Tag Archives: reading

A Look Forward and a Look Back

What a year! There are things about 2012 I’d like to repeat and things I never want to go through again. I suppose that’s like any other year. As far as my writing is concerned, it’s also been a mixed bag. Now it’s time once again to pick out the highlights, celebrate the goals met, and start planning for next year.

having-goals

Of course my list of accomplishments has to start with the publication of not one, but TWO books during 2012: Beneath the Slashings, which finished off my Civil War trilogy (whew!) and Song of the Mountain, a project that spanned several years. I also released my first podcast and put together my first blog tour. I learned a good deal in both cases. The first I will repeat; the second, probably not. In addition, my blog experienced substantial growth this year as I added over one hundred middle grade and young adult book reviews and shared many posts about the ins and outs of self-publication. I am well-satisfied with all these accomplishments.

One thing I am not satisfied with is book sales. I pulled in just under two thousand dollars this year. While that’s three times the amount I made my debut year, it’s a ridiculously low amount. As my books have been given very fair ratings from strangers as well as friends, I’m left to assume obscurity is the biggest culprit. Second is the lack of enthusiasm among adult readers for children’s literature. I cannot change the latter (and I will not change my genre), but the former does leave room for improvement. I confess my promotional efforts have been pretty much nonexistent. So my first goal of the new year is the implementation of a marketing plan. Fortunately, I have a lot of ideas. I’ve just been lazy in this regard.

My second goal, of course, is publication of my current MG manuscript by summer. I’m not sure that I can also bring my YA manuscript to print this year, but I am setting a substantial word count goal. I also plan to release 2-3 more of my titles as podcasts. I may even dabble a bit at submitting to traditional publishing houses, though I cringe at my loss of control. (Obscurity…control…obscurity…control…hmmm…)

Hee! Hee! I loved this one.

Hee! Hee! I loved this one.

These are some lofty goals that far exceed last year’s. The only way I can hope to meet them is to break them down into monthly and weekly chunks. I’m also giving myself permission to read less and cut my blog reviews to only once a week. While I love to read—and might later give myself permission to write less and read more—it takes a lot of time. This balance is always tricky for me. I don’t want to be a servant to my writing, my reading, or my blog. But I do know if I don’t set some solid writing goals, I’ll have nothing to show for myself next year at this time.

And so I continue to try to turn this hobby into a career. I’m eager to see what 2013 brings!

What goals did you meet this year? What do you hope to accomplish next year?

Balance vs. Burnout

“Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.”

That’s pretty sound advice, wouldn’t you agree? After all, it was given by a man with a brilliant mind—the one who drafted the Declaration of Independence, served as president of the United States, instigated the Louisiana Purchase, and sent out the Louis and Clark Expedition. He was a man of foresight, wisdom and action, and the many writings he left are still highly regarded. But I take issue with this one. I think it’s possible to do too much in a day, particularly if you are a writer. I’m a prime example.

I am a highly energized, highly motivated person. I’m mom to three young children who have homeschooled in different configurations for the past six years. I’m responsible for family meals, shopping, taxiing, cleaning, laundry—everything but lawn care and repairs. I exercise pretty faithfully. I plant and preserved a huge garden every year. And I’m involved in several church ministries. My typical day starts at six thirty and I hardly sit down until my youngest is tucked in bed at eight. Then I have time to blog, read, or write.

For the last several years, my writing has been very seasonal. I read in the summer (because we do a lot of camping and because I usually have sixteen thousand out-of-school neighborhood children in my house at any given moment, neither of which are conducive to writing), and I write in the winter when Michigan days are short and cold and routine. I get obsessive about both. In the summer, especially since I began my book blog, I try to read the vast majority of the yearly 104 books I review. And in the winter I try to finish writing an entire novel. When you only have four hours to write each day, that’s a real challenge. I tend to not have a life from October till April. I don’t watch tv. I rarely go out with friends. I hardly ever pick up a book. I write. And I write. And I write, with the exception of the nights I simply fall into bed exhausted.

Let me put out there that I wouldn’t recommend this schedule.

This spring, I’ve vowed to start “putting off until tomorrow.” I’m calling it balance. Rather than simply cramming a hundred books into my noggin during my homeschool break, I have several projects I’d like to accomplish, including the creation of audio books, planning a story new arc, and rewriting a manuscript. I’m allowing myself to be obsessive about any of them for no more than two weeks at a time. Then I put them off and switch to something else. By alternating projects with reading, I won’t get all my books read, but now I’ll have time to read during the winter. Likewise, if I lay down my winter manuscript in favor of a book, I may not get it all done by spring. But neither will I be exhausted, burnt out, and grouchy. As an indie author, I have the freedom to extend my own deadline.

We’re all busy. I only know one writer personally who writes full time. The rest of us must balance our writing with jobs, family, and real life. My schedule will not lighten until my kids are grown up, and I in no way am trying to hasten that. Parenting is the sweetest adventure of all. I want to enjoy these years that are over so quickly. But if I’m serious about writing—if we’re serious—I think “putting off,” taking breaks, and finding balance is a much more sustainable approach.

It’s your turn. How do you balance writing with real life? Can you tell me the identity of the man I quoted without Googling it?  I’m currently lost somewhere in the Smokey mountains on one of our family camp-outs, but I’ll respond to comments when I get home in a week or two.