Accomplishments of 2016 + Creative Goals 2017

The world in 2016 has been a bit of a shit show(yes, I know I’m being generous here), but I’ve made massive leaps and strides in my writing career, and as much as I am concerned about where the world is headed from here(into fire and brimstone?) on a personal level, I’m extremely excited for the new year to begin. But first I’d like to take a moment to honour all the things I’ve accomplished this year, because acknowledging our past accomplishments is as important as creating goals for the future.

So here goes, my 2017 creative accomplishments:

1. Edited Good Bye & Submitted It

Spoiler Alert: I got the contract! Good Bye, a YA fantasy novella I’ve put many years of love into, is set to release in April 2017.

2. Edited Moonshadow’s Guardian & started working with a professional editor

I ended up only getting half of Moonshadow’s Guardian, one of my fantasy novels, edited professionally because I had an epiphany that requires somewhat major changes, but this was a big step for me and I’m confident I’ll be able to self publish Moonshadow’s Guardian in early 2018.

3. Drafted Moonshadow’s Guardian 2

Once upon a time I wrote a sequel to Moonshadow’s Guardian. It then got abandoned for several years. This year, I wrote a completely different sequel to Moonshadow’s Guardian, full of exciting things like civil war. It’s a pretty bare bones draft but I’m quite proud of the story, and I’ve got a bunch of ideas bouncing around for a third book.

4. Embarked on some co-writing projects

I can’t say anything about these other than that they exist and none of them are novels, which is exciting. I’ve learned a lot by experimenting with different forms.

5. Wrote a few short stories

One of them has even been edited multiple times and is currently sitting with beta readers for a second read through. I’m hoping to submit it to an anthology with a December 31st deadline, which at this point is rather ambitious, but doable.

6. Started a new but not new series

2016 has been full of creative epiphanies for me, including a big one about a book I had abandoned for several years. Which involved rewriting an entire mythology and deciding to write an entirely different series of books in the same world first. And probably a collection of short stories. Or three. It’s kind of a big, awesome world.

7. Contributed to an RPG

My first official publishing credit for short fiction came in this year, a setting for Tiny Frontiers: Mecha and MonstersI had an incredible amount of fun writing this setting and I hope to write for more games next year.

2017 Creative Goals

In 2017 one big shift I want to make is to expand my creativity beyond writing. Writing will obviously continue to be my focus and career path, but I want to expand my horizons.

1. Edit Moonshadow’s Guardian into publishable shape & crowdfund publication

Most of the editing that needs to be done is around the final conflict, so I’m confident I can pull this off–and I’ve acquired an amazing team of beta readers who are going to help me do it. My goal is to get all the story edits done by October, run a Kickstarter in October to raise funds for copy editing and officially release the book in February 2018.

2. Rewrite Moonshadow’s Guardian 2 & get to beta readers

I’m hoping to release this book in 2019, so this is my other big editing goal for 2017. The first draft of this book was one of the most difficult I’ve ever written, but it resulted in one of my best drafts, and I can’t wait to see how my beta readers will react.

3. Write first book in the new series

This one I’ve already started, and I’m about a thousand words(and fifty pages of notes) into it. Right now the working title is Navelme’s Story, since the main character is named Navelme and titles always take me a really long time. I’d love to be able to publish this book in October or November 2018.

4. Write, edit, and submit six short stories

It might not sound like a lot, but this is one short story every two months on top of all my other projects. And these are entirely new short stories. A short story generally takes me a few days to write and a month to edit, so this gives me some breathing room and seems reasonable on top of my book projects.

5. Edit old short stories

There are also four short stories sitting on my hard drive that I’m hoping to edit and release as freebies for subscribers to my newsletter. Two of these are in the world of Moonshadow’s Guardian and two are in the world of my new series.

6. Finish at least one of my coworking projects

Obviously coworking projects take a back burner to my own personal career, but I’d like to continue working on them and finish at least one.

7. Make at least one prop per month

One of those coworking projects happens to be a script that we’re planning to film ourselves, and this is the perfect creative endeavor for me. I’m going to start with simple things and move on to more complicated projects as the year goes on.

8. Become more consistent with my newsletter & blog

As I mentioned, this year has been a bit of a shit show, and I’ve been mostly good about keeping the blog together but pretty awful at consistently releasing the newsletter. I’m planning to restructure this blog to focus on shorter posts so it’s easier to maintain.

How I chose these goals

There are dozens of things I want to do creatively. I have half a dozen other novels completely outside either series I mentioned that I’d love to rewrite someday, and there are dozens of other creative skills I’d love to learn. But I ask myself one question about every goal on my list: how will this impact my writing career? 

My career as an author is only beginning. Now is the most important time to focus on big impact goals. This is why I’m focusing on books that are part of series–readers prefer series, especially in the fantasy genre. The projects I’ve chosen are also the ones I believe are closest to the possibility of publication. Yes, I’ve only just started the first draft of Navelme’s Story, but I’ve poured endless hours of love into this world and the characters, and I’m confident this first draft will be my best yet. Also, I edit much faster than I used to, so I believe it’s actually possible for me to get Navelme’s Story into publishable shape by the end of 2018.

How do you choose your goals? What are your goals for 2017? Let me know in the comments section below!

What are you going to accomplish in the last four months of the year?

DSC_0615_editSomehow the first eight months of 2016 have already passed us by, and if you’re anything like me you’ve created a list of everything you’ve accomplished this year and you can’t decide if it’s an incredible amount of work or not quite enough(the real answer, I suspect, is a little bit of both). But one thing’s for sure: there are only a precious few months left to reach as many of our goals for the year as possible. Now is the time to start working towards these goals with ferocious determination.

And one of the best ways to motivate yourself is to announce your goals to the world, so please share your goals for the rest of the year in the comments section — but first let me tell you about a couple of my own writing goals:

  • September — Write 30,000+ words of the draft I’m currently working on(it’s a second draft but a complete rewrite), which will bring me almost to the end
  • October — Finish the draft I’m currently working on and write a short story. The second part of this will actually be a way bigger challenge.
  • November — Do final edits on a couple short things I’ve written and start editing the sequel to Moonshadow’s Guardian, the fantasy novel I plan to self publish.
  • December — Finish editing the sequel to Moonshadow’s Guardian(which will hopefully have a better name by then) and write a related short story.

I’m also working on a really intense series of blog posts about developing a diverse cast of characters to go with the interviews I’ve been doing, which will start next Tuesday. This month I’ll actually be attending multiple workshops on creating diverse characters, which I plan to write about in detail — but enough about me, I want to hear about your goals! Let me know what you’re getting up to this fall in the comments.

April Accomplishments

May is here and the A to Z challenge is over at last! April wasn’t exactly the best month for me but I still did make significant progress on each of my goals:

Submit Moonshadow’s Guardian to publishers — This goal is actually changing. As the second book is developing in bigger and bolder ways than I imagined when I set out to write it I’ve reached a point where I want full control over every aspect of this series. Which, by the way, has now become a trilogy.

I’ve already gotten a quote from a professional editor and will be moving forward with this very soon. My plan is to pay for the developmental editing myself and do it over the next six months, then run a crowdfunding campaign next year(probably in February) to pay for line editing, formatting and cover art. I don’t have a huge platform but it is growing steadily and I believe it’s strong enough to get my first book into the world.

Finish Moonshadow’s Guardian 2 — As I mentioned above, this book just keeps getting bigger, so I’m honestly nowhere near done. I had to throw a lot of my outline out the window and change a bunch of stuff, so I have spent lots of time on it and I am confident this will be the best first draft I’ve ever produced.

Blog Regularly — I did all the A to Z Challenge posts except for one(Z is the one I missed, more on that next week) and I also posted a bunch of interviews on The Steampunk Cavaliers blog. Things are going really well over there and I encourage you to check it out.

And here are this month’s goals:

  • Finish altering things in Moonshadow’s Guardian — I have a couple fight scenes and one conversation to alter, then everything is ready for the editor!
  • Actually finish Moonshadow’s Guardian 2 — To be completely honest, I’m not really sure this is plausible because of how much the book has grown and how many threads I have to wrap up now. Still, I’m going to put a lot of hours into it and it just might happen.
  • Keep blogging regularly — Having all my A to Z Challenge posts planned out in advance gave me time to plan all of this month’s posts, so this one should be pretty simple. I’ll be posting articles every Tuesday and interviews every Friday.

What did you accomplish this month? What are your goals for next month? Let me know in the comments section below!

Writerly Goals 2016

DSC_0615_editLast week I shared my accomplishments of 2015 and–in the interest of both accountability and education–today I’m going to share my goals for the year of 2016. This year I’ve actually also divided the goals into quarters and even figured out how far to progress on each goal during the first four months of the year. Of course, this is always subject to change, but I’m pretty proud of the way I’ve broken things down:

1. Submit Good Bye to 30 publishers(or until I get a contract) — Good Bye is actually a novella so this is a somewhat ambitious number, but it’s totally doable.

  • January: Finish editing Good Bye and edit the synopsis/query(queries will be customized but the blurb will be the same for each one) 3-5 times. Submit the initial batch of queries at the end of the month, probably 10
  • May: By now I should have heard from most/all of the publishers in my initial submission batch and if I haven’t gotten any nibbles I’ll revise the submission package and send it to a second group of publishers
  • October: Again this is plenty of time to have heard from publishers so this is when I’ll submit to the third batch of publishers on my list if I haven’t gotten any nibbles. At this point I’ll probably revisit the actual manuscript and potentially make some small changes as well

2. Submit Moonshadow’s Guardian to 40 publishers(or until I get a contract) — As an adult fantasy novel of roughly 67,000 words there are tons of markets for this book so I think 40 submissions is totally reasonable. This is currently on submission so whenever I hear back I will immediately submit to the first batch of publishers unless I decide to make a few more last minute edits(or miraculously get a contract from the first publisher I queried).

3. Write sequel to Moonshadow’s Guardian — I actually wrote a sequel for this book initially but scrapped it years ago. This year I had some brilliant new ideas for it and I’m already a quarter of the way through the outline. I’m going to start on this right away once I’m done editing Good Bye so it will theoretically be in something like readable shape when I actually get a contract.

  • January: Finish outlining and start the first draft
  • February: Complete the first draft
  • June: I’ll have spent two months away and be ready to start the second draft of this novel at this point
  • July: Knowing me I’ll convince myself I can finish the second draft in June, hit a snag and have to do massive restructuring, so I’ll finish the second draft sometime in July

4. Rewrite Some Secrets Should Never Be Known Pt. 1 for submission — This used to be one book but has grown enough to almost be its own book. I’ll be adding a couple subplots to flesh it out completely and mercilessly editing the already existing scenes. I also want to make sure the second part goes through at least a couple rewrites so I can adjust the story in the first part as I need to before submitting.

  • February: Outline Pt. 1 and Pt. 2
  • March: Start writing new version of Pt. 1
  • April: Finish new version Pt. 1 and start new version Pt. 2
  • May: Finish new version Pt. 2
  • August & September: Edit Pt. 1 & draft submission package
  • October & November: Edit Pt. 2, Start part 1
  • December: Finish editing Pt. 1 and start submitting

5. Blog Regularly — I really fell off the blogging bandwagon this year when a heavy workload and insomnia conspired to leave me without a lot of energy, but I’ve been working quite hard on my writing and I’ve also acquired a lot of books. So here’s my blog plan:

  • January — April: Reviews & Things! I’ll be exposing some excellent books with diverse casts that are far too often ignored, as well as reviewing all of the books I enjoy from a massive(think 30 books) bundle of ebooks about writing I purchased during a Nanowrimo special. This is the first time I’ll ever be reading so many writing related books in a relatively short period of time and I’m excited to share the best ones with you.
  • May — August: I suspect by this point I’ll be heavily into video production on some projects I’ve been sort of working on for the last month or so. Depending on where things are, I might be talking a lot about them and what I’ve learned as well as sharing them here. Otherwise I’ll probably continue to review craft related books.
  • September — December: I’ll definitely have some wicked video stuff to show during this part of the year, but I’ll also be taking some classes(both writing related and not) that I’ll be reviewing here.

6. Double my writing income(without working more hours) — It’s a fairly lofty goal with everything else going on in my life, but I’m fairly confident I can do it. Of course I will be working 5-8 extra hours a week at first to research clients and publications to pitch as well as working on the pitches themselves, but I’m going to get a strong start on this at the end of this month when one of my existing contracts wraps up.

For this one I have a simple goal: research and pitch 10 companies every month. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to consistently get my name out there and a few excellent clients can easily double my income. I’ll also be applying for some grants this year in the hopes of taking a sabbatical to edit Some Secrets Should Never Be Known.

What are your goals for this year? How have you organized them? Let me know in the comments below!

How committed are you to building a successful writing career?

CommitEveryone says they’re committed to their goals, but how many actually take regular, massive action to achieve them? How many people are actually committed enough to come home from their day jobs and work for hours on an art project, a novel, a side business?

We hear about these people all the time–people who work full time and still spend 20 hours a week building their business until they’re able to quit that full time job comfortably. People who put themselves through college or university by working full time and still get excellent marks. People who put their entire lives on hold and spend 80 hours a week working to release a new project or create a new business.

We hear about them all the time, but the people who actually pull these great feats off are a small fraction of the population. Most people come home from work emotionally drained and spend all their free time surfing the web or watching TV.

But here’s what you don’t often hear: you can achieve a year’s work in a single month of massive action if you’re strategic about it.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I was recently featured in a self-help book called COMMIT: How to Blast Through Problems & Reach Your Goals Through Massive ActionIt happens to be written by one of my favourite bloggers, Linda Formichelli(The Renegade Writer).

Before the book’s release Linda asked her subscribers to send in stories of when they committed in a big way and managed to change their lives. I told her the story of my first Nanowrimo–over ten years ago now–and she decided to include my story in her book, which meant I also got a free copy of COMMIT.

The book is simple and offers clear strategies for achieving your goals, with writing exercises to help you create a concrete plan. If you’re struggling to create a detailed plan that will propel you towards your goals, COMMIT is an essential guide.

Many of the strategies are things I already actively do–fill every spare moment, participate in 30 day challenges, rely on a community to keep me accountable, read books and blogs related to my goals and maintain my own space to do all this work in.

To be honest, I think COMMIT would have been much more useful to me if it came out three or four years ago, but I still loved reading it and it got me thinking:

How committed are you to your writing career? Do you regularly take massive action towards your goals? Let me know in the comments below!

Are you thinking about next year?

opportunity-396265_640Nanowrimo’s been over for a while now, which hopefully means that you now have something that can loosely be defined as a novel and have even done some celebrating.

Having finished your novel, done your celebrating, and fully recovered from both, you’re likely now remembering that Christmas or whatever holiday it is that your family happens to celebrate–because religious or not, everybody seems to celebrate something at this time of year–and realizing that you’re drastically behind on your holiday shopping.

With all these things on your mind, have you stopped to think about what you’re going to accomplish next year? Have you started making plans?

“New Year’s Resolutions” might not be effective, but having a loose plan for what you’ll accomplish next year well before it begins can help you stay aware of your progress and stay on track throughout the year.

One easy way to create a plan for next year without setting yourself up for disappointment–it’s amazing how much your life can change in a single year–is to create two separate lists of goals. One will be the bare minimum you want to accomplish next year. It will include three or four big things that you want to accomplish no matter what happens.

This list might look a little bit like this:

  • Edit my 2010 Nanowrimo novel twice and get feedback
  • Edit my 2006 Nanowrimo novel based on feedback
  • Edit & submit fantasy novella
  • Blog regularly
  • Build a consistent income from writing related work

This might seem like a lot, and it is, but if every edit takes around three months–which is about how long both rewrites I did last year took–and your blog posts aren’t extremely long, this is exactly enough work to keep you busy consistently throughout the year, even if you have to do other work to pay the bills.

After you’ve created your “bare minimum” list, it’s time to think about what you’d actually really like to accomplish next year. Everybody has commitments outside of writing, and you’re probably already aware of what some of your commitments will be next year.

Your second list will be a list of everything you want to accomplish, barring serious injury or something else that causes you to lose a large chunk of time. 

Most of us have a pretty solid idea of how much time there is in a year, but we often underestimate how much of that time will be committed to things we don’t really enjoy and overestimate how much we can actually accomplish in that amount of time.

When we write out our lists of goals, we tend to think optimistically, believing we will be more disciplined next year than ever before, that we will get more writing related work done than we have ever before. So we write lists that are half a mile long, and when we look at them a year later, we can’t help but cringe at the sinking feeling of disappointment.

Yet without big dreams, often we accomplish nothing. So go ahead and write out your crazy, detailed list that makes it look like you know everything will go smoothly next year. Leave it somewhere just visible enough that you’ll be reminded of your big dreams once in a while.

What have you accomplished this year? What do you think you can accomplish next year? Share your thoughts–or your lists–in the comments below!

Your Daily Marketing Schedule

agenda Now that you’ve decided which social media networks to focus on and where you hope to make guest appearances, it’s time to create a daily marketing plan for the next month. Some activities, like scheduling promotional social media posts, should be done once or twice a month for best results, but you should incorporate time for marketing in your schedule every day.

Why it’s important to market daily

Even if your blog already has several hundred followers, even if you’re selling books well or making a decent living from freelance writing, you need to market yourself every day. Word of mouth is great, but marketing your books and blog yourself is the only way you can guarantee an increase in followers. This is especially true early on–eventually you will experience organic growth, but only a small percentage of people will share your work, so you need to get a fairly large number reading your stuff before it really takes off.

Jobs dry up. Old fans get too busy–or broke–to purchase your latest book. Some months you get more rejections than others. Intense marketing when you go through one of these dry spells might help you get back on your feet, but only by marketing yourself daily will you be able to avoid the dry spells. Hundreds of writers are already marketing daily. To get and keep attention, you must do the same.

How much time should you devote to marketing?

This varies greatly. If you already have a significant following and are making a decent income from your writing, half an hour might be all you need to stay visible. If you only started promoting yourself a month ago, you might want to devote significantly more time to marketing.

Outside life will put constraints on the amount of time you spend marketing, but you should make sure you spend at least half an hour, five days a week putting your name out there.

My daily marketing schedule varies–some days are devoted almost entirely to paid clients–but I always find at least an hour to market myself and search for freelance clients.

What should be on your daily marketing task list?

Every writer’s daily marketing task list will be different. The best ones will all have one thing in common: they focus on creating and developing relationships. Selling a product or service should always be your secondary concern. Even if it isn’t, the key is to act like it is.

So how do you accomplish this?

Start with a small daily commitment to the social networks you’ve decided to focus on. I spend 20 minutes on Twitter every day and always retweet one post I enjoyed by someone in my network and start or participate in a conversation with one other person. I’ve grown to love these conversations, and while Twitter itself still isn’t providing me many clients, I am building awesome relationships with awesome people who might someday read my novels. That’s pretty great. I also participate in one LinkedIn conversation every day, and am growing quite fond of the groups there.

Make sure you’re actually developing relationships with people and, if you’re looking for freelance work, actively tell new connections and ask them if they need any writing done or know someone who does. People on LinkedIn are especially receptive to this and many will hire you–or at least agree to pass your name along.

As for guest posts, I tend to do these in a cycle. One day I’ll spend half an hour or so identifying blogs where I’d like to guest post. The next day I’ll brainstorm ideas for each blog on my list. On the third day I outline some posts. On the fourth day I pick one to write. I usually edit guest posts two or three times before I submit.

You might decide you want to incorporate another activity or two into your daily marketing schedule. Maybe you want to run your email newsletter daily–which isn’t always a great idea–or cold call businesses to offer freelance services. Do whatever feels right. Some things work better than others, but something you enjoy will always work better than something you don’t.

Write it down

Whether you use a calendar, a monthly planner or a weekly agenda, write all your daily marketing tasks down. Every day. For the next month. Right now. Following through on your marketing plan is the hardest part–and the only way to get results from all the planning you did this month–and a daily reminder will help you get it done.

Eventually your daily marketing activities will become automatic and can be scheduled as just “marketing time”. Until then, write down everything you’re committed to doing. Remember that you won’t see big results right away. You might develop a connection on your first day, but it will take time to forge enough connections to create a steady income from your writing.

Incorporate marketing into your daily schedule this month if you want to grow your following substantially this year–every day you wait is an opportunity lost.

Creating a guest article strategy

If you read any marketing blog long enough you’ll eventually hear about the benefits of guest posting on other blogs or writing articles for different websites and online magazines. Many popular bloggers attribute their success to these guest appearances. I’ve personally made several guest appearances over the years on different websites, and I find each one is marked by a spike in readership both for the day and in the long run.

Better still, the right guest article strategy will earn money while you build your author platform. There are several blogs that pay for guest posts, and if you’re interested in freelancing, guest articles are also a good way to build publishing credits. Of course, you can’t guarantee that every guest post you pitch will be accepted, but if you follow the steps outlined in this post you should be able to guarantee yourself at least a couple guest appearances in the coming months.

Step One: Create a master list of blogs/websites to appear on

Start with blogs you love that accept guest posts. If you can’t think of any, start following some. Part of building a successful blog is becoming part of the blogging community. That means following interesting blogs and interacting with their authors via comments. Of course nobody has time for every blog, but you should be reading at least two blog posts every day.

Even if you do follow a number of blogs, spend some time on Google looking for interesting ones you can contribute to and online magazines you might be able to write for.

Be creative when hunting for these blogs/websites. Sure, you can write about writing–and find several markets related to the topic–but what else do you know? Have you owned a pet? Volunteered somewhere interesting? Traveled the world? You can find several opportunities to publish guest articles about almost any topic.

Do a separate search for paid opportunities to write about the topics you’re comfortable with. Most of the blogs I’ve found that pay for guest posts center around technology and programming, but there are paid opportunities in every niche; you just have to look hard enough.

Ideally your master list should contain at least three potential writing opportunities for each topic you feel qualified to write about. A mix of paid and unpaid opportunities should be included. You can find out more about how to choose the right blogs from Mike Fishbein’s Guide to Guest Blogging.

Step Two: Brainstorm topics

Come up with 2-3 ideas for each blog on your list. The best ideas will be most suited to one blog, but will be able to fit all your selected blogs about a given topic with only minor tweaking.

Focus on answering questions you’ve had along the way. Chances are the people you’re writing for want to hear about what you’ve learned and learn from your experiences around a given topic. The steps you’ve taken to reach this point in your life are probably more interesting than you realize–every job you’ve ever had, everything you’ve ever done can be turned into an article if you think about it in the right way.

Step Three: Create a pitch schedule

Set a goal to pitch a specific number of guest articles each month. This can be whatever you’re comfortable with and have time for. Even sending one pitch a month can open twelve doors in a year. You never know which pitch will make it and what post will become popular, so pitch everything you think is valuable.

A good starting point is 2-3 pitches each month, with a mix of paid and unpaid opportunities. Ideally you also want to pitch blogs in different categories, so if you get all three, you’re appearing in front of three very different audiences in a short period of time. This way you can also recycle any rejected ideas and turn them into pitches for your next round of submissions.

Step Four: Follow through

If you want more in depth help, check out my post about getting your first guest article published. Otherwise, all I’ll say is that your plan isn’t the most important part of building your author platform–it’s the process of actually taking action towards achieving your goals every day. The most detailed plan you’ve ever created means nothing if you don’t implement it.

Creating a content plan for your blog

agenda planner Last week I talked about my efforts to get serious about building my vlog to increasing your number of daily views by 50.

What matters is that you aim high but keep your goals realistic. Aim for a slightly larger input than what you’re comfortable with. This allows you to push yourself to the next level without pushing yourself too hard and burning out.

Don’t commit to posting more frequently than you can handle. It’s better to publish fewer posts and schedule them a couple months in advance in case you get really sick or busy. Of course, you can change the schedule at any time, but having posts ready to go several weeks in advance helps eliminate a lot of blogging stress.

Your long term goals should include how many posts you want to write this year, how many readers you want to gain and any content you want to release that’s related to your blog–say an email newsletter or an ebook based on your blog content.

Planning for each month

Your plan for each month should include the number of posts you’ll publish each week, when they’ll publish–consistency in your schedule matters more than frequency–and potential themes or topic ideas. You can choose to give each month a theme or create a point form list of post ideas. I usually do both. Ideally, your plan should include outlines for at least a handful of these posts.

Remember to build a variety of posts into your plan, both in terms of topics and formats. You want to keep readers interested by providing something a little different each week. You’ll also want to figure out what posts attract the most attention so you can incorporate more of those into your future planning. Starting with a wide range of posts will allow you to narrow your work down to the most effective.

Any important dates–such as the release of your first email newsletter or subscriber freebie–should also be included in each month’s plan. After all, you’ll want to write a blog post about these dates, right?

Creating a long term plan

You don’t need all the details, but having some idea what you’ll be doing six months, a year or even two years from now can help keep you on the right track. A long term vision makes it easier to do short term planning–after all, how else are you supposed to know what you’re working towards? How are you supposed to measure success if you don’t know what that success looks like?

While a long term plan should definitely note changes in your posting schedule–say if you’ll be returning to school in September and will want to cut back on posting frequency at that time–and potential themes for future months, it’s also where you put goals related to building outwards from your blog. If one of your long term goals is to create an ebook from your blog, plan to start working on it in a few months and publish it in a year when your blog is fairly well known–or work with whatever schedule you’re comfortable with.

Think of your long term content plan as a business plan for your website. Any extra content, future ideas, and goals you have for your content–both in terms of how many people you reach and how much money you make–belong here.

The more solid your plan, the easier it will be to implement. It’s important to always leave some room for change, because the only constant in life is change and better ideas may surface, but give yourself a solid foundation to build your author platform on. Putting conscious energy into building your author platform now will separate you from the rest when it comes time to publish your first novel.

Tactics for when you’re stuck on rewrites

I’ve spent a long time in rewrites–first working on Moonshadow’s Guardian, then the second draft of my 2011 Nanovel–and the last two weeks have been the most unpleasant of all. Each day I wrote a page, maybe less, of the actual novel and spent hours entranced in other writing. Avoiding the novel itself.

Late last week I hunkered down, figured out the issue causing my avoidance and worked through it. Now I’m back to work on my novel, confident I won’t stall again.

When you’ve been working on the same project for a long time it can be difficult to continue. You start to lose your enthusiasm and writing becomes like walking on hot coals. Every scene seems an insurmountable challenge. The book itself becomes a monster you avoid like the one you thought was under your bed in childhood.

There are many potential reasons why you’re stalling, and many potential solutions. I’ve pulled together the methods I used to get myself back into my current WIP(Work In Progress). Still, the most important advice is to be persistent. If you write a paragraph every day, the day will eventually come when you write several pages instead and the dam is broken. If you want to start writing several pages a day again, beginning with tomorrow, these strategies should be able to nudge you in the right direction:

1. Re-assess your goals: stalling might be a sign you’re focused on the wrong goals. Maybe there’s another project you’ve been ignoring because you’ve been too focused on your WIP. Or maybe you’ve been pushing yourself way too hard and you need to scale back. Schedule breaks. Time to work on other projects, time for fun. Even when you’re not stuck, it’s good to re-assess your goals and current life balance often to make sure you’re on track.

It’s more important to build everyday habits that will help you achieve your long term goals than it is to finish it fast. Give yourself a goal that allows flexibility and room to relax. Pushing yourself too hard will only make you hate your novel and extreme burnout. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way a few times, and I suspect I’ll end up having to learn it again eventually. Re-assess your chosen goals and your overall life now–and again every few months–to avoid learning it the same way.

2. Modify your outline: the problem might be that you’ve taken your story in the wrong direction. It may be that you’re approaching a scene from the wrong angle, that you’re writing the wrong scene or even that your story is completely off course. Whatever the problem, if you’re working from a solid outline, you can find it there.

Examine your outline carefully. Are there significant changes since your first draft? Maybe the old story line was better or maybe you took it in the wrong direction. If you didn’t make any large changes, maybe it’s time you did.

3. Develop your characters: the issue might be that you don’t know all your characters as well as you should. You might be stuck because you don’t know a character’s motivations or how they’d react in a given situation. Or perhaps you’re not quite used to a PoV(Point of View) character’s voice.

Usually taking a troublesome character through some writing exercises is a good start and sometimes all you need. Doing a brainstorm session around a period of their life or their motivations, filling out timelines and physical descriptions can all be useful.

Sometimes you need to create a new character or kill one off. Don’t be afraid to do either one–whatever makes the story stronger–and don’t be afraid to take your time. Getting to the point where you won’t stall again is more important than working on your novel today.

4. Work on your backstory: sometimes you need to go back and take a closer look at your setting or other details of your backstory. For my current WIP I found myself having to write out the kingdom’s laws and several pages about the dominant religion before I could get back to my novel. Most of the time these issues are self evident after you reread the last few scenes you wrote or can be found easily by looking at the outline.

If you’re confident you need to develop your setting further, ask yourself these questions:

  • How much do I know about my MC’s religion?
  • How much do I know about laws in my story’s setting?
  • What are some local delicacies?
  • How much do I know about the science/magic/medicine of my setting?

These 4 strategies should get you excited about your novel again and smooth out the process of writing that second draft. Rewriting will always be difficult, but you can get through it–and if you want to be a pro writer, you will.