2017 First Quarter Goal Check

This year has slipped away from me. I’m usually a planner, and a goal setter and a goal checker and yet I realised only late last week that we are into April and I haven’t been doing any of that.

I’m not writing, or very little.

I’m not checking my daily to do list, I’m rarely writing a weekly list and I certainly haven’t completed my first quarter review.

I have lots of reasons *excuses* for this. And good ones. But it is time to make a change and get back on track before I lose the road altogether.

 

So here is where I wanted to be at the end of March 2017 and where I actually am.

 

The Raven Crown Series

Book 1 – Raven’s Dawn

The plan – to be well into the second edit.

The reality – I’m still working through the first and not nearly as often as I should. I want to every day (or planned to) but in reality I’m doing an hour a week and sometimes not even that.

 

Book 2 – The Caged Raven

The plan – start reviewing the draft

The reality – I’ve pushed it so far down the list it fell off. I tried to justify this with the fact I need to finish the revision of book 1 first, due to the number of changes I’m making for any edit of book 2 to be useful. Probably true, but still disheartening.

Add to that that I have put up my hand for an anthology and I wanted to write a Raven Crown world short story. The deadline for this is the end of May. I do have a very detailed outline and the beginning and end written; so I’m hoping this should be completed without too much drama – it just needs time.

 

Iski Flare Series

Episode 5 – no name yet

The plan – it should have been drafted by the end of March.

The reality – I have three pages. Iski’s not playing nice, he’s moochy and grumpy and pissed off with the world. Which is kind of how I feel when I sit down with him, but it helps neither of us.

 

The Flow of Ink

The plan – irregular (maybe monthly) blog posts and a regular monthly newsletter.

The reality – only produced one blog post so far this year. On a positive note I am getting out the monthly newsletter (small win) and reaching more and more readers.

 

Extras

I have been doing more marketing activities, such as advertising the first Iski Flare and the Mark of Oldra. I’ve been applying to review sites and newsletter swaps.

I’m trying to be more interactive on social media and read more books but that is inconsistent and sporadic.

 

Overall I feel like I’m failing as a writer so far this year.

I’m tired, all the time. I’m enjoying my day job (which is nice) but it takes far more of my energy than my last day job did and I haven’t yet worked out how to work around that, or write around that.

I’m wasting time. Very clearly when I look at my tracking, I’m not writing nearly as often as I could. I get a weekend to myself and I watch hours of tv (Netflix) instead of writing.

 

I am trying to turn this around slowly.

I have started reading every day again, and my daughter is reading out loud in the car and that is certainly a good way to start the day. It also saves on audio books and I’m working up to asking her to read from my Kindle.

There is not a lot I can do about the day job; but I’m trying to get more sleep, taking multivitamins and getting back into exercise to get my energy levels back to where they should be. I’m just feeling like an old lady and we haven’t hit winter yet!

I’ve set out what I really want to get done and strengthened deadlines. I’ve also revisited the idea of making appointments with myself to write. I’ve done this before, but it slips away. I think the key is not to overdo it. For example, my daughter is away this weekend, perfect quiet time to write. But I already know that I won’t write Saturday night. I’d like to, but I won’t. So I haven’t blocked it out for writing on my schedule, instead I’m going to take some quiet time with a movie I’ve been wanting to watch and an early night so that I can make the most of Sunday.

I want to spend at least two hours a day writing; and when I get the chance I can very easily disappear into whichever story I’m working on. The problem is getting to the computer in the first place when procrastination, worry and then guilt sets in. Writer’s guilt is very much like mother’s guilt and it is just one of those things we have to live with or work through.

I’m planning the time and trying my best to show up. I’m not always getting to every writing appointment I’ve made but I’m working on it.

 

How is your writing year going?

 

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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?

What I have learnt from 2016

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I have learnt far more than I was expecting to this year. Not all of it was easy to learn, but is was useful now I know. Here is a round up of what I have learnt looking back over 2016.

 

I don’t put in as much time as I think I do on my writing

I’m still tracking my time but I go through stretches where I’m really good, other times I’m not.

 

I need to look after myself

If I’m too knackered to write, don’t beat myself up but rest and regroup. Found this out the hard way when I really crashed in February this year. And working around day job and children means there will be time when there isn’t the energy to write.

 

Life happens – go with it

And that isn’t always easy. From crazy dance schedules to losing a friend, life will interrupt the writing. But then writing can help deal with life at times. There will be times when writing can’t happen and you just have to go with it. The key is to ensure you write when you can.

 

Be realistic in planning

I try to do this all the time, but this year I really didn’t allow appropriate time for several stages of a project and it threw me out completely. I have adjusted for this for 2017 and spent lots of time double checking and then allowing extra time – just in case. I just need to ensure I’m where I want to be at the end of December.

 

I am still enjoying the writing process

Sometimes it all seems too hard to rework a story or fix a plot point; but when it comes down to it I would rather be writing than doing anything else. I still enjoy the flow of words across the page (when they flow) and the stories that develop as I write. I have a developed a few more ideas this year that I’m not going to be able to do anything with yet, but they are little seeds growing into story ideas all the same.

 

Outsourcing is great

I’m not always very good at this, but I have reached outside of my comfort zone to employ cover designers and a proofreader this year. The relationships with both worked really well and will continue it into next year and other projects.

 

Changes for 2017

There aren’t many – in fact there is only one. I found as the year continued that meeting my blogging schedule in my limited writing time was becoming harder. I would like to continue to blog but not as often. So it will be more of an irregular blogging schedule and more when I have something specific to talk about.

I will continue to release a monthly newsletter and will maintain the website.

I have big plans for books next year and leading into 2018!

Stay tuned, I’ll release my plans for next year in January.

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.

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.

11 Tips to Get You Reading More

11 tips to reading more

I recently realised that I’m not reading as much as I would like. It was a sad realisation that I had taken nearly two weeks with my current book and I wasn’t even near the middle yet.

I have been focused on my own writing projects of late and then falling into bed. But I miss other people’s writing and tv doesn’t count.

So after some research in how to find more reading time, or at least make some, I have come up with the following list:

 

  1. Book a regular reading time

Block it out in your diary or plan to read the same time every day, like 15 min before bed.

 

  1. Read what you want to read and not what you think you should.

There is a whole world of classics that everyone says you should read but if you aren’t enjoying the book the whole process is slowed down (part of my current reading problem). There are too many books and not enough time. If you aren’t enjoying it, put it down, pick up another.

 

  1. Try a book group or club

This way you need to finish a book by the deadline to discuss it. A little pressure can help sometimes. If you don’t like the idea of meeting up with a group of strangers pull a group of your friends together and create your own.

 

  1. Join a review group

Similarly to point #3, deadlines help. The pressure of promising a review can ensure you make the time to read.

 

  1. Read more than one book at a time

I don’t like this idea unless you were reading fiction/non fiction. Maybe reading different books at different times – fiction before bed, non-fiction on the trip to work

 

  1. Read across digital devices

I love this; that my phone will remember where I left off on my kindle last night. And then when I snuggle into bed with the Kindle, it picks up where I left off on my phone.

 

  1. Set a reading goal

Set yourself a challenge. You can use Goodreads to track how you are going. This is something I use to do but haven’t in a while and when I signed up to Goodreads I was too scared to pick a number. Time to add some pressure.

 

  1. Squeeze in two minutes

Lunch time, morning tea, advert breaks on the tv ( I did this recently when I switched from Netflix back to live tv and forgot just how long the ad breaks were!). Using digital devices can help with this (point #6). I often catch up on a chapter while waiting for my travelling buddy when heading to off-site meetings.

 

  1. Catch the bus or train to work.

Long journeys are a great opportunity to read. If public transport is out, take a long drive and let someone else do the driving.

 

  1. For those driving try Audio books.

Or while you are doing the ironing. I haven’t tried this yet, but mostly because I would love to listen in the car and I’m sure my daughter would talk through it or switch it off. I’m also looking into this option for future publishing options.

 

  1. Have fun!

This is the most important one on the list – enjoy the opportunity to disappear into another world.

 

3 Easy Energy Management Tips

3 energy management tipsWhen life gets busy you may not have the energy levels to do what you want to creatively.

My day job is crazy at this time of year. The end of financial year is full of deadlines and pressure. During this time I arrive home exhausted and have spent the entire day staring at computer screens and spreadsheets and my eyes are usually more tired than the rest of me.

I am pumped up as I review my goals and progress but my energy levels don’t match.

Trying to be creative when things are crazy is hard.

But it is possible.

 

#1 Prioritise

Be aware when there are other things happening in your life that you don’t have to maintain the same momentum with your creative work. Prioritise your work and work on the most important first. It is ok to leave things. As much as we want to, there are times when we can’t do it all.

 

#2 Rest

Make sure you get plenty of rest. When you are worn out from the day job it is crazy to try and sit up most of the night to write – you won’t get anything productive done. Rest first.

Do something fun to give yourself a boost. We all go through these times and they will pass. Sometimes we need a treat just to make it through. Allow yourself the time, spend time reading a book for fun, take the kids to the cinema or the park. Sometimes free time away from all pressures is just what you need.

 

#3 Reschedule

Use other times. I like to get up early and write, although recently this writing time has transformed into my social media time. Being too tired after work to write, I have switched it back. I’m writing in the morning when I’m fresh and then I’m not feeling as guilty in the evening when I can’t write more.

 

Take the time now, so that you can put the time in later.

What can you do right now to recharge your energy levels?

2016 Midyear Goal Review

Goals for writers

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.

 

This year I set myself some pretty intensive writing goals.

That was because I thought that if I knuckled down I could produce a lot more quality writing than what I had been.

When I looked at my first quarter some things were a little behind but I was confident I could pick up.

When I made my plan for 2016 I thought I would spend at least 2 hours writing every day. This hasn’t always been the case and sometimes the two hours wasn’t enough to get done what I thought I could.

As of end of June, this is where I am at:

 

The Flow of Ink

I am managing to maintain my weekly blog post. I’m not always organised ahead of time, that is, I would like to schedule blocks of posts at a time. But I’m usually still finalising and finding pictures the morning they are posted. Although this is disappointing I am getting better and the posts are making the website by Sunday.

I am working on improving the website but given my tech abilities this is slow. That may be more to do with confidence as I’m finding by googling ideas for plugins it is easier than I think to do things. I have updated my book page so that it looks more uniform and professional, with nice buttons to link straight to the book page.

 

The Mark of Oldra

After years of work I finally published The Mark of Oldra (formerly known as Snow) my first full length novel, I am really happy with how it ended up.

I am currently working on a print copy which I think I will sell by print on demand and then if it works well, I will look at shopping it around the bookshops.

 

The Legend of Iski Flare

I was a little relaxed in the exact publishing dates for each episode of this series and I have tried to be a little more strict, although I had to push out Episode Two, Red Wolves, by a week.

Episode Three – Heartless is due for release in July and is on track. I am enjoying this book more than the previous and it is a little longer.

Episode Four – The Piper (working title) is in the planning stages and I hope to publish in November. It depends how other writing projects are going, this may be moved forward.

 

The Raven Crown Series

Initially I hoped to get two books out this year and the third early next year.

This has taken longer than I thought – mostly because there was some serious work involved in the editing and I wasn’t putting as much time into it as I should have been. The first edit showed up more holes but the overall story is solid and I’m reasonably pleased with it. I am currently working through the second edit.

I have commissioned a professional cover, which I should see in July/August. I was hoping to publish in August but to be sure that I am putting up a quality product that may need to be pushed out.

 

Social Media

I am still learning here. I’m getting better with Twitter but fear I’m only pushing my books sometimes and I feel the same about Facebook. I have started using Hootsuite to help schedule posts.

There were suggestions that I get into Pinterest – but I am only using this as a reference for ideas for my stories at this point.

I am working my way through a Facebook Advertising for Authors course at the moment in the hope of improving my marketing skills and increase my email list.

 

Reading

I am reading every night and very slowly working my way through the bedside pile, although I add to it all the time. I’m reviewing more and joined a review group. And despite the amount I have to read I keep buying more, and promising more reviews.

 

Additional Stories

My plan for additional short stories went out the window, completely flew away. As the year progressed I realised it was far more important to focus on the main stories/projects and not worry about short side stories for now. And the story that has been bubbling away in the background has starting bubbling a bit more furiously.

 

Overall I am reasonably pleased with how I’m going. I am more or less on track. Although there are times that I feel that it is a moving feast and my plans and goals change. But really it is only the little things, which project to focus on some days, or adjusting end dates. My main goal remains the same – to write and to one day write full time.

I’m trying not to stress about how many books I’m not selling and focus on producing good stories.

My Current Writing Plan

My Current Writing PlanAs we get close to the middle of the year I am looking at where my writing is at. I will share my mid-year goal review at the end of the month but in the mean time I wanted to share what I have been doing with my current planning.

Before this year started I mapped out what I would like to achieve and how I thought I would do that. This process included producing a schedule for each stage of every project so that I could work out what could overlap and maximise my working schedule.

This has changed as the year has progressed due to slippage. That is because some stages have taken longer than expected and some weeks I’m not spending the time I thought I would on each project.

As June started I looked at where I wanted to be, what I had completed on those main projects and what I could seriously achieve.

I picked one project and, using my time keeping notes, I determined how much time I would need for each stage. And then worked out, with all my other commitments what I could put in each day (I have to make the time, not hope it is there) and so determine how far I could get with each.

I printed out a blank calendar and, armed with a pencil, I mapped out what I could do each day toward each stage of the project. Then I went back, took the next project and did the same.

Amongst all of this I have a blog to maintain and a newsletter to produce, so I worked out how I could squeeze a little time in each day to draft those. I find it easier to just dot down notes for my topics for the month, then push out a rough draft, before I find a photo to go with it, and research appropriate links if needed, and smooth out the text. Sometimes in 15 minutes I can have the bare bones of two or three blog posts. And 15 minutes isn’t too hard to find.

So after all of this work – and a lot of pencil sharpening – I had a clear and achievable plan for June. This planning process does take time, but it makes life easier because each day I have a clear idea of what I need to do to continue to meet my writing goals and publishing schedule.

And it reminded me that I need to focus on what is important and ensure I make the time every day to reach my goals, not sit back and wait for time.

How you can write faster

How you can write faster

Following on from last week’s post, one of my current focuses is getting as many words as possible on the page in the shortest time. Sometimes I write early morning, sometimes at lunch time and I might only have half an hour or an hour at most to try and get as many words down as possible.

I am getting better at this and I do track all my writing. On a good day I can pump out around 2,500 words an hour; an average day is anywhere between 1500 and 2000 an hour. If I break my writing sessions into half hour blocks I tend to be more productive, or at least produces more words than I do if I sat down for a full hour. Not always but mostly.

Compared to some other writers this isn’t very fast.

A little while back I looked at Johnny B Truant and Sean Platt’s new book and referred to their earlier book about writing – Write, Publish, Repeat. Johnny pumps out a crazy number of words per hour, but he isn’t alone.

So following on from last week I thought I would share what others are talking about in terms of writing faster – that is, writing more per writing session.

I think it is worth starting with Johnny B Truant and here are two of his articles based around writing fast and his book Write Publish Repeat:

Write, Publish, Repeat on The Creative Penn

14 tips for writing a book in 29 days and then doing it again the next month

Both are a great read and very useful in showing just how much is possible if we put our minds to it.

ReallyRosie has some great tips on what is important about increasing your writing speed and why you would or wouldn’t want to do that. Check out her article here: Word Count Fatigue

Michael Pollok has provided 12 Tips on How to Become a Faster Writer which include some very sensible ideas. It is good to remember that you aren’t going to suddenly be writing 3000 words an hour if you currently write at a rate of 300 words an hour.

Roy Peter Clark’s article on Poynter similarly offers 12 tips but aimed at the non-fiction writer. There are still some tips there that fiction writers could use, including making a plan of what you want to write about.

And I’m sure that there are many more out there, and some good books too.

Work out what you want from your writing and why you might want to increase your writing speed before deciding on a course of action. But if this all seems too much, start with Write, Publish, Repeat.