Tag Archives: writing goals

Setting 2018 Writing Goals

6 Jan

Now that we’re a week into 2018, you’ve probably set new goals and you’re already striving after them. And that’s awesome! But I made a huge mistake while setting goals last year, and I thought I’d discuss it, so you don’t make the same mistake I did when you tackle your writing life this year.

So what happened? Last year, I set three goals (and failed them all), which you can read about here, but I thought I would focus on the goal of connecting with a literary agent. While I definitely spoke to a number of talented folks, I never quite found “the one.” I felt like a failure. But did I fail? I mean, I connected with amazing people! I finished manuscripts. I learned. I revised. I resubmitted. I never gave up. And doors are still open for me, even today. So, I shouldn’t have felt like a failure. I should’ve felt proud, because, even though I didn’t walk away with the shiny new contract, I walked away with more knowledge, connections, and opportunities.

Extra tip: Keep a planner to stay on track, but don’t plan too far ahead. That way, you can adjust if need be.

Where I went wrong: Setting the goal of “I will get a literary agent” was unrealistic. Why? Because it depended on another person, and that person is largely out of my control. Yes, I can always write more and better—and yes, I could always spend more time making connections—but just because you have a great book or idea or following or etc. does not mean you’ll find the right person to represent you and your work. Do I have room to grow? Always. But so do many repped authors. Signing that contract is a largely personal decision from both sides. This goal depends on two people, not just me, so while having the goal to connect with an agent is fine, my goal shouldn’t have been “get a literary agent by the end of the year.” It should’ve been “I will submit my work to # of agents who enjoy my genre” or “I will spend X hours a week researching the industry, so that I am more prepared to query next time around.”

Basically, I learned to set realistic and fair goals. What do I mean by that? Goals should revolve around work you can accomplish, not how others react to your work.

Common, unrealistic publishing goals: How large your advance is, how many copies of your books are distributed, how well something sells (because, seriously, even experts can’t predict why books resonate), and publishing contracts in general.

Solution? Set goals to learn, write more, and submit, submit, submit. Examples: I will read fifty books this year, I will write 10,000 words every week, I will try to connect with new beta readers by this spring, I will submit my manuscript by July, etc. But remember, publishing isn’t a race. While goals should keep you moving, they aren’t meant to be hard deadlines. If you find out you can’t write 10,000 words a week, that’s fine. Do what you can. Never let your goals hurt you. For example, “I will get a publishing contract by December” might negatively impact you, because you’re going to submit when you’re not ready just to meet a deadline you alone set. If you make a goal to meet something by January, don’t beat yourself up if you end up needing to extend it to February. Just make sure you’re ready. You can always edit your goals…and set completely new ones.

In fact, when I really think about it, I set goals all year around.

Whether its spring or fall, rain or shine, I’m constantly considering what I want to do next and/or how to accomplish it.

Actually, I’ve met two goals this year already.

  1. The Timely Death trilogy will be an audiobook with duel narration!
  2. I resubmitted a revised manuscript.

All goals take a lot of time and energy, and I’m really proud I’ve accomplished these two goals. Where those paths will take me, I have no clue, but I am ready to set more goals and move forward in a realistic and positive way.

What are some of your goals for 2018?

~SAT

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Balancing Writing During the Holidays

25 Nov

Most writers aren’t able to write full time. That means we tend to work full time and write full time. Between writing, querying, editing, and marketing, our schedules can quickly feel crushing, especially if you’re working toward a very specific goal, such as a revision deadline. Taking breaks can often make writers feel guilty. But you deserve a break, too. Especially during the holidays.

Grab a cocoa, some cookies, and watch the snow fall.

Admittedly, I’m a bit of a workaholic. My life is often, if not always, out of balance. I don’t make enough time for family or friends (or myself) and, though I know I should, I really struggle to find time in my jam-packed calendar full of work, publishing, writing goals, and personal goals. But that’s also why I get burnt out so often. (Okay. So maybe this year was just awful.) Anyway…

I’m trying to be more mindful going into the holiday season. You know, taking more time to sit back and relax, so that when I sit down to write I feel energized and passionate, rather than bogged down by crippling responsibility.

I try to look at it this way: I can’t write dialogue if I’ve never participated in a conversation. Without regular reminders of life, it is more difficult to describe it—to connect with it—and it’s important to be realistic in stories. (It’s also important that we, as people, have interaction with others.)

My personal holiday notes?

  • Don’t let your goals take over your life.
  • Some sacrifice is okay, but don’t sacrifice everything all the time.
  • Enjoy the holidays.

If you are trying to keep up with everything during the holidays, my writing tips are about the same as they are throughout the year: Set aside time to write and stick with it. Always have a notebook on hand. (I use the SimpleNote app, so I never forget it, and I can transfer notes directly to my Scrivener on my laptop.) Set specific goals (Ex. I will write or edit 10,000 words every week), but don’t beat yourself up too much if you don’t accomplish every goal you set. Adjust and keep writing. Rest well and dream often. Oh, and reward yourself with holiday cookies.

If you notice I’m not online as much this holiday season, it’s because I’m trying to be more present in my life. (I even got my first Christmas tree!) I have my blog articles planned for December, but they’ll mostly be fun, light-hearted pieces, along with my regular end-of-the-year posts (like my favorite books of the year and where I think trends are heading). I’m hoping I can get back into the swing of things in 2018, but I’m more focused on having more balance in my life, because I let my life get way too out-of-balance this year.

Balance is important, not only during the holiday season, but also during the rest of the year.

Take care of each other.

Happy Holidays,

~SAT

Challenge Your Writing

12 Jun

Challenging your writing is important, but what does that mean?

It means trying something new—attempting a project outside your box of comfort—or switching everything up entirely. Challenging yourself can be a big or small adventure. You can try a new genre in a short story rather than a novel, for instance. But pushing yourself to try a new genre, tone, perspective, etc. can only benefit you. As an example…

I mainly write YA SFF, and I have done so for ten years now, but recently, I set out to write a historical novel. Not only that, but it is my first serious project written in third person. Why? Because I’m challenging my writing…and myself.

Challenge: Try a new utensil. If you normally type your books, try a pencil. See if that changes your perspective.

You see, I’m comfortable with first-person science fiction and fantasy. Almost too comfortable. I find myself flying through drafts and ideas—and I love that, don’t get me wrong—but I can’t help but feel like I’m missing something more. A hurdle. A bit of fear. A semblance of discovery. By challenging myself, I can learn more. I might even fall in love with a new style, genre, or voice. The possibilities are endless.

It’s easy to write with your strengths, but what about overcoming your writing weaknesses?

I struggle with romance, for instance. Though I love first-person, I find it a bit narcissistic, so concentrating on feelings on top of the I, we, me, etc. has always been uncomfortable for me. So, I thought, What about third person? I had no idea if third person would help me overcome this hurdle or not, but hey, I set out to try…and sure enough, I learned a lot about myself and about writing those more emotional scenes. In fact, I look forward to learning even more about my writing through this challenge, and I look forward to future challenges I set out to overcome.

Granted, challenges come with…well, challenges.

Normally, I would be 60,000 words into this first draft, but I’m currently sitting at 42,000…and it’s a messy 42,000. (A really messy 42,000.) But I’m also in love with the mess.

I have never been so unsure of my writing in my life, but I still believe in the manuscript. I still believe in the challenge. And even if I never finish this book, I already succeeded at reaching my original goal: Learning something new.

Constantly challenging myself helps me learn more about my writing and about myself. So I challenge you to set a challenge for yourself today.

Try a new genre. Write from a new type of character’s perspective. Attempt a different perspective entirely.

Just go on an adventure. Make mistakes. Overcome obstacles. Try again.

You might discover something amazing.

~SAT

 

#MondayBlogs Making More Time To Write

19 Dec

I wish I had more time to write.

Am I right?

But seriously, every writer I know wishes they had more time to write, and most writers also know it’s a matter of making more time to write. (You know, unless you managed to get your hands on Hermione Granger’s Time-Turner, in which case, lucky you.)

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But how does someone make more time to write?

1. Study your schedule

2. See what you can adjust

3. Set a new schedule and stick with it

Sounds simple, right? But we all know it isn’t.

We have schedules for a reason. They work. We’ve figured out how much time we need each morning to make breakfast and get ready for work. We know how much energy we have to expend throughout the day, and we know that we HAVE to watch that new KDrama releasing this month. (I mean, we all need to satisfy our vices every now and then, right?)

But here’s the truth: You CAN change your schedule…and it might be a little uncomfortable at first. You also might have to change it more than once to find that extra timeslot that works for you.

Want an example?

Recently, I wanted to meet a deadline early, but I knew I didn’t have enough time in my day to do so. In fact, I rarely write every day. My full-time job on the computer often leaves me exhausted and, quite frankly, sick of staring at a computer screen. Add carpal tunnel, and, well, it gets easy to say no to writing after work. But I knew that was my weak point, so I started there.

I set my goal: Wake up an hour early every day just to write. Before emails. Before social media. Before work. Before everything. Just an hour to write.

The first three days were awesome. Granted, I started my goal on a weekend. That way, I was still rewarded with a little extra sleep. But then the workweek came.

Holy hell. The first day wasn’t bad, but the second? UGH. The fifth day was probably the worst day, though the sixth day had me wondering if I really wanted to do this. At one point, I actually wrote less than my usual amount, because I was too tired to concentrate. Then, the seventh day came, and I adjusted much faster that morning. Now, it’s routine.

After I adjusted, I definitely reached my goals and wrote more than I expected. (I added an extra hour of writing time, after all.) I’m still getting up an hour early every day, and so far, so good. I don’t feel any more tired than I used to, and I’m more productive than I was before. I mainly attribute this to the fact that I start my day with writing. Even though I’m not a morning person, it’s easy to get bogged down by the day, but if I start writing before all of that pressure puts me down, I can write without worry, without distraction, and without the world of work life. Granted, I’m not telling everyone to do what I did. Your goals are going to be different than mine, because your life is different than mine. But I promise you, you can find more time without a Time-Turner.

So, here are three additional tips.

1. Consider what is actually holding you back. For me, it was work exhaustion, so I knew I had to find time before work. But I was hesitant. I’m not a morning person. I’m a monster in the mornings. And this fact terrified me before I even started. I was sure I would fail, but I didn’t. Don’t let your limitations set you back. Many limitations are like your schedule: You set them. You can also change them. (Though I still don’t consider myself a morning person.)

2. Make smaller goals within your larger ones. Having a goal beyond “I just want to write more” helped me push myself to reach expectations. I had a deadline. This smaller goal helped me stay focused on something specific and attainable. If you go in thinking you’re changing your life, it might make you feel overwhelmed, but if you go in thinking you’re trying to change your week, it will feel reachable.

3. Tough out your new schedule. As you saw above, I had ups and downs. I had mornings I questioned myself, and plenty of times I wanted to stay in bed, but I didn’t. I forced myself to get up again and again, and eventually, I adjusted. Personally, I suggest toughing out your schedule for at least two weeks to see if you can adjust to it. If you can’t, try another adjustment.

Changing anything in your life isn’t easy, but having more time to write?

Now, that’s worth it.

~SAT

#WW Writing in Limbo

9 Sep

This may be personal in regards to my writing life, but I’d be surprised if it were unique to me. During and right after a book release, it’s difficult for me to write. Not because I don’t want to, but because I end up spending hours upon hours on Luna-P (a.k.a. my lappy toppy) for interviews, guest posts, and social media in general (all of which I love, but it results in some sore eyes). So, for a little while after releases, I’m in a limbo period.

What is a limbo period?

Well, for me, it’s just Dante’s way of saying I’m in wait. I’m not writing right now; I’m simply waiting for the right time to write again. I’m resting, so to speak.

I’ve seen a few people call this writer’s block, but I want to clarify that it isn’t writer’s block, because I could write. (And, as you’ll see below when I talk about what I’ve been doing, you’ll see, in fact, I do write sometimes.) But it’s more like a mental vacation to regain energy and focus.

Maybe I’m the only one who does this…but I doubt it. We all need rest, after all, and I’m still productive during this limbo time.

Coffee and chocolate helps limbo too!

Coffee and chocolate helps limbo too!

What do I do during the limbo?

I mainly analyze where I’m at and where I want to go. Ex. What novel do I want to release next? What about books after that? What do I want to do differently with that novel? Covers? Events? Local events? Traveling?

I set goals, and I try to make them realistic, and I tell myself it’s okay if I don’t make them (but how cool would it be if I do?)

I’m currently in this writing limbo phase. Since Minutes Before Sunset and Seconds Before Sunrise have released during the past two months—not to mention Death Before Daylight releasing on September 15—I’ve basically been in limbo for a little while now. And I’ve been enjoying it. While I did complete the rewrite of November Snow—See? You can write during limbo—I have focused a lot of my energy on where I’m going next. For instance, I want to release November Snow next. Then, I think I’ll return to The Tomo Trilogy (good news for you Take Me Tomorrow fans!) In fact, I was analyzing the sequel, Take Me Yesterday, just other night. I also want to try to get more swag for readers and hold two to three local events this fall for the paranormal season. I think it’d also be nice to offer signed box sets of The Timely Death Trilogy this October. So, look out for that. I’ve even taken some time to think over my blogging plan, and I might talk about this more in the future, but I’ll probably be ending guest posts in November (so now is the time to submit at shannonathompson@aol.com). I plan on using the Monday slot for old posts (we’re talking two-year-old blog posts) that were really popular, but are in need of a rewrite.

I’m planning and plotting—and not just books—and I’m having a great time.

Limbo doesn’t have to be a scary place, or an unproductive place, or a place of worry. It can be saved. In fact, it can be looked forward to. It can even take you places.

~SAT

Death Before Daylight, book 3 of The Timely Death Trilogy, releases in six days! That being said, the paperback has been moved to October 19, but I hope you all enjoy the last book of the trilogy! You can pre-order it here:  AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooks. (And, of course, the first book is free: AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooks.)

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The latest teaser released

In other news, the Seconds Before Sunrise blog tour is underway. Most recently, we were on Just Amy for a spotlight, but I’ll share more interviews and such soon. If you want to participate in the release day blast for Death Before Daylight, sign up here.

On September 18, Clean Teen Publishing will be hosting an event on Facebook from 7-9 p.m. (EDT) to celebrate the release. I’ll be there and giving away a TON of Dark prizes, so feel free to join us by clicking here.

rp But there are more events to come! Keep an eye out.

Stay Dark,

~SAT

#WW Staying Focused as a Writer

8 Jul

#WW Staying Focused as a Writer

Staying focused. It sounds simple but is all too complicated for many. It’s different for every writer, but I’ve recognized quite a few common stressors among authors. Some get overwhelmed by finding time to write and manage social media. Others can’t finish a novel without another one sneaking up on them. Some even ditch novels altogether. Like I said, it’s different for everyone, and there are many reasons behind the variety of #writerproblems out there. (Hence why there is an actual hashtag for such things.)

So, today, I wanted to discuss one I deal with as well as the ways I’ve kept myself in check over the years, but I would love to hear about how you manage your writing!

My issue is completing a novel when a new one suddenly demands my attention.

How are we supposed to concentrate on such a beautiful day?

How are we supposed to concentrate on such a beautiful day?

While I have no problem finishing a novel or coming up with an ending, I used to have a hard time keeping focused on the one I need to complete next. Any time I got a new idea or a new character, all I wanted to do was obsess over the new, potential story in front of me. I realized it was a problem when I spent more of my time planning novels than actually writing them, and while this happened to me a few years ago, I learned a lot of little tricks to keep me focused. In fact, this exact issue happened to me recently. While I’m mainly working on the rewrite of November Snow, I have another completed novel—one that’s never been released before that I refer to as “D”—and while it is complete, there is something wrong with it in my gut. And I realized what it was just the other day. Now, all I want to do is go fix everything in that manuscript. But I have to control myself. This is how.

1. Give Yourself a Time Limit

Whether it’s writing in a new novel or posting on your social media, tell yourself you only have an hour or two to do what you want before you continue to do what you need to do. Maybe you give yourself a few days. (I did.) However much time you need, give it to yourself, but try to set a time limit so you can get back to your original task. For instance, I gave myself a few days to jot everything down for “D”, but eventually, I know I have a bigger goal that needed attention, and now, I’m back to focusing on November Snow. “D” will gets its day soon. This isn’t to say I don’t want to work on November Snow. I do. I want to work on both, but I had to pick one because of other goals I’ve set (publishing dates, for instance).

2. Be Aware of Triggers

Another aspect of this I have to control has to do with triggers. I will use music as an example. I’ve only recently started writing with music on, but now I have associated playlists, and they help me focus almost immediately. If I hear “Murakami” by Made in Heights, November Snow is the only thing I can concentrate on. But “Dreamland” by Fan Shiqi triggers “D” so fast that I’ve learned to avoid that song when I’m trying to focus on November Snow. Keeping the right triggers around me, while avoiding the wrong ones, not only energizes what I want and need to focus on, but also prevents distractions.

3. And finally—Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

This is going to contradict my first tip, but if you go over your time limit or you simply change goals altogether, that’s fine. You know in your gut what you need and want to do. It’s a matter of being honest with yourself, understanding yourself, and accepting yourself and your artistic process. I could beat myself up all day that I lost time on the November Snow rewrite for “D”, but that would be counterproductive. I got something done, after all. Now, I just need to get more done. Just keep moving.

This is how I’ve stayed focused through my #writerproblems. How about you? What are your tricks and tips?

~SAT

Announcements:

We’re 20 days away from Minutes Before Sunset!

Seconds Before Sunrise, book 2, is also up for pre-order.

And? Clean Teen Publishing listed another Goodreads Giveaway!

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Also, I’ll be at Penned Con in St. Louis Missouri on July 25. If you want to meet me, send me an email! I’m just going as a reader, but I do have my first author event booked for October 17-18 at the Texas Book Festival in Austin, TX. Other events will appear on my Events page in the near future.

In other news, I’m also accepting guest bloggers again. My earliest available date is in October, so be sure to email me at shannonathompson@aol.com if you’re interested. I accept any posts about writing and reading, and I encourage bios, photos, and links. I look forward to hearing from you!

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#WW The Joy of Progress Bars

17 Jun

#WW The Joy of Progress Bars

If you’ve been with me for a while, you might remember when I used to have a progress bar on the right side of my website. I no longer have one, but I’ll talk about that in a minute. Since I no longer have on, my progress bar revolved around my current writing projects. Generally, I had two novels at once, and I included the status (ex. Editing) as well as the estimated release date. I have samples below, but I mainly outlined when my novels were being written, edited, and formatted until the release date. That being said, I loved having progress bars on my website, and I encourage every writer to at least try it for three months. Why?

1. It’s interactive with readers!

A progress bar keeps your readers up-to-date. Not only do they know where you are in your work but they can also talk to you about where you are. Everyone can be a part of the process now, and as a reader myself, I think it’s exciting to see all the steps as they happen. Want to know if I’m editing? Want to know if I’m reviewing edits? Now you know, and you can know where I’m at during every step of the process as the weeks pass. It builds up all that hype, and you can celebrate every milestone with your readers! This is actually the reason I started doing it. When I began receiving regular emails about my current status with my next novel, I wanted to find a way to keep everyone updated by just visiting my website, and it worked wonders for everyone! We could chat whenever we wanted about where we were at and skip the questions so we could go directly to celebrating progress.

Progress from June 3, 2014 - September 28, 2013

Progress from June 3, 2014 – September 28, 2014

2. It reminds writers of how far they’ve come

I definitely recommend progress bars to new writers because it will help you from getting discouraged. At first, it won’t seem like a lot, but when you see your bars over months right next to one another, you can see how much you are accomplishing, and that’s a great feeling! It can help you set goals and encourage yourself. But be warned. Some writers have the opposite feelings about bars. They feel discouraged, like they aren’t moving forward, and it sometimes puts too much pressure on writers, so while it works for many—it’s fun for me—it has also felt worse for others. So, figure out what type of writer you are. If you love writing goals, this might be for you. If you love keeping track of your word count, this might be for you. But if writing goals and word count makes you shrink away from your computer screen, I wouldn’t do it. I would just write.

So why don’t I have one anymore?

Well, I probably will again soon! Honestly, though, I deleted mine when my old publisher closed down because I knew I couldn’t update anyone. Now that I’m back in the swing of things, I will probably keep everyone updated on my writing progress with November Snow and other projects as we move forward. If you want to try one, I make mine via PicMonkey. It’s simple and free—and fun! I love looking back on mine, and I love looking forward to new ones.

What about you? Have you ever tried a progress bar? Would you ever consider trying one?

~SAT

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