Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Month-End Update: July 2017

Camp NaNoWriMo 2017 WinnerJuly marked the first month with my revised goals and author vision. As you might remember from my June month-end update, I took 2017’s halfway mark to reevaluate my New Year’s resolutions, as well as consider who I am as an author and what I want for my independent publishing business.

These changes, combined with the fact that July was a book launch preparation month, have helped me focus on what’s really important. As silly as it might sound (and as invisible as it might be from the outside), I feel a new sense of purpose and maturity with my business.

However, now that The Tyrant’s Heir (Desertera #3) is all-but ready for publication, I’m also feeling a little lost. Yes, I have a massive to-do list to tackle (as always!), but I’m also standing at a proverbial crossroads. Should I finally start the new series I’ve been daydreaming about for months? Should I dive right back into Desertera and begin the fourth book? Should I take a creative break and focus on marketing for a while?

I’m not sure what I’ll do, but I know I’ll have fun figuring it out! For now, let’s take a look back at July – aka Camp NaNoWrimo #2.

Writing & Publishing

Main goals:
Create five days a week – doing really well
Edit The Tyrant’s Heir (Desertera #3) – done!
Publish The Tyrant’s Heir (Desertera #3) – on track

Technically, I won Camp NaNoWriMo by completing over 31 hours of “author work.” While I wanted to split my time between finalizing The Tyrant’s Heir (Desertera #3) and creating a Desertera short story for my Reader List, I ended up working solely on the book launch. But, it’s all good news. Readers will get the third book on August 8, and my Reader List subscribers will receive their bonus short story in a month or so. Everyone wins!

Business

Main goals:
Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press – catching up
Create short story for my Reader List – in progress
Blog once per week – on track
Read 52 books this year – catching up!

The “business” side took a backseat to publishing this past month. However, since I wasn’t working on my own writing, I took time to read a few books written by my author friends, and I hope to read more this month. Another big August goal? Officially deciding on my next writing project!

Books Read:
Deceived by Heena Rathore P.
The Gate Guardian’s Daughter by K.T. Munson
A Bhikku’s Tale by David R. Jordan
Cemetery Shift (Cheston Chronicles #1) by Nina del Arce

Book in Progress:
Friend or Foe: A MenoPausal Superhero Short Story Collection by Samantha Bryant
Face the Change (Menopausal Superheroes #3) by Samantha Bryant
Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

Personal

Main Goals:
Work on positivity – great!
Exercise 3x per week – doing a little better
Break a bad habit – on track
Recoup savings post-Yale – I’d say we’re nearly there!

As you might remember, I’m (kind of) in the middle of a cross-country move, and Daniel (the hubby) is adjusting to his new Ph.D. program. Despite these rather drastic changes, my personal goals remain strong. If the last few years of moving and post-university”adulting” have taught me anything, it’s to take life as it comes and appreciate the present moment. Now, if only I could be as wise about exercising …

Goals for August
Publish The Tyrant’s Heir (Desertera #3)
Write Desertera short story for my Reader List
Decide on and begin my next book project


How did my fellow NaNoWriMo campers fare? What are your goals for August? Share in the comments!

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: November 2016 (Come Vote!)

voteNovember really got away from me. After learning the much-needed (but still a little painful) lesson of obeying my own writing process, I got a little off track for the month. However, despite taking a few steps backward in my fiction efforts, I was able to complete my final nonfiction project for the year (more on that soon!), as well as tackle a couple of books on my review list.

My main takeaway for November is that I need to keep streamlining my author routine and reevaluate my priorities going into 2017. I’ll talk more about this when I do my reflection posts at the end of December, but suffice to say I’m already working on resolutions and setting up systems for the new year.

To that end, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want this website to be. I started this blog in 2014, with the goal of chronicling my author journey and holding myself accountable to my writing. In 2015, it became my “author website,” with a strong focus on writing/publishing advice and book reviews. This year, it’s really started to feel like not just my website, but a part of a larger community. As such, in 2017, I want to make my author website work even harder smarter for you.

There’s a poll at the end of this post. Please tell me which kinds of articles would be most beneficial or entertaining to you going forward, and feel free to leave any other suggestions or requests in the comments. This is YOUR chance to tell me what you like, what you don’t, and what will help you most in your own journey.

But, before you vote, here’s what I accomplished in November:

Writing & Editing

  • Blog Posts Written 5 and one guest post
  • Fiction Words Written  11,228
  • # of Days I Wrote Fiction  13
  • Nonfiction Prompts Written None new
  • # of Days I Wrote Nonfiction N/A
  • Drafts Revised Proofread and formatted nonfiction book
  • # of Days I Revised  5
  • Outlines Written – 1 (restructuring Desertera #3)
  • Days Without Creation/Production  12

Reading

*Remember, I review every book I read on my Goodreads page.

Author Business Activities

  • Put together prompts anthology
  • Goal-setting and administrative tasks in preparation for 2017
  • Beta-reading and reviewing books for fellow authors
  • Hosted part of a Facebook takeover event

Goals for December

  • Get back on track with Desertera #3
  • Properly announce prompts anthology
  • Wrap up pending book reviews and guest post commitments
  • Finalize plans for 2017


What did you accomplish in November? If you participated in NaNoWriMo, how did it go? What can I do to help you reach your goals in 2017? Share it all below!

Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

Writers: Judge Yourself by Your Own Standards

‘Comparisonitis’ is the most infectious disease in the writer community. Can you blame us? When John’s book has 100 five-star reviews and Jane has written six books this year and Joe has landed a major publishing deal, it’s difficult not to feel jealous and shame yourself for what you are/aren’t accomplishing.

Here’s your gentle reminder to CUT. IT. OUT.

nanowrimo-badgeAs I’m writing this post, we’re halfway through NaNoWriMo 2016. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is an online challenge where writers attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Some writers meet this goal in 24 hours (seriously — here’s proof), while others struggle to write 1,000 words over the entire month. NaNoWriMo is a great way to kickstart your writing project and meet new writer friends … but it’s also a vehicle for self-doubt. As you watch your ‘Buddies’ word counts climb, it can spur you to work harder or make you feel like an utter failure.

What you have to remember is that NaNoWriMo — like all writing — is not a competition. There are an infinite number of stories to be told and billions of readers to read them. The only person you should be worried about is yourself.

Take it from my experience. During my first NaNoWriMo, I went in with a plan, rocketed through the challenge, and wrote over 80,000 words that would become my first published novel, The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1). This year, I was utterly unprepared for NaNoWriMo. I didn’t have time to write an outline before November 1, so I went into the challenge with everything but a plot. Literally. This is my third book in the Desertera series. I have characters, a world, a list of questions to answer, and a looming series finale … but I had no idea what should actually happen in this novel.

Regardless, I powered through the first ~11,000 words. By this point in the book, I realized the key story structure issues and could already imagine a better story arc. I had a choice to make. I could continue with NaNoWriMo (which is honestly the path I recommend, especially if you’re writing your first book and just need to finish something), or I could stop writing, craft the outline I should have started with, and rewrite.

Initially, I didn’t want to stop writing. I was embarrassed to watch my friends out-write me, and I felt obligated to keep pushing because I had publicly committed to the challenge. However, I had to remember, this isn’t just me anymore.

Though writing is my passion, I’m not writing ONLY for fun. I’m writing to build a catalog of books, to make writing my full-time career, and to please a small (but wonderful!) readership. Winning NaNoWriMo, while a great accomplishment, can’t be my goal if it sacrifices the quality of my book or yields 90,000 unusable words that will delay my production schedule. So, I chose to fail in the short term to succeed in the long term.

writer-1Now, it’s your turn to look in the mirror. What are your goals for your writing? If you’re just writing for fun, do whatever you like! But if you’re writing for professional purposes, you might have to make some tough choices. Even if you’re also writing with hopes of creating a full-time career, your choices might not be the same as mine. That’s the beautiful thing about authorship: each writer, each book, each business is unique.

As you come up against roadblocks or simply notice recurring patterns in your writing or business choices, ask yourself three questions:

  1. How does this action further my writing goals?
  2. Is there a better way to work toward these goals?
  3. Do I feel satisfied and confident in this choice?

If the answers are unclear or nonexistent, it’s time to reevaluate. For me, pushing through NaNoWriMo would have yielded content, but it would have been poor content. By giving myself permission to plan and write my book properly, I will write a better rough draft, ease the publication process, and do what’s best for my business. Can you say the same about your writing choices?

*Note: this post is not an excuse to procrastinate or give up on your dreams. If you’re thinking of dropping out of NaNoWriMo or giving up on a draft just because it’s difficult work, you’re tired, etc., that’s not the same as making a small sacrifice in pursuit of a larger goal. Not sure? Let that nagging feeling in your gut be your compass.


Has comparing yourself to other writers been a challenge for you? How do you evaluate whether a writing choice is best for you or you just ‘keeping up with the Rowlings’? Share your tips in the comments!