Planning for next year

Usually by September I am well into planning next year. That isn’t going as well this year. I have overloaded myself, again, and Iski isn’t working as well as I would like and I never seemed to be doing what I want …

 

We have entered the last quarter of the year and I worry I’m not going to achieve what I wanted to this year.

 

It isn’t all bad:

I have recently released a new book and I’m working on all that goes with a new release. I’m editing book 3 while I wait for book 2 to come back from the beta readers, which is starting to trickle in now and I think I have some serious work ahead of me.

I’m thinking about future projects (maybe too often) and Iski is well behind schedule but will come back together, I hope.

I also had a moment after seeing the wondrous things my cover designer for Raven Crown series could do and I have commissioned them to rework The Mark of Oldra cover. Can’t wait to see what they produce! So stay tuned for a re-launch.

I’ve also had some viral bug working on my system and sucking my energy so I’m not getting up as early (and daylight savings threw me out of whack and I’m struggling to get to bed).

 

Still crazy:

I have a crazy list of what to do before Christmas to ensure next year (as rough as it is) will work.

I have bought myself a fancy diary and set up an excel spreadsheet that covers every day next year and what I might get done (this really only served to freak me out).

There are too many stories forming in my mind and not enough time to write them down, well at least not yet. And I’d like to try some different things. I have an urban fantasy idea along with a dystopian one…and then there are the short stories related to the current world I’m working on (Raven Crown) that I’m using for back story and side story and for readers on my email list. That doesn’t include the stories I’m outlining that I hope to start next year.

 

So I am closer than I thought but not as ready as I’d like to be. One of my main concerns for next year is getting stories to my readers on a regular basis. Along with the Raven Crown Series, I will be starting a new trilogy next year and really want to be able to get book 1 of that series out to readers by the end of the year. I’m not sure how realistic that goal is yet.

At the end of the year I will post how many of my 2017 goals I reached and exactly what I’m planning for 2018.

If you have an idea of what you would like to see/read in a short story, please let me know and I may be able to use your idea for a launch story or extra bonus for my readers.

 

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!

What I have learnt from 2016

phone-1163

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.

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.

 

Managing my writing time

When I returned to work this week, to beginning of year requirements, end of year reporting and two weeks to catch up on; panic followed
Image via www.katharine-writes.com

My recent holiday was lovely but I didn’t get any writing done; or at least not enough to really talk about. So when I returned to work this week, to beginning of year requirements, end of year reporting and two weeks to catch up on; panic followed.

I was getting behind on my deadlines, I was still searching for a title for Iski Flare episode 3 and I haven’t passed that on to my cover designer. And only a week to the release date I still don’t have a cover.

I did receive my draft cover for the first in the fantasy trilogy, Raven Crown Series, that I’ve been talking about for years. It looks fantastic. But I’m still only part way through the second edit.

In fear of going crazy and not getting anywhere with anything, I took a deep breath and went back to my writing plan. I have an hour in the morning which I have booked out for Iski and then I spend an hour of an evening with Raven’s Dawn (the first in the Raven Crown Series).

So far so good. I’m not getting near Twitter or Facebook, but I am spending at least half an hour while we watch the telly after dinner, checking and responding to emails. As soon as my daughter is in bed the telly goes off and the work begins.

It is amazing how quickly we can lose the practice of writing every day. And once it slows down it is hard to pick it up. There have been nights when I’m too tired, but I still sit down at the computer and before long I’m lost in the process.

I usually talk about time management in conjunction with energy management, but at the moment I’m not allowing my energy levels to come into it. I’m sitting down to write at my allotted times, even if I think I’m falling asleep. And so far it is working. I’m writing (well editing) loads. I might crash next week, but so far so good. I’m a little like Dory – I just keep writing, no matter what.

 

Just keep writing:

  • Write every day – working the writing muscles keeps them strong
  • Turn off the TV (I’m recording the important stuff to watch later; and then there’s Netflix; write first, watch second)
  • Set writing times/appointments and keep them, no matter what.
  • Talk to the family/loved ones/cats about your need to write – on weekends I spend some time with my daughter and then I get writing time, and I can alternate that, with a little housework, over the day.

 

PS I know cats don’t listen, well they do, but they don’t care. Mine only want a cuddle when I sit at the computer and as long as they aren’t lying across the keyboard, or chasing the mouse, I don’t mind.

 

I would love to hear what you do to keep writing even when you think you can’t. Click reply and share.

 

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.

2016 First Quarter Goal Check

2015 quarterly goal check

We are already a quarter of the way through the year. I can’t believe how fast that has flown by. Every year I plan more and seem to have less time to achieve any of it.

 

My writing goals for the first quarter of 2016 were:

  • Have Iski Flare Episode 2 almost ready for publication
  • Raven Crown book first edit close to completion
  • Regular blog post produced (weekly)
  • Regular newsletter produced (monthly)
  • Regular reading

 

What I have achieved

A few things are a bit behind.

Iski Flare – is nearly there, but not quite as polished as I was hoping by this point. The publication date has been pushed out to the end of April but it is looking good. And as I wrote it I had loads of ideas for Episodes Three, Four and Five so he will continue on for a while.

The Flow of Ink – other than one week, I have posted every week and the newsletter is going out monthly.

Reading – I am reading a lot more. I’m trying to read every night. I got a kindle for Christmas which I love and if I have forgotten it, I can link into my current reading on my phone. It is so much easier than carrying a book around with me. Part of my reading is connected to reviewing more too. Although I’m a bit over committed on that front just at the moment. So many books, so little time!

 

What I haven’t achieved

Raven Crown is disappointingly well behind schedule. Part of this is due to the edit being more work than I expected. There are some major holes, some small plot problems and a lot of reordering required. And I tend to get distracted looking ahead into the following books; initially with the idea of checking something but then I start reading and before I know it I am lost in the story and not editing anything.

And I was sick, so there were weeks where I didn’t get near it at all.

 

What I have learnt

I may have (not admitting failure here) planned a little too tightly and I’m not spending as much time writing each day as I thought I would. I had easily thought two hours a day at a minimum. But if things get busy I’m lucky to get half an hour some days.

Prioritising projects is important. So on those days when I can’t do much I focus on what needs to be done first or work through more of one thing; such as drafting three or four blog posts at once instead of just one at a time.

I am not always using my early morning writing time effectively. I’ve been doing some more research, email and social media during that time, rather than writing and editing. Even some course work. All writing world related but not directly writing.

 

Where to from here

I need to refocus a little.

Go back to planning my writing time, sticking to set tasks during that time. And then if I get extra time, or extra done, it’s a bonus.

I need to review my diary every morning, not at the end of the day.

Pick my priorities, spend most of my time on them, or split major projects over the day (Iski in am, RC in pm)

 

Even though I am behind a little, I’ll still get Iski Episode 2 out in the month I planned. Some dedicated time I could bring RC closer to where I want it and I’m trying hard to think ahead about the website and blog. Even trying some different things, like the story last week.

I love to hear from you. How are you going with your writing goals so far? Are you on the path you want to be on? What might you need to change?

Hit reply and share your stories.

Working full time doesn’t mean you can’t be a writer

Working full time doesn’t mean you can’t be a writer

For many of us trying to carve out a writing career around a day job or family or the like can be difficult. There are a lot of pressures on our time; a lot of competing pressures for our attention and energy.

Now that I am back at work after the summer break I’m finding it a bit more challenging to meet my writing goals.

 

Why:

Working full time where I look at spreadsheets all day is quite draining. And working full time there are all the other things you need to get done around work hours. This includes all the family stuff, housework, organising things, the gym, sleep and lots more. This doesn’t include any down time or quality time for that matter. So trying to fit writing into this mix can be a challenge.

 

This is what I’m doing:

I’m making appointment times to write. They don’t always go to plan but I am sitting at the computer (or the whiteboard) doing something writing related during those times.

I write first thing of a morning and then once the child and cats are in bed, I’m at the computer again. As mentioned above it can be hard (draining) trying to do it all and I’ve found that I need some down time. So, I have been taking an evening off once or twice a week, just so I don’t go crazy.

If I can, I’m writing during my lunch break, maybe little bits like blog ideas or links for the newsletter. Sometimes the lunch break can be a great time to let the air blow around my creative mind and I take it to the gym (great ideas are formed on the treadmill) or even a walk around the block or meet a friend for shopping. That way I’m not so tired of an evening and I’m keen to sit at my writing desk again.

 

What could you take from this:

We are all different, some write better at night, some in the morning, and some under pressure. Find what works for you.

Make time to write. Don’t try to find time –set the appointment and make it happen. Only you know how much you want this.

Test different times and different places to write.

Have your goals set: Write them down. Know what you are working toward.

Learn what your distractions are and make the decision to move away from them. The new series of the 100 on Netflix could be my nemesis but if I don’t sit on the couch, I can’t turn on the tv and I can’t sit up half the night watching episode after episode; instead I’m at my desk writing.

 

Writing and working can be a juggle. You don’t have to make hours a day. Even half an hour, or even ten minutes, every day would achieve so much more than you think it would.

If you have a tip for writing when you work too I’d love to hear your story.

When not writing begets not writing

When not writing begets not writing
Poor Orange Snoopy was too unwell to write too

I am very late posting this week, in fact I nearly put it off until next week. But then I thought it was better to share my failures with you as they happen so we can all learn from them. Not that I’m really putting my hand up to claim failure; I just haven’t been writing, which has compounded into more not writing.

Last Wednesday at the gym I pinched a nerve or a muscle or something in my shoulder which triggered a migraine. I very rarely suffer from migraines and it threw me for six. In fact, Dad had to pick me up from work and drive me home and Mum had to collect my daughter from school. It was hideous, debilitating and very scary.

I was heady and achy and so not up to very much at all. I couldn’t read and I couldn’t write. Over three days I rested in bed watching all 100 episodes of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. I got better. Of course, a migraine is just a nasty big brother to a headache after all, but it took me longer than I thought it would. In fact I was still feeling “funny in the head” on Saturday.

When I did start to feel better I was keen to pick up where I’d left off and get back to my previous work load. But I over did the planning of it. I couldn’t face sitting in front of the computer for very long (especially after a day at work) and my enthusiasm dropped and I found I lost a couple more days out of fear of not being able to do what I wanted.

Not only had I lost a week of writing time I felt the pressure of that lost time and how far behind I was. The added pressure dried up any writing, or editing, I could have been doing. This added to the stress and around and around we go.

Then I took a deep breath.

I was trying to do too much.

Maybe if I started with just one page of editing instead of three.

That helped. I wasn’t coming close to my previous daily targets but something was better than nothing. I wanted to prioritise my editing over my read through but sometimes reading and note taking was far easier on the mind than editing.

There are times when we just can’t achieve what we want to because all sorts of things get in the way. And for some of these barriers there isn’t much we can do about it. When these things do happen it is important to stay calm and work on a little rather than trying to get it all done. My daily targets were set fairly high for this month because of what I know I can achieve on a good day.

Maybe I should revise this down a little to give myself some breathing room for those days I can’t reach the ideal. I continue to record all my writing times and rather than change my entire plan for the end of the year (and next year) I will see out the month and then assess how I’m going. Maybe I can make up the lost time with a little dedication. Maybe I’ll just have to work that extra time into the plan.

The important thing right now is to keep writing. And if that is only a page a day then that’s ok because a page a day is better than none. Writers do write after all and I’m trying my best to be a writer.

For more about Lizzie Bennet and my other distractions sign up for my newsletter. Every month I talk about how my projects are going and what non writing activities I’m allowing to get in the way of my writing activities.

When do we get time to do the other stuff?

read meThere seems to be such a long list of things I want to do or would like to do. Things we are guided to do by other writers, authors and bloggers. We also read heaps about sacrifices. But between writing and editing, drafting and planning, parenting, the day job and sleeping there is still so much I’m not getting done.

It is reading newsletters and other blogs that I’m particularly missing at the moment. There are so many emails unopened with other people’s news that I’m desperate to read. Even twitter I’m only glancing at 10 min worth of tweets a day and responding to follows but I’m not spending the time to share my thoughts or what I’m doing.

So do I sacrifice some of my writing time or parenting time? Or do I cut back the newsletters and not bother to try to read all this info?

And I haven’t even mentioned the books I’ve downloaded or are stacked up beside my bed. *aagghh*

I’m also not sleeping as well as I was. Not sure if that is the new house or how full my head is when I lay it down. But I’m not reading before I sleep either. It wasn’t so long ago that it didn’t matter how tired I was I would read at least a page before sleep. I wonder if I tried it would help in other ways as well.

My whole life seems to be highly planned out right now but I’m not achieving. Even though I tend to work better when I’m busy.

Maybe it is more a matter of timing, rather than sacrificing.

That down time of an evening when I usually switch my brain off with the tv, perhaps I should be reading instead. I can scan my emails and if an article looks interesting then I can take the time to read it.

My aim for this week is to accept the work load and get on with it and switch the tv for reading to relax at the end of each day. And then I get my newsletters read as well as slowing my brain down for sleep. Unless, of course, the reading inspires me to sit up ‘til 3am writing. But that could only be a good thing.

How does your timetable look?