And as for the best thing I've got to look forward to, the goal I'm most excited about meeting (drumroll and trumpets, please)...
Yes. This year the novel will be completed (with a new title: The Name and the Key); it'll be revised, triple-checked, submitted, and approved as my thesis manuscript for my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University.
This year I'll cry tears of joy over my hard work and seeing the novel through to the end. And then I'll thank the multitudes of people who helped me along the way.
Then I'll query and pitch the novel to agents, and then hopefully it'll be on its way to being published. This part will potentially take a very long time, and if I'm burnt out on rejections, then I'll self-publish.
I don't mind getting rejected; as I understand it's part of the territory and will very likely happen more than just several times. But, if I get as many rejections as Joe Konrath did for his novel The List, I will follow his route and self-publish (and hopefully meet with even a fraction of his success). By the way, shout-out to Anita Laydon Miller for sharing his success story with me and The Troublemakers!
As it stands, I still have a lot of writing to do (like 50,000 words needed, MINIMUM!!). I am still waaaay behind on my page counts and am really under the gun to complete the draft with enough time to do major revisions. The level on which I'm behind is high, and it's my fault, but I'm not worried because I know it'll be completed and I know it'll be of quality...because failure is not an option and I won't settle for anything less than my best.
As of right now, the novel is 100% plotted in terms of major events, themes, symbols, and mythology...a huge step above what it was before, where the story was written based on whatever mood I was in at the time, and with almost zero planning.
There's still room for me to be a pantser, but I've got more of a guide of what to do so I don't get too far off-topic. The only thing that's difficult for me is getting little scenes together to form a plump and compelling chapter that propels the story (and the reader) forward. I know everything that needs to happen, it's just the stuff in between the major events that needs work. In other words, it's all killing time between plot points.
But oh, I'm excited for this book. It's the best thing I've written so far in my life (yes, I actually think it knocks the socks off of my theater work) and I can't wait to share it with the world and to make my family and friends proud.