The Obligatory New Year’s Goal Setting Post (Happy 2018)

It’s been a while since my last post – holidays, you know how it is. This December seemed to fly by, and I swear lost a week between Thanksgiving and Christmas break. As for the holidays themselves – a whirlwind. To sum it up, we drove to Western PA and Upstate NY to visit family, and the following shenanigans occurred:

  1. Power went out on Christmas day, requiring my uncle to dig his grill out of over a foot of snow. He and my cousin proceeded to finish cooking Christmas dinner – a ham, a pot of sauce and meatballs, and a pot of homemade macaroni – on said grill. Neither snow nor lack of electricity will keep hungry Italians from their food. (Of course, the power came back on literally ten minutes before everything was done cooking.)
  2. It was freaking cold. Like single digits. And we just barely missed a huge lake effect storm in my hometown that dumped about 3 feet of snow overnight.
  3. Babycakes caught a 24-hour bug at the tail end of everything while we were at my in-laws’, which of course hit at 3am. So we were doing a bath and hair washing and bed-linen changing in the middle of the night. The only bright spot is that I happened to decide to sleep on the air mattress with the hubs, rather in the bed with Babycakes. Otherwise I would have gotten a face-full.
  4. We drove 10 hours (give or take) from PA to NC praying Babycakes wouldn’t puke in the car. Fortunately the worst that happened was that we ran out of windshield washer fluid just north of Beckley, WV, and had to go to THREE different gas stations before finally finding a place that wasn’t sold out.
  5. Every adult in the house has subsequently gone through some version of that same 24 hour bug. It’s been rough around here the past few days.

So I was very ready for 2017 to end.

Now that 2018 is here, it’s time to set some goals. Remember, if you’ve read past New Year’s goal-setting posts, I don’t really do resolutions so much as make a plan for things to accomplish. This year, I’m keeping it simple.

  1. Implement Operation Self-Care. I blogged a couple months ago about how I’ve been struggling with stress management, wellness, and so on. I have a general plan in mind and have been chipping away at a few small steps. Now it’s time to put things fully into motion. Improve my nutrition (or at least start taking vitamins regularly again). Fit in exercise. Sleep better. Soak in the garden tub while burning candles that smell like the beach. Read more books. Breathe.
  2. Survive the school year. This sounds more doom and gloom than it is. I’m involved in a couple very cool initiatives with the district Social Studies department, in preparation for a coaching role I’ll be undertaking next year that I’m very excited about. But it’s busy and a lot of work. And then there’s the actual teaching part of my job. Guess who realized this morning, thanks to a coworker’s Facebook post, that she didn’t actually write any plans for January 3rd-5th?
  3. Secure at least one new book contract. I’ve been a bit between projects since HE TAKES THE CAKE came out in June (and the print edition should be out later this spring or early summer, FYI). I submitted a historical romance to Avon Impulse at the beginning of September, but don’t expect to hear back until March. If March comes and goes with no word, I’ll start shopping it around elsewhere. In the meantime, I’ve just finished plotting a trilogy that spins-off THE ONE I’M WITH. Now to write it.

And that’s it! Three pretty simple goals that I think are manageable.

Bonus points if I figure out how to clone myself so I can still teach history but also stay at home with Babycakes and write.

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Welcome to 2017

I hope everyone has had a fun and refreshing holiday season, whatever holiday(s) you may celebrate. My own holiday hiatus was insane, between work and writing and family. But now that the cookies are gone and the confetti has settled, it’s time to get back to business.

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And as usual, that means it’s time for the annual….

Goal Setting Post!

I took a quick peek back at my goal setting post for 2016 and found, well, I didn’t do so hot.

Resolutions and me tend not to get along well.

That said, let’s take a look at some goals for this year.

  1. Finish Sweet Somethings Book #4. It took me a while to really get into this last installment, despite the fact that it’s been plotted since, like, February (I went back and forth over whether Book 4 should have come before THE ONE I’M WITH, so I had both plotted way early on and sort of went “eeny, meeny, miney, mo” with them). I have a soft-ish deadline to get the draft to my editor by the beginning of February, so once again, this is a no brainer of a goal. It’s non-negotiable.
  2. Have at least one hour-long writing session a week. I’ve struggled to pin down writing sessions once September rolled around, when I started a new position at a new school. Much of my extra time has been spent building a kick-ass online course platform for my 7th graders. However, since I’ve streamlined a lot of how my in-school planning time is being spent, I’m doing less at home and more at work. So that’s helping.
  3. Peddle my post-Civil War historical romance. I did some serious editing over the summer, and still need to do some touch ups (plus write the damn synopsis and query letter). But once Sweet Somethings Book 4 is in the bag, I can devote some time to this project and start making the rounds with the manuscript.
  4. Return to the “Magnum Opus”. I actually spent a good chunk of time this summer looking at Volume 1 and marking some areas that still need a bit of spit and polish. And I spent a full day’s work just reading through the mess that is Volume 2 (OMG THE HEAD-HOPPING!!!!). So at least I’m up to speed on what I actually wrote…four years ago…
  5. Flesh out some short synopses for future project ideas. Several years back, I started compiling a list of novel ideas, but most have just the barest basics of a plotline. I’d like to sit down later this year and build on a few of the frameworks, in part to decide where to go next.
  6. Be better at promotional opportunities. This encompasses a lot of things. In addition to the standard stuff I do around a new release, I’m also going to start hitting up review bloggers, looking into getting print releases into local bookstores (and potentially setting up more signings), participating in local author events, and doing more online promotional events, like the Romance Writers Gone Wild Facebook event I did in November.

As far as writing goes, I think I’ll leave it at that. Yeah, a couple of those are repeats from last year, but I don’t think I’m being overly ambitious with this list.

2016 proved a very tumultuous year in Casa de Rowan, for a variety of reasons, but overall our year has us moving in a very positive direction as a family and professionally. I have high hopes for 2017 to continue in that same vein.

And just to get you all excited, Sweet Somethings Book 4, HE TAKES THE CAKE, is slated for a spring release. Lots more details to come, so make sure you keep an eye on my socials, the blog, and sign up for my email newsletter to stay in the loop!

Here’s a little taste to jump start your craving…

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Mmmm… Red Velvet…

 

Off to Camp – Camp NaNoWriMo, That Is

Way back in the early 2000s, I attempted NaNoWriMo a couple times. I didn’t get far. November is sort of a sucky month for teachers to attempt a 50k word draft.

Then in 2012, I decided to try tacking JulNoWriMo. The result was the first three-quarters of the manuscript that, eventually, became my upcoming chick lit romance, BETTER THAN CHOCOLATE (which should be out this September if all goes as scheduled – more about that in the coming weeks). I gave the July version of this writing challenge another go in 2013, which resulted in the first half of a post-Civil War historical romance that, hopefully, will see the light of day now that I’ve pulled it out of First Draft Limbo.

Anyhoo, a few years ago the folks who run NaNoWriMo started holding these Camp NaNoWriMo events in April and July. Given that I have 3 more books planned to follow BETTER THAN CHOCOLATE, I thought it might be a good idea to try drafting the next installment this July.

It’ll be messy, but it’ll be a starting point.

So tomorrow I’m off to Camp!

Checking in on the BIAW goal….

Well, somehow the nap and sleep fairies were very kind to me this week. Not only did I meet my Book in a Week goals, I surpassed my word count goal. Granted, only by about 200 words or so, but it put me square in the middle of what could be the penultimate chapter of the historical romance, so that’s good. I’d been stuck for a while.

Additionally, I managed to dust every room in the house, clean three bathrooms (the master bath shower notwithstanding, because that’s a whole party all in itself), vacuum, wrap Christmas presents, make and wrap my niece’s birthday present, and watch two episodes of “Crossbones” with the hubs.

Oh, I also got a request to submit some sample chapters to an editor. 🙂 I know nothing could come of it, but it’s the first time I’ve been asked to submit pages. So bonus points for me.

I’m signing off, for the most part, for the rest of the year. I hope everyone has a restful, happy, and safe holiday week, and I’ll see you all in 2015!

Time Management

The thing about time management around here is that, basically, there hasn’t been any such thing in four months. And I’m not just talking about writing, though that’s definitely been the area that’s “suffered” most in this transition into the job of Mommy.

(If one could really call it “suffering”. See my previous post for my true thoughts on that subject.)

A couple weeks ago I took a class through RWAUniversity (RWA‘s online education system that offers great free and paid classes for members) on time management for writers. It was a much needed reminder that, yes, I can make writing a priority even though I sometimes feel like I’m going to go crazy from the short naps and marathon nursing days and little-person laundry that seems never ending.

The ironic part was that I forgot I’d signed up for the class until the first digest popped into my inbox.

Time management is a big deal when you’re pursuing success in any career. As a teacher, I still struggle after 8 years to keep up with grading papers. You’d think by now I’d have a system, but rather I have only good intentions. But in writing, a venture that can be all-consuming or fall by the wayside, you do need to make time work for you.

Not so long ago, my writing happened around artificial deadlines I created for myself. If I didn’t hit a deadline, I adjusted it. I’d putter here and there in the evenings and on weekends. Periodically, mostly on school breaks, I’d hammer away all day and forget to eat lunch.

I don’t have that luxury anymore. As previously mentioned, Babycakes naps for 45 minutes at a time, at most, and when she’s awake, she’s the thing that’s all-consuming – and rightly so. She’s not old enough to entertain herself while I work on a project for hours on end. By the time she’s down for those near-disaster naps, I fly around the house trying to keep up on general chores and, this is actually sad, checking email. I pray every evening at about 4:15 that she’ll go down easily for one last nap and stay asleep long enough for me to at least get dinner in the oven.

Things are starting to morph into a schedule, but it’s a weird one that still fluctuates on a daily basis. Even the fact that I have time to blog right now is sort of a miracle. Since moving Babycakes to her own room, we’ve mostly gotten our evenings back, such as they are. But by this point in the day, the last thing I have energy for is writing. It’s unfortunate, and perhaps someday it’ll change. I mean, sometimes she’s out for the night by 7:30, other times I’m resettling her for the third time by 9:00.

Working the kinks out of a sleep training method that makes all of us happy is going to take some time. That’s all I’ll say on that score for now.

But as I’m starting to get rambly, as my mommy-brain tends to get a lot these days, I’ll come to a point. The fact that I have very few actual moments of free, quiet time to myself, I have to learn to manage my time very efficiently if I’m to have any hope of writing something of quality in the next couple years. Just as I don’t want to give up my teaching career forever, at least not yet, I don’t want to let my writing career shuffle to the back burner until Babycakes and her possible future siblings are off to college.

When you’re in a time crunch, you may surprise yourself with what you can accomplish. I can clean three bathrooms in thirty minutes. If I do the right kind of pre-writing, I can probably churn out something decent in that same amount of time.

Next week is the last Book In A Week challenge for 2014. I’m hoping to add 2000 words to my historical romance and get blurbs for at least five future book ideas written out. I have nine days, each with four 45-minute nap windows. I know two of those days will probably only have one or two such windows, so I’ll be conservative. Five days to get this done means 20 sessions, 45 minutes each, give or take (because naps are never really a sure thing).

I’ll report back before Christmas.

Goal Setting for July

The last couple months have flown by, and there have been several days when it felt like I had no time to breathe. The end is in sight, at least in terms of school – only nine days left until summer vacation, and we’re all feeling it.

Looking ahead to the end of the school year brings to mind what, exactly, I hope to accomplish writing-wise in July. The past two summers, I’ve utilized JulNoWriMo, which resulted in the birth of the chick lit romance and the growth of the historical romance. But this July, I have a bit of a laundry list of threads in need of tying, and time is rather of the essence.

So here’s the list of things I hope to complete before the end of July:

  1. Finish the historical romance. Right now, it’s standing at about 95k, more than I anticipated or intended, but I’m very close to the end. Once it’s done, I can let it sit for a while before I start trimming and revising.
  2. I hired a copy editor in April to give the chick lit romance the once-over, but other than a cursory glance, I haven’t had any time to sit with the MS and work through her suggestions. So that’s on the list.
  3. Catch up on critiques I owe to critique partners.
  4. Work through some of the preliminary planning of a new historical romance idea I came up with a couple months back and sort of brainstormed a bit last weekend at the CNYRW mini conference with Susan Meier.

Beyond those four items, I would like to send the chick lit romance out to a few agents and editors, start testing the waters with it. If it happens, bonus, but if not, I’m not going to beat myself up over it. I also plan to catch up on some reading, watch some movies, and generally just relax as much as possible.

Especially since there are Big Important Things happening in August that will take up most of my time and energy, and rightly so.

Defining Success

On Saturday, Rhonda Penders, editor-in-chief at The Wild Rose Press, gave a presentation at this month’s CNYRW meeting that, among other things, provided some perspective on what’s happening in the publishing industry. Her presentation, from which I garnered tons of information and ideas, spawned a discussion among the CNYRW members about what constitutes success as a writer.

I think we can all be in agreement that the publishing industry has undergone huge changes over the past few years, for better and for worse. There are options available today – viable ones, even – that just didn’t exist five to ten years ago. Between the incredible uptick in indie publishing, the turn toward small presses that often seem way more author friendly, and the traditional agent-to-Big-6-publisher route, it can be a little mind-boggling to even decide what avenue to pursue, let alone determine what will define your success as an author.

Therein lies the key, I think, to determining the path an author needs to take. What is success? Is it landing a 6-figure publishing deal with Random House? Is it making enough in sales each year to let you quit your day job? Are you just looking to make some extra money doing what you love? Is it some combination of the two?

We can’t all be Dan Brown or Nora Roberts or J.K. Rowling. The law of odds, and the way traditional publishing seems to work, does seem to make it difficult to break out into New York Times Bestselling Author-tude. But maybe securing a publishing contract with a smaller press is what will equal success in your life. Or maybe perfecting your self-publishing process through professional editing and cover art services and a solid marketing plan, thus gaining a small but solid following, is enough for you.

You have to define what your goals are before you can determine the steps that will bring you success. You do have to do your homework, whether it means researching agents and how to properly query them, putting your manuscript in front of an editor who can help you fine tune (and fix up, if necessary) your work, or identifying how to run what amounts to your business if you decide indie publishing is the way to go.

For me, what is success as an author? I admit it – I would love to land a contract with a major publishing house. That’s always been the brass ring. But given all the options and combinations of possible avenues for publication, it’s also very tempting to pursue a path that would give me quite a bit more control over my writing career. From what I’ve read and been told, authors today are responsible with the vast majority of their marketing and managing their careers, so whether I go indie, work with a small press, or get that Big 6 contract, I’ll have to have a plan.

I don’t see myself leaving teaching anytime soon. But if the world was perfect and the right pieces fell into place, it would be pretty cool to be able to write full time at some point. So for now, my goal is to pursue a publishing career that lets me earn a little extra money doing something I love.

Ultimately, though it’s easy to get caught up in the quagmire of submissions, marketing, building your platform, and so on, you do have to write. Write what you love. Write what you want to read. Edit. Read good books. Write more. Stay passionate and ignore the naysayers who point out all the things that are “hard” about being a writer (as if there was every really a time when being a writer was easy).

Define success, and then work for it.