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2017 in review

When I looked back through my blog to see if I’d actually set myself goals for the year I could see just how little I’d blogged in 2017. I think it might be the quietest year since I started this, and that makes me feel a little sad. But I think it’s a really good reflection on just how much this year ended up being about keeping things together.

Last year I posted a little about how the preceding years had been a lot about keeping afloat, surviving, getting through and I chose FOCUS as my word for 2017. 

Yeah. Well. I guess I was focused for some of it. If it was a goal to work towards then I’d like to say that over the course of the year I nailed that sucker. I’m coming out of 2017 feeling focused and with big goals for the coming year.

Last year I wrote:

2017 will be a year of words. A year of saying no to the things I don’t really want to do but maybe feel like I should. Of saying YES to my own worlds.

And I can say that I achieved all of these things. Sure, not all at once, but I got there. Despite reflecting on the fact that I’ve had a few hard years, I’m going to say that 2017 has been the worst in a really long time. I’ve had massive patches of depression, the death of my much loved Nana, struggles with health across the family, PTSD flare-ups, massive amounts of stress in the lead up to the convention in June.

And yet, I still got more achieved this year than I have in a long time. 

Once the convention was all done I had a heap of space in my brain for other things and I got really stuck into working on my writing. This year I published four new titles: Serafina’s Flame (which is Burn + the two follow-on novellas in a single title), Beneath Broken Waves, In the Earth’s Embrace, and Of Souldust and Starlight – the final three books in the Kotahi Bay series. This wraps up 2/3 of the series I started back in 2015 and I couldn’t be happier about that. It feels really good to finish some things. Which isn’t to say there will never be another Kotahi Bay book, there might be, just not right now. 

stencil.ml-banner

Did I say no to more things? Yeah, I did. I turned down some work, I let a few clients know that I wasn’t going to be able to edit for them anymore. I didn’t leap at every opportunity so much as suggested in my presence, and I stopped feeling like I had to do things just because it was the nice thing to do. I started using the ‘I’d love to say yes, but I need some time to think about it before I can commit’ line with people. I was more honest about when I just couldn’t, and that felt really good too. To actually just say ‘I really can’t, I’m tapped out’ when that was the truth. I feel like while I still have some work to do in that area, I’ve gotten a lot better at putting my needs near the front of the list, which has gone a long way to helping out my mental health situation.

So, while 2017 was a hard fucking year. It really was – I’ve not been so close to a complete break down in a really long time, I barely held it together at several points, hell, maybe I DID have some small breakdowns – it was also a really successful one. I wrote and published books. I made huge leaps in my author world and implemented some really good strategies for both work and personal life. Boundaries, yo. I think I’m getting some 😉 Self-care? Definitely improving on that front too. 

I’m still mulling on my goal specifics for 2018, so I’ll post about them next week – I feel like it’s going to be a good year though, and can only hope it has a few less big challenges in it.

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becoming, challenges, year ahead

Happy New Year! + Goals

Hey, it’s 2015!!!

How awesome 🙂

2014 kicked my butt, but I came out of it stronger and more ready for change than I imagined I would be going into it. I’m planning to spend 2015 living, learning, and becoming.

I’ve lined up a few specific challenges. There is, naturally, the Goodreads challenge, and then Andi roped me, along with some others, into the 101 in 1001 challenge. I’ve already managed to tick one thing off each of these lists – but I can’t update the book until it’s published. Damnit! The trouble with reading pre-published books 😉 The beauty, on the other hand, is that I was among the first to finish the series, and DAMN. I want to be Melissa Pearl when I grow up lol. Well, the Spec Fic version of her anyway.

Back to the whole new year goals thing…

This year is a lot about me working through some stuff. Hopefully the last ‘big’ stuff I’ve got sitting in the back of my brain. I may post more about it at some point, but I’m still processing. It’s stuff I had thought/naively hoped I had dealt with, but as with all trauma stuff, it crops up at the most unhelpful times and I know now that it’s something I need to really face head on in order to finally put it to bed. So I’ve given myself some overarching goals for the year so that I stay conscious of the direction I want to be moving in. As follows:

Work towards spending more time on my own writing than on other peoples – I LOVE helping other people out, but I have a tendency to prioritize it over my own writing. If I have a piece of my work to edit, as well as a piece of someone elses? Yeah, I will pick theirs almost every time. I am starting the year off by always working on my own stuff, even just a little, before so much as looking at whatever else is on my plate. MY writing is important too.

Read more published works than pre-published – this ties in a little with the above. I read a LOT of pre-published stuff. I love to help out! And while that’s all well and good, it’s not really helping me push my own writing forward. I need to be branching out, exploring more, learning more from people who are further into their careers than I am.

Reconnect with myself, feel at ease in my body and mind, and fight against my fears – this is a hard one to quantify. I have a number of books lined up to read which have been suggested by others or selected by myself. I am focusing on being more present, more aware. Of owning my feelings, of being comfortable just being me, and casting off what I have felt others expected from me.

One interesting thing that I learned/rediscovered this year was that I really love the way my body feels after exertion. The massive hike with the kids made me feel alive in a way I haven’t since giving birth and I want more of that. I want to feel the pull of my muscles, I want to be out of breath with it. I want that elation that comes along with achieving something awesome. Something I didn’t think I could do. I don’t imagine I’ll be climbing mountains in the very near future, but hey, one day, I might be.

So, there are the goals, the plans. The hopes. I guess, over all, I want to make me an important person to myself. That might sound stupid to some people, but I’ve spent most of my life making myself insignificant and putting everyone else ahead of me. Sometimes, this is vital – for example, when you have small kids – but a lot of the time, it’s not really helping anyone. It’s certainly not helping me. I’m important too, and I need to be an advocate for myself.

I still feel a little resistant about writing that, but hopefully by the end of the year it will just be a normal thought. A part of who I am.

*forces self to actually post this and not relegate it to the bottomless pit of ‘drafts’*.

writing

MyWriteClub

There are many writing tools out there that are handy, but probably the one that I’m using the most is the beta of MyWriteClub.

The wonderful husband, of a wonderful writer friend created it after seeing a need in the community, and it’s really quite nifty. There are a good range of goal types to select, and an option to write in your own as well if you have a different thing you want to track. I signed up for the beta in early January, and have roped several friends into signing up as well – why not check it out?

There are still things being implemented, but so far it’s proven to be an excellent tracking tool, and a great way to keep up to date with what others are working on. It emails you when friends have updated goals so that you can cheer them on, and vice versa (or not, if you don’t want to get a bunch of emails). You can track as many goals as you want with various end points, and you can archive your goals when complete.

I love it 🙂

And if you want to add me, you can find me here.

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Looking forward in 2014

Happy New Year!!! It’s 2014!

I was feeling stressed about it even on the first day, but you know what, it’s not so bad. Not yet, anyway.

2014 is going to be a very busy year for me. I’m finishing off my Post Grad Diploma in Education (Guidance and Counselling), and this year is a halftime load, as opposed to the last two years where I’ve just done quarter. It’s going to be a big push from me, but I know I can do it – both papers look like they’ll be really interesting, which will certainly help. Part of last years difficulty was that I *had* to do those papers, not that I wanted to. Sometimes wanting something makes all the difference.

So naturally, my primary goal for the year is to pass these papers – by the gods I am SO looking forward to November this year already, because I’ll finally be done and can look ahead to the rest of my life. I’d love to say I won’t study beyond that, but, those who know me would call me on it 😉 I just love to learn, and there will no doubt be something else I study at some point! Can’t seem to help myself…

Aside from that, I’m not making any firm ‘writing’ goals as such. I’m going to be editing, and shopping around longer works when they are ready, and doing some short fiction when the urge to write calls. I might work on some planning for future books, but as I don’t know yet what the my papers are going to be like, I’m not making solid goals.

My main focus, outside of finishing study, is to work on keeping balanced. The year is going to be busy, which means I need to be good about this goal, the hardest part of which is making sure I get some time off everything so I can feed my soul. My Mum has already kindly, wonderfully, offered to have the kids one morning every other week for three hours, which is amazing. I mean, it’s been months since I had three hours to myself on a regular basis and I just know that this will go a long way toward keeping me balanced. Hell, she only made the offer yesterday and it’s ALREADY improved my outlook on the year, and we’re not even starting this new routine until the end of the month 😉 I can get a lot done in three uninterrupted hours. Bliss.

I have other things in mind, naturally – work on stuff around the house (I’ll be painting and having my first foray into wallpapering. There will be a shed conversion in the mix, and much de-cluttering, among other things), continuing to home school and documenting that better, surviving my first solo term as a Brownies leader, a new blogging venture (watch this space!) – but the big thing is that I keep fluid. Be kind to myself, keep the balance, feed my soul. Everything else is easier if I can find ways to keep doing that. I’ll be happier, my family will be happier as a result, and hey, who knows? 2014 might just turn out awesome.

This is me, being tentatively hopeful for a fabulous year. I hope it brings you everything you could want, and maybe a little bit more.

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What’s in store for 2013

I love this period over the end of one year and the beginning of the next. I love the buzz that happens when people talk about their fresh starts, hopes and dreams for the new year. It echoes the way I feel and just makes it all so much better!

Obviously, after a pretty rough year last year I am hoping for a little bit of an easier time in 2013. Whether that happens or not is yet to be seen. No-one can predict these things.

This year, for me, is a lot about finishing things. I didn’t even realize this until I sat down just now and looked over the list I was posting to the blog. My other list is a lot bigger, and filled with each step required to achieve the goal – but I won’t bore you with all of that here. I am going to keep it really simple.

I want to finish Sun-Touched and submit it. It’s currently a finished first draft, and I’m really looking forward to diving back into that world and fleshing it out more, and then sending it out into the world.

I also want to finish writing Shell and Bone, get that ready and submit that as well. As for any other writing? Well, it’s purely a bonus. I am quite sure I won’t be able to resist starting something new, but these two projects are my main squeezes this year as far as I can tell.

I have a couple books that I am going to finish this year if it kills me. The first of which is Perdido Street Station. A friend recommended it to me YEARS ago. I started reading it at the beginning of 2011, and I am only about 30% through. It’s so long. I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve read, but there just never seemed to be a good time to finish it off. The quick reads have won out in the last couple years. Mindless books. Well, it’s time. As soon as I finish the book I am currently reading, I am switching back to Perdido until it’s done.

I also have The Artists Way sitting around. I read the intro and first chapter and that was as far as I got. Several of my good writers friends recommend it though, so this year I am finally going to work through it. I think its a good time to do that, as I really need to work on finding some balance in my life and making sure that I get time out from the every day grind to work on my creativity.

Another recommendation has been Writing The Other. I started reading this last year too, but started skipping exercises and forced myself to put the book down. It’s all very well and good reading books on writing, but the real learning happens when you put those things into practice. I decided that until I had time to do that, I was going to set the book aside.

I have a lot of learning to do. And I expect (hope) that this year will be a year of great growth. I am now able to admit that I’m a lazy writer, and I want to change that. I waste a lot of time on mindless, stupid crap, and I don’t want to do that anymore. It’s time to stop letting that little voice in my head demotivate me. Time to push past my ‘play it safe’ barrier, time to stop waiting for someone else to tell me to fix something and just get on and do it myself, because I shouldn’t rely on other people to tell me whats wrong*. Most of the time I know what’s wrong. I do. I’m just being lazy because I’m exhausted all the time.

Well, screw exhaustion. It’s not going to beat me this year. I’ve just finished reading 2k to 10k and I’m totally ready to get on the bandwagon and outline and write, and actually make the most of the extremely limited time I do have. I want to see Sun-Touched heading towards publication of some kind or another. I want to write other novels, and edit those novels and see them out in the world too. And it’s only going to happen if I put the hard work in.

So, that’s me. Really. One novel, one novella. A bunch of reading and learning and everything else that goes along with this writers gig. There are a lot of other things I am working towards, but I think they can be summed up in the words balance, and harmony. That’s what I’m hoping, for me, and our family.

*I know my writing buddies are there to help, they are amazing writers and their input is fantastic – but think how much more valuable their feedback will be to me if what I’m giving them is free of the same old things that keep cropping up? I’m pretty certain they are getting tired of seeing the same basic issues 😉 I know I would be! Time to do them, and myself, a favour. 

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I have to laugh

The month started off so well! It was truly wonderful. The words were flowing, I slipped into my writing groove with ease and I was really enjoying my novella. So much. And then we got to the 5th of December and sickness entered my house, and you know, you just know, that you can never get away with only one person falling ill.

So for the last five days I have been dealing with a lot of vomit. None of it mine, for the record. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been puked on, though I can say I have had to clean all four mattresses, several duvets and sets of sheets and just about every blanket, towel and bowl in the house.

It was actually okay, until Saturday anyway. I was holding it together. Tending to my dear children’s needs as well as meeting my own by maintaining my 1,000 word a day output. And then Nati got hit at 115am Sat morning and I didn’t really get any sleep after that. All three kids were their sickest on Saturday and I was running on fumes, and I had a skip bin that needed to be loaded with the contents of my garden shed (which contained piles of timber with millions of nails, very old chemicals, broken glass and other assorted nastiness that I was desperate to get rid of).

Ah yes, this is life.

In my coffee fueled, sleep deprived, crazy state of Saturday morning I told a writer friend I was going to get my words out. And he laughed at me.

And now I am laughing too. Sometimes, I’m delusional, and I can admit that. Ah, I make me giggle sometimes. Needless to say, I managed about 100 words over the weekend, and I’m okay with that. The fact that I am now 2k behind my projected word count doesn’t actually bother me. Writing will happen, because I’m a writer, but life happens too and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it.

P.S: I DID get the garden shed emptied, and the kids are all out of puketown now, so that just adds some awesome to the start of this new week.

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Cough, splutter, cough

I’ve been sick for the last week, which has been incredibly not fun. The saving grace is that the kids managed to avoid catching the same thing, which would have been terrible. I can’t breathe, and breathing is so very important! Well, today I can breathe a little easier, finally, but no running or jumping for me. It almost kills me lol

This has meant not as much writing has happened recently. Which is a shame. I started the month off with gusto, and then fall flat a little, though not because of the story – because of ME.

My story is awesome. I’m sitting around 13.5K at the moment, and there are around 3 scenes/5,000 words to go. This should put me right at the bottom end of the word count guidelines for the place I want to submit it, and gives me plenty of room to expand where necessary and play in this wonderful world I have.

I have to say that I think this novella is the least populated that I have written to date. Considering the length of it, that is. I’ve had short stories with only three characters, one with just two. But when the other main characters are a baby and a dead person, it makes dialogue a little tricky at times. I firmly believe dialogue is important though, so its lucky that I know from experience that people talk to babies ALL THE TIME, just like they talk to cats and other things that can’t talk back.

Anyway, I’m kind of hoping to finish up the first draft this week. Then I can let it simmer for a week before giving it a tidy up and passing it on to my crit group. It feels really great to have set the goal of writing it in one month and actually knowing that I can achieve that. Does wonders for my confidence as a writer.

Now I just need to set some firm goals for the StR rewrite. And follow through on those, as well. I’m starting to get a better shape of my day sorted out in my head, seeing patterns of time blocks that will work for me. It’s not just a matter of making sure I don’t waste those on unimportant things, like facebook, and twitter… damn those evil sites which eat time. Maybe it’s time to go on haitus again?

Anyway, enough about me. Tell me about you! What are you all up to at the moment?

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The best kind of habit

Is the one that saves you, and right now, that habit is my writing.

It’s been a long time since I have sat down day after day and clocked in my word goal. Even though I am a huge advocate for making a daily habit of writing, reforming that habit can be so very difficult. I think I am finally there. Which is actually kind of amazing.

These last few weeks have been really hard on our wee family, we’re all a little emotional, and a little fragile. Some of you will know whats happening, and others won’t (it’s not something I’m going to blog about! Sorry!), but on the days when I feel like I’m in quicksand up to my chin, Sun-Touched has been the rope around my waist, the thing keeping me from slipping further. Sitting down and losing myself in my novel is the best kind of escape I can have right now – even better is the fact that I can expel some of my raging emotions into my characters.

So, progress is good. Super good! Pushing through that last block was vital to my current pace, as was hashing out some kind of outline (though a few points have switched places since then). And since the 19th of Feb, when I hit 30,000 words, I have added over 8,000 to the novel. Considering my daily goal is only 500 words, that’s pretty impressive 😉

Writing is one of the best things I can do for myself, and I’m so pleased to be back in the habit of it. The release it gives me, the portal to another world that it opens, saves me from the crushing thoughts in my head on a regular basis.

I’m sorry for not blogging more regularly, or having more interesting things to say – but at least you know I’m pouring my words into my novel! Hope life is treating you kindly, and that the words are flowing for your story as well.

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2012, you’re finally here!

Well, we are back from a week away visiting family, and it’s never been so good to be home. Gosh, I appreciate our space more than ever right now, and am looking forward to several months of just being here.

So nice <basks in the glow of being home>.

Anyways, I was lying in bed on New Years Eve, thinking about how I wasn’t staying up until midnight and wondering what this said about me. I finally decided that it meant I’m old enough to know that change doesn’t happen over night. The clock striking midnight doesn’t mean that magical things happen (though, wouldn’t that be nice), and that perhaps this wisdom will help me achieve all the things I want from 2012. Rather than starting the new year with a bang, I’m getting on with things slow and steady.

Or maybe I’m just getting old 😉 In any event, I can’t afford to burn through all the zeal I have stockpiled, I need to be the tortoise this year to get where I want to be.

2012 is all about:

of new and old, of the dynamics of my life, of everything that I am interested in and passionate about. It’s well and truly time to take things up a notch, and get down to business.

I’ll be completing Lifeline training, starting post-graduate study, finishing the first draft of Sun-Touched, editing TCM to submission standard and still being a kick-ass mother and wife – not to mention a million other little things. I’m feeling so good about the year ahead, and I know that if I pace myself, if I take it one step at a time, I will get to where I want to be.

I hope the year ahead is everything you could hope for, and I’m looking forward to sharing the highs and lows with you. I’ve been reading all the goals posts so far and love what I’m seeing. There is such a good vibe for 2012!

Onwards and upwards!

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What’s the plan, Stan?

Recently I’ve been thinking more about where I want to go as a writer – what’s important to me? What are my long term goals? What is my plan for getting there?

Things to do with my writing have been more fluid this year than at any other time in my writing life. At least, that’s the way it feels. I had a huge, detailed, precise list of goals for the year which I then threw out the window (a decision I am still very pleased I made). I’ve taken to working in small chunks of time now, fiddling with what I want to, no real rhyme or reason. Yet I’m progressing.

And it’s working for me, for the most part. I’m still getting things done. Progress is being made on the novella, and while I had hoped to have this version done by now, at least I know it will happen in the next month or so. Providing of course that nothing else huge crops up.

What is becoming clear to me though, is that I am in two minds about what I want as a writer, and I’m not sure how to resolve it, or whether the two will end up walking hand in hand.

As I said in a recent post, I do still want a publishing deal of some kind – whether through an e-press, small press, bigger press, whatever. But I also want to be generating enough income from my writing (and/or writing related things/stuff I can do from home – I have several small business ideas fermenting away as well) by the time Natalie is in school (so basically, in four years time), in order to not go back into a regular day job.

It seems like a pretty big task really. I do like my goals big, but I really think that I need to get some kind of plan in the works as to HOW I am going to work towards that goal.

The problem with the publishing industry is that you can’t force people to buy your work – whether those people are publishing houses, or readers. No matter whether you are trying to move into the traditional publishing scene, or self publishing, you can only be in control of certain aspects of the process, not the final outcome. There is no set formula that will guarantee that you make money from your writing, and certainly no promise that you’ll make enough to remain free of the evil day job.

I think this core issue is part of why I had decided to self publish. In the long run it meant I had more control, I could guarantee at least that my work would make it out into the world in some form. At least it would feel like forward movement – and hell, when you do the math, it certainly seems to make sense. By comparison, whenever I look around the internet it seems that even the novelists who are selling well aren’t making a decent living.

Which leaves me here, asking Stan what the plan is. How do I figure out a good path to get from here (a couple of short story publications under my belt) to there (making a reasonable part time income). A part of my brain is saying ‘just keep writing, stupid,’ because I know that there is some truth in that. I do need to keep writing. Things seem to flow organically if you keep chipping away at them. But at the same time, I feel like there has got to be something more I could be doing.

Now I just have to figure out what that might be…

Do you have a writers plan? How did you go about creating it? What steps are you taking to get you where you want to be?