Writing Insanity

November. National Novel Writing Month. It’s a brotherhood of insane writers, pounding out 1,700 words per day for thirty days.
Since I’m rather unsure if I am meant to be a novelist, I may be a rebel again this year.
In 2014 I wrote that path. It netted four short stories, one of which I fleshed out into a 70,000-word novel.
A novel I pitched to three agents this past summer. All of them said the same things:

  • Women’s fiction must be at least 80,000 words and closer to 100,000 is better
  • The stakes need to be upped for at least one of the characters

All that to tell me I needed to rethink the story and add another 10,000 words at least.
But it hasn’t called to me.
However, I’ve planned and plotted a follow-up novel starring the youngest woman from that story. I could write that story in November.
Or I could write the next novella or two for the Christian romance “series” set in Sweet Grove, Texas.
After all, my debut in that Kindle World will be here in two weeks.


I’m hoping readers will be panting for the next installment, a story featuring minor characters from this first one.

What about doing something fun?

I’ve been jotting ideas for another fantasy novel for several months. I want to tackle the idea of a realm that exists outside of time encroaching on a world that exists inside the restrictions and constructions of time.

My thought is to have the mentor figure and the villain brothers who live in the timeless realm. They’re competing (as brothers do) and have gotten caught up in trying to trip each other up…by planting prophecies and information along the timeline in the world where time exists.
The story could include elemental magic with atypical sources.

But I really don’t have a story for it. Just a ton of vague ideas. And that’s NOT the best way to be a winner during National Novel Writing Month.
With the release coming up on the 15th and the content edits for REALITY EVER AFTER due on the 13th, I’m not certain I’ll have the focus for NaNoWriMo.

But how can I NOT do it? I’ve done it for three years and won every time. It’s such a morale booster.

Sure, it’s a little bit crazy, too. Especially when I only have three days per week to get my words written. And I’d want to finish by November 22 because we’re heading to the Oregon coast to spend Thanksgiving weekend with my sister.

If I’m not finished, the story will be hanging over my head the entire time.

Part of me wants to write something “just for fun” and another part of me knows I need to stop procrastinating and get stories down on paper.

What’s your advice? What would you do?

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Crime Against a Creative Spirit

Legislating away my right to create is criminal. Sometimes its the weather or circumstances that commit the crime which freezes imagination. Might as well hit it with liquid nitrogen.
Creativity holds an artist hostage. It plagues the mind at inopportune moments (like when I should be sleeping). The very element of creating can wind up like a fast-pitched softball and, if released too early, peter out short of the plate (our expectations).


Lately, I’ve been keeping up with one of my betterment goals designed for No Fear this Year. It involves reading an inspirational book before bed at least four nights per week.
The current read looks to link creativity and spirituality. It’s an interesting connection, but I’ve yet to sell myself on its reality.

The Difference between Soul and Spirit

Even though my title mentions the creative spirit, I believe creativity emerges from my soul.
The soul is the part inside me that makes me have the character, personality and world views that distinguish me as an individual. While I strive to grow my character to look like Jesus Christ’s, I’m certain my personality is not a thing like his. Because I’m a woman living in the 21st Century, my world view looks completely different, too.
On the other hand, the spirit in me is what makes me alive. It’s the breath of life that God gave Adam on the day of his formation. It’s the thing that keeps my heart beating and lungs working without any conscious thought on my part. And if the spirit of life leaves, then those automatic functions stop, too.
Therefore, I believe the soul is the source of my creativity and the spirit the source of my existence.
Can creativity be linked to spirituality then?

The Difference between Heart and Mind

There’s another level of personality that I see as diverse. Decisions I make might originate in the heart but are carried out by the mind.
The heart is the seat of my emotions. This is where I feel the death of the hunting dog in Where the Red Fern Grows. It’s where disgust over political lies or ire about injustice kindle and ignite.

Is this linked with creativity? Is creativity all about emotion?

My mind is where reason holds court. It listens to the exclamations and rhetoric of the heart’s reactions, and it weighs that in my soul’s world view balance. If it deems there is sufficient reason to act, the mind wills my mouth or body to do so.
I hope my mind is engaged when I’m creating. It should be running the show when I’m worshiping, too.
In this case, I believe both the mind and the heart are involved in pursuits of creativity and spirituality. Things that are emotion-driven might seem to come from the heart, but the heart is only a messenger. It can’t act apart from the mind. (Although there are times when I let my heart lead and wished I’d thought things through a little better.)

Creativity or Spirituality?

This brings me back to my original inquiry. Is there a link between my creative self and my spiritual self?
Unless I’m two people, there’s a link. It’s me. My individuality that shines forth through my lifestyle.
Can the spirit operate on it’s own? Or is spirituality tied to every facet of life because it is the seed of life?
If only I had the answer. Perhaps when I finish the book, I’ll know for certain if these two aspects of my being are related. At times, I’ve felt deeply spiritual while being wildly creative. However, there are plenty of instances when I was quite spiritual without a creative thought, and creating like mad without being spiritual.
I believe that means they aren’t mutually exclusive. Perhaps I would be more creative if I focused wholly on strengthening my spiritual side. But am I less spiritual when I set my imagination free?
The truest crime against my creative spirit is giving it a question like this that has no definitive answer.

Do you think creativity and spirituality are linked? What drives your creative spirit into hibernation?

Surrendering Fear

It’s a new year with a new focus, but the old fear hovers nearby.

What’s with that anyway?

I mean, I’m determined to trust in God and let love banish fear and then…wham, something unexpected ties me in emotional knots.

Could it be that I’ve lost my focus so quickly?

Or maybe I haven’t truly opened my hands in surrender.

After all, this is spiritual warfare. And it a war, there’s struggle and death and fear galore. Until one side says “enough” and seeks peace.

psalm-27-3

Here’s some wise words from life coach Holley Gerth:

I tried to control everything so that I could get a specific outcome. Tests and temperatures, appointments and articles. I held on as tightly to my goal as I did to the one-lined pregnancy tests at the end of every month.

Then slowly, slowly I felt like God brought me to a point where I finally said, “Whatever.” Not “Whatever” (with the sarcastic tone and eye roll—although some days I did indeed want to say that). But “Whatever, Lord. I am surrendering my expectations. I’m surrendering what I’ve been demanding.” I waved the white flag and I let trust win.

People would ask, “How do you feel about your infertility?” And I would say, “I have a peace about it.” And they would look at me like, “Yeah, yeah, Sunday School answer.”

And I said, “No, it’s the kind of peace that comes after war. And I fought for it. I will surrender everything else but not that peace.”

It was that peace that replaced my fear, that set me free.

To read the rest of her post, click here.

So, are you still trying to defeat fear on your own terms?

Did something ugly sneak up on you and wrap your peace in chains?

You can be free from fear. It begins by surrendering to the Commander in Chief of the universe.

Remember, he’s the one that has mad lion taming skills. His is the heel that crushed the head of our enemy.

Let go of the anguish caused by fear. Wave the white flag. Let the peace that passes all understanding flood your heart instead.

What’s making you afraid today? Can you surrender it to the Prince of Peace?

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.
Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.
Already read one or more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

		

The Word for 2017

I took a page out of Kimberly and Veronica’s book this year. My word for 2017 is DAUNTLESS.

Dauntless: adj. Not to be daunted or intimidated; fearless; intrepid; bold

Who are these women I refer to by name in the opening paragraph? What book did they write? How the heck does it connect with the world of Sharon Lee Hughson, Author?

A Divergent World

Yes, I mean Veronica Roth of DIVERGENT fame. If you haven’t read the books (pick up the one with this title and skip the rest of the series), let me explain.

The dystopian world in Roth’s books (set in a future Chicago), divides people into factions. Each faction serves a specific function for society.

The faction of daring people who do too many dangerous things to name? Dauntless.

No, I don’t plan to jump off a train at any point this year.

But jumping out of a plane while wearing a parachute is on my bucket list.

dauntless_definition

Three years into the “writing gig” and I’ve been feeling a little…discouraged.

And let me tell you, that does not write interesting stories that other people care to read.

Nor does it pen compelling queries and synopses to hook prospective agents or publishers.

In fact, discouragement is a major enemy to writing success.

So this year, I’m banishing Fear and his buddy, Discouragement, from my world. Step by dauntless step.

Design Your Destiny

Last month, I mentioned Kimberly Job to you as I worked through her goal-setting course.

The way Kimberly designs her goals and plans her success revolves around a specific word for the year.

This is similar to my yearly themes. And since I had chosen my theme before I got to the part in her course that specified choosing one word, I decided to choose one that would complement “No Fear This Year.”

I came up with courage, confidence and fearless.

My brain was leaning toward courage. After all, even saying “fear” gave me a nudge of anxiety. Names have power right? If I speak that demon’s name, will he get a foothold?

Yes, even though I wanted to be fearless. The exercises Kimberly took us through for our top five words showed me that courage was closer to what I was going for.

As in…get thee behind me fear. I have a sword and I’m not afraid to use it.

Except…courage was so…overused.

Then we watched the third DIVERGENT movie (INSURGENT, which is quite different from the book, and if I had watched it rather than reading it, I might not have wanted to boot the whole series to the moon).

And there they were…Dauntless in all their black-geared glory.

word_2017

So courage was swallowed and my word was cemented.

What’s your “guiding word” or theme for 2017? What do you think of when you hear the word “dauntless”?

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.

Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.

Already read one or more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.


		

New Year New Focus

Another New Year is here. Welcome 2017. What did you do with 2016? Hide his body in a calendar of HOT firefighters?

You all know what it means that we’ve started a new year. This author will choose a new focus.

Reviewing What Came Before

In 2014, I decided to BE THE CHANGE. This happened after July 2013 changed everything for me. How?

I graduated from college and committed to writing full-time.

Yes, there was a connection. It’s not easy to walk away from a guaranteed paycheck into the jungles of publishing.

The hard knocks I took that first eighteen months of full-time, professional writing did a number on my confidence. Which led to…

My theme for 2015. My posts were all about learning to have a positive attitude. Because, let’s be honest, the world is swamped with negativity. If you just go with the flow, you will become a huge downer.

And there are too many downers out there already.

So I went against the flow and took a friend’s advice to “accentuate the positive.” It’s pretty amazing what can happen when the two words you choose to focus on for 365 days are positive and attitude.

And that positive outlook carried over into 2016.

Do I need to remind you what happened this year? How about this?

#365DaysofGratitude

And a sample of what that looked like…

D52

And what it morphed into once a brand building expert set me straight…

Day 275: Drinking coffee like a superhero.
Day 275: Drinking coffee like a superhero.

These yearly focus words or phrases have been building blocks in the new life I’m carving out of the old one that held me stale and stagnant for forty-some years.

My decision to be the change I wanted to see in the world is a perfect foundation. What better architectural framing to use for the changed life than a positive attitude. And if you’ve experienced it, you know there isn’t a warmer, more welcoming color for the walls than gratitude.

So where does that leave me for 2017?

Looking Toward What is Yet to Come

It’s time to clean up the scraps around the building site. You know what I’m talking about, right? Those nails, lumber scraps, and broken boards that didn’t make it into the finished project.

What does that look like in my new life?

Banishing fear.

nofearthemememe

Yep, I’ve been talking about this lion over the past few weeks, and now I’m confronting him head on.

This year, I’ve even adopted at verse from the Bible to fortify my position. I know not every reader here ascribes to the Bible as God’s Word and the guidebook to truth, but I hope you’ll bear with me. I promise not to go all Bible-thumper on you.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear hath torment” 1 John 4:18

And to start things off right, I have to face down a fear. Tomorrow I’m going under for my first ever surgery. I know 50 years without s surgeon’s knife and now this.

Don’t worry, it’s “routine.” I should be back up and running in no time. But I appreciate all the positive thoughts and prayers.

This year while I’m sweeping out the shiny new space I’ve carved for my dream of author-ship, we’ll be looking fear in the face. By the time this year ends, I hope love will have relocated fear to some continent far away.

Won’t you join me on the journey to a life lived by love without fear?

What’s your goal for 2017? Do you have a word or phrase you like to build around?

Setting Goals You Can Reach

Last week, I wrote about how small goals got me published. And I talked about the three-step process I used to attain that goal. But does that help you set goals you can reach?

Because if you can’t set reachable goals, you’re never going to move from where you are now to where you want to be.

During this month, I’ve been working through a weekly course by Kimberly Job. It’s helping me plan my writing and personal goals for 2017.

2017 is the year…

  • I sign a traditional publishing contract for a novel
  • I pitch my nonfiction book proposal at a conference
  • I get my first 1000 subscribers to my mailing list
  • I publish my third Bible study book

And all of these things are going to happen because I’m working step-by-step plans for each and every one of them.

These aren’t small goals. My post last week suggested starting small, so if you’re new to the whole “reaching goals” mentality, please read that post.

Starting small will keep you from giving up. I promise.

But if you’re ready to tackle something bigger, read on.

Evaluation

This is the most important step in setting goals.

Unfortunately, it’s also the one people tend to rush or ignore.

No wonder they aren’t reaching their goals.

Kimberly Job of Sublime Reflection spurred me to evaluate myself more deeply than I have in other years. She offered a free four-week course and the first week was all about this step.

You can check out that course here.

Here are the categories she uses in this process:

  • Memories and accomplishments
  • Self and relationships
  • Struggles and challenges
  • Lessons learned

Before you set out to make any goals, take time to journal through 2016 in each of these areas. You might be surprised what you discover about your successes.

Also, this reflection should focus your thoughts on what is possible and what doesn’t work. Both of these things are important to know before you can establish attainable goals.

Brainstorming

The Sublime Reflection course spends the entire second week on brainstorming.

If you’re not a fan of brainstorming, I know you screwed your face into a wrinkle-causing grimace.

Stop!

The way the course breaks your life into ten segments and has you generate ideas specific to those makes the process run smoothly.

My favorite part was coloring the Wheel of Balance. It also showed me which areas of my life needed my attention.

Wouldn’t you like to know where to focus your attention in 2017?

Why set another goal of “exercising more” if that’s really not what you need to do in order to reach the bottom line you want?

And what does “exercise more” even mean? You’ll need to make your goals narrow and specific in order to know if you’ve reached them.

Here are the ten areas of life according to Ms. Job:

  • Marriage/relationship
  • Family & friends
  • Fun
  • Spirituality
  • Finances
  • Giving
  • Personal development
  • Physical environment
  • Health & fitness
  • Career

Can you guess which areas received the lowest rank in my world? What tops your list?

After I discovered my three very weak and two additional not-strong categories, I brainstormed a list of things I would like to accomplish in each area. Job encouraged us to list at least five in every category…and to leave the lid off.

Yes, if there were no constraints, what would you like to do with your career? Or your physical environment?

The thing about letting out the crazy dreams during brainstorming is that sometimes we realize they might not be so crazy after all. Not if we can figure out how to build a series of baby steps to reach them.

Nailing it Down

You can’t do it all.

Thinking you can will lead to failure. Sure, it might give you a false sense of accomplishment for a few weeks or months.

Then the stress will blindside you. And the urge to pack up your pencils and bury yourself beneath the covers will rear up.

This is why I have limited myself to ONE goal in each of the four areas of my life. (These areas are spiritual, physical, relational and career.)

If I set the goal too low, I can always add another goal once the first is reached. But I’ll be able to check off a box.

“I reached that goal this year.”

It feels great to make that mark.

The important thing about your goals is to make them specific.

For example, my career goal is not “sign a publishing contract.” That’s pretty broad.

Instead, it looks like this:

Sign a contract for ELEPHANT IN THE TEAROOM with a major publishing house

If I sell the book to a small press, I won’t have reached this goal. Of course, I might decide that’s a fair compromise and don’t need to consider that a failure.

But setting a specific goal will make me work furiously on the rewrites and edits for this manuscript so I can start querying agencies in February or March. Because it will take six to nine months to get a response once they ask for the full manuscript.

Goals Require Plans

Each one of the goals you set for 2017 requires it’s own plan of action.

People don’t get published on accident.

People don’t lose weight without working at it (unless they’re ill and then that’s not a good thing).

Your life will not get better if you don’t take steps toward making it better.

I talked about creating a plan last week. Check out that post or follow the links to other wise planners below.

4 Tips

Setting Goals

Action 16

What’s the best goal-setting advice you’ve ever received?

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.

Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.

Already read one of more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.


		

Banishing Fear in the New Year

The next time you visit my website to read a new blog, it will be 2017. Which means it’s time for me to think about a new theme to guide my posts and thoughts in the New Year.

Thanks to plenty of reflection (and facing a few scary things), I’ve decided to banish fear in the New Year.

Let’s recap the past few years:

  • Be the change

  • Think Positive

  • An Attitude of Gratitude

D30Those are the themes from 2014 forward. That was the first year I decided that if I had a key thought, it acted like a beacon for me, guiding my writing and decisions.

In truth, these three things have become ingrained in my character. My worldview has been altered by these themes.

Now when I see a problem, I ask myself how I can affect change to help solve it. When something bad happens, I stop myself and search for the positive in the situation.

And rather than opening my mouth to complain, I speak words of thanksgiving. Well, probably not all the time because I’m only human. But most of the time if I start to complain, my gratitude-meter will ask me to check the words before I spew them.

Fear is a bully. The election last month proved this more than anything I’ve experienced recently.

And I don’t like bullies. I advocate for allies to stand up against acts of bullying.

So my theme is going to take on the biggest bully in our world: fear.

New Year New Theme

nofearthemememe

That’s the theme in a nutshell.

It’s inspired by several things.

The first is a verse from the Bible. The man known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” penned these words.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath torment” (1 John 4:18).

Several years ago the same preacher friend who ingrained “accentuate the positive” into my vocabulary delivered a sermon on this verse.

The essence of his message: fear is the opposite of love.

People want to talk about hate being the opposite of love, but if you look at this verse and consider its truth, can’t you see how fear is the real enemy?

We learn to hate what we fear. But if we could be made perfect in love, there would be no room for fear in our hearts.

And no fear = no hate.

Notice how John the apostle said fear has torment. That’s what I mean when I say fear is a bully. Bullies live to torment those they perceive as weaker than them. Tormenting other people makes them feel powerful, confident, in charge.

In order to chain the bully of fear, I’m going to have to learn how to love more perfectly.

Lion Taming in 2017

The biggest bully in a Christian’s world is our adversary the devil. Yes the one Peter calls a lion in his letter (1 Peter 5:18).

The roaring lion is on the prowl to do more than pick on people. He’s looking for a meal. He wants to devour everyone who claims to follow Christ.

The good news: greater is he that is in me than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).

I have an advocate, an ally. He stands with me against the hungry lion of fear.

He’s already defeated that lion. And I don’t mean tamed him or caged him. The devil is sentenced to a thousand years chained in the bottomless pit and then an eternity in the lake of fire.

That’s why he’s so hungry now. He knows his time is short. So he plans to step up his game and take out as many unsuspecting sheep as he can.

And I’m no match for him.

But I can defeat fear. Through the love of God.

At this point, I’m planning to post about defeating fear in different areas of life. Each month I’ll address a different area. At the moment the topics are family, career, future, today, tomorrow, friendships, world issues, health and death.

Do you have any other areas where fear corners you? Leave a comment and I’ll see if I can address it in a future post.

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.

Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.

Already read one of more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.


		

What winning NaNoWriMo is really about

National Novel Writing Month continues. As I promised last week, this post is about winning.

Since I’ve won 100 percent of the times I’ve participated, I might know a little bit about this subject. (That sounded a little pompous in my head. I didn’t mean it that way. Really.)

The truth about NaNoWriMo:

There are no losers.

That just harelipped my cousin (*winks at the silly Okie*) and some others who think everything needs to be black and white. Win or lose.

Sometimes it really is about the way you play the game. Or in this case put your seat in the chair and churn out the words.

The Point of NaNoWriMo

According to the creators of National Novel Writing Month, the point is to have fun. They value enthusiasm and determination and see that both are required to complete a 50,000-word novel in 30 days.

What about working on deadline? Some people think that’s an extra motivator and stimulant. Well, they’re all about that at nanowrimo.org.

In short, writing is a creative pursuit with the power to imbue writers with stronger character and impart truth to readers.

Here’s their mission statement:

National Novel Writing Month believes in the transformational power of creativity. We provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page.

Whatever you believe about writing a novel, the point of this exercise is to expand your horizons beyond a single project. Think bigger. Think bolder.

What is the point of any creative pursuit?

Print

Winning NaNoWriMo

If you verify a document of 50,000 or more words before midnight on November 30, the NaNoWriMo gurus will declare you a winner.

And there are prizes for winning.

Most of them are free trials of discounts for writer-specific software and services. For example, the folks at Literature and Latte have sponsored every year I’ve participated. They generally offer Scrivener at 50% off to winners.

Wish I would have known this before I bought it at full price. Of course, that happened a year or so before I every participated in the national month of insanity.

I’m hoping they will offer their new iOS application for half off to winners this year. I really want to try it out since I use my iPad for writing almost as much as I use my computer. And it travels SO much easier.

Everyone Wins

Everyone who participates in NaNoWriMo can walk away as a winner.

And not just because plenty of sponsors offer freebies and discounts to all participants.

Attempting to write at a professional pace for a month teaches you many valuable lessons.

To name a few:

  • The knowledge you can write every day and not just when you feel like it
  • The ability to push past the roadblocks while writing
  • Learning to write fast
  • Discovering the joy of creating when you’re so focused (or brain-fried) that your inner editor is quiet for a change
  • New ways to write: maybe jumping around when scenes aren’t flowing or writing from the end
  • Meeting a community of like-minded people to talk writing with
  • Discovering new software and services to help you write better

What are some other things you’ve learned from participating in NaNoWriMo?

Just for fun, here are my stats from the three National Novel Writing Months I competed in:

2013

DOW CoverThis was my first year in the competition. I was writing the third novel in a young adult fantasy series, Gates of Astrya: Daughter of Destiny.

I wrote 66,616 words in 23 days, a resounding win for my first year.

Although this novel hasn’t seen the light of day since I wrote it, I was a big winner that year. Writing at this incredible pace taught me that I could keep up with professional writers.

I began calling myself a professional writer after this. Talk about a WIN!

2014

I was a Rebel this year. I wrote a collection of four short stories called Real Life with a Twist of Lime.

That netted me 50,816 words in 21 days.

What about those stories? One of them has been recently expanded into a novel. Once I survive this year’s National Crazy Writing Month, I will begin revisions on the manuscript, as suggested by the four beta readers who are previewing it for me.

2015

My quick-made cover to post at nanowrimo.org

Last year I wrote the young adult novel on speculation for a publisher. Read more about that here and here.

In 20 days I wrote 67,640 words, making it my quickest win to date. I wrote 3,382 words per day (although I probably wrote more since I didn’t write on weekends).

Although this novel was rejected by the publisher who requested it, I may still resurrect it either for independent publishing or to shop to other agents and publishers. It’s a unique story.

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.
Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.
Already read one of more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

		

How to Write 50,000 words this month

I’ve been a full-time writer since July of 2013. Since November of 2013, I’ve been participating in the insanity called National Novel Writing Month. But this year, things will look a little different on my calendar.

If you’re interested in what NaNoWriMo is or how it came to be, check out the official website here. There’s more than you’ll ever want to know.

Once you decide to join the craze (it’s a little late for 2016, but November 2017 will be here before you know it), check out my profile. My nanowrimo user name is slhughson. We can buddy up. It will be fun.

My writing schedule in 2016 will look slightly different than it has in the past several years. Why? Because I plan to continue substitute teaching two days per week AND I have an author event to plan and attend.

Yes, there are plenty of people who work full-time jobs and plan to write 1,667 words per day. At this pace, they will complete 50,000 words in the month of November and WIN NaNoWriMo (more on winning next week).

I admire them. I am not them, however. I am a full-time author who does some teaching in order to feed my writing habit. Because those royalty-only contracts don’t generate a paycheck that will cover the costs associated with writing.

Someday, I will write a best-seller and the royalty checks will look better than the $175 per day I earn subbing in a local classroom.

A Tale of Two Schedules

2014

I chose not to use last year because I had given myself an earlier deadline because we traveled to the beach the week of Thanksgiving. I didn’t want to cart my writing brain with me. By the end of November, it’s pretty much a frazzled bundle of haywire.

My writing schedule compasses only a five-day week. My husband is off work on weekends, and I like to be available so we can jaunt off to a home remodeling show or to the movies. And Sunday is not even my day. They don’t call it The Lord’s Day for nothing.

So, I look at the November calendar and decide how many full writing days I will have. In this case, twenty or less. I wanted to finish by November 25 so I would have the weekend of Thanksgiving free and time on the 26th to prep my pie and rolls (what I generally take to the Hughson family Thanksgiving feast).

50,000 divided by 17 (available writing days) meant I needed to write 2,941 words per day to reach my goal. So I set a goal of 3,000 per day (which is about three hours of writing for me if I get in the groove and nothing interrupts me).

According to the Nanowrimo website, I finished 50, 816 words by November 21.

That happened to be the Late Night Write-in at the local library. I lugged my laptop there and huddled with six or eight other novelists. They all rejoiced with me when I uploaded my novel and had the words verified before 10pm.

Winner! If you do the math, I averaged 3,387 words per day to accomplish the win.

It’s all about setting daily goals and meeting them.

It isn’t as hard as it sounds. Lock yourself into your writing space until the word count is achieved. Update the word count on nanowrimo.org and celebrate.

2016

Why does this year look so different? Why can’t I just schedule the 3,000 words per day and call it good?

Because I’m a realist.

And I don’t like to fall behind in the word count.

When I look at the calendar for November this year, I have to subtract two days from each of the first three weeks of the month (hoping I will substitute teach on those days).

Now a normal person might ask, “Why can’t you write after you’ve done a sub job?”

My brain will not be in a “writing space” after a day in the classroom. Even if it is a wonderful room filled with engaged students and an engaging lesson plan.

My introverted self will use up every drop of emotional energy to interact with people all day long. That’s a fact. I know it, so I can plan around it.

Of course, I’d like to finish the novel before Thanksgiving again this year. That holiday is on November 24, a little earlier than usual because the month starts on a Tuesday.

Let’s do the math. This is simple math. My writing brain can handle it.

Ten days.

I have ten days to write 50,000 words. Even I can do the division in my head. I need to write 5,000 words per day.

The good thing about my goals is I itemize them by week. Week one I must write 10,000 words. If for some reason I only reach 8,000 by end of day on Friday, I will force myself to write 2,000 on Saturday.

And, yes, I keep my word count in a spreadsheet. At least until I meet my daily and weekly goals.

By the time I attend my author event at the middle school on November 9, I will have written 15,000 words in a new novel.

Before I can enjoy the second weekend, I will need to have written 25,000 words. Halfway to completion before November 15.

Can I do it?

Yes. I’m determined I can.

How do you plan to meet your goals? (Please don’t say you don’t plan. Please. No plan is a plan to fail.) Share your wisdom in the comments.

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2015: My Year in Review

Image from mustang-times.com

The ball will drop in Times Square. Another countdown with celebratory kisses and confetti is only four days away. But where, oh where, has 2015 gone?

This is my year in review…

January

  • Crazy revisions on two separate manuscripts to get them off to beta readers.
  • Two deadlines made. Two deadlines met.
  • (This seems so long ago that I’m having trouble remembering)
  • Researched short story markets and agents for YA fantasy

February

  • My fiction debut. I become a published author with the appearance of “Dream Architect” in the romance anthology Accidental Valentine. *Happy Dance*
  • Manuscripts come back for my fictionalized novella.
  • Wrote and submitted two short stories. One is accepted (in April) the other rejected.

March

  • I seek and employ a freelance editor to line edit my manuscript, Reflections from a Amazon PH CoverPondering Heart.
  • A cover designer is contracted and we shoot ideas back and forth over Facebook messaging.
  • All but one of my beta manuscripts for Doomsday Dragons is returned, but since that one is coming from an actual published YA fantasy author, I decide to hold off on making revisions.

April

  • Wrestled with the CreateSpace publishing platform for the first time.
  • Uploaded my cover and interior with weeks to spare before the release.
  • Put the Kindle up for pre-order
  • Wrote another short story and submitted it. Rejection received.

May

  • Release day for my independently published women’s fiction Reflections from a Pondering Heart
  • Hosted my first ever release party on Facebook
  • Successfully generated hundreds of adds on Goodreads by running a giveaway
  • Mailed out nearly fifty signed copies of the book
  • Wrote a 20,000-word novella for a ten-author collaboration

June

  • Sent Matchmaker: Reality to beta readers
  • Wept bitterly when my image of Doomsday Dragons was shattered by my good friend and beta reader
  • Went to work revising according to the feedback
  • Received two thumbs up on the rewritten first fifty pages

Willamette-Writers2July

  • Purchased tickets for Willamette Writer’s Conference
  • Purchased two pitch sessions at the event (to pitch Doomsday Dragons)
  • Perfected the pitches
  • Finished polishing the complete manuscript and proofread it
  • Had a wonderful visit with my cousin from Oklahoma
  • Brainstormed a dragon story and an origin story

August

  • Attended the conference
  • Pitched the book twice – got two requests for pages
  • Sent out a batch of ten queries to agents and the pages requested at the conference
  • Finished Matchmaker: Reality (the novella mentioned in May which was supposed to release in an indie collection in October)
  • Heard from a publisher of a SHH-secret short story anthology that they might be interested in a novel in the same universe
  • Wrote an origin story for this universe

September

  • Wrote a military themed short story and submitted it
  • Worked out a ten-point outline of a novel to present to the publisher who expressed interest
  • Experienced vertigo from mood swings of fear, anxiety, excitement and disbelief
  • Finished writing a study book and devotional based on Psalm 119
  • Short story was accepted for publication in a January anthologyHeartsofValor_eBook_CVR
  • Polished the origin short story and submitted it. Rejection received.

October

  • Wrote the study guide for an updated version of Reflections
  • Scrambled to research settings and characters for the novel my editor was pitching to the publisher
  • First round of edits accomplished on “Hero of her Heart” (the romance accepted in September
  • Outline and character sketches ready for November
  • Organized scene cards in the new Scrivener file
  • Hired a cover artist for the study book
  • Completed author bio, blurb and excerpt for “Hero of her Heart”
  • Prepared a presentation for National Novel Writing Month to give to local writers in November

November

  • Wrote the first draft of a 68,000-word young adult dystopian with sci-fi and fantasy elements in 20 days
  • Completed second-round edits on “Hero of her Heart”
  • Logged rejections from eight of twelve agents regarding Doomsday Dragons
  • Began classes to become a licensed substitute teacher
  • Edited and uploaded the manuscript for the study book
  • Uploaded the cover
  • Wrote parts for a Christmas program at church
  • Spent a week at the coast with my husband and a wonderful Thanksgiving with my sister
  • Wrestled with CreateSpace over cover specs and interior issues on the study book, Poet Inspired

PoetInspired3DDecember

  • Sent Matchmaker: Reality for editing
  • Released a second edition of Reflections
  • Finished training for sub teaching and jumped through licensing hoops
  • Ordered and approved proof of Poet Inspired
  • Worked on the Christmas program parts (my first foray into voice acting – I think I’ll stick with writing)
  • Released Poet Inspired in print only
  • Worked on marketing tasks for these releases and the upcoming January release
  • Editor notes on Matchmaker: Reality asked for extensive additions and changes
  • Wrote a (15,000-word) fantasy romance for a future anthology (to be revised, edited, polished, and submitted in January 2016)
  • Added to and revised Matchmaker:Reality
  • Somehow managed to get ready for my son’s wedding

Don’t forget that I publish original blogs bi-weekly on my personal website and weekly on my church’s blog. So I wrote all of these every month amidst all the other work.

I would like to say I’m reaping huge benefits from all this writing and submitting. Monetarily, it hasn’t happened yet. All of my contracts are “royalties only.”

As for my independently published title, I have sold around 55 print books, and 100 e-books were downloaded during promotional periods when it was free.

I’m still an unknown. But I’m pushing forward, closer to meriting the title I give myself “full-time author.”

Looking forward to 2016

A new calendar year is about to dawn.

I’ll have new goals. They’ll be written in my business plan.

Among them:

  1. Increase my newsletter mailing list (not sure how to accomplish this at the moment, since I follow all the industry advice and have 22 subscribers after a year)
  2. Submit the dystopian novel to the publisher by May
  3. Write another study book (or two) and publish them for print on demand
  4. Write and submit six short stories to anthologies (one is written for a February 2016 deadline)
  5. Work on the grief memoir/Bible study I’ve outlined (possibly ready to pitch by the summer)
  6. Write the rest of the dystopian series
  7. Land a book publishing contract

What accomplishments from 2015 do you want to shout about? What’s on your list for 2016?