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.

What have you learnt from the last year?

What have you learnt from the last year

As the year draws to a close (and didn’t that come around quickly?) it is time not only to be planning for next year but reviewing the last year.

I like to do this for a couple of reasons:

  • To see if I achieved what I wanted to and if not why not
  • To learn from the first point to be more effective next year

I have also said before that I track my time as the year has gone on I have become more efficient and detailed in that tracking. This is useful because without tracking the actual time I spend on my writing projects I don’t know. Before I was tracking I thought I spent hours a day writing, but I wasn’t.

Every goal I set is a part of the larger picture. Every day builds towards my longer term goals and overall plan. That is (and I’ve shared this before) writing full time. Being certain of where I’m going and how well I am achieving this is important for me because I am trying to meet these goals around a full time job and raising a child (alone-ish). I need to make decisions about how much time I put into this and what I want to get out of it.

I want to stress here that I am not writing to make money. I would love to be able to write full time because I love to write. I need to write. Creating stories and discovering new worlds and people is a joy. I would rather being experiencing that joy all day every day than slaving at the other desk.

 

From 2015 I have learnt:

My day job does impact on my creativity (the busier it gets the less writing I do).

Writing down/setting writing times does help but I don’t always stick to them.

I can draft a heck of a lot faster than I first thought.

I can draft a heck of a lot better than I used to.

I don’t mind editing as much, now that I have a clearer system (that works for me). But that may not always be the case.

Self publishing is the way to go (for me).

I can’t do it alone. I would love to, but I need support, writers groups, writing buddies, friends with skills, paid friends and would be friends with skills I don’t have.

It takes effort and time but every little bit of it is worth it.

 

From all of this, and the above list is not in any order, I am more confident going into next year. My plan is clear, my goals are set and I’m sure I will learn a whole lot more. It’s exciting really. From my tracking this year I have a good idea how long each process takes. I know when my day job is crazy busy and it will impact on my writing. I know how much time each day I can give it. And I know why I am doing what I am and what I’m working toward.

That means all I have to do is focus on the writing. And that is all I want.

Is fear stopping you from writing?

800px-Blank_page_intentionally_end_of_bookWe are setting goals we want to achieve, things we want to do, that lead to a place we want to be.

Aren’t we?

I struggled in the past to take action on my goals, I was ensuring my goals were reasonable and achievable and setting deadlines. But the deadlines came and went and I wasn’t any closer to achieving the goal.

The problem was that I wasn’t taking the appropriate action.

I knew what I had to do but I wasn’t doing it.

I started researching how to take action. Looking for tips on how to do the doing part of a goal. Everything pointed towards writing it down and away you go…but I wasn’t.

So what does stop us sitting down and typing out the 500 words a day, or the 20 minute run to build up to the marathon. There were times I struggled to sit at the desk let alone reach my daily word limit.

One reason we may not be taking action is fear. Whether that is a fear of not doing well, or not being able to do it at all, or what would change if we did do it. I watch authors being interviewed and I can think of nothing more frightening (just as one example).

Understanding why we are not taking action is the first step to taking it.

There are times that I still struggle (such as over the last week). The main reason my writing stalled was a fear of not knowing what part of my draft I should work on next, or what needed to come next. I know from experience that once I sit down and start typing out a sentence or two then a scene will develop on the page. It might not be any good, it might be axed in the next draft without a thought but it will progress my writing.

But I worked myself into a state about not knowing that I don’t even have a sentence to start with and so I’m not sitting down at all. This slows down everything including my other writing because if I’m not drafting then I shouldn’t be working on other things (crazy but the brain can be very disruptive at times). I also know that working on other projects can help give a jolt to a current draft.

The idea is to know why I want to do this and what it would mean if I don’t.

 

So to take action I have to:

Book a time and sit down. This is usually 5am (every morning) but as I struggle this hasn’t worked so well. On the weekend I spent some time with a writing buddy. Sitting together meant I had to at least sit at the laptop and try something.

Plan. But this is where I was stuck, I didn’t know where to go next. I usually have an idea or sentence at least. Forcing myself to the computer I thought I might have to force my protagonist into some form of action and see where it went. So I put her on a horse (and she was nervous) and sent her out into uncertainty and a whole new wonder opened up before us.

Have a back up. If I still can’t get beyond that one sentence, start on something else, plan or outline a blog post, edit that short story for writers group, go over the section on taking action for my action ebook…

 

Think about what will happen if I don’t at least try. – stuck in my day job until I am 80; my story will remain unfinished; I will be grumpy for the rest of my life because I get grumpy when I’m not writing and so my family will eventually run away…

There are lots of reasons that stop writers from writing but fear is a big one.

Fear can be debilitating. It can stop your writing dead, sometimes before you even start.

Work out what you fear. Even writing out what does scare you might help to move beyond it.

If fear is what is slowing you down (or stopping you altogether) face the fear and get on with the writing. It is ok to be crap. It is ok to produce a poor first draft. You can face it later for editing. Have a back-up plan to keep the writing muscles working because not writing makes it harder to get writing again.

Find what you fear first and then find a way to beat it. For what could be worse than not writing?

Over the coming weeks I will be talking about other reasons we don’t take action and this will be expanded in my upcoming ebook.

What fear prevents you taking action and what have you tried to beat it?

 

Image by Brian0918 via Wikimedia Commons

Happy New Year

Happy New Year 2015

Welcome to a new year and I hope you are as enthusiastic as I am!

Even though I started planning for the New Year in September, I am always keen at the beginning of a year to get stuck in. I think it is the possibilities I see ahead.

This year I have a schedule set up for publishing which is both exciting and scary (already stuck in the back of my diary so I can ensure I’m on track). With the release of my first ebook last December I realised that the process, although lengthy, was much easier than I thought.

My main focus for this year is not just to get more books out there but ensure they are the best possible quality. I could pump out a lot of average words for you, but I want to provide my readers with great stories and that takes more work and time than average ones. But I’m ready for the challenge.

I’m not quite willing to share the schedule at this point because I’m moving at some point this year and I’m not sure when that will be. And when it does occur it is going to impact on my schedule.

My little break from blogging over the holidays was useful. It also turned into a break from all my writing which was not what I had intended but it appears to have been what I needed. I think I will schedule in the break at the end of this year and then it will be guilt free.

I spent time reading through my current work in progress to work on the gaps and there are quite a few. I had several moments of “Oh, where have you been?” for some characters and wanting to know more about others.

The free time also allowed me to do some thinking about what I would like to blog about and how often. Given my schedule for the year I am going to stick with once a week and see how that goes. I would rather provide something regularly than all over the place.

I am super keen for the year.

I have my schedules, my action plan and my time blocked out.

Now that I am refreshed from the break and so organised I am hoping on at least 2 hours first thing of a morning to write, before I go back to work. And then a bit more during the day once we have had our outing, or we are wanting some quiet time…

I would love to hear your plans for the year. Are you as enthusiastic for what you can achieve? What new writing goals have you set yourself this year?

Using “To Do” Lists to Reach Your Goals

To Do List

This week I have continued with my editing, but I’m not utilising my time as well as I could. Part of this is due to fear. I can feel it creeping in as I try to rework the ending wondering if it will be any good.

On the days when I have been editing I have been working for longer than I planned…so it is moving along at a reasonable pace, not that I’m rushing. I am currently working on the last five chapters and so it needs a bit of focus.

In trying to keep my focus and ensure I continue to write and work towards my goal, I have been researching lists, in particular to do lists.

I do love a list and I’ve used various types before. I want to ensure that I don’t just make these lists but work through them and mark things off.

One suggestion I came across was to create one big list with everything you want to get done, but can’t get done today. This list is to include ideas, projects, plans, and should cover all aspects of your life.

I don’t want this revision of my processes to take up time that could be spent doing things. Once I sat down to make up the big list it didn’t take very long at all, and I’m carrying it with me and adding to it when I think of things. It is a rough, single page, working document as any list should be.

Nearly every post or article I reviewed mentioned using a weekly and daily list. I have been using these for a while, but I am making sure that I now capture everything I need to do on those lists, including investigations I would like to make and even shopping reminders.

The aim of this review and small change in my practice will hopefully lead to working more efficiently and reduce any chance for procrastination to creep in because I know where I’m going. Although the road is a bit steep or rocky at times I know this is that path I want to take.