The year that’s been and the year ahead

(The requisite end of year post).

I meant to post this yesterday (31st December 2015) but there was cricket on the telly and then we caught up with a friend for lunch and then we had to prepare for New Year’s celebrations, and so I’m doing it now, on the 1st of January 2016. I don’t do resolutions, so this is meant to be a quick look back at 2015 and a look ahead to what I want to achieve in 2016.

In general, 2015 was the kind of year that cemented in my mind why I want to write and what I want to focus on. There was a LOT of discussion generally in the publishing and blogging world around diversity in fiction, which is fantastic, though it still hasn’t translated into a marked uptick in diverse fiction being published yet. Though that could change over the next few years as the cogs in traditional publishing are slow to turn, so we may see more diverse offerings in the future. I’m excited to think that I could be part of that.

So. My 2015.

Published

Crush was published in April, after I spent almost 6 months on it from starting the story in late 2014, to submitting it to a small LGBTQ+ press, and then subsequently having the revised manuscript rejected by that press in March after doing a shit tonne of work to it to double the word count from the original short novella. (You can read more about that here). After a couple of weeks of soul-searching and a good pep talk from my wife, I put Crush out myself, and I’m extremely happy I did. While I know it’s going to be hard to gain traction with what I write (YA contemporary romance on the younger end of the scale) by publishing myself, I also know that I’m the one person who is most passionate about those stories.

I also put Crush up on Wattpad in order to gain some readers for it, and it was featured in the Teen Fiction section in October, which really boosted it up the charts. It reached #54 overall in the Teen Fiction Category, which is spectacular, and although it’s dropped off the charts now, it’s still being read regularly and commented on. The comments are the best part about having Crush up on a site like Wattpad – the readers get to interact with the story as well as other readers (and me), and it’s great seeing what readers think in real time as they read each chapter. It will come off the featured list in April, at which point I’ll decide whether to keep it up there or not.

I made a few contacts at Brisbane Pride in October, and sent down some paperback copies to the Newfarm Library as well as to QSpace at the Gold Coast to add to their LGBTQ+ libraries. I’ve also been asked to donate to a local library on the coast, and though I haven’t had the opportunity to get that done yet, I’ll certainly organise that early this year. I also gave away a few paperback copies to some excited Wattpad readers, and will do another giveaway a month or two before Crush is due to be taken off the featured list.

Also late in 2015, I decided to publish two short stories under a pen name to test an idea I’ve been mulling over for a few years that falls into the adult crime fiction category. I stuck them both in KDP Select, which means that Amazon readers who subscribe to Select can borrow them for free as part of their subscription. I’ve not done any advertising or publicity for them, and they’re both being borrowed regularly, which is cool. I’m not 100% sure what I’m going to do with them as yet, but I will decide in the second half of 2016.

Process

I’ve learned a lot more about my process over 2015. Firstly, mornings are my most productive time for writing, because it’s the quietest time in the neighbourhood and the least likely time I’ll get distracted or interrupted. In light of this, I’m working on changing my daily routine to take advantage of this, which includes waking up earlier (which I seem to be doing naturally anyway) and getting in an hour of writing before I do anything else.

I’ve also learned (or reinforced my belief really) that I write much faster with a solid plot summary and chapter outlines. I’ve also worked out what’s most important in those plot summaries – characters and setting. If I know those two well enough, the story will come naturally. I’m working on ways to get better at getting the summaries done more effectively before I start the actual writing process.

I’ve also learned that the longer I take to write a book, the worse I feel about it over time, so I think it’s important I get the outlining process sorted so I can become more efficient all round and stop my brutal inner critic from lording it over my creative process. The fastest book I’ve written (Three Wishes, which was written in under a month from idea to published) is still the one that needed the least amount of final editing. I think that says something.

 

Writing Goals

I missed last year’s writing goals due to a bit of upheaval in my personal life in the second half of the year. We moved twice in a month – the first move in the same town, and the second to another town 6 hours away. It’s likely we’ll have another big move one way of the other in the next month or so, so I’m keeping my goals modest for the first half of the year.

In light of that, my most basic goal is to hit 1,000 words minimum per working day, which in my instance is weekdays only since I don’t work weekends (and going by an online counter gives me 250 working days, excluding public holidays). That will give me 250,000 words for the year, which is more than double of anything I’ve written previously. Because I write shorter novels (or novellas) of around an average of 35,000 words, this means I should get 7 and a bit books finished – though that also depends on editing and the creative process.

Which brings me to my only other work-related goal for the year, which is to get a better handle on my process. I’ve struggled with it over the last few years, so this year I’m determined to get myself into a more solid routine and put my writing time ahead of everything and everyone else. I tested a routine for the last couple of weeks last year and I got more work done in 2 weeks than I did in 2 months previous, so I think that’s really telling me something.

Personal Goals

One of the things I’ve struggled with is the distinction between personal time and writing/publishing time, and I guess a lot of people who work for themselves and/or from their home office go through the same thing. So this year, I’m going to schedule in personal time so I don’t feel like I’m goofing off too much, or working too much and not having enough ‘me’ time.

Also, one of the things I decided late last year was to pick one new skill or thing I want to learn and do that for a year. 2016 will see me learning to play the ukulele, which is so far proving to be great fun. My wife bought me a cool little uke for Christmas which I’ve already started strumming and getting the hang of. Youtube and the internet certainly make it much easier to learn, though I have to make sure I don’t get too distracted by all the videos and methods and just choose one or two sites to concentrate on. So far, I know four of the most basic chords and can play (almost through from start to finish) I’m Yours by Jason Mraz, Don’t Worry, Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin and Riptide by Vance Joy. It’s a cool little instrument to play and having played the guitar previously has made it easy to pick up. I’m planning on having a good repertoire to play by the end of the year and the confidence to play them in front of family and friends.

Finally, 2016 is the year I want to get healthier and fitter. Writing is such a sedentary occupation and sitting for long hours in front of a laptop can cause havoc with your health. Last year, my wife completed the Michelle Bridges 12WBT for the second time, and as I’m the main cook in the house, I did it with her. I lost around 6kgs, which is great, and now I want to tone up and keep the weight constant.

I started doing Five Tibetans last year as well, as a way to get myself out of my chair for 20 minutes or so to get my body moving and that’s really helped to maintain my weight. I got some resistance bands for Christmas, so I’ll be adding a morning resistance routine to my fitness regimen as well. I’ve only been doing that for a few days, but I can already feel the difference, especially in my mental capacity. Getting the blood pumping in the morning is very conducive to opening up the mind and getting my creative juices flowing.

 

Coming up in 2016

Okay, so what to expect from me in 2016?

Firstly, I’m working on the second book in the Girls of Summer series, called After Summer. I’m about half-way through the first draft at the moment and after I spend the first week in January adjusting the plot for some changes I’ve decided on over the Christmas/New Year break, I’ll get stuck back into it with the intention of getting it to first readers by the end of January. I’d love to have it ready to release in May.

I have a 3-book project I was going to get done last year, but Crush and After Summer took up the majority of my time, so it was held over until this year. I’ve gone backwards and forwards on plots for the stories, going from three to five and back to three again. I’ve got the main plot points down for all three books, and want to spend February (while my first readers mull over After Summer) completing the book summaries and chapter beats. Because it’s to do with cricket, I want to get at least the first two books complete so I can get the first one out in November 2016.

With a goal of 250,000 words for the year, completing those four books leaves me with a lot of wiggle room to write some short stories and work on a few other projects I’ve had in mind for the last few years, as well as make a start in the last half of the year on the third book in the Girls of Summer series (which I haven’t decided on yet).

I also want to get Three Wishes out into print, and though I have the files ready to go for that, finances prevented me from getting covers completed. I also have a follow-up book mapped out for Sophie, Kate and Mac which I’d love to get done in time for Christmas, so all things going well, that one will be out as well.

 

Have a fantastic 2016!

SR

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