2019 in Review

I tend to write these posts for myself, to take the time and put down in writing what I have achieved and to assess what I can do for next year. That is, what I can do better and what I can do less of to fit in more writing. Sharing that information helps me and I hope in some ways it will help you too.

I reminded my daughter just recently of a great quote by Dwayne Johnson (yes, that Dwayne Johnson) – “Be the hardest working person in the room”.

I love this quote, it doesn’t mean you have to be the best, but it does mean that you have to put your all into what you do. So that if you don’t win the prize or someone gets a better mark, makes more money etc, you can’t say that you didn’t try. That if you had put some extra effort in, it might have been you. They might be better on the day, but if you continue to do all you can, then next time, it might be you that wins.

I have been trying harder this year to be that person. Even though I usually write on my own, alone in my room, or in a café, or even with my office door shut of a lunch time. I set myself some crazy goals this year and I managed to meet most of them. There were some other things that came up, some of which I decided to step away from and others I have tried to add in. And some things didn’t quite come to plan – Iski Flare being one of them.

Here is a reminder of my goals for the year:

  • I will finalise the Iski Flare Series by publishing ep 8-10
  • I will draft new HP Series and publish all 3 by Christmas 2019
  • I will draft Oldra sequel
  • I will continue to produce a monthly newsletter and blog occasionally
  • I will grow my readership
  • I will consider next series and start planning and outlining those stories

When I started the Iski Flare Series I had the idea of publishing all ten episodes over two years. Yet in the last couple of years I have only published two episodes, bringing the series to a total of seven episodes. There were lots of reasons for this, partly because I wasn’t sure how it was going to end. I have a good idea of where it is going, but Iski and I have fought a bit over the years, and I was worried he might go and do something unexpected.

Most of my characters do that. For my last series, The Magics of Rei-Een, I had a very clear idea of the series and where it was going. Unfortunately, early in book 1 it was clear that neither Lis or Remi or anyone else for that matter, were going to do what I wanted them to. But that said, during 2019 I managed to write and publish all three books. Along with finishing the Raven Crown Series, that meant 2019 was the year of 4 published novels!

I have learnt a lot this year, including I don’t need to watch so much Korean tv (as much as I love it) but a weekend lost to binge watching a series, could have been a complete read-through of one of my own novels, or a good chunk of editing, or even 10,000 or more new words written.

I have recently turned to short sprints to try and increase my output, and this has worked well. I average anywhere from 1500-3000 words an hour, with my average around 2400 words an hour. Which means when I put the time in, I am getting the stories out.

In terms of drafting, I started life as a pantser (writing by the seat of your pants), and everyone told me that was a bad idea. I have tried outlining, but the characters don’t stick to the plan (see above). Now, I am trying something in between and so far it is working well. I watched a talk on “writing into the dark” which is a bit like reading a book, you don’t know what is going to happen next (pantsing really).

I am not strictly sticking to this. I have an idea of the world, the characters, an idea of what I might like to happen, or what I think the major conflict is and then I just start writing.

Using this method I have written The Mark of Oldra Sequel – The Heart of Oldra – which will be available early next year. And as I work through the editing it needs a little work, but overall, I’m happy with the story.

I have also started drafting a whole new series. This is a bigger world and I’m part way through book 1 and so far so good. I will draft the first three books before I start editing and I plan five or six books for the series, but that of course is dependent on the characters and where they want to go.

In anticipation of another great year I have booked the editor for the first few projects for 2020 and the covers for the whole year. If I can do it once, I’m hoping to do it again. The plan for next year involves publishing four novels and finishing the Iski Flare Series. I have a plan already mapped out and the work I’m doing now will feed into those plans.

And of course my mind is already looking further out into other new worlds and more characters and so there are a lot more stories to come.

I usually try to take a break over the Christmas/New Year period, but I’m writing through this year and my newsletter will continue to go out on the 14th and 28th of each month. I’ll let you know just what I have planned for 2020 in the New Year.

Happy Holidays

If you would like to leave a Christmas gift for an author – give the gift of a review.

Quarterly Review

My daughter has started playing Christmas carols in the car. A sure sign that the end of the year is upon us and, to be honest, it scares me. It means that we have entered the final quarter of the year, that I haven’t achieved anything close to what I wanted to and I have such huge plans for next year (again).

You may remember that I kind of over planned for this year and then took on some extra writing opportunities and by mid-January I had hit complete panic. I didn’t get close to what I wanted to write this year, but there is still 3 months left, I can make a good dent.

I have taken a week off the day job. Partly due to school holidays and wanting to spend some quite time with my daughter and partly because I needed the break. I am crazy busy with the day job at the moment and it is zapping my creative energy, but I’m still answering emails most days so not really a true break.

So, I have spent a few days sitting on the couch doing nothing but watching tv shows, getting lost in a new Chinese drama and catching up on some housework. Now that I’m feeling a bit more refreshed and the house is sort of back in order, it is time to refocus on my writing.

I am slowly working through the edit for Iski Flare episode seven. I had hoped to have up to episode nine out this year, but not sure if I can get there. I have revamped the series by getting new covers and they look fantastic.

The Raven Crown Series is almost at an end with the final book just back from betareaders. I had hoped this would be out before Christmas but I’ve had some delays with my usual proofreader and it will now be the end of January. Initially I was disappointed, another book not delivered on time, another blowout that will impact on next year’s plans. But you will get a better story for the extra time and that is what is most important.

The new series I had hoped to start this year stalled early on. The first book is underway and I’m outlining the remaining ones but otherwise I’m leaving it until next year. I have spent some time planning for next year, but I’ll give you an idea of what I would like to achieve closer to the end of 2018. I’m hoping it is a good year and in anticipation of getting done what I hope, I have already booked the cover designer.

Amongst the writing and planning, I have also started a new course on self publishing and joined a new critique group in the hope of learning from others and improving my writing.

In the coming weeks I will send out a survey to my email list about what they see in the monthly newsletter and what they might like changed. I’m curious around my blog posts as well, particularly as I don’t post very often any more.

Please let me know what you think in this short survey and I’ll try to adjust accordingly.

2018 Writing Retreat

It has been some time since I’ve posted on the blog. I discovered that no matter what I try I just don’t have the time to do it all. And I want to, but I can’t. So my fiction writing had to come first.

It is that time of year again, when my writing buddy and I head off on our annual writing retreat. Last year was a great success at 6 nights so we repeated that this year in the hope of similar success. We nearly fell at the first hurdle when someone else had booked our usual time. But the writing gods were with us, or poor planning on their part, and they cancelled and we were in. Every year I say we need to book earlier.

We did our usual drive down together, the little car piled high with bags and computers and a whiteboard. We stopped along the way to shop (for lots of food we then had to pack up and bring home again) and a solid lunch. I left my handbag in the café (for the first time ever) and complete panic set in once I realised but they had put it away somewhere safe, and the older gentleman at the table next to ours was very quick to tell me it was ok when I came barrelling back into the shop.

Supplies purchased, good meal in our bellies and with too much wine packed we were off.

We kept the fire stoked and my writing buddy had her first roasted marshmallow experience. It rained nearly the entire time which was fine but a part of us hoped for snow.

After razzing my writing buddy for leaving the cottage last year, I decided that some exercise and fresh air would be needed. I wasn’t quite as dedicated as her but I did join her for 2 walks and even practiced some of my tap dancing (still a long way to go). I ate far too much sugar and maybe drank a little too much wine.

I’m sure you are wondering about the writing and yes, I did some, in fact I did a lot. I worked through my novel, Raven’s Edge 4 times. One really focused edit, where I added lots, changed lots, chopped bits and rearranged whole sections. Then I read through to make sure those changes all worked, made some more and added notes.

For the third read through I only focused on my added notes – where I had marked where something didn’t work. So it was a little quicker as I wasn’t reading the entire work. Then I went through one more time, reading every word and making sure it all worked. I tweaked some sentences, moved some chapters or parts of and fixed a couple of little bits that still didn’t sit quite right.

Overall I am pretty happy with the story and my brain was tired. I couldn’t look over it again and the next step it to send it out to beta-readers to see what they say. And it just may be that there is a lot more work to do.

That was the main focus of the trip this year, and I spent some time looking over the blurb again – but I must admit that is something I really struggle with. I did a little planning for the rest of Iski’s story and some general writing life planning too.

I did get lots of sleep and despite the amount of brain draining work I do feel pretty good for it. I took a spare laptop as I worried about my old faithful and ended up swapping over on the first full day after repeated warnings and alerts. Last year I managed to get quite a lot of reading done too. This year I only read three or four chapters and a short non-fiction book. I’m feeling excited about this book, and what is to come and I’m hoping I can ride the enthusiasm of the writing retreat for at least the next few months.

2018 is going to be huge!

Welcome to a new year and as excited as I am, I think I might have already over committed. There is so much that I want to achieve this year and I seem to be trying to squeeze much of it into January.

I am looking for new beta readers, so I’ve joined a Facebook group, and signed up to beta read for two authors. I would like to give something back to other writers before I start asking for myself.

I’m always looking for reviews and I try to review everything I read, but I have downloaded two books recently to review in the coming month. At least I’m already half way through one. I have also started an advanced reader group to get some reviews of my own. If you would like to be a part of this group, I have attached a link at the end of this post.

I’m working on editing two Raven Crown Books – although I’m focused on book 2, I am doing some work on book 3. Both will be published during 2018.

I am starting a new series this year, I’m planning to draft all three in the first quarter and get book 1 out to the world before Christmas. At least the outlining is already done, so the writing should be relatively smooth.

I opted in on a new fantasy anthology and need to have a completed story by the end of February. I also have a solid outline for this and the drafting so far is going well but it is a short turn around.

I was pleased with the short story I used as part of the launch for Raven’s Dawn and I’d like to create a new short story for the launch of each new novel. Some of these might be very short, but I have already included them in the planning for each book.

Iski and I had some serious communication problems last year, but I think things are back on track for us and I plan to complete and publish episodes seven to nine this year, and have episode ten ready to publish early in 2019.

Talking of 2019, there are so many stories already trying to get my attention and be written as soon as possible. I am planning a sequel to the Mark of Oldra and there are a couple of other trilogies swirling around the back of my mind. I would like to get these outlined over 2018, to be started in 2019.

As you can see, 2018 is shaping up to be a big year. Did I mention that I’m also hoping to read more?

I hope your 2018 is just as fantastic.

If you are interested is free books, check out my promotions page to see the giveaways I’m currently involved in. If you would like to get the chance to read my books before everyone else in return for an honest review, sign up to my advanced reader group.

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.

 

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.