Shoot for the Moon 2016 Challenge – How Did I Do?


For the last three years, my writing buddy Mhairi Simpson and I have set ourselves a series of ambitious goals to work towards. How did I get on with the targets I set myself last year?

Publish the Sunblinded trilogymoon
Nope. Still not happened… In the flurry of submitting work to a number of agents who appear to like my writing, one of them specifically requested to see Running Out of Space, instead of the manuscript I was submitting. This presented me with a dilemma – ROOS was all set to be my self-publishing project, but if I was serious about also wanting a traditional publishing career, it seemed that I should submit it. So I have. In the meantime, I’ve got further work to do on Dying For Space and Breathing Space as my wonderful beta-readers have provided me with invaluable feedback that impacts on the ending of one and the start of the other.

Write the first draft of Bloodless, my space opera crime novel, featuring Jezell Campo, my protagonist who features in The Sunblinded Trilogy
Again, no. I have been busy rewriting and editing a number of other manuscripts, so this simply didn’t get done.

Complete Chaos in New Cluster
This is the novel my writing pal, Michael Griffiths, and I started in 2014. Yes – we completed the first draft and Mike has someone looking over it. As this is a project we will be working on in between everything else, it is ticking over quietly in the background.

Complete Picky Eaters
No, this didn’t get touched. I have been busy on a variety of other projects and didn’t have the time or headspace to get it done. However, Frances regularly asks about it, and I have made a PROMISE that it will see the light of day at some stage.

Edit Miranda’s Tempest
Miranda’s Tempest was duly submitted after being edited and I had some excellent feedback from an agent. So I am now in the process of rewriting it, which is challenging but much easier than it might be, because getting that advice was a lightbulb moment where I could then see exactly where I could improve the story flow and tighten up the plot.

I am working through it right now, though I took a break over Christmas as I also needed to produce my course notes and it was particularly busy, social time.

Submit Miranda’s Tempest
This year, I have been far more organised about submitting my work and while I don’t have a publishing contract, I have had some very positive feedback, which will help me move forward. One of the reasons why I failed at some of my other targets, was that earlier in the year a publisher considering Netted, my other novel which was ‘out there’, asked me to undertake a major rewrite which took me the best part of five months to complete. I’m now waiting to see if they like it sufficiently to offer me a contract…

Write at least 100 reviews for my blog
I wrote 150 reviews for my blog during 2016, the most I’ve ever posted. I also nailed my target to read and review more new releases as 71 of those reviews were about NetGalley arcs. I made one of my goals to increase my blogging output to every day and I have also mostly achieved this, too. Indeed, my views on my blog during 2016 have nearly doubled from the 2015 figure and I also have far more interaction with a number of wonderful bloggers who love books as much as I do. Given the fact I’ve been rewriting and editing throughout the year, reading and reviewing have become increasingly important to me as a source of pleasure and escape, particularly as personally 2016 was something of a heartbreak throughout the latter half.

Propose and plan Creative Writing courses for the academic year 2016/17
Obviously, I had these planned, but due to all sorts of things going on from August onwards, I didn’t get the Spring Term course notes written during the summer as I would have liked. Last year’s classes went really well and I was also able to run my one day courses. I have a lovely time teaching – it’s got to be the best gig of all, teaching a subject I’m passionate about to a group of people who are equally keen to learn.

Work on the teaching syllabus for TW
I undertook to teach English to Tim now over a year ago, paid for by County. Last year, we needed to find a suitable syllabus for him to study with a view to getting him some qualifications. This proved to be far more difficult than we initially thought. However, we now have found a way forward that is unusual but doable and I have now begun working on a series of projects with him that will provide Tim with a qualification commensurate with an English GCSE. Meanwhile, I am privileged to watch Tim continue to blossom into a remarkable person.

Continue to improve my fitness
This has gone really well. I decided to become vegetarian right at the end of 2015 and while I still eat eggs and fish occasionally, I haven’t eaten meat for over a year. I cannot get over how much better I feel – I have so much more energy and my nails, hair and skin have never been in better condition. I’ve continued my Pilates classes and now also attend a Fitstep class, which is exercise through dance and so much fun. Just before Christmas I finally achieved my target weight and although I put on a few pounds over the holiday, I’m confident I’ll soon lose it again. It’s marvellous to open up the wardrobe and know I can wear everything in it!

It’s a mixed picture, isn’t it? On one hand, the aspect that is really important to me – my writing – hasn’t appeared to make much progress. However, all that rewriting and re-editing prompted by professional advice has helped me to further improve my craft, which was one of the reasons why I wanted a hybrid career in the first place.

As regards the reading and blogging, it’s never been better. Though I don’t expect 2017 to be such a productive year, as I’m hoping to spend more time writing and less time reading. And teaching continues to provide me with plenty of challenges and much-needed interaction with other people.

19 responses »

  1. That’s a lot of writing and goals. You may not have completed all of them, but you sure made progress. Give yourself a pat on the back!!! I hope you keep us informed:)

    • Thank you, Laura! You can be sure that should I get an agent and/or a publishing deal I’ll be jigging around the room AND blogging about it… In the meantime, I generally do a monthly post on how I’m getting on with my Shoot for the Moon targets – at the end of January, I’ll be blogging about my 2017 goals.

  2. It’s hard to get to it all. But you keep going and working, that’s a good thing! 🙂 Here’s to keep going this year too. 🙂

  3. I sounds like you had a very productive 2016, Sarah, well done. I’m jealous of your fitness and health progress. I did manage to get a bit more exercise last year but nothing like I had planned. Fingers crossed for this year. I’m sure you will be even more successful with your goals in 2017.

    • It was an excellent year for my fitness and health – I feel I’ve managed to get back a lot of the ground I lost after my back injury, which is a wonderful feeling:)

  4. Wow. I know you had a lot of projects (writing and not) going on last year, Sarah, but… This review of all of them was mind-boggling. (In a good way, though.) And I’m glad about the observations you made at the end: that while it doesn’t seem like you’ve made much progress with writing projects on the outside, your craft has improved and so the stories have, too. The “internal” progress is just as important as the external, and I’ve no doubt you’ll find success soon as you keep moving forward. 🙂

    Are you planning to do another Shoot For The Moon challenge in 2017? (I’m guessing “Yes,” and that the goals will be shared here at a later date…?)

    • Yes! It has worked so well, helping me keep track of what’s going on so Mhairi and I sat down in early January and went through our targets together and helped each other make the 2017 goals. I’ll be posting them at the end of January:). And your observation is spot on – I knew I had to make further progress with my writing so I am delighted to have received the input I need to get to a (hopefully) publishable standard.

      • Great! Looking forward to that. 🙂 It was also fantastic to read your news about your fitness goals and how much healthier you feel now.

        Before I forget:My next post for Writers Helping Writers is about using text-to-speech software as part of your editing process. I used it during Draft #3 of TKC after your recommendation, and absolutely LOVED it. I can’t imagine not using it for future story-editing, and I wanted to share that discovery with other writers. 🙂 So, thank you for that!

      • I’m delighted the text-to-speech helped. Like you, I cannot consider editing without it being a major part of the process, these days.

  5. With so many goals I think you did better than “good”, Sarah! You’ve also shown that you can adapt: with the requests from agents, you’ve focused on rewrites instead of writing new things, which I personally think is a great thing. I having my fingers crossed for some more positive news for you this year!

    • Thank you for your kind encouragement, Joanna. So far January has whisked past in something of a blur – I’ve been very busy with family commitments and coping with the new term so the rewriting has somewhat suffered. Hopefully, things will start to calm down from now on…

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