So this year, I returned to the short story. I have found that I'm actually a lot better at short stories than trying to directly apply myself into a huge novel. There is something mentally relieving when I can switch gears if I am not feeling the characters I'm working on at the time.
One of the struggles I really could not compromise on was the fact that I was working on some ideas in my stories and I had no purpose for the characters. I just had these one or two phrases to write the story and it made being a "pantser" (writing by the seat of my pants), a lot less appealing for the first year. I can be flexible with my writing and accept if there should not be something I should push with my writing, but without traditional literary themes (exploration of 'riches', emotional contrasts, political statements, emotional growth) I found my first draft stifling. My characters turned wooden and were hardly moving. I was really disappointed in that fact. Previously, most of my characters were characters to be proud of. And this year, while I had interesting stories, I did not have interesting characters.
In the case where I had an interesting character, I felt shackled by an uprising in the writing community to avoid some types of story lines because they are all too easy to use as "ways to make the story work." And while normally, I ignore that advice, I thought I should try for once just to see if I could look at the tasks faced by my characters and come up with less common tasks for my characters to overcome and that are just as emotionally shackling as some more traumatic human experiences. And they are hard to fathom. Most of these struggles are deeply pained sorts of losses and with out exploration, they continue to eat away at the character, stripping them to their basic level and no one really knows how to rebuild from the emotional destruction better than the character.
So for next year, I'm going to do more than just "try to write more". I want to commit back to writing more like once a week for a full hour. I want to make sure I address more basic literary themes, based on leaving them in the dust this year, I realized if I had addressed them, my stories would have been stronger. And finally, I want to remember that the characters come first in fictional writing. It is not just their world I am building, I am building them.