Midyear Goal Check 2017

This year is slipping by so fast and I have moments when I think it is all coming together and others when I realise I’m not getting nearly enough done. I did make some serious changes to how I work part way into the year (just after my last review) and they seem to be helping greatly. I have also added a monitor to my laptop which has made a world of difference to my neck and shoulders.

So let’s go back a step and see where I wanted to be by midyear:

  • To grow my list of subscribers/followers
  • Plan out the whole (10 book) Legend of Iski Flare series, publish episode five and have good bones for episode six
  • Refine the whole series story line for the Raven Crown series and have book one with the proof reader
  • Have the start of a plan/outline for a new series and The Mark of Oldra sequel
  • And finally, for The Flow of Ink a monthly newsletter and semi regular blog posts.

 

Clearly the last one isn’t going so well. I did step away from the blog to spend more time on my fiction but I had thought I would get at least one post a month done. I am getting out monthly newsletters to my subscribers and occasionally an extra email a month with new release or giveaway information.

My subscriber list is growing, in fact I have already reached the goal I set for the year and I’m thrilled that so many readers are interested in my stories and writing process. But I am spending more time working on advertising and mail outs and giveaways. All of these are important but I need to set some clear guidelines for myself as to when I can and can’t work on the business side of writing.

I have shifted my sleeping pattern to get up earlier everyday to write (and that is everyday – weekends included). I have a good two hour block and when used appropriately it has been fantastic. I just need to stop checking sales figures, setting up mail outs and the like during that time. It can be difficult working full time to make the time. The aim for the next half of the year to ensure I quarantine my writing time and determine the best time for the business side of writing.

In terms of writing:

The Legend of Iski Flare Episode Five (my favourite by the way) was emotionally hard going to write but was released in June. Episode six is underway, although not quite as far along as I would like.  I do have the stories up to Episode Ten mapped out (although briefly) but I’m not sure where it will go from there.

Raven’s Dawn is actually very close. Not quite ready for the proof reader, but it will be this month and planned for release in August. I’m so excited by this one. The second book in the series, The Caged Raven, needs a lot of attention but I’m hoping will be released before Christmas. I’m trying not to think about the third one yet, but as I work on the others ideas keep sparking on ways to finish it.

Amongst all of this I have also completed a short story for a fantasy anthology, which will hopefully be released this month. The Silence is based on a legend from the Raven Crown Series and I had lots of fun writing it. I have been working on the plans for new stories as well, these are still very brief and by the end of the year I’m hoping to have a scenes list for both projects.

I have more and more ideas every day for stories I want to write but time is limited. I have discovered recently that what I would really like is more time to write, like whole days. This has just confirmed for me that I want to write full time and I continue to work toward that.

In the mean time we have our annual retreat coming up in August and I’ll have six whole uninterrupted days of writing. Can’t wait.

 

If you want regular updates on my writing projects, releases and giveaways sign up for my newsletter and receive a free short story!

2017 Writing Goals

Although things kind of fell apart at the end of last year, I have a big year planned for 2017 and I’m confident that with some focused work and dedicated time it will all fall into place. That is the hope at least, it has started off fairly slowly as I still needed some rest time to recharge after a full 2016.

 

Here is an overview of my goals for this year:

  • Read at least 20 fiction books.
  • Publish the Legend of Iski Flare Episodes 5 to 8. (Including a box set).
  • Continue to work on my trilogy, The Raven Crown Series and publish books 1 and 2.
  • Plan and outline the next trilogy idea
  • Continue to produce a monthly newsletter and regular blog post.

 

There are a couple of other ideas I’m playing with but they are just ideas at the moment, and nothing serious will be done with them this year. It is more a test to see if they can develop into what I would like them to be.

I have reduced my weekly blog post to allow more time for my writing. I struggled last year to make the weekly timetable for blog posts and fit in the fiction writing. By reducing the blog posts I can focus on my first passion, the fiction.

There will be the occasional post but I’m sure the time is better spent on my fiction. I will try to post more regularly to Twitter and Facebook with details about how my writing is progressing and what I’m learning along the way.

2017 is all about writing. I will be working on some marketing too, and building my confidence in the writing business field, but the main focus is the writing. I can get distracted, far too easily, and so this takes some effort. But as this is where my passion is, I just needed to remind myself of my love for the story and try to move past the fear that it isn’t any good. It may be that it isn’t any good, but I love spending the time creating the story and the world and the characters and that is why I continue to write.

Why are you writing this year?

The Legend of Iski Flare Episode Four

The next instalment in the Legend of Iski Flare series is nearly here.

The Last Child - Georgina Makalani

The Last Child

Many years ago, a town full of children disappeared in the middle of the night, only one was found. Now two of them have wandered back into the town square and Iski Flare has been asked to help find the others. But twenty years is a long time and he’s not sure if the last child won’t or can’t help.

Mirabel reminds him of Flare in more ways than he would care to admit but he can’t lose this child now; only she might be leading him toward more than he thought possible. Far more than he expected to find.

 

Did you know that The Legend Begins, The Legend of Iski Flare Episode One is now free on all platforms? Well it is, check it out HERE.

 

Daily Focus

daily-focusI have been very focused on my writing of late, partly because I realised that I wasn’t putting in the time I thought I was. When I reviewed my daily and weekly activity it was shockingly short of what I should be doing. That is short of what I want to be doing, so that I reach my goals and release the books I would like.

Due to a range of things this year hasn’t quite gone to plan and I have had days and weeks where my daily activity has slipped. And then there are some days I sit at the computer for hours and still feel like I’ve made no progress. But each day is important. Writing every day is better than not writing. For lots of reasons…but the main one is that all these little daily activities add up to the bigger picture.

When we struggle through a day or week, we can feel like we are plodding with our writing/creative/life goals and not getting to where we want to be. But all of these little tasks should be working toward the bigger picture.

 

Are your daily goals and activities working toward the bigger picture?

 

I have talked about goals and goal setting a lot. I review them regularly and as we work toward a rapidly approaching end of year, I am more or less organised for next year. All of these plans and goals reach toward my bigger goals. That is: to write full time.

So each goal I have for the year, leads towards that. I break it down and consider what I need to achieve each quarter, or month or week to meet the annual goal.

This comes back to what I do every day. Because we should be working every day toward our goal. Toward the mountain.

Some days seem harder than others, some tasks are not as exciting as others, but they should all be necessary in that movement forward.

 

Do you know what you want to achieve this year? Do you have a place you are aiming to get to?

 

Keep the focus on that goal, ensure your daily and weekly goals are moving toward it and that you are taking action every day.

How long does it take to write a book?

how-long-does-it-take-to-write-a-bookEveryone wants the answer to this question to be simple and the response along the lines of “It’s easy” and “Of course it doesn’t take long!”

But it isn’t.

Writing is hard and it takes time.

I have pumped out first drafts in reasonably quick time frames, but then there is a lot more work required after that.

There are edits required and I don’t care how good you think the first draft is, you are going to need to at least read through it again, and tweak something. And if this is your first book, there will be quite a few tweaks and changes needed.

 

Track your time

I track how long I spend doing different tasks. This tells me lots of things, how long each part of the writing process takes, how much time I spend writing, how much time I don’t spend writing.

Cleary the more time you put into a book the quicker the process. But it does need time to rest and ruminate to help it grow big and strong.

With all the writing and re-writing and non-writing time I spent with the Mark of Oldra it took me years. If I had knuckled down and focused better it would have only taken a fraction of that time. But then I didn’t think it through before hand and I found the thinking time between writing times helpful.

 

Planning and Outlining

I started out a pantser. Partly because I didn’t know any better. Now I am far more organised, at least planning out key points and character arcs before I start writing.

I am already playing with ideas for my next big project. These will expand into a solid outline and then beats for each scene before I start writing. Although I do have some time to do that, I’m booked up with other projects – namely the Raven Crown Series – and I won’t be able to start drafting until 2018. But I am going to be very ready when I start, and hopefully that will make the writing process smoother, and involve less re-writing. And thus speed up the writing process.

I hope to become the ultimate planner.

 

Just how long…

My writing process has taken years of learning, trial and error.

Each writing project teaches you more about the writing process and what that means to you, how you could do it better, how you could do it differently.

I don’t know that I will ever find the perfect system, the perfect process for writing a book. It seems to be evolving and it may be that for different projects what works for one, won’t work with another.

 

I’m not sure that I have answered the question.

In fact I’m not sure there is a steadfast answer that we could all use.

Writing is different for all of us. Life around writing is different for all of us. Our discipline and focus shifts.

Make notes, learn all you can from other writers, and track what you do and how that works or doesn’t work for you.

Determine how long it takes you to write a book and then see if you can apply process that with the next book.

Assuming that my outline and beats are perfect before I start my next project; and assuming my focus is razor sharp; that I’m still working full time; and that my current practices still hold, it will take me about 10 months from drafting to published. This includes a lot of assumptions. It may be that I finish sooner or it may take me longer.

The importance of outlining

 

A well developed outline produces a story to remember
A well developed outline produces a story to remember

As I am well into a range of projects it might be a bit of a strange area to focus on structure and outlining at the moment. But as I rework the Raven Crown Series after the beta readers took it apart it seems the right place to be.

 

Why it is important to outline:

If you have been following my blog for a while you will be well aware that I started life as a pantser. And, until recently I was still pantsing my way through more of my stories than I should have been. I am getting better at outlining before I start, but I’m still far too brief.

There is still a part of me that worries if I have the outline too clearly written out there is nowhere for the characters to go.

A clear outline gives direction and a place for the characters to work within. It also greatly reduces the chances of hitting a hole in the plot or a place where you don’t know what is to happen next. It also ensures that the story hits all the important milestones on its way to the end.

 

Structural tips to build your outline:

I have used a number of different techniques to develop my outlines, including combinations of methods and sometimes that stays the same and sometimes it changes.

The Snowflake method builds up the story and characters from one line to an in depth narrative. I use most of the steps, usually not the last few, and I find it useful as a developmental tool.

KM Weiland is brilliant in structure and out line and it is well worth looking at her books on this. I use her three act structure outline and plug my story into it from the work I do in the snowflake method.

Chuck Wendig wrote a great post on 25 Ways to plot plan and prep your story. There is something for everyone here but be warned, he’s not afraid to say it how it is and some may find his straight forward approach offensive.

Libby HawkerTake off your pants book on outlining:

I found this interesting as it uses the main character’s flaws, wants and needs. I thought this a useful tool as it gave me a better picture of my character. This produced a fairly good outline in just one page and reasonably quickly.

You only have to google plotting or outlining to find lots of outlining ideas.

 

How well that seems to be working:

Overall I use a combination of the different processes I have found. I’m slowly working out what works best for me. But the key points I’ve discovered are:

  1. Know your characters
  2. Keep the story moving forward
  3. Make it interesting/exciting/engaging.

 

Where to next:

As I review my series outline and ensure my story moves forward in an engaging manner, I have a clearer idea of what should happen.

Now I need to implement the changes in the outline to the story itself.

 

How easy do you find creating an outline?

 

Other useful plotting links:

http://www.novel-writing-help.com/how-to-plot-a-novel.html

https://www.writersedit.com/how-to-outline-your-novel-11-easy-steps/

Struggles

I am struggling to write. I have struggled for the last few weeks. I’m tired and I’m worried (scared) about my current writing projects. It was even hard to write this week’s blog post.

But I’m not going to whinge about it.

I have managed to make some detailed plans around two of the writing projects, organised library copies for my new paperback, set up a Goodreads giveaway (starting soon, details to come) and spent some guilt free school holiday time with my daughter.

Writing is hard. Sometimes it is harder than other times. And even a short blog post can help keep the words moving.

Even when the writing is hard, a little goes a long way. The plans are in place and I know that the words will flow again.

2016 Third Quarter Goal Check

2016-third-quarter-checkI recently had a bit of a panic attack about what I was doing with my writing and where it was going. I was stressing about my deadlines. Because I had read or heard in one of my courses, that I should try to produce as much as possible. But I was worried that I was sacrificing quality for quantity and so I took some time to reassess.

Way back at the beginning of the year my writing goals included:

  • Reading every day
  • Continuing with the Legend of Iski Flare novella series with episodes 2, 3 and 4 planned for release this year
  • The Raven Crown series books 1 and 2 planned for release this year. (Book 3 in 2017)
  • The Mark of Oldra (formerly known as Snow) will be released at the beginning of February
  • The Flow of Ink will continue to blog every week and produce a monthly newsletter. I am changing the posting day to Sunday.
  • Improve my marketing skills to boost readership of my books and blog
  • There will be some ideas generating for next year, including expansions on some of the larger works I’m putting out this year and a new series that has started bubbling away.

At my last goal check, at the end of June, things were looking pretty good.

Here is where I am at the three quarter mark of 2016:

 

Reading

I am almost reading every night and trying to work my way through the bedside pile. Kindle is my problem here as I keep seeing and buying and not getting to the physical books on the bedside table.

I joined a review group but find that I’m feeling pressured to read and when my editing is intense I’m not getting the chance. I also wasn’t getting many reviews in return for all the reading I was doing and so I’ve pulled out of the group to focus on my own writing first.

I do still review everything I read because I understand how important those reviews are.

 

The Legend of Iski Flare

I have now published three episodes of Iski’s adventures and I’m really pleased with how he is going. I am currently working on Episode 4 due for release on October 31.

I have reworked these so that they are all formatted the same way and as I go, I am inserting a sample of each episode in the previous one. Episode 5 is brewing away and I will start outlining at the end of the year.

 

The Raven Crown Series

The first in this series is coming together. Partly because I started putting in the work required to get it done. I have a fantastic cover designed.

This is the book that pushed me over the edge. Partly because I hadn’t shared any of it before and the varied responses from beta readers threw me for a spin. Although it was to be expected, I had only given myself a week to rework the manuscript before sending it to the proofreader. So after taking some deep breathes to get the oxygen back to my brain, I rescheduled the proofreader and gave myself some decent time to sort out the issues raised.

I also gave myself some extra time to make sure it was uploaded and ready for print at the same time (or they will be close) before the launch date. I would much rather you had a good story to read than just promising it comes out sooner.

I was working my way through the edit for book two but that is taking a back seat to book 1 at the moment.

 

The Mark of Oldra

I reported last time that The Mark of Oldra was published earlier this year and now I have finally organizing a print version. This is available as print on demand Amazon.com only at this point) and I’m selling off the side of my desk (literally). I’m working on the advertising for the print copy and I’m planning a Goodreads giveaway for October.

Still too scared to shop it around just yet, but I will get there.

 

The Flow of Ink

I am managing to maintain my weekly blog post. And I am somewhat more organized and scheduling ahead of time. I continue to fiddle with little bits of the site, including using a new program to put in lead pages and buttons that connect readers to my newsletter and a free book.

[insert button here]

 

Marketing and Social Media

As I reported last time, I am still learning. I wonder if I will ever learn it all. I struggled with Hootsuite and switched to Tweetdeck. Then I got carried away with scheduling posts only to discover the same ones were appearing on my timeline repeatedly. I’ve eased off a bit and gone back to just tweeting what is happening at the time, whether writing or life or writing life related.

I am working my way through a Facebook Advertising Course for Authors which is really interesting and I’m learning a lot. Although I’ve only run a couple of ads so far (the cost worries me) but the second one did reasonably well. I completed a marketing course for gaining readers and how now signed up for a more comprehensive course with Nick Stephenson.

 

Next Project

Despite all my stress of late, I have played with a few ideas over the last couple of months for writing projects, everything from erotica to memoirs. But I am passionate about my fantasy writing and so I’m sticking with that.

I have an idea forming for another trilogy. It is fantasy but quite different to what I’m currently doing. I’ll let you know more when I have a better idea of what it is. And there are some short stories swimming around in there too.

 

Summary

Overall I am very pleased with how I’m going this year, despite having to rethink my major project’s time lines. I had more than a few moments of doubt this quarter as to whether I could deliver what I wanted to.

And other than lawns and painting and dance exams (and maybe Star Trek on Netflix) I’m actually doing pretty well. So there will be a novel delivered this year, and another Iski Flare adventure.

I won’t deliver what I thought I would at the beginning of the year. At times I forget just how much I have to squeeze into my life: working full time, being a single parent, all the house work, yard work and occasionally sleeping.

I have used this current restructuring to look at next year and what I can seriously deliver, in a reasonable time frame. I’m still looking at a couple of projects at a time but it will be a good year. I will refine this as I get closer to the end of the year and I’ll fill you in around Christmas time, or early next year when I release my goals for 2017. And I hope it doesn’t scare you if I mention I’m thinking about what that will mean for 2018 as well.

Working with Beta Readers

Chapter 8 editingI recently sent my novel out to a group of beta readers. In the past I have begged a few friends to read for me; this time I put out an official request for volunteers on Twitter and the various Facebook groups I belong to. And I was really stoked with the response.

I warned readers from the get go that it would be a short turn around and the dates I wanted it read. In all I got 10 beta readers sign up.

Not everyone was going to love the story but it was a good cross section and I thought it would provide a great range of views.

To make life easier I used Mail Chimp to send it out. That way everyone had the same file and instructions and there wasn’t the chance of leaked email addresses. But I came across a couple of problems.

Firstly, if an email was incorrect and bounced it was then deleted from the list. Thankfully I had downloaded the list before the send and so I could see who was missing but it took me a few days to work out why they were no longer on the list, then track them down and check details.

What I would do in the future is have a section in the list that tells me where I captured the reader from. And I need to check regularly after the email goes out to see that it all went well.

Secondly, Mail Chimp does not like gmail addresses. I remembered vaguely reading this somewhere but although it says it sent the email it doesn’t seem to arrive at the other end. I had to individually send out emails to two on the list as they didn’t get it with everyone else.

But the overall benefit that all the information was kept together and secure made it worthwhile.

Then it was the waiting and waiting for them to come back to me with comments and the like. Although it wasn’t really that much waiting as I had a two week turn around and other things to do while they read.

Once I had most returned I combined all the comments into one document via a fancy trick I picked up for Word. This allowed me to read through and correct as I went with all the comments in one place. Other than the one friend who printed hers out and used a pencil, but that’s ok too (I manually added hers).

 

What I discovered was:

Firstly, not everyone will follow through. There were some non-responders and several after the deadline. It is worth setting a dead line a bit sooner than what you actually need (something to remember for next time).

Secondly, a week was a stupid amount of time to get the responses together and make corrections and send to the proof reader. I was going to need a lot more time to make sure this story was as good as it could be.

Thirdly, everyone reads differently. I had a couple of responses that just picked up the typos and marked where they got a little lost or confused or a sentence didn’t read well. Others found the timeline tricky, the setting not detailed enough, some characters shallow and the plot not thick enough. All of these comments were excellent and raised some really interesting points.

 

What I did with the comments:

After the panic subsided as to how much work I really needed to do on this book, I remembered I had the same experience with my last novel. And clearly I hadn’t learnt from that experience.

I pooled all the comments together and then glanced through them.

Had another panic.

Then, with a deep breath, I took in what they were saying and dissected the novel. I marked out each chapter, the POV, the main conflict and possible problems/issues and the main structural points I should have been seeing.

As I did this some solutions came to mind. Ideas about changes to the plot (mostly small), things characters could do differently to show their thinking better, changes in setting, extra scenes, scenes to delete or change POV.

There was a lot swirling around in my head. But although there was a lot to do I was only looking at what would make this stronger.

 

Where I am now:

I am starting the process of actually rewriting/editing the novel to implement the changes outlined above. Part of this is an edit, either moving scenes around, expanding them or killing them off.  Part of this process is writing, creating new scenes or ideas and fitting them in. I am reviewing the main plot points to make sure they are clear and relevant to my protagonist.

The best piece of advice I have received through all of this is from one of my beta readers, who got it through a course he did.

That is to keep asking myself as I write/edit/plot –

“Why is this scene needed? Why is it needed here?”

I am trying to take that into account as I work through this edit.

 

When will you get to read it?

As I first pulled the comments together I really hoped I could get this work done before Christmas. I need to be realistic about the amount of work required, the reviewing process, proofreading, preparing for publication and so on.

I want you to get the best book I can create, so as I go I’m reviewing my plan and timelines but it looks like early next year at this stage.

 

Beta readers

No matter the comments they are all useful. If you are writing, I would strongly suggest a getting a group of readers to have a look. To make sure it does flow on the page as well as it does in the mind of the writer. And it doesn’t have to cost you. Ask around, you might be surprised who puts their hand up to have a look.

The Joy of Drafting

the-joy-of-drafting

After so much editing and marketing or late it was fantastic to get back to some drafting. I love that moment of magic when you can tune out and just let the words flow across the page.

 

What was different this time?

I tried a slightly different planning process this time for Iski Flare’s adventure. And then I squeezed it into my usual format. But there did seem to be a bit of a gap in the plotting; I have the flow of the story and I hope it becomes clearer as I draft, and Iski is usually good at directing where things should go when I’m not sure.

 

How well this process worked?

Reasonably well – I am using my notes as a starting point for each scene/section and the words have flowed reasonably well. There has been a bit of a stall as I needed to put some time into my other project and this has slowed down the drafting process a little.

 

Did Iski lead the way?

I got a different feel from Iski during this story. He did seem to take the lead but a new character Mirabel surprised me a little and Iski a bit more.

 

What am I doing now?

I am still drafting, I’m a few days behind where I would like to be. Once the first draft is finished, I will read it through as a whole and see how the story works. I’ll mark it up as I go for the editing process.

 

What did I learn?

I’m not sure about learning, but it did remind me of the importance of writing every day and how that keeps the story fresh. With the intense review of Raven’s Dawn I’m not writing every day. Booking writing time for each project is important.

 

What might I implement for book 5?

I am looking at more detailed outline, with more information at each stage of the story before I begin to draft. This might be worth implementing into all my planning.

 

My number one priority at the moment is making time to write. I’ve been a little stressed trying to get it all done, but I know that with some dedicated time it will come together.