If I was you, reading the title of this post and making a little note of the date, I would be scratching my head and knotting my eyebrows right about now. I'd also be mentally asking "Err, Frankie. We're already a month and a half into 2016. Don't you think it's a little late to be thinking about goals for the year?"
"Well," I would reply. "I'll let you into a little secret. It's always a good idea to write a list of goals once you've already ticked off a few of them."
And don't any of you for a single second pretend that you don't do exactly the same thing! It's honestly the best way to start a To Do list as just seeing one or two items crossed off will automatically make you feel positive. So if you're not doing this already, start. Right now. Even if your crossed off items are "Breathe in oxygen" and "Breathe out carbon dioxide".
Now before I start with my deliberately belated list of writing goals for 2016, let's have a quick look at how 2015 panned out.
So, what happened last year?
I learned last year that writing a book and publishing a book are two different things. This was obvious from my output. I hoped to publish three books (a novel, a non-fiction book and a new collection of short stories) but I published only one and it was not one of the books on my list.
I published a mystery/suspense novella, called The Wait, which was a story that began it's life as an idea my boyfriend had in the shower. Less than three months later after a fast and furious number of weeks writing, editing, writing and editing it was a published ebook. I near enough dropped all my other writing projects to solely focus on this out-of-the-ordinary-story that I impulsively grew very passionate about. That was a really fun experience, but it wasn't the most disciplined or sensible.
However, The Wait wasn't the reason I then didn't publish the other books I wanted to. Pregnancy, having a baby, and underestimating how much of an impact these two events would have on my life are the real reasons I didn't get any other books published. However, I did keep writing, albeit most often at a drunk snail's pace. As a result of this I have begun 2016 with a lot of half-finished projects. In December 2015 this left me feeling disappointed and downbeat. Now, after taking a month to reflect on it all, I realised that it's a great opportunity and it's helped to shape some really focused and specific goals for this year. Furthermore, it's also taught me to separate the process of writing a book and publishing it because they are very different tasks and involve a very different mindset. But more on that another time.
What I hope to write in 2016... (ooh Fiction AND Non-Fiction!)
- FICTION: The follow-up novella to The Wait. Currently a nearly-finished first draft but needs to be totally restructured.
- FICTION: Re-write first draft of my first novel, An Invisible Girl. Currently a finished first draft that needs to be completely restructured and edited to half its length.
- FICTION: Begin draft of new collection of short stories.
- NON-FICTION: Complete non-fiction book #1
- NON-FICTION: Begin writing book #2
Hopefully the fiction books are self-explanatory. If you read The Wait, the novella I'm working on as a follow-up is The Madam's story. It's proving a lot of fun to write and I'm dipping into lots of issues I didn't think I would with another fast-paced, suspense story packed with twists and turns. As for the new collection of short stories, they're going to be all about.... AMSTERDAM! Of course they are. I've already written the synopsis for about five possible stories and I've got a few ideas for others percolating in my head. You can read more about the status of the novel (*groan*) below.
I'm not going to go into too much detail about the non-fiction books because they're not my priority but they're definitely an unexpected direction for my writing, which is kind of silly when you think I've been blogging since 2009. I did a lot of work on the first non-fiction book last year after I grew disenchanted by my novel and needed something completely different. It was going really, really well until I realised what I wanted to do with it wasn't going to get done in the time I had left before I gave birth. I was very reluctant to do it at the time, but I really had to let go of that project in order to give myself some time to rest and get our home ready for a baby. What I can say is that it's writing-related and is essentially the book I wish I'd had at hand when I was beginning my writing journey and working on the first draft of Shy Feet, full of fear and uncertainty. As for book #2, it's fair to say I'm still working on the idea itself and I'm still unsure exactly what it will look like, but I can say that it will be about my journey into motherhood and the struggles I have felt.
What I hope to publish in 2016
So that's what I hope to write this year. This is what I hope to publish. It's funny how they're not quite the same list!
- The Runaways: A Trilogy of Short Love Stories (February 2016)
- Nine Women: Short Stories (March 2016)
- Novella #2 (June 2016)
- Non-fiction book #1 (October 2016)
- Non-fiction book #2 (????)
Seriously, Frankie, what is up with you and that novel of yours?
You'll notice that I haven't included An Invisible Girl in the above to publish list. While nobody is more keen to get that novel published than me, I realised last year how much of a beast this book is becoming, both in terms of the plot and the whole concept of writing a novel. It's proved a lot tougher than I expected and I've shelved it more times than I can count. As it currently stands I haven't even looked at it for just over six months and I don't often find myself itching to go back to it. However, I'm still thinking about it. All the time, in fact. I'm still scribbling down random notes that could possibly, maybe progress the work it needs, and I'm still convinced that I need to get the story out of me and into the world, if only just to exercise some demons and to prove I can write, and publish a full-length novel. But I don't think it's going to be this year. I have a fraction of the writing time I used to have and even when I was working on An Invisible Girl all day, every day for a few weeks at a time, the progress was slow. That's just how it is for me and I'm at peace with that now.
I have also started to think that maybe I need to write more short stories and novellas first. These are coming to me easier and quicker than ever before. I feel more disciplined and accomplished when I work on these drafts so I'm increasingly feeling like I need to do more groundwork - i.e. these short stories and novellas - before I have the skills and the right mindset to really pin down the novel I want to write.
Either way, I'm hoping I will work on my novel now and again this year, but it is highly unlikely that 2016 will be the year I publish my first novel. But 2017? Oh just you wait, 2017.
Business v. Creativity in 2016
One of the other reasons I'm letting the novel sit and stew for a while is that as I mentioned, I have a lot of very nearly finished projects, and the novel is not one of them. When it comes to making any kind of money as an independent author, the key is to continuously producing and publishing new content. So if 2015 was all about breaking the back of the production it follows that 2016 is the year of publishing and promoting that content, in order to try and grow my business. It's logical, therefore, that I focus on these books and spend my time finishing and publishing them rather than getting stuck in a project that feels like it needs a lot more time and energy than I will likely have in 2016.
How 2016 is going to pan out for me
The beauty of the list of books I hope to publish is that two of them are already written and one is already published. Aside from giving my confidence a boost, this was sort of crucial to "achieve" before I wrote this list because I wanted to see how much I could do with a baby at my heels and some part-time client work in my life. I've learned my lesson with the Twelve collection of short stories (which has now turned into Nine Women) that I am not always very realistic about the other demands on my time and I don't give myself much space for manoeuvre. I suspect I'm repeating this mistake in writing the above list and a year from now I'll be sobbing in to the single book I've published all year, but you know what? If I only publish Nine Women and The Runaways, I should be proud of that because writing and publishing my books are far from my number one priority these days.
Anyway, as I looked at the coming year I started to think about how I could break down the tasks which need to be completed and I could definitely see that having monthly goals was going to be effective. I also invested in a new work planner - I still work so much better with lists on paper rather than on a screen - and already I can see how the Get to Work Book (created by one of my favourite bloggers) is going to help me keep a better overview of what needs to be done month by month rather than day by day. This will mean the things that don't get done immediately will not get forgotten about, which has on occasion in the past led to several of my writing projects dragging on longer than they should, or becoming abandoned and unfinished forever. (The photos accompanying this post are from the book.)
The following list of monthly tasks will also give you an idea of what the various stages of work that go into my books. I've never really shared much about the processes behind writing a book and if you'd like to know more I'd be happy to write more about it. Part of me still thinks that this plan is a real stretch. I spend 80% of my two full working days (when Baby Bird is in daycare) doing client work so I can't even rely on those days, but I've spoken to my partner at length about my taking regular writing time when I can and I spent all of January reflecting on how and when I can work on my books and I do think the below is possible, albeit a definite stretch too. That's why I've included three "break" months which I can and probably will use as contingency when these many tasks go overdue. We shall see...
Take time to reflect on 2015. Plan goals for 2016.
Publish and promote The Runaways in time for Valentine's Day
Prepare Nine Women for publication.
Publish and promote Nine Women.
Create plan for novella #2.
Finish novella #2 first draft.
Work on novella #2. Send to editor by the end of the month.
Edits for novella #2. Send to beta readers and proofreader by the end of the month.
Create plan for non-fiction #1.
Prepare novella #2 for publication.
Publish and promote novella #2.
Work on non-fiction #1.
Work on non-fiction #1. Send to editor by the end of the month.
SUMMER BREAK - YAY!
Prepare non-fiction #1 for publication.
Publish and promote non-fiction #1.
Create plan for non-fiction #2.
Create plan for new short stories OR novella #3 OR novel.
Work on non-fiction #2
NaNoWriMo! Write 50,000 words towards new short stories OR novella #3 OR novel.
WINTER BREAK - YAY! Or rather, Ho, Ho, Ho!
How you can help
So that's the plan. As I mentioned before, if I achieve half of this I will be hugely happy. I hope to post monthly updates on how each month has progressed but it's possible these may turn into quarterly reports because I definitely see things rolling over into the following months... or I will maybe start projects early because that's where I feel my head is at.
If you're itching, or slightly interested, to read any of these books I'm talking about please do get in touch. I'm always looking for new beta readers to preview my books and give their honest feedback. In many ways this is the most helpful stage of my writing process and in the past has definitely helped make several of my stories considerably better books. Just drop me an email - bird AT asthebirdfliesblog.com. Or sign up to my newsletter and you will receive updates on my books and also requests for beta readers as and when these books are ready.
Also, one of the biggest boosts for my confidence as I approach these writing goals is seeing reviews on Amazon or Goodreads for my previous stories, or just seeing more of them get downloaded. All my ebooks are priced under £4.00/$4.00 and many are just 99p/99c. The paperbacks are also priced competitively and I'm happy to say at least three of the new books I publish this year will become available as a paperback for your bookshelves. So if you'd like to give my ego a little stroke and my enthusiasm a bit of a kick up the backside, buy a book or leave a review, or tell a book-loving friend who you think may enjoy one of my stories.
Now over to you...
I'm well aware that many of you reading this are fellow authors or wannabe authors. What are your writing goals for the year? Please let me know what you're working on now or what you hope to start, and hopefully finish, before the end of the year.
Frances M. Thompson
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+