Tag Archives: author

Setting Writing Goals: The Numbers Game

I’m having one of those moments in my writing where I feel like I have discovered the secret to writing consistently. Well, for myself. Since everyone is different, what works well for me probably won’t work well for 80% of writers out there. At least, that’s how I always feel when I read writing advice. I’m still on the look out for good ways to plot/outline a novel ahead of time, but here it is what I have found that works for me in terms of actually getting the writing done.

Word count goals. Daily ones. Monthly ones. Several monthly ones.

I know that it sounds odd, but at least for me, I found that when I set lofty monthly goals that I missed, my confidence came crashing down to earth (*cough* NaNoWriMo *cough*). After being somewhat stumped with my current project, I joined Camp NaNoWriMo to boost my word count. I hoped to write 15,000 words in 31 days to double my word count. The Camp NaNoWriMo website had a little bar graph that grew as you entered in your daily word count. Watching the bar grow and exceed the projected word count was a pay-off. Each day I strove to exceed that projected word count more and more. By the end of the month, I had written 20,000 words instead of 15,000 words.

This was what worked. It held me accountable to a projected word count while giving me the pay-off of a visual graph that showed me exceeding my goal. Currently, I’m using one of these word count charts. They’re great because they have the same graph visual at the top along with a yearly goal, monthly goal, and projected daily goals. The sheet also tells you if you are on target to finish on time. It’s everything the numbers girl in me needs to stay on track: instant feedback, a visual pay-off, and something that is changeable.

The second part of my numbers game is that I have been setting multiple goals per month. Here is a note I made for myself on my iPhone to track my writing goals for the next few months until I finish The Earl and the Artificer:

word count goals (In case you’re wondering, July’s goals are all the same because I completed it, and the word count determines what other months will look like). As you can see, there are three goals for August: a minimum, a stretch, and a far goal. The reason I set a minimum goal is because I know things come up. For September, my minimum goal is so small because the semester starts up again, and I’m not sure what I will face and how much my writing will be affected by stress, fatigue, and assignments. My only rule for my goals is that the minimum goal cannot get smaller. I will not reduce it. It’s low for a reason, but I will hit it no matter what. I ended up creating a stretch goal and a far goal because I didn’t want to say that I had a maximum goal. If I write 40,000 words instead of 20,000, that’s a far goal but never a maximum. There is only greater than, not a less than for my writing goals. If asked, my real goal is probably the stretch goal. I would really like to hit at least that one every month without fail, but I wanted to have a fail-safe in the minimum goal. Plus it feels good to hit the milestones. That minor pay-off helps to boost you to the major pay-off.

Right now, I’m projected to hitting my minimum goal for August on the 19th. That means, I’ll have about twelve days to add 5,000 more words, which is more than doable. Then, I have the far goal, which I’m pretty sure I will meet as well.

One thing I have also noticed while charting my progress is that my daily word count has also gone up. For both July and August, I have had the same monthly goal, 15,000 words, which means a daily word count goal of 484 words. In July my daily word count average was 645 words per day, and in August, it has jumped to 782 words per day. Right now I don’t know whether to attribute that to wanting to succeed and pushing myself or if it has gotten easier to write book three now that I’m over the hump. The second halves of books tend to write themselves or at least go easier than the first half.

For the tl;dr version: set realistic goals each month, then set one that will make you push yourself, and if you want to really challenge yourself, set another milestone. Chart your daily progress and see if you improve.


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“An Oxford Holiday” is Out on Amazon!

Just a quick little Friday post.

An Oxford Holiday cover

My short story “An Oxford Holiday” is now out on Amazon! It is an 8,000 word short story featuring Adam and Immanuel from The Winter Garden. The story is a bit of a romance piece. I wanted to challenge myself because I don’t usually write romance-based plots, and I rarely write short stories. It is 99 cents and can be found here.

If you would like to add it to your Goodread’s to-be-read list, just click here.

Here is the blurb:

After a trying two months at Oxford dealing with miserable classmates and isolation, all Immanuel Winter wants is a peaceful weekend with Adam— two days where they could forget about the impossibilities of their future together.

But when the arrival of a radical female lawyer turns the university upside down, their holiday plans are put in jeopardy.

Will Adam and Immanuel be able to escape the horde of dons descending upon the city or will they be forced to postpone their plans and their future?

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Word Counts, “Winning”, and Giveaways

nanowrimo

According to the Camp Nanowrimo website, I “won” last night, which means I completed my goal of writing 15,000 words in a month. At 11:30 last night when I reached my goal, I was beyond thrilled. I literally doubled the length of my manuscript in less than a month. I know for some writers 15,000 words is a small word count total for a month, but for me, it had taken nearly four months to reach 15,000 words the first time (my classwork and lack of mojo are what I blame for this weird writing slump). The writing slump and lack of creative productivity drove me crazy, and when I started Camp Nanowrimo, I was expecting to once again ditch my goals like I did in April.

What surprised me about this experience was how seeing the bar grow and my daily word count goal be met day after day made it that much easier to write. Before this month, I tended to be a feast or famine writer. I would sit down at the keyboard and either write half a chapter or write nothing at all. During July, I found myself writing each night without fail at about the same time. I think this consistency is what led to my “success” with this experiment. They say it takes about two weeks to a month to form a habit, and I can say that by about the third week, my brain seemed to automatically engage around 10 PM to tell me, “Okay, let’s get this writing show on the road.” It happened whether I was tired or wide-awake, and from 10 PM to midnight (sometimes later if the words were flowing), I would type away. To start, I would edit what I wrote the previous night, but after one or two passes, I would get cracking. This seemed to work because by doing some minor editing/adding, I became reacquainted with my work and satisfied my need to edit at the same time. Next month, I hope to hit 45,000 words (aka write 15,000 words).

earl of brassWhy is there a random picture of a cover of The Earl of Brass you may ask? Because I am doing a giveaway of two paperbacks on Goodreads. You can find it here.

May the odds be in your favor. If you’re willing, I hope you will share my Goodreads giveaway with any friends you think may be interested.

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May 2015 in Review

Starting in January, I decided it would be a good idea to look back at each month and see what I have accomplished in my writing and marketing as well as reflect upon what needs to be improved in the future.

School’s out for summer! May has been the month of sweet freedom. Unlike April, which was stressful and made me want to tear my hair out, May has been lovely. Currently, I am at home except for one day a week where I work at my office job, and now I finally have time to write and read, which means, I can hopefully get a lot of work done in preparation for the fall semester. Yes, everything revolves around grad school… and writing, which is practically the same thing when you’re working toward an MFA in creative writing. Shockingly, I think I accomplished most of the goals I set last month.

What I did accomplish:

  1. Finished my last bit of schoolwork and received good grades
  2. Continued to blog and create a monthly newsletter
  3. Wrote 2 chapters of The Earl and the Artificer
  4. Edited The Earl and the Artificer
  5. Read 3 novels, a novella, and a short story (and began Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell)
  6. Didn’t stress out at the Steampunk World’s Fair

Goals for June:

  1. Write 4 chapters of The Earl and the Artificer
  2. Work on creating a routine to be able to write every day
  3. Read every day
  4. Continue to produce content for my blog and newsletter
  5. Research marketing (possibly buy Susan Kaye Quinn’s marketing book)
  6. Get out of the house more

The last goal may seem a bit odd, but as an only child who lives at home and has the summers off for the most part, I become a hermit– a cranky, bored, semi-delusional hermit by the end of the summer. Cabin fever does not help my productivity, so this summer I am hoping to maybe get out a bit more when possible. I’m hoping that on Thursdays when my boyfriend is home from work that maybe we can go to the beach and sit and write/draw by the water. We are also celebrating our 10th anniversary in June, and while we probably aren’t doing anything that spectacular, I am still amazed that we’ve been together this long.

Anyway, getting back to goals, I only wrote two chapters this month. Part of this was due to my transitional period between school and vacation and the rest was caused by my own confusion regarding my plot. That week between the end of the semester and vacation beginning was a sort of limbo for me. My brain was still in work-mode, but I didn’t have any work to do and my story was not coming to me because I had been pushing it away for so many weeks. At that point, it felt like all I could do was read and recover from a lovely cold I developed at the same time. The other issue was my confusion regarding the plot of my current project. From writing bits and pieces over the course of a few months during the semester and never truly focusing on my book, I had no idea really where the story was going apart from the major plot points. If I don’t know where I’m going, I end up not going anywhere.

A good chunk of May was devoted to rereading The Earl and the Artificer and plotting what points I covered and what points needed to be addressed in the next few chapters (introducing certain characters and facts). As I reread it, I edited what I had, tightening the plot and beefing up some of the descriptions and scenes. I must admit that I tend to panic when the beginning of a story takes me a while to get into. Somehow I forget that I do this with every book, but when the threads of the plot are incredibly loose and not yet knitting together I worry they never will come together. I keep reminding myself that they will. I just need time and words.

Right now, I’m hoping to sit down in the next day or two and loosely plot chapters 6-10 of The Earl and the Artificer, so I can get cracking for the rest of the month. Maybe I’ll even be able to slip in a short story for the Ingenious Mechanical Devices universe or possibly for an anthology I have been looking into. One thing I have noticed with my writing is that it tends to pick up when I’m reading an inspiring book. Currently, I am reading Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and I am loving it. It’s a huge book compared to what I usually read, but it’s moving quickly and I catch myself reading it as often as possible. Because of its size, I haven’t given myself a set number of books to read this month.

As a final note on May, I decided to run a sale where I set both books to 99 cents for a few days. I accidentally set it for Memorial Day weekend, and I’m not sure whether it was a good or bad thing because tons of authors planned sales for that weekend but it was the first official week of summer when people look for beach reading. At the same time, I ran an ad with Ereader News Today and sold quite a few copies of both books. Part of the reason I like to run sales is not necessarily to make money off of it (especially since the mark down obviously cuts my royalty) but to get my books into the hands of new readers. At 99 cents, readers are much more likely to take a chance on an unknown author, and after running the sale, I received a few more reviews and hopefully gained a few more readers along the way.


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The Steampunk World’s Fair

On Friday, I attended the Steampunk World’s Fair for the first time and gave my first reading outside of the university.  The SPWF was a blast. It was like stepping into an alternate reality. There were fantastic costumes everywhere, leather, brocade, rainbows, tulle. Women in corsets, men in waistcoats and gauntlets. The gamete ran from highly realistic to fantastical, and I don’t think there was a bad one in the bunch. Along with the fair-goers, there were also bands, panels (I attended a fantastic one about Edgar Allan Poe, which makes me really want to go to the Poe Museum), and shops.  My boyfriend and I stopped at the haberdashery, and I finally got a pith helmet.  What I find funny is that I always wanted a white pith helmet, and it turns out that the white ones are from the Anglo-Zulu War, which is mentioned in The Earl of Brass.

pithI ended up not getting too decked out this year. I went as a hybrid between modern and Victorian instead of all steampunk because, as the Awkward Authoress, I was afraid being in a full, rather uncomfortable costume would set my anxiety off. It’s amazing how clothing choice can aggravate anxiety. Instead I wore my corset, black pants, and a biker jacket. Probably a bit more cyberpunk than steampunk, but I was comfortable in my own skin and actually enjoyed myself.

My reading itself went a little less smoothly. I ended up being scheduled at midnight as one of the last events of the night, and by then, most of the fair-goers had cleared out apart from the night-owls and revelers. It made me wonder if I screwed up AM/PM on my sign-up papers. Either way, I wasn’t expecting a crowd since I’m a brand new author with a small following. I knew three people were coming for sure, but I was quite pleased to see a few more come.  The weirdest part was that my anxiety really wasn’t too bad. I made myself a little outline of what I wanted to cover before I gave my reading, and while I didn’t have a podium, my audience was very attentive and forgiving of the late hour. Then, it got weird.

What I can only describe as a New Orleans style band marched past my door followed by a parade of revelers from the courtyard. I could feel myself beginning to sputter. The band was so loud that I had to stop and wait for them to pass and ended up losing my place. Of course my stress level jumped, and I was embarrassed that I had to stop my entire program for a few minutes. Then, I said to myself, “Would it be better to pretend the band wasn’t there and shout over them?” No, it wouldn’t have worked anyway. As my aunt said when I told her, this would only happen to me. If something weird is going to happen, it’s probably to me, and a brass band marching through during my reading was not something I anticipated. Oh well.

The best part of the night was that a reader vacationing from Canada came to the fair and attended my reading. I knew she was coming since we message back and forth on Facebook, and she brought me a bag of goodies from Canada. All of the nights woes and anxieties melted away. It didn’t matter that the band played over me because someone actually: A) cared enough to come B) wanted to hear me read C) brought me a present when she obviously did not have to. I’m eternally grateful to her because she was able to squelch all of my fears and regrets and ended my night on a high note. Thank you so much, Lois!

spwf goodiesEither way, if you ever want to do a reading or present somewhere, take a chance. Even if the night went a bit awry, it was worth it to get the experience under my belt.


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The Anxieties of the Awkward Authoress

Fears…

Most of us probably have a list of fears that we keep tucked close, hidden where they cannot be seen, where others cannot seek to infiltrate and destroy us.  I’m pretty open with a lot of my fears.  In the past I have wondered if there was anyone else who felt the same way I did, so by sharing my experiences, I hope I can spare someone that feeling.  This weekend, I confronted one of my main fears– social anxiety.

I feel I am getting better about dealing with a lot of people in one area.  It’s odd, I can go around New York City, moving shoulder to shoulder with the crowd, but when the crowd is vying for my attention and wants to talk (and go off script), it’s hard to deal with.  At my university, I worked two events, one Saturday and one Sunday. Sunday’s event was an open-house, which I’ve done several times already, but Saturday was my first writer’s conference.  Luckily, I was only manning the sign-in desk along with the other graduate assistant. Unfortunately, I forgot the signs I printed earlier in the week, which threw me off, but thank god, there was a script I repeated about eighty times that day.

For the rest of the day, it was smooth sailing, but when I got home, I threw myself down and took a two and a half hour nap to recharge. I should really say surrendered to the nap. I don’t think I could have stopped it.  That’s what happens quite often with social anxiety. Dealing with other people is stressful. They’re unpredictable, sometimes rude, pushy. More than often, they’re none of the aforementioned things, but one never knows when they’ll surprise you.

In May, I’m doing a reading and small seminar at the Steampunk World’s Fair, and of course, I’m worried about it. I worry about not making a good impression or that I’ll be dreadfully boring. Will I stutter or will they hate my books?  If more than a handful of people show up, will I freak out? Of course I will. I’ll bring water and coffee and possibly a bag to hyperventilate into, but I won’t stop myself from doing my reading.  Probably a dozen times I’ve asked myself why I signed-up to do a reading. I’m a nobody author with a tiny following.  I know at least two people will show up, and if more than that comes, I’ll be eternally grateful.  As a writer, my biggest fear is that they’ll hate my books. As a person, my biggest fear is I’ll make an ass of myself. Honestly, they aren’t too far from each other.

No matter how many times I read aloud or do group events, the fear is still there. I’m hoping that practicing every few days for about three weeks leading up to the reading will help to lessen my fears. Pretending not to be an anxiety-ridden introvert takes a lot of energy, and I’m beginning to wonder how long I’ll sleep after the Steampunk World’s Fair.

On the topic of the Steampunk World’s Fair, I’m supposed to have a short story in a you pay what you want bundle along with several other artists and musicians.  When I get more information about the bundle or what day I’ll be giving my reading, I will let you know, but for now, if you want to get a ticket, which is good for Friday to Sunday, please go here.


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Mr. Wilde and the Awkward Authoress

As I have said in the past, I feel a kinship with Oscar Wilde.  This connection probably stems from my love of Victorian literature and what I have learned about him over time. The more I learn, the more I feel drawn to him, as a person and as a writer.  In a previous post I mentioned how much I love the movie Julie and Julia, and in the same way Julie feels a connection to Julia Child, I feel connected to Oscar Wilde despite living over a century apart. When I think of him, I picture a large man with a quiet yet large presence that isn’t tied to his foppish ensemble.  Along with,  that, I picture champagne, fine dinners, a restaurant gilded and gleaming with a haze of cigar and cigarette smoke somewhere posh.  He was a presence, a man known as much for his wit and intellect as for his talent.  That level of sociability is something I aspire to, but in my introverted, anxiety-ridden bubble, I feel that it is unattainable.  Then, I saw this:power to attract friends Continue reading

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Silly Writer Goals

As writers, we all have real goals, like publish X amount of books a year or finish book three by next March.  Things that are very tangible and very practical.  I can rattle off a few of my real goals: I want to publish book three of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series in a timely manner (aka within a year), start my fantasy series soon after or while working on book three, and to get my thesis proposal accepted in April.

Then, there are goals that are a little less… professional? I think we all have the secret desire that our books will be made into movies or that certain characters will be loved by all. Here are a few of my own silly goals: Continue reading

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The Winter Garden has Launched!

wg proof 1kindle wgThe Winter Garden, book two in the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series, has officially launched in ebook or paperback, which can be purchased here.  The ebook is still 99 cents for a limited time.

Okay, now that the shameless self-promotion is out of the way, I want to thank everyone who pre-ordered a copy or will buy one in the future. Writers are nothing without readers, and I have been made to feel loved by my readers and appreciate everyone and anyone who has ever asked when the next book was coming out or how they could help me promote my work or left a review. Continue reading

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The Low-Down on The Winter Garden (IMD#2)

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen that the release date for The Winter Garden has moved from March 31st to March 15th.  When I arranged the pre-order for the story, I had left plenty of room in case I got busy with class and was unable to finish and edit it as quickly as I planned.  As it turns out, I have everything ready to go about a month ahead of schedule.  Part of me would love to release it today, but due to the way Amazon has the pre-order set up, I can’t move it up that far.  I decided to release it two weeks early, which will allow me to do one more proofing of the opening chapters, but both the ebook and paperback will be out by March 15th.  Let me tell you a little more about The Winter Garden in hopes that it will pique your interest. Continue reading

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