2021 Writings


Diablo 2: Resurrected Flash Fiction Anthology (fan fiction) Drafts #3 to #7100%
Diablo 2: Resurrected Flash Fiction Anthology (fan fiction) Critique Review100%
Diablo 2: Resurrected Flash Fiction Anthology (fan fiction) Draft #2100%
Sci-Fi Novella Draft #227%
Why We Hide Draft #3100%
Why We Hide Draft #2100%
Antev’hen Tale #1: Scavengers Drafts #6 to #8100%
Antev’hen Tale #1: Scavengers Drafts #4 & #5100%
Rodents Amongst Treasure Draft #4100%
Rodents Amongst Treasure Draft #3100%
Rodents Amongst Treasure Draft #2100%
Rodents Amongst Treasure Draft #1100%
Star Wars Rebels Dicer (fan fiction) Draft #1100%
A Monster in My Bedroom Final Draft100%

Short Story Submissions

Story# of RejectionsPublished
Pop-Pop-Pop4 (two in 2021)Yes
A Monster in My Bedroom5No

Year Overview

I felt good coming into 2021. I was weathering the self-isolation of the pandemic pretty well; it felt like I was starting to figure out this whole writing thing, at least a little; vaccines were on the way. I had this wonderfully fuzzy, multi-colored fantasy landscape of what the year could be like. Unlike the previous years, I had no theme for 2021. Instead, I gave myself multiple weekly and bi-weekly goals along with having ambitious quarterly writing goals. Some of the weekly and bi-weekly goals included maintaining a vocabulary journal, continuing consistently critique stories on Critique Circle, and to use my free time—lunch, periods between writing sessions, etc.—for watching and reading writing-related content. I also began keeping track of the fiction I read and listened to, something I’ve never done before, with a goal of completing at least two novels a month.

Year Retrospective

2021 was . . . not at all what I had expected it to be.

The first quarter of the year started out well enough: I was meeting my weekly and bi-weekly goals; I participated in Writer’s Digest’s Flash Fiction February Challenge; I finished revising “A Monster in My Bedroom”, and I loved how it turned out. I even wrote my first ever piece of Star Wars fanfiction! Then spring came and things began to shift and pivot in unexpected ways throughout the rest of the year.

The self-isolation of the COVID-19 Pandemic finally started taking a toll on me, which, given how introverted I am, was surprising. My fuse with other people was shorter, my temper more volatile (compared to normal), and I was feeling lonely and a need for more human interaction. I don’t believe this shift in my mood affected my writing all that much. It mostly affected my (virtual) interactions with people at my day job. Luckily, this period of cabin fever was short-lived, as I got my Moderna vaccination shots in early summer and by early July I was back in the office with other fully vaccinated people and getting my daily dose of human interaction. My emotional state slowly equalized, and I was back to my normal self.

After finishing a few straggling goals and drafting a few short stories, for Spring I set my sights on revising my science fiction novella I had drafted the previous summer. Then Activision Blizzard announced Diablo 2: Resurrected, a remaster of the original Diablo 2 and its expansion, Lord of Destruction. Inspired by the announcement, the artwork, and videos of the remastered game, I suddenly found myself outlining and drafting multiple flash fan fiction pieces set in the Diablo 2 world. Instead of a summer revising a sci-fi novella, I wrote and revised an anthology of flash fiction fanfics. I got so caught up in this project that I fell behind on and then completely dropped my off my weekly and bi-weekly goals, goals I didn’t end up getting back to for the rest of the year. This project, while an unexpected pivot from my original plans, was a joyous set of stories to work on, and I am thrilled with how they all turned out. I have no regrets about how I spent the summer.

Then Fall happened. In September, just as I was publishing the last of the Diablo 2 flash fictions, I got smacked with three projects at work from a new customer. These three projects had deadlines in October, November, and December, respectively. It was early September when we started on them. I started working self-imposed overtime every day, including Saturdays and Sundays. I suddenly did not have the time or energy to write as much as I wanted to. Instead of trying to keep writing and failing to meet my goals and failing to make as much progress on my writing as I wanted to—which I knew would irritate me and negatively affect both the writing and my day job—I decided to stop writing for a few weeks until things at worked settled down and I could get back to a normal eight-hour workday, forty-hour week schedule. Those two weeks stretched into a month, then six weeks, and then eight. I didn’t write a single line of prose for two months this year. And I was miserable. Life was suddenly like before I started writing back in 2019: lacking color and vibrancy. I was unhappy, depressed, and I knew why. And how to turn it around. I stopped working overtime. I went back to my normal schedule. I had my writing time back.

Throughout November, I eased back into the mindset of a writer, and I slowly rebuilt a consistent writing habit. I mostly did prep work for the D&D campaign I was still running but had somewhat neglected for those two months, putting token effort into my prep work. However, by the end of the month, I was back to working on prose and life had color again. By early December I was back to writing almost every day, working on short stories, and catching up on those lost two months.

During this period of restarting my writing life, on Friday the 12th of November, I received a very unexpected email. Mobius: The Journal of Social Change had accepted my short story, “Pop-Pop-Pop”, and wanted to publish it in their upcoming winter issue. I was stunned, not believing it to be true until the story was actually published on December 1st. After a dark period of writing no prose, working on no stories, I was suddenly a published author. A wonderfully shocking but oh so welcoming early Christmas gift.

As the year drew closer and closer to ending, I was actively working on four different short stories, all in various stages of revision, and one that I scheduled to be completely rewritten during the first week of the new year. I was back in the authorial saddle as it were, and ready to tackle a new year of storytelling.

My Writings

Because of how scattered the year was and given the long spans of time between drafts on some stories, I’ve categories this section by story and project.

A Monster in My Bedroom

I first drafted this fantasy horror short story in July 2020 and revised it throughout the remainder of that year. I spent the first half of January 2021 revising the story to completion. As of this writing, the story has gone through seventeen drafts, had three Critique Circle submissions, and sits at 3,498 words. This story is probably one of the best stories I’ve written to date, and it has become one of my favorites. I spent the rest of 2021 trying to find a home for this tale. So far, I’ve submitted it to five different publications and all five have rejected the story. I will continue submitting the story throughout 2022.

Writer’s Digest’s 2021 February Flash Fiction Challenge

Three days before February began, I learned that Writer’s Digest (WD) was going to be having a month-long flash fiction writing challenge organized and conducted by Moriah Richard. Even though I had done a similar challenge the previous October (Promptober), I spontaneously decided I wanted to participate in WD’s February Flash Fiction Challenge. For Promptober, I chose the writing prompts. This usually meant I would look through a list of a few dozen prompts and wait for one of them to spark inspiration or an idea. For this flash fiction challenge, Moriah was going to be posted a writing prompt, and we had to write a story for that prompt, even if we weren’t inspired by it or if initially had no idea how to make a story with it. The idea of essentially being given a writing assignment each day and having to write something, anything, to meet that assignment was a challenged I wanted to see if I was up to. And man, I wrote some weird stories and some awesome stories! After twenty-eight days, I had twenty-eight individual pieces of flash fiction. It was a fun challenge and a rewarding experience. I grew as a writer because of it. If WD does another flash fiction challenge in 2022, I intend to participate.

Rodents Amongst Treasure

Rodents Amongst Treasure, a fantasy short story inspired by the phenomenal short story anthology, The Book of Dragons, started out as a piece of flash fiction for Writer’s Digest’s February Flash Fiction Challenge. I technically wrote the entire story within the 1,500 word limit of the challenge, but . . . it wasn’t very good. This was a story that needed a higher word count to do it justice. So, I wrote a different piece of flash fiction and submitted that instead.

Fast forward to November. Rodents Amongst Treasure was one of the stories I began working on after my two-month dry period. Working on this story has been an absolute treat and helped me get excited about writing and get back into a consistent writing habit. As of this writing, the story sits at four drafts, is 6,044 words, and has been submitted to Critique Circle for critique. My intention is to finish the story first quarter of 2022 and submit it for publication.

Star Wars Dicer

I am a huge Star Wars fan. The mantlepiece in my living room is overflowing with Star Wars figurines, Legos, and micro-machines. But I have never once written a piece of Star Wars fan fiction. A travesty, I tell you! Well, I put this wrong to right in the second half of January, writing the first draft of Star Wars: Dicer. The story takes places during the wonderful animated series, Star Wars Rebels, and centers around the rebel pilot Dicer, who was a throwaway character created for a single scene in a single episode and used a stock rebel pilot model. Star Wars: Dicer is a continuation of her story after she appears in the episode “The Mystery of Chopper Base”. Currently, the story still sits as a first draft of 7,011 words. I would like to revise the story to completion in 2022, but I am not sure if I will. It was still very fun to write, though. The Star Wars universe is incredibly elastic, capable of having any and all kinds of tales told within it.

Zaroff’s Moon

Zaroff’s Moon is a science fiction novella I drafted back in Summer 2020. I reviewed and began revising the story in late Spring 2021, but the announcement of Diablo 2: Resurrected and my inspiration to write a flash fiction anthology set in that world hijacked the revision of Zaroff’s Moon. I never got back to this novella in 2021. It is looking like I can get back to it in late spring or summer of 2022. If I do get back to it, the story will go through another review process and possibly a rewrite of its outline using Brandon Sanderson’s method of outlining, which I recently used for the story “Cemetery of the Forgotten” and found I really liked it. Currently, 20 to 30 percent of the second draft is complete, and the story sits at over 25,000 words.

Diablo 2 Resurrected Flash Fan Fiction Anthology

This was the project that derailed my summer—in a wonderful fashion, to be sure. After Diablo 2: Resurrected was announced, I began reminiscing about the game and remembering all the little stories I would tell in my head as a kid while playing this game. I loved thinking of adventures and dialogue and interactions with the various classes you play in the game. Unlike when I was a kid, however, I now have some ability to transfer these stories from mind to paper. So I did.

I spent most of the summer, from May to part way through September, outlining, drafting, and revising a collection of seven flash fan fiction tales set in the Diablo universe. Each tale focuses on one of the different classes you can play in Diablo 2. During this period, I also spent a great deal of time studying how to write better description at all levels—character, setting, action, emotion, and figurative. I then took all that learning and put it into practice in these flash fiction stories, which by their structure were light on dialogue, needing to rely on description to tell the story. I felt like I leveled up with my ability to write evocative, vibrant descriptions.

I finished the anthology in early September and published all seven stories in the week leading up to the release of Diablo 2: Resurrected. The stories can be found here on the Cybernook, on FanFiction.net, and on Archive of Our Own.


Scavengers is a fantasy tale that started out as a Promptober story from October 2020. It has gone through multiple POV changes and multiple plot changes. It has gone from an emaciated story lacking detail and nuance to a bloated story with overwhelming detail to the point the nuance is missed. With the latest draft, I think I have achieved an equilibrium: the length is better, the character arcs are nuanced but clear, and the core pillars of a story (character, plot, setting, conflict) are all meshing together nicely. It still requires a lot of work, and I’ve yet to submit it for critique. However, that is all stuff I intend to pursue the first two quarters of 2022. As of this writing, Scavengers is in its eighth draft and comes in a 8,163 words.

Cemetery of the Forgotten

Cemetery of the Forgotten, a fantasy story I wrote in late 2019, was a story I abandoned in 2020. After six drafts and two submissions to Critique Circle, I just could not make the story work. The antagonist, their motivations and magic, didn’t make sense and confused multiple readers, leaving them wanting, which sucked enjoyment out of the story’s twist ending—the ending being the whole reason I wrote the story in the first place, it acting as the inspiration for the tale.

Even though I had trunked the story, I occasionally found myself thinking back to it throughout 2021. I always asked myself the same question, “How do I fix it?” But I never came up with an answer. Until the dark two months of 2021, where I did no writing at all. After the period, while already working on revising three other short stories, I decided to revisit Cemetery of the Forgotten and give fixing it another go. Using Brandon Sanderson’s approach, I re-outlined the story, taking stock of all that the story was doing, what was working, and what wasn’t. I finally came to a new conclusion I had not considered before. I asked myself, “What if I got rid of the twist and the ending, and what if I created a new ending?” As I mentioned, the twist and original ending was my entire reason for writing the story. Now I was considering throwing it away, killing my darlings as it were. However, doing so fixed the story, at least in the outline. It requires a lot of changes to the story’s beginning to make it work, including getting rid of the cemetery idea from which the story derives its title, meaning I’ll need to re-title this tale at some point.

I intend to rewrite the story from scratch using the new outline and ending in the first half of January 2022. Perhaps this draft will indeed be the breakthrough the story needs to get to the finish line?

Dungeons & Dragons: Rime of the Frostmaiden

I began Game Mastering this horror fantasy adventure back in November 2020 with a group of five players. Sadly, as 2021 progressed, we lost two players: one due to life complications and the second due to lack of time. However, even with those loses, we’ve pushed forward and continued playing. We’ve played three-hour sessions every other week. Having a week off and two weeks per session to prepare has help prevent me from burning out over a year into the adventure. The previous campaign I GMed, I was very tired and burnt out by the time a year rolled around and the adventure concluded.

According to the three remaining players, the adventure is going well, and they are still enjoying themselves. We’ve gotten into the main plot of the story as well as the subplots for each of the Player Characters. This adventure has stretched me as both a GM and as a storyteller. I’ve had to reckon with my past failures as a GM for previous groups, learn from those mistakes, and push forward with ideas for how I can improve. I’d like to think I have indeed improved, become a better GM, but only time will tell as this adventure progresses and concludes in 2022.

Failures: Critique Circle & Vocab Journal

In 2020, I got into a good, consistent critique habit on Critique Circle, critiquing at least one story every other week. I kept up this trend, mostly, through the first half of 2021. Unfortunately, I got so wrapped up in my Diablo 2: Resurrected Flash Fan Fiction Anthology project that I just stopped doing critiques. Even worse, once I finished the anthology, I never got back into critiquing, performing zero critiques in the second half of 2021. My guess is the consequences of this lack of critiquing will be felt at some point in 2022. I fully intend to get back into a consistent critiquing habit . . . once I get caught up with my short stories. We’ll see how it plays out.

I also stopped keeping a vocabulary journal throughout the year. I would like to say it was also because I got distracted by the flash fiction anthology project. Sadly, that is not the case. I fell off the vocab journal wagon months before then. I have no excuse. I was just lazy. I have nothing but myself to blame.

Summary of Work Done

Flash Fictions35
Short Stories6
Stories Published1
7 (self-published)
RPG Adventures Game Mastered1

2022: A Year of Catching Up and Pushing Forward

Looking ahead to 2022, I have little to no expectations for the year. I do have some goals and things I would like to see happen, but I also now know to expect the unexpected when it comes to writing. This last year taught me how to embrace the unexpected and go with the flow.

First and foremost, my main priority is to finish catching up on those two months of lost writing from the previous year. Going into 2022, I am juggling four different short stories, and my goals is to see at least three of them completely finished and hopefully being submitted for publication by the end of the first quarter. I’ll finish the final story first thing in the second quarter.

My second priority is to continue dedicating the time necessary to the Dungeons & Dragons: Rime of the Frostmaiden campaign. My three remaining players are heavily invested and interested to see where the story goes, and my goal is to deliver a strong second half to the adventure.

Next up is getting back into a consistent critiquing habit. At minimum, I intend to go back to the old habit of critiquing at least one story every other week. On average, this will be two critiques a month. Depending on how the year goes, I might try to get to at least one story critique every week. However, getting this habit restarted will not be happening until the second quarter of the year. I want to get caught up with my short stories before getting to this.

Finally, I want to get back into the habit of consistently keeping a vocabulary journal. For every word I add to the journal, I write one or two sample sentences using the word. I write these sentences as if they are from a story and try to write them in such as way that they invoke a larger story not told. I try to evoke at least two—ideally more—of the following elements in the single sentence: character, plot, setting, and conflict. These sample sentences are essentially tiny micro-fictions I write. It is a good exercise, and it expands my vocabulary. I believe it is a worthwhile goal to have, and I am going to do my best to overcome my laziness and add at least two new words to the journal every week.

How do I intend to achieve all of the above and continue keeping a good pace of writing in the back half of the year—which I have not planned out and will not until partway through the second quarter? By having a theme for the year: Always be Writing.

So what exactly do I mean by “Always be Writing.” At present, this phrase means that during my scheduled periods of writing, I need to fill up the entire time slot I’ve dedicated to writing. For instance, I schedule at least two hours every weeknight for writing, usually from 5 PM to 7 PM. Most of the time, I have a goal for that writing session—finish a scene, revise three pages, work on scene list of an outline, etc. Usually when I achieve that goal, I end my writing session, even if it only took me an hour to achieve. This means I have not made use of an hour that could have otherwise been used for more writing.

So, for me, “Always be Writing”, means using up the entire time slot of my writing sessions. If I get done with what I wanted to accomplish for that session AND I still have time left, then either come up with a new goal for the remainder of the session for whatever I was working on before, or shift to another project and work on achieving something for it. Use up the entire session for writing. No stopping early.

This theme to me also means increasing the length of my writing sessions. By years end, I would like to be consistently writing three hours for weekday sessions and at least six hours every weekend day. I’ve struggled in previous years to get to these numbers, but I would really like to get there this year.

This is a dangerous theme. It can easily be a theme that leads to burnout within the first few months of the year. So I will need to be diligent in monitoring the affects this theme is having on my energy, creativity, and mood. It is also important for me to keep in my that “Always be Writing” does not mean—for me, anyway—to be writing every day. I am free to take a Friday or a Saturday or even an entire weekend off if I feel like I need it.

So, I raise my thermos of coffee to 2021, wishing it all the best in the annals of history, all the while I turn my gaze to 2022 and the possibilities that lie within the thick, swirling mist that is the future.

Thank you for reading.

Ken Barnett
December 2021