Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Month-End Update: April 2017

Well, I’m back from Camp NaNoWriMo, covered in bug bites and stuffed to the brim with smores. While I didn’t win (darn it!), I did add nearly 40,000 words to my draft of Desertera #3. This puts me well on the way to done, and I should have the manuscript wrapped up over the next week or two.

To be honest, most of April is a blur. Specifically, a blur of Scrivener documents, penciled outlines, and story discussions with my alpha reader. Still, I managed to sneak in a little bit of fun. In preparation of my husband’s graduation from Yale, we’ve started a taste tour of local restaurants and have had many fun double dates and friends’ nights.

It’s definitely been a challenge to balance writing, business, my day job, and my social life, but I’m doing my best. That’s all any of us can do, right? As for May, the first half (and a bit) will be focused on getting Desertera #3 to the editor. Over the second half, I’ll be celebrating my husband’s graduation and spending time all around New England with him and our parents. It should be a lovely (and well deserved) break!

Writing & Publishing

Main goals:
Create five days a week – back on track!
Write Desertera #3 – almost done!

Thanks to the pressure of Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve made fantastic progress on my manuscript of Desertera #3. My main goal this month will be finishing it up and completing the necessary content edits before it goes to the professional editor in the middle of the month. Because I’ve been editing as I write, this process should be pretty easy!

Business

Main goals:
Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press – catching up
Blog twice per week – slightly behind
Maintain social media schedule – slightly behind
Read 52 books this year – slightly behind

As tends to be my pattern, I struggled with balancing my writing and other business activities. However, I did blog at least once a week, and I did participate in two separate marketing events. Given my editing deadline and upcoming personal commitments, I anticipate more unevenness this month. Luckily, I should have plenty of time to get caught up in this area over the summer.

Books Read:
None

Book in Progress: Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

Personal

Main Goals:
Work on positivity – great!
Exercise 3x per week – better than zero
Break a bad habit – on track
Make post-Yale plan – pretty much done

Even with all the craziness and uncertainty coming up, I’ve stayed in positive spirits and haven’t fallen back into bad habits. Most excitingly, my husband and I have made our plan for after his graduation from Yale, and while we still have a few minor details to iron out, we’re in good shape for our short- and mid-term future. We’ve also planned two fun mini-vacations for the end of the month, so watch my Instagram for photos!

Goals for May
Send Desertera #3 to my editor
Enjoy our post-graduation mini-vacations
Keep refining my balance between writing and other responsibilities


How did my fellow NaNoWriMo campers fare? Any exciting plans for May? Share in the comments!

Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Month-End Update: March 2017

March has put me in a difficult position for my monthly update. I have two steadfast rules for my website: I try to be completely honest and transparent, and I try to be positive and encouraging. Balancing the two will be tough for this post, so please forgive me if it’s a bit of a downer.

This month, my grandpa passed away after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. This came only two and a half months after another family death, a horrible, unexpected tragedy that occurred two days after Christmas. While my grandpa’s death wasn’t unexpected (his health had been declining rapidly over the past year), it was still difficult to watch my family go through it from 2,000 miles away (I was home at Christmas). I already feel a great deal of guilt about living so far away from home (even temporarily) and this experience brought all that negativity to the forefront. Fortunately, I was able to say goodbye over the phone and travel home to attend the celebration of life.

Why am I telling you this? Because I learned a few valuable lessons this month that might help you, too.

First, there’s a difference between procrastination and needing time off writing. Even with all this heartache, I still felt guilty about abandoning my writing while grieving. It took a very loving, and appropriately stern, talk from my husband to help me realize that sometimes it’s important to give yourself a break. If you need that permission, here it is: sometimes other aspects of life trump writing; get through them so you can get back to your craft.

Second, I realized how thankful I am to be alive and in my life. My grandpa went into hospice care on my 25th birthday, and the collision of these events forced me to take a hard look at my situation. All I could come up with was gratitude — for my health, for the end of his suffering, and for the fact that, out of all the grandpas in the world, he was mine. The lesson? When tragedy comes to you, focus on the good.

Last, story is powerful. At my grandpa’s celebration of life, several friends and family members shared stories about him and what he had meant to them. Not only did this pay tribute to him, but it proved just how significant storytelling is. As writers, even of fiction, we bring real-life experiences and pieces of real people into our work. We give escape. We offer connection. We grant immortality. I have never been so proud to be a storyteller as I was that night.

All that being said, it won’t be a surprise that March was an unproductive month. Therefore, I’ll keep the rest of the update short and sweet. As always, I would love your comments, but please don’t feel obligated to mention my loss. I didn’t share for pity or compassion, only to share those writing lessons.

And for April? I’ll be diving headfirst into Camp NaNoWriMo to get my draft of Desertera #3 back on track. With a few other promotions lined up, it’s going to be a very busy month, but I’m looking forward to it. At least in Desertera, the only problems belong to my characters!

Writing & Publishing

Main goals:
Create five days a week – behind
Write Desertera #3 – behind

Time to get caught up!

Business

Main goals:
Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press – catching up
Blog twice per week – on track
Maintain social media schedule – slightly behind
Read 52 books this year – catching up

In positive news, my husband went home to visit friends and family in Australia, and delivered several signed paperbacks. To my surprise, they bought up all the copies of The Courtesan’s Avenger I had left–so I actually had a decent month from a financial perspective. The blog stayed on track, thanks to my scheduling ahead and a few announcements and guest posts. I let social media fall to the wayside, but I did do a little extra reading to distract myself from everything, so that was good!

Books Read:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10, Volume 1 by Christos Gage — 5 stars (maybe my favorite Buffy comic yet!)
Angel & Faith: Season 10, Volume 1 by Victor Gischler — 4 stars
Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England by Elizabeth Reis — 5 stars
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood — 5 stars (totally lives up to the hype!)
Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft by Paul S. Boyer — 4 stars

Book in Progress: None right now!

Next Up: Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

Personal

Main Goals:
Work on positivity – surprisingly, still good!
Exercise 3x per week – um…
Break a bad habit – on track
Make post-Yale plan – coming along well

As I shared in my lessons above, I’ve made an effort to stay positive, and it’s really paying off. My husband and I are also making great progress with our plans for after he graduates from Yale … though at the expense of the gym!

Goals for April
Continue drafting Desertera #3
Participate in the Brains to Books Cyber Convention this weekend (April 7, 8, 9) — (Sci-Fi fans – join the Facebook group here!)
Keep refining my balance between writing and other responsibilities


How did March treat you? Will you be heading off to Camp NaNoWriMo this April? Share in the comments!

Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Month-End Update: February 2017

monthly-updateAnd so ends the too-short month of February. Fun fact (courtesy of my new Amazon Echo): apparently, February used to have more days, but the emperor Augustus stole a few for August so his namesake month wouldn’t be the shortest. Talk about ego!

Anyway, I hope your February was productive and cheerful. As you’ll read below, I spent the month catching up on some of my smaller goals. While I still have some work to do on the writing front and I haven’t stepped foot in the gym, I’m in a really positive place right now. March should be an even better month, as I have a few exciting personal events planned (including my 25th birthday!) and I’ll have a two-week time span that I can devote almost entirely to drafting Desertera #3.

Check out my more detailed recap below, then share your own successes and goals in the comments!

Writing & Publishing

Main goals:
Create five days a week – on track
Write Desertera #3 – on track

While I made overall progress in February and stuck to my larger creation goal, I’m not where I would like to be word-count-wise with Desertera #3. Part of this is that I finally figured out the aspects of the plot that were bugging me, which meant I spent some of my drafting time revising chapters I’d already written. I also went down the research rabbit hole of a future idea, which was a fun, but irresponsible, choice.

Perhaps the most exciting writing update is that I have booked my editing date for Desertera #3 (mid-May)! Given that I do my best work with a deadline, I’m confident I’ll pick up the pace over March and April and get this manuscript knocked out on schedule.

Business

Main goals:
Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press – slightly behind
Blog twice per week – on track
Maintain social media schedule – on track
Read 52 books this year – slightly behind

As I said last month, I’ve adjusted my marketing and production goals already, so I’m fine with my financial progress thus far. It should be relatively easy to get back on track when Desertera #3 launches (hopefully in late July!). On the blogging front, I am really enjoying the subtle changes I’ve made to the website and have happily hosted a few guest posts. (If you’d like to submit an article, just contact me!)

My social media schedule is back on track. At its core, my aim is to put out consistent, high-quality, and REAL content for my readers and fellow authors. No ridiculously staged photos or click-baity stuff here. Likewise, I’m catching up on my reading goal and have had a lot of fun diving into witchcraft research for a future series.

Books Read:
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs – 4 stars
#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso – 4 stars
The Devil’s Dominion: Magic and Religion in Early New England by Richard Godbeer – 4 stars

Book in Progress: Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England
by Elizabeth Reis

Next UpBuffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10, Volume 1 by Joss Whedon

Personal

Main Goals:
Work on positivity – better!
Exercise 3x per week – um…
Break a bad habit – on track
Make post-Yale plan – started!

After a difficult end to 2016 and rough January, I’m thrilled to report that my personal goals are moving along. My husband has received an offer to a PhD program, so we’re starting to formulate a new five-year plan. Even in the wake of all this change, I’ve kept a positive attitude and feel at peace with where my life is now. While March looks busy (sorry, gym!), I think it will be a great month for planning and introspection (by which I mean my quarter-life “crisis” – happy early birthday to me!).

Goals for March
Continue drafting Desertera #3
Have my quarter-life crisis (Seriously, I’m so excited for an excuse to be selfishly introspective!)
Keep refining my balance between writing and other responsibilities


How did February treat you? What are your goals for March? Share in the comments!

Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Month-End Update: January 2017

monthly-update

If you’ve followed my fiction blog for a while, you’ll know that I share updates at the end of each calendar month. In previous years, I have recapped my writing/editing progress, the books I have read or reviewed, and any notable business activities. In 2017, I’ll include all of that, but I will be structuring the posts a little differently to help me stay focused on my New Year’s Resolutions.

January started off as a difficult month. I won’t go into it here, but I had a family emergency at the end of December, which left me (to put it lightly) tired and uninspired. To ease myself back into a working mindset, I did a little reading and focused on nonfiction early in the month. About halfway through January, I switched back to the world of fiction, and I feel like I’ve finally hit my stride with the third Desertera novel. I’m hoping for smooth sailing from here on out!

Writing & Publishing

Main goals:
Create five days a week – on track
Write Desertera #3 – on track

As I said above, I’m pleased with the progress I’m making on the novel so far. Even though only 13 days of the month were dedicated to Desertera #3, I wrote 12,798 words. When you factor in the nonfiction work I did (see below), I kept to my creation goal of averaging five days per week. It’s not the super-charged start I was hoping for, but I’m pleased with my progress and ready to take on February!

Business

Main goals:
Create freebie for Writing Newsletter – finished!
Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press – slightly behind
Blog twice per week – on track
Maintain social media schedule – room to improve
Read 52 books this year – slightly behind

My biggest accomplishment in the business sector was writing and putting out 100 Blogging Ideas for Fiction Writers (the freebie for subscribers to my Writing Newsletter – see sidebar). I really enjoyed this task, because it helped get my creative gears spinning again, and I think it will be a useful booklet for other writers.

As for my financial target, I made enough in royalties to match my 2016 income, but not enough to reach my $2,000 goal for 2017. This is expected, as I’ve decided to concentrate my marketing budget around the launch of the third book, which I expect to make up the bulk of my revenue for the year.

My other business goals are also in decent shape. I published an average of two blog posts per week. My social media schedule slipped a bit, but I’ve gotten back on track now. Likewise, I’m not quite reading as much as I’d hoped (it’s tough to find time while in the first draft stage with a book), but I’m still making good progress.

Books Read:
Desecration (London Psychic #1) by J.F. Penn – 4 Stars
Delirium (London Psychic #2) by J.F. Penn – 5 Stars

Book in Progress: Deviance (London Psychic #3) by J.F. Penn

Next Up: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Personal

Main Goals:
Work on positivity – hahaha
Exercise 3x per week – starting to make progress
Break a bad habit – doing surprisingly well!

I’ll keep this section brief, because as much as I enjoy sharing my life with you, there are certain things I must reserve for myself. Suffice to say, I need to refocus on my positivity and up my gym attendance from 1-2 days a week to my goal of three. However, I’ve made a lot of progress with the habit I need to break, so that’s positive!

Goals for February
Continue drafting Desertera #3 (reach 40,000 words)
Catch up on lapsing goals (especially reading and exercise)
Work on balancing writing with other responsibilities


How has 2017 treated you so far? What are your goals going into February? Share in the comments!

Writing & Publishing Articles

What Writing Taught Me About Exercise

writing-and-exerciseBelieve it or not, I used to be a “sporty” kid. Now, I’m not saying that I had great athletic talent (far from it), but I played basketball for seven years, tried cheerleading and volleyball for two, and rode horses competitively (and for leisure) until I went to university. However, somewhere along the way I lost touch with physical activity.

“Somewhere” means age 14 to 15. It started in freshman volleyball, when my coach played favorites (I was not one) and made the rest of the team miserable. Couple that with breaking my arm while horseback riding the following summer, and I was ready to give up sports. I went from a casual athlete to a proud, non-exercising emo kid (but that’s another story).

Since graduating university, I’ve tried to get back into exercise. It’s been a difficult journey, but I think I’m finally making worthy progress again. While I doubt I’ll ever be able to do the splits or run a mile again, I hope to be reasonably fit for my age and keep my body healthy.

exerciseSo, what does all of this have to do with writing? A lot, actually.

In my efforts to rejoin the world of exercise, I’ve noticed numerous parallels between my “health” journey and my “writing” journey. For more on how exercise can help your writing (aka the reverse of this post), click here. Maybe some of them will help you with your own goals, or encourage you to break out that old notebook or yoga mat (whichever you need most).

Step 1: Labeling myself

I don’t believe that you can have success as a writer until you identify as a writer or as “someone who writes.” Making this simple shift enabled me to write my first novel. This same logic applies to my exercise goals. For the longest time, I saw myself as a gym outsider because I don’t identify as an athlete anymore. When I started thinking of myself as “someone who goes to the gym,” I suddenly felt the permission to go. Silly, but important.

Step 2: Choosing my “why”

While I love writing for fun, it was never reason enough for me to finish a novel. It was only when I set a specific, short-term goal (winning National Novel Writing Month) and a long-term goal (becoming a full-time author) that I finished a book. Similarly, when I tried to exercise just because I “should,” I rarely did. Now that I have specific, health-related goals, I’m much more motivated to exercise.

Step 3: Playing the long game

Like writing, exercise is a long-term goal. In order to see any benefit, you must commit to doing it every day (or several times a week). At first, this sucks. But, after I made exercise a regular part of my weekly schedule, both going to the gym and working out while there became easier.

teamStep 4: Finding a partner

My friend Jonas and I hold each other accountable to our writing goals. While we work separately, we’re walking the path to full-time authorship together. Similarly, my husband and I attend the gym together. Once there, we work out in separate spaces, but we both leave feeling encouraged and confident.

Step 5: Making good use of the time

A productive writing session consists of scheduling the time, planning the scene, then writing with 100% focus and 0% self-criticism. I’ve learned to apply this same system to my gym sessions. The only exception? If I focus on working out, I feel like passing out. Instead, I listen to podcasts or people watch.

Step 6: Forgiving lapses

If you fail to write, don’t guilt yourself. Promise to do better tomorrow. Same goes for exercise.

Step 7: Tracking my progress

I keep track of my daily word counts in a spreadsheet. This helps motivate me to grow my totals and avoid a “blacked-out” day on the calendar. I’m going to apply a similar, weekly system for exercise to keep myself on track.

Step 8: Learning from others

We’ve all seen those “writers” who constantly complain about writer’s block or their misbehaving muse and never write. On the other hand, we’ve all seen those non-stop superstars who we want to emulate. You’ll find those same people at the gym. Every session, I see people come in, do five minutes on the treadmill, and leave. But then there’s Stair Master Guy. He’s a middle-aged man who has been at the gym literally EVERY time I’ve gone – always on the Stair Master, always drenched in sweat. Now that is commitment I want to emulate.

While I have a good start on my writing journey, I still have a long way to go on the road to physical fitness. However, looking at the parallels between the two gives me hope. If I can go from a grumbling, suffering, wannabe writer to a published entrepreneur with two novels, surely I can go from couch potato to routine exerciser. Neither path is easy – but then again, I heard somewhere that nothing worth doing ever is.

So, take it from me. Whether you want to write a book, run a mile, or achieve some other dream, you can do it. The going is slow and difficult and not always fun, but you will get there with patience, commitment, and a positive attitude.


What writing lessons have proved useful in other areas of your life? What non-writing activities have taught you to be a better writer? Share in the comments.