Shoot for the Moon 2016 Challenge – January Roundup

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Mhairi Simpson, and I have set ourselves some crazy writing-related goals over the last several moonyears with variable results. But I have found the experience so very helpful in keeping my focus throughout the year, it was a no-brainer as to what I’d be doing as 2015 sputtered to a close in a flurry of fireworks. So what goals have I set for 2016?

• Publish the Sunblinded trilogy
As some of you know, I was all set to go with this target, having planned to release Running Out of Space in time for Fantasycon 2015 at the end of October – and fell at the last hurdle because I had major problems formatting the book to a suitable standard. And then was ill throughout November with a dreadful cold that would not lift – chiefly due to exhaustion.

However, my clever son has sorted out the formatting issues for me, so I’m hoping to have both Running Out of Space and Dying for Space released together in the first half of 2016, followed by the final book in the trilogy, Breathing Space, in the autumn. I have learnt my lesson, though. No spreading the word about release dates until I have everything set up and ready to go!
It was huge breakthrough to understand what went so wrong and why – not something I’m going to bore you with, seeing as it’s an arcane techie niggle. But it means I should not run into the same problems again!

• Write the first draft of Bloodless, my space opera crime novel, featuring Jezell Campo, my protagonist who features in The Sunblinded Trilogy
I have the plot outline sorted out and I’m going to have a go at writing this one, while editing Dying for Space and Breathing Space. It may not work as I’m the ultimate monotasker, but I won’t know until I try, will I?

• Complete Chaos in New Cluster
This is the novel my writing pal, Michael Griffiths, and I started in 2014. We still haven’t managed to finish it, but perhaps this will be the year when we can get it completed. It’s not a priority as we both have plenty else to be getting on with.

• Complete Picky Eaters
This is the novella that mushroomed from my short story, published at Every Day Fiction longer ago than I care to think. Another story that wouldn’t rest in my head until I completed the whole tale… While reading it to the grandchildren over the Christmas holidays, I realised there were another couple of plotpoints that needed tidying up, so I have it pencilled into my editing schedule during the summer when I’m not teaching, to have a go at getting it to a publishable standard. All being well, I intend to see if I can self-publish it at the start of December.

• Edit Miranda’s Tempest
This is one of the successes of last year. This novel has been burning a hole in my brain for the best part of a year, after I made a couple of false starts. When teaching The Tempest, I always felt that Miranda sailing off to marry Prince Ferdinand was never going to work – she’s been running around an enchanted island in her father’s cutdown robes since she was a toddler, which simply will not prepare her for surviving life as a 15th century Italian princess. And I finally managed to complete it while I was ill during November, given that I couldn’t sleep and couldn’t seem to concentrate on reading. I now need to knock it into shape so I can send it out to some agents.
I am working through it right now, as it still won’t leave me alone. I’m more than halfway through the manuscript and so far have lost 8 pages as I’m tightening it up and ensuring the language is appropriate for the Shakespearean period. It’s a balancing act to keep the feel of the language without too many forsooths and I prithees cluttering up the narrative drive…

• Submit Miranda’s Tempest and Unearthly Things Above
While submitting my work still happens in fits and starts, rather than the smoothly rolling process I’d planned in theory, it hadn’t been completely discouraging. A number of agents requested to see the full manuscript of Mantivore Dreams and said nice things about my writing. Meanwhile Netted is under consideration by a publisher. I don’t want to say more at this stage, but I plan to send out Miranda’s Tempest and Unearthly Things Above as soon as they are suitably shiny and good to go.

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog
As 2015 was the second year in a row that I nailed this challenge, I’ve decided to fine-tune it. While I don’t want to extend the number of books I read and review, I am going to apply for more Netgalley ARCs and read and review more new releases. There is a real buzz about doing this – and as reading is my main hobby, increasing the excitement and fun can only be a good thing. I’ve also already signed up to the Discovery Challenge, thanks to Joanne Hall’s thoughtful post – read it here – which is to read and review at least one female author I haven’t read before per month, then report back in a specific blog, which should keep me on the ball…
I wrote 12 reviews during January, which came to just over 10,915 words. Half the books I completed were by authors I hadn’t previously read and five were new releases. I don’t think for a second that I shall be able to sustain those shiny stats – the slew of new releases were affordable due to Amazon vouchers and book tokens as Christmas gifts. But I am hoping to be able to continue to read and review at least two female authors new to me every month.

• Propose and plan Creative Writing courses for the academic year 2016/17
I have next year’s courses sorted out, but during the second half of the term I will be submitting them for approval to Northbrook College. I really would like to have the course notes and plans written by the end of the summer holidays, and so long as I work hard, that should be doable.
So far this term is going well – although a number of students have gone down with various bugs and illnesses and I’ll be glad when they have all recovered!

• Work on the teaching syllabus for TW
Since taking on teaching my friend’s son, County have given the go-ahead for the current situation to prevail. So we are now getting organised to start teaching him the English GCSE syllabus and I will be taking responsibility for the planning and delivery of both the English Language and Literature. This is hugely challenging – but also extremely exciting as only a few years ago, no one would have thought he would be in a position to consider taking such qualifications due to his autism.
This is, obviously, going to take priority as it becomes necessary.

• Continue to improve my fitness
I suffered a major back injury back in early 2005, which left me with ongoing sciatica that meant I was a constant visitor to the Physio. Doubtless spending hours in front of the computer aggravated the situation, but I found I couldn’t go on long walks, swim or spend an undue amount of time gardening. Then last year, Mhairi suggested I get a TENS machine to see if it would improve the nerve pain during yet another flare-up that was making my life a misery. It worked! Last June, I spent the day at Kew Gardens for my birthday treat, walking up the stairs in the Palm House and around the grounds without so much as a twinge.
I’ve now been signed off by the Physio and am on my second course of Pilates – yay! Himself and I have also started hiking again, albeit gently. But it’s marvellous – I feel I’ve got my life back. My ambition is to resume my regular swims, which I used to enjoy and increase the distance I can walk. And in case you’re wondering how this impacts my writing – it’s huge. I used to battle through the nerve pain to write, and now I don’t have to, it is such a wonderful relief…

Those are my 2016 Shoot for the Moon Challenges. Wish me luck!

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8 responses »

  1. “It may not work as I’m the ultimate monotasker….”

    For someone who calls herself a monotasker, you have a stunning number of goals this year, Sarah. Several good writing-related ones, but I especially enjoyed reading about the fitness goal. That’s something we can’t forget to consider, regardless of our health or age. I always walk during my lunch breaks (even in the winter, but indoors), but that tends to be it during the winter. It’s one of the reasons why I took up yoga again.

    And for you, I’m glad to hear you’ve found a solution to the back / nerve pain you’d been experienced and that your life has improved so much as a result. 🙂 Yay!

    Best of luck with all your goals this year!

    • Thank you for your kind good wishes, Sara – I appreciate them! Yes… I’m aware that there are a LOT of targets here, but if I even hit half of them, then I’m making significant progress. And the health one is so important – I struggled with my weight and keeping from slowing down too much when so compromised by the sciatica – and I’m now at an age when these things start to count. So it felt like a miracle last year when I began to be pain-free more often than I was hurting and I now feel confident enough to start exercising such that I am sore – but because I’m pushing myself. It’s a great feeling:).

      • Very true. And that’s the great thing about your Shoot For The Moon posts. You use them as your means for staying accountable and remembering to take steps towards each goal. Keep up the awesome work – on all fronts. 🙂

      • Thank you so much for your kind encouragement! You are SUCH a star for always being willing to step in and touch base. I really appreciate it:).

  2. These look like ambitious goals, but with your superb discipline I’m positive you’re going to accomplish most (if not all). Of course, unexpected things might happen, but from what I’ve seen last year, I believe in your success. 🙂
    I wish I had everything so structured and planned, but at the moment everything seems to be floating for me. I guess until I move over the pond, I can’t really start planning or organizing my life.
    And good luck with your fitness: I can totally relate to that goal as hours spend in front of the screen (both at day job and at home), affect mine as well. Hopefully your back will stop giving you hard time. I can’t even imagine living with such pain.

    • Thank you for your kind good wishes, Joanne:). This is what makes blogging so worthwhile – getting in touch and befriending people online with similar interests… Yes – I don’t think I’ll necessarily make ALL those targets, but I’ve already learnt that if I set myself ambitious targets, I work to try and get there and so achieve more than I would if I hadn’t. That’s the theory, anyhow! As regards the back pain, while it was more or less continuous, I was able to shove it into the background and keep writing. But it is such a relief not to be constantly battling with it! I completely understand how you must be feeling with the upcoming move. And do be kind to yourself – I moved about A LOT as a young woman, and it should never be under-estimated just how long it takes to get into a comfortable rhythm after a major upheaval like that – so please don’t go beating yourself up if you find you cannot get back to the writing as soon as you have unpacked. Best of luck and hope it goes smoothly!

      • Fingers crossed for you and your goals, and you know, I’ll be checking on you throughout the year. 😉
        I’m trying to be gentle to myself, but at the same time I stubbornly refuse the move to dictate my life: I knew I’d be moving for almost a year now, so I was kind of living in suspension and it can be quite tiresome.
        As for moving, I agree, it does break the life rhythm a lot, both before and after the move. I’ve moved around Dublin 5 times in the last 8 years (6 if I count the PL->IE move), so I’m kind of used to it… Kind of. I, too, hope it’ll go smoothly.

      • Thank you for your kind good wishes, I really appreciate them, Joanne. Hm… yes, I recall the stage in my life when we were constantly on the move. Know that I am thinking of you – and I’ll be pushing positive vibes your way during THE move!

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