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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

Dangers of the Soft Deadline

The Danger of Soft Deadlines

I have recently discovered that I’m not as good at meeting my own deadlines as I previously thought. And it is somewhat disappointing.

I had really hoped that I would be announcing the release of my next book but I’m not quite ready. Part of the reason is that I didn’t think to factor in other work I needed to reach the deadline, such as cover design. I only started discussions with the designer in the last week or so.

I also had a freak out about the story as a whole and sent it out to beta-readers. Thankfully they got back to me in a reasonable time but all of these activities impact on when I will be finished.

I haven’t been as strict with myself as I should have been either. My writing times have slipped and I’m a little distracted with other things, such as Christmas and end of year activities and catch-ups.

My plan for the future is to set a firm deadline with clear milestones and factor in some wiggle room. I have reworked my plans for next year to include some practices earlier in the process, such as cover design so that they are ready long before I need them.

I haven’t reached all my writing goals this year and that is simply down to me not completing work on time, or at all. I want to start treating this as a business, in that I take it seriously but I’m not sure that I’ve been taking myself seriously as a writer.

It is clear that the only thing holding me back is me.

I have changed the way I do some things over the course of the last year. Something that has dropped away is my weekly to do list. First on my list for this week is to create a list; capture everything I need to do and then make a clear plan. Too often in the last few weeks I have just moved items from one day to the next without thinking of the bigger picture.

If I am going to achieve what I plan to next year, I am going to have to make some changes to my thinking.

 

Stay tuned– there will be a new release coming shortly:

The Legend Begins, Episode 1 of The Legend of Iski Flare Series

 

Re-Setting Goals for 2015

re-setting goals for 2015It may seem late in the year but planning and goal setting for me is a constant activity. Maybe I’m early for next year.

I said recently that I have been doing a lot of planning for next year. And I have, hours of it. I have taken all my notes and time recordings and calculations to work out how long each part of the process takes me and how much time I think I can put in every day. I might be pushing the envelope a bit but I have a clear plan of what I am doing next year.

That is, when I plan to be doing each stage of each project, including when I hope to publish. I have given myself some leeway at the end of each project to catch up if I have fallen a little behind or there is a delay in getting manuscripts back from readers and the like (as that can push times out).

I have clear goals for 2016 (connected very closely with my planning) which are already pasted into the front of next year’s diary. I have colour calendars for each month marked up to show the stages for each project.

One reason I have spent the time doing this is because I thought I had to start treating my writing like project management. if I want to do this for a living I have to start treating it like a job. I need to take it seriously.

So with all of this in mind and my plans crystallised for next year I wanted to make sure I finish this year on track. I did lose some time to a sore head recently but I think I have made that up. Not that I’ve worked huge hours, but I have been very focused in the time I have worked and I’ve covered more ground during that time than expected.

I still want to get The Mark of Oldra out before Christmas and the first instalment of Iski Flare. I’m still really nervous about the Mark of Oldra. I’m meeting with my cover designer this week so that might help. I still have some work to go before it is ready and a proofread so if it isn’t ready I’m not pressing the publish button until next year.

Over the coming weeks, which are the closing weeks of 2015 I am setting some new goals. Ones that push a bit, ones that push me to do well, to do what I hope I can. I have to switch off the worry and get on with it.

I saw a sign in the street last week counting down til Christmas. I don’t want to count the days, I think that adds to the pressure, but I need to be aware of the deadline. That is why we set deadlines after all. Knowing how long until something should be finished gives a clear idea of what is required every day until that point. I am focusing all I have into my writing during my writing times to ensure I do what I can towards the bigger goals in life.

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.

Tracking my writing time

Tracking my writing timeI have previously discussed that I think it is important to write every day, that I set writing times and that I track my writing. But lately I wondered if I was actually writing as much as I thought I was.

Firstly there were a few weeks there where I wasn’t writing at all (due to moving, exhaustion and other related but not really good enough excuses). Then when I was writing I realised that I wasn’t quite meeting my usual writing appointments or that I wasn’t fully using them. For example, I have an hour for lunch, I was recording it as an hour’s writing but by the time I walked to my writing spot and back I was only writing for about 40 to 45 minutes.

Not meeting my writing goals stresses me out. And I have set some big ones this year, which have been greatly impacted on by my lack of writing during the move. The good news is that my annual retreat is not far away and I can make up some time then, even though I have that time booked out for one specific project.

I can get bogged down in planning and organising and then find I have wasted all my writing time on developing plans and schedules and to do lists. (It is good to know where your weaknesses are).

I am now trying something simple.

Firstly I have set priorities – Snow is the first as I need to get this edit done. I have also removed something from the list (if only for the moment until I have sorted myself out a bit).

Then (with a pen) on every day in my diary I write down when I think I should be able to write. My usual booked times and then when I think I might be able to squeeze in some more, with a total time planned for the day.

On a scrap of paper (at this point but it seems to work) I am writing down every little chunk of writing I get done, including the times and what I did. At the end of the day I write how much writing I did get done into my diary.

I am using this new system to see how well I’m sticking to my writing plans. I know I could do more. And I know I am watching too much tv (recently got sucked into a new series, very bad but couldn’t stop watching – damn you Netflix).

I know that I want to write. I need to focus on what is important and realise that I need to allow myself some time off as well. But not when it is wasted time.

By the end of the first week I was able to see the variation between how much writing I thought I could do and how much I did do.

The result was clearly that I am not writing as much as I thought I would and I am not meeting my usual morning writing appointments. Lunch time appointments are working but for some reason I can’t seem to force myself out of bed for the morning and if I do get up I do other (housework type) things.

I feel bad for missing my mornings because it is like a free hour, one that doesn’t clash with anything else. And it was usually my most productive time.

I have discovered that I’m not as focused on my priority project as I thought. It seems to take a back seat to my blog and drafting. That may be because of where I’m writing at the moment and the drafting files are easy to open and add to when I can. Editing takes a little more preparation and thought to do properly and so I’m not as keen to get it out of my bag when I have a little chunk of time. I think I will have to be more proactive in setting aside specific Snow editing time.

Looking over this week it also appears that I need more down time than I am currently planning or allowing for in my schedule. Or at least over the last week I have taken more down time and I felt at the time I needed it. This will change as everything starts to settle down, I hope, and my brain becomes less full of other things.

I will keep going with this new system to see what else it tells me about my writing. That is the main reason I try to write down (track) what I do is so that I can learn from it and determine how I can do better.

Midyear Goal Check

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Life has been somewhat crazy over the last week as I moved into my new house. I am still unpacking boxes and finding homes for everything. It appears that I have a lot more stuff than I remember packing into the boxes in the first place. So I am half sorting as I go and sometimes just unpacking into cupboards with the idea of coming back and sorting later.

During this crazy week I haven’t taken any time to sit down and write – partly because I didn’t have a space to sit down at and partly because there was no space in my head for words to form. With the excuse of the car needing a service I was trapped in town today with nothing to do but sit quietly somewhere and refocus on my writing.

I started by going over my 2015 writing goals and how I am meeting them and what my plans are for the rest of the year.

I have listed these by writing project…

 

Snow (a fantasy novel) 

I am working through a major edit. I had hoped it would be the final edit but I think there is more work required. This edit is bigger than I intended as I have refocused the story and I am rewriting some chunks of it and smoothing out other parts for it to make sense. It will be a stronger story for it in the end and then I need to decide whether I self publish or submit the traditional way.

I need to foxus on the editing first and although it is not going to be done by my original time frame (the end of August) it will be done by the end of October.

 

Raven Crown Trilogy (draft) 

Drafted to 250,000 words (around the half way mark) so this is actually well on track.

The plot for book 1 is clear although the main character is not quite as present as I want her at this point.

Book 2 is my favourite and the main points are there but I still need to work on the storyline for the main character (or at least wrap up part of it for her).

Book 3 has come together better than I thought. Still unsure about the end, I have an idea but as I get closer it changes slightly (yes, that is because the characters are thinking for themselves). Book 3 is a lot darker than the others but I’m only half way through the first draft so a long way to go.

The draft for all three will be finished by the end of the year.

 

Iski Flare (Book 1) 

The outline is complete and ready for the Retreat to start drafting. I am also hoping to use the Retreat time to outline (and maybe start) the next two books in the series. This will be a series of novellas and although I’ve only thought about the first three I am hoping that this will continue beyond that.

I have been casting characters and trialling using the Snowflake method for outlining this book. This is on track to be self published by Christmas.

 

Spend an hour every week playing with creative ideas

This hasn’t quite worked out as often as I would have liked. But I am playing more with ideas for different projects.

 

Weekly blog posts

Occasionally late but generally this is working well.

 

Joint project with Lone Creature

This was a recent addition to my writing goals. We have talked about writing together for some time and finally have decided on a project worthy of our joint time and effort. This has been a little disjointed as our ideas develop and change around the project itself but I think we are on track now.

I am hoping to have the first story in this series drafted and ready for working together by the end of July.

 

Now that I am in the new house I am hoping to quickly settle back into a writing routine.

The planning I did today has not only helped cement just how much I have to do, but how much I want to do. This clarity refocuses what I need to do to reach these and certainly helps it appear more achievable.

I saw a great quote this morning (at my gym):

“Don’t hope for it more than you work for it”

A fitting reminder that to get anywhere we need to put the work in. I have my plan now it is time to sit down and work to it to reach my writing goals.

Is it time for you to revisit your writing goals?