Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

2016 Year-End Reflection

Before I announce my 2017 New Year resolutions, I wanted to take a few hundred words to reflect on my author journey up to this point. This is one of those posts that I’m writing as a time capsule for myself, but I hope you’ll find it useful or inspiring for your own creative life.

kate-m-colbyWhile 2016 has been a difficult year personally, it’s been my best year as an author and independent publisher. As I wrote previously, I’ve made some great accomplishments and done much more than I expected in just a year since I published The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1).

I’m not going to rehash those specific achievements. Instead, I want to outline my growth in a more general way. The Smarter Artist (aka Self-Publishing Podcast) guys talk about their years in terms of themes. Each year, they have a word that drives their creative decisions and business, and takes them one step further in their journeys. (For more, read Iterate & Optimize: Optimize Your Creative Business for Profit). By modeling this practice, I can review how far I’ve come and where to focus my efforts in 2017.

2014: Discovery

This was the year in which my author journey began. I learned about independent publishing, graduated from college, and wrote the first draft of my first novel.

2015: Learning

While I had a manuscript written at the end of 2014, this year marked my steepest learning curve. I researched every aspect of independent publishing, learned several new skills (e.g. formatting), and finally hit “publish.”

2016: Confirmation

Even though I’d been a published author since September 2015, it still didn’t feel real. This past year has been all about confirming things to myself. Was that first novel a fluke? (Nope! I wrote and published a sequel.) Is this really the career I want? (Yup! Each little milestone reminds me.) Is long-term success realistic? (Well, I’m not doing too badly so far … and I’ve got a plan in place!).

Instead of researching the logistics of publishing itself, my focus in 2016 switched to marketing and business planning. While I love my Desertera series, it’s a beast to market, as it doesn’t fit perfectly in one genre and it’s difficult to summarize in an “elevator pitch.” For my next series (which I hope to start drafting in 2017), my goal is to make an idea I love fit within an established genre.

On the business side, I went back to my (rather shallow) accounting roots. One of my 2016 New Year resolutions was to make $1,000 in royalties — which I did! These payments are not profit (as my book production and other costs exceed my revenue), but I’m willing to spend a couple years in the negative like most small businesses. However, I finally sat down and started tracking my gross profit margin (aka income minus expenses), which gives me my break-even and go-full-time years (assuming I stick to my budget and hit my royalty goals). If there’s interest, I’ll talk more about my financial plan in a future post.

Overall, 2016 was also my most consistent year in terms of creation. While I did not write as much fiction as I intended, I kept to my nonfiction production schedule and felt a burst of inspiration from my Fiction Ideas writing prompt booklets. As much as I enjoy writing nonfiction, I intend to make fiction a greater priority for 2017.

2017: Growth

I’ve come a long way in two-and-a-bit years, but I still have a far to go. For me, 2017 will be all about growth. You can read my specific goals here, but in general, I want to diversify the assets I have (aka finally make the leap into audiobooks!), focus on my writing craft (Story by Robert McKee is top of my TBR), find more readers/writers who share my passions, and of course, write more books (my new motto: Always be creating!). It’s a lot to take on, but I think I’m finally ready to make a major shift in my author life. And it starts today!

My final goal? I want to be more transparent with my writing process, business growth, and other aspects of this journey. I really admire indies who do this (see Joanna Penn’s recent post), but they are often already hugely successful. While this is inspiring, it can also be discouraging. It’s difficult to imagine that we’ll ever get to their levels, and their experiences don’t show how other creatives at “our level” are doing. By being more transparent now, I hope to provide a “realistic” look into independent publishing, as well as an example of growth (there’s that word again!).

I hope you’ll stay with me for the journey!

How was your 2016? What broad goals or hopes do you have for 2017? Share them below!

Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

The Power of a Writing Streak

If you can’t tell by my listed and categorized New Year’s resolutions (not to mention the countless other organizational habits I reveal through my website…), I’m a big fan of using efficiency, logic, and positivity to “trick” myself into being productive. And luckily for me, it’s still early enough in 2016 to do just that.

That's one way to keep me at the keyboard...
That’s one way to keep me at the keyboard…

Every day this year (yes, all whopping six of them at the time of this writing), I have written on one of my works-in-progress. Now, for you more seasoned authors, or you enviable full-time creatives, this probably isn’t impressive. But for those of you stuck in the day job grind or the continuous battle with “the muse,” you know that, sometimes, maintaining even a measly six day writing streak can feel like climbing a mountain. And with how much hell Desertera #2 is giving me, I feel like I’m tackling every inch of Everest.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m an “all or nothing” person. If I’m going to do something, I put all my energy into it and do the best job I can. If I don’t think I can do it well, I usually don’t even try. Is this a great philosophy? Obviously not. I’m continuously working on it, but for the time being, I’m learning to work with it. And if you want to accomplish your goals, whether writing or otherwise, you need to sit down, psychoanalyze yourself, figure out your weaknesses, and find a way to turn them into strengths.

Learning to manage this personality quirk has been one of my greatest accomplishments over the last few months. Slowly, but surely, I’ve seen a quantitative increase in my writing and a qualitative increase in my writing itself and my attitude towards it.

For those of you needing a little inspirational boost, here are some of the many benefits my writing streak has given me:

  • A sense of purpose
  • Increased confidence in my writing ability
  • Less “staring at the blank page” time when I start a session
  • A healthily growing word count
  • A sense of accomplishment
  • Greater creativity in other aspects of my life
  • Closer bond with my best friend (who is my alpha reader)
  • Validation of my authorial aspirations

And here are some of things my writing streak has taken away:

  • Guilt at not doing my creative work
  • Feelings of self-doubt and self-loathing
  • Time spent binge-watching Netflix

We’re only six days into 2016. I know I’m still in the New Year honeymoon phase, and I know this streak cannot last. But what I do know is that I’m making progress toward my most important goals, putting something good into the world (even if the world can’t experience it yet), and feeling better about myself in general. And all it takes is actually sitting down at the keyboard and putting in the work. Some days, it may be a struggle to get there, but if I can remember my strategies to get started…and the feeling I had while writing this post, I know I can keep hacking away at my goals, one word at a time.

As for you…if you want to join me in this honeymooner bliss (or stay here with me), you’ve got to commit. You’ve got to be brutally honest and figure out what’s keeping you from your ambitions. Fear? Laziness? Poor time management? Don’t be ashamed – we’re all human, and we all fail. Victories come one day, one minute, one word at a time. Find your weaknesses and learn how to beat them.

What goals are you working toward? What keeps you from writing or doing other creative work? How can you find the motivation to overcome your weaknesses?