We’re gonna teach ’em how to say goodbye … to 2015

TL;DR 2015 was a year and now it’s gone… Long live 2015!

This Year in Writing

TimeAndMagicClockThis year I published my first book. (As well as my second, third and fourth). It was the turning point in a journey that started when I was five years old and wrote my first “novel.” Titled Time and the Magic Clock, the story was about a boy who was late for dinner.)

What does a girl so shy that she can barely answer the phone in her own home for fear of talking to strangers do to engage with the world? Read. I read everything from horror to classics to poetry and biographies. Sometimes when I was bored and I’d read everything I had, I would open up the encyclopedia.

I had a typewriter with green ink, which I used to write stories back then. This was before we had a computer in the house (and I’m old enough to have lived in a such a time and to remember the exact day that AOL first got the “World Wide Web”). Pages and pages of stories piled up and the dream grew. Could I really do this one day, for real? Would people want to read the things I write?

Well a surprising number of you did want to read what I wrote, and for that I am endlessly grateful. When I published Song of Blood & Stone in January, I set a goal to sell 500 copies by the end of the year. By April, I had well exceeded that, which was an amazing birthday surprise.

That month, I also dropped the novella Angelborn. I just uploaded it one day and hit publish and didn’t go through all the hoopla I had with the first book. I’d written the first draft in two weeks right before NaNoWriMo 2014 and spent some time cleaning it up while Song of Blood & Stone was with the editor.

It was a story that had come from a dream I had of a girl who falls in love with an invisible boy who only she can see. I’d started writing a very different version of that premise years ago, in a book some of you who know me may remember called Girl Electric. Anyway, Angelborn found an audience as well, without much promotion, and once again I was blown away by the fact that people were reading my stories and enjoying them, for the most part.

Whispers of Shadow & Flame was the next book released in October. A surprising number of people asked if it was me on the cover of Song (it’s not — are there authors that put themselves on the covers of their fiction books? Because my ego is not that big, I promise) but that gave me the idea to put someone I knew on the cover of the next book. I thought my brother Paul would make a pretty good Darvyn. He’s reasonably photogenic and was up for the challenge.

I gave him super helpful notes like “look realistically hopeful” and “you need to look like you’re balanced on the precipice of change.” Somehow he and photographer Bryony Shearmur took this and translated into some awesome pictures. And James Egan worked his magic on it once again and the cover kicked all kinds of ass.

I don’t know when I decided that I should publish four books this year, but once it got into my head, it wouldn’t leave. I made it under the deadline with Angelfall in December. It’s a book I drafted really fast and agonized over during the editing process. Not that that’s different than any of the other books (actually, with Whispers I agonized over the whole thing).

I really wanted to write a straightforward “angel falls in love with a half-angel” story, but, as these things often happen, the narrative took on a life of its own and went somewhere that I couldn’t talk it out of. I love the story—I love all the stories, I wouldn’t let them out into the world unless I adored them—even when they’re not quite the tales I’d intended to tell.

So there you have it, my first year as a published author. It’s been hard, much harder than I thought. It reminds me of before I got married, when people would always tell us that marriage is hard. We believed them, but didn’t know exactly what they meant. What’s so hard about it? What can you do to make it less hard? Knowing and experiencing are different things and as much preparation as you do beforehand, it’s never really enough. But that’s okay. The best things in life are hard. That doesn’t mean you love them any less.

Balancing running a business full-time and being an author, publisher, and marketer (another business) is hard—but I love it. I also love that I’m running towards a goal I never thought I’d be able to reach. Being a published author always seemed like a far-off dream that I wasn’t in control of. Taking control and making it happen is one of the things I’m most proud of in my life.

And if you’ve made it this far in the mega-long-ramble-post, I’d like to thank you. Yes, you. Readers rule! You’re the reason for all of this, and that’s the truly amazing thing.

Next Year in Writing

Six books (six books?). Well, that’s the goal.

Cry of Metal & Bone (Earthsinger Chronicles, book 3) is coming, tentatively in late spring. Plus a bonus Earthsinger novella! Woohoo! And at the end of the year, book 4. (Whew.) Then, of course, there will be Angelrise, the next in the Angelborn cycle. So that’s four.

And then something new. Or two something news to round out the number. Or something old and something new (prequel anyone?). Basically, I haven’t decided yet. I’ll have to see how it goes.

This Year in Other Stuff
  • My city burned in a riot/uprising, depending on your perspective.
  • We tried to persuade the world that black lives matter, but so far they seem unconvinced.
  • I saw Audra McDonald play Billie Holiday on Broadway and it changed my life.
  • I went to North Carolina, New York, South Carolina, Virginia, San Francisco.
  • I saw Hamilton on Broadway and it changed my life.
  • I saw Book of Mormon at the Kennedy Center and it did not change my life. It was actually kind of meh. Though this may be because of the Hamilton effect where nothing is quite the same afterward.
  • My favorite band Sleater-Kinney came out with a new album (yay!), but I didn’t get to see them on tour 🙁
  • I cut off my hair. It weighed a pound and without it I felt one hundred pounds lighter.
  • I hit a personal record of 95 lbs on my bench press. (Still 40 away from my goal)
  • I spoke on some panels and did some author events (conquering my introversion one day at a time).
  • I got a new sister-in-law when my brother-in-law got married.
  • I celebrated my seventh wedding anniversary.

So yeah, 2015 was pretty epic. Here’s to 2016 … let’s get some shit done!

What do you have in store for the new year?

Putting Yourself On Deadline

I love organizing. Not that this means I am organized. To prove this to you I submit a photo of the current state of my workspace.

IMG_0662

I removed nothing. Not even the potentially embarrassing things – for the sake of honesty and to shame myself into possibly cleaning it. Please, shame me in the comments. It will might possibly help. So perhaps you should take any organizing advice from with a grain of salt. But I do love forms, templates, lists, notebooks, folders, labels, stickers, etc. And there is a method to the madness, which I will share with you. Not because you asked me to, but then again, that’s what makes me so nice.

After years of false starts, not finishing a manuscript before starting new ones, that would inevitably not be finished, I grew frustrated and overhauled the way I thought about my writing. I’d joined a professional organization (MRW) and heard a published author bemoaning how she was on deadline and would be holed up for the next week because she had 40,000 more words to write. This was an impressive feat, no doubt, but what struck me the most was that she was on deadline. Now, I didn’t have an editor or anyone clamoring for my work except for my lovely critique partners, but I know a thing or two about deadlines, having been self-employed for the past seven years. More specifically, I know about self-imposed deadlines, but I’d never tried using them for my writing.

I put myself on deadline.

So I drew up a schedule. I’d started using Trello for my project management and I created another board for my writing. Took a look at the calendar and began setting some milestones. This was last fall and I knew I wanted to participate in Nanowrimo. It would take some time to plan that story so I had to finish the draft of the then-current WIP by September. Spend October planning and November writing a new novel. In December, I’d need to rest, then come back strong with revisions in January. 

I wrote it all down, subscribed to the Trello calendar in my Google calendar and put myself on deadline. It was a huge success. In order for this to work I had to carve out writing time and protect it. This piece of the puzzle came together thanks to one of Margie Lawson’s courses. One of the best things I took away from her class was the DUH rule. This stands for:

  1. Do it first, or as close to first as humanly possible
  2. Understand that it may be inconvenient and/or difficult and do it anyway
  3. Hurray, Celebrate! You did it!

Changed. My. Life.

So now, I write first. I get up a little earlier, write for at least an hour, sometimes more, every morning before I start my work day. I don’t answer the phone, check my email, or Twitter or Facebook before writing. I do it first. And it works.

This post is longer than I intended (I’m even nicer than I thought), so next time we’ll talk more about the war against time wastage and I’ll share some tools to help you turn the tide of the battle.

Do you plot your time or pants it? And how is that working for you? Let me know in the comments.

 

Photo Credit: AZRainman via Compfightcc