I needed a clearer picture of Midnight Quill as a business. So I did some year-end reflections: I cobbled together some questions from blogs, a workbook from a wonderful marketing seminar put on by the Editorial Arts Academy (EAA), and copious amounts of financial data flung across several Excel spreadsheets to create a picture of the business.


After doing all that work, I (naturally) discovered a comprehensive year-end workbook from veteran developmental editor Sophie Playle, aka Liminal Pages. The reflection questions were quite helpful and perhaps a bit unexpected in certain places. I think that’s one of the reasons I liked it so much. She releases them yearly and I’ll be looking for them!


(If you’re interested in writing or editing and are looking for another industry expert to follow, check out her website and blog!)


Now, here we go: a quick review of 2022!


The Finances & Business

Sophie’s workbook helped me see that, financially, I ended the year in the black. Was the margin large? No. Did I panic at first at how small it was? Yes. But after I calmed down, I realized being in the black after the first year of business is a win. Distractions and three other jobs be damned.


In the way of non-billed projects and professional development, I managed to:

  • Complete four classes, one from the EAA and three from Club Ed

  • Update the website with new testimonials

  • Start the blog

  • Begin networking with other editors

For a first year, I’m happy with that progress.


The Work

I have had no projects I dreaded or hated; in fact, I enjoyed all of them. For that, I am SO grateful.


Most of my 2022 work centered around beta-reading with some assessments and short developmental editing sprinkled in. Surprisingly, I really loved responding to after-project queries about my beta-reads/edits as much as doing the project itself. Those questions let me dig deep into the story, which made my brain gears turn in all the right ways.


As for genres, I worked on many novellas and novels within my SFF wheelhouse, which was wonderful! That was definitely a big part of why I enjoyed every project and writer I worked with.


Speaking of my writers…


The People

I gotta say, I am incredibly blessed to have wonderful clients who appreciate my work and input. To everyone who has worked with me in an editorial capacity: I’ve loved getting to know your characters and worlds and I’m excited to get to know them even more deeply over time. You are the best, and I want to work with more people like you.


The Findings from the Liminal Pages Workbook

And now… Sophie Playle’s workbook. A hefty 24 pages, the workbook centers on examining the previous year’s projects, clients, money mindset, marketing, and professional development before starting to look ahead, plan goals, and note self-care mechanisms (because you can’t very well run your business if you’ve run yourself into the ground).


A few aspects of the workbook happened to overlap with some portions of the cobbled-together report I did earlier in January. The workbook, however, made them prettier and much more pleasant to fill out, and I’m a sucker for great design.


For me, the workbook started to significantly diverge in the money section. Most year-end approaches toward money reflections can be, uh… stiff. What did you spend the most on, how can you cut back to increase your bottom line, what’s the budget for next year, what are your passive revenue streams and how can you augment them, etc. Very boring, very corporate. So that’s what my cobbled-together money reflection was: very boring, very corporate.


Sophie’s method took another route by examining how money is, ultimately, the means to a good life – and one should focus on money only to the extent that it helps you cultivate that “good life” for yourself and what a “good life” means to you, the business owner.


A few questions she asked included how much I wanted to make from editing exclusively, why I chose that number, and then to envision myself living that life, trying to embody what it looked, sounded, felt, and smelled like.


That approach is unique (at least to me) and it’s such a grounding approach: seeing money as a thing that serves you, not just something you pursue with a “grow-or-die” value system. The aspect of how my editing income would specifically support my lifestyle wasn’t something I’d considered, but… it’s so essential. It was kind of a “duhhh” moment, in the best way.


This is, briefly, my grounding goal: I want to be one of “two nerds in a basement.”


That phrase comes from the story of Michael Kramer and Kate Reading, the narrators of Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive books. They record audiobooks in their basement, do theater, parent two children, and any other projects they choose.


I don’t want to have the biggest editorial business out there, with tons of minions and income and expenses. I don’t need or want a 6-bedroom house with every amenity under the sun. I just want to be one of two nerds (the other being Jacob Walker, my fiancé and the artisan behind Page and Plunder) in a basement, doing nerd things with my favorite people and loving every minute. In that basement, we are healthy, motivated, getting enough sleep, financially secure, and have the time to maintain relationships with our friends and family without sacrificing our businesses.


2023 goals

Now... on to the juicy stuff.

Here are a few of my goals for 2023:


Goal 1: Grow!

I feel like the goal of many business owners, especially nascent ones, is to grow. For me, I will primarily be seeking more clients. So if you’ve been happy with my work and would like to refer me to other writers, please do so! I would love to talk with them.


Another aspect of growth is… marketing.

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That’s the aspect about this year that scares me most because, like many people, putting myself out there is terrifying. I especially fear the kind of marketing that’s shilling; putting on a fake face to relieve people of their money.


That’s not the kind of marketing I do, though. If it were, this blog post would be half the length and stuffed with SEO keywords, corporate buzzwords, and unnecessary emojis.


But I think a fear of marketing can benefit from exposure therapy: the more I do it, the less scary it becomes, and the more comfortable I become with it, especially as I find my own genuine way of interacting with (and being interested in) people.


Goal 2: Overhaul the Website

My lovely website has served me well for the first year and a half, but she’s due for some more serious attention. So I’m going to give her an overhaul, both in design and copywriting. I want to have this done by the end of March.


When the new website is done and published, I’ll let you guys know through another blog post! You’ll be the first people I tell, and I would love to hear your thoughts about it.


Goal 3: Introduce New Services

I’m going to offer a few new services in 2023! Since starting Midnight Quill, I’ve wanted to offer small services like these because writing and revising your story is only half the battle. Most writers aren’t content to work and re-work and agonize over a story that will sit in a drawer for only them to enjoy – they want to get their story out there! And I want to help make that “getting it out there” process smoother, too.


Right now, I’m gonna give you guys a sneak peek into some of those services. There will be several, so I don’t want to spoil all of them yet. Right now, I’ll let you in on three (of a possible seven):


  • Query letter editing – If you want to publish traditionally, then you’ll need to pitch your novel to agents using a query letter. Since many agents get tons of pitches a week, that query letter needs to be in tip-top shape.

  • Query letter editing is more effective if I’m familiar with the manuscript; however, this can also be a one-off service.

  • Synopsis editing – A common accompaniment for query letters is a synopsis of the whole novel in a few pages, including the ending. A synopsis, however, is an industry document and NOT meant to be creative. Like the query letter, it needs to be on point as well.

  • Like the query letter, this can also be a one-off service but I will be able to give better feedback if I’m familiar with the novel’s contents already.

  • Book maps – It’s kind of hard to describe what book maps are, because each one is different. They’re organizational tools that help give writers a bird’s eye view of their novel (usually focusing on plot organization, theme tracking, and character development). Book maps can come in many forms, but I use Excel spreadsheets for mine.

  • Book maps will only be offered as an add-on to developmental editing, since I need to read the novel twice to fill the map out properly.

Miscellaneous goals

  • I’m going to start a Midnight Quill Facebook page! Currently, Facebook is the only place I plan to update, and I’ll keep my content there for a while. I’ll post about business things, writerly memes (because come ON, what’s a Facebook page without MEMES), and some helpful resources I come across (such as blog posts, webinars, courses, etc.).

  • When I do the website overhaul, I also plan to convert my prices to a per-word rate (which is standard in the editing industry).

  • I’m going to go to conferences! My plan is to go to one in-person conference (probably around summertime) and a couple virtual ones. If you have any recommendations for good conferences (or that you’d even like to meet up there), let me know!


Well! Like Forrest Gump says,

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TL:DR, 2022 was good for what it was, and 2023 promises to be even bigger. I hope you'll stay with me through the journey.


Do you have any plans for the new year? Do you have any questions? Shoot me an email – I’d love to hear from you!


Until next time,

Cara Trent, the Midnight Quill

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