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Taking stock of 2015

Posted in Goals

Still Life and Street, M.C. Escher, 1937It's time to look back on 2015 and take stock — what worked, what didn't, and where I spent my time.

Accomplishments

I doubled 2014's word count (which isn't saying much), even though I spent 5 months working on something else. That put me on track for equaling my annual word count for 2012 and 2013, if I had written for the full year.

I wrote two more short stories for my eventual collection.

My first short story submission was accepted and released.

I wrote a fantasy novel which will be out early in 2016 — The Chained Adept, the first in a series.

I researched methods of working with the Constructed Language (CONLANG) community and formed a professional relationship with a conlanger. Here's how it's worked out.

Starting the year

2014 was a terrible year for productivity. The short explanation would include:

  • Time-consuming fall-out from relocation
  • Too much time spent following author-related blogs
  • Social media learning curve/excessive experimental focus
  • Re-vamped websites (version 2.0), separating author from publisher websites
  • Experimental audiobook production
  • Better print and ebook distribution
  • Learning the process for submitting short stories for publication

While I did make some progress on new work, way too much time was spent on ascending too many learning curves at once.

2015 was significantly better, despite losing almost half a year to other things.

Choices of projects

I have four novels and a story collection for my series The Hounds of Annwn, and there are fans calling for more work. I would love to oblige them, and there will be more work coming, but I recognized that I must diversify and not put all of my writing into a single series — I need a broader base to satisfy more readers.

To that end, I began (in 2014) work on Structures of Earth, the first in a new series. I also started producing short stories that were not part of my Hounds of Annwn series, and science-fiction instead of fantasy, three of them in 2014, and two in 2015, and began the process of submitting them for publication.

When 2015 began, I was at a point in Structures of Earth that left me a bit unsatisfied with the state of the world-building so far. While I was pondering that, I was prompted by a number of articles to experiment with writing a book without an initial outline, what some refer to as “writing into the dark”, or “writing by the seat of your pants.” By nature I am a plotter (loose outliner) not a pantser, but I had one such story in mind, so I took advantage of the pause in Structures of Earth to begin a different story, The Chained Adept, the first book in a series of that name.

That process began smoothly, and I was well on my way with it when Google lobbed a bomb into my life (see next section).

By autumn, I was able to return to The Chained Adept, and it's nearing the end, now. I will start book 2 of that series next, and then I anticipate returning to Structures of Earth to complete it. If I can keep on target with my word goals, I should be able to produce three novels in 2016 after The Chained Adept is published. We'll see…

Google, Mobile-ready Sites, Major Disruption

In Spring, 2015, Google suddenly announced that all websites which were not mobile-friendly would very shortly be downgraded in search rankings. For me, this meant WordPress sites needed to use templates that were “mobile-ready”, which had a specific meaning about resizability of text and images. I have several websites, most of which are not related to writing, and not all of which were in WordPress (some were older technology).

It's always easier and faster to do upgrades in bulk rather than piecemeal, and I made a decision to update all eight websites into WordPress (if they weren't already there) and to change all the WordPress templates to accommodate the new requirement. This was extraordinarily time-consuming. It took about a month to bring everything up to the technology standard Google required, but there was one site which forced a special decision.

I'm a fiddler of Scandinavian folk music and I maintain a website of 2000 fiddle tunes. You can see the long story here, but the brief version is that the site had not been upgraded for more than ten years, only about half the tunes had full transcriptions available for musicians, and the technology used at the time was rather primitive. I evaluated how long it would take to not only make the site mobile-friendly for Google, but to actually finish building the full database of transcribed tunes. It had bugged me for years that I had put this off, and I'm still very much part of that community of players, so I decided now was the time — writing be damned — and I bit the bullet and worked long days non-stop for about five months to do this one-time project and bring it fully into the modern era.

I hadn't planned on losing almost half a year to technology disruption (and there's still a little bit more to do which is now back-burnered), and it shattered most of my productivity planning for the year. I still think it was the right choice — it had to happen sometime, and better now, early in my writing career, than later.

Professional Partners

I produced my own covers for the Hounds of Annwn series, but in 2014 I auditioned and partnered with a cover artist to produce covers for my new works. (A search on “cover artist” will find several posts on the topic). I've continued to use him in 2015 and remain very happy with the results. I'm able to do all the text portions, other than the actual illustrated title, so I still control all the blurbs and cover info, a compromise on control that suits me well.

Partway through writing The Chained Adept, a created-world fantasy that includes four different cultures/languages, I became dissatisfied with my pseudo-language skills for adequately portraying the different cultures through onomastics (naming). The personal names were all right, but I was less confident about coming up with special terms for cultural artifacts, in quantity, to make the cultures more vivid. I chanced across a book by the fellow who constructed the languages for Dothraki and Valyrian for Game of Thrones, based on clues from George R R Martin's books, so that the film versions could use actual subtitled dialogue for the languages. This introduced me to the world of Constructed Languages (CONLANG). You can read about that in detail here, and there will be a reader-oriented post on the blog soon.

I've been working with a conlang partner for about a month, and I'm very pleased with the process. I plan to go back and use him for the world of  Structures of Earth, too.

Outreach to other authors

I participate in lots of independent author communities, but my active participation in the comment ecosystem is down to just a handful which I follow faithfully (vs 2014). I glance over the rest of them from time to time.

There are a handful of authors that I network with, mostly peers at a similar level, and a couple whom I can help mentor. I wouldn't mind helping others, but the connectivity hasn't happened yet. I expect that will evolve.

Whenever I feel like I need to wax eloquent about some sort of writing/publishing topic, I try to focus on creating a long and relatively detailed article in my Just for Writers area of the blog. That way, when the topic comes up again and again, I can just point people to the appropriate post. I'm finding that those articles have surprising longevity in the writing community, and it makes me very happy that people find them helpful, even when they disagree.

Falling through the Cracks

There are still a few areas leftover from the 2014 whirlwind of research and experiment that I think need more short-term attention. I will try to restrict my work in this area in 2016 to:

  • Writing more short stories and improving my reaction time for re-submissions
  • Audiobook distribution. I have one (produced outside the ACX system) and need to get it distributed.
  • Library distribution.
  • Advertising. I need a more focused approach, but I may not have enough material yet to make this worthwhile.

Conclusions for 2016

I've cleared my plate of many of the distractions of 2014 and 2015. My goals are simple for the new year.

Concentrate on writing

No matter what else is going on, get the writing done. The WIBBOW test applies to all potential distractions (Would I Be Better Off Writing).

When things are going well, I find that 2000 words/day is no difficulty. My goal for the year is only 1000 words/day, overall — that's about three novels. It shouldn't be hard (I keep telling myself).

Control daily productivity

Part of this is getting better at working my own psychology. I must write first thing, before I even look at email in the morning. I must make the writing the number one priority.

The other part of this is recognizing that whenever I feel something has bogged down, there is no point evading the issue — look at it hard, figure out what's wrong, and deal with it. The black dog always lurks around the corner, ready to pounce at the nearest opportunity — nothing keeps it away like productive writing sessions. Feed the writing, not depression.

Continue blogging

UpdateBlogMy “Just for Writers” reference articles continue to be useful, but I must greatly improve the articles for readers, both in content and in regularity. Still, if it's a choice between writing and blogging, I'm clear on which has the higher priority.

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...and as a free bonus gift, you'll receive an ebook version of The Call, a short story that precedes the start of The Hounds of Annwn.

2 Comments

  1. Eleanor
    Eleanor

    I am glad to hear that you might return to George and company in the future because I enjoyed their company. I also liked the beginning chapter of Structures of Earth when you shared that a while back. I hope this year is a good one for you, and I’ll be watching for the release of The Chained Adept.

    January 28, 2016
    |Reply
    • I like George et alia, too — I could go on for a while there (and will) — but I had to expand the audience. I expect The Chained Adept to go up Feb 1 and I’m already well into book 2, Mistress of Animals (which does not, alas, include foxhunting). 🙂

      If I can keep the productivity up, I can service three ongoing series in a year, and that’s the goal.

      January 28, 2016
      |Reply

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