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?

 

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Summer Distractions

springI know it is only just spring and here in Tassie we’re still fluctuating between warm and sunny to snowing.

But the days are growing longer, the trees are developing a green tinge and the scent of flowers is carried on the breeze (or gale depending on the day). It’s lovely being able to sit in the sun and feel the warmth of it against your bare skin. Ahh.

But despite the renewing energy Spring seems to bring with it, it is also a distraction.

It was my first quiet weekend in ages. No classes, no commitments and the sun shone. And so it was also time to get into the garden and start trying to tame the wilds that had sprung up overnight. The physical exercise was great and although I have a long way to go it does look better. Yet all of this sunshine and yard work distracted me from my writing. I did spend some time early Saturday morning at my desk but I’m in the final chapters and I’m worried that they aren’t worthy of being the final chapters. So I welcomed the distraction.

Actually I only have three chapters to go. Although I’m not confident in the few leading up to those and I think this current chapter could become part of the pervious. Thus leaving only two to go.

I’m at the climax and I’m not feeling particularly climactic. Or at least the writing isn’t for me. I’m hoping it will find its feet but that does mean more hours working on it rather than thinking about it as I move wood piles and dig out weeds.

It may be that it needs another rest and yet I worry that a rest would do more harm than good at this point. I’m trying to see the end without rushing toward it to keep me going. There have been too many times that I have put this book down and walked away for a bit and I know it is close now so I don’t want to do that.

It isn’t a matter of refocusing because I have been very focused on this story. It is a matter of maintaining that and trying to prevent any doubt from creeping in before I finish it that might prevent a finish.

Between the writing and editing and gardening I am also developing my writing plan for the rest of the year. I’m hoping that will maintain my motivation too. I was a bit soggy over winter and the retreat helped revive me. I’m hoping spring will help keep that going. So a couple of days off to catch up on the garden is ok, as long as I come back to it.

 

The Call of the Siren

singing cat 1

Recently for homework my daughter had to come up with her ideal super power and then describe why that was better than others. Her choice was invisibility. Since the exercise I have been thinking about what I would want for a super power. If given the choice to choose something truly amazing skill, what would it be?

I am a big fan of superheros. I love the Avengers and all their spinoffs.

My ultimate choice would be to sing like a siren, probably luring men to their deaths. So it seems if given the chance I would probably be a baddy with my super power. I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. As I currently sing like a dying cat, it was initially all about the voice. Whether I want the tail and the ocean living, I’m not so sure.

How can I use this for my writing? I’m not sure about that either, but it might be a useful thought later down the track. I love superheros and the powers they wield for good but it is an area I hadn’t thought of writing in. Although fairy tales are something I have played with, it could come into something else.

All of this is a distraction really. I am distracted.

My moving date is growing closer, and much quicker than I thought. My head is full of crazy ideas and lists of what I need for the house. As well as day dreaming about singing to strangers, I’m dreaming of my new desk with a view and the amazing writing I will do whilst I try not to stare out at the view.

I have only just realised that I am allowing myself to be distracted. I know it is happening and although I could do something about it, I’m not. This is because my editing is a bit scary. OK really scary. I have more or less rewritten the beginning. And there is a lot of work to go. Once I get into the process I’m fine, and although there is much to do, the editing is happening and it seems to be improving the story. But I am so worried that it might not improve that taking that first step of sitting down is not happening as often as it should.

But I am not getting stressed about this. I’m concerned but I know that once I’m in the new house things will settle down, my mind will clear somewhat and I will be able to do what I need to with my leave (as well as unpack boxes – I have a plan of one box, one scene, one box, one scene) and then it will be done before I know it.

Sometimes distraction is a good thing. Whether this is one of those times or not, I don’t know yet seems (I know very little right now). But I’m going with it and I’m carrying my notes wherever I go in case I get some time, or inclination, to sit down and write some words.

How to beat procrastination by finding focus

therock focus

Image courtesy of www.whiteknuckleiron.com

I am currently editing two projects (as discussed last week), my day job is crazy and we are sharing a vehicle at home. And so my mind is probably more full than overwhelmed but it has had the save affect. I’m procrastinating.

The realisation that I was actually procrastinating struck during the week when I spent my entire morning hour watching videos on how to improve my web presence. I find that when I am overwhelmed I can become a bit distracted. Distraction can be one of those problems that feeds on itself.

The videos were very interesting by the way and I’m sure that when I can justify the time I will be trying to implement what I learnt. But what is the point of a web presence if I haven’t got any writing to share? If I have an author page with no books? And who would read writing tips from someone who watches videos instead of writes?

If I were to spend the time I’m currently wasting on my current projects I would be finished much sooner. Yet the mind is a crazy thing or a strange thing at least.

To beat procrastination I have found two things help. The first is focus.

Thinking about getting focused always makes me think of the Rock. He is the focus king. I try to channel the Rock while I’m at the gym (my hands are even starting to look like his – although not as big, obviously) but I should also be using this mindset for my writing.

Life intrudes and for many of us writing around a day job or family (or other equally important aspects of our lives) focus is required to ensure we getting the writing done.

Focused time is essential. Since the realisation of my procrastinating I revisited my diary and blocked out periods of time to write. It isn’t always easy, especially living with other people, and if you can’t find the time try negotiating for some. Even if you simply say “I just need half an hour, can you give me that?” or “Can you watch the kids or hold the dog so I can finish this chapter?”

The second is self awareness.

Seeing the signs before procrastination becomes a big problem can help you prevent it. Being aware of your writing practice and processes is a part of this. When you know what is coming and why then you are better able to deal with it.

Part of self awareness is to know what you really want to achieve. Knowing what you want makes it easier to work towards.

 

Revisit what you want to achieve and when you can make the time to do it. Family can be just as crazy as everything else in our lives but we have the bonus that they love us. Don’t be afraid to tell them just how important your writing is and how they can help. You never know, your partner hanging out the washing might be just what you need to lift the pressure and increase your chance to focus on the ink flowing over the page.

How focused is your writing time? What would help you focus?

The Writing Habit

keyboard flat

My plan for the New Year, even though I have been on holidays, was to write every day. This hasn’t quite happened, partly because I have allowed the holidays to wash over me by sleeping in, sitting up late watching telemovies and quality time with the family. All of which have been important in keeping me sane but not so good for my writing plans.

It is time to revisit the key steps I know work for my writing flow…

 

Set a time

I usually rise at the same time every day to write. It is that quiet time before the rest of the household is awake that I find an easy peace that helps the words to flow. Last year I was waking just before the alarm and so ready to go. I am attempting this year to wake a little earlier to create a little more time. And that may take a little bit of practise.

This hasn’t been working so well yet. I think that is because my brain is in holiday mode. I am back to the day job this week and the extra pressure on my time should help push me out of bed of a morning, and hence to bed earlier of a night so that I am refreshed when I do get up.

 

Routine

It is empowering knowing that I am starting my day with the most important part of my life, my writing.

It is doing this at the same time every day that it becomes habit.

Habit triggers are also useful. I don’t just sit at the computer; I always make a cup of tea first. So I go straight to the kettle and switch on, then to the laptop (usually in the kitchen or study) open lid, read the last few sentences to review where I’m at. Then back to kettle to make tea and when I take my tea to the laptop my mind is already working on the scene and I’m ready to start.

 

Plan

Preparing yourself for a writing session greatly decreases the chance of procrastinating.

It doesn’t have to be a detailed plan if that is not how you write, maybe an outline, a few sentences or even an idea. E.g. if you are part way through a scene you could have a note for the next session stating, “and then she walked back to the river and met Bob which led to her finding out about Jane’s plan.”

I have a plan of what I am going to write during that session. With a laptop I can just close the lid when I’m finished and so when I open it the next morning it is right where I left it. So if I am at the end of a scene – I might have a sentence about the next one, or next idea or where to go next and then I can simply start writing.

Editing would be a little different, having a set working space will greatly help with this. If your work is laid out where you left it, there is no time spent trying to work out what you were doing, all your notes are together, marked manuscript, index cards…whatever you use to edit.

 

These are reasonably simple steps to keep me writing and as I know they work for me I am a little disappointed in myself that I have not been as consistent with my writing sessions so far this year as I would like to have been. But I am sure that a few early mornings, and some quiet lunch time sessions, and I will be back on track for a productive 2015.

It is the sitting down and starting that is the difficulty with writing. The tips above help me to get to the computer and once there the writing is so much easier.

Do you write every day? What are you doing to ensure that continues?

 

Reading on Productivity

 

By El coleccionista de instantes [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Image by El coleccionista de instantes  via Wikimedia Commons
In my slower (blocked) period recently, I spent some time reading about productivity in the hope of improving my writing and writing speed, amongst other things. This may seem like a strange thing to be reading about when my productivity was at zero. But it was interesting and a great form of procrastination because I could justify it as writing related.

My curiosity about productivity and increasing it has stemmed from a renewed dedication to working toward living from my writing. Yet to do this I really need to get some writing out there for people to read. My first novel (which was not so good) took me five years to write. And my current novel is into its third year of production. To me this seems too slow even given the fact that I’m writing around a day job and family.

 

So I asked: How do I speed this up? And how can I write faster? Will writing faster affect the quality of my writing?

 

In my search for the answers I came across a couple of great books. So great I had to share.

 

The first was Write, Publish, Repeat by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant.

I fell across this book by accident and am so pleased that I did. It contains confident information from writers who are out there publishing lots of very good books, in a clear, no nonsense style.

What I learnt:

  • Money can be made from fiction writing,
  • You don’t have to follow what everyone else is doing – it is ok to write what you want to, and
  • Outlining is required

What I’m trying

  • Writing what I want rather than what I think a publisher would want
  • Attempting my version of outlining for the next novel.

 

The second was 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron.

This was full of very clear advice and steps as to how the author increased her own word count. I haven’t read any of her other work yet, but her blog is quite good and worth a look.

What I learnt:

  • We need to know what we are doing now and how well that works before we can determine what we need to change.
  • Planning/outlining is required

What I’m trying:

  • Mad record keeping of every minute spent doing something vaguely writing related.
  • Attempting my version of outlining for the next novel.

 

These books were in part responsible for getting me back on track with my writing, even though they were great procrastination tools at the time. That fact may give a little acknowledgement to the idea that procrastination can be good for your writing too, but I may just be trying to justify my inactivity.

I also learnt a lot more than the few points I made above and I’m sure they will come into future posts.

I believe it is important to look at what other writers are doing and what works for them and then take from it what will work for you. This gives us more options as writers to improve our own practice and who better to learn from than writers out there making a living? It is all experimental. There will be times when what worked at one point doesn’t work for the next novel, or short story.

I do not believe that you should take what works for someone else and wholly follow their processes and practice. It will only lead to disappointment.

I am trying to learn more about my current practices with my obsessive time keeping. I am also trialling some different versions of outlining. I will admit I have struggled a little with that, but I can also see the benefit. How well this works when I start writing will be further research into my writing practice. And will then determine how the following novel may start its life.

What have you done to increase your productivity that you didn’t think you would try? Hit reply and share your thoughts.