Do You Fall Behind Or Catch Up on Your Writing Goals Over Christmas?

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We’ve made it to December, and it’s the final post for the IWSG for the year.

The question for this month is quite poignant. Usually, over Christmas, I fall behind, but I’ve been behind in my writing goals all year. I have been suffering from chronic pain and fatigue since late 2021, which threw my writing goals into disarray. Then, in the middle of NaNoWriMo, I had to abandon the challenge, as my town was hit by the recent floods, and my father-in-law’s house was affected (thankfully, he’s okay and is back home). Basically, it has been almost impossible to make plans for anything, let alone, writing.

So, this Christmas, I’ll be playing catch up with my writing goals. It’s a good thing I already adhere to the ‘slow and steady’ approach!

I have a few seasons of ‘Supernatural’ to catch up on as well. 😉

The final novella in my Marsden Hall series, House of Echoes, is with my editor, which means I can now start work on something new – only I’m still trying to figure out exactly what that will be (yep, squirrel). 😉

Christmas is also a time to reassess my writing goals and figure out what I’m comfortable with when it comes to both writing and marketing. If these past twelve months have taught me anything, it’s to go at my own pace; I’m in this for the long haul.

Happy Christmas everyone and best wishes for the new year. Wishing you lots of writing successes in 2023!

Do you fall behind or catch up on your writing goals over Christmas? Are you happy to go at your own pace when it comes to writing?

Writers: Have You Ever Participated in NaNoWriMo?

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Recently, I had been working on the edits for a couple of projects and planning what to write next when this month’s question for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group appeared. It was certainly good timing, and I thank the group for the question, because I had forgotten all about NaNoWriMo. In fact, when I visited the site, I was shocked to discover I hadn’t participated in six years!

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo about three times in the past, making it over the finish line of 50k twice. I can honestly say that both times, those ‘successes’ were both steaming excrements, and I have not revisited either of them. Having said that though, they were both learning experiences. I learned that for me, at least, when it comes to writing novels (or even novellas for that matter), I need to have an outline.

So, why has it been so long since I participated?

I’m not sure if it is just me, but each time I participated in NaNoWriMo, I would get bad headaches. Maybe it was the stress of pushing myself to reach a certain word count every day, or other factors, like the computer screen, or needing to get my eyes tested. This time, though, I’m prepared: I have a new computer with a bigger screen, and I’ve been wearing reading glasses for some years now (the joys of getting older). I’m devoting the entire month of November towards this project, as well as trying to meet a deadline for my editor. At least now, I have an excuse to binge on Netflix! 😉

In the past, I always worked on something new, but this time I’ll be doing something different by writing a new draft of an existing project. Don’t worry, I won’t be cheating, as this project is in dire need of a re-write (it hasn’t been touched for some years). But by doing this, my outline is already there after a few tweaks, and my world and characters are a bit more fleshed out. I usually work linear as well, but in NaNoWriMo you don’t have to, which is a great help in getting those words down. Because this project has been bubbling away for some time, I’m keen to get started.

If you’re participating this year, let me know, the more the merrier. I wish you the best of luck! Let’s cheer each other on!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this month? Have you worked on your novel after NaNoWriMo? Are you a plotter or a panster, or somewhere in-between?

Writing with Chronic Pain.

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When it comes to my writing this year, I began with optimism; I had another novella to write, and I was full of new ideas. Of-course, life doesn’t always go according to plan, and as the year went on, I found myself facing my biggest challenge yet.

The previous year (2021), I had taken a couple of falls, landing on alternate knees, causing injury, but thankfully no broken bones. Normally a healthy person, this was frustrating, but I managed. However, it was not until the end of the year that another health problem arose.

As the months passed, pain in my legs and lower back intensified. I had trouble sleeping and went to ‘bed’ on the lounge. To make matters worse, our family doctor of twenty years eventually retired, leaving me anxious and receiving three different diagnoses from three different doctors. Eventually, when at my lowest ebb, things worked out and in early July, I finally received my diagnosis. Sacroiliac joint pain – inflammation in my lower back, pelvis, and thighs. Yep, when I get sick, I make sure I do it properly!

Although I could go the quicker route to recovery by having a cortisone injection in my back, I’ve decided to go the slower route (an injection some months earlier in my left hip left me with a bad experience and I swore I’d never go through it again). Now, I have the right dosage with my medication, I am regularly seeing a chiropractor, and having regular acupuncture and massage. Some days are better than others, and after sleeping on the lounge for three months, I am now back in my bed again! 🙂

Throughout all of this, I naturally backed away a bit from social media, and as you’d expect, my writing has been seriously impacted. I have always been a slow writer, and living with chronic pain has made me accept that it’s part of my writing process.

I’m normally not one to talk about such personal issues, but I mention it to demonstrate that setbacks do happen; nobody knows what’s going on behind the scenes in a writer’s life. Not everyone can write fast, whether it’s through circumstances and/or their genetic makeup. You shouldn’t have to feel like a ‘failure’ if you don’t (and I’ve been there too many times to count). If you can write fast, that’s great, too! Everyone is different. It’s okay to write at your own pace, you shouldn’t have to feel shame either way.

Right now I’m on the slow road to recovery, and that also means the slow road when it comes to writing. We all have our own paths. Unfortunately, it can sometimes take dramatic changes in our lives to come to terms with it.

Has 2022 turned out differently to what you had planned? Have you come to accept your own writing process? Have you ever felt pressured to write faster?

Silence is Golden.

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Seeing in a new year always brings with it a clean slate and endless possibilities. For 2022, I’ve been making plans for my next writing projects, as well as my publishing plans for the year. So far, I feel as if I am starting from scratch and therefore, willing to try something new.

Last year, I wrote about the struggles I was experiencing and how persistence matters when it comes to writing. I had reached a point where I gave serious consideration to giving up writing altogether, as I was no longer getting any pleasure from it. I was in a dark place, but then, given the nature of what I write, I needed to be. While writing my novella, The Stranger Within, I needed to stay there.

A beta reader once told me to ‘go darker.’ I can do that!

I wanted the novella published before the end of 2021, so I had a deadline to meet as well. I made it, but by the end, I was mentally and physically exhausted. That year, I had two falls, causing injury to both knees, as well as the anxiety over COVID-19 and going through lockdowns. I had also lost my spark for writing and needed to find it again. What I needed was a break!

For 2022, I have made the decision to spend less time on social media, specifically Facebook and Instagram. For me, this is where a large part of the ‘comparisonitis’ comes from (and I’m sure you’ve all heard the stories the effects these networks can have on young girls, especially). Besides, being an introvert, I am much more comfortable blogging and writing newsletters.

It’s only early days, but so far, I believe I have made the right decision. I have taken the time to relax, read, plan my writing projects for the year, and come up with a business plan. I’ve even given my desk a long overdue clean out!

Perhaps this may lead to a more permanent arrangement. 😉

What plans do you have for 2022? What changes are you making to help reach your goals this year?

Celebrating Two Years as an Indie Author.

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Last year, I wrote a post listing what I learned during the first twelve months of being an indie author. Now, two years after hitting that ‘publish’ button, those points basically remain the same, but with a few added caveats.

Marketing can overtake the writing.

Yes, we want readers to find our books and read them, but sometimes the marketing side to indie publishing can become all-consuming. We can focus too much on all the different ways to market, hop on to the latest trend, spread ourselves too thin, and become obsessed with sales figures, and wonder what we are doing wrong. I’ve mentioned before that writing is a marathon, not a sprint, and the same can be said for the marketing side of publishing. Find something that you enjoy when it comes to marketing, even if it’s just one or two, and start your following from there. Too often, the focus can be on having large numbers, but there are many benefits to having a smaller following.

You need to remember the writing is what’s important.

A few years back, I spent a lot of time blogging, and my writing took a bit of a back-seat. My husband told me ‘I thought you wanted to be a writer, not a blogger.’ As much as I enjoy blogging (I’ve been doing this for twelve years now), he was right, and so I started taking a small step back. Lately, I’ve found myself doing the same thing with other social media – we crave the immediate attention it can bring. We need to find the right balance between writing and marketing, and remember our priority should be our stories.

Trying to maintain work/life balance.

As an indie author, we’re running our own business. We are in control of what we do, which includes our working hours. This can become a business where we work 24/7, if we let it. I admit to working evenings, weekends, and even waking up during the night or the early hours of the morning thinking about it. The thing is, I love what I do and that’s a good thing. Not many people can say they love their work, however, we still need to take breaks for the sake of our physical and mental health. COVID-19 has taught me that this, along with family, is what’s important. This year, I’ve also had two falls, landing on alternate knees about six months apart. I am still not fully recovered, and I guess the long recovery process is one way to tell me to slow down (as well as to unfortunately remind me how old I am)!

Recently, I’ve been reading The Relaxed Author by Joanna Penn and Mark Leslie Lefebvre (I’ll now have to start getting some of his books 😉 ), which has been very timely and confirms what I have been thinking for some months now.

Lately, I have been making plans for the next twelve months, but one thing is certain – the ‘slow but steady’ approach works for me.

What have you learned on your writing journey this year? Has COVID-19 made you reassess your priorities? What writing process works best for you

The Writing Journey: Persistence Matters.

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In November of 2019, I self-published my first short story. Since then, I have published two more short stories and recently published my first novella, the first in a series. I have learned a few things along the way, and being an author is an occupation where you are always learning. But I think one of the biggest things I’ve learnt is that indie publishing is not for the faint of heart.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of the most determined and obstinate people you will ever find (just ask my husband), but one of my biggest weaknesses is comparing myself to others. I’ve been telling myself (and you here on this blog), that everyone’s writing journey is different, and this is my way to remind myself of this reality. In her book Dear Writer, You Need to Quit, Becca Syme has an entire chapter on the subject – ‘Quit Trying to Be Like Everyone Else.’ It’s good to know that there are other people out there who feel the same way I do. Even though my husband has been telling me this for years, I guess I needed to also hear it from others.

However, back in September 2020, things started to fall down around me. Despite being in a network of other writers, I felt alone. Even though they are lovely people whom I’m happy to have as writing friends, it began to dawn on me that they were not my ‘tribe.’ What I write does not necessarily gel with theirs. I started to pull away and even though I published another book of short stories a couple of months later, I began to go through one of the longest bouts of depression I have ever experienced.

Throughout this period and into a new year, I spent months setting up and sending out newsletters, and preparing my first Gothic novella for publication. I wondered what the point was because nobody cared, no-one was interested. I felt like a complete failure, but I persisted. As recently as April, a month before publication, my husband told me that if I wasn’t enjoying it anymore, then don’t do it. Do something else. I couldn’t stop because writing is all I’ve ever wanted to do. ‘This is me,’ I told him. ‘This is who I am.’ He just didn’t get it.

I like to keep this quote on my desk as a constant reminder.

It was also around this time, that something started to happen, a kind of shift. A fellow writer put me onto David Gaughran’s course ‘Starting from Zero.’ As I prepared my next book for its release, I began to use what he taught me. Shortly after release, a Facebook friend sent me a request to join a group for indie horror writers. From that group, I was asked to participate in a competition for Gothic writers, as well as join a group for Gothic readers (which also included writers). I had finally found my ‘tribe.’

Together, these two incidents, helped make the launch of The Curse of Marsden Hall, my most successful. It reached as high as No.4 in one of its categories on Amazon Australia and was one of its ‘hot new releases.’ This then helped one of my other short stories, First Christmas, reach No.2 (yes, you read that right) in one of its categories on Amazon Australia.

A rare moment of seeing two of my books side by side in the Top 20.

Of-course such a high is short lived and it was a good couple of weeks while it lasted, but it gives me hope that maybe – just maybe – things might be starting to change on my writing journey.

For eight months I struggled with self-doubt and depression, but it was also a journey of self-discovery. I’ve learned who I am as a writer, both in my genre and my process. I’ve come to the conclusion, that although I may not become a big name, what’s important for me is the writing itself, and making my readers happy. Who knows, I might become an ‘overnight success’ by the time I’ve published my 20th book! 😉

Yes, I’ll continue to doubt myself and make mistakes along the way, but I’ve managed to overcome this hurdle. Persistence (and a healthy dose of stubbornness) pays off.

Being an indie author is hard work but there’s no point in worrying about things out of your control. Keep showing up and put yourself out there. Have fun, and love what you do!

It’s been some months since I last posted about writing and my writing journey (and reading this post, you’ll understand why). This hasn’t been an easy post for me to write, but I do so because I prefer to be honest with you and maybe help others who are struggling with their own writing journey.

Looking for spooky stories? Subscribe to my newsletter for regular updates and receive an exclusive flash fiction. I’d love it if you could join the discussion! 🙂

My Newsletter is Here!

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For a few months now I’ve been working on creating my first newsletter. I’ve been working on it a bit at a time, a combination of planning and technical issues, but it’s finally ready.

And it’s certainly been a learning experience!

Like my blog, the newsletter will be sent out once a month. I’ll talk about my latest news, research articles, books, film, and television. And of course, there will be spooky stories of the paranormal, mysteries, and the unexplained. 😉

If you subscribe to my newsletter, you will also receive an exclusive flash fiction. Just visit my Newsletter page.

Receive a copy of ‘Forever Autumn’ when you subscribe to my newsletter.

Now that my newsletter is finally up and running, I look forward to getting back into doing some writing. 🙂

Have a great weekend, everyone!

 

Celebrating One Year of Self-Publishing.

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November is an important month for me, but this year, it is even more special. This month marks my one-year anniversary of being self-published!

It’s hard to believe a year has gone by already, and what a year it’s been (hello, 2020). When I first hit that ‘publish’ button, I thought I knew what I was in for. I had spent years reading up on self-publishing, but it wasn’t until I actually began my journey that I found there was still so much to learn. The best way to learn about anything is by doing!

Here are the biggest take-aways I have learned these past twelve months: –

Learn from our mistakes and be prepared to experiment

In some respects, I’m fortunate that I began self-publishing without a big bang. There have been plenty of highs and lows, and yes, I’ve made some mistakes, but we learn from them and try to do things better. It also helps to keep a bit of an open mind and experiment. It’s a matter of learning what works and what doesn’t.

Keep Finding Your Audience

Not everyone is going to like what you do, and that’s okay. We all have different tastes. We just need to find ways of locating our audience – they’re out there somewhere! You just need to keep rolling up your sleeves and put in the work.

Do What is Right for YOU

There is a lot of advice out there about the ‘best’ way to self-publish, but what works for one author won’t necessarily work for you. Some authors can do a ‘rapid release’ and produce quality work, but some may be like me and be in the ‘slow and steady’ camp. Neither one is right or wrong, you just need to do what fits with your personality.

Everyone’s journey is different

Having said that, it’s so easy to compare yourself to others. I’ve been doing this long before I hit that publish button and it still hasn’t changed. Whenever I compare myself to others, I take a step back and focus on my own writing and genre. I look at what I have accomplished so far and what I need to do to achieve my next goal. The writing journey is a marathon, not a sprint. Just keep moving forward one day at a time.

Love Your Network

I don’t think I would have got this far without my existing network. Apart from my husband, my support team has been entirely on-line. The writing community has been wonderful in their support, both for craft and morally. They have provided publicity for me, so I can reach readers that I would never have had access to, nor even considered. Cherish these people and reciprocate!

I love this quote! And I love getting creative with Canva & Book Brush too. 😉

Fellow writers, what have you learned this year on your writing journey? If you’re self-published, what was your biggest take-away during your first year? Has COVID-19 made you reassess your outlook and/or your goals?

IWSG: Do You See Yourself as a Working Writer?

I have been writing for years, and it wasn’t until late 2019 that I became an indie author. Despite this, I did not really see myself as a working writer until only a few short months ago.

I could never understand those television shows where authors go about solving crimes, yet somehow manage to write books and be successful authors. To me, the term ‘working writer’ is someone glued to their chair doing a lot of writing with an assortment of pens and papers scattered around their desk. What I like to call ‘an organised mess’.

To me, a working writer is also someone who takes their writing seriously, are prepared to be in it for the long haul, learn new things (as well as from their mistakes), and adapt to change. Sometimes we can be doing all these things, but what is really required is a shift in our mindset.

When I released my two books of short stories in 2019, I put them out into the world with little fanfare. These were stories I had been holding onto for a number of years, so when I pressed ‘publish’, it was with a great deal of relief (and a lot of trepidation) that the job was finally done.

Recently, as I have been working on the release of my next book, my mindset has changed. Within the first six months as an indie author, I managed to learn more about the business – don’t we learn more by doing? I have learned from past mistakes and this time I am trying a different approach, and I’m sure I will try different ways of doing things with each book.

Looking back, despite having some knowledge of indie publishing, I was a bit naïve. I need to work harder and smarter if I want to be successful in this business, and I do! With that shift in mindset, I now see myself as a working writer.

This is something you will never see on these shows because it makes for boring television! 😉

Do you see yourself as a working writer? What do you think it looks like? Have you had a change in mindset and how has it worked for you? Are you an aspiring author or a hobbyist?

The purpose of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

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IWSG: Write What You Love.

Some years ago, I woke up from a very strange dream. It was so strange, that I kept thinking about it throughout the day, and decided to write the idea down. It was a horror story, and it became my first attempt at a short story. My husband read it and called it macabre, which I naturally took as a compliment. 😉

Originally, I never intended to write short stories, nor paranormal fiction. When I first started writing, I wanted to write novel-length pieces, but I always fell short. I also think this was due, in part, to the fact that at the time, I wanted to write romances. I fell I love with Jane Austen and continue to admire her work. As a teen, I read a lot of sweet romances and even tried writing a novel for Mills and Boon. Despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t do it. Anything romantic would need to have a dark side. I was well and truly into Bronte territory.

My muse was clearly taking me down some dark alleys.

I grew up watching a lot of film and television. Horror, suspense, and mysteries really caught my attention. I was also fascinated by the paranormal. What was staring me in the face, I chose to ignore, until only a few years ago. I finally gave in to my muse and I believe I have now finally found my ‘voice’.

From that strange dream, I went on to write more short stories, entered short story competitions, and even self-published a couple of them. Later this year, in time for Christmas, I will be releasing a couple more. I am also currently working on a series of novellas.

I love the short form and will continue to write them. Meanwhile, with a lot of trial and error, my novel drafts are slowly beginning to take shape. 😉

Have you written in a form or genre you hadn’t planned writing in? Do you choose a form/genre in advance?

The purpose of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

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