Tag Archives: ambitious writing targets

January 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffJanuary2020Roundup

Standard

Yes… I know. We’re now more than halfway through February – though when that happened I couldn’t say. I seem to be permanently temporally challenged these days, so please bear with me…

Reading
I read fifteen books in January and DNF’d another. They were:
Witch – Book 2 of the Doppleganger series by Marie Brennan – end of series
AUDIOBOOK Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
AUDIOBOOK Dark Summer by Ali Sparkes – children’s book
Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky – my outstanding read of the month
Broken Flyght – Book 2 of The Flyght series by S.J. Pajonas – indie author
Termination Shock – Book 1 of the Interstellar Enforcement Agency by Gillian Andrews
AUDIOBOOK Over Sea, Under Stone – Book 1 of The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper – children’s book
The Last Smile in Sunder City – Book 1 of the Fetch Phillips Archives by Luke Arnold
A Longer Fall – Book 2 of the Gunnie Rose series by Charlaine Harris
Sweep With Me – an Innkeeper Chronicles NOVELLA by Ilona Andrews – indie author
The Zero Curse – Book 2 of the Zero Enigma series by Christopher G. Nuttall – indie author
Bone Silence – Book 2 of the Revenger series by Alastair Reynolds – end of series
Crownbreaker – Book 6 of the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell – end of series
Ribbonworld – Book 1 of the Balcom Dynasty series by Richard Dee – indie author
AUDIOBOOK Ancestral Night – Book 1 of the White Space series by Elizabeth Bear – audio read of the month

Writing
Overall, I wrote just over 17,500 words on Mantivore Warrior during January. I am only now beginning to realise just how exhausted and low I’d become by the middle of last year – writing Warrior has been so much fun in comparison to the last two books, which turned had into something of a struggle. In fact, looking back, everything had become a bit of a struggle… I realise that one of the main ongoing challenges for me will be to adequately take care of myself, so I don’t burn out. Sorting out my dreadful sleep habits and getting more exercise would help – though the rainy weather this winter really hasn’t helped.

Blogging
It’s with great reluctance, I’ve decided I need to ease back on my blogging. I do enjoy it – but it’s not just the writing that takes up time, it’s also the visiting and commenting. Apologies all around – right now, I’m aware I still haven’t got the balance right and I’ve fallen behind with visiting other folks. I’ve kept up with the Friday Face-off and the Sunday Post, but I’ve stepped back from Teaser Tuesday. I will still be taking part from time to time with Can’t-Wait-Wednesday – but only when it suits my writing timetable, which has to take priority. But I love being part of such a lovely corner of social media – you guys are absolutely wonderful and I love being able to discuss books – so I refuse to give it up!

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – 2020 #BrainfluffShootfortheMoon2020

Standard

This is now an annual event. My writing buddy Mhairi and I get together at the start of the new year to set ourselves ambitious targets, so that even if we don’t fully succeed in these, we still come out ahead. This year, we weren’t able to spend New Year together, so I had to wait until she was able to travel up from Lincolnshire to reflect upon our previous year’s progress and compile our current list. This is what I’m trying for in 2020:-

• Write at least 200,000 words on first drafts.

• Have Mantivore Warrior completed and edited, ready for publication by the end of April.

• Start my series of writing tips and advice by writing, editing and publishing two books this year – Characterisation: Do Your Characters Ping Off the Page? and Scene Setting & Description: How Much Is Too Much? I have ten years’ worth of course notes and writing advice currently insulating the loft and it seems to me that I could put them to better use.

• Get the manuscript for Bloodless, written. This is the first book in my Beth Wheeler murder mystery series, which is a spinoff from The Sunblinded Trilogy.

• Continue teaching Tim and provide necessary support for his continued progress.

• Continue to improve my fitness by continuing to attend Pilates and Fitstep classes. Also include one stint a week on the fitness bike and go for one walk a week, weather permitting.

• Sort out my sleep patterns. I was doing better – and then when Himself’s sleep masks needed sorting out, I slid back into my bad old ways. Partly because sleeping next to Darth Vadar was something of a struggle… But there’s no excuse now! And I’m still unsure why I’m finding it so hard to go to bed at a reasonable hour.

• Do more speaking engagements and see if I can join a panel at a conference – preferably Bristolcon.

• Join Chindi – a local support group for indie authors. I had an invitation to become a member a while ago, but I simply didn’t have the time. Now it would be a good idea to go along and become part of a group of people whose aims and ambitions are similar to mine. It can be a lonely road…

• Digitise my books of ideas – they are currently a disorganised mess that are difficult to access.

• Get the garden sorted out, so it once again is a source of pleasure and creativity that I love spending time in.

• Continue reading and reviewing at least 100 books during the year, though cutting down on my blogging schedule. There are only so many hours in the week and if I’m upping my writing rate, then I need to give myself a break.

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – 2019 Roundup #Brainfluffbookblog #ShootfortheMoon2019Roundup

Standard

This is now an annual event – in the dying days of the year, my writing buddy Mhairi Simpson and I sit down together and set ourselves targets for the coming year. The theory is that in aiming for the insanely unrealistic, we’ll achieve more than if we were more cautious in our goalsetting. These are the targets I set for 2019 – how did I do?

• Edit and publish Mantivore Dreams – Book 1 of The Arcadian Chronicles
I released Mantivore Dreams at the end of August, so it was bang on target, given I’d planned to publish it during the summer.

• Complete, edit and publish Mantivore Prey – Book 2 of The Arcadian Chronicles
Mantivore Prey was released just three months later, at the end of November, and I’m really pleased with the way it turned out. I’d had a battle with this one and I feel I’ve managed to complete Kyrillia’s story in a way that is both powerful and moving. Vrox’s story will be concluded in Mantivore Warrior, due out after Easter, all being well.

• Rewrite, edit and submit Miranda’s Tempest
This didn’t happen and for the time being, I’m going to abandon this project. Miranda’s Tempest is too far from my current goal, which is to continue working on my self-publishing career. So breaking off from my writing and publishing schedule to fit in a book that I think could cause me major problems in the writing seems a daft move, right now.

• Outline and start on the first draft of Bloodless – Book 1 of the Beth Wheeler mysteries
I didn’t manage to get to this one, either. Mantivore Prey took longer to rewrite and edit – I don’t write particularly quickly and my editing process isn’t all that fast. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article – these goals were ambitious, and I failed with this one.

• Release paperback editions of Dying for Space and Breathing Space
I’ve now managed to get both these books published in paperback – in fact, Breathing Space is pretty much hot off the press, as I uploaded the paperback format just a couple of weeks ago. I’m thrilled to be able to hold the books in my hand, and particularly like how the blurb and the Griffinwing Publishing logo appear on the back cover.

• Organise reviews for the release of Netted
I was delighted to have a handful of reviews organised for Netted when it was released by Grimbold Publishing. And I’m very happy with the amazing cover that Mhairi designed.

• Regain my fitness and stamina
I now feel a whole lot better, but still haven’t regained the stamina and fitness I’d achieved in the early part of 2018. However, now I’m taking blood pressure tablets, I’m feeling so much better and in a position to really work on building up my stamina and fitness.

• Continue delivering my Creative Writing courses at Brighton Metropolitan College
I achieved this goal, in that I completed the 2018/19 academic year with my lovely students, before resigning from the position of Creative Writing tutor, after a wonderful ten-year stint. It was a wrench and I still miss them, but running those three classes, along with my other obligations, was simply too much. Since stepping down from the post, I’ve felt a lot better and have found writing easier. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, though.

• Continue teaching TW
I continued to teach Tim, as part of a team of tutors who also supported him when he attended Chichester College to take a Music Diploma. The course has a two-year option, but Tim decided not to continue his education in a college setting, as he feels he learns more on a one-to-one basis. We prepared him for the last section of his English Functional Skills Level Two exam – the Reading paper – throughout the Autumn term. While he is a fluent reader, he found it a challenge to compare and contrast three separate texts, then answer questions on them – but then this exam is commensurate with a GCSE English Language qualification, so it isn’t meant to be too easy. He took the exam at the end of November 2019 and during his first lesson after Christmas, we got the news that he not only passed it – he smashed it by getting an amazing 25/30!

• Continue blogging about books and writing
I thoroughly enjoy reading and reviewing books – I’m keeping my target for the year at 100 books, although during 2019 I read 168 books and wrote 128 reviews, though some have yet to be published. I had intended to branch out from mostly featuring book reviews, to taking part in reading challenges such as Love Your Library and Beat the Backlist. It didn’t happen, as I’m rubbish at nipping across to the host site and adding the links. Although I did participate in Sci Fi Month, which I absolutely loved. I wrote a measly five articles in my series authoring annals, so that was also something of a fail.

During 2019, I wrote 350,569 words – 151,500 were written for the blog, just under 52,000 were in connection with my teaching duties and just over 147,000 words went towards my novels. I published the boxed set of The Sunblinded trilogy, Mantivore Dreams and Mantivore Prey – and I had the fun of watching someone else publish Netted. I also had my Roman steampunk story ‘The Final Voyage of Juno’s Breath’ published in the anthology Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion II.

While I would have liked to have managed to get more books completed, I am pleased to see my backlist steadily growing. Overall, I think the 2019 Shoot for Moon Challenge went reasonably well. I shall post my goals for the 2020 Shoot the Moon Challenge at the end of the month. What about you – do you find setting targets helpful? What was your biggest success of 2019?

Shoot for the Moon 2018 Challenge – How Did I Do? #Brainfluffblog #AuthorAnnals4

Standard

This is now an annual event – in the dying days of the year, my writing buddy Mhairi Simpson and I sit down together and set ourselves targets for the coming year. The theory is that in aiming for the insanely unrealistic, we’ll achieve more than if we were more cautious in our goalsetting – did this work for me during 2018?
• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest and submit it to the agent who expressed an interest in it
Well, I did the rewrite, submitted the manuscript to an editor in June and got the feedback. By then, I was in the throes of rewriting The Arcadian Chronicles, which I thought wouldn’t take all that long. However, it has. It is still doing so. Which means that Miranda’s Tempest is still waiting to be sorted out. I am hoping to get to it during the summer, However, during the long break from it, I have had a major epiphany regarding the beginning. A – duh! moment where I can’t believe I didn’t take this approach before. It should improve the pacing, make the reader immediately aware of what’s at stake and start the story with a bang.

• Organise new covers for Running Out of Space and Dying for Space
It helps when your best writing buddy also happens to be an awesome cover designer – I was so grateful when Mhairi agreed to help me out and the general response has been nothing but positive since I released the books with the new covers.

• Rewrite, edit and publish Breathing Space
Yes – this was all achieved, so that Breathing Space now completes The Sunblinded Trilogy, after being published on 18th July. I have also set up the story so that Lizzy is poised to start a new chapter in her life, once I start writing the crime series featuring her next series of adventures.

• Rewrite, edit and publish Mantivore Preys and Mantivore Freed
This is another casualty of my poor writing performance during the latter end of the year. I’m now nearly halfway through Mantivore Preys, which I more or less started on schedule – and then started wading through glue as the story graunched from one dead-end to another. At last my writing is gathering momentum again, so I’m hoping to complete the book by the end of February. With luck and a following wind, I’ll also have the first draft of Mantivore Freed finished by the end of the summer. Fingers crossed… I have the covers ready for these books and am really looking forward to getting them completed and published.

• Release paperback editions for Running Out of Space, Dying for Space and Breathing Space
I have released Running Out of Space as a paperback and had hoped to have Dying for Space done before the end of the year. However, it didn’t happen – again due to my illness. Hopefully, I’ll have Dying for Space and Breathing Space both available in paperback format by the end of February.

• Write the first draft of Bloodless
No, I didn’t get close. My health became a real issue from the time I returned from my lovely writing retreat. Even before then, I wasn’t happy with the quality of my writing which had lost its bounce and energy. It turns out I was the one without any bounce and only now, since my diagnosis of hypertension, am I starting to feel like my old self as the medication is starting to take effect.

• Learn to market my books
Himself and I attended a marketing conference at the early part of the year and came away a tad overwhelmed, but enthusiastic. With Mhairi’s help, I plunged into the rarefied world of Amazon ads and felt quite pleased with my progress for a few months – before the algorithm abruptly changed and nothing was working any more. It takes a lot of time and energy I simply don’t have to keep on top of these developments, so I’ve decided to put the Marketing aspect on the back-burner until I have more books available to make it more economically viable.

• Read and review at least 100 books on my blog
I read 162 books during the year and published 124 reviews on the blog, although I have a few more written that will now have to wait until the coming year to see the light of day. I always love blogging and discussing books, but during the year I had to cut back from posting daily to about four times a week once my energy diminished as I became unwell. I’m not rushing to resume my daily posts, as I think one of my issues has been overwork.

• Continue teaching Creative Writing at Northbrook
Since Northbrook merged with Brighton Metropolitan, the Adult and Community Learning Department has had a new lease of life and during 2018, I was delighted to be able to run an extra session every week. The start of the new academic year in September saw my 10th anniversary teaching Creative Writing, which I still can’t quite believe.

• Continue teaching Tim
I will be continuing to teach Tim for the rest of the year, while he also attends college three days a week and still needs ongoing support. I cannot quite believe how far he’s come – it’s marvellous to see how well he is coping in a course for neuro-typical students, as he’s busy making new friends and extending his musical skills.

• Continue getting fitter
This was an epic fail. I was enjoying my Pilates and Fitstep classes, but as the year wore on I found it increasingly difficult to keep my attendance regular and finally, regretfully, I gave up first the Fitstep class and then the Pilates class as my energy drained away. I am hoping to resume my Pilates classes next week. Wish me luck!

As you can see, it’s been a mixed year. Overall, I’m reasonably happy with the results, given how my illness impacted my productivity and I’m hoping to put in place some lifestyle changes to help me stay healthy during the coming year. I have already set my targets for my Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2019 – I will be sharing them on the blog at the end of January. In the meantime, have a peaceful, healthy year, everyone – hopefully with lots of wonderful books to get lost in. Thank you all for your kind comments, likes and visits – even during the dark times when I couldn’t summon up the energy to post, I always found the kindness and good will evident within our blogging community a continual source of encouragement.

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – August Roundup

Standard

How have I got on with my writing, reading and blogging targets?

• Edit Dying for Space
Edit Dying for Space after receiving advice from my beta readers on the second book of the Sunblinded trilogy, in readiness for self-publishing the series.
I completed my edit of Dying for Space and it is now ready for publication, which all being well, I hope will happen before the end of the year.

 

• Self publish a novel
This is one of the main targets I had back in January – after the false start I made last year with Running Out of Space due to some significant formatting problems, I was feeling a lot less gung-ho and I wanted to be in a situation where I could release the first two books of the Sunblinded trilogy reasonably close together. I’m now in that situation.
I have arranged a blog tour for Running Out of Space and decided on a release date – 11th October. The book is now up on Goodreads and I hope to have it on Netgalley very soon. My website and blog will also be undergoing a major makeover, so the covers for all three books – Running Out of Space, Dying for Space and Breathing Space can feature.

While I managed to successfully complete the line edit on Breathing Space, after receiving some really helpful feedback on my manuscript of Miranda’s Tempest, I can now see my way to tightening up the book, which has a few issues that I wasn’t completely happy about. So I hope to be able to work on it after completing the rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest.

 

• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest
After resubmitting Miranda’s Tempest, to an agent who expressed interest in the book last year, she got back to me very quickly…
The agent has responded with another very helpful email, detailing her concerns with the manuscript. So it’s back to the drawing board to continue working on it until this book is right.

 

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog during 2017
The target I set in January was to to read and review at least 100 books this year.
During August, I read 15 books and reviewed 13 of them. This brought my yearly total of books read by the end of the month to 121. As for book of the month – there were 4 that blew me away – The Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts, The Lost Steersman by Rosemary Kirstein, The Heir to the North by Steven Poore and Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill. Don’t ask me to choose – each one moved and excited me in different ways and for different reasons. By the end of the year, I will be in a better position to know which of them has really stuck with me – but right now, I simply cannot decide which I love best.

 

• Short story to be published
This wasn’t part of my initial January target, because it popped up during the year. I was asked if I would be interested in submitting a short story for the upcoming Grimbold anthology Holding On By Our Fingertips.
I was a bit overwhelmed – and also very excited. The premise for this anthology is what you would do if you only had 24 hours before it all goes belly-up. I had several false starts before submitting a story entitled ‘A Dire Emergency’. And I had the news in the middle of the month that it has been accepted for the anthology, which was a lovely surprise.

I started writing August’s roundup feeling a bit miserable. In the middle of everything else, I also had the grandchildren to stay for a large chunk of the holidays and my sister was taken seriously ill, so I was unable to get the amount of writing done I’d planned. But looking back at what I actually managed to do, I realise it isn’t the failure I had feared. And there are several developments that didn’t exist at the start of the year which are enormously exciting, if a bit terrifying… I wrote just over 16,500 words on my blog, just under 8,000 words on course notes for next term’s Creative Writing course and just over 25,500 on the rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest, which comes to just under 50,000 words for the month and a total for the year to date of approximately 266,000 words.

How did you get on during the summer? Is there anything unexpected looming in your life right now that keeps you awake at night?

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – January Roundup

Standard

Mhairi Simpson, and I, once again, set ourselves a series of ambitious writing-related goals when 2017 was only a couple of days old. This has become something of a ritual, because over the past several years I have found it so very helpful to set out my targets for the year and then at the end moonof every month to hold myself accountable for these targets. And these are the goals I have set for 2017.

• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest
After completing Miranda’s Tempest and sending it out last year, it garnered sufficient interest that I had some excellent advice on how to improve the storyline. So I embarked on a major rewrite at the back end of last year, intending to resubmit it in early 2017.
This slid to a halt in the run-up to Christmas and as January was extremely hectic, I only managed a paltry 7,500 words. I am hoping to make better progress during February.

• Edit Dying for Space and Breathing Space
My trusty beta-readers came back with some excellent advice on both these novels, particularly around the ending of Dying for Space and the start of Breathing Space, which I’m still not completely happy about. Given these are books 2 and 3 of The Sunblinded trilogy, I want them to be the very best they can be before I set them loose onto an unsuspecting world.

• 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? Another project that got shunted further down the line when Netted needed a major rewrite last year. I am really hoping that by the end of the year I will have a first draft completed.

• Complete Picky Eaters
This is the novella that mushroomed from my short story, published at Every Day Fiction longer ago than I care to mention. While reading it to the grandchildren, I realised there were another couple of plotpoints that needed tidying up. I wanted to have this one completed last year, but my major rewrite of Netted took priority so this one got pushed to the side. However, I would really like to get it to a standard where I can either self-publish or submit it.

• Continue submitting my work
Thanks to the Shoot for the Moon Challenge, I have become far more professional and organised in submitting my work. As a result, I am now rewriting Miranda’s Tempest, achieved significant interest in Netted and have Running Out of Space out with an agent. Anyone who has been through this process knows it can take a long time to get a response, so I am continuing to work on a number of other projects while waiting.

• Self publish a novel
I have wanted to get at least one of my novels self published for a while, now. Hopefully 2017 will be the year when this happens.

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog
I easily achieved this goal in 2016, having reviewed 150 books, while also becoming very involved in reading and reviewing new releases, which was one of last year’s targets. I don’t intend to increase this target but hope to continue to read and review at least 100 books, with at least 24 being by women authors previously unknown to me as part of the Discovery Challenge, thanks to Joanne Hall if you’re interested in joining the 2017 Challenge, here is her post.
I read 12 books, DNF’d another and reviewed 11 of them during January, which came to just under 15,000 words. I am not sure this will be a pace I can continue once I am writing again, as opposed to editing and rewriting.

• Propose and plan Creative Writing courses for the academic year 2016/17
I have next year’s courses sorted out and during the second half of the term I will be submitting them for approval to Northbrook. In addition, I am starting a series of Creative Writing courses with gifted writers and talented teachers Sarah Palmer and Linda McVeigh, called Writing Sussex. This promises to be a really exciting development.
We are planning to start our very first courses at the end of February, so if you live in or around the Worthing area in West Sussex, check out our website and course availability.

• Continue teaching TW
This has been a roller-coaster year as it proved a whole lot harder to find a suitable syllabus and qualifications suitable for Tim, who is autistic and taught at home. However his mother managed to find a series of projects based around acquiring practical skills that I will be helping to deliver, alongside Tim’s team of other tutors, which will also give him qualifications he can use to access college or university courses in the future. In addition, I am also helping Tim acquire the necessary skills to take the Functional Skills exams, so have doubled my teaching hours with him.
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, leaving me with ongoing sciatica that meant I was a constant visitor to the Physio for almost a decade. After Mhairi’s suggestion back in 2015 that I try a TENS machine to see if it would improve the nerve pain during yet another flare-up that was making my life a misery, I have gone from strength to strength. I now attend a Fitstep and Pilates class every week and have managed to lose nearly a stone so that I have now reached my target weight, which I want to maintain – more or less – throughout the year. One of my goals for 2017 which we didn’t achieve last year is to resume hiking with my husband on a regular basis.

Those are my 2017 Shoot for the Moon Challenges. Wish me luck!

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

Standard

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.

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2016 – October Roundup

Standard

After setting some crazy writing goals with my writing partner in crime, Mhairi Simpson, way back in the dying throes of 2015, how am I doing?

I had expected that my reading would have significantly eased up at this stage as I’d moonplanned to be busy writing Bloodless. That hasn’t happened and as I’ve been mired in editland and rewriting, I’ve been turning to reading for relief and relaxation. It has also been a very sociable month with a series of visitors staying with us and the highlight – the amazing, marvellous Bristolcon 2016. So October has been busy, productive and congenial.

• This month, I read fourteen books, though that isn’t as impressive as it sounds because there were a couple of children’s books in there and some novellas. Once more, there were some marvellous reads. I thoroughly enjoyed How To Be Pirate by Cressida Cowell, Escapology by Ren Warom and V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic. While two novellas – Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric’s Demon and Frontier by Janet Edwards were my standout reads this month, along with fantasy novel The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein.
Challenge – To review a minimum of 100 books during 2016 and widen my reading to include more authors new to me. I fulfilled this challenge in August, but I am continuing to read and review more enjoyable, exciting books.

• I finally managed to resubmit Netted halfway through October after the hardest rewrite I’ve ever had to do. This now gives me the opportunity to act upon the feedback I received on Miranda’s Tempest and so I have now started work to improve it.
Challenge – To continue to submit my work.

• I’ve continued to improve my fitness with Pilates and Fitstep classes. It’s a wonderful feeling when I find I can now easily complete exercises that I couldn’t begin to manage this time last year. I’m working long, intensive hours and now have given up sugar, as I’ve found it diminishes my energy and messes with my concentration. We managed one longer walk this last month, but with all the guests visiting it has been difficult to get away.
Challenge – To continue to improve my fitness.

After being dismayed at just how far off track I’d strayed from my original targets, I’ve come to the realisation that plans are made to help focus while working. But once events overtake them, then comes the time to let them go. That doesn’t mean this monthly accounting is a waste of time, however. While my writing targets have taken a dog-leg down a by-way, there are still other challenges I need to keep tracking.

I wrote just under 15,500 words on my blog during October, less than 3,000 words on my course notes and teaching admin and just over 44,500 words on my rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest, bringing my total for the year so far to just under 290,000 words.

How are you getting on? Do you also set yourself targets and if so, as the year grows older, are you able to keep fulfilling them?

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2016 – August Roundup

Standard

Now that I have the opportunity to get down to some uninterrupted work during this moonbreak, how am I progressing with the ambitious targets I set myself waaay back in the dying hours of 2015?
• I had another really brilliant reading month in August, reading 15 books again and reviewing all but two. Once more, it was a delight to have so many really good books to read – I loved Autonomy by Jude Houghton, which raises some uncomfortable questions in amongst a cracking post-apocalyptic, near future thriller; Janet Edwards’ Telepath was such fun – I really love her writing and Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Spiderlight was another gem from this talented, award-winning writer. But the two outstanding reads this month for me were Spellbreaker by Blake Charlton and N.K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate, the second book in her fabulous Broken Earth series.
Challenge – To review a minimum of 100 books during 2016 and widen my reading to include more authors new to me. As I have now read 106 books and reviewed all but a handful, this challenge has been achieved. Thanks to Netgalley, I am continuing to come across authors unknown to me and broaden my reading.

• I have continued to submit my work – another of my challenges I’ve been working on – which has entailed some major rewriting. I worked on the opening of Miranda’s Tempest at the front end of August, which went reasonably smoothly and then had another go at Netted. It is by far the hardest rewrite I’ve ever undertaken and twice since attempting it, I’ve ground to a halt. I’ve learnt these days that when I stare at the page and my mind blanks, I need to take the hint and walk away. If I try pushing through it, I write rubbish which just compounds the problem. I now need to make an editing pass and hopefully, get the manuscript in a fit state for resubmission by the end of the month.
Challenge – To continue to submit my novels.

• I am in the process of writing my course notes for this term’s Creative Writing class, which starts in a fortnight. Obviously, this deadline isn’t optional.
Challenge – To have two of my four courses written by the end of the summer break. No – that isn’t going to happen. The rewrites that popped up out of nowhere took a large bite out of my writing schedule this month and I am playing catchup with a number of other tasks.

I wrote just over 16,500 words on my blog in August and around 20,500 words on rewrites. With a paltry 500 words on teaching admin, my monthly total came to just over 37,500 words for the month, bringing my wordcount for the year so far to just over 200,000. What were your favourite August books? Do you read more in the summer or winter?

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2016 – July Roundup

Standard

High summer is here. So how did I do with my targets during July?
• I’ve now completed the line edit of Breathing Space and have also finished the timeline edit of Running Out of Space, Dying for Space and am on the last lap with Breathing Space.
Challenge – To have The Sunblinded trilogy published during 2016. Still on track…

• I had a great reading month in July, reading 15 books in all and reviewing all but one of them – and moonthat was only because it was the next in a series I’d recently covered and felt I did not have a great deal more to say. There were some excellent books in amongst that selection. I very much enjoyed Louisa Hall’s thought provoking Speak and Jane Lythell’s Woman of the Hour was a strong start to an entertaining, original series – however the two books that were outstanding reads for me this month were N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season and Foz Meadows’ An Accident of Stars.
Challenge – To review a minimum of 100 books during 2016 and widen my reading to include more authors new to me. I wasn’t expecting to be reading quite so much – but as I’m still editing, I find I need to keep plunging into other worlds to keep my head straight. This takes the number of books read so far to 91 books, so this challenge is clearly nailed.

• My one-day Summer Surgery course on Friday 22nd July went really well – I’m glad I have planned an identical course next year. Both my Monday evening and Tuesday afternoon courses starting in September are now full.
Challenge – To have at least two of the four courses I hope to run next year planned and written by the end of the summer holiday. Yes… this should be doable.

There are also a couple of my 2016 Shoot for Moon challenges that I am working on – but right now I’m not saying anymore, as I don’t want to jinx things… It’s exciting and terrifying in equal measure and hopefully I will be in a position to fully update everyone in due course. I wrote just over 20,500 words on my blog in July and just under 6,500 words on teaching admin. I also wrote a number of query letters and synopses which took my overall writing total to just over 29,000 words for the month. This takes my yearly total to just under 164,000 words. How are you getting on with your August reading targets? Do you find the weather affects your reading habits?