Monday, January 2nd, 2017

Happy New Year! Have You Planned Your 2017 Yet?

Happy New Year!

I wish you peace, joy, prosperity and health in 2017!

Also: I wish you fulfillment of all your goals.

Did I mention resolutions? Nope.

I don’t believe in resolutions. Resolutions are something most people make between the countdown to the new year and the champagne they drink at 12:01. Almost no one sticks to their resolutions. I gave up making them more than a decade ago.

Instead, I make goals for the new year. I plan — which is not to say that things never hit the fan and life is golden. Things do happen, and I miss goals, but I generally get more accomplished than if I’d not planned to begin with.

I’ve been planning 2017 for a few months now, both personally and professionally, and made a few decisions about what I’ll be concentrating on in 2016. If you haven’t done any planning yet, use January as your planning month and move forward from there. It’s not too late.

Begin by Reviewing Your 2016
Always review last year (last month, last week) to see what you accomplished and what you could do better. Here are some questions to think about:

– What major events happened in 2016?
     – Finish a book? Publish a book? Attend a convention or writing retreat?
– What big and small goals did you accomplish?
     – Learn how to self publish? Write cover copy? Use a new social media venue?
– What challenges did you overcome?
     – Speak in public? Submit a story to an agent? Finish a short story?
– What could you have done better?
     – Spent more time in the writing chair? Listened to your critique group or editor about something? Concentrate on area of writing: dialogue, grammar, scene setting?
– Have you become a better writer in any way?
     – Finished more scenes? Wrote more words? Took a grammar or spelling class? Studied dialogue?

Even if you’re not a writer, you can use these questions to plan, just consider them outside the writing angle.

If you’re not a writer, consider:

– What big things happened in 2016?
– What large and small things did you accomplish?
– What did you overcome?
– What could you have done better?
– Have you become a better (husband/wife/co-worker/fill-in-the-blank) in any way?

Next, Decide What You Want to Do

Now, consider what you want to be. I know that’s a bit vague, but planning your goals will depend on what you want to be at the end of the year.

– Do you want to be a better writer? If so, what is your definition of “better?” Find your voice? Improve your grammar? Write more words? Accomplish more chapters? Finish more books?
– For non-writers (or, even for writers who want to tackle both professional and personal goals: do you want to spend more time with your family? Lose weight? Improve a particular skill? Etc.

Be specific here. You can’t plan effectively if you don’t have a specific goal.

For example: “Lose weight” is not a specific goal. Instead, consider, “Lose 10 pounds by March.” For writers, instead of “Write more,” try, “Write 10,000 words per month.”

Once you have a specific goal, you can break it down into smaller steps. Work on those steps daily, and you can accomplish great things.

Are you like me? There are too many goals on your list for this year? That’s where prioritizing comes in. I’ll write about that next week…

I hope you’ll plan with me this year. Some of my goals include:

– Increasing my word-count production by 10%
– Writing a non-fiction book (as well as the fiction and short stories!)
– Taking a class on marketing

What do you hope to accomplish this year? Leave me a note in the comments! =)

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Half the Year’s Over – How Are Those Resolutions?

I have an ambitious list of resolutions for 2011, if you recall.

So how am I doing? As usual, I’m happy with my progress on some goals and not so happy with my progress on others.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about epublishing and the state of ‘the writing business’ in general, and some of the goals I had in January don’t line up with where my current thinking is. I’m beginning to steer myself toward longer works, rather than shorter, and doggedly pursuing some of these items will take me further away from where I currently want to be.

With that in mind, I’ll probably strike a few of these goals off the list.

Here’s the nitty gritty:

  • Write 302 out of 365 days in 2011.
      Fail! Even if I write every single day for the rest of the year, I won’t hit this mark. Something tells me I should have aimed a little lower with this one. I haven’t updated my spreadsheet for the last week or so, so my numbers are a bit off. However, it looks like I might make about 80% if I write nearly every day for the rest of the year.
  • Triple last year’s fiction output.
    • On target. Even with not hitting the daily writing mark I’ve set, I’ve managed to double last year’s fiction goal. This irritates me a bit because if I were writing nearly every day like I want to, I’d really see the numbers climbing.
  • Finish the two short stories that have plagued me since the beginning of 2010….or trunk them.
      Fail! Or maybe, Complete!! I wrote this goal poorly. Can you tell? I haven’t even looked at these two stories, so I will probably trunk them. That means Complete! Right? (This is the first goal I’m going to discard.)
  • Finish the first draft of my current work-in-progress novel.
    • On Target. I’ve written 25,000 additional words since January.
  • Write and submit 6 non-fiction articles.
    • Fail! I’ve written 0 articles this year, although three I wrote last year were finally published. (I could probably still meet this goal, but it doesn’t line up with my “longer works” goals. So, I’ll probably abandon this goal, too, before the year is out.)
  • Write at least three blog posts per week for a total of 156 blog posts for 2011.
    • On target.
  • Fifty-two of the above mentioned blog posts must be writing prompts.
      On Target: I’ve created a Writing Prompt every Friday since the beginning of the year.
  • Make 30 fiction submissions this year, only 1/3 (or less!) of which can be flash or micro-fiction.
      Fail! (But not by much.) I’ve only submitted 10 stories this year. I can probably make this up by the end of the year, provided I have some additional short fiction finished…and, well, we know where my goals lie, so I’m not sure I can do this.
  • Finish reading Sol Stein’s ‘How to Grow a Novel.’
    • COMPLETE!! Finally! Excellent book, though a tad dated for today’s market. Expect a full review sometime “soon.”
  • Send 25 query letters to agents.
    • I’m not hopeful about this. Early on I decided that the anticipated novel I was going to shop needed one more ‘read through’ and I found a section I want to completely re-write, so I haven’t moved on this. It’s late in the novel, so there’s an opportunity for me to send out the queries and fix the section before some agent (or editor) asks for a full, but I really want it “all done” before I send anything out.

So…that’s it for me. How about you? If you’re over-exceeding your goals, will you be raising them? Are you abandoning any ill-made resolutions, like I am? Inquiring minds want to know!

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

2010 Year in Review, Part 2

Statistics of GoalsWord Count

I’ve finally finished tallying all my numbers from last year. In some areas I’m pleased, in others…not so much. Some of my displeasure arises from the way I set my goals.

For example:

I exceeded my word count goal, reaching 174% of the objective.

This would suggest that I set my goal too low and need to increase it for 2011.

But if we discount everything I wrote except for fiction, I only reached 25% of my goal.

Yet – part of my 2010 goals were dedicated specifically to promotion of my book and trying to attract readers to my blog. So neither 174% of goal, nor 25% of goal, tell the whole picture.

I can break it down further:

I reached 91% of my word count goal in blog posts alone. And promotional guest blog posts and non-fiction articles I wrote consist of 59%. .

I would have liked to have written more fiction. I would have liked to have had more finished stories to submit. But I wasn’t specific enough when I set my goals last year. (See that post here.)

This year, I’ll create separate goals for each of these three categories of writing.

Days Written:

My goal was to write between 57% and 71% of the days of the year. (An increase over the 53% of the days I wrote in 2009.)

I wrote on 215 days of the year, or 59%.

I reached my goal, but it felt like an uphill battle most of the time.

I’m toying with the idea of trying to average 6 days a week of writing minus 10 Federal holidays. This would bring the “writing days of the year” down to 302, rather than 365.

Using that number, I would have attained my 71% goal. But: I haven’t decided if this is “cheating” or not. (What do you think?)

Short Fiction Stats

Completed Written: 3, but all were flash fiction

Incomplete: (Started in 2010) 0

Incomplete: (Started 2009 or earlier) 2

Completed Stories just sitting around doing nothing: 10 – this includes two stories which have been published and the rights reverted back to me.

Submissions Stats

Fiction Submissions: 11

Fiction Acceptances: 2, and I have 2 outstanding submissions.

So: 22% acceptances so far. This could rise to as much as 36% or dip as low as 18 % once the other markets respond.

In 2009 I submitted 25 times and had 5 sales, for 20% — roughly the same rate of acceptance. But I’d rather have more sales.

I didn’t actually set a goal for submissions in 2010, but I will for 2011.

Novel Stats

Revisions: 3/4 complete on 1
Completed: None
Started: Two
Queries: None, but did not intend to do so

For 2011, I’ll be setting a query submission goal.


3 articles written and 3 published

These aren’t counted in my submission statistics because they were guaranteed publication….but I’m not sure how to count them when I do my comparison at the end of this year. I might wind up adding them after all.

4 newsletter items written, 1 published – but the newsletter these were written for went belly up after my first article appeared.

These, too, aren’t counted in my submission stats for the same reason as the articles. Again, they might end up in the submissions spreadsheet, simply because record keeping will be easier.

Other Goals

I also wanted to:

1 – meet more people
2 – attend an additional convention
3 – do more readings

I managed to do all three, the first accomplished mostly by attaining the second two as I added Darkover attendance and readings at both the Constellation Book Store in October and the Library of Congress (with Ellen Kushner and Catherine Asaro!) in March.

I’d also intended to try two writing software programs (yWriter and Writer’s Dream Kit) and post reviews. I did try WDK, but didn’t write a review. Maybe I can find time for that in 2011.

This year, I intend to write more fiction — including finishing one of the novels I started in 2010 — and search for an agent. I’ll post official — well defined — goals later.

How did you do with your goals?

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

2010: Writing Year in Review – Part 1

I’m starting to set goals for the New Year, but before I can do so, I needed to look through the events and accomplishments of the past year to see how I’d done. I’m just now finishing up my review.

Overall, I’m pleased – though I recognize a few areas I can improve on. There are also some lessons learned.

I’m nearly finished edits on a new novel and will be seeking representation early in 2011. So, my main focus for 2010 was “building my platform,” as current wisdom suggests that writers looking for agents need to have a platform in order to score one.

To that end, I engaged in the following platform-building activities last year:

  • 3 “Rapid Fire Readings” and participation on several panels at Balticon, Capclave and Darkover Conventions
  • 4 seminars taught (How to Sell Short Fiction) at all three conventions, plus once at a Maryland Writer’s Association meeting
  • In February, I participated in a reading at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC along with Ellen Kushner, Catherine Asaro and others. I also did a reading at Constellation Book Store with authors in the Bad Ass Fairies Anthology series
  • I joined my state writers group and became secretary of the local chapter
  • I created an Amazon Author page, joined Facebook and, in December, checked out Networked Blogs. (Jury’s still out, there.)
  • I taught a half-semester writing course at the local community college
  • I engaged in a one “failed” blog tour

    That comment probably deserves some explanation as to why I call it failed: I contracted with a company who promised to 1) book me on 20 different sci fi/fantasy and horror blogs, 2) create a graphic which I could use to promote the tour, and 3) create a “motion banner” which I could use for advertisement.

    By the start date of the tour, they’d booked me on fewer than half the required blogs, and the ones they did book me on were predominantly romance or young-adult themed. The “graphic” was a slice of my book cover, neither artfully, nor skillfully, done. (It was horrible.) And the motion banner had still not been created more than two-thirds through the tour. I finally told them to cease trying to make one.

    But I made lemonade when I called on fellow Broads at Broad Universe , as well as fellow authors at both Eternal Press and Damnation Books.

    Thanks to those authors, I wound up with guest posts and interviews at 27 other blogs. (Thank you, fellow authors!)

    Lessons learned:

    • Get more than one or two opinions of a company’s ability to perform.
    • “Past performance is not an indicator of future performance” – in a company’s ability to perform.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask for help – even from casual acquaintances.

  • In October, I joined EPIC – the Electronically Published Internet Connection (Formerly EPPIE), in some part to see if Blood Soup could win another award, but mostly in order to make more connections. (Sadly, I’ve not involved myself as much as I probably should.)
  • Also in October, I signed with a publicity company to bring more traffic to my Web site. We’ll need to wait a few months to see how this pans out.

    Has the work paid off? Yes and no.

    The good: I’ve been asked back to several of the conventions. I’ve been asked to teach my seminar again. And (the best part, IMO), I’ve been asked to participate in a few “invitation only” anthologies.

    The bad: I’m really tired.   (It’s been a really involved year!) Also: my writing output suffered. I exceeded my word-count goal, but only because I wrote so much non-fiction.

    So…that’s it for platform building.

    This post is getting long, so I’ll end for now. In the next installment, I’ll talk about the hard numbers: words I wrote, submissions I made, sales, etc.

    What did you do to build your platform last year?