2019 Writing Retreat

I have already been back from my retreat for almost as long as I was on it. Usually I’m super keen to tell you how my time away went. This year it was a little more difficult. My story wasn’t working like I wanted it to, I couldn’t picture the end, and this is the end of a series, so the pressure was on. I came back exhausted and although I had a tonne of work to do, I didn’t.

I caught up on all the tv I missed over the week. And what seemed like far too much washing for one child for one week. My mum watched the child, cats and house and despite keeping everything running, and organising to get the wallpaper up that we have talked about the last 12 months – I had a room filled with piles of books and I couldn’t seem to get comfortable in my own home.

What should have been an invigorating, enthusiasm building and restorative retreat ended up nearly wiping me out creatively.

So instead of racing to tell you what I’ve done, I hid away for a bit.  I struggled through a painful read through of my novel, where I wrote rude messages to myself, highlighted problem sections and groaned (a lot). Feeling all was lost I finally started the editing process. And part way through page 1 I found myself again.

First morning

Last morning

This was salvageable. It wasn’t too bad, just needs a bit of rearranging, and pulling together. After stressing myself out completely, I’m actually feeling okay about it now. I still haven’t got the ending pulled together, but as of this morning I’m only on Chapter 3. And I know now that it will come as the characters and I settle into a story we are all happy with.

The good news about the retreat –I slept really well, ate badly but enjoyed every sugary mouthful, drank a bit much, walked in the sunshine, watched the birds play in the bottlebrush, practiced my Chinese and wrote just over 50, 000 words. They were like wringing blood from a stone, but they were words non-the-less. I even managed to wash some clothes and we didn’t burn through too much wood (like we usually do).

This year we started on a Sunday, when we usually go away midweek and return midweek. There is not very much open on a Sunday morning, so things were a little different. But we managed the same shopping routine, had a nice lunch and stocked up on sugar and wine before we reached the cottage. I also played a bit with my camera (phone) as you can see from some of the photos attached.

We even watched a couple of movies this year, just to rest the brain.

I worry that I’m not going to make the deadlines I have set myself, but if I can get this to the editor on time, and continue to write, I might be able to get back to where I thought I would be.

I kind of got a bit carried away this year as I decided it was time to focus on this writing business properly. I have actually mapped out a pretty tough schedule that covered not only this year but the next 2 years as well.

So now that I’m feeling a little calmer about the book, it is back to the writing, and I only hope I can keep the books coming as rapidly as I would like. And I haven’t forgotten about Iski – he will be back. He is just not as close to the top of the pile at the moment.

2017 in Review

2017 was supposed to be all about writing and maybe some marketing. It turned out to be a lot more about marketing and not so much writing.

I had some huge plans and I hate to admit that I have done the same for next year, but let’s just focus on this year for now.

My main goals for this year were:

  • Read at least 20 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.

 

How did 2017 end up?

I did read more than 20 books. And I could have read a lot more so I’m already revising my goal for next year, but not too crazy.

Iski and I struggled this year. I published episode 5 later than I had planned and I’m still hoping that Episode Six will be released before Christmas. I didn’t get the box set out and not nearly as many episodes as I hoped.

Only published book 1 of the Raven Crown Series, but book 2 will hopefully be out early next year.

I have been working on the plan and outline for the next trilogy and it is better in some places than others, but I will start drafting in January.

I have produced a monthly newsletter but the blog fell away.

I usually end up taking a break from my writing over Christmas, whether I plan to or not. This year I’m going to continue writing to try and get a good start on 2018.

 

I know that I didn’t use my time as well as I could have this year. I spent a lot of time that I should have been writing, researching marketing and trying out different marketing ideas.

I’m trying something new with my planning and outlining processes and I hope that it means I can produce a better first draft faster.

 

Plans for 2018

Next year is already looking a bit ambitious but I’m quietly confident I can get close to achieving everything on the list.

And the list? You will have to wait until the new year to see my plans for 2018.

In the meantime, I’ve been adjusting my website a little. Let me know what you think of the changes.

 

Have a happy and safe holiday season.

 

Writing Retreat 2017

Sun rising over our last morning

What a fantastic time I had this year at my annual writing retreat. Six nights, five full days of writing bliss. Although I was getting a little silly by the end of it and the strangest things were setting me off – such as continuously nodding characters and inappropriate whispering.

Working with someone with the same goals is also really helpful. My writing buddy and I work pretty well together. We can concentrate and write away, shared tools and tips to keep the writing flowing, double checked spelling and pronunciation. 

We could laugh together over silly or strange character behaviour, interrupting each other when we need to ask a question, or pour each other a glass of wine. Sharing helps, particularly when you know you can continue the work and encourage each other.

We had a tv but chose not to watch it. We had no internet and no phone service, other than a landline family could call in.

Day 1 - ready to write

I won’t go over my hours of writing minute by minute, rather I’ll give you an overview of what some dedicated time away from the distractions of life can do. Well, what it did for me and the lasting effects I hope it has.

Over those days and writing, editing and sharing, I achieved a lot:

· I worked through my next book three times. My aim was to  ensured the story works (hopefully), all the main plot points were where they were meant to be, that the climax was apprortiate, the characters where who I wanted them to be, and the right amount of questions left the reader hanging for the next book.

· I restructured the messy draft that was book 3 in the series (still messy but in the right order and a lot more work to do).

· Drafted a short story for the Raven’s Dawn launch.

· Played with some other short story ideas.

· Preped the paperback template for Raven's Dawn

· Read one and a half novellas; and one novel – not in that order.

​It was a very prodcutive time and I'm really happy with wll that I acheived. I always hope that I can continue the productivity and enthusiasm when I get home again. So far so good.

The only possible drawback from such a retreat is that it reinforced for me how much I want to write; how I could spend my days writing and editing and creating new worlds. And that such a life is still in the distance. At least for one week a year I can be the full time writer I want to be.

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?

 

Do you want to hear from me more regularly? Sign up for my newsletter and get a free book as my gift to you!

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 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.