Summer Successes and Autumn Goals

This post is third in a series. You can find part one (covering January to April) here and part two (May to August) here. As outlined in those previous posts, I’m tackling this year in chunks, setting myself goals for four months at a time, rather than having a single set for the whole of 2019.

It seems to be working out.

My only year-long goal – the Goodreads reading challenge – has me sitting at 44 books completed off a total of sixty. That’s 73% complete/4 books ahead of schedule.

Before I get into my goals for the rest of 2019 going forward, let’s take a minute to recap on my summer goals and how well I did (or didn’t) achieve them.

In May, I set myself the following tasks:

  • Lose more weight
  • Continue to submit my first novel to agents
  • Make edits to my second novel and send it to beta readers
  • Draft yet another novel during Camp NaNoWriMo in July
  • Attended two publishing conferences
  • Complete my tax return

From that list, what I didn’t do was lose weight or write a third novel. The number of things I achieved (listed below) definitely outweigh these two failures, which I’m obviously delighted about, but they are still two pretty big failures. Though I will point out that I did take part in Camp NaNoWriMo, as planned, and got a few words towards book three in my trilogy. Overall, I wrote 25,000 words during July, much of it fanfiction works in progress that I wanted to get out of my head at long last.

Here’s the full list of what I actually did achieve: Continue reading

Six-Month Stats Round Up

It’s a new week at the start of a fresh month. We’re now entering the second half of 2019 and, personally, I’m excited. But before I jump headlong into the next round of CampNaNoWriMo, it’s time to look back. I said I’d be more open with my stats, going forward, so here we go:

Books Read

  • 31 out of my goal of 60 for the year = 52%
  • So, just ahead of target. That’s a win.

Words Written
(Rounded to the nearest thousand)

  • January: 4,000
  • February: 6,000
  • March: 6,000
  • April: 37,000
  • May: 12,000
  • June: 13,000
  • Total = 78,000

Continue reading

2019 Goals Part Two: Summer

Back in January, I changed things up a little and only set myself one goal for the entire year. That was my 2019 Goodreads challenge to read sixty books. By the time this post goes live, I should have completed twenty-two of those, which means I’m on track.

With regards to other goals, I wanted to focus on things in the shorter term so I decided to plan things a few months at a time and no further. Although it’s not fully accurate, for the sake of simplicity, I’ve split my 2019 into three segments which I’m calling Spring (January to April), Summer (May to August), and Autumn/Winter (September to December).

My Spring was pretty good, all in all. I had my second wedding anniversary in February and my thirtieth birthday in March. I spent a lot of January catching up on all of my accounts for my freelance work so I could get my tax return in before the deadline (which I did!). The rest of that month and part of February was spent doing voluntary work and, when I stepped back from that, I threw myself into decluttering the house following the Kon Mari method.

It felt good to get rid of things and, in the process, simplify my life (simplicity being a big theme of mine, the past few years). The end tally was: 4 bags of clothes (between my husband and I), 1 bag of bedding, 1 [big] bag of books, 8 boxes of komono/miscellaneous items and an untold number of trash bags and recycled things. I also paired down a lot of my social media profiles. Continue reading

Goals for my Thirties

I turned thirty in March. As of right now, at the start of May, I have written two-and-a-half novels. When I think of what I want to achieve in the next ten years, those novels play a key part.

I’ve said before that, in the past, lists of what I wanted to do with my life quickly became lists of all the books I want to write. That hasn’t changed. Most of the goals I have are career based.

Here are the few that aren’t:

  • Learn to Drive
  • Learn Piano
  • Have a Baby

That last one’s pretty big. The first one is dependant on whether my dyspraxic self is actually safe to drive, and the middle one doesn’t really matter, in the grand scheme of things, but it’s still something I aspire to. Continue reading

End of January Update

I’m sure this will come to a total shock to everyone, but breaking the habits of a lifetime is a process that, apparently, takes a little while.

If you’ve read my earlier blog posts this month, you’ll know that I’ve been trying to be more organized and get myself into a routine. Well, results have been… mixed.

On the whole, good progress has been made and I’m happy about that, but I am by no means the entire way there yet.

With regards to my reading goal for the year, I’m sitting at two books ahead of schedule with a total of six books completed so far.

I am, for the most part, on top of the housework and am not being overwhelmed by a mountain of socks (or anything else).

I have re-joined Slimming World and lost a further four-and-a-half pounds this month.

I caught up on all my accounts and submitted my tax return which was quite a big task that had been weighing on me.

I haven’t been too bad about getting out for walks most days, even if it’s only to the local shop.

I have been sticking to a steady upload schedule for the Women Aloud NI YouTube channel and am on track to have the backlog of footage all online by our events in March. I have started planning the Women Aloud NI event I’m coordinating in March. Both these things remain to be finished.

I’ve been semi-successful in sticking to the general day-to-day routine I set for myself in that I am getting myself behind a desk and using the office for it’s intended purpose, but doing so ‘before noon’ each day as I had planned turned out to be a bit too much of a stretch. I still can’t really do mornings. I can barely do afternoons.

Being at my desk helps me to focus, but not always. The other day, I sat watching videos on my iPad as one I had edited exported on my laptop. That was fine but, when the time came for me to put the iPad down, I didn’t. I fell down a rabbit hole of the internet instead. I’m trying not to beat myself up too much about that, because some level of procrastination happens to everyone, but it is something I need to be careful doesn’t become a common occurrence.

Some writing, editing, and plotting has been done but not nearly as much as I would like. My hope is that I can get a bunch of other tasks out of the way tomorrow and find more time for my novel in February. Allons y!

Where Change Continues?

Giles being my office co-pilot (looking at me like I’m mad because I probably am).

It’s Monday morning, day fourteen of 2019. After an initial wobble on day one, this New Year has been pretty good for me. I don’t mean to say that the past two weeks have been completely plain sailing, because there have been a couple of health-related blips, but I’ve been feeling pretty positive aside from them.

At least until I hit this past weekend.

After ten days of being on top of my game and managing to stay in super-productive-mode, I got up very late on Friday (the eleventh). It was to be date night for my husband and I and we’d pre-booked tickets to go see Collette at Queen’s Film Theatre. We were both pretty tired and, I’ll be honest, the fact that we’d already paid was the only thing that stopped us going back to bed immediately after breakfast.

We went, we saw, we enjoyed. Then we went for dinner at a Chinese buffet restaurant where I overate and ended up in very intense pain on the walk back to the bus. I think I triggered one of my food allergies but, regardless of the cause, I was left feeling pretty rough. I went home and slept. I slept for most of Saturday, and most of Sunday, though not restfully.

Last night, I took a look at my commitments for the rest of the month and freaked out a little. Here I was with so much to do and I’d wasted a whole weekend!

One of the things I’m continually trying to fine tune is how to pace myself; to not do too much and find a balance between home and work. I wanted to make a resolution about it for the year but found that A-I already had more than enough to try and achieve by the time I wrote all my necessary tasks out and B- I couldn’t quite put my need for balance into any better words than that.

‘Do more but not too much’ isn’t a very helpful goal to try and strive toward. It’s not specific. It’s not measurable. It didn’t make it onto the list. And yet here I am, striving for it anyway. Because as much as I’ve resisted following a routine for most of my life, I’ve come to a point where I’m finally willing to admit I might need one.  Continue reading

2019 Goals (Part One)

I’ve come to the conclusion that, too often, the goals I set are unrealistic. I usually make a list of everything I want to do — everything I want to be — and that’s that, goals made. This year, however, I’ve been putting more thought into it. It’s why I’ve held off announcing my resolutions for the year before now, because I hadn’t made any firm decisions before now. I had my updated list of everything I wanted to do, same as always, but I wasn’t making a direct translation of it to my ‘to do’ list because some of what I want to do just isn’t in my power. Prime example: getting a literary agent. It’s something that I’ve been striving towards for a long time but it’s not something I can make happen completely under my own will. It’s in my power to make my novel the best it can be and it’s in my power to submit that novel to agents, but there’s absolutely no guarantee that an agent will take it. Great books get rejected every day. It’s not a failure to be one of them. Not when the odds are against you to begin with.

Alongside my ‘get an agent’ goal for the past few years has been one to join the Society of Authors, and that’s more realistic but still slightly beyond my reach. To clarify, I’m talking about associate membership here, not full membership which would require me to already have an agent and/or publisher in place. What’s holding me back, then? Well, I simply can’t justify the money for it right now. It’s not a lot, in the grand scheme of things, but when you’re struggling to pay for bread and milk (which has been the genuine reality for me a couple of times in the past year), of course I’m not going to be signing up for anything.

So, I haven’t achieved those goals. They are still goals but they’re not going on my list for this year and that’s completely okay. Their time will come.

I started 2018 with three other goals: to read 52 books, to get healthier, and to learn to drive. Driving didn’t happen for the same reason as above. It’s just too expensive for me right now. But I do have some good news to report on the other counts.

Part-way through the year I upped my reading goal from 52 books to 55 and I smashed that by completing a total of 61. I also lost a good chunk of the weight my doctors told me to shift, and I’ve been more active.

I have set my 2019 Goodreads reading challenge to 60 books and that’s the only year-long goal I’m assigning myself. What I’m going to do instead is set myself shorter-term goals that take into consideration what I already have on my plate.

The first quarter of this year will see me submitting my tax return in January, celebrating my second wedding anniversary in February, and turning thirty in March. March is also a big month for Women Aloud NI, so that’s going to be fairly busy. Plus I’m helping to put together an anthology for Belfast Writers’ Group.

Three things I want to do between now and the end of April, aside from all that: Lose another stone in weight, finish editing and uploading the backlog of Women Aloud NI videos for their YouTube channel and, the biggy, completing the first draft of my second novel.

That’s definitely enough to be getting on with!

Writing Goals for the Second Half of 2018

Being pretty much halfway through the year, I thought it would be a good time to refocus myself and set some goals for the next six months.

I’ve come up with five specifically writing-related ones.

Here goes…

1. Put a Big Dent in Book Two

Having completed a novel during the first half of 2018, I want to start work on a second – the sequel. Mostly, I see myself doing this during CampNaNo in July and NaNoWriMo in November, setting myself up to finish it during CampNaNoWriMo in April 2019.

2. Finish One Piece (Short Story or Poem) a Month

Given that I have so many things half-written, this shouldn’t be too difficult. I just need to dig them out and wrap them up. (It helps that I already have a spreadsheet for this.)

3. Submit Two Pieces Per Month for Publication

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. There’s no point in finishing things up and having a back catalogue of work if I’m not gonna do anything with it. Already, I have a bunch of completed works sitting doing nothing. I’m gonna get on that.

4. Self-Publish Two Micropoetry Collections

I have both of these almost ready to go and have done for some time. Why I haven’t finished the polishing process and pressed ‘publish’, I’m not quite sure. I just wanna get them out into the world already.
Torn between having a launch this summer or trying to get them out for National Poetry Day in October, I’ll be happy as long as they’re complete this year. Details to follow on that soon.

5. Acquire Literary Agent and Join the Society of Authors

This has been on my list – and, indeed, a few different lists – for a long time. Eventually, it’ll happen and I’ll keep going (and keep including it on my ‘to do’ lists) until it does.

What I Wrote in 2017

It took me some time, but I now have a typed record of everything I wrote last year, and I can tell you it all totals one-hundred-and-forty-six-thousand (146,000) words (rounded figure). That equates to a decent sized novel.

For context and comparison, it’s quite a bit more than Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and a bit less than Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (which are 107,253 and 168,923 words, respectively – source for that info. here).

On average, it’s 400 words per day, which is just shy of the 500 words per day that Ernest Hemingway wrote during his life (source).

So, this blog post can be summarized by me saying I’m basically the Ernest Hemingway of Harry Potter. Except, you know, nothing like that at all.

A lot of the words I wrote were towards my novel, but most of them were scattered across a lot of other projects, including 42 blog posts, 80 poems, 20 pieces of flash fiction, a hefty amount of fan fiction (as always), and non-fiction (reports and memoir).

All of the blog posts made it into the world (most of them here on this very website), the fan fiction was all published, and some of the flash fiction got shared online, too, while most of the poems form the second micropoetry collection I’m working on.

I had a poem published in print as part of an Arlen House anthology, had two-and-a-half short stories published in anthologies by Belfast Writers’ Group, a poem published on the website of the Imagine Festival, a short story in an anthology by A New Ulster, and another one published by ANU in their regular journal. (Full list of publishing credits for all years here).

I’d say that’s pretty good output for a year that threw me more than a few curve balls. We’ll have to wait and see how the rest of 2018 pans out for comparison.

The Fear

I have wanted to be an author for a very long time and have been working on novel drafts since 2009/2010. That’s nine years ago, give or take, which seems crazy to me.

Undoubtedly, a lot has happened in that time, not least of which, I have improved my writing and related skills.

I’ve said before that the novel I’m working on at the minute (that I started at the beginning of 2017, I think) just feels right to me. I really think this is the one that could see me getting an agent and publisher. I’m also so close to finishing it; on the pinnacle of sending it off for submission. My beta readers have given me nothing but positive feedback (and I’m not even bribing them, promise!).

And here’s the thing: I am scared to go that last mile.

For all I’ve dreamed about coming to this point and talked almost incessantly about nothing else for months of my life at a time – and for all of the hugely terrifying, genuinely important things going on in the world for other people (like, you know, terrorism and Brexit) – I am currently gripped by the sudden realization that this is real. Or it could be.

I’ve built this up in my head and heart for so long, I… I’m not scared I’ll fail, I don’t think. I’m not sure what it is that’s behind the fear, I just know that it’s here and it’s making me hesitate.

Maybe I’m worried I’ll actually succeed – get an agent and publisher – and that it won’t live up to my expectations, which aren’t even that inflated, realistically. I’ve done my research. I’m under no illusions that I’ll become a rich and famous. And yet… there’s something.  Continue reading