To Iterate and Optimize

To Iterate and Optimize

I have recently been making an effort to review every book I read. I don’t usually share those here, but you can find some on Goodreads.


A couple of years ago I read Write, Publish, Repeat by Johnny B Truant and Sean Platt (you can see that review here) and I have signed up to all sorts of goodies that these boys do. And I try to read their books – because along with everything else they are great writers. Not only great writers but inspiring writers – I so want to be them when I grow up!

Iterate and Optimize is the follow up in their writing processes to Write, Publish, Repeat. And before you jump into this brilliant book read the first one. Seriously, you must read it first.

So now that you are pumped from the first one, the second is not only well written and explains how well these guys have iterated and optimized their writing; but it is also entertaining and engaging.


The book’s sections are:

Part 1 – Know thyself (and thine outcomes)

Part II – What we iterated and optimized, why we did it, and what we learned.

Part III – Steps you can take to start iterating and optimizing right now

Part IV – Iteration and optimization success stories


What kind of things they cover:

Everything you could possibly want or need to know (even if you didn’t know you needed to know before you opened this book) is covered. And covered well. Not all of these tips will work for all writers, and they tell us that. Iterate and Optimize shares what these authors have tried, what worked for them and also what didn’t and they explain why that is.

The honesty of this work shows that writing isn’t an overnight success. It is a lot of hard work, but it is possible.

The key point I got from this book is that I’m not quite ready for it. I don’t have enough books out there, so I’m going back to focusing on the producing stage (book 1). But this was full of great ideas and options for when I am ready for them. And some of them I’m trying now. And Part III has lots of tips to start making my writing better now, as I work at producing more.

They have a great group of support around them and have connected with some other great authors too. They include links to other useful books which I loved.


This book gave me new hope, even though it showed me that there is a lot of work involved and a lot more to come. It has helped me refocus on producing rather than trying to do it all for one book (like I talked about last week). Much of what I have read here I will revisit as I need it and the rest can ruminate for the next year or so until I’m ready.

If you want to take your writing to the next level then this is the book for you.

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.

Next Year’s Goal Setting


Next year is less than 6 weeks away and I must admit that I am finding the idea a little freaky. If next year is so close, then Christmas is closer and I’m not really ready for Christmas. Yet when I stop to think about it I have my list and my shopping plan so it will come together…

The same idea works for my writing – I have my list to achieve and my writing plans so there is no reason I can’t get done what I want to.

I believe that next year’s goals flow from this year. I wouldn’t just stop what I’m doing and start a whole new set of goals. This is because next year’s goals, like this year’s, are all part of my larger overall goals or long term goals.

All I do, in terms of my writing, is moving toward my goal of writing full time.

At the beginning of this year I made the decision to work harder toward my writing goals. And I have achieved far more than I thought I could. Although I have noticed recently that I have been slipping a little and I could achieve more with some more focused effort.

There is certainly room for improvement and for some projects a clearer plan is needed. Some goals were going to be met easily and now not so well or were a struggle and are now flowing. Others are completely out of my control, such as the edit for Snow which is still with the beta group for review and I can’t action til it comes back.

Now is the time, as the year draws to a close, to review the last year and ensure plans are in place so that the last 6 weeks are not wasted. And then set goals and plan for next year.


Review of 2014

In terms of reviewing we need to look not only at what we achieved but what we haven’t and the reasons behind that. This helps to focus on what is important and which goals we want to continue following. If something is a constant struggle to get done it may be that we don’t really want to do that or it may be something else.

I’m not going to go over my review of every aspect of my writing life, but as an example I’ll look at one goal: publishing a short story before Christmas.

This is almost complete. I have a good story that has been through my reading group several times and I only need to make a slight tweak to ensure one aspect of a character is clear and the story is complete. It does need proofreading, a cover designed and then I can press the button to publish.

This story could have been published weeks ago but I have put off making that final change. I have pushed it down the list of priorities in favour of my drafting. The reason for this? I’m not sure, fear possibly of actually getting my writing out there or that I might not do it right…But I do want to do this and so I need to ensure my priorities are in the right place and push myself to focus on this first and my drafting later.

Once the review is done and you have a clear idea of what you have achieved this year. Use this to determine how you can continue that momentum into next year or what needs to change for next year. Planning for the rest of the year can then occur, such as mapping out time for the final edit, proofreading session, cover design, launch date work and going live.


Next Year’s Goals

Once you have reviewed your current position goal setting for next year is a lot easier. You have a clear idea of where you are going and what you want to achieve. Take the time to think about your long term goals to ensure what you do over the next year is still part of the greater plan.

Once you have your goals write them down somewhere you can refer to them. I like mine in my diary, you might like them on the wall above your desk but they need to be somewhere you can see them. Start thinking about deadlines for each goal as well so that you can start now to plan for them.

Then as the New Year starts you are already working on your goals and moving toward where you want to go.

My Writing Goals for 2015

  • I will continue to build website and blog for The Flow of Ink by posting more consistently
  • I will work on a greater presence on Facebook and Twitter by being more interactive with what I read.
  • Write and publish another short story by Christmas 2015
  • I will finish the final edit of Snow and investigate publishing options
  • I will finish the first draft and work on second of The Raven Crown Series
  • I will spend at least one hour every week playing with ideas for possible future stories or project ideas


Have you started to review how this year’s writing went and are you thinking about next year as a new world or continuation of this one?

Reading on Productivity


By El coleccionista de instantes [CC-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.